Fun with Cable Knitting

Cable knitting is, if possible, even more addictive than Fair Isle patterns.  Best of all it’s pretty easy to do if you have the right tools and some good patterns.  I like using cables on things like mittens and fingerless gloves as it makes them much easier to fit on a variety of hand sizes.

I like these needles for holding the stitches to be cabled.

I like these needles for holding the stitches to be cabled.

Cable knitting mittens help them fit better.

Cable knitting mittens help them fit better.

Cables are great for fingerless gloves.

Cables are great for fingerless gloves.

More intricate cables can be used for small bags.

More intricate cables can be used for small bags.

Here’s a fun site on the basics of cable knitting.

Do you have patterns you love?  Comment here or on Facebook and I will post them!

Pressed Flowers

I love to press flowers and leaves then use them on cards or on stationery.  My favorite plants to press are Johnny jump ups, Bleeding heart and variegated hops but almost any thin flower will do.

Pansies hold their color when dried.

Pansies hold their color when dried.

If you want something like calendula then you need to press the petals separately; if you try and dry the whole flower together the center often rots.

These all press well.

These all press well.

If you still have old phone books around they are ideal for this job.  If not you can use newspaper in between book pages with more books on top to add weight.

Try pressing something unusual!  Sometimes colors will fade.

Try pressing something unusual! Sometimes colors will fade.

Some flowers dry white and others get a little brown.

Some flowers dry white and others get a little brown.

Here is a nice example from the She Knows blog of what you can do with the flowers when dry.

Simple but pretty.

Simple but pretty.

Grapevine Wreaths

It’s a wee bit early to be pruning grapes but I wanted to neaten up the front yard so trimmed off the long, ropy vines.

Using these vines to make wreaths is easy and they turn out great.

First choose the vines you want to use and trim off the side twigs. For a more rustic look, leave the tendrils on.

First choose the vines you want to use and trim off the side twigs. For a more rustic look, leave the tendrils on.

These are my favorite pruners.

These are my favorite pruners.

Wrap the vines around and twist in the ends. Trim off anything that sticks out.

Wrap the vines around and twist in the ends. Trim off anything that sticks out.

Here are three finished wreath. You can use these as is or as a base for baskets.

Here are three finished wreath. You can use these as is or as a base for baskets.

Great activity for a frosty, sunny day!

Great activity for a frosty, sunny day!

Calendula Cream

I love giving this cream during the holidays. If you still have flowers blooming or you dried some over the summer here is how to make this easy gift!

Drain the oil. I added in dried lavender with the calendula petals.

Put the oil in a bowl in a pan of hot water. To get a thick cream add one ounce of beeswax to one cup of oil.

Pour into a container with a cover and enjoy!

Stone Necklaces

This post is one of the most popular on the site. Over the years I have made necklaces from stones collected on both coasts and they remind me of the trips.

Here are step by step instructions for making necklaces from small stones.

A few tools can make the work go quickly.

To start you will need a few basic tools such as needle-nosed pliers, wire cutters and if you use overlapping jump rings, a tool for separating the pieces of wire.

You can use lovely sterling silver wire or a less expensive metal.

You will also need wire, something to string the rock on and some items to make a closure for the necklace.  (If you want to be really rustic you can just tie the ends.)

A little cooking oil makes the rocks gleam and look more beautiful.

Choose your rock.  Beaches, lakes and your very own backyard are all good places to find good stones.  Unless you have really strong neck muscles keep the rock on the small side.

With many different sizes of stones you can guess on the wire and it will fit one of your stones.

Next cut two pieces of wire; one long and one short.  Double over the long piece to make a loop and line up the shorter piece next to it.  This loop will be what you use to hang the necklace.

Almost there!

Next take thinner wire and wrap it around the pieces of wire.  Use the needle nosed pliers to crimp the wires down then trim them with the sharp ends all on one side; these will go against the rock so they won’t catch on clothing.

A toothpick can make the pulling apart of the wires easier.

Pull pieces of the wire out to make a basket to hold the stone in place.

Wiggle the rock to be sure you are fitting it well.

Wrap the wire around the rock and adjust it so the rock is held firmly in place.

Smooth down the wire around the stone.
Be sure to make the loop big enough to feed your cord through.

Trim all the ends of the wire next to the loop except for the really long one.

A river stone transformed.

Wrap the ends to keep them in place; adjust the wire on the rock so it looks good and finish wrapping the wire ends.

All set!

Take cord or leather and make something to string the rock on.


More Baskets!

Here’s how to make another type of basket!

Starting Starting
  • First cut slits in four of the spokes in the center of the spoke.
  • Next make a slant cut on the ends of the non-slitted spokes so it is sharp and pointed.
  • Slide the cut end spokes through the slits in the other spokes.
IMG_3623 This basket has dogwood for spokes and reeds for weaving.
IMG_3588 Next steps
  • Take a long reed, double it in half and loop it around four of the spokes.
  • Line the two ends of the reed up and put the reed on the left over the reed on the right and behind the four spokes.
  • Go around once then divide the spokes into sets of two and go around in a circle always putting the reed on the left over the right reed and behind the next set of two spokes.
  • Do this 3 or 4 times.
  • Next pull the spokes so they are one apart
  • Continue going around in the same fashion.
  • When you run out of reed you can either weave in an over under pattern with one length or double it and continue twisting as you did in the beginning.
Doing the sides. Doing the sides.
  • When it’s time to bend the spokes use pliers and crimp the spoke lightly as each spot you want it to bend.
  • For the top loop each spoke behind the next one then trim the excess.I used some palm and seagrass for variety and texture.

Dogwood, Dappled Willow and Arctic Willow

Fresh Indigo Dyeing with Salt

I grew a lot of Japanese indigo this year and am trying different processing methods. Fir small projects this salt method works well.

I used sea salt but any type works.
Fresh leaves
Rub the leaves and salt together until juice starts to flow. This will lightly stain your hands!
This is silk embroidery thread freshly dyed. It’s green to start. Rinse well or the dye can bleed on your project.
As the thread dries it turns blue. Animal fibers dye better than plant.

Plum Crazy

So many plums! So many plums!

With all the heat this summer the plums are ripening sooner than usual.  Yippee!

I never really understood the term “plum crazy” until this year’s banner harvest; I can’t stop picking when there is ripe, juicy fruit to be had and every possible space is covered with some plum related project.

Have you ever seen the part in Forest Gump where Bubba talks about everything you can do with shrimp?  Here’s the plum version:  “You can make plum torte, plum jam, plum sauce, frozen plums, dried plums, pickled plums, plums in brandy, plum sauce and this is only the beginning!”

Here is a lovely plum sauce made by putting plums face down on a cookie sheet covered with melted butter and a bit of sugar in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  When the skins easily come off it’s ready to go.

Caramelized plum sauce

To dry plums you can either quarter them or pit them, push them out flat and put them skin side down on a dehydrator tray.  It takes about 24 hours for them to try to the point they won’t mold.

Dried plums

Each year I make plum tortes with a recipe from the New York Times.  These tortes are super easy to make and freeze beautifully.

Easy and delicious Easy and delicious

Here is the recipe for an absolutely wonderful blue plum conserve from my Mother’s 1946 version of the Joy of Cooking.  I use the Italian prune plums but Damson plums work equally well.  This recipe does have walnut meats and be aware that there is some concern about canning preserves made with nuts.  I have never had a problem but do want to let you know about this.

Here is the mixture before cooking. Here is the mixture before cooking.

Blue Plum Conserve


  • 2 oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 and a 1/4 pounds of raisins
  • 9 cups sugar
  • 5 pounds blue plums
  • 1/2 pound broken walnut meats


Peel and chop the thin rind from the oranges and lemon and put it in a large bowl.  Chop up the pulp from the citrus fruits and add this and any juice to the bowl.  Next add in the raisins and the sugar.  Pit, slice and add in the plums.  Mix well then place in a large pot and cook until thick.  Be careful to stir continuously or your mixture will burn.  Add in the walnut meats.  Cook ten more minutes then put into sterile jars.  You can then water bath can your preserve if you so desire.

Here’s the finished product.

Year before last when we had an insane amount of fruit I did a plum wine.  It actually turned out to be more of a brandy and while quite strong, we liked it.

Walnut Dyed Shibori Napkins

We never have enough napkins so I made some new ones!

Last fall I gathered walnuts and froze them. Beach stones are for a tied pattern.
Simmer the walnuts until a deep brown dye is made. It will stain skin so good to use tongs or gloves!
Tie the fabric using tightly wrapped rubber bands. This wrap is with stones.
Soak the fabric until a dark color. The two on the right are accordion pleated then banded. You can use cotton, wool or silk fabric. Synthetic fabrics don’t take natural dyes as well.
This is what the stone wrap looks like.
You can achieve different patterns by combining stone wrapping, folding and pleating.
Let the wrapped fabric dry then remove the bands. Rinse until water runs clear. Iron fabric and turn edges over twice and sew.
All done!
Time to start planning dinner.

Dyeing with fresh indigo is easy!

Pick indigo leaves.
Purée leaves in a blender with ice water. Very cold water makes for a better dye.
Strain liquid then add fabric.
Rinse once dipped. Animal fibers will be blue and plant fibers green. This is wool.

Another option is massaging the leaves with salt and squeezing out the liquid. The leaf paste can also be spread on fabric for a targeted pattern.