Rookie Cobblers


Here they are!


They're orange, and I love them. They are exactly the style I wanted, and they fit perfectly. I didn't go in thinking I'd make orange sandals. Serendipity at its best.


And now? Wyatt wants a pair. He doesn't want a pair exactly like these, of course, but he wants a pair perfect for him, and preferably orange. And why not? I mean, from his perspective, I can obviously make sandals. So why would I hold out on him?

I wouldn't hold out on him. But he has no idea how much assistance Rachel gave me during the workshop. She helped me a lot--I almost made two right sandals before she stepped in. But the truth is, Wyatt has a 2-week long spring break coming up, and aside from finally updating our earthquake kit (dreaded task), we've got few plans. Sandal making could be fun! And best case, we solve some summer footwear issues. Worst case? We don't.

I sat down today to price the tools we'll need, and they are, in total, about the price of the pair of sandals Wyatt likes but whose leather is, in his opinion, too rigid and uncomfortable. In other words, the tools are not that expensive when you consider the sandals he wants-but-doesn't-want will spark arguments and not get worn much.

So we have a plan: Spring Break Sandal Making. I'll let you know how it goes.


Also, in case you're hungry, I have a new recipe to share! We've made Sri Lankan Dal with Coconut and Lime Kale twice now, and it's delicious. It works well with whatever kale or other hearty greens you've got around this time of year. Today, I used a combination of kale and swiss chard, and it was great. One note: The recipe calls for "mustard seeds." I use black mustard seeds, because that seems right to me. Don't skimp on the yogurt when you serve it! It would be a pity to miss out on how it balances the flavors and textures of the dish. 

(In case you're wondering, we are still cleaning out the house. It is spring, after all, which around here means Spring Cleaning. Roughly two weeks until Easter, and we've got the garage and one closet left to go.)




How to Knit a Bunny

It has been awhile since Wyatt has participated in the craft exchange with Benjamin.

On his last turn, in February, Benjamin sent Wyatt the most incredible felted owl in a nest. And then, for Wyatt's birthday, he sent Wyatt a teddy bear scarf he had knitted, and he also sent him a copy of Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson.

Since about April, Wyatt has been focused on learning to knit. For anyone who has ever tried to learn to knit, you know how slow and frustrating it can be. Even with the rhyme ("In through the front door, running 'round the back, peeping through the window, and off jumps Jack!"), stuff happens that you truly hate. Stitches get too tight, your head starts to hurt, stitches drop, you find that you have wrapped yarn in weird ways that make no sense, and sometimes, you want to scream, "STUPID JACK!!" and then hurl the whole mess across the room.

But, eventually, it gets easier. Soon, you can do two rows without stopping, and some days you can do four. And eventually, after a couple of months, you find that you are so close to having a square, you just keep knitting until your eyes cross and you're there! It's a square! Then you can wander around the house with your knitted square for a bit, hugging it, pulling it by its yarn tail and pretending it's a pet, all the while celebrating that it's a square, free and safely cast-off from the needles.

But then? It's time to make it into a bunny. (I learned how to make a bunny from the parent craft circle.) Here's how we did it.

You'll need: Bunny-colored yarn, white yarn, knitting needles, a blunt tapestry needle, stuffing fluff, a smallish bunny-butt-sized flat stone, and if you want a face, buttons and some pink yarn for a nose.

Knit a Square:

Take your bunny-colored yarn and appropriately sized needles for that yarn to get a nice cushy square. Wyatt has been using some pretty fluffy, low-twist yarn and size 10 needles. Cast on 20 stitches. Knit row after row, maintaining your stitch count of 20, until you have a square. You can check for square-ness by folding a lower corner up to the needle. When you see one triangle with no left-over rectangle, you'll know you have a square. (Or you can use a ruler and measure until the sides are even.) Cast off your square and dance around!

