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I've created a line of wooden peg looms to make potholders and projects of other sizes. Read the story behind the looms and check out my etsy shop.

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‘Knit the Alphabet’ Blog Tour Stop: Today Is Sponsored by The Letter H


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Hello, friends! Today I woke up at 6 a.m. to knit a giant letter “H.” Why? Well, I got inspired by a new craft book and really got into it. As a journalist, printmaker and lover of all things involving text, I have often thought it would be fun to knit letters. However, I’ve never had time to map out the patterns to do so. Turns out I don’t have to.

Now, thanks to Claire Garland and her new book “Knit the Alphabet: Quick and easy alphabet knitting patterns, knitters get to skip to the fun part and cast on. My schedule is nuts as usual, but I committed to writing about this book today because I’m a big fan of Claire’s work. In an effort to make good on that, I pledge to make knitting absolutely mandatory today. (I wish it was every day!) So, between advising my students, reading student work, conducting interviews and driving my kids around town, I will be working on my letter throughout the day. So check back for an update on how it turns out and more of my thoughts about the book.

I’ve only knitted the left leg of the “H” and I’ve already noticed that the pattern is much easier than I imagined. (Thank you, Claire!)

Okay, so check out my Instagram feed for progress updates and then head back here soon for my full review.

I’m so happy that today’s to-do list involves knitting text. Yes! I hope you get to do something fun today, too! : )

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Flower Power Wins $500 for the Wes Leonard Heart Foundation!

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This is the floral design I whipped up within the allotted 5 minute time limit at the Flower Power Challenge at the Home & Garden Show yesterday in Grand Rapids. It’s a bit wild, but it got the job done. Thanks to the Wes Leonard Heart Foundation fans in the audience, we won $500 from Fifth Third Bank for the foundation! Yes! High fives to all of you!

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And a special thanks to J Schwanke for hosting the event and inviting me to participate. He cooked up a fun event to benefit the local community and closed it out by giving away free tulips. It’s doesn’t get much better than that. Best use of flower power ever. : )

Let’s Get Loud Today at the Home & Garden Show and Raise Money for the Wes Leonard Heart Foundation

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Hello friends!

If you’re local and planning to be at the Home & Garden Show today in Grand Rapids, I can use your help! I was invited to participate in  J Schwanke’s Flower Power Challenge at 5 p.m. (Friday 3/7/14) during which four contestants representing four different local charities will have five minutes to make an floral arrangement on the Home Stage. The winner will be determined by crowd volume and it doesn’t really matter what our arrangements look like.

The prize is a $500 check from Fifth Third Bank for our charity.

Kim Carson, Radio Personality and Host of Faith Hope and Love Songs will be arranging for the Wildlife Refuge Center LTD, Rick Vuyst of Flowerland and WOOD Radio Fame will be arranging for The Van Andel Purple Charity and Dan Harland - WZZM 13 Grand Rapids Sportscaster will be arranging for C-Snip.

I’m competing on behalf of The Wes Leonard Heart Foundation, the same charity that my daughters and their school mates are weaving potholders for with our Potholder LOVE campaign. The foundation, started by the parents of the 16-year-old Fennville basketball star who died of sudden cardiac arrest  March 3, 2011, is dedicated to getting automatic electronic defibrillators (AEDs) into schools without them. So far they’ve placed these life-saving devices in 102 schools. My daughters’ school is one of them. And now I’m working with my daughters and their friends to pay it forward.

So, if you’re in town, please cheer for the Wes Leonard Heart Foundation when I step back from my floral arrangement. I’ll do my best to make it pretty.

Thank you for your support for this important cause!

P.S. I heard that I get to pass out free flowers while I’m there.

 

I challenged my sisters to a Craft Smackdown. Who Will Win? You Decide.

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Hello! I’d like you to meet my sisters. That’s Jacquie in the middle. She’s the middle sister. Julie, my youngest sister is on the far right. And that’s me sporting the apron on the far left. We met up recently in the Meijer craft department to check the selection after a store representative reached out and invited me to have a look at their beefed up offerings. I declined the free gift card offer because I’m a journalist and I wanted to write honestly about the Meijer craft department without my MLive column readers wondering if I was influenced by freebies. Meanwhile, my sisters who are not journalists, each accepted one to buy supplies to accept my craft off challenge.

The rules were simple: See what you can make using no more than $50 worth of products from Meijer’s craft department and let the public decide the winner. The two losing sisters have to buy lunch for the winning sister at El Charro, our favorite Mexican restaurant in our hometown of Fraser, Michigan. Our entries are anonymous, so vote for the one that speaks to you and I’ll reveal who made what after the votes have been tallied.

Here are the three project entries in random order:

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Project 1: DIY Dinner party Decorations

This table setting includes handmade placemats and cloth napkins with burlap napkin rings, painted “Enjoy” letters that serve as hotplates and seating cards made of scrapbook paper backed with Meijer shopping bag paper and held in place by clothespins covered with washi tape. Additional accents are a Bon Appetit  banner, decorated mason jar candle holder and a styrofoam wreath wrapped with burlap and accented with fabric flowers and a bow.

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Project 2: Vintage Cabinet Makeover

A vintage metal cabinet was made over when decoupaged with teal polkadot scrapbook paper. The cabinet legs were wrapped with black and white K & Co. Smash Tape. And two mini clipboards were wrapped in more washi tape, then flower accents were added. The clipboards were hung on the front of the cabinet with magnetic hooks. Project Life cards from the Kraft Edition set were placed on the clipboards. Project life sets contain many cards, so statements can be swapped out according to one’s mood.

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Project 3: Knitted Mohawk Hats and Felt Bunting

Party like a rock star every day with these knitted mohawk hats created using Lion Brand’s Hometown USA chunky yarn for the hat base and Red Heart Boutique Swerve yarn for the variegated mohawks. Create a fast and easy party backdrop by cutting triangles out of a 25-pack of felt and sew them together sandwiched between quarter inch bias tape. (Note: The bias tape was in the designer’s stash and not purchased at Meijer.)

CAST YOUR VOTE & ENTER TO WIN: Vote for project 1, 2 or 3 in the comments below and help decide who’s going to win this Ackerman sister show own. Just for voting you will be entered into a random drawing for a $50 Meijer gift card.

UPDATE: Congrats to Karen Mackechnie who was selected to win the Meijer gift card! Her comment “I like #2 the best” was picked at random. Congrats, Karen!

And even if you don’t win the giveaway, the folks at Meijer passed along a discount code that we can all use throughout March which just so happens to be national craft month. Here’s the code:

Use the mPerks digital coupon code “c4tb8d” to receive 20% off your craft purchase (valid 3/1-4/1).

To find our more about the Meijer craft department, check out my MLive column here.

A 2014 CraftSanity Mini Book Review Roundup

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Several fun books are coming my way and distracting me from the harsh Michigan winter. Above is a small selection of titles that I reviewed in my mlive.com a couple weeks back. Read more here. I will be reviewing another stack very soon, so let me know if there’s a title you think I should include. :  ) Stay warm, folks!

Lottie Da + True Colors = One Lovely Apron & a Fabric Giveaway!

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When the nice folks at FreeSpirit invited me to be participate in the True Colors blog tour, I wanted to freeze time and make a large quilt. Sadly, my crazy schedule didn’t allow time for a deadline sewing marathon. But it’s okay. My need for speed gave me the perfect opportunity to launch into one of my favorite fast sewing projects of all time. I made a new apron to wear around town. I haven’t made myself a new apron in far too and I happen to think aprons are fabulous accessories and wonderful for showcasing pretty fabrics.

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Before I walk you through my apron project I’d like to give you a little background info. True Colors is what the folks at FreeSpirit describe as “a new, designer-driven program featuring fresh, modern prints” created by designers Joel DewberryAnna Maria HornerHeather Bailey and Jenean Morrison

Each designer created five distinctive prints in four color ways that can be used alone or as mixer prints in quilting and other sewing projects. The True Colors collection offers more creative options for fabric lovers and even look pretty in a pile. (I’d rather not disclose how many pictures I took of the fabric before I cut into it. : )

 

IMG_6882FreeSpirit sent me Heather Bailey’s  True Colors fabric and sampling of her lovely Lottie Da collection and I got to work designing a new five-panel apron using 12 different prints. The great thing about this apron is that is showcases several prints at once and can be made out of a stack of fat quarters and one jelly roll, with plenty of fabric left over to make more aprons and happy scraps to do a English paper piecing project.

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 I’ve already whipped up a couple hexagon blooms. :)

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To make my apron, I started by drawing out my pattern template on freezer paper. Then I selected five complimentary prints from Heather’s Lottie Da collection for each panel and then paired each panel print with a contrasting blender fabric from her True Colors line. The True Colors fabrics served as  a chunky border trim at the bottom of  each panel. To speed things along, I cut the trim pieces from a True Colors jelly roll. 

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When it came to mixing and matching, it was great to have an expanded selection of fabric designed by Heather. The prints work well together and left me with many design options. I have big plans to sew more projects using this collection and I’m excited about all the color and print combinations. I think there might be some patchwork skirts and quilts for my daughters on the horizon.

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But let’s get back to the apron project. After pairing five Lottie Da prints with five True Colors mixers, I decided to add it two more Lottie Da prints. I used an olive print for the waistband and swapped in the gray colorway to create extra long ties that can be wrapped around and tied in a cute bow in front. Instead of hemming the bottom of the apron, I finished it off with solid gray bias tape. I had planned to sew on a polkadot pocket, but then decided to skip it. But I’m big on pockets and something tells me this apron will have at least one by the weekend. : )

IMG_7199I topstitched the apron with gray Coats & Clark Dual Duty thread, stitching on each side of the panel seams and along the ties. This added interest and stability to the apron design.

I’ve been a longtime fan of FreeSpirit fabrics and designers and was very pleased with the results I achieved working with these new fabric collections. High five, Heather! I have a very happy apron hanging up in my dining room thanks to you. :  )

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ENTER TO WIN! And because I want to share the wealth I’m inviting you, dear readers, to leave a comment about below and enter a random drawing to win some of Heather’s True Colors fabric. What do you want to make? Tell me all about it below. I’m especially interested in hearing about your favorite take a-long sewing project ideas. I’ll pick some fabric winners at random on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. Good luck, everybody!!

And True Colors Fabric Giveaway Winners Are: 

1) Cara who posted: “The apron you made is gorgeous!! Loving the colors and this new line of fabric. I would make a quilt, table topper or some new spring pillows. The take along project I like or craft is knitting scarfs with Red Hearts Sashay yarn.”

2) Marti Taylor who posted: “My girls have been over the moon for rainbows recently so I would incorporate these with some solids and create a herringbone quilt. Thank you for the chance to win!”

3) Cat Baumgartner who posted: “True colors are such pretty fabrics! Your hexagons really show them off too! I would love to make a true colors quilt!!! Thanks for the opportunity at a giveaway! ~Cat”

CONGRATS LADIES!!! I will be shipping your prizes to you as soon as I have your mailing addresses.

Thanks to all who took the time to post comments!

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If you want to go behind the scenes and find out more about True Colors, watch this fun video featuring the designers talking about the fabric line. I’d also like to invite you to check out the rest of the blog tour and see what my extremely talented fellow bloggers are making with True Colors fabrics. Click the links below and have a great day!

1/20 Sew4Home
1/21 Stitchery Dickory Dock
1/22 I’m A Ginger Monkey
1/23 The Sewing Loft
1/24 Ellison Lane
1/27 Dairy of A Quilter
1/28 Material Obsession
1/29 Craftsanity
1/30 Stitched in Color
1/31 Craft Buds
2/3 Jaybird Quilts
2/4 Melissa Peda

 

True Colors. Pretty Fabric. Fun Blog Tour.


Hello Folks!

I’m popping in to tell you about a blog tour that I’m participating in that involves chances for you to win lovely fabric. Yes, you’re going to want to keep reading.

In an effort to promote the True Colors line of mixer fabric prints, the folks at FreeSpirit are looking to spread some fabric love in the blogosphere.

They recruited some bloggers, sent us boxes of delicious fabric and gave us some extra goodies to give away. (Check back Jan. 29 to enter to win.)

I didn’t eat the fabric, of course, but my box contained a visual feast of Heather Bailey’s True Colors fabric and sampling of her lovely Lottie Da collection (below), which has a great vintage-inspired feel.

(Jacquie and Julie, my dear sisters, you really need to check this stuff out! Come over and sew with me!!)  

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So what is True Colors all about? Well, the folks at FreeSpirit describe it as “a new, designer-driven program featuring fresh, modern prints” created by designers Joel Dewberry, Anna Maria Horner, Heather Bailey and Jenean Morrison. Each designer created five distinctive prints in four color ways that can be used alone or as mixer prints in quilting and other sewing projects. The True Colors collection offers more creative options for fabric lovers and even look pretty in a pile.

I’ll be whipping up something fun using Heather’s True Colors prints mixed with her Lottie Da collection to post on my assigned day later this month. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the tour (links below). The party starts Monday, folks! Don’t miss out!

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1/20 Sew4Home
1/21 Stitchery Dickory Dock
1/22 I’m A Ginger Monkey
1/23 The Sewing Loft
1/24 Ellison Lane
1/27 Dairy of A Quilter
1/28 Material Obsession
1/29 Craftsanity
1/30 Stitched in Color
1/31 Craft Buds
2/3 Jaybird Quilts
2/4 Melissa Peda

 

Frozen Bubble Magic

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Hello Again!

Last weekend everything here in West Michigan was frozen and now – when I’m finally posting this frozen bubble blurb – there’s a massive thaw underway. Boo! As a lifelong Michigan resident, I should have known better than to hold back an activity that requires freezing temps. The only reason I sat on this is because I didn’t want to scoop myself. I wrote my newspaper column on this topic and it was published today. You can read it here.

I was inspired to try this after seeing Kelly’s stunning frozen bubble photography and you should really try it too. It’s magical to watch a bubble land and freeze and last longer that they ever do on a hot summer day.

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Last Sunday I traveled to a far off place without leaving my front porch photographing bubbles freezing, caving in and flaking away. It’s really beautiful to watch. I wish I would have heard about this back when I was a kid. It would have been so fun to do this on snow days with my sisters.

So stock up on bubbles next time you’re at the store and get your camera ready for the next deep freeze. Then show everyone your photos and inspire others to try this all ages, wonderment-inducing activity.

And because it’s not cold enough to freeze bubbles here in West Michigan today, I’m going to share links to the nerdy videos I shot on my front porch. I didn’t have time to set it all to music, but I hope you’ll enjoy the visuals. If you decide to try it, stop back and let me know how it went in the comments. :  )

Potholder LOVE: A fundraiser to help the Wes Leonard Heart Foundation get more AEDs in schools

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Hello! Welcome to the kickoff of the CraftSanity fundraiser to benefit the Wes Leonard Heart Foundation. Last spring I interviewed a Fennville girl for my newspaper column who was selling paintings to help a local charity raise money to get automatic electronic defibrillators (AEDs) into schools without them.

After we talked, I learned that my daughters’ school didn’t have an AED. While it’s unusual for kids to have heart attacks, it happens. It happened to Wes Leonard, a 16-year-old star athlete. Minutes have sinking the game winning shot on March 3, 2011, he collapsed during the post game celebration and died of sudden cardiac arrest. His story made national news and served as a wake up call to everyone who was thinking that something like this would never happen to one of our kids. The tragedy got people thinking, “What if?” and inspired his family to do a really beautiful thing in his memory: get AEDs in schools to save other kids.

His parents and friends started a foundation a month after he died and have raised funds to install 102 AEDs and certified about 900 people in CPR to date. After learning that my kids’ school did not have funds allocated to purchase an AED, I added the school to the AED waiting list last spring and was very grateful to meet Maria Flores from the Wes Leonard Heart Team when she came to our school and delivered an AED. 

The Wes Leonard Foundation gives AEDs to schools with no strings attached. They just require that there are CPR certified people onsite. They don’t require payment for the device, however, it didn’t seem right to take the device that costs the foundation $1,320 and not pay it back so they can buy another AED for a school without one. I attempted to do a small scale fundraiser within the school community, but it lacked momentum and generated less than $100. So my daughters, Abby, 9, and Amelia, 8, and I decided to take this effort to a larger craft community and I wrote a column about it in today’s edition of The Grand Rapids Press.

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The girls and some of their school mates have been weaving up a storm to create lovely potholders out of recycled t-shirts. Moms are cutting the t-shirts into loopers and the kids are weaving them into beautiful potholders that measure about 7″ square. We’re selling them for $10 each in the hopes of raising $1,320 for the Wes Leonard Heart Foundation by Feb. 14.

The kids are weaving with recycled t-shirts and CraftSanity is covering the shipping costs, so all $10 generated by the sale of each potholder will go to the purchase of another AED for a school without one. 

Here’s how you can help:

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To buy a potholder, send a $10 check made out to the Wes Leonard Heart Foundation to Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood, CraftSanity, P.O. Box 888192, Grand Rapids, MI 49588. I will send you a potholder and forward your check to the foundation. Please DO NOT send cash or write checks to me.

I will be posting more potholder photos in the coming days and the kids continue to weave. To reserve a particular potholder, please leave a comment below that includes your first and last name and the number potholder you want to buy. Potholders will be reserved for up to two weeks and then shipped after payment arrives. If you don’t specify a particular potholder, one will be sent to you at random. (Don’t worry, they’re all super cute.)

Donate your old colorful t-shirts: We’re going through a lot of t-shirts for this project, so get in touch if you have some to donate.

Thanks in advance for supporting this project. It’s so great to see elementary students crafting for a cause. Thank you for helping to empower them to make a difference in their community one potholder at a time.

Questions? Email me.

All the best, my friends. Let’s continue to craft positive change in 2014.


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CraftSanity’s Arm Knitting Video Tutorial

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Hello! Things have been pretty quiet here on the CraftSanity blog while I’ve been off teaching journalism at the local community college. I’ve been swamped, but I have not stopped crafting or writing my weekly art and craft column for The Grand Rapids Press or MLive.com. Today’s column is about arm knitting and my husband, Jeff, and I made you a video tutorial to go with it.

Turns out I LOVE arm knitting! It’s fast and fun and a great way to whip up some last minute holiday gifts. As the holiday stress takes hold, everyone starts to look really good in handmade scarves including your bald Uncle Joe who already owns four scarves. Just go with it. Arm knitting is a hot trend and an arm knit scarf is technically different from a needle knit scarf, so you’re doing Joe a favor by helping him keep up with the latest handmade fashion trends and for that I’m sure he LOVES you dearly. 

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There are some nice instructional videos out there, but I thought it would be helpful to create one that shows you how this arm knitting business will look when you cast on. To accomplish this, I had Jeff shoot the video over my shoulder to give the perspective of what it will look like when you try it at home. Hopefully, you will find this video helpful and inspiring.

Here’s the start of my MLive.com column so you know what I’m talking about…

Unusual things are happening in the wonderful world of knitting.

It seems a growing number of people are engaging in super-sized knitting using their arms in place of needles. And, in a more bizarre twist on using one’s body to knit, a feminist performance artist named Casey Jenkins just went viral when a video of her knitting a scarf in an art gallery from a ball of yarn she stashed in her nether region made its way to the web.

I respect the originality of Jenkins’ bold 28-day, public “vaginal knitting” experiment, but her technique is obviously very impractical for last-minute holiday gift-making and could result in an embarrassing trip to the ER or indecent exposure charges if executed poorly at a local yarn shop by non-performance artists.

So in the interest of keeping all of us regular knitters healthy and out of jail this holiday season, I recommend using a fancy yarn bowl if wool containment is a must. And if you still need to kick out some last-minute gifts it’s time to roll up your sleeves because I do believe the arm knitters are on to something fabulous.

You can read the rest of the column on MLive.com. Meanwhile, I have to go write next week’s. Feel free to post links to your arm knitting projects in the comments below. Happy knitting!

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Craft Away the Winter Blues with Free CraftSanity Workshops at Kent District Library Branches!

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Hello! I’m taking a quick break from end-of-the-semester grading to invite Grand Rapids-area crafters to a series of free workshops I’m hosting with nice folks at several Kent District Library branches. I’ve been traveling across the state to teach workshops at my hometown library for for years and I’m very happy to get the opportunity to teach at libraries here in West Michigan.

As part of my partnership with KDL, I will be teaching paper crafting with recycled books, printmaking and English paper piecing. Scroll down to see the full schedule of adult and teen classes and I hope to see some of you there. (Don’t forget to bring along show and tell. I LOVE to see what you’re making!)

The workshops are free but space is limited, so please register online or call 616-784-2007 ext. 0.

Craft Away the Winter Blues for Adults

Recycled Book Crafts
Where: Sand Lake Branch, 88 Eighth St., Sand Lake,
When: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4

Holiday Printmaking
Where: Comstock Park Branch, 3943 W. River Dr. NE, Comstock Park
When: 1 p.m. Dec. 11

Holiday Paper Crafting
Where: KDL Alpine Branch, 5255 Alpine Ave. NW, Comstock Park
When: 10:30 a.m. Dec. 14

Printmaking 101
Where: Rockford Branch, 140 E. Bridge St., Rockford
When: 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13

English Paper Piecing
Where: Alto Branch, 6071 Linfield Ave., Alto
When: 10:30 a.m., Jan. 25

Valentine Crafts
Where: Gaines Branch,
421 68th St. SE, Grand Rapids,
When: 10:30 a.m., Feb. 1

DIY Party Planning On A Budget
Where:  Lowell Branch, 200 N. Monroe St., Lowell
When: 11 a.m., Feb. 8

English Paper Piecing
Where: Byron Branch, 8191 Byron Center Ave. SW, Byron Center
When: 6 p.m. Feb. 11

Teen sessions:
Handmade holiday ornaments and gift tags made out of recycled books
Where: KDL Cascade Branch
When: 3 p.m. Dec. 7

Printmaking 101
Where: 3350 Michael Ave. SW, Wyoming, MI
When: 4:30 pm. Jan. 14 at the Wyoming branch

Okay, I better get back to work… Happy crafting everyone!

P.S. Issue 10 of CraftSanity Magazine is forthcoming. My apologies for the delay.

Great Little Gifts to Knit

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In a perfect world I would be posting an updated Q&A with Jean Moss today to coincide with her blog tour, but I’ve been swamped with non-craft related work and have barely had time to brush my hair let alone type up interview questions. It’s disappointing that I haven’t been able to devote more time to my blog lately, but I’m hoping that directing  you to my previous podcast interview with Jean will alleviate some of our collective disappointment about this and give you a chance to hear her story if you haven’t already.

Clearly Jean has been very busy lately, too. Her new book, “Great Little Gifts to Knit: 30 Quick and Colorful Patterns,”(144 pages, $21.95)  is out and and there are several projects inside that are making me wish once again for the ability to freeze time so I can just sit by the fire and knit a few of Jean’s fun patterns.

The book includes an interesting range of patterns for babies, kids, men, women and the home, making it a great gift for the knitters in your life who like to stitch handmade gifts.

While several projects in the book caught my eye, the Zebra Mittens on p. 69, the Hugs Socks on p. 75, Galway Beanie on p. 82 and the Welcome Toran Door Hanging on p. 113 are at the top of my Jean Moss inspired knitting wish list. Now if I could just find time for that knitting break… :  )

Check out the rest of Jean’s blog tour here: 

Sept 2: Wendy Knits Wendy Johnson
Sept. 4:  WEBS    Kathy Elkins
Sept. 6:  Getting Stitched on the Farm Kristin Nicholas
Sept. 9:  Stolen Stitches Carol Feller
Sept. 10 Knittedbliss Julie Crawford
Sept. 11 Black Bunny Fibers Carol Sulcoski
Sept. 12: Rhythm of the Needles Joanne Conklin
Sept. 13: Tiny Owl Knits Stephanie Dosen
Sept. 16  Just Call Me Ruby Susan Crawford
Sept. 16  Just Call Me Ruby Susan Crawford
Sept. 17: Zeneedle Margene Smith
Sept. 18: RedshirtKnitting Erika Barcott
Sept 19:  A Friend to Knit With Leslie Friend
Sept 20: Craft Sanity Jennifer Ackerman Haywood
Sept. 23:  Connieleneknits Connie Lene
Sept. 24: Knitsofacto Annie Cholewa
Sept. 25: Ulla Bella Anita Tormoen
Sept. 26 : A Really Good Yarn Julie Schilthuis
Sept 27: Urban Yarns  Alexa Ludeman
Sept. 28: Linda Marveng  Linda Marveng
Sept 30: Yarnings Jen

Oct 1: Tentenknits  Margaux Hufnagel

Adventures in Soap Making: A Review of the new book ‘Soap Crafting’ by Anne-Marie Faiola

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My first attempt at soap making was ridiculous. It was my 31st birthday and I was sporting safety googles and rubber gloves. One judging from my getup may have assumed that I knew what I was doing, but that was certainly not the case.

At the time, I was beyond nervous about using lye to make soap, so nervous, in fact, that I bought the wrong kind – a diluted, liquid variety – and hurried home to mix up a batch of soap that would never amount to anything more than smelly glop.

It was a real disappointment – that first batch of soap. But I tried again and discovered that soap making is actually really fun when you use the proper ingredients. My second batch was much better than my first, and I’ve made several basic batches since in the six years that have passed since my initial cannonball into the exciting world of soap making. I still consider myself a rookie soaper and up until recently I’ve been sticking to very basic recipes.

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And then Alee from Storey Publishing sent me a copy of Soap Crafting,” by Anne-Marie Faiola, a.k.a. The Soap Queen, and the book has changed the way I approach soap making and made me wish I had read it before making my first batch. Anne-Marie explains the art and science of soap making in her book that includes instructions to make 31 cold-process soaps ranging from basic beginner soaps to beautiful 12-color Linear Swirl bars that look almost too pretty to use. 

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Whether you’re a full-time soap maker or hobbyist, this book provides a great foundation for all of us to up our soap making game. With sections dedicated to choosing oils, colorants and additives, this book serves as an easy resource to pick up quickly and find the information you need to plan your next batch.

