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Archive for March, 2011

No, This Isn’t Blarney

Thursday, March 17th, 2011
By Twistie

Behold the humble spud:

It’s a wonderful thing, the potato. It’s easy to grow, prolific, versatile, and delicious. Brimful of vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber, the lowly potato carries a lot of nutritional bang for the buck.

While it’s popularly connected with Ireland in people’s minds, the potato didn’t originate there. It comes originally from Peru, where it has been cultivated since around 500BC. But one of the things that makes potatoes such a popular crop is that it can be grown almost anywhere successfully. Thus when Europeans got over to the Americas, they quickly got the idea that potatoes were pretty neat and started importing them to their homelands… and the lands they held over the protests of the natives, as well. Thus the potato came to Ireland and quickly became pretty much the staple food of the masses.


For the Birds

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
By Twistie

via Shibori Girl

One thing about crafting, we do wind up with leftover bits, pieces, and scraps to deal with.

If your craft, like mine, leaves you with bits of thread too short to use in anything else, or small, soft, malleable things like little bits of batting, feathers, and other similar items, consider leaving the ones you just can’t use out of doors for the birds to use when building their nests.

I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years, and it’s fun to see a bird hopping around the yard or flying off with a little bit of thread that matches something I recently took off my pillow. In fact, I once saw two small birds having a tug of war over a scrap of bright yellow tatting cotton. Now that was amusing!

So offer up something to Mother Nature, if you can. I guarantee the birdies will love you.

Quickie Question: Crafts From the Past?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
By Twistie

I love creating crafts, but I also love seeing, examining, and yes, owning antique pieces.

My collection includes a number of antique lace bobbins, including two hanging bobbins; a couple pieces of handmade lace that date from before World War I; two antique lace pillows; and several antique volumes of patterns and instructions for lacemakers. I also have a couple pieces of embroidery done by my mother. Not precisely antique, but certainly of the past and very precious to me.

So what about you? Do you own any antiques or family heirlooms? Do you want to? What would be your Holy Grail of crafts collecting?

Crafts on the Front Line

Monday, March 14th, 2011
By Twistie

The smiling lady in camouflage with the pretty purple yarn is Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Almy, who is a physician in the US Navy. She’s also the organizer of the Combat Knitters.

For US troops serving overseas in Afghanistan, life is an endless round of khaki and homey comforts are hard to come by. But the Combat Knitters have found a way to bring a little joy and a little normalcy to their lives through craftwork.

According to the Washington Post, (in an article brought to my attention by the fabulous Fabrisse) the Combat Knitters range from their early twenties to their mid-fifties and are Navy corpsmen, physicians, and nurses. They even have their own patch that many wear on their uniforms, a pair of knitting needles crossed over the outline of Afghanistan.

Of course they can’t get their yarn and knitting needles from the base bazaars. These aren’t exactly the sorts of things the military would think of as a necessity, and well, I can’t exactly blame them for that, either. It’s not like yarn is food or water, after all, and they can’t supply the desires of every person on every base.

But that didn’t stop Jennifer Almy. Almy took up knitting three years ago to help strengthen her left wrist after surgery, and has been doing it ever since. Last summer she was at Fort Dix for some pre-deployment training when Capt. Michael McCarten noticed her knitting a green shawl. He promptly asked if she was a member of Ravelry. When Almy said yes, McCarten got her in touch with his wife, Kathleen Marra, who is part of a Ravelry group called Knitting in Alexandria.

When Almy told Marra about the number of servicewomen who were asking her for knitting lessons, Marra’s group ‘adopted’ Almy and her fellow service knitters. They began sending yarn from a local knitting shop.

Now Almy always carries both her stethoscope and her knitting pouch with her. When she has a few moments to spare or goes on a break, she can bring out a ball of brightly colored yarn and knit. Other members of the Combat Knitters use their yarn to break the tedium of waiting for transport, or to keep their hands busy on movie nights.

In a situation that many compare to living in Groundhog Day, the Bill Murray film in which he lives the same day over, and over, and over again, knitting helps these women stay grounded. They can measure actual progress in a situation where progress is hard to come by. They can control something in a place where so much is out of their control. They can look at something that isn’t khaki and isn’t regimented.

So what’s the moral of the story? Well, if you have a loved one serving overseas or if you contribute to care packages to support the troops, consider adding a ball of yarn, a couple of knitting needles, a chart or two, or even something like a tatting shuttle and thread to your offering. It’s a little thing, but it might be a real aid in helping someone stay sane and grounded in the midst of war.

