31 March 2016

Snow Day!!!

11 inches plus 40 mph wind equals... SNOW DAY!

That kind of storm is too icky to go out in, but conditions are ripe for snowflake photography.

Well, sort of.

Here's my set-up, for those who are curious. I'd been using a handmade blue glass dish as my snowflake background, but this time I was more conventional. I used the glass from a 5x7 picture frame. I set up in the garage with the garage door open only about two feet to protect me and my equipment from the wind.

Temperatures right at the freezing mark and relentless wind don't create ideal photogenic crystals, though. During the hour I spent shooting, most of the 71 shots I snapped resembled something like this.

All winter and spring, I long for a day I can take my time and shoot snowflakes. I finally get a whole day, and the wind destroys my royal subjects!

Oh, well. I guess there will be plenty more storms with plenty more flakes to shoot. Or shovel...

29 March 2016

Let There Be Stories

Every Friday morning, I receive a digest of blog posts from Linkedin. I don't know that I ever asked for it. The first time it came, I thought I would change my preferences and get off the mailing list, but I rarely log into Linkedin, so the digest kept coming. Every Friday.

Sometimes one or two of the posts featured are interesting, but most of the time, I feel like they come from another planet. I don't usually read much of the digest and just delete the email each week, always thinking, next time I log in, I'm getting rid of this piece of spam.

Every once in a while, though, one blog post will hit me. Hard. Every once in a while, someone who writes for Linkedin grabs my attention and holds it throughout the day, sometimes all weekend long and sometimes beyond.

Nicholas Thompson is one of those. He recently wrote about complex storytelling. The title of his blog post, Why Complex Storytelling Is Thriving In Our Digital Age, really caught my attention because I'm a writer. More than a cyclist or crocheter or photographer or designer, I am and always have wanted to be a writer.

I've been discouraged from time to time because it seems reading is falling by the wayside. It seems society in general is moving toward "like" buttons and "lol" or other acronyms. I have often felt the world is falling into a pit of darkness by being obsessed with shorter, concise snippets instead of deeply communicating or reading.

Reading, to me, is like taking a vacation. Reading not only allows me to learn, but often thrusts me into places I may not ever see, experiences I may never encounter, dreams for which I can only long. To me, when people stop reading, they stop dreaming, and they stop wishing for or working toward something better.

So I was utterly thrilled to read Nicholas Thompson's take on storytelling. It gave me hope. It made me believe all is not lost.

After reading and contemplating the blog post for a few minutes, I grabbed a water pitcher and went to the kitchen to fill it so I could water the plants of one of my bosses as instructed while he is away at a seminar. In the kitchen, several of my co-workers were gathered around my good friend Mike, whom we often hike with, listening with marked enthusiasm to his "Ladybug Diary". Last summer during his anniversary trip to Hawaii with his wife, they were hiking along a volcanic trail, desolate except for three bushes and covered with the mists of the rainy season when suddenly the clouds began to lift, exposing the cones and craters of an eruptive past. As Mike and Kim marveled at the landscape, a ladybug landed on his arm.

One day while he was driving in the concrete canyons of downtown Denver on a hot day, he characteristically had the window open and his elbow leaning out. And a ladybug landed right on it!

Now, to add to his compendium, as he was taking down his outdoor Christmas wreath on a 7-degree day, he found a live ladybug beneath the pine boughs. He coaxed the tiny being onto his arm and deposited it on an indoor plant.

I watched my bedazzled co-workers, who were caught up in the marvelous story.

No, storytelling has not died. Nosiree! It's alive and well as a tiny little ladybug on a very cold day!

28 March 2016

Snowflake Monday

Anyone who followed my snowflake-a-long special project more than a year ago knew I was growing really, super-duper, intimidatingly tired of white snowflakes by the end of 2014.

Besides, Christmas was coming; the fudge and divinity addicts were getting fat. Please do put a calorie-free amigurumi on this tired cyclist's yoga mat. To the electric guitar-strumming of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, if you please...

The frustrations I was feeling then prevented me from completing a bonus PDF snowflake pattern booklet I'd planned to release last year to thank those who contributed extra generously to the fundraising efforts of my husband and me in our fight against multiple sclerosis. I had this gigantic and elaborate snowflake pattern plan that never materialized and even now is fractured, although not completely scrapped.

Initially I'd planned to publish my "Frozen"-inspired Rock and Troll patterns here on my blog nearly a year and a half ago, but as I wrote and tested the Troll pattern and took photos to show the complicated aspects (THE NOSE!!!), I realized the instructions were growing far too long and complex for a blog post. I finally decided to include them in the booklet.

For the last 18 months, I've been working earnestly to complete the designs for more fantastic crocheted "Frozen"-inspired patterns. Weeks and weeks turned into months and months. I finally was growing so frustrated, I didn't know if I'd ever get the next booklet done.

A month ago, while we were traveling home from my uncle's graveside service, The Lizard suggested I hold off on the two patterns I haven't written yet and include them in next year's booklet. The movie "Frozen" will never go out of style, right?

Finally releasing today's pattern is such a huge relief because I'm finally Just Letting Go of my (too) huge aspirations of trying to include EVERYTHING in one booklet. Realizing the booklet won't ever get done if I don't take a break and release the completed patterns that have been on the shelf for nearly 18 months now and the pattern that's been giving me such heartache. Maybe I should change the name of that one pattern to Heartbreak Head...

As a result of learning how to Let it Go, I am very happy to announce my new 2016 pattern booklet to benefit the fight against multiple sclerosis finally will be available next week! Yippee!!!

