Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Felted Potholder

Did you ever shrink a wool sweater by washing and drying it? I'll bet you didn't do it on purpose! Agitating wool fabric in hot water to shrink and thicken it is called felting and is one way knitters these days make hats, purses, and other items.

I've been wanting to try the technique, but find wool scratchy to wear. Making a potholder turned out to be the perfect beginner project: no itchiness issues, exact size not required, and I actually needed a new one.
I looked online and in a few library books, and came upon a pattern that included both felting and entrelac.

Entrelac is done by knitting rows of triangles and diamonds either with different colors (per row) or variegated yarn. I found some wool with long stretches of color, so many of the diamonds are mostly one hue, which really shows off the stitch, I think. Here is the potholder as knit:
And after felting:
Isn't this great? Look at the change in size! It turned out to be a good thickness, too--not too stiff, but thick enough to really be protective. Below is a close-up showing the pattern and texture.
I found the idea for this potholder here. Tamara used the instructions for a "garterlac" (entrelac in garter stitch) dishcloth from here (pdf version), but used wool instead of cotton. I used Universal Yarn Inc's Deluxe Worsted LP (long print) 100% wool, which has about 220 yards per ball, enough to make two potholders. Like Tamara, I used size 11 needles. I single-crocheted a border and loop. In retrospect, I don't think the border was necessary, and it did add a dark stripe to the light part of the potholder. No biggie.

The felting part of this project was so cool! Since it was small, I started out rubbing the fabric by hand in a sink filled with hot water (and a little soap). Ugh! Hot work, and it was difficult to keep a consistent shape. I soon moved everything to the washing machine, where a pair of jeans took over the rubbing and scrubbing. After checking every 5 minutes (a good excuse to sit with a book!) about 4 times, I deemed it "done" and rinsed, blotted, and air-dried my creation. It's almost magical to watch that big, floppy square shrink and fuzz.

  • Use 100% wool.
  • There are lots of resources online and in the library to explain how to felt.
  • Here is another post about a felted pot holder done in garter stitch, which is simpler than the entrelac.
Historical note: I had thought that felting on purpose was new, but I was wrong. I don't how long it's been done (probably a very long time), but it's right there in Farmer Boy. Almanzo's mom makes winter clothes out of fullcloth--woven (vs. knitted) wool cloth that was shrunk:

"Butternut hulls had dyed the thread for his coat and his long trousers. Then Mother had woven it, and she had soaked and shrunk the cloth into heavy, thick fullcloth. Not wind nor cold nor even a drenching rain could go through the good fullcloth that Mother made." (page 3)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In Memory

Yesterday we went to a funeral mass for Joseph and Rebecca's violin teacher. She died on Thursday at 54. She was a very private person, so although we knew she was seriously ill, we weren't expecting her to succumb. Dr. Marianne Murray Perkins, a fantastic musician and teacher, was so kind to our children. Please pray for her.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

How Does Her Garden Grow?

From this:To this:

VCU Orientation

Lauren and I drove to VCU Thursday afternoon for a day and a half of orientation. It was my first visit to campus, and I was glad to see where my girl will be spending the next several years.
Lauren met other incoming freshmen (lots of art students this week) and stayed overnight in a dorm. She acquired an id card, bank account, and official schedule (although not all the classes she had hoped for).

I went to several presentations (transitions, security, art foundations program, etc.), toured the photo building, checked out the dining hall, and spent the night in the suburbs with friends. By Friday evening we were hot and tired, but only had to drive two hours to get home. And Richmond traffic at 5:30 p.m. on a summer Friday was a pleasure compared to what we're used to up here!

And in case you're wondering whether or not Lauren is eager to begin this new chapter in her life, check out the running countdown on kitchen memo board: That's days, hours, and minutes until move-in time. ;-)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Blast from the Past

This is one of three matching dresses made by my mom for me and the next two sisters in line. She used fabric she bought on a vacation to Hawaii (actually sheets, I think). We wore them (LONG ago), and then our cousins did, followed by our littlest sister, and Lauren, then her cousins, and finally Marianna and Becca. Well traveled and well loved...
Click on the bottom photo if you want a closeup.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sea Scout Advancement

I took David down to Occoquan this evening for a Sea Scout meeting and advancement ceremony. He has now achieved the rank of apprentice.

I found out tonight that his ship (it's like a troop in Boy Scouts, not the vessel itself) has a blog! The ship also has a homepage with more information and pictures. Now I can really keep an eye on him... ;-)

Friday, July 4, 2008

This Will Brighten Your Day!

Thanks to MacBeth...

The Cost of Bottled Water

I've always been skeptical of the bottled water phenomena.

I don't understand paying a premium for the privilege of drinking from a disposable bottle (almost) the same thing that comes from my tap. We drink tap water and fill reusable bottles when we're going out. Once in a great while we'll use "store bought" for large, off-site events.

Frequently, this "special" water is just filtered tap water! The latest twist is in this story, which I read in the Washington Post (and which was later aired on NPR). It's an interesting read, enumerating the energy costs associated with shipping water around the world, often from countries that would KILL to have water as clean and cheap as what comes from our taps. And don't get me started about all those bottles... How many are really recycled? And wouldn't it be better to not have them in the first place than to recycle them, anyway?

This may sound preachy, but that's not what I'm going for. Our family composts and recycles, but as Americans, we do use more than our worldly share of resources. I just think it's an interesting story. Check out the part about glasses chosen by a sommelier!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Food for the Fourth

We have two different Independence Day traditions: going somewhere to watch a fireworks display and hanging out with neighbors in the cul-de-sac. This year we're going to the library to watch fireworks set off by the country club across the way. I'm excited to see a good display so close to home.

The tradition that doesn't change year by year is the food.

We buy Popeye's fried chicken and eat red, white, and blue shortcake for dessert. It's such a fun, summery treat: split scones covered with sliced, sweetened strawberries, fresh blueberries, and whipped cream. My scones are very good (only my sister K's are better), but you could use biscuits (with 2 Tbsp sugar in the dough), pound cake, or Angel food cake instead. We all top our own, since some of us don't like strawberries or whipped cream (can you imagine?).

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dinner and Nature Study

Len and I went out for dinner tonight (yay, couple time!), and managed to get a table outside. Atypical for northern VA al fresco dining, it overlooked a pond rather than a parking lot. It was so refreshing to see the water and the plants and the birds. A brilliantly dark bird flew by several times, and perched in sight as well. Len thought it was a red-winged blackbird, but the colorful patches looked more orange than red. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we now know that my wonderful husband the vet made the right call. Just thought I'd share...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Eagle Scout Project

Eagle Scout is the highest rank in Boy Scouts. On the long road to that award, the scout must earn numerous merit badges, assume leadership in his troop, and organize and carry out a project that benefits his community. David's project included trash pickup, removal of invasive plant species, and planting of trees in a flood plain. He coordinated with local naturalists who provided trees and equipment, and with his troop and neighbors, who provided manpower. We cut through the sod and dug holes for the bare root trees (5 species).The cylinders protect the seedlings from animals (so many deer!). They're held in place with stakes, and will eventually biodegrade (when the trees grow big enough to pop them off).Netting was put on top to keep birds from getting trapped inside.This was near the end of the day's work last spring (2007). Several months ago Len and David went out to reinforce some stakes and leaning cylinders. We can see the area from our house, but not much seemed to be happening. Then, the morning of David's Eagle ceremony, the dog got loose and ran to the woods and the field and the creek. As I trudged after him, I found a wonderful surprise:So many growing up!These trees are just beginning to prosper. As they continue to mