ScrapHappy: Fusion Redux #3

When last we scrapped happily together, we had finished doing the blanket stitching around the outside of the squares.

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The blanket stitch is attractive in its own right but its real purpose is to serve as the base of the crocheting. Without the crocheting this would be just a bunch of cute squares but we’d have to use them as coasters.

I am absolutely not going to try and teach you how to crochet! I have seen the crocheting many of you do and me teaching you would be like the local yoga instructor trying to teach Gandhi about meditation.

I am an accidental crocheter at best. I learned out of desperation while living in a cheap motel for 6 weeks, with no access to my chosen crafts.

I know three stitches—slip stitch, single crochet and double crochet. I could learn more stitches but the truth is I don’t even really enjoy crochet. I have a death grip on the hook and my hand is always sore. I do it now only as a means to an end, the fusion quilt.

All of this is said to make the point that the crochet on fusion squares can be simple and basic and, even if you don’t already know anything about crochet, you could learn enough, quickly, to make a quilt like this. If you don’t have a friend you can teach you the basics, the internet is full of tutorials. That’s how I learned.

On the other hand, if you already now what you’re doing, you could do something way more complicated and interesting for the borders on your squares and make the crochet a bigger part of the look of your quilt.

What I’ve done around my squares is start with single crochet and do one stitch in each opening created by the blanket stitch. I go around once and then I go around again and do a double crochet stitch into each single crochet. At the corners, though, I do three double crochets into one corner stitch, to create the fan shape that eases around the corner.

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Like I said, super simple, super basic. But the possibilities are endless for the crocheting. If you want ideas, search on Pinterest for “fusion quilt.”

After you’ve done all these steps on all your squares (however may that is—for me, it’ll be about 112, if I remember correctly), the time will come to crochet everything together. At some point, I’ll tell you what’s entailed in that, although you can probably figure it out.

My progress to date is:

20 squares finished and blocked*

12 squares finished but not blocked

6 squares blanket stitched and ready for crochet

5 squares ready for blanket stitch and then crochet.

* The blocking of these squares makes a huge difference. I lay the crocheted squares face down on my ironing board and use pins in the four corners to slightly stretch and flatten the edges. I spritzed them with a water bottle and leave them to dry.

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Blocked or unblocked–you choose.


ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page. She welcomes new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let Kate or Gun know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so they can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry (that’s me), Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline and Sue L.

A Perfect Fit: The Fusion Quilt

IMG_0598It’s a project that fits me perfectly.

I mean, I love all the projects I engage in but this one . . .

This one, this making of small squares for a so-called fusion quilt, is a perfect match.

It combines so many ingredients that make me happy.

  1. vintage linens—as I said in an earlier post, in stocking my Etsy shop, I come across a lot of linens that aren’t in good enough condition to sell but that have some perfect detail that I can’t bear to throw away. I had amassed an enormous number of these but . . . what to do with them? Now I know. The perfect details are preserved, framed, highlighted in each square.
  2. hand work—I love a project I can do while sitting in a chair with my feet up, by the lake or in front of a fireplace. A lot of my preferred pastimes—weaving at a loom, quilting at a hoop, sitting at a sewing machine—don’t allow for this, but this project does.
  3. variety—several different types of work go into making each little square so I’m not going to get bored. There’s the pleasure of picking the pieces to work with and prepping them. Then comes the machine sewing, satisfying in that it feels like the potential for fun is piling up. Then I sew, by hand, with my feet up, the blanket stitch around the edges. And finally comes the crocheting, by hand, with my feet up.
  4. nostalgia—Because I love doing handwork, I get so much pleasure from seeing what other hands have wrought. Almost every square I work on bears the work of another loving hand. I don’t know these women but I feel I know what motivated them and I feel we are connected. I seek to honor them as much as preserve their handiwork.

The pile of pretty squares grows. I have about 24 blocks finished and 8 more ready for crochet. Each block makes me smile. Some are subtle, some are simply gorgeous, some are a little odd.

I know that I should be crocheting them together as I go. I know when I am faced with doing that stage, for all of the blocks, at the end, I will regret not keeping up with it.

But I am not prepared to make decisions yet about that final product. I don’t know if I’ll end up with 40 blocks or 150. I find new bits of prettiness that could be included almost every day. I’ll probably keep making squares as long as the squares keep making me happy.

And I won’t know how they should be organized and put together until I have them all in front of me.

Right now, I like seeing the stacks and shuffling through the squares, like a deck of cards, an encyclopedia of needlework techniques done by a sisterhood of stitchers and lace-makers and crocheters.

My work and theirs . . . a perfect fit.

In your world, is there one activity, one project, one creation, that’s simply a perfect fit for you?

My Kind of Book

It’s a book.

IMG_3987It’s a vintage book.IMG_3989

It’s a vintage book about textiles.

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It’s a vintage book about how to make textiles by hand.

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It’s as if we belong together!

“With her knowledge she can combine her imagination and ingenuity to create new patterns or adapt old ones and so give color and meaning to modern life.”

Friends, Indeed: Kit, Liz, Jan

IMG_2963Have you ever been in a place where kindness means a whole lot to you, more so than usual? Feeling a little overwhelmed, a little harried, but then shored up by someone else and their kindness to you?

I have been on the receiving end of a lot of kindness lately. For starters, while I was off selling candy at holiday boutiques this past week, my husband cleaned the entire house, from top to bottom! How’s that for nice?!

I can, and have, thanked him in person but I want to thank three other kind people more publicly.

First I need to mention my totally cool sister, Kit, who was my right-hand gal, yet again, while I sold candy at the boutiques. She helped last year and I will not EVER accept an invitation to one of these boutiques if she is unavailable or unwilling to help. My sister is mellow, even-tempered, and methodical about helping so I can just flap around and talk to customers! It doesn’t come as any surprise that I depend on her for this sort of help—she has been by my side, often literally but always figuratively, my entire life.

I knew I could count on my sister’s kindness this past week but I was blind-sided by kindness from two other people, too—the antidote to feeling stressed and exhausted is nice people!

Let’s take the kindness of a blog friend, Liz, who writes the blog, “food for fun.” Not only did Liz, a professional foodie, give me some great business and buy lots of candy from me, she wrote a really, REALLY nice blog post about the candy and shared some of her stash with others in the food industry. It is so reassuring to hear this kind of feedback from someone who is truly knowledgeable about food and the fact that she gave me the kind feedback so publicly . . . well, it doesn’t get any better than that!

I saw Liz’s blog post at the end of a long and intense day of selling at one of the holiday boutiques. Those events are fun but exhausting for a hard-core introvert like me. However, when I saw what Liz had written I felt new again and ready to go back the next day, for the second boutique, with a spring in my step!

I know you’d enjoy Liz’s blog as much as I do. It does what you’d expect a food blog to do—provide recipes and talk about food trends—but Liz writes with an honesty and humor that I find lacking in so many food blogs. Other food bloggers can make me feel like a schmo in the kitchen but Liz keeps it real and really fun. Plus she writes frequently about bourbon . . . and that means a lot to me!

Liz had me flying pretty high but then I had another long day of selling and a five-hour drive home. Another low-energy period, begging to be buoyed by kindness! I got home to an envelope from Jan, the author of “The Snail of Happiness.”

Jan is interested in sustainability—with a Ph.D. in ecology, I guess that’s not surprising. She recently finished an advanced program in permaculture and, as part of that process, made a masterpiece blanket that included her own crochet work, as well as crocheted and knitted blocks from blog friends around the world. When I whined to Jan that her mailbox must be a lot more fun than mine, she took it upon herself to change that! This is her modus operandi it seems . . . .

When I returned home from my downstate selling extravaganza yesterday, I had an envelope from Wales waiting for me. Jan had crocheted me a cotton ray of sunshine, some ever-blooming roses, and a big and beautiful cloth that she says is a dishcloth but that I can’t imagine ever using on dishes! I am pondering some ideas about how to use it, even as I write.

Jan’s blog is another I’m confident you’ll love—in fact, I know many of you do follow it and are contributors to her masterpiece! If you haven’t checked The Snail of Happiness out yet, do so—Jan loves that which is handmade and she brings an intelligent, down-to-earth voice to her blog.

All of this is an excellent reminder, at this time of year when we’re urged to buy big to show people we love them, that it is often the small, unexpected gestures that really matter and will brighten a day, lighten a load. I’ve been reminded of this important lesson by Kit and Liz and Jan, by being on the receiving end of their kindness.

And I resolve to do more on the giving end as well.

Making Doilies Modern

The loving hands at home made LOTS of doilies and they are seriously under-appreciated these days. You can find them for very, very little money. I think they get passed over because, of all the vintage textiles, they seem the fussiest and most old fashioned. But, as this wonderful blog post from Maggie Overby Studios shows us, it IS possible to bring doilies into the 21st century! Aren’t you inspired? I know I am!

Many Lovely Finds!

A pretty plaid afghan in blue and green.

A pretty plaid afghan in blue and green.

I posted earlier that I was going to a garage sale of “epic proportions” (https://lovethosehandsathome.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/garage-sale-of-epic-proportions/). As it turned out, I guess it depends on your definition of epic. My dictionary says it can mean “of unusually great size,” and that it was. But the other definition is “majestic, impressively great” . . . not exactly.

BUT the day was quite a success from a “hands at home” point of view! I saw many handmade crocheted blankets or afghans and quite a lot of hand-stitched linens. Think how long someone worked on these things!

This is HUGE and so pretty in pinks and white.

This is HUGE and so pretty in pinks and white.

Granny squares in two shades of blue!

Granny squares in two shades of blue!

Old dish towels with hand embroidered fruit--unused, I think!

Old dish towels with hand embroidered fruit–unused, I think!

Four sweet vintage napkins, with teacups.

Four sweet vintage napkins, with teacups.

Beautiful Arts & Crafts embroidery but, sadly, this has holes in it.

Beautiful Arts & Crafts embroidery but, sadly, this has holes in it.

Can you see why I find it so hard to pass these items up, when I see them?

Vintage Textiles: Looking for Loving Homes

cowboyI love vintage. I especially love vintage textiles–table linens, quilts, blankets, and such. I have loved them for so long and so well that I created quite a problem for myself. I lived in a house that was overwhelmed with textiles. I was the stereotypical “crazy cat lady” of vintage linens. I wanted every embroidered napkin or tablecloth, every crocheted afghan, every hand-stitched quilt to have a good home. And I thought I was the only person who cared enough to provide a good home.

The fact that I had two houses to fill didn’t help matters. For years we had a “real” house and a summer house, both with lots of storage space. When we moved into the summer house full-time a few years ago, I was forced to face my linen-hoarding tendencies. I found boxes and boxes (really!) of linens that I had completely forgotten I had. I had wanted those things to have a good home but what kind of home was I giving them, packing them away and forgetting them?

And, so, I have become the Humane Society of vintage textiles, the SPCA of linens and quilts. I started my Etsy shop, KerryCan (www.etsy.com/shop/KerryCan), to find good homes for my collection of vintage textiles. And I have found that many, MANY people love them as much as I do!

Here are some of my favorite items that have recently found “forever homes.” The dish towel at the top of the page was one of a set of three “day of the week” towels, featuring the cowgirl trying to get her chores done, with the “help” of a flirtatious cowboy

A beautiful hand-crocheted afghan, in fall colors.

A beautiful hand-crocheted afghan, in fall colors.

A pair of linen pillow cases; the drawnwork was done by hand, by a woman preparing for her marriage, in 1910.

A pair of linen pillow cases; the drawnwork was done by hand, by a woman preparing for her marriage, in 1910.

A hand-crocheted tablecloth, with a beautiful star motif.

A hand-crocheted tablecloth, with a beautiful star motif.

Another spectacular afghan, in black and brights.

Another spectacular afghan, in black and brights.

Aren’t they wonderful?! I miss all of these beautiful things! Sometimes I wish I had kept them but then I remind myself of the pleasure others are getting from them . . . and I look around and take stock of all the other special stuff I’ve kept for myself!

Do you find it easy to accumulate things and hard to let go?

How Crocheting Saved My Life

IMG_1773Okay, so that title is an example of hyperbole. Crocheting didn’t save my life but it certainly saved my sanity during a really trying period of my life!

All of you with a creative outlet know how important that outlet can be in times of trouble. When you’re under stress and your brain is working overtime and imagining the worst, having busy hands and a project that needs concentration can distract and calm you.

And that’s what crocheting did for me. I didn’t crochet before and I don’t crochet anymore. I honestly don’t really enjoy crocheting (sorry to all who love it!). But I needed it.

Here’s my story: My husband and I had just moved to a home on Lake Champlain in upstate New York. Three weeks after we moved in, Lake Champlain reached record high-water levels and our house was surrounded by water. We had to leave and leave pretty fast.

The lake isn't supposed to be on this side of the house!

The lake isn’t supposed to be on this side of the house!

We spent 6 weeks in a tatty motel. Our cats spent 6 weeks in cages at the vet’s. It rained relentlessly and the flood waters kept inching up and we didn’t know if the whole house would flood but we knew the basement and garage were full of water. We could get to the house but only in hip waders.

Yes, a boat in the driveway.

Yes, a boat in the driveway.

One of the worst aspects of this was that we had nothing to do. We don’t really care about TV or movies or shopping. There are only so many walks a person can take in a day. So we sat around the motel and worried ourselves sick.

And that’s where crocheting came in. I needed something to distract me and crocheting seemed to be the simplest solution—after all the supply list is truly minimal. All I needed was one crochet hook and a ball of yarn and my trusty iPad, for instruction.

I spent 6 weeks obsessively learning one crochet pattern. I found a pretty picture of a 16-circles square on the Internet and set out to learn it.

This was the picture that inspired me. From http://undisthreadness.blogspot.com/

This was the picture that inspired me. From http://undisthreadness.blogspot.com/

Because I had no background in crochet or reading the language of the patterns, my progress was really slow and really painful. BUT it took my mind off all the other painful worries and focused me. And I finally learned to make the squares and made enough of them to out together a decent-sized throw.

And this is what mine looked like.

And this is what mine looked like.

And I’m happy to report that by the time I had enough squares to stitch together, we were back in our house! We didn’t have running water for weeks, because the well and the septic system were completely compromised, and pretty much every shrub and perennial in our yard died a horrible death. We had scum all over the garage and black mold growing up the walls, but the flood waters had not made it into the main part of the house.

Now, two years later, everything is groovy. The house and gardens look great again and we love living on this beautiful lake, when it behaves!

I tried to keep crocheting but, somehow, I just can’t get into it. It’s as if it served its purpose and now I can move on. But I’m keeping my crochet hook . . . just in case. Has your form of creative expression helped you through a difficult time? I’d love to hear about it!

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