Cranes for Hope

Friday, March 11th, 2011
By Twistie

via boncherry

Last night, Japan was hit with an earthquake that measured 8.9. To get an idea of what that means, the most widely accepted measure of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake was 7.9. This is what it looked like:

Mind you, a significant amount of the difference has to do with what came next. In San Francsico, the earthquake was followed by a fire. Last night’s earthquake in Japan was followed by both multiple fires and a tsunami. That tsunami energy has swept across the ocean and hit as far away as Santa Cruz, California this morning. Pretty much the worst damage there today has been a few damaged pleasure boats and at least one sunk. Not pleasant, certainly, but far from the horror of people swept out to sea, buildings demolished, thousands stranded in the streets, and pretty much the entirety of  Disneyland Tokyo submerged.

And so I find my mind turning to origami cranes.


Hope I Don’t Catch a Wave

Friday, March 11th, 2011
By Twistie

Folks, there’s a tsunami warning in effect out here. So far it’s not here and it’s not expected to be terribly devastating where I am, but I’m playing it safe, turning everything off, and heading to slightly higher ground for a next little while.

Keep your fingers crossed that the regularly-scheduled article will appear in a couple hours or so.

All He Was Saying Was Give Peace a Chance

Thursday, March 10th, 2011
By Twistie

via IDSA Philly

This gentleman is American craft artist George Nakashima. The young lady sitting on the table is his daughter, Mira. Nakashima was a visionary artist, and today Mira continues and expands his legacy of exquisite furniture.

via Modern Design

As you can see, the philosophy behind the work was always one of respect for the material. The shape and grain of the wood are left intact on top, while being supported by architectural bases. The combination of minimal interference and thoughtful construction creates a harmonious and entirely practical result.

But Nakashima was also a dreamer.


Are You Going Green?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
By Twistie

… For St. Patrick’s Day, that is?

Or perhaps you’ll go blue, as explained in this interesting essay over at Vintage Image Craft, along with links to some St. Pat’s crafts that may be of interest to some of you.

I’m thinking I might find a shamrock pattern to put on my lace pillow… or I may just stick to my usual St. Pat’s tradition of wearing orange and cooking corned beef and cabbage.

An Ode to Socks

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
By Twistie

via HJS Studio

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas come and gone and I didn’t get a pair. People will insist on giving me books.”

Okay, I’m also firmly of the opinion that one cannot have too many books, but I agree with Dumbledore that socks are something to be appreciated, loved, nay, coveted.

I do not come by this belief through the maternal side, since my terribly Bohemian mother never, ever wore socks and only wore stockings when she absolutely felt she couldn’t get away with not wearing them. What’s more, on those rare occasions, she would complain bitterly given the opportunity. No, my love of socks is not born of her flesh.

Nor do I come by my adoration of the humble sock through the paternal line. My father came of a long, long line of Scottish Presbyterians who would have considered such a thing Highly Frivolous. Socks are a purely practical requirement on his side of the family. My father would always have a good – but not excessive – supply of basic white tube socks to wear with his work boots which he wore to work and anywhere else that did not absolutely require dress shoes… and a couple pairs of black socks for those times when he was forced grumbling into a suit. These were much the same times my mother was complaining about her stockings, which generally meant they were going to the opera, which they both loved dearly. It was the dressing up that wasn’t in their natures.


Quickie Question: What’s the Thing That Appeals To You the Most?

Monday, March 7th, 2011
By Twistie

We all come to our various crafts in different ways, and for different reasons. We all enjoy making things with our hands,  but what appeals about it for me may be quite different from what appeals to you.

Why bobbin lace? Well, for me there are multiple reasons. I love the tools. They’re pretty. They feel good in my hands. They add to the beauty of my home. But that’s not my only reason. I also adore the finished product. It’s delicately beautiful, yet surprisingly sturdy. I’ve always been fond of the obscure, and let’s face it: bobbin lace is one of the more obscure handcrafts going. I had been making lace for the better part of a year before I met another person who did it. I love knowing something other people don’t, and knowing how to make lace pretty much assures I know something that somebody else in the room doesn’t.

But I think what I love the most is the process. I love the way I feel when I’m tossing bobbins. It’s a zen feeling. I feel at peace and joyful when I’m crossing and twisting those threads. Stress just falls away and my brain becomes a harmonious place. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m kneading bread dough or rolling out pie crust. It’s that absolute sense of peace that comes when my hands are doing something that matters to my heart.

So what about all of you? What is it about sewing or knitting or crochet or carving or creating books or making prints or scrapbooking… whatever your craft may be, what makes it your craft above any other?

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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