August 2011 Archives

I like big projects and I cannot lie.


Yup, I just paraphrased Sir Mix-A-Lot in my blog title. That's the sort of classy content you've come to expect from my blog. But it's true, I've knit a lot of hats and mitts and an occasional sock in my time, but those projects don't really interest me. I like something more involved like a sweater or a shawl. Those projects, like a good novel, take so much time and thought that they start to become intertwined with my memories. Stephen King's The Stand will be forever mixed into my memory of the summer my best friend went away to camp while I stayed behind, so too, do my biggest projects feel like a milepost.

I've had my sewing machine since April -- less than 5 months -- and even taking time off to travel for work, and complete some deadline knitting, I've made around 30 sewn projects since then. Finishing a project in a day has some real charm, especially when I love wearing what I've sewn, but I've been craving something more involved and I like nothing if not a chance to dive into the deep end of the pool towards an inevitable belly flop.

Enter my first(ish*) ever quilt.

My first quilt_06

This particular quilt pattern is called a Disappearing Nine Patch and I learned about it from this YouTube video.

Despite being a ridiculously basic quilt pattern, you can see that my seams are all misaligned.

My first quilt_05

And let's not even get started on my attempt at mitered corners, or how 1/3rd of the blocks are oriented in the wrong direction. It's all such a mess that I ended up opting to finish the quilt with ties instead of machine quilting.

But, you know what? I don't care, I loved making the quilt, I loved the colors in the fabric and devoting several days to the project. (I got the fabric here after Wendy tweeted about the shop.

My first quilt_21

The end result is laughable in a lot of ways but I'm so excited to start my next one with the hopes of someday building up the skills to make something beautiful to use on our bed (where it will be promptly destroyed by the three dogs who have free rein of the household.)

If I had one suggestion for a new quilter, it would be to use fabric you love looking at. Making a quilt isn't inexpensive, and your first attempt is likely to have some mistakes but if you just adore the fabric, you will still have something you love, every step of the way.

Also, try to ignore the peanut gallery

My first quilt_11
Everyone's a critic

* Back in maybe 1998, I made a small quilt top, but whatever it was that I knew then, which wasn't much, has long been forgotten.

The Piddle King Turns 1


Actually, of our three rescues, we know the very least about Darwin. When we got him, the foster home thought he could be anywhere from 4 to 6 months old and they seemed sure he was part Border Collie (since the rescue was for BCs) but they were told he was mixed with Dalmatian. Well, if he's half Dalmatian, I'm half giraffe, I would bet money he's got some black lab in him.

Wait. what were we talking about?

Darwin Turns 1 - 1
The beatings will continue until morale improves

Ooooh, right, Darwin and his birthday. So, after we brought the little beasty home, we took him to the vet who checked his teeth and gave us her best guess on his age and I used that to pick a date for Darwin's birthday. For those of you (aka, none of you) who want to mark your calendars, August 12th is the day.

Darwin's been a handful in the past 8 months. To say we get a lot of use out of the carpet cleaner is an understatement, for sure. We're still working on some of the residual emotional problems he has as a result of his living conditions before we got him, but boy does he make up for it in other ways. Little D is sweet, loving, snuggly, smart, a quick learner and eager to make his people happy. We may have a long way to go, to undo his past, but it won't be because he isn't willing.

I feel like I've gotten off on a tangent, was there something I needed to do?

Darwin Turns 1 - 3

Oooh, right, the birthday dinner, you guys are still waiting for that. Sorry.

So in honor of the little guy being approximately one earth year old (give or take) and because he's my sweet little doodle butt, we grilled up three small steaks, added a dollop of fresh local berries and had ourselves a birthday celebration. So without further ado...

Happy Birth-ish-day, Darwin!

It's canning time and our local farms have oodles of amazing berries. I started canning last year and one thing I've realized is that I really really hate cleaning old labels off of perfectly good jars and I dislike it enough that I'd rather buy more jars than reuse the existing ones. Madness. And frankly, my handwriting is nothing to write home to mom.

hand written labels
You should see how bad it is when I'm not trying to write neatly

It wasn't until I was putting together a selection of goodies for father's day, that I hit upon a solution for canned goods that I'll be storing for our own use. I'll still use stickers for stuff I give as gifts, since toppers and tags are easy to lose, but for our own use, these work great and they add a nice polished touch to items given as gifts.

father's day
Four types of jams/jellies, reusable plastic jar lids and the best gummy bears on earth

For regular sized two piece canning lids, these paper labels sit right atop the lid and under the ring, no glue needed. For other sized jars or single piece lids, you can punch a hole in the label to make a tag, and tie it on with a pretty little ribbon. I used heavy weight paper so that they would be opaque and resistant to humidity but regular printer paper should work too.

