Knitting with purpose…

Stella’s first grade teacher, Ms. Rice, taught the class how to knit, both with fingers and needles. Every morning when the kids arrived in the classroom, they would take up where they left off the day before, often changing yarns. Unlike a few of her classmates, Stella never did complete the hat she started. Instead, she created yards and yards of finger-knitting as well as short multi-colored knit pieces. The purpose was not as important as the process for her.

When she presented me with her very first multi-colored knit piece, we talked about how we could make something out of it; because although the knitting was beautiful as it was, adding purpose meant it would be used and appreciated even more. We came up with the idea of creating a mug cozy. Using two buttons selected by Stella, I wrapped a mug and handstitched the buttons and holes. The uneven width made for an unique fold-over flap.

This mug cozy was a simple and fun way to celebrate Stella’s knitting success.

Felted Oops…

It has been on my To Do List for quite some time to make some felted wool slippers. They are the perfect solution for cold winters and concrete floors. My 7 yr old daughter was eager to do some making with me, so we decided to create the slippers for her. Stella chose a purple-dyed alpaca roving, adding strands of teal and pink for added flair. Never having made slippers before, I had to guess what the shrinkage of the fibers would be. Unlike the decorative wall hangings I often make, these slippers need to be durable; the fibers have to be felted and fulled for much longer, which means more shrinkage.

We created a form from two layers of thick socks and duct tape that was two sizes larger than Stella’s normal shoe size. Our plan was to create a bootie slipper that we could trim as desired. As you can guess from the photos above, our bootie shrunk down to a mule slipper that barely fit Stella’s foot. These ‘Oops moments’ are always good opportunities to learn about expectations, flexibility, and opportunity. No doubt, we were both disappointed at first. But I reframed the mistake as a new design challenge, and we came up with the solution of adding a heel piece. The result is a slipper that not only fits snuggly, but is unique and boldy colored as well.


Sewing Shade…

This summer seems unusually hot here in Central Oregon. The weather has been monotonous; intense sun in cloudless skies and dry heat in the 90s for weeks without end. Sun protection is mandatory for me since I suffer from vitiligo. Striking the right balance between comfort, protection, and style can be a challenge. When I could not find just the right thing to wear for a day relaxing at a friend’s ranch, I created a full-length cover-up in under 30 minutes. Using a beige, twin-size, fitted jersey sheet, I cut off the elastic and the corner seams, folded it in half, cut a neckline, then stitched two straight lines a few inches from the top to create sleeves. Since knit fabrics are stretchy and do not fray, I left all the edges raw for simplicity. This cover-up is light, fluid, and comfortable. Have a jersey knit sheet you can spare? I bet you can make a cover-up for yourself too.

Our little piece of this Earth…


We recently moved onto 10 acres in the beautiful high desert of Central Oregon. The square plot of land is framed by large outcroppings of volcanic rock, providing magical protected spaces to gather, and high perches for viewing the entire Cascade Mountain Range. Old growth junipers, rabbitbrush, and sagebrush dominate this near pristine desert landscape. Mulch paths meander throughout the property to protect the fragile, dusty earth.

For the last several weeks, my family has been moving, sorting, purging, and arranging; exploring, observing, learning, planning and dreaming. This is our forever home, and over the next few years we will develop a master plan which will include a new home and outdoor spaces for gathering. Have I been creative lately? Am I making anything? My answer is Yes, absolutely. I am making our little piece of this Earth into a home.

New life for old jeans…

Jeans are a staple in almost everyone’s wardrobe. I have about 8 pairs – all different styles and colors. Denim is versatile and rugged, outlasting many other fabrics. But when it is time to say goodbye to a pair of jeans, do you repurpose them? Send them to thrift? or toss them away? Hopefully not the latter. If repurposing is not within your means, then consider donating to thrift. Even if they are damaged beyond repair, most thrift stores send clothing elsewhere for recycling or reuse. (But always ask to make sure they don’t just send it to the landfill.) 

I pick up bags of unwanted thrifted jeans from a local thrift store for 20¢/lb. I’ve made denim yarn for weaving, and used bits for patching other jeans. There are literally hundreds of ideas online for how to repurpose jeans. My projects tend to be a modern or minimalist interpretation of a traditional design idea. Most recently, I was inspired to make floor pillows. Modern, durable, easy to clean – they will be perfect for using outside this summer at SouLodge Medicine Gathering 
Cutting off all seams, cuffs, zippers, and pockets, I used the best denim pieces to create a 20″x20″ pattern. I incorporated a scrap of orange upholstery as a complementary color accent to the modern design. Stuffed with a 24×24 thrift pillow, the jeans case is removable via a hidden orange zipper. Since the inner pillow was rather soft for a floor pillow, I open the seam and added leftover jeans scraps to the inner pillow to create a more dense fill.
Have you repurposed jeans? What has been your favorite project? Feel free to share ideas in comments below. Maybe your project will be inspiration for my next modern, minimalist project.