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I was so impressed by this book that I interviewed Anne-Marie for the upcoming fall issue of CraftSanity Magazine and recorded a podcast with her, too. (Coming soon, folks!) In additional to writing a wonderful book for soap makers, Anne-Marie is a mom and the powerhouse businesswoman who built the Bramble Berry soap supply business from the ground up.

She sent me some fun Bramble Berry supplies to try a couple recipes from the book and I’m happy to say I finally advanced from making the same old plain batches of soap in shoeboxes lined with freezer paper. (One of the great things about Anne-Marie’s book is that it includes directions to use shoeboxes, milk cartons and plastic tubs, PVC pipe and cupcake molds, so investing in fancy molds is not required to try the recipes.) While I do enjoy making and using even the most basic handmade soaps, Anne Marie has expanded my soap world.

soapmixerSince virtually meeting Anne-Marie, I’ve made a batch of soap using the natural colorant spirulina, a high-protein dietary supplement that produces a pretty green color, and three-color Avocado Moisturizing Bars. I made the avocado bars first and botched the batch when I got distracted and let my soap pot get a little too hot. The ingredients separated in the pot. I thought I was going to drown in a sea of embarrassment because I was using supplies Anne-Marie sent me to try a recipe from her book and then I went ahead and made a foolish mistake. Thankfully, Anne-Marie had my back when things went south. On p. 234 of “Soap Crafting” she outlines a “SOS (Save Our Soap)!” modified hot-process technique that can be used to save a batch. And let me tell you, folks, it works.

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Anne Marie’s Avocado Moisturizing Bars

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These are my rookie Avocado Moisturizing Bars after I accidentally exceeded the recommended cooking temperature for the oil. And because I can’t seem to let anything go to waste, I dropped the undyed soap pieces into the mold. At the time I didn’t think through the fact that these would not pick up the color. I was just trying to use it all up.

While my avocado bars (below)are not as pretty as the bars in the book (left) due to operator error, I saved the batch and felt empowered when I was able to solve my own problem using “Soap Crafting” as a reference. And that’s the mark of a great book – one that equips readers to troubleshoot and be self-sufficient in a pinch. LOVE that!

I also appreciate the fact that the book was written by a soap maker and owner of a soap supply business because readers can easily order all the supplies they need to make any of the recipes in the book from Bramble Berry and avoid the time-consuming hunt for oils, colorants and other ingredients. This is genius marking on Anne-Marie’s part and simultaneously beneficial to her customers who benefit from knowing that she and her staff have tested out all the supplies they sell. They can’t prevent operator error (ahem), but they can set us up with what we need to have the best chance of success. : )

And while you don’t need a Soap Queen soap mold to make soap, I was thrilled to try Anne-Marie’s wooden molds with silicone liners. They make the process seem all the more official and it feels pretty darn good to graduate from the shoebox phase of soap making.

While I’m using “Soap Crafting” as a reference for making soap to use at home and gift to others, this book is a great resource for those who have aspirations to pursue it as a business. (For best results, start with the basic recipes and work your way through to the marbled and swirled varieties.) From the first batch to the next 100, this book, featuring more than 30 recipes and supporting tutorials, is one to keep on the shelf. It explains all the things that rookies need to know while still inspiring more confident veteran soap makers.

High five, Anne-Marie! You nailed it. : )

UPDATE: WE HAVE A WINNER! Congrats to Mariah who won the random drawing for a copy of “Soap Crafting.” Enter to Win Anne-Marie’s Book! The folks at Storey Publishing are giving me a copy of “Soap Crafting” to give away to a lucky CraftSanity reader. Leave a comment below by Monday Sept. 9, 2013 to get into the drawing. A winner will be randomly selected and announced Sept. 10. Good luck, everyone!

Visit the Oil and Butter blog to read another reviewer’s take on Anne-Marie’s book and see some more book photos.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go slice my latest batch of soap into bars. : )

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Where to Buy: CraftSanity Magazine Issue 9

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In case you haven’t heard, CraftSanity Magazine Issue 9 is out and available at several independent newsstands and craft shops. Please see the list below to check for a store near  you. (It’s not a bad idea to call ahead to reserve your copy.) If you don’t live in a place where you can buy the magazine in person, you’re invited to order online or download this issue instantly from the left side bar of this site.

Country Needleworks, 584 Chicago Dr. Jenison, MI, (616) 457 9410.

