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Archive for April, 2012

The Joy of Public Crafts

Monday, April 16th, 2012
By Twistie

(Illustration via Yarnbombing where you can see this amazing Olympics-themed installation in all its glory)

A couple weeks ago, Mr. Twistie and I were hurrying to a nightclub in Oakland to see a band we know and love perform. We were looking forward to an evening of good music, good fun, and all kinds of happy times. But since we were running late, I was also feeling a little stressed. After all, I learned at my mother’s knee that if you aren’t early by a goodly margin, then you’re late. It’s made me a little neurotic about time management ever since and then I went and married the guy who I fully expect to be at least an hour late to his own funeral.

Yeah. Issues. I’ve got them, too.

So there I was a little stressed and trying to hurry through an unfamiliar neighborhood (we’d never been to this club before) in the gathering dark, and have I mentioned I have night blindness? Because I do. So the sun setting rapidly in the West was definitely not helping my anxiety, and I was worried I was going to trip over some oddity in the pavement and fall flat on my face, which is not my favorite way to spend even a nanosecond, when suddenly I saw it: yarnbombing!

Someone had knitted a brightly colored striped cosy for the traffic light on one corner. More than that, someone had festooned the streetlamp next to it with a frilly knitted garter.

The light was still fading. In a few minutes, I wouldn’t be able to see anything at all. The neighborhood was still unfamiliar. The sidewalk was still in need of repair. We were still running late.

But you know what? I suddenly didn’t care so much about any of those things. Someone had made a frilly garter for a streetlamp and that made me happy in ways I cannot even begin to describe. I relaxed.

For some reason, seeing people do crafts in public, or seeing their crafts displayed out in the open gives me a peaceful feeling. It grounds and enchants me. It reminds me that there’s value to doing things simply because they add to the beauty or the whimsey of the world.

And that’s not at all a bad reminder to get when running late in the dark in an unfamiliar place.

Oh, by the way, the concert rocked!

The Past Was Colorful, Really

Friday, April 13th, 2012
By Twistie

I always find it kind of amusing that films set in the far, far past tend to show people dressed mostly in shades of brown and ecru with little touches of muddy green or dull ochre here and there. Oh, and the more poor people, the less color in general.

But the fact is that some surprising colors – and surprisingly bright shades of them! – can be produced via natural dyestuffs that would have been found growing by the side of the road.

For instance, I once chatted with a woman who dyed her own thread and wove her own fabric. She only used natural dyestuffs. I admired a scarf that included a rather delicious salmon pink stripe. What created that color? Mushrooms!

I still don’t know what kind of mushrooms they were. I didn’t think to ask and I’ve never met up with her again. All the same, there’s a variety of mushroom in the world that produces a clear, bright salmon pink when dying wool. Somehow, that makes me happy.

Depending on circumstances, using Queen Anne’s Lace as a dye might leave you with purple, green, or yellow. Oh, and dandelion roots can produce red dye.

Curious to know more? I found this handy chart of natural dyestuffs and what colors they produce over at Pioneer Thinking. You’ll also find some good basic information to get you started dyeing for yourself. Oh, and there are pages of tips from readers.

What To Do With Easter Now It’s Over

Thursday, April 12th, 2012
By Twistie

There’s a downside to most major holidays: the detritus.

And in the post-Easter haze, there are a lot of little plastic eggs that use to be filled with candy and tiny decorative items sitting around empty and forlorn. What the heck are you going to do with them all?

Well, if you’re smart and crafty, you might head over to Creativity in Progress and learn how to make these adorable teacups for your child’s playtime enjoyment.

Do you have a great idea for using up the leftovers from holidays? If so, feel free to share in comments!

Two Great Crafts That Go Great Together

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
By Twistie

I love putting things together, and the more unlikely the mix, the more accomplished I feel when I put them together. Still, some things come together more gracefully than others and I appreciate that fact.

For instance, the ancient Japanese braiding technique of kumihimo marries well with modern beading techniques, as shown in this festive and fun spiral bracelet by Susan Jefferson.

Jefferson uses a variety of techniques to create her unique jewelry. Her materials range from seed beads to polymer clay to silver clay (a material I was heretofore unfamiliar with), to the fine fibers that she braids into her beaded kumihimo pieces.

Her work is for sale through her website, and she also teaches classes. Unfortunately for me, I would have to be in the East Rochester NY area… and I live in California. But if you’re in her area, be sure to check out her class schedule on the Let’s Bead store  website.

