Thursday, December 31, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Comfort Book

Let me introduce you to the project that has been my "baby" over the last few months. I'm calling it my "Comfort Book."

Ten years ago, my father died and I received love and support from my community. Some of that came in cards.

I kept the cards in a little box. Not too long after, I knew that I was going to collect them together into a book somehow. I drew up a pattern for the cover of the book. A front. A spine. A back. I asked Troy to cut the shapes out of wood and he did.

These things sat together in that box for a long time. I would see it every now and then as I went through my crafting supplies for some reason or another. Packing to move. Searching for some tool. But I was not moved to do anything with them.

It's ok for projects to sit for a while. Sometimes a long while.

Then I took the altered book class at Squam this past June. I did some work on my "starter book." Once I had my own supplies to work with, I did some collages on sheets of paper and a canvas .

And then one day I saw those cards and the wooden cover pieces and I knew it was time.

I started with what was easy for me. I took the cards to the sewing machine, and I stitched ribbons onto some. I stitched decorative stitches. I added lace. I didn't worry too much about what colour thread was in the machine and one time I ran out of thread but I kept stitching because the holes punched in the paper after the thread ran out was still interesting.
I asked the quilters group on Ravelry if any of them had scrap or extra ribbon or lace that I could use. Three people sent me an envelope full, no charge. So generous! One gorgeous wide ribbon was added to this card:
I had enough for two edges so I did the side and bottom. It's sewn onto the bottom flap of the card (pictured right side), but looks great with the cover (pictured left side).

Here is another one I added a lot of ribbon to:
The card originally had pictures of tulips on the cover. They were nice, but I went ahead and covered it up with part of a picture taken when I was with these friends on the beach in South Haven. I used another portion of the picture on the inside.

A lot of this was not done with a lot of rational thought or ideas of why. I enjoyed spending time with these cards and adding ribbon, lace and thread wherever seemed right.

I did this over multiple sessions over a couple weeks. I find creative work tiring and although I would start it with relish, at some point I would feel completely depleted and have to tell myself to stop.

Once I finished the sewing and stitching I wanted to do, I moved on to adding photo transfers. I learned in my Squam class that there is this magical marker that will transfer pictures printed on laser printers/copies onto other papers.

So I printed some pictures at work on the colour laser printer we had (which just died this week so I was just in time!) and on the black and white photo copier. I printed two sizes (3.5x5 and wallet) and multiple copies of each picture in b/w and colour.

I then added them to cards as seemed appropriate:
The one in the top left yielded an extra surprise. I transferred the photo onto a card that had embossed shapes. So the white butterflies and flowers you see are just where the transfer didn't reach because the paper isn't flat. But it worked out so perfectly!!

I had a couple of cards from flowers that were sent, so I put them into some blank cards I had and dressed them up too.
Then I went crazy with the texture. I put my stencils on the cards and filled them in with molding paste. Once it dries you have these square bumps on the page. I love the effect. (If you look closely, you should be able to see it in the two pictures above.) To some I added colour with paint but most I just left white.

I took a sympathy card I had in my own card stash and turned it into the cover page.
I put the text on the paper with the photo transfer technique so it looks old and worn. It says:

Comfort Book
A collection
of the cards
good wishes,
bestowed on me
upon the loss
of my father.

On the inside of the card, I put the obituary and a picture of dad with me and my sisters when we gave him a sort of memory quilt we made when we knew he was sick.
Once the cards were "done" (does it ever feel like it's done?) I took the time to spray them all with a sealer or fixative. That was hard for me because I was very eager to get to the binding part!!

I used a sewn binding where you sew each card to the one next to it, making a chain of connectedness.
It was a little tricky because the cards were different sizes but I made it work. (Perfection not being a virtue I was pursuing. Quality workmanship--yes. "Perfection"--probably not.)

By then I also had the cover put together. I used drywall tape to connect the front, spine and back like a Jacob's ladder toy. (I am fascinated with those things and have always been interested in making one.)
So there are two strips of tape that run on the outside of the covers and inside of the binding and then one strip that runs on the outside of the binding and inside of the covers.

PS Drywall tape is my new secret weapon. It's self-adhesive and is repositionable. It adds texture and can be painted. It was a great addition to many pages.
I then glued the backs of the cards to add a little strength and glued a piece of paper to them to add cohesiveness. I then glued the pack of bound cards to the inside of the spine of the cover. It didn't work. Once I opened the book and flipped through the cards, the pack released from the spine and wasn't connected to the cover any more. The cards needed to curve upward and would not stay glued to the flat spine.

So I took a different tack. I had already covered the back of the spine with rolls of magazine paper sealed with modge podge. I ran ribbons down through the tubes and inside the pack of cards.
When I looked through the ribbon that I had left and pulled out the narrowest ones, I didn't really like their bright colours. And only one of them was long enough to go all the way up and down the spine.

Just as a "proof of concept" I decided to use them anyway. (I figured I would replace the ribbon with ones I liked once I knew the method would work.) So I took the too-short ones and knotted them together in pairs. I ran one end down through the paper tube and the other end between the cards. And then I tied them tight at the bottom of the book.

And it worked! And once I had the ribbons in the book, I realized they were perfect and I didn't have to replace them at all.

Obviously I haven't shown you every detail and every page, but I think I was able to give you a good idea. I have been so excited working on it. You can see that I did not take any pictures while it was in progress. It was too distracting from the work to even think about it.

I recently took it to a gathering of friends and I seriously carried it around like it was my baby, sharing it with anyone who asked to see, but otherwise holding it protectively. (It's ok. I know: I'm a nerd.)

I am looking forward to taking it home and sharing it with my family. I want still to add personal memories, stories or vignettes from the time when Dad died, but I hope to talk about that time with my family first to make sure I'm remembering some things correctly and hear what they remember. I hope we will have time for it.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Wool-Aid Projects in 2015

Here is another pair of socks I finished for Wool-Aid. They were the sixth pair this year. I did a 2x2 rib on top of the foot and around the legs, ending in a 1x1 rib to help them stay up.

I finished with the Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off that you can see below.
And I did my usual gusset, short row heel and then heel flap to decrease the gusset stitches.
These socks ended up pretty big at 9.5". As soon as they were done, I cast on another pair with a few fewer stitches but the same yarn. Here they are with only a few stitches left to be bound off. (The church service started and I had to stop!)
But don't worry, I finished them today. So that makes seven pair for the year (and 12 overall).

Here are the other projects I finished in 2015 for Wool-Aid:
I have one more sweater on the go, but I ran into yarn dyeing issues and it has been in time out for a while.

As of December 18, the people on Ravelry who support Wool-Aid have completed the following items in 2015:

Hats 2400
Socks 900
Sweaters 800
Vests 500
Mittens 400
Blankets 75
Total: 5075

10” blanket squares 275 [These are sewn into blankets by an obviously generous volunteer.)

Below is some information about each of the projects/locations supported in 2015. Most of the text is taken from postings by our fearless leader "MorningThunder" on Ravelry. She is the one who collects all of the items and arranges for shipping from her house. Yes, from her house...I don't think they've used the dining room for eating in a long time! (My comments are in italics.)

But wait, before you get to all that, I thought I'd let you know how you can help, if you would like. Obviously, you can knit and crochet things to send. Just follow the guidelines on their website.

And/or you can make a donation to help with shipping and other incidental costs. (MorningThunder does all this for no wage so your money goes only to the good of the project.) See details on their website page here. (If you're still looking for a Christmas gift for me--not that you have to--a donation to Wool-Aid would be wonderful.)

And/or, and this is the easiest one, you can designate Wool-Aid as the charity will donate to as a percentage of all of your Amazon purchases. Go to and chose Wool-Aid from the list. Once it's on your account, you will need to start your shopping at (every time) and all purchases will help! Go do it. Do it now! Click.

Now, here are the stories of the people the Wool-Aid group has helped in 2015:

2015 NEPAL

In June, she reported that Wool-Aid has established a new partnership with some very wonderful and dedicated people in Nepal!

Wool-Aid items will be sent to help a group of young monks at the Tendhar Lugar Choeling Monastery, but even more of our Wool-Aid items will be shared with needy children who live in the area surrounding the monastery in Kathmandu and in other parts of Nepal.

Monks from this monastery have been very active in securing and delivering relief aid to people who have been affected by the earthquakes that first hit the area on April 25, 2015, with the young monks being very much involved in these relief efforts. They are taught the significance of service -- expressing love, compassion, and universal responsibility -- in word and in deed.

There are currently 53 young monks at the monastery, ages 5 to 15. At the Tendhar Lugar Choeling Monastery, the monks can wear mustard (gold), yellow, maroon, and brown colors. They wear sweaters and vests under their monks’ robes during the winter, and socks and hats are also much needed.

They would especially appreciate receiving blankets for older children and teenagers. Even in the summer, it is quite cold when they are sleeping outside in tents (as many have been since the earthquake, because of the continued danger of building collapse). They often sleep two to a mattress for extra warmth.

