Squares and Pentagons: The technique to insert the circle can be found at


Circles: Dog treats and Hamburger buns The results of a multipurpose baking day.

Heart: Grandpa's handwork for Ev.


Polyhedron: This was excellently crafted by Molly Crino with the assistance of Katie Crino.They gave this to me during their family's visit here. For the longest time we thought this was a dodecahedron. But we could not get the sides to work out correctly. It is actually this:


Trapezoid: (for Julie "Can you say trapezoid?")

love ,



Dear Mom,

I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the semester.

We had a little Secret Santa/Hanuka party last night, and this was the present that I brought for my target. He's an MST3K fan (that's Mystery Science Theater 3000, where the little silhouettes make fun of bad movies). I intarsia'd up this pillow last week, using this chart. I used some black and white polka-dotted fabric for the back.

The party was a lot of fun. Jenni made latkes and had some babka mailed out from NYC. Yum!

Love, Gwen



Hello? Fellow blogger?

I throw down the dimly lit, photo-taken-by-self-at-arm's-length-in-the-bathroom gauntlet/beret of craft-blogging!

This picture is crying out to be topped! I took it a couple weeks ago after finishing up the Tweed Beret from the Winter 2006 Interweave Knits (the yarn is some Noro something that I had here in the stash). It is perhaps not so evident in this picture, but a poofy beret is, as I suspected, the poofy-haired girl's friend. I finished this hat just in time for the cold snap we experienced, and for the first winter in a while, I actually reached for a hat out of desire to wear it - not just desire to not get cold. I tinkered with the gauge a little, knitting the larger of the sizes, with one size smaller needles for my slightly thinner yarn. If I were to knit this again, I'd want it to be even bigger and even poofier.

I took this picture in my bathroom, as you probably recognize. The bathroom was the scene of an intense little skirmish last night. Imagine my surprise, when, going in bleary-eyed to do my bathroom stuff before bed, I discover a rather focused herd of ants wandering around on the ancient gold-speckled linoleum. Yes, ANTS. In the bathroom, which has no exterior walls, in winter. I have no idea what they were after, but ants' ways are not my ways.

I determined, after a little freaking out, that they seemed to be coming from a crack in the linoleum, so I did what any girl would do. I cleaned up the ants, wiped down the floor, got out some tools and screwed the lineoleum back down to the floorboards on either side of the crack, then engaged in a little midnight caulking. So far, this morning, so good.

Your daughter, the beret wearing, ant-nuking, lone blogging-



Dear Mom,

I ran errands this morning, before the rain turns to sleet and then turns to snow. I'm pleased to report we have plenty of yummy things to eat,

some excellent options for drinks,

and, thanks to my handiwork earlier this week, a suitably festive and cozy atmosphere.

I think I'm ready.

Love, Gwen


In which there are also no otters

Dear Mom,

It's been a quiet week at Chez Gwen. Sunday night I finished up my Socktoberfest socks. I had high hopes of knocking out more pairs through this month-long celebration of socks, but one it was:

These , of course, are the Embossed Leaves Socks, designed by Mona Schmidt, from the winter 2005 Interweave Knits. The yarn is some Elann's Sock it to Me that I had socked away around here (harhar!). I knit these through the World Series, going up to the wedding with you and Dad, and a spate of MST3K episodes. They are pictured here midway through Monday - I didn't want to wait to wear them! They have since been washed and dried, and I may attempt another photo shoot to show you how very well they fit. I give this pattern a big thumbs-up.

(Guinea pigs don't wear socks, although they were interested in what I was doing and if it involved lettuce. It didn't.)

And, here's a project I made earlier this month - I knit these for one of our relatives, using this pattern from Knitty. The embroidery here is substantially winged, since I decided I didn't really feel like executing the duplicate stitch, and I only made three instead of a full week's worth.

I find myself a little in-between projects at the moment, since I finished up the socks. Time to dive into the closet and yarn basket and see what I've forgotten about back in there.

Love, Gwen


West Virginia Fall

Dear Gwen,
The Fall colors have been spectacular. The leaf color intensity changes according to the mountain side direction and elevation. Dad and I took a bike ride near Ohio Pyle State Park in Pennsylvania. It was a brilliantly clear and crisp day. The trail was busy with many families and groups enjoying the day. At one stop we overheard a family with young children excitedly talking about going to see the otters. Deciding we wanted to see the otters too, we followed them along the bike trail at a respectful distance. At the naturalist sign post we learned it is very rare to see the otters out and about during the day. I hope the kids were not too disappointed. As they scampered around on the rocks by the river we snacked and caught our breath, and then headed back to the car... disappointed not to have seen the otters.

Thank you for the beautiful scarf!




Dear Mom,

The blog has been quiet - I know I've been keeping a few things on the down-low. I can show you these though:

Tissue holders and a little bag for the birthday of one of my friends here. The handle of the bag is designed to easily button around the handle of one of her larger tote bags. I whipped these out Wednesday night. The photographer at this end has really not been meeting the high bar set by your stylist and photographer.

I've been working on my Socktoberfest socks, but they've been slow-going. I'm hoping to be done with the first one after watching the first game tonight (of the World Series). I have really enjoyed following along on the Flickr group, and seeing everyone's colorful socks.

The babies are keeping an eye on everything too.

Love, Gwen


It must be Fall...the oven is on.

Dear Gwen,
I love when the air temperature cools to the point where you can't wait to turn on the oven and start baking again. Though the real reason is to warm the house up in the morning without turning on the furnace. After a long break from baking I have to reaquaint myself with the baking supplies. I always forget what flours and extra baking ingredients I have squirreled away. I intended to make cherry biscotti but finished with apricot almond biscotti instead. Dad took some to work to share with his coffee. I never asked him if this was a defensive maneuver. The biscotti are baked twice which makes them twice as crunchy.
I also made one of my favorite cookies.

These mice are fun to make:

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup butter

1 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

2 1/4 cups flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Cream the sugar and fats. Add vanilla and egg. Mix well. Add the dry ingredients. Shape into 1 inch balls. Pinch one end to form the nose. The ears are two flattened pieces of dough. Add mini chocolate chips for eyes. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 13 minutes. Add the licorice tails after baking while cookies are still warm.

We shared these cookies with friends and received this picture the other day. Cat confusion!

I understand their dilemma. If you bite the tail you are left with a mouse head on your plate. Eat the head first and the tail remains. This is a problem not often encountered in food. I say just pop the whole thing in your mouth.

The baking didn't end with the mice. I had leftover boiled potato so I made potato bread. Five days later we are just finishing the second loaf. And it was not just any potato bread but it was Sister Jennie's Potato Bread from Bernard Clayton's bread book. This Shaker recipe describes the 8 hour rising time in front of the kitchen fires. Lacking a kitchen fire (boo hoo) I let it rise in the proofing drawer in the bottom of the oven. Despite the new-fangled environment it took the bread almost 8 hours from start to finish. Some recipes are not meant to be improved upon.

Now for a confection of a different kind. Do you remember this pretty yarn?

Due to some technical difficulties with the needle operator's brain and inattention to detail I have achieved the '4x start' project. I chose an easy knit 1, YO, knit two together pattern. Nowhere in the instructions did it warn you that it is fraught with potential potholes. I hit each one. Including messing up one turn so that the front became the back. This became Very Visible two-thirds back the length. I am now looking for this every inch or so. I still love the yarn, I am loving how it looks in the pattern, I will love it more at the bind-off.

Have you seen this 6 minute video? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6ZjMWLqJvM


All photo credits (except the cats) belong to Dad.



Dear Mom,

While you and Dad were Caping and Codding about last week, watching whales and viewing skeletons of whales, I've been concentrating on a mammal of slightly smaller proportions. Poor Walter! Walter, of course, is my girl guinea pig, who came preloaded with little guinea pigs, little baby guinea pigs who I can hear clicking their teeth in there at night. So strange!

My new apartment-mate and I get along swimmingly. In the last week she's learned what it sounds like when I'm walking in the kitchen, and she starts to wheek. Even though her belly is so big, and her poor skin is so stretched, she still likes laptime a lot. I put her on my chest, grab my book, and we hold the sofa down like nobody's business. She's very polite about her bathroom functions too - the one time we had a bit of an accident (I'd had her out of her cage for at least eight pages of Hobbes), she hopped down onto the sofa and looked at me apologetically as the inevitable happened.

Anyways, as the weather's been getting cooler and the babies closer to arriving, Walter's needed some cuddly accessories. Don't worry, I haven't been knitting guinea pig baby booties - argh! could you imagine?! (4 babies @ 4 paws apiece! Although four little hats would be cute . . . )

Nope, I've been whipping out little beds, - "cuddle cups" as they are known within the cavy savvy community. They've been a hit with their target audience. This one is flannel with an extra piece of prequilted fabric in the bottom.

And this one is fleece and mermaid flannel. Both are lined with batting.

I think I'll make a couple more, so I can switch them in and out of the cage as they get damp or dirty. They're good for laptime, too. This is quick and dirty sewing, nothing precise or difficult here, but very satisfying.

Hope you're adjusting back to the land-locked life smoothly!

Love, Gwen


Fling, Flung,Flinging

Dear Gwen,

"It was an evening in early October,--one of those first frosty nights when a bright wood fire is so agreeable to contemplate and so more than agreeable to sit in front of. Susan Clegg sat in front of hers, and doubtless thoroughly appreciated its cheerful warmth, but it cannot be said that she took any time to contemplate it, for her gaze was altogether riveted upon the stocking which she was knitting, and which appeared--for the time being--to absorb completely that persevering energy which was the dominant note of her character.
But still the beauty and brilliancy of the leaping flames were not altogether lost upon an unseeing world, for there was another present beside Susan, and that other was full to overflowing with the power of silent admiration. Her little black beady eyes stared at the dancing lights that leapt from each burning log in a species of rapt absorption, and it was only semi-occasionally that she turned them back upon the work which lay upon her lap. Mrs. Lathrop (for of course it was Mrs. Lathrop) was matching scraps for a "crazy" sofa pillow, and there was something as touchingly characteristic in the calmness and deliberation of her matching as there was in the wild whirl which Susan's stocking received whenever that lady felt the moment had come to alter her needles. For Susan, when she knit, knit fast and furiously, whereas Mrs. Lathrop's main joy in relation to labor lay in the sensation that she was preparing to undertake it.
The former altered her needles with a fierce fling, and began: "I must go on 'n' tell you what's on my mind. ... " "
(from "Susan Clegg and Her Friend, Mrs. Lathrop" by Anne Warner)

During the rather long break in our blog much has been happening at the end of the needles. I know you saw a few projects when you came to visit. I have been enjoying the stitching on the quilt top. And I have been seeking to master my new knitting. The quilt is proceeding more predictably than the knitting!
I have been needle flinging here. I agree that it could be an Olympic sport as was undertaken by knitters all over the world during the Winter Olympics this past year. I also had to claim a 'do-over' during this project, which is not allowed under the official rules. This summer tank was started in the early Spring in anticipation of hot Summer weather. As the knitting progressed I really thought I would miss both seasons. Well, I think I just squeaked in under the Summer wire.

This is version one. It is the FiberTrends Basic Tank. The directions knit up very easily. I think it looks like their picture. When I tried it on I was not happy with the fit on me. As you can see the design is a boxy style with minimal design extras. The first step was to reclaim the yarn so I frogged the whole thing. And I started to tinker with the original pattern. I liked how the pattern was simple and straight forward. I built off of the original, adding shaping at the side seams, short rows in the bust area for curves, and a weightier hem finish to help the hang of the garment.

Version two: (Already looks better because of the change in photographers--Dad gets the credit here.) I measured a well fitting tank to determine how much shaping was needed. All of the resulting changes were based on the mathematics of this yarn's gauge. The hem line is the Garter stitch T Twist from Knitting on the Edge by Nicky Epstein. This book and its companion book have enough ideas for a lifetime of knitting... I am wondering if I should date the book like I do my cookbooks, recording when I try a new edge and if I changed its ingredients.

The wrap-up will be the review of my notes and chicken scratches, ordering them into a pattern I can duplicate in another project.

I am so pleased to finally be able to show you this project. But with Tropical storm Ernesto headed up the coast maybe I should be thinking of rain gear. Knitted rain coats...now there is a silly idea.

love, Mom


Clean Sweet

Hi Mom,

Sorry about the longtime, no posting. The amoeba-like quality of this year's Fourth of July put a fullstop to whatever sort of momentum I had going, which wasn't very much to begin with. I have been making some things, and even selling some things. I've had some success, as you know. An item that I made was picked up, and sold almost right away. I've been trying to figure out how to make more of them - the sticking point is that I found the original slip at a thrift store.

I've been catsitting for Mary, which means I've been watching TV over there a little bit while I play with them. I've been watching a bunch of those cleaning/redecorating shows. So far they've inspired me to:

1. Clean my closet. Well, partially anyways. I weeded out my closet and brought three bags over to the thrift store today. I also made a short stack of things that could be ok if I remade them somehow.

2. So I did - I completed one anyways, and have ideas and a list of changes for the others. I made cuter, shorter, tighter pants out of these old long ones. Ankle-length plaid bright pink pants had proven just too much - who'd have thought? Shorter, however, is better.

3. While at the thrift store, I decided to have a quick look around, to see if I could replace some of the summer things that I've worn out. Other people must also have been cleaning their closets out, because I found two great things! The skirt is silk.
Do you think I can wear these items together? You have to imagine it with my big poofy hair and significant earrings. . . these are the times that I wish for a roommate (and yes, the top's sash and straps are Gwen Green).

Talk to you soon!



It is Raining, It is Pouring, All the Cats are Snoring

Hi Gwendolina,
I am sitting here in semi-darkness listening to it rain, and rain, and rain. The cats are beginning to ignore me when I open the door. My plants are taking on too much water despite my emptying their swimming pool/pots. On the positive side, I have had plenty of time to do inside projects.

First, the update on the sewing room. Dad finished the last piece for the room. Now that the desk and filing area is done I can move the paperwork off the dining room table. You may recognize the recycled legs on the desk. Over the years a once lovely sewing cabinet has met a series of unfortunate accidents. Most of which required a modification in one piece of it or another. I have never had such bad luck with any other piece of furniture. First the top was badly damaged by water. A fall into the corner of the top accounts for one of the scars on Carl's forehead. Then the iron treadle mechanism served for many years as a base under the round table top. That table was our first kitchen table and ended as the homeschooling table. All the time the treadle wheel was under that top I imagined little fingers pinched in the working fly wheel. I think the ability to make that wheel spin was irresistible to little kids. The iron base was broken during our move last year. So Dad thought he would use the legs in the desk design. I like how the legs make the desk look more delicate. The treadle wheel is now disabled in the garage. I think the wheel and basket could have a new life too. Any suggestions?

I am impressed by your new successes in gardening. Your tomatoes are going to be good in a few weeks. I have two potted tomatoes on the deck that are outpacing Dad's tomato in the garden. I think I may win the early tomato derby. You also seem to be well able to grow microbiotically! Is your sponge to the healthy stage yet. I love how the sourdoughs fill the kitchen with prebread smell. Just after I read your entry I heard a story on the TV about the wild yeasts used in the making of tequila. I thought of you. I think your breeding ( or does one just multiply) of yeast is more expedient. They said it takes around ten years just to grow the Blue Agave that tequila is made from. Though I did like the suggestion made by this grower http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/view.php?id=12017. Are you thinking of improving your stock?

Because it is raining and Dad is traveling I have time to watch old movies while I stitch quilt squares and frog that summer tank. I saw a movie I highly recommend. It is the Chinese movie "The Road Home". This movie is the gentlest story of the love a young woman has for a man in her village. The photography is breathtaking. It is also a superb depiction of the rural life of that time, a living history acted out. I need to see it again just to catch all the textile references and demonstrations shown during the story. I had watched about a half hour of the movie before realizing I needed to be more observant. The people of the region knew how to keep warm in their heavily quilted clothing. I almost missed the heavy felted boots for winter wear. They also showed the repair of pottery in a way I had seen demonstrated on Martha's show a couple of years ago. I hope you can find a copy locally.



Stalking the Wild Yeast

Hi Mom,

Here's my horticultural riposte to your (gorgeous) lily of the valley trapunto:

The first little green tomatoes are growing on the grape tomato plant! The hot humid weather has kickstarted all my container plants. It's becoming quite the jungle on the porch, thanks to the plants from Julie this weekend, and me moving all the houseplants out there.

One of my colleagues gave me a huge plastic pot into which I can transplant the other tomato plant, in exchange for a little kickback of fruit once it is producing. Are you as surprised as I am that I'm suddenly into gardening? I want to weed, I want to water, I'm not killing things right and left. It's as if you planted little sleeping gardening cicadas in me 13 or 17 years ago, and this is the year they wake up.

Besides the cultivating, my theme for the summer so far has been things that are free. Until I find a summer job (I'm looking! I'm inquiring! I'm making phone calls!) I have a lot of free time. I'm also trying to cut expenses by doing things that are free.

Free knitting, for example, otherwise known as stash knitting. This little project is knitting with stuff that isn't even yarn. It's the ball of nylon potholder loops from my last post, (idea thanks to [of course] this book), the primary-colored, loopy-fringed Goofus to your elegant, prim trapunto Gallant.
I also recently ran out of yeast. Is there a free solution to this? I wondered aloud yesterday. The weather has been too warm and humid to not be making bread - my kitchen IS a proofing box. I thought about experimenting with leavening with salt briefly, but decided, as quaintly old-timey as salt-rising sounds, to try making my own sourdough starter. It seems a bit more reliable once it's going. Behold:

The theory of making one's own sourdough starter is simple: mix flour and water, hope you trap some interesting yeast and lacto-baccillus from the air in it. The pickier online sources advise using wholewheat flour, and bottled, non-chlorinated water, all carefully temperature-regulated. I haphazardly used the whitest of white flour, cold tap water, and initially stirred with a metal spoon (another no-no). Nevertheless, by noon today the starter was already pretty bubbly and sour-smelling, and had a thin layer of hooch on top.

Apparently it can take days for the first bubbles to appear - my starter seems to be precocious, probably thanks to the afore-mentioned incredible humidity and general aliveness of the air right now. It smells nice and sour already. These symptoms put it pretty squarely in the "barely living" category. This may sound rather dismal, but in the world of sourdough starter, barely living is slightly alive, which is what I want.


PS - did you or Dad ever make the Cabbage Kuchen from Laurel's Kitchen? I'm thinking of making it tomorrow.


A Beginning

Dear Gwen,
You and Katie have asked what is my first project. Last year when Carl and Katie were married I promised Katie a quilt. I had already chosen the pattern and some of the fabric. And as a preview I showed her the cover of this book . Her quilt will be the one shown on the cover. It is called "Spring Irish Chain Quilt". The pillow shown is actually the Lily of the Valley center for 12 squares in the quilt, surrounded by the Irish Chain. Each of the L. of the V. squares is created in trapunto. This is the first project in which I have tried this technique. The square is actually composed of 2 layers of fabric. The top is the quilt fabric you will see in the finished top. The second layer is a Swiss batiste I purchased from a company in Louisiana. The motif is traced on to the batiste and then hand stitched through both layers along the design lines.
This first picture shows the front of the block. Photo credits belong to Dad. (He has a much better understanding with the new camera.) The color is very true in this picture. The second picture shows the trapunto a bit more clearly. To make the raised area yarn is slipped between the two layers. Each area is padded just enough to raise it without distorting the fabric. The instructions suggested using polyester thread to outline the motif. I thought about this for a total of 2 seconds, deciding that trapunto is a much older technique than the invention of polyester thread. So the traditionalist in me picked up the 100% cotton thread and began to stitch. In all fairness the suggestion of polyester thread was made to address a problem with the trapunto technique. As you manipulate the yarn into the areas the cloth does get stretched, resulting in the chance an outline stitch may snap. I have not had any problem with the cotton thread. Some instructions suggest a polyfill for the trapunto areas. I chose wool yarn. The first choice was the fluffy, delicate one on the left of the picture. It worked quite well except that it showed through the top fabric darker than I liked . So choice number two was the better yarn. The wool yarn will felt together over time and not migrate out of the channels and areas.

The next series of pictures shows the filling stitch in the trapunto areas. Working on the back side (batiste side) the threaded needle is slipped carefully between the two layers of fabric. The next stitch starts in the exit hole of the first stitch so that the yarn is drawn through the two layers. I continued working this area in a straight line until I reached the other side. Then I pulled out the needle and clipped the yarn close to the fabric. I worked in the ends of the yarn and closed any holes left in the batiste. Each area of the trapunto requires a few lines of wool to fill it completely.
This block seems to show a little distortion on the bottom edge so I will go back and remove a small amount of yarn from the fill in the center leaf. This should relieve the tension in that area and allow the fabric to flatten.

I am so excited to start this quilt. It incorporates an element from your quilt ( the similar piecing technique of your double nine patch) and motif quilting as in Carl's quilt. Dad suggested I make a quilt for us for my next one. It would be a nice way to celebrate our 30th anniversary in 3 years. Isn't that just the way it is....you get started on one and you have the next one simmering on the back burner.
love, Mom