A Grand Skein, 2431 Eastern Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, 551-1322

* Inspirations of Art Studio, 6504 28th Street SE, Suite C, Grand Rapids, (616) 432 3069

Minty Keen, (a vintage and handmade shop) 125 Ottawa NW Suite 170, in Grand Rapids, (616) 551-1613

Schuler Books & Music
- 3165 Alpine Avenue Northwest, Walker – (616) 647-0999
- 2660 28th Street Southeast, Kentwood -(616) 942-2561
- 1982 Grand River Ave., Okemos, MI 48864
- 2820 Towne Center Blvd., Lansing, MI 48912

Threadbender Yarn Shop, 2767 44th Street SW, Wyoming, MI, (616) 531-6641

On the Lakeshore:

Reader’s World194 S. River Ave., Holland, MI, (616) 396-8548

California:

* Colors 91711, 248 Harvard Avenue, Claremont CA 91711, 909-624-6161.

Stock CraftSanity: If you’re interested in stocking CraftSanity Magazine in your shop, contact me and I’ll hook you up.

Thanks to the shops and readers who continue to support the magazine. It’s my pleasure to get to do this creative work. Thank you so much!

CraftSanity Magazine Issue 9 Preorder Preview Sale

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At long last, the CraftSanity Magazine Issue 9 Preorder Sale is on! Preorder your copy by Monday (6/24/13) and save a dollar off the cover price! I’m expecting the magazines back from the printer by Tuesday. The PDF edition will be available as an instant download from this site next week  for $6.

You can also sign up for a CraftSanity Magazine subscription and have the next 4 issues automatically mailed to your home.

Inside Issue 9 you will find an exciting variety of projects sure to inspire a creative summer of activity. Here are the highlights: 

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PRINTMAKING

This issue contains a collection of stories about printmaking, a Q&A with Grand Rapids printmaker Alynn Guerra and tutorials on carving your own blocks and making your own press. Read the articles then join my print swap! (I’ll be posting more details on that soon!)

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KNITTING

*Ingrid Dudek shares the story behind her lovely handknit and felted slippers. (I made the pair above using her pattern and they are my new favorite slippers. They’re felted to fit my feet just right and a delight to slip into on cool mornings.)

* In a rare interview, designer Lynne Barr, shares her story and the Stacked Necklace pattern from her new knitting book, “The Shape of Knitting.” This is a great book for knitters who want to push beyond the basics to see what’s possible and have some great knitting adventures.

QUILTING

*Extreme quilter, Deborah Haltiwanger, tells us how she hand stitched a king-sized quilt out of quarter inch hexagons and then I show you how to make a pendent using 15 tiny hexagons

Craft Blogger Melissa Haworth shows us how to make a collaborative mystery quilt and invites readers to collaborate with her.

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I keep the random quilting theme going with a tutorial to make a freestyle flower quilt like the one I made for my daughter Amelia.

CROCHET

Read a Q&A with designer Ryan Hollist and then sample his Switchback Scarf pattern excerpted from “Crochet One-Skein Wonders” edited by Judith Durant  & Edie Eckman.

Crochet a striped teapot cozy by designer Alessandra Hayden. (These are kind of addictive. I’ve already made two. : )

SEWING

The fun cover craft story is about sewing monster party favors for guests to adopt and take home from the next kid party you host. This is fun and so much better than buying plastic party favors that end up in the trash.

FOOD

In this issue we’re featuring a Q&A with Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of “Put ‘em Up! A Preserving Guide & Cookbook” and give you a chance to sample two recipes from the book: apple and pear sauce and another to make potato and cheese pierogi. (You serve the pierogis with the homemade sauce and it tastes awesome.)

I also included three family favorite recipes for chewy chocolate granola bars, holy guacamole and bruschetta. You gotta try these, folks!

HEALTH

This issue includes a story about Laura Zander, co-owner of Jimmy Beans Wool and author of “Knit Red” and “Sew Red” compilation books that include knitting and sewing projects from top designers and great information to raise awareness about heart disease in women and funds for The Heart Truth Campaign. This feature includes a Mini Red Dress knitting pattern designed by Loretta Dachman for “Knit Red.”

IMG_6705 Other projects include:

- a fun handwritten font designed by Rebecca Green to embroider 

- my tutorial on how to make a portable watercolor paint set

- a story about gardening with cinder blocks

As you can see, I packed a lot into this issue and I really hope you enjoy it. I’m off to address envelopes for my lovely subscribers and continue work on issue 10 due out this fall. Let me know if you have story, project or recipe suggestions for upcoming issues as I’m always looking for new inspiration.

Thank you for your continued support. I wish you all the best handmade summer ever!

***A special thanks to the Fulton Street Artisans Market for sponsoring this issues of the magazine. I really appreciate your support!