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Oklahoma Snow Storm

Today the temperatures crept above 20 degrees for the first time in almost two weeks, so I ventured out of doors to document last night’s snowfall.

Backyard vista. Bill estimated the total snow accumulation at seven inches
Neighborhood street
Bundled up, including Wellies.
A lone snow person stands on guard.
Magnificent pecan tree holding its own against the snow
Rosemary bush, whose winter blossoms were rudely interrupted. Her fate is uncertain.

I did spend time today quilting on the Animal Friends quilt. I also prepared the quilt sandwich for the Round Robin piece, which is getting almost too big to fit under my sewing machine.

Tomorrow we may have more snow, but warmer temperatures will be here by Friday. And then, very soon, spring weather will arrive in Oklahoma.

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Sunday Walk on Pathfinder

Today was way too beautiful to spend it staying indoors. We walked.

Here are a few highlights from sights seen in the woods near our house today.

Fungi the color of Halloween

Such an intense orange color, these fungi begged to be photographed.

Oak Tree Tops

It pays to look up.

Bright berries and neon green leaves.

I don’t know the name of this shrub, but it was abundant in the flood plain.

Pond with reflected sky

I love the duckweed’s color. It’s so intense.

Great Blue Heron perched in a tree.

At the pond, there was also a snake sleeping next to the path. I didn’t take his picture.

Golden rod next to willows.

Goldenrod was the most glorious blooming plant today. It was a favorite of the bees.

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Let’s Make Pesto

Something completely different today. Fiber friends, please indulge me while I glory in seasonal produce.

During my daily walk through the back yard, I realized that the basil plants were at the perfect stage of growth to be harvested for basil pesto. They had lush, big, green leaves, without blossoms, but highly fragrant. How fortunate that I had all I needed in my pantry, including home-grown garlic dug up about six weeks ago.

After washing and spin-drying the basil leaves, I got out my well-used recipe for this delicacy. It’s from a collection published by my herb club friends in Plano, TX. This version was submitted by Gladys Denham. Begin with these items.

  • 2 c. packed fresh basil
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 1/2 chopped walnuts (I substituted cashews)
  • 1/3 c. olive oil (always use cold-pressed virgin oil)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In blender or food processor, grind the garlic. Add the nuts and grind some more. Add a small amount of the basil and just enough olive oil so that the machine will grind the leaves. Keep adding the basil and oil until all is incorporated. Add the salt just before the final grind.

Here’s where I vary from tradition. At this point in preparing classic pesto, grated cheeses such as Parmesan and Romano are stirred into the mix. Instead, I pack the ground mixture into sterilized jars and freeze it.

Throughout the year, when I need some fresh basil for a recipe, I just thaw out a couple of tablespoons. If I am making classic pesto sauce for pasta, I will thaw the mix, add cheese and a little butter. It’s then ready to stir into hot cooked pasta.

The best part of making pesto is using the leftover bits in the blender jar as a topping for cream cheese and crackers.

What a heavenly and fragrant lunch! Today I had fresh mozzarella and Italian salami to accompany my pesto.

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A Walk in the Woods

Stellar weather today. The temperatures are in the mid 50s, with sunshine and no wind. It was a perfect afternoon for walking. We went to the Pathfinder, which winds its way through the floodplain along the river. I brought my Canon camera and got a few shots that could serve as reference photos for future drawings.

Over the river. Beautiful lines, shadows and colors.
Interesting perspective
Great reflections on the pond and fine color contrast between banks and water.
The trees in the foreground frame the shot.
Really lovely bark texture and brilliant green moss.

Back home for a cup of tea with biscuits (also known as cookies to those of us who live in the States.) The number of days with gorgeous weather this year is about over.

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And now for something completely different

The craft of felting has got to be one of the oldest uses of wool. Pretty soon after (or maybe even before) early humans had begun to keep animals for meat and milk, they discovered the warmth of fleece. Early blankets required no manipulation to create – they were just matted, shed hairs of sheep, goats and what-have-you.

We can use of the propensity of wool to felt and make whatever we want. Today I want to make some felt balls to give to my granddaughter for Christmas. She is now walking and very interested in chasing objects across the floor. I read about felting balls in a library book – sorry I don’t remember which one, or I would reference it. The designer started with a jingle bell. I went to the dollar store and bought a bag of cat toys for a dollar. I had some fleece left over from teaching fiber arts.

The tools for this project are readily available in most homes: a plastic placemat, some bubble wrap, a large bowl with a fitted lid and a squeeze of dish soap. Merino wool bats are available from craft stores for a few dollars each. I used four colors of fleece for my balls.

First, separate the fleece into thin strips, then pull the strips apart gently every four inches or so. You want to expose the loose ends of the fibers. Begin wrapping the fleece strips around the ball, overlapping and pressing the fibers down on each other. Continue until the ball is covered with about a one inch layer. Gently roll the covered ball around in your palms, loosely, until the fibers seem to be clinging. When the wool has begun to matt, it will look something like this:

The beginning stage of felting.

Make a few more balls to this point before moving on to the next step.