Because today's Moss Snowflake pattern (which is an essential component in the Rock and Troll pattern, which has been giving me such fits) is rather plain, I've includes photos of a plethora of snowflake varieties possible just by changing up snowflake tips. Almost any snowflake pattern may be adjusted to feature your favorite points.

Almost any snowflake pattern may be adapted to a star, too, by omitting one point and making spacing adjustments in the remaining five points to accommodate the change. Sometimes, the changes required are minimal and a few patterns need no adjustment.

Today's snowflake also makes a nice snowflake by binding off at the end of each round. So even though this is a simple and plain pattern, creative possibilities are endless and imagination-building/stretching.

To change up the points on this snowflake, just replace the chain 3 tip with whatever point you like best.

My favorite snowflake points for years were 3D Crystal Snowflake for Mom, Big Wet Heavy Snowflake and Feather Snowflake. Then I came up with the Eris Snowflake tips, and tips on that snowflake were my new favorite for a few weeks. After my biopsy last year, I created new tips on my Pun Intended Snowflake that have temporarily bumped the old favorites off the chart for a while.

What are your favorite snowflake tips?

You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!

Finished Size: 6 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 8 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line
NOTE: To change up the points on this snowflake, just replace the chain 3 tip (between 2/dc shells) with whatever point you like best.

Moss Snowflake

With moss color or lichen color, make magic ring.

Round 1: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc in ring, * ch 3, 2 dc in ring; repeat from * around 4 times; ch 1, 1 dc in 2nd ch of starting ch 2 to form 6th ch 3 sp of Round. Pull magic circle tight.

Snowflakes made by binding off after Round 1

Round 2: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc over post of dc directly below, * 1 sc between next 2 dc, 2 dc in next ch 3 sp, ch 3, 2 dc in same sp; repeat from * around 4 times; 1 sc between next 2 dc, 2 dc in next ch 3 sp, ch 1, 1 dc in 2nd ch of starting ch 2 to form 6th ch 3 tip of Round.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Snowflakes made by binding off after Round 2

Round 3: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc over post of dc directly below, * ch 1, 1 dc in next sc, ch 1, 2 dc in next ch 3 sp, ch 3, 2 dc in same sp; repeat from * around 4 times; ch 1, 1 dc in next sc, ch 1, 2 dc in next ch 3 sp, ch 1, 1 dc in 2nd ch of starting ch 2 to form 6th ch 3 tip of Round.

Snowflakes made by binding off after Round 3

Round 4: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc over post of dc directly below, * ch 4, sk next 2 dc, 1 sc in next dc, ch 4, 2 dc in next ch 3 sp, ch 3, 2 dc in same sp; repeat from * around 5 times, omitting last 2 dc of final repeat; sl st in 2nd ch of starting ch 2; bind off. Weave in ends.

Snowflakes made by binding off after Round 4

Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch the snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.

24 March 2016


I'm a fool for hand-dyes and batiks. When the entire collection of Hoffman Bali Snaps and Crackers went on sale right around Christmas of 2014, I took the plunge.

The Snaps, 5-inch charm squares, were priced something like $1.22 each for a collection of 40 different gorgeous swirly hues in related colorways with whimsical names like Taffy, Red Hots and Kool Aid. You had to pay full price beyond the first set if you wanted more than one of each sale item.

As I see it, to buy one collection at $1.22 and a second one at $9.98 was like buying two for half-price. So yes, I did.

The Crackers, 10-inch layer cake squares, were a little more pricey, but still half of the regular price of nearly $40. I bought one of each. My little Christmas present to me.

A couple of weeks later, a completely different shop offered three of the prettiest Bali Crackers colorways for about $11 each. !!! No such thing as too much fabric for me!!!

My stash was built!

The only problem is when fabric is THAT gorgeous, it's so extremely difficult to cut into.

Twelve of the pastel Crackers almost immediately went into Faded Gems. Thank heavens I didn't have to cut the blocks. The most difficult part was already done!

Then I learned the grand niece for whom I was quilting would be a nephew...

I quickly cranked out Joel's Baby Blues using a few of the blues, which I must confess are my favorites. I can't often walk away unscathed from green batiks, but blues make me goo-goo eyed.

Nearly four months later I decided, while my quilting friend Ruthie joined me for the Denver National Quilt Festival, to use some of the most attractive blues, purples and greens in a color sampler quilt. I planned a very simple design because I wanted to show off the luscious colors. I began piecing individual blocks with sashing during Ruthie's visit, then never got back to the project until a couple of weeks ago.

I initially planned to sew the blocks together randomly. I played with a few blocks and what little dove gray handpaint sashing fabric I had on hand last year and fell in love with these tiny little charms all over again. Sadly, I didn't have enough of the very pastel gray in my stash to complete the top. For seven months, I searched all my favorite online and physical shops before finding three more yards (the last three!!!) of an almost matching pale gray. I bought all three yards.

The two colors of sashing don't match. But from a distance, I can't really tell.

The day after the gray arrived, I had cut enough sashing to finish the project. The following weekend, I played with the blocks again, trying to determine the best placement.

I tried random again, then I tried fading dark to light across the width of the top. That was followed by alternating the direction of fade every other row. I even tried putting the lightest shades in the center, then working outward toward the darks. For fun, I jiggled the starting position of the light block in each row.

I kept going back to the fade from dark to light in one direction. The next day, the quilt top was done.

In retrospect, I wish I had pieced shadows for each color sample to make another illusion quilt. However, I do have enough leftovers to repeat this experiment again, if I can just work up the courage to break into the stash again! If there is a next time, I will make sure to have adequate fabric for the sashing before I cut.

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts and Confessions of a Fabric Addict.
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