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I have a perfectly good explanation for this February 11, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Creating, Knitting, Monthly Challenge.
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This wasn’t supposed to happen until March.

Wingspan 4On my list of projects to complete in February is “Purple scarf for the silent auction at church in March.” Technically, what I meant by “complete the scarf” was “start and complete the scarf,” I just didn’t add that little detail to the list. The yarn above, although it includes purple, is not the designated purple yarn. That would be this purple yarn, with the flashy silver flecks.

Purple yarn

I took a little trip last week and needed something to knit. I’d started a scarf using the purple yarn a few times and it just wasn’t working. I thought I’d use the yarn in the top picture instead and donate that scarf to the silent auction so I tucked it into my bag, along with needles. Turns out the needles were too small for the scarf I planned to make — it was barely three inches wide. I ripped it out and wondered what could I knit, without a pattern, out of fingering yarn and size 4 needles? A Wingspan, of course!

I couldn’t just sit there drinking coffee all day.


Wingspan February 3, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Creating, Knitting.
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This pattern typifies process knitting for me. It’s all garter stitch (which alone could get very boring) with short rows thrown in for variety. There’s not much counting necessary – every few rows I count “1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3” to make sure I haven’t lost, or added, any stitches. I’m very good at counting to three. Plus, the exciting part for me is the self-striping yarn. I love self-striping yarn!

The pattern is Wingspan and I am hooked. If I hadn’t pledged to this month of finishing projects I’ve already started, I would probably have another one cast on by now. Here are the ones I’ve completed

WingspanMade using Lion Brand Amazing yarn (can’t remember the colorway) and was gifted to a friend.

Wingspan2This one was made using souvenir yarn from my trip to Missouri last summer with my youngest (Lang Yarns Jawoll Magic, color 84.0099). I’m keeping this one.

Wingspan - Mary's 2I love Chroma yarn from Knit Picks so much I call it my Happy Yarn. I just love knitting with it. I’ve used both the worsted and fingering and made scarves and mittens. If I was letting myself spend money on yarn this year I’d be ordering some of the new colors that are available. This colorway is New England and it looks like it may have been discontinued. This one is also going to a friend.

My next Wingspan will also be out of Chroma in the Mix Tape colorway. I have two skeins so I’m considering making the triangles a bit bigger. Since I can’t start it until all my February Challenge projects are completed or March 1, whichever comes first, I should stop tempting myself and get busy checking other things off my list.

PS – I apologize for the shadow in the pictures.



















February Challenge progress February 3, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Creating, Monthly Challenge, Quilting.
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This weekend I was able to cross a few things off the February Challenge project list. Woo Hoo! Progress feels great!

First the Shop Hop Quilt Top. This top has been in process for a long time — at least 12 years. That’s when the quilt shops in our area held a “Shop Hop” with special sales and a special pattern. One piece of the pattern was provided by each store so, in order to have the full pattern, you had to make it to each store. I went, along with my daughter and a friend and we had an enjoyable day. We bought a yard of fabric at each store and divided it into three. Then, we used that fabric and the patterns provided, to make the blocks, each of us using a background fabric of their own choosing. There was some friendly competition going on to see who could finish their top first and, as I recall, my daughter won. I got as far as making the blocks and then they sat. And sat. And sat.

Recently I came across that box of blocks and thought I’d crowd source a quilt design. The blocks went up on my design wall (a neutral flannel sheet tacked up in my hallway) totally randomly and I started playing with designs. I left it up over the Holidays and my kids also played with the blocks. This is what it looked like at one point

Shop Hop Top 3While I liked the combination of randomness and bits of patterns, it just wasn’t gelling. Once everyone went home, I went at the design again and finally found something I liked. This is the end result. It’s more structured but not quite symmetrical. There is a bit too much white space near the bottom but that will have to be ok. The top is sewn together and will go back in a box to wait until I know how I want to finish it. Hopefully it won’t be another 12 years!