That urge to make something…

It’s that spark; the one that persists until you do something about it. That spark is what inspires me to purchase supplies for making something that I may not actually get around to for months. But the spark is compelling; and something about gathering the supplies keeps the inspiration from leaving too soon to act on it. Of course, I have plenty of supplies sitting in bins that were intended for various projects that I never got around to. Digging through those supplies can ignite the spark again, but if it sits too long it is very difficult for me to act on that spark. There is just too much on my plate already.

So the trick for me is to act on the spark as soon as I can. Recently, this meant suddenly diving into making very late at night when I swore I was exhausted and going to bed after getting my kids to sleep. That spark made me do it. The supplies were there in front of me on my work table. So I just started.

And about and hour later, I had two sets of felted earrings. The first set is made from simple, wet felted, gray alpaca wool balls that are strung onto bent jewelry headpins. The second set uses flat wet felt that is cut, hole punched, and strung onto a headpin. A piece of blue-gray kyanite anchors the headpin.

Although I have been making things my whole life, I have only recently begun to understand how my own creativity works. What sparks me and when do I act on it, or when do I let it go? What do you do when the spark is within you?

Hand Felted Sleeve…

Recently at the library, I saw an inspiring book of sewing projects called Urban Scandinavian Sewing by Kirstyn Cogan. As a practiced creative, inspiration and ideas are a constant flow; and as a tactile, visual person, browsing through books at the library is a perfect place to find new direction. (Of course I can spend unseemly amounts of time browsing on the internet as well.) Kirstyn’s book shares the how-to for a colorful felt mug cozy that I was inspired to replicate using handmade wet felted sheets of natural alpaca wool. I liked the design using two colors of felt and the positive/negative heart cutout wrapping the mug. But I had to return the book before I ever got around to trying. By the time I was ready to make the cozy, the book had three holds on it at the library.

Oh well, I thought. I will just have to figure out the construction based on memory. The design was a challenge; my handmade felt was thick and therefore did not extend around the mug’s circumference like my paper mockup. But I continued with what I had rather than scrapping and starting over; needle felting extensions to the heart and the brown base. Large stitches in wool yarn accentuate these added pieces. Kirtstyn’s design used a nice button closure with a second button as an accent.  Since my heavy stitching is such a strong accent, I chose to use snaps to maintain a more minimal design, and to prevent the heart from distorting over time with working the button.

The handmade alpaca wool felt has a nice warmth, weight and softness that add to the pleasure of sipping a cup of tea or coffee. This would make a great gift for the holidays. If you are so inspired, try your own version of a modern felt mug cozy, or go find a copy of Kirstyn’s book.

A simple no-sew sachet necklace from t-shirt scraps…


Ever thinking of new random projects, this sachet came about as a way to use a 4″ strip of fabric cut from the bottom of a t-shirt. First, the hem and seams were removed to create two long rectangles of fabric. These were then cut in half. By cutting thin strips along the sides and bottom of the rectangle and then tying them together with square knots, a small sachet was created. The remaining fabric was cut into strips, braided, and tied to the sachet with slip knots. Given the light weight and stretch of the t-shirt material, I filled my necklace sachet with tiny flowers and a sprig of rosemary.


Fashion a new shirt from remnants…

 Upcycling clothing inevitably creates a pile of remnants. Most of the leftover scraps can be shredded and used as fiber fill in a pouf or even a stuffed animal. Sometimes I have larger pieces that seem to have a purpose that is yet undiscovered. The shirt above is an example of discovering a new purpose for remnants.

Making maxi dresses out of t-shirts requires cutting the body of a couple XL tees below the arms. This cropped top is not much by itself, but it becomes a cute slit-side top when lengthened by stitching sleeves onto the raw cut edge. The sleeves were leftover from making t-shirt yarn. I just cut off the sleeve seams, opened them into a single rectangle of fabric, and stitched the raw edges of the rectangle and the crop top together. Using my serger, I narrowed the XL sleeves for a fitted look, while keeping the body of the shirt more boxy.

This same shirt could be made with remnants from different colored shirts for a very patchy look. I prefer a minimal, modern look, so the pure white suits me just fine.