After sleeping out in the open on the first night of the earthquake, they tried to sleep in tents the second night. But when it started raining into their leaking tents, they ran inside, only to have to run outside in the middle of the night when the earth started shaking again.

Blankets would be used year-round, because it is cool at night, especially when sleeping out-of-doors or in tents. During the more temperate seasons, they would help protect the children from mosquito and other insect bites in addition to protecting from the cooler temperatures.

The monastery has storage space available, so Wool-Aid can send aid throughout the year and then they can distribute it when it’s needed, either to the young monks or to other children. All items in colors not appropriate for the monks (and perhaps some of the items in monk colors, too) will be distributed to other needy children.

So for all those among you who have wondered if we would eventually be helping people in Nepal, the answer is YES! It took a bit of time to connect with the right people, but we feel that this partnership allows Wool-Aid to help many children with little or no access to other resources.

Aren't these young monks adorable in their gold and red hats!
Distributing hats, sweaters and socks to new monks. Many
of them are brought by their parents because they just can't
afford to keep them at home.

2015 SYRIA

Our warm woolens have been requested by Syria Relief, an international relief organization of excellent repute. They have year-round effective distribution channels and can distribute aid inside Syria, which requires a solid network on the ground within the country. There are over 12.2 million Syrians in desperate need of humanitarian aid, with over 5.1 million of these being children. About 7.6 million people have been displaced within Syria by the conflict. Syria Relief provides care and support to these vulnerable people in hopes of curbing mass migration to refugee camps outside their own country.

Syria Relief sends relief containers to Turkey, where they are taken to the Turkish/Syrian border and undergo standard freight and customs inspections before they are met by ground teams inside Syria and taken to warehouses for distribution. Syria Relief is able to reach areas that most others can’t. More often than not, these are the places with the most desperate needs.

While the need is so great that anything we send will be promptly distributed, they have specifically asked Wool-Aid to help children who are 9 to 12 years old, with a focus on hats, mittens, and vests.

Because Syria is a country at war, we will avoid sending items in camouflage colorways; we have also been asked not to send items that are red. Representational images of people and animals are not appropriate for distribution within Syria.

Syria Relief is a registered NGO in the UK, with a clear aim in Syria: Relieving the suffering : Supporting the future.



In August, MorningThunder wrote: Wool-Aid has received a request for warm woolens from a small school district in Alaska that serves a group of seven very remote villages. The winters are very cold there, dipping to –60 degrees on some days! Snows begin at the end of October and continue through April.

The population is Native Alaskan, specifically Athabascan. Unemployment is very high, and most families are below the federal poverty line. There is no commerce -- no jobs, no stores, no places to buy things. Anything that is purchased must be flown in, which is very expensive.

We are being asked to help about 50 students who are in pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade. These are children 4 to 7 years old who need our warm woolens to help keep them warm when they are playing outside at school. With such limited resources, it seems that there isn’t money to spend on clothing that would be quickly outgrown by these youngest of children.

For these children, the specific request is for hats, mittens, and socks.

All colors -- especially bright ones -- are welcome for these children!

By mid-November, she wrote: This wonderful group of knitters and crocheters is sharing love and warmth about 50 children in pre-K through first grade in a small school district that serves seven villages (Kaltag, Minto, Huslia, Nulato, Allakaket, Koyukuk, and Ruby) in central Alaska, on the Yukon River -- and the boxes may be delivered soon!

Here’s what was enclosed in the two large boxes from Wool-Aid:

65 hats
66 pairs of mittens
7 hat & mitten sets
80 pairs of socks


Wool-Aid is pleased to let you know that we are helping children in orphanages in Akkol and Urupinka, Kazakhstan this year. It gets really cold there -- temperatures can reach -40 degrees in midwinter, and the snows start in August!

Nanci from the Motherless Child Foundation (Mittens 4 Akkol) contacted Wool-Aid to see if we could help out with some pairs of socks for the children they support. We shipped out 81 pairs of socks and included 15 pairs of mittens in larger sizes, too. They will be on their way to Kaz with Nanci next week!

Your help is very much appreciated. Nanci sends profound thanks to the members of Wool-Aid for the socks and mittens that she’ll be able to give to children in the orphanages this December.


In January, MorningThunder reported: Our shipment to the Dulaan Project in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is on its way! We have supported the Dulaan Project for several years. They serve children in schools, orphanages, and on the streets in Ulaanbaatar, where it is often -40°F at night in the winter.

Mongolia’s winter is extreme; the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, is the coldest capital in the world. It rarely gets above freezing on winter days, and can often plunge to -40°F at night. To survive, many of the homeless live in the heating ducts below the nation’s cities. Warm, well-made clothing can allow a child to go to school or an adult to go to work; restore a sense of dignity; and, in some cases, literally save a life.

Bureaucratic issues had kept this shipment on hold (literally for months!), but now all that has hopefully been taken care of so that when our boxes arrive in Ulaanbaatar, the labels will have been pre-approved by the governmental Ministry in charge so the boxes can be picked up without having customs fees charged.
These are the boxes MorningThunder prepared to ship.
Can you imagine having them in your dining room?
Especially before everything was contained in the boxes!?
These 24 boxes weigh 544 pounds and they contain 1307 of your lovingly handknit and crocheted items for the kids. Most of these boxes were ready to go before the end of 2014, but we were able to add to them before the final approval of the forms and labels came through.
Here’s what we sent:
Socks: 201
Hats: 620
Mittens: 220
Vests: 113
Sweaters: 153
TOTAL: 1307

Here is an excerpt from the thank you note that was sent back after the items were received, and a picture of some of the kids with their new woolies on.

You Wool-Aid folks are so wonderfully generous -- sharing your time, your yarn, and your creative talent to help children all over the world. Heartfelt thanks to all of YOU!
As with many of the other organizations, any extra items or things in sizes that didn't fit are passed around the community as needed. The "leftover" items from this shipment were given to homeless adults and disabled and blind people.

In October, another shipment was in the works: Wool-Aid is preparing shipments this fall for the children of Mongolia, working with the Dulaan Project, as we have for several years now. We expect our big shipment to Mongolia to go out in November.

We will be sending clothing for children of all ages and in all sizes -- and in all colors, too! Meredith, the director of FIRE/Dulaan Project, writes that they find homes for absolutely everything we send!

So keep those needles and hooks busy for the kids!


In February: Wool-Aid continues to support the children in Kyegu, Tibet with regular shipments throughout the year. Our Wool-Aid items are typically distributed to children at selected schools during the winter months. During the summer months, our shipments are held at the monastery until time for distribution. This is a wonderful help, since they are only able to receive a few boxes at a time. Their ability to provide storage space means that we can still move larger quantities of aid to these children.

Wool-Aid’s focus for Tibetan children is for children who are of school age -- about 8 years old through teens. These children are often outside in the bitter cold weather, and they really need protection from the elements. We most often send hats, socks, sweaters, and vests to Tibet.

While the colors of maroon and gold have special significance in Tibetan culture, the children in Kyegu love to receive our warm items in all colors and patterns. So knit/crochet what you love!

I hope you're still reading and enjoyed the stories of all the different places and people that Wool-Aid works with to keep people warm, safe and comfortable.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas Projects, Mostly...

I have finished most of my holiday gift making. One thing is blocking and I'm going to do one more small project because someone mentioned they wanted something and I can make it. Well, other than those two things, I only made one other project. So I'm taking it pretty easy this year for holiday gifts.

Most years, at some point in December, I am struck by inspiration or lunacy and decide to make one more (or one more batch) of presents for co-workers or parents or someone. I think I'm going to be able to avoid that this year. There's enough else going on that I just don't feel up to it.

I still don't feel recovered from the haunted house season (which ended at Thanksgiving in November for me) and we are putting in more hours in on the house rebuild again. (That is a good thing!)

But I haven't completely stopped my creative endeavours. Here is a peek at the Christmas gift that's blocking:
Ok, you didn't really think I was going to show you, did you? Not this year.

And here is the other gift I made:
Ok, not showing that one either. Sorry, you'll have to wait until after Christmas. (It's a good one, too!)

I'm expecting my Christmas cards to be delivered on Monday so I can send them out next week. That is something I'll show you. Why not?

This is the cover:
I did the collage onto an 11x14 canvas I picked up from Goodwill. (Yes, it had a painting on it. No, it is not worse for having paper glued over it.)

I am not crazy about the colour that the paint wash became but I am trying to get over it because once done, I didn't see any way to fix it. I found the center picture of the world in a National Geographic and I printed the other two from images on the web. I had Troy make the star for me from copper wire.

I can't remember exactly what inspired it but I had the idea for the center phrase first. After that, I tried to think of carols that use the word "world" in them so I could do the same word play. Besides "Joy to the [world]", I couldn't think of another one that I liked as much, so I used the phrase "Peace on [earth]" instead.

One other project has been taking a lot of my available time and I hope to show it soon. I have to figure out how to get pictures first...

May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...