Shop Hop Top

I have two more projects to check off the list — when I had the iron set up last night to press the quilt top I fixed the pant hems as well. Five minutes and a couple of strips of double-sided hem tape and I was done. I was so happy to get those pants back in my closet I wore one to church this morning.

I was going to add some pictures of past knitting projects to this post but I think that deserves one of its very own.

February Challenge – Finish what I’ve started February 1, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Creating, Knitting, Monthly Challenge, Sewing.

In general, artistic people tend to fall into two general categories: process focused and product focused. The product focuses individual creates to obtain the end result. They generally have only one project in process at a time and are very focused on completing it. When at the fabric or yarn store, they are not sidetracked by interesting finds, but buy supplies for a specific project. The process focused individual on the other hand, dives into a project for the love of the craft, be it sewing, knitting, origami or whatever catches her interest. They love learning new skills and trying them out in different ways. Projects that take a weeks or months to finish don’t deter the process focused crafter. This type of crafter feels no obligation to finish one project before starting another… and another… and another.

One peek into my sewing/crafting/yarn storage area will tell you I am most definitely a process crafter. I love planning projects and love trying out new skills. Putting things away in an organized fashion takes time away from starting the next new thing. Some day I want to learn to do it all — crochet, spinning, scrapbooking, stamping, knitting, sewing, quilting, carving, soapmaking, silk dying, jewelry making, and more and more. I can do some of the things on that list now, others are “some day” projects.

Too often I move on to the next project before I finish the current one. This means I have plenty of partially completed projects in various stages pining away for my attention. (I recently unearthed a box in my garage with sewing projects cut out and ready to go including a pair of size 6x pants for my youngest son. Currently he is six weeks shy of his 18th birthday and 6’5″ and still growing. That one’s been sitting a while.)

February is the month I complete as many of those projects as possible.

This list is created without checking to find everything in process. I’m sure more could be added but this will certainly keep me busy.

Mending – I admit, mending is not exciting. It’s a necessary, if boring, evil. Some of these items have been waiting for a restored life for longer than I care to admit:

  • 2 Pair dress pants with ripped out hems (double sided hem tape to the rescue)
  • 1 Dress with ties with one tie ripped off. I need to decide if I will replace the tie or alter the dress to remove the ties. It also needs to be shortened.
  • Replace lining in my winter coat (I bought the fabric at the beginning of last winter)
  • J’s favorite pants have been waiting to be patched for so long I made him try them on recently to verify they still fit. They do and he still loves them so I really should fix them.


  • Glittens (Glove-Mitten hybrids – fingerless gloves with a mitten cap) for a friend. Both gloves are finished, I need to knit the mitten cap and sew in all the ends (my least favorite part).
  • Glittens for me. These also have the gloves finished and are waiting for the mitten cap
  • Purple scarf for the silent auction at church in March


  • Shop Hop Quilt Top – I almost finished this last weekend but I ran out of thread in my bobbin and knew I had more wound but couldn’t find them. I just want to get the middle blocks sewn together and then it will be set aside because I have no ideas yet for borders or backing
  • Super Secret Quilt – group project for a friend. The top is about 75% finished and the backing and binding fabrics picked out. The biggest challenge here is the actual quilting.


  • 6 Pair Pajama Pants. These were planned as Christmas presents for my kids (and me) but I couldn’t give them cut out pieces of flannel with nothing sewn together. Maybe they’ll turn into Valentine gits. (Kids, if you’re reading this, pretend to be surprised when you receive a package in the mail.)
  • There is that box of already cut out projects I mentioned above but I’m in no rush to dig in to that. Those projects have already waited what, ten years or more? They can wait a little longer. Everything except for the kid pants was for me and I’m not sure they’ll fit or be in style.

Bonus Project – I’ve been eyeing this tutorial to make myself a new purse for a few months. I know what fabric I want to use for the outside and I think I know what I want to use for the lining. Since this project is still in the planning stage and not the “in process” stage, it doesn’t really count as “completing what I’ve started”. It will need to wait until a good chunk of the projects above are completed, or ideally, all of them.

February only has 28 days and I listed 16 projects above. I’ll keep you posted on my status.

2013 Bucket List January 4, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Bucket List, Creating, Knitting, New Years.
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I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions. Overall they seem like a negative thing, like I’m defining the person I think I should be instead of being the one I already am. I refuse to make a list of goals I’ll never meet. Making that list seems like an excellent way to feel bad about myself and think I’m a failure. Is there anyone who honestly keeps their Resolutions?

Instead I’m making a 2013 Bucket List. These are all things I want to do or learn. The Bucket List is simply a way to keep track of them and help make sure I make some progress over the year.

  1. Learn to make delicious Gluten Free Sandwich Bread. I’ve been GF for two years now. The first year my focus was on cleaning up my diet and finding replacements as appropriate. The next year I tried and was successful with some great baking recipes. The Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares in Gluten Free on a Shoestring is so delicious even my wheat-eating co-workers ask me to bring it on food days. I’ve made some acceptable cookies and awesome cobbler. But so far sandwich bread that tastes remotely like “real” bread has eluded me. This year, I’ll figure it out.
  2. Spin enough yarn to make something and then make that something. June 2011 I took a drop spindle class and absolutely loved it. The magic of knitting — using sticks and string to make something useful and/or beautiful — amazes me. Now I can take wool and turn that into string and then make something beautiful! Except I haven’t followed through with that. I’ve purchased some roving to play with but it hasn’t come near my spindle. This year, it will happen.
  3. Get a Passport. I don’t have plans to go anywhere (yet) but I want to be ready when the opportunity arises. A Passport is the first step on an unknown adventure.
  4. Attend WI-UMW School of Missions. I was able to go last year and it was life changing. I loved the classes and making connections with other like-minded women in my state. I’m making going again this year a priority and hope to drag some other women from church along with me.

There are definitely more things I plan to do in 2013 — I have long lists of projects to do, places to go, people to see — but nothing else I feel strongly enough to commit to publishing. It’s going to be an exciting year!


photography tips from a non-expert November 1, 2012

Posted by phoenixhopes in Creating.
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I am a photographer only in the sense that anyone who can point a camera and click a button and thus produce a picture is a photographer. I am a lower-case-p-photographer and will most likely never be a Capital-P-Photographer. I don’t own the equipment, I don’t have the knowledge, and I don’t have the drive. I’m ok with that. We can’t all be great at everything (and some of us are great at nothing but have fun with lots of things).

Currently, the only camera I have is the one on my phone. Remember when camera phones could only produce low quality pictures? Not any longer. My camera phone has more megapixels than anything I’ve owned and has the potential to take great pictures. While I may never be a Photographer, I like learning things that make me a slightly better photographer.

This past weekend I was in Chicago taking my boys out for pizza (Chicago’s Pizza on Montrose if you’re wondering — yummy gluten free and vegetarian options) and noticed the light shining through the holes in the top of the salt shaker, making a cool design on the salt in the shaker. Now one thing even a lower-case-p-photographer should know, especially one that likes to think she has an artistic bent, is that if something intrigues you, snap a picture of it. So I did just that:

Oops! Better turn off that flash!

Yeah, that’s better! Don’t you think the light on the salt is a nice surprise? Then my youngest son showed me something I didn’t know. Apparently, if the “take a picture” button is simply touched and released, then it will produce a picture like the one above–slightly out of focus.  But, if you touch that button, wait for the beep and then release, the camera will automatically focus before taking a picture. Nice! The camera will do the thinking for me! See what I get when I do that:

The angle wasn’t quite as perfect so the light star isn’t centered on the salt, but this picture is definitely more in focus than the one above. Our pre-pizza loaded fries were delivered to the table right after this picture, interrupting my photography play, so no more experimenting with the salt and light.

It’s not likely that I will ever be a Photographer, but if I pay attention and practice what I learn, someday I might be a pretty good photographer.