Since this solution works well for me, I thought others might like it too, so I've put together a selection of PDFs you can download and use yourself. They come in two styles, 8 toppers to a page.

PDF forms allow you type in the info

Plain PDF can be printed and filled in by hand

Fill in with PDF fill in by hand
The PDF forms are formatted with coordinating text and allow you to create 8 identical labels in one quick step. Great for big batches of canned goods If you aren't able to use forms or you have lovely hand writing, use the print and fill labels. Lines are included to keep your writing neat.

Download the PDFs from the following options

Label Style


all 8

All 8 styles on one page.

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Red labels, great for berries

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Orange labels great for marmalade and citrus

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Peach labels, great for peaches, of course

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Yellow labels great for marmalade and citrus

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Green labels, great for pickles and mint jellies

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Purple labels, great for berries and plums

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Burgundy labels, great for berries and plums

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand


Brown labels, great for apple butters and pie filling

Download PDF form

Download PDF to print and fill in by hand

Using the fill in forms in Adobe Acrobat Reader

Be sure you have a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader. I cannot promise that these forms will work in other programs.

Note: If you have a full version of Adobe Acrobat, you can also go in and change the text formatting and location using the Forms tools. These files are not locked in any way. These files can also be opened and edited in Adobe Illustrator, if you wish to change the color of the decorative elements or change the typeface.

Once you've opened your PDF, it's a simple matter to enter your own customized text into the labels. For any of the PDFs containing just one style of label, all labels will update if you change one of them. For the labels showing 8 different labels on a single page, each label is edited individually.

How to edit the labels in acrobat

Once you are done, print out your toppers/tags on heavy paper or card stock and cut them out. They can be glued onto lids or left loose under the ring or you can punch a hole in them and use them as tags.

Happy Canning!


A few years ago, I blogged about my grandmother's starting a new life in Texas after my grandfather died.

Grandma was my last remaining grandparent until today. She died after a very long healthy life and a short period of serious decline.


She was no fan of children but I would never have known it, as a child, because she loved me so much.


A true product of the depression era, she was frugal to a fault which made her endless generosity all the more meaningful.


I always knew my grandmother loved me, that I was special in her life. When I called, the joy in her voice was infectious and I was so happy to talk to her too.


She gave me these photos, and many more, when she moved out of her old home in New Jersey. They are a small consolation to this huge hole she leaves in my heart. I feel truly fortunate that I had so many wonderful years with a grandmother who loved me so much.


I had an airline ticket to see her in just a couple of weeks. I wish I could have told her, one last time, in person, how much she is loved. It is sad to know that I cannot but perhaps, in her honor, you could all take a moment to tell someone you love them, someone you don't have a chance to say it to, as often as you'd like. Fate has it's way of reminding you how much that means when it's too late.

Fall 2011 Twist Collective is Live

The new Twist Collective is live and it's beautiful. I have seen these patterns from their thoughtfully laid out submissions right up to their final tech edited PDF. I've read the articles from their early drafts to their polished finished composition. I feel personally invested in each and every piece's success and receptions from knitters.

There's a lot to love in this edition, including two beautiful garments from my dear friend, Julia Trice, and a must read article on seamed knitting, by Sandi Rosner. And while I think all the articles are fantastic, I'd be remis if I didn't direct you to this story, where you'll struggle to decide which is more endearing, the story itself or the beautiful illustrations.

Of course, I've made my own contribution to this edition (beyond my work behind the scenes), about which I plan to do a separate, more in-depth post. Make sure you cruise by my his and hers pattern, Doppler.

Photo copyright Jane Heller

Originally conceived as just a men's garment, with an asymmetrical ribbed pattern to keep the knitting interesting but not too fussy, I added in a women's version too, sized proportionally for women's standards, with just a hint of waist shaping. Both patterns come with both the crew and turtleneck instructions, so you can really tailor this garment to your preference.

I know it's simple, without the excitement of some of the myriad designs also available in the edition, but I hope it'll be a wardrobe staple for those who choose to knit it.

Now stop reading my blog post and go check out this amazing new edition.

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