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{Crafting On} Quilt, Yarn and my very own Book!

 Hi there! So today I'm going to share with you a few finished projects (finished! hurray! ha!) for Crafting On with Frontier Dreams. The first being this little doll quilt for my Felicity doll, that is now my daughter's Felicity doll. Audrey turned 10 this month and so I decided it was time to pass down one of my childhood American Girl dolls to her.
   I ordered her one dress from this great etsy shop that sources tons of good quality and vintage American Girl Doll items, and also challenged myself to make a dress for the doll and a quilt and mattress and pillow set for a little bed we found at the antique mall. The mattress and pillow are made from simple red and white ticking, and the quilt is made up of triangles of heritage pattern fabrics (some of which came from our visit to Old Sturbridge Village, and others from a little quilt shop we have here in town).
   The quilting isnt the best, I admit--- I was on a time crunch, trying to get it all finished by the 10th. The backing of the quilt is the same red ticking of the mattress. At any rate, Felicity looks quite happy in her new set up and she's got her own spot in Audrey's room! These little projects make my heart fill all warm and fuzzy. I love being able to share this with Audrey, and am trying hard to be chill and not scare her off with my enthusiasm, haha!

  On the fiber front, this is the latest yarn off my wheel--- a fun color combo that reminds me of Mardi Gras! I got the roving at Fleece 'N Flax in Eureka Springs, AR. when I was there for the Eureka Fiber In The Ozarks retreat. I think it would make a great fluffy cowl. And I have plenty of time between now and next Mardi Gras to knit it up, dontcha think? ;)

  As for a book to share--- well, you know--- I cant resist! I want to show you MY BOOK! That is so amazing to say. My book. I have a book!
   I tell a little more about it and also have a giveaway in yesterday's post--- so please pop over there and see more and enter to win a FREE COPY!

   Writing and illustrating my own book has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I mean, prespelling kind of dream. I was writing gibberish books at a very young age. The first biography I wrote was my grandma's biography when she turned 50, lol, hopefully my spelling has improved since then.

  Having completed this process has me dreaming up new stories, but I think I will approach writing and illustrating differently in the future, especially since the way we do life has changed since I wrote and illustrated this book. First and foremost, I am mama here at home, and I am also mama the teacher as we continue our homeschool adventure. In all honesty its been hard for me to learn to balance what I want to do with what I need to do to make sure school and home life work best. I am having to take a deep breath and realize--- I cant do it all and to take it slow is ok. I dont want to be sorry in 10, 20 years that I was too distracted and stressed to truly enjoy my kids little years. Because although sometimes it feels like things will never calm down and be easy, I know one day, it will. One day my kids will be too big to want to cuddle with me, or read a book together, or need me to help them with a question in their school work. That is my life now, and it's ok ("it's ok! this is where you are!" that's what I tell myself.)

  But I still have things I want to make and projects to dream of. But now I know its ok if this all happens at a snail's pace.We will get there, eventually!~

What are you working on this week?

Out Now! Snow on Martinmas (and a giveaway!)

   Once upon a time I wrote a story about a beloved saint and the traditions that grew from his feast day. Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier, who had a chance encounter with a beggar that led him to rethink his life and faith, and ultimately become a monk....then a bishop....and finally, a saint!
  I spent a lot of time last year illustrating that story and now--- believe it or not--- it is PUBLISHED and it's A REAL BOOK! And I am SO excited to finally get to share Snow on Martinmas with YOU!

  The story opens in a snug English cottage where a grandma is making a dinner for Martinmas with her children. Since the holiday is a bit old and not as well known as many other feast days, the children don't know why the day is special. The Grandma tells the children all about the saint and all the things she did as a child on St. Martin's day, inspiring the children to celebrate in their own ways--- by doing things like making lanterns or playing soldier.
     I worked really hard on this for several months, but its still taken me a bit by surprise that its really here, all done, and ready to share! But I am so very excited to share this little book with you, and I hope you love it too.

  In honor of this big day, I am also giving away a FREE COPY of this book to one lucky winner! Just comment below to enter to win. If you'd like to increase your odds, share on social media and leave another comment telling me where you've shared! I will announce the winner on Saturday.

  And most of all, I hope that you love this book, I am proud of it and am so honored to have been given the chance to put it out into the world with Xist Publishing.

  Thanks so much--- and dont forget to comment!
Talk again soon--

{Crafting On} Lenten Shawl and Out Loud Reading

  In a decided effort to get better about blogging, I've decided to join Frontier Dreams with her Keep Calm and Craft On series, and show a little bit about the projects and good books we've been doing here at our house. This past school year has been a huge change for us, and we are finally finding our footing--- having changed from Public School to a homeschool/co-op situation. Also, my 'baby' is now a toddler' and while he can still act a little crazy, (a lot crazy) I am able to get a little more done that I was in the past.

   My latest knitting project is a Lenten Knit-Along with Willfulmina on Instagram. The project is one I started a little before Lent began, and is a sort of 'wing it' project, hahaha (aren't they all, when it comes to me?) Im using a skein of yarn that I dyed with madder root, and have faded in a nice skein of natural oatmeal colored yarn from my friend Lavonne. Once I've used up that skein I'm wanting to add a dark blue section and try (try) to do a picot bind-off. I've got less than a month until Easter....wish me luck! ;)

   A book we just finished as a read-aloud is this ADORABLE little book "The Mouse of Amherst" about a mouse that lives in Emily Dickinson's home and learns to write poetry. Inside it has simple ink illustrations and is less than 100 pages long. We read the whole thing in 2 sittings, and its a great book for a child trying to ease into chapter books.
   At the end there's a biography of Emily Dickinson and I was surprised how enthralled Audrey was with it all (she's not as much into the old timey stuff as I am 'that's not my style' she tells me, her Tasha Tudor mama). She wants to visit the Dickinson home on our summer trip out east and hey, Im just thrilled she's excited about doing it!

  And so, that's what we're up to right now--- although I always have about 15 other projects Im wanting to do. Another is make a Dottie Angel apron I bought the pattern for, and also to start a simple quilt with the fabric I dyed with the madder root a while back. And of course, knit another shawl! It's always something!

Hope you get a little crafty time today! And you can follow along with the Keep Calm and Craft On blogs here at Frontier Dreams.

Til next time,

Tasha Tuesday: Spring Chickens

   I never had chickens growing up. I honestly didnt know much about them, although they appealed to me--- especially little fluffy footed bantams. And the idea of having your own eggs, just right outside your door, seemed like such fun!
   From reading Tasha Tudor's books and seeing photos and documentaries on her life, I could tell that Tasha had an affinity for chickens. Whether she was giving the barnyard rooster a haircut for her latest marionette, or drawing baby chicks for Easter scenes, it was obvious that Tasha had a love for these little feathered creatures!

   This past fall, as fate would have it, we inherited a chicken coop. My daughter, always eager to add one more critter to our ever expanding 'urban homestead' (which Im sure we qualify as, now!) was eager to start her own flock. I was nervous though--- as the one who usually ends up being the sole caregiver of such homestead--- and concerned about another mess to clean and mouths to feed. But she persisted. And then there we were, at the feed store looking at sweet little cheep-cheeping faces and....well....

Oh, Tasha was right! These chickens have become my darlings. I daresay I love them more than the children do--- well, perhaps just a smidge. They love them a lot too. We began with older chicks, who had already lost their fuzz and had feathers. I was concerned that, since we bought them in the autumn, they might get too cold once the weather turned.
  We began with three bantams--- Angelica, Eliza--- and Peggy! Inspired by the Hamilton musical, of course! A couple of months in though, Eliza showed signs that she was, ahem, Elijah. And her cockadoodle-doos, soon began to ring throughout the neighborhood! We also ended up with a 'mystery chicken' that a granny was talked into buying at the feed store, and this big white bird is named Midge, and she is now the leader of the flock.
  The noise from our rooster was getting frequent though, and we knew we couldnt keep him in town. Thankfully we were able to rehome our proud rooster at Audrey's co-op, which raises small animals and we came upon a local feed store that sells not only chicks, but mature pullets! We decided to go with the pullets, so that we knew for certain we were getting ladies, and brought home two Easter Eggers. They were soon named Martha Washington and Betsy Ross! And darling Betsy, ever industrious, gifted us with a perfect mint green egg the very next day!

  So now, our yard is scattered with chickens and luckily the cats have all decided these strange birds are mama's and not meant for eating. I now have a new appreciation for all the little chickens and other birds Tasha used within her illustrations, and will also smile at the memory of meeting the chickens from Tasha's grand daughter's flock when we went to tour the home a few summers ago.

   Of course, at this time of year, chicks and chickens are a sign of the coming Easter season, and its the perfect time to bring out the spring themed Tasha Tudor books. Robbie and I have been reading through "1 is one" for counting, and Tasha's book "A Time To Keep" is always a great book to cuddle up with, as it goes through all the seasons.

  And so, that sounds like a good plan to me--- a thumb through Tasha's pretty spring books and a big cup of tea. Its sunny here today, and very very warm! The tulips are even blooming. Spring, I think, is here to stay. Here's hoping that this is a nice quiet spring day, and we get another round of pretty eggs! Wishing you a wonderful early spring day as well.....

  And of course, as always---
Take Joy!~

An Ozark Fiber Retreat

   A few weeks ago, I loaded my spinning wheel in the car before the sun was even up and headed to the Ozarks; I was off to my first ever art retreat! And this one was special, because it was all about fiber art!
   Hosted by Vicki and Debbie from Fleece 'N Flax in Eureka Springs, AR., the retreat took place over 3 days in the little Ozark mountain town of Eureka Springs, a perennial favorite of mine! I've been visiting this beautiful artsy enclave since I was a child, and we even went there on our honeymoon.

  But this time, i was flying COMPLETELY solo--- which honestly, I had NEVER done. I had never had a hotel room ALL TO MYSELF. It was bizarre, and exciting. I cant tell you how READY I was for this chance to get away, and indulge in my love of fiber art....

(A hooked rug done by Vicki Hardcastle of Hardcastle Folk Art)

   The reason I wanted to attend this retreat was to learn the basics of rug hooking, a medium I am interested in and think is so beautiful. My friend Vicki brought many of her own hooked rug, and they were so stunning. The colors and form, are all so 'folk art.' And you can do lots of interesting things with the fibers. As a 'home craft' its one of those 'use whats on hand' type of endeavors, and I got so many ideas....

My new friend Lynda was working on this amazing large design from rug designer Sally Kallin. I just love all the little houses and the colors she chose!

I was also able to try my hand at weaving a small tapestry, and you know I was excited when I found out that many of the looms are made in Sweden! Another element of my Scandinavian obsession come to life! :D

And each day we were able to return to Fleece 'N Flax and shop, oohing and ahhhing over all the luxurious fibers and accessories. I bought a beautiful yarn bowl and some roving that I spun up. And I fell in love with the weaving studio downstairs, full of the most amazing looms....

   By the end of the weekend I was so relaxed and inspired, ready to come home and work. I got so many ideas while I was there, and made some wonderful friends. I hope I am able to go again next year, it was a tonic for the fiber loving soul!~

  Til next time...

Tasha Tuesday Returns

   If you've known me for any length of time, chances are you've found out that I looooove Tasha Tudor. When I came across a book about her life quite by chance in a bookstore bargain bin, I knew I'd found a kindred spirit. I was a poor college kid at the time, but I knew I had to have that book. Thank goodness the cover had a tear in it and I got it on markdown. Thus, a life long love affair was born....

  A talented artist, writer and craftswoman, Tasha Tudor is an American treasure. I can think of few people who can match her in crafting a life that utterly suited their passions and interests. And I can think of even fewer whose passions and interests so mirror my own. From painting at a little table with a dog under foot, to making dolls or spinning up yarn or wearing funny little old timey outfits, all the things she loved are things I love too. I am, obviously, a hopelessly besotted fangirl.

 And while that first book I found about her, The Private World of Tasha Tudor will forever be a favorite, another book I've been pouring over lately and loving is Tovah Martin's book "Tasha Tudor's Heirloom Crafts." It describes and beautifully shows (with the photos of photographer Richard Brown) all the old fashioned crafts and skills Tasha retained and took part on throughout her life.

   From spinning and dyeing to quilt making and basketry, Tasha indulged in a treasure trove of heritage crafts. Now I am dabbling in these sorts of crafts, and it makes me admire her all the more. How she did it all, who knows; but I'm starting to feel a real fascination and connection to these old ways of creating.

  In my yarn dyeing pursuits I've played around with manmade dye as well as natural and I have to say....nature's colors are always the most interesting and are the ones that catch my eye. The synthetics are too....I dont know...bright and perfect. They are almost sterile in their perfection. A good natural dye, however, has an innate earthiness to it (because what is it really, but earth?) and the hues are much more interesting. It can be varigated too---- which makes for a more interesting yarn and knitted project. And amazingly, all the natural colors seem to harmonize much better than synthetic hues, which can clash. I continue to be amazed by how much nature always compliments itself in these projects.