Add about an inch of soapy water to the bowl. Dip the felt balls into the water, then pick up each and roll it on the bubble wrap until all the fibers are pretty well mashed together. They will look something like this:

Okay, here is the fun part. Put on some lively music. Place balls in bowl with a little soapy water, snap on the lid, pick up bowl and start shaking it around like crazy. The goal is to bounce them together and keep them rolling. This process is called fulling the wool. It will take ten to fifteen minutes.

These balls are pretty well fulled.

The next step is called shocking. The soapy water is rinsed off, then balls are immersed under hot water for about a minute. After the hot water is squeezed out, the balls are immersed in cold water. A few repetitions of this step will shrink and harden the wool. Set balls aside to dry.

You can also put them in the dryer for 15 minutes on medium heat.

Here are my felt balls, ready to be wrapped up for giving:

I was delighted that the felting worked just fine over the plastic cat toys. These balls are now child-safe and ready to roll.

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Prayer Flags

Prayer Flag at Sarchu

I have long been fascinated with Tibetan prayer flags. Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe that prayers will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. This thinking makes the hanging of prayer flags both an ecumenical and a humanistic practice. And while there exists a standard color, order and shape of the pennants in traditional flags, modern fiber artists reinterpret the flags according to the artists particular craft. They make a fantastic variety of creative works decorated with applique, embroidery, quilting, beads and so on.

I direct you to begun by Vivika Hansen DeNegre in 2011. For my prayer flag project, I want to test out the dye capabilities of my Jacquard Textile paints. I learned recently that the paint can be diluted with water and used as a dye bath for fabric. My goal is to create a mottled, pastel effect. Here is what I have done so far:

Cotton muslin cut into rectangles. I tied some of them, to attempt a Shibori-like effect

Here you see the dye baths, the baths with the cloths submerged, and the cloths removed and drying. The red paint works best, the yellow second. The blue bath tinted the fabric very lightly. This might have worked better on pre-washed fabric.

I used the left-over red paint to tint a few printed pieces of fabric:

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Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!

Around here, we seem to have a coat hanger problem. They are everywhere. And, while I don’t condone her approach, Joan Crawford was right about the bad things that wire coat hangers can do to your favorite garments. Today’s post is about turning those nasty wire hangers into lovely padded hangers. As an added benefit, all the materials I am using are recycled.

Along with coat hangers, I have bubble wrap (another item that seems to accumulate, especially if your family likes shopping on-line) and a discarded shirt. You will need some masking or painter’s tape, thread, and a little bit of felt. Hopefully, these things are all on hand.

Here’s one of those bad boys.

Start with your bubble wrap. Fold it over a few times and lay the hanger on it.

Fold the upper edges down, and bring the lower end of the wrap up to meet the top. Use tape to secure the edges. Wrap the tape around several times. When finished, it will look something like this:

Don’t worry, none of the tape will show, unless you use a thin fabric.

Now the shirt. My husband got a tear in the sleeve of this one. Irreparable. I will be using fabric from the upper body, front and back. Cut off the collar and sleeves. Continue cutting the shirt around until you can open it out flat. Lay the wrapped hanger down on top of the opened shirt. Cut around the hanger, leaving at least one inch for the seams at top and bottom of hanger.

I’m afraid I didn’t get any photos of the sewing-up process – sorry. Basically, you sew the front to back at the shoulders and sides of the hanger, conforming to the hanger’s shape as best as you can. Turn, press and sew under the remaining raw edges – neckline, lower edge, and center front. I inserted a small patch of felt around the area of the hook, because there was no fabric at that location. Here is the back view of the completed cover:

I thought the label was cute, so I used the inside back of the shirt.

Close up the lower edge by stitching with the zipper foot of your machine, and you’re done! But, of course, that wasn’t good enough for me, because this is Fiber Art. I added a bit of embroidery, including the international symbol for Recycle.

Maybe if poor little Christine Crawford knew this trick, her mom wouldn’t have been so mean to her.

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For the Birds

Photo by Bill Riley

My family is passionate about birds. We feed them, we offer them water, we count them (once a year). My husband photographs them. Over and over. I suppose we would be called bird-watchers, or, if we were in GB, twitchers. To encourage our local birds, we try to keep our yard wild enough to make them comfortable. After noticing a robin stealing fibers of twine from my garden stakes to add to his nest, I thought, that’s it! I’ll start an Air BnB for the birds.

No question about what material to choose. Natural twine or jute seems to have curb appeal for these bird brains. I decided to use crochet to make this object.

The instructions are simple, which is fortunate, because the jute was challenging to work with. Chain three stitches, and form a ring by slip stitching the last chain to first. Single crochet inside the ring ten times. Next row, chain two, single crochet two stitches , then make two sc in the next stitch, continue this pattern around back to the beginning. Slip stitch last and first stitches together. Repeat this row until the base of the nest measures between 3 and 6 inches in width. It will look something like this:

Next, single crochet in each stitch all the way around, slipping stitch and chaining two stitches at the end of each round. Stop when the sides are 3 inches tall.

My nest ended up 4 inches wide by 2 and 1/2 inches tall

Where to put it? I’m told that real estate is all about location. For the birds, that means not too low, not too high, not too visible, not where the cats prowl. Fortunately, we have a row of yew trees in our side yard.

I will be pleased if a pair of our feathered visitors choose to move in.