This One Wigs Me Out

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
By Twistie

Rooney Mara wore one in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Lucy Lawless was fitted for one for Spartacus, but didn’t wear it in the end.

Heidi Klum wore a huge, terrifying one in Blow Dry.

Kate Winslet refused to wear one in The Reader.

Fifteenth century prostitutes wore them.

What potentially not safe for work fashion item am I talking about?


Slice of Life

Monday, April 9th, 2012
By Twistie

Chances are you have a toaster on your counter. Most people do. I have one. I don’t use it every day, but when I do I’m glad it’s there.

It’s humble and ubiquitous and nearly unnoticed by most of us on a day to day basis.

And one day  Thomas Thwaites, a graduate student at the  Royal College of Art, decided to make one for himself from scratch.

He could have just gone down to the hobby shop and bought a kit and called it a day, but he wanted to make it a school project, too. He wanted to make it really from scratch. As in he wanted to create all the components from their base materials.

The Toaster Project is the book born of this concept detailing his year long, nearly two thousand pounds sterling effort to make a simple device for heating bread, much like the one he could buy at a local store for roughly the equivalent of six dollars and pocket change.

Along the way we see him smelting steel using instructions from a fifteenth century manual translated from the Latin by Herbert and Lou Hoover some years before they became President and First Lady of the US of A, making plastic in his own kitchen (do not try this at home, kiddies!), learning to extract copper from water, and getting hopelessly lost in the Highlands of Scotland searching for mica.

It’s a humorous and Quixotic adventure with an engaging guide and scads of useful illustrations. It’s also available in paperback and Kindle editions at

Do yourself a favor. Read it before you try to make your own microwave oven.

Happy Easter from Crafty Manolo

Sunday, April 8th, 2012
By Twistie

May your day be filled with chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate… and maybe something as pretty as these eggshell vases. But if nobody gives them to you, you can learn to make them yourself at

Quickie Question: Broken Equipment?

Friday, April 6th, 2012
By Twistie

Okay, it didn’t look quite like this, but the reason I’ve been gone all week is because my trusty, rusty, eMac has been sick in the sick computer hospital getting a bunch of emergency surgery right when Mr. Twistie’s laptop was filling in for another computer at his office and, well, I’ve been going through internet withdrawal symptoms for days.

My baby is all better now, just as the laptop is coming home, too, of course. Isn’t that always the way?

But now I find myself thinking about broken equipment. It does happen to us all, doesn’t it? I’ve had pins bend and bobbins snap at the worst possible times in a lace pattern. It’s a pain in the lower digestive tract, frankly, though it has yet to utterly stop me in my tracks. And of course I’ve mentally commiserated with Project Runway contestants who find themselves fighting with sewing machines in the throes of various machine ailments. So what about you? Ever had a needle snap? A spindle drop too hard and come apart at the seams?

Tell me all about it. You’ll feel better.

Share and Enjoy!

Monday, April 2nd, 2012
By Twistie

If you’ve been reading this blog for any time, you know I have a passion for the history as well as the techniques of crafting. I own several antique books on various needlework techniques, reprints of a great many more, and some fascinating pamphlets, as well. One of the bobbin lace patterns I used for my wedding gown was taken from the oldest known printed collection of bobbin lace patterns, dating back to 1559. It was a pretty – and surprisingly complex! – edging, which I really enjoyed making.

So when I find a good cache of patterns, books of instruction, and historically significant pamphlets available online, I just have to share the wealth with my fellow enthusiasts.

The Antique Pattern Library is a fabulous resource for the modern practitioner of antique needlework techniques. It’s a completely free collection of antique and vintage books and pamphlets for techniques ranging from knitting and crochet to quilting, bobbin lace, tatting, needle lace, beading, embroidery… almost anything you can imagine. Each book or pamphlet is in PDF format for easy downloading and use. There are literally hundreds of resources on this site and every single one is free.

Some of the names listed as authors are familiar to those of us who love antique needlework: Therese de Dillmont, Isabella Beeton, Butterick, Coats and Clark, and the Red Cross. Others are less well known, but have equally interesting and inspiring patterns to play with.

Oh, and if you have an out-of-copyright book or pamphlet in your needlework collection, consider offering it up so that another needleworker out there can have a chance to do the patterns. You’ll find all the information you need to do so right here.

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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