  And so, even though I am far from perfect or not even close to the craftswoman Tasha was, I keep at it. Because I get a little better each time I knit something or sew something or make new yarn. There is no 'app' to improve these handcrafts; it can only be honed by repetition and time. Keep on going, and keep on improving.

And perhaps one day, several decades down the line, I will have reached Tasha Tudor status in my abilities....one can only hope!

Take Joy!~

Woolly Pursuits

    For the past few weeks, my 'free time' has been filled with woolly pursuits. I've been spinning and experimenting with old dyeing techniques with natural materials. I've made mistakes and learned from them, and been proud of what I've managed to create, despite my innate inability to to follow directions (but Lord, I try!)
    My favorite natural dyes so far have been in the pink family--- avacado and madder root. 
"Avacado?" you may ask, "makes pink?"
And I will get yarn-nerdily excited and exclaim, "It does! The perfect soft ballet pink!"

  When I dyed with avocado, the first thing I had to do was.....eat a lot of guacamole. I was all for this sacrifice ;)
   When I'd collected about 5-6 pits from avocado, I put them in a pot of water and boiled them....until the pits were soft and mashable (who knew they'd do that?) Then I introduced my mordanted yarn and fabric (mordant is a slightly chemically altered 'bath' that helps the yarn and dye chemically fuse together; in this case, I mordanted the yarn with alum and cream of tartar-- yep, the stuff from the spice aisle!)

   The yarn came out such a beautiful, even, dreamy light pink, reminiscent of ballet tights and pretty pointe shoes. Emboldened by this experiment, I decided to for a more complicated dye--- the ancient and beautiful madder root.

   Hailing from India, the madder root has made such a marvelous deep salmony-pink to orange color that the desire for it was one of the reasons for the spice trade. Like many red dyes, creating it takes attention and process---- with the dye needing to be heated to work, yet not boiled, or it will be ruined. I found that the 'sweet spot' was heating it just to when steam would come off of it, but no bubbles would rise. I also needed to add a small amount of calcium carbonate to the dye bath, because madder root works best in hard water.

   I was nervous when the dye recipe called for me to dump the entire contents of a precious 3.5 oz jar into the dye---- I was either going to make something great, or mess it up and ruin my whole stash of ground root. 
   But my curiosity got the better of me, and I went ahead--- first soaking the ground root overnight in a small contained of hot water to leech all the color out of the roots, and then pouring the contents into two large pots--- it ended up making a lot of dye!
  I threw in yarn, lace, and different types of fabric. Each element too the dye in its own unique way--- the two (natural fiber--- cotton and flax) fabrics couldnt have looked more different; the cotton was light pink, the linen bright orange. the cotton lace became a rich orangey-red; the yarn became the most unique deep salmon color.

   One of the most interesting things about the madder root dye is also that you can save it and reuse it, with the color getting lighter, but still very nice, with each use. What I didnt use the first time, I stored in large jars to reheat and reuse for other projects. Madder root is the dye gift that keeps on giving!

   Things I learned about madder root include--- your fiber needs to be scoured and mordanted, and then washed again for the dye to take best. Mordanting and then letting the fibers sit a while works the best.

   Also, when I initially wet the madder root, I will next time put the dry contents in a muslin bag and then strain the liquid before I pour it into the large dyepot---- I didnt the first time and ended up with tiny flecks of madder root in my fiber that had to be washed and shaken out.
Sheep from a recent visit to Shepherd's Cross in Claremore, OK.

  And so, even though I love the look of natural fleece, it has been fun to create these 'unnatural' natural colors with wool and other materials. It seems that the dyes work better with natural (how many times can I type that??) elements--- from wool yarn to cotton fabric or ribbon. Synthetic fibers just dont cooperate with the dyes. Mother Nature will only work in harmony with herself. Can you blame her?

   All these pursuits have been so intriguing and fun, and I find myself thinking about my ancestors who would have raised their sheep, processed their own wool, and also raised flax that they would have processed and woven. Most likely they too experimented with dyes....over a cauldron in the yard, with kids and animals scampering about. What was their favorite color to try to procure? How they must have felt such great anticipation to take a fiber from animal (or plant) to their spinning wheel or loom, then to the dye pot, and then make lovely, usable items for their family and home.

   My end project now is a shawl Im making with some yarn from my dye projects. Im going to blend the salmony madder root yarn into the pale sweet avocado dyed yarn and make something cozy to wrap up in. It will be so satisfying, I think! Wish me luck, I've come this far!~

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