Make the Bunny's Head and Ears:

Take some masking tape and make a triangle like this. Thread a tapestry needle with a length of yarn about 8 inches longer than the perimeter of the triangle. If you can, choose a yarn that constrasts a little bit with the bunny yarn you've used so that you can see your stitches. Using a running stitch (over-under-over-under with your needle), and starting at the left corner, leave a 3- to 4-inch tail and stitch along the outer edge of masking tape from the left corner up to the top, and down the other side of the triangle. Tear off the two pieces of tape where you have just stitched, then stitch across the hypotenuse on the inside of the remaining piece of masking tape.

When your last stitch meets your first stitch, you're done with the triangle. Take hold of both ends of the yarn and gently pull the yarn so that you cinch the triangle together. Work the stitches and fabric gently because you don't want to break the yarn!

The head will appear at the center of the triangle, and the ears will take shape from there. It's so fun when the head appears! Before you cinch it super tight, stuff it with fluff so it's sort of firm. Then take the remaining yarn and stitch the stuffing hole closed.

Make the Bunny's Body:

Using an overhand (or whip stitch), close the bunny's spine. Stuff the bunny's body with fluff so it's sort of firm. Drop in the flat, bunny-butt-sized stone. Using a running stitch, go around the edge of the hole, leaving a tail of yarn at the beginning. Cinch the hole closed, pulling gently. Tie it and stitch the hole shut.

Make the Bunny's Tail:

Make a pompom. I hate making pompoms so much. There are a ton of online tutorials for how to make pompoms. Have a look around and see which one you like. (We go with the two cardboard donuts technique. ) Maybe you'll love making pompoms. Let me know if you do, because I am in favor of anyone but me making them. Trim the pompom to the size you like and then stitch the pompom to where the tail should be.


Weave in any loose ends and trim them. If you want, stitch on buttons for eyes and a little triangle for the nose.

Take some pictures of your bunny before you send it to your friend. Finally, cast on a new square to start a bunny for yourself.

Hapa Zome (The Beauty of Hitting Flowers with Hammers)

In June 2015, I attended a workshop by Plants People at West Coast Craft. The workshop was on one of those Sundays when there couldn't have been more traffic or less parking around Fort Mason. It was so bad that, looking back, it is remarkable that my friend Margaret, her friend Aisling, and I all managed to make it to the class, never mind create beautiful flower prints. But we did.

"Hapa Zome" is the name that India Flint gave the natural dyeing process of placing flowers on fabric, folding the fabric, and then hitting the fabric firmly and repeatedly with a hammer (or mallet) to transfer the flower pigments to the cloth. The color transfer and prints you get are incredible. Even when you think you've totally messed it up, the petals move, and you don't achieve even remotely what you had imagined, the result is lovely. And there's no better craft than this one if you're feeling impatient, frustrated or you just want to hit stuff. 

Ever since the workshop, Margaret and I have been saying how much we wanted to do the project again.  We finally got around to it a few weekends ago. Margaret (whose many talents include floral design) picked up the flowers from the Flower Mart and bought the alum, Maja got the silk scarves, and I brought spray bottles, mallets, and towels.

We sprayed our scarves with a solution of water and alum, and then got to hammering, spraying more of the alum solution as needed. (Alum is the mordant we used, and mordant is what helps color stay on fabric rather than just disappear).

We put cardboard on the table under the towels, but three strong women hammering is no joke. By the time we were done, one of the bolts holding Margaret's table together had worked its way off a screw and onto the floor. My point is, choose your hammering surface carefully and look for loose bolts when you're done. You might opt for no towels, as well, if you want a crisper imprint of the flowers. Try it and see what happens. We mixed our alum and water solution without any regard for science or dyeing authority. If you want to do it "right," you can consult natural dye resources for ratios of the amount of mordant to use for a given amount of fabric and prepare the fabric accordingly. You can also choose flowers that are commonly used for natural dyeing in order to get a more lasting result. The wonderful thing about this process (or disappointing thing, depending on how much you love your initial result) is that over time, the colors of the flower imprints shift, fade, and change. As that happens, or as you find other flowers you like, you can add more prints to your piece.

Wyatt was more than just a little bit jealous that I spent the afternoon with Margaret (she was his teacher before she became my friend), and he refused to accept that he wouldn't be hammering flowers himself. So he and I did another scarf the next day.

He loved the whole process. I mean, who wouldn't? Swinging a heavy mallet also tired him out, so there's that, too.

So, definitely try flower hammering.

Also! I have a new soup recipe to share: Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup. No photos, but it's orange like the sweet potatoes in it, and it's great. Don't let the list of ingredients scare you off--most of them are for the spiced chickpeas/garbanzo beans (which I haven't yet made because we had some leftover from Nopalito). The soup is so great, in fact, that Wyatt brought it for lunch a couple of times last week, and the teachers asked for tastes and then asked me for the recipe. My adjustments to the recipe as are: a pinch or two of cayenne (instead of 1/4 tsp, because one of us doesn't like things too spicy), 1 tablespoon of curry powder (instead of 2 tablespoons), and a sprinkle of coconut vinegar or sherry vinegar to finish the soup just before serving. The recipe also doubles very well, and when I added a cup of water that one time I was short on coconut milk, the soup was still just as good.

Last but not least, I hope your Halloween was as good as this little panda's was.



Music, Mending, and Lambtown

Even though I remain really reluctant to embrace the season of apples, squash, and soup, October has gotten off to a truly terrific start. The first weekend was full of so much fun that Wyatt skipped school on Friday so we could fit it all in. And then last week, I published my fourth knitting pattern. More about that in next week's post, but meanwhile, YAY ME.

Last weekend was Wyatt's most anticipated annual musical event: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. We went on Friday before things got too crazy. This is us (actually Wyatt and my knitting, I guess) outside the gates for the concert for middle-schoolers on Friday morning. The music at the festival was great, but the highlight for me this year was watching Wyatt make friends with a four-year old and a three-year old near us at one of the stages—he gave them pony rides on his back, and then they all had a dance party. As if all of that goodness wasn't enough to make a winning Friday, we ended the day on an even higher note after we picked up my friend Debbie at the BART station. We spent the late afternoon and evening with her playing Trouble (which she had brought for Wyatt), making and eating pizzas, and catching up. 

On Saturday, I attended Katrina Rodabaugh's Sashiko Mending Workshop at Handcraft Studio School in El Cerrito. Bonus: Maja came too. I have been waiting for this workshop since June when I found Katrina's work and she promised me in an email that she'd be back in the Bay Area to teach in the fall. True to her word, I got to learn from her in person. She spoke about her journey into slow fashion and the reasons why it's important to disrupt the cycle of fast fashion's trends whenever we can. I loved the books and resources she brought to share. "Sustainable fashion" can be challenging, as I learned in my own little way last year making Wyatt's elephant costume. (Read about that here and here.) During the mending workshop, we hand-stitched a tea quilt (which is thinner and smaller than a potholder, but bigger than a coaster), learned methods of mending, and we witnessed how some simple stitches by our own hands made our patch jobs look beautiful and intentional. Some might even say our embroidery was on-trend. The stack of clothes I need to mend is now one pair of jeans shorter, and I have the confidence and know-how to tackle the rest. Now all I need to do is make the time . . . mending has this way of staying at the bottom of my list of things to do.

Sunday was Lambtown! All three of us went this time, and this year, Lambtown had all the things Wyatt had been looking forward to (music, petting zoo, pony rides, cooking demonstrations), along with a new attractions: a train he could ride on with or without his parents and an interactive farm equipment display. The sheepdog competition was very entertaining, and I learned that Marc knows A LOT about sheepdog trials. (The things a person can hold back in a long-term, committed relationship never fail to surprise me.) We visited with Brooke at the Sincere Sheep booth, where she had displayed my patterns beautifully, and I stopped in to see Kira of Kira K. Designs just next door. Wyatt got to watch carding and blending again at Dreamy Goat Design Studio, and I learned about Shaggy Bear Farms in Scio, Oregon, where they specialize in rare sheep (and their fiber).

I added Gotland and East Friesian roving to the collection of different rovings I have been spinning into yarn. I'm planning to knit all my beginner yarn into a modern, log-cabin style, sampler blanket. My stash of handspun yarn is slowly growing. Here's the stash so far: