Category Archives: needlework

A Quick Gift for Readers

Hey, friends! Joce back with a not-so-heavy post about DIY gifts. If you’ve picked up on any running themes here, you may have noticed that Cath, Jen, and I are three of the biggest book nerds you’ll ever know. When we were all living together in 2137, our cumulative library was pretty darn good; and if one of us didn’t have a book in particular, one of the others probably did. This post is for you book-lovers, and you lovers of book-lovers: while the very best gift for a bookworm might just be a new book, a handmade bookmark might be the next best thing.

When I was a girl, my next-door neighbor and surrogate grandmother Ms. Dot taught me how to cross-stitch, and she also made me the occasional cross-stitched gift. So when I was visiting her over the summer and she handed me this book of patterns, I recognized it immediately:

Dot made me one of these bookmarks and gave it to me probably fifteen years ago. I still have it marking a spot in a favorite book, so it has lasted much longer than the standard bookmark. Since she doesn’t cross-stitch as much anymore, she let me have the patterns, and now I’m going to share one of my own with you.

Materials needed for homemade bookmark:

  • DMC floss in 3 complementary colors
  • grosgrain ribbon in a complementary color
  • needle, scissors, and a small hoop
  • aida cloth in whatever size you want (medium density)
  • hot glue gun

I thought I’d make my own pattern for this one, so feel free to use it yourself. You can easily use graph paper to make your own patterns, but since I couldn’t find any, I made my own with pen and a ruler. A good pattern size for this project is 24 X 24 stitches if you want to get your design on.

Take a look at your ribbon and floss collection, and pick out whichever colors you like together. For this project, I used DMC floss numbers 312, 3348, and 3350.

Dot taught me the trick of finding the center of a cloth scrap by folding it in half twice, then sticking a pin in the corner. It may not be the exact center, but since this scrap is plenty large, close-to-center is good enough. Start your stitching from the center, then work your way out.

I like how this one turned out a little bit like a pinwheel. Once you’re done with the cross-stitching and outlining, cut your square out with four extra lines of cloth around the edges:

Next, to create a frayed look around the edges, use a needle or pin to lift out two layers of the horizontal fabric. Depending on the tension of your fabric, this may be easy or a bit more difficult.

You are almost done! All that’s left to do is cut your grosgrain to whatever length you want. With a dab of hot glue, adhere the ribbon to the back of your square. And if you want, you can cut a fancy notch in the bottom of the ribbon like so:

This bookmark is so easy and really does not take much time at all. In fact, I cranked out a couple of these while watching two episodes of The Wire over the weekend. I gave one to my granddad for his birthday, since he really is impossible to buy for. And if my cat hadn’t so mercilessly eaten the other one, I might have sent it to someone else. I’ll just pretend I sent it to Omar Little for his copy of Ghettoheat.



PS – Thanks to everyone for the feedback on the Troy Davis post. Though the outcome of  Davis’s story is just as tragic as many of us expected, it serves as a reminder that this important discussion is far from over. Peace and love, J.


Next Stop, Project Runway

Hey, friends! Can you believe it’s almost August? As summers typically do, this one seems to have slipped into some mysterious black hole. But even more importantly (at least for the purposes of this blog), can you believe it’s time for one of the best shows on TV—Project Runway— to enter its NINTH season? I’ve been watching it for all eight previous seasons, and I’m certainly watching it tonight.

hot mess tranny fierce

Can I confess that I’ve always secretly wanted to be on Project Runway? I mean, who wouldn’t want to take shopping trips to Mood with Tim Gunn? Or be insulted by Michael Kors himself (a la, “I’m sorry, but it looks like a purple fern with angel wings”)? Heck, I’d even be fine getting the “You’re out” from Heidi. But one thing holding me up from this far-out little fantasy is the fact that I can’t sew.

But that’s all going to change, and I hope you all can help me with this. A few weeks ago, I ordered this:

1-2-3 Sew by Ellen Luckett Baker is a charming little book with charming little patterns, all intended to build upon each other. The projects start out as simply as possible, and the goal is for the beginning seamster/seamstress to learn small skills along the way. The sewing tasks get a little more complicated the further you work your way through the book, maximizing what Baker has called a “building-block approach to sewing.” The projects are organized in groups of three:

And thankfully, every project is supplemented with lots and lots of helpful photographs and diagrams:

So, it’s with fear and trepidation (and an incredibly sketchy sewing machine that I bought from what may just have been a female drug-dealer in Hendersonville, TN) that I start this teach-myself-to-sew journey. I already finished the first project—a tea towel with basic folded corners—using my sister’s sewing machine and some Mary Engelbriet fabric my mom found at her thrift store.

It’s crooked, it has errors, and it’s definitely longer on one side than the other. But you know what? It’s a tea towel; and I will probably accidentally set it on fire anyway. And amazingly, I didn’t puncture my finger ONCE while turning the corners.

So, friends—I know several of you are masters with your sewing machines, so what helped you get started? Did someone teach you, or are you self-trained? What recommendations would you give to a greenhorn seamstress? Any resources you think I ought to check out? I’m determined to become proficient at this one, ladies and gentlemen!!!

Also, what are your first impressions of this new season of PR? After watching this first challenge tonight (pajamas + your bedsheet = high fashion), I’m not sure I’ll ever have a stable enough blood pressure for this show.





You are long overdue for a Barn Raising Quilt update! Lucky for you, you’ve been entertained with tales of macaron making, bumbly, crumbly rhubarb eating/drinking and a discourse on the clothing choices of the Royals.

And now we will return to the lovely land of wool. Have I got some pictures for you.

This past weekend my dad, his wife and her adorable granddaughter came up for some pre-birthday celebrating and to watch the Vanderbilt Commodores choke play in their last game of the regular season. Here’s hoping they turn over a new leaf in their first game of the SEC Tournament, set to begin in about an hour and a half. GO DORES!

But I digress.

Lulu brought her fabulous photography skills with her and we headed over to the Haus of Yarn to ogle the Koigu and contemplate future purchases.

Here’s a peek at the beauty we beheld:

LOOK AT ALL THAT WOOLY BEAUTY!!!  Can you even handle it?!  I can’t.

Here are some close-ups of the blue/purple section.

and some other lovelies…

Sigh.  They’re all so beautiful.

So Lulu surprised me by giving me some birthday cashish to spend on a couple of these beauties.  I decided to get two because each time I spend $20, I get a little haus stamp on my Haus of Yarn card and I’m bound and determined to fill that puppy up and get some free yarn.

I decided that I’d let MadDog (the beautiful niece) pick the skeins that I’d purchase.  Once again, part of this project is relinquishing control, so I had to let go of my desperate desire to make all the colors go together perfectly.  I picked five skeins that I was drawn to and let her go from there.

Here are the fab five:

To my surprise, she chose the first and third skeins from the left.  Both of these are predominantly white with speckles of color splattered throughout.  The Haus of Yarn lady told me the official name for this technique, but my small brain has purged that knowledge.

Next we watched as our two skeins were spun into delicious little cakes.

Spin, spin, spin:

Cake, cake, cake:

(By the way, Dad was very patient throughout this process thanks to the iPad.  For some reason, Trone declined to accompany us…)

With our two yarn cakes in tow, we headed home for our fashion shoot.

Here are the squares from the original skein:

And from my online purchase:

(Note: the in-progress guy in the front is now complete).

Here are my two new buddies:

Proudly displayed by their chooser:

And here’s the whole happy family of squares and almost-squares:

I think they’re getting along quite nicely.

So there’s your update!  I’m off to turn those cakes into squares… and cheer for the Dores!

Who ya with?!


Spring Break Activities


This is the resident knitter, reporting on the events of the past week. I am currently avoiding a lame paper that I should be writing… I’m so close to the grad-school finish line I can smell it and with that scent comes SPRING/GRADUATION fever that is really compromising my ability to stay. on. task. Woe is me.

So last week was spring break for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. I tutor and intern in the school system which meant it was also spring break for ME. Praise Jesus. However, I did not have spring break from my own school-work but my days were, for the most part, free to work at my leisure and in the location of my choice: a true luxury. So while I spent a lot of time doing school work and writing expletive cover letters, I also spent time doing THIS…img_07041

So this is an adorable little sweater that is from a pattern from Lion Brand that I was very excited about.  i found it in the most recent catalog (the catalog itself was so adorable because it had all these precious knit and crochet ANIMALS on the front.  I want to make them all!).

A really great thing I recently discovered about Lion Brand is that you can order kits for projects that for some reason often end up being cheaper than the sum of their parts.  So I was able to buy the kit for this sweater (the yarn needed to complete it and the pattern) for cheaper than if I had bought them all separately.  Go figure.

Another great thing about Lion Brand is that they are engaged in a movement to move away from synthetic fibers and offer more organic and natural yarns that are still easy on the budget.  I applaud them!  Although I do not applaud our local Michael’s that still only carries the lame synthetic yarns that are no fun to knit with OR wear.

Since people in my life are procreating as well, so after perusing the catalog, I picked two kits that used these fancy new yarns (from the LB collection, if you are interested) to order to knit for two of my friends who incidentally BOTH had their baby boys last week.  (The product for this pattern is going to our friends Jessie and Bill and their new baby boy Moses, affectionately known as Mose).  The kits came quickly and as soon as spring break reared it’s gorgeous head, I cast on!

Here is the beautiful yarn I started with.  It is superwash merino… 100% merino wool (softtttt) and WASHABLE: a new mother’s dream! (I hope).

Pretty yarn…


And here is what it will look like when I’m finished…


Except it will be infant-sized and belong to a cuter baby.  Oops.  Don’t tell Lion Brand but this baby kind-of looks like a robot.

A really neat thing about this pattern is that it is knit in one fell swoop (for the most part) which eliminates the annoyance of sewing seams, etc.  It’s fun going so far.

One final note about buying kits from Lion Brand: the only down-side is that they come in the colors of the project advertisement. For this project that was fine, but that might not always be the case.

one more photo of my progress so far…img_0703

I’ll keep you updated, but I better get back to work so Mose hasn’t outgrown the thing by the time I get it to him!  That’s what March Madness is for: lots of knitting time.  🙂

Now I’m off to listen to Jocelyn make things that are sure to be the subject of an impending blog post.


It’s Happening

. . . people we know are making babies.

Granted, my precious boss Amanda is at least a couple of years older than me. And she’s also a more grown-up, generous, responsible, and better person than me in toto. So I guess now is as good as any time to be producing offspring. And while my friends are responsible for raising, feeding, cleaning, weaning, and educating their children, I just get to squish the babies for an hour or so and then go home. Not a bad deal.

But we also get to give gifts. And for Amanda, I’m working on one of the cutest projects I’ve ever actually completed.


Does anyone else still cross-stitch? Growing up, my next-door neighbor was a woman named Dot–and she taught me to cross-stitch when I was ten years old. It’s one of the easiest and cutest handicrafts I know of, and I’m pretty sure anyone can do it if I can.

So for several weeks now, I’ve been working on this “Baby’s First Christmas” stocking front for Amanda and baby Reid. Problem is, it only occurred to me about halfway through the project that:

  1. this was a lot of work for a gift that was ultimately impractical, and
  2. I don’t know how to sew

So, sure–you can only use a Baby’s First Christmas item for one year. So what? Most baby clothes and shoes will be outgrown in a year also. But the sewing part? That was a problem. I had already bought a couple of yards of blue cotton calico to line and back the stocking, but I didn’t know what to do with it next.


Rather than trying to muddle through it myself (and potentially ruin it), I hired someone to do that part. Is there shame in that? I sure hope not. So I asked Rachel–a lovely girl who had made my friend’s wedding gown–to sew it together for me with a lining (and maybe piping around the edge). And she’s only going to charge me $15-20 for her labor. *Note that making cross-stitching gifts does not always prove to be the most time or cost-effective. 😉

For those of you who are interested in learning how to cross-stitch, the method is the easiest in the world–and any how-to book you find in a store will be more than you need. In fact, I found this website with a “Learn to Cross-Stitch in Five Minutes” video from yarntree. The narrator lady’s voice is a little monotone, but otherwise the video is pretty good:

The only problem I have with cross stitching is finding patterns I like. Generally I’ve had more success finding pattern books at Michael’s than Hobby Lobby, and I’ve also not really explored my area much for a good needlework store. But I have raided my mom’s collection and have found a Christmas stocking book I really love.

stocking pattern book

In fact, I really like a lot of Linda Gillum’s designs after looking for more of her books. See the “baby girl” version of the stocking I just finished on the cover? How precious! There are a few copies of this book on Ebay, along with many other books of her design.

While cross-stitching can be really cheesy and unattractive (IMHO), it can also be really cute and festive–mainly when the patterns are baby and/or holiday related. And if you’re curious about floss (thread) colors and using your embroidery thread for a standard cross stitch pattern, this website has a great conversion chart: Floss Conversion Chart (

I’ll post pictures of the completed stocking when Rachel’s finished sewing it.

Cheers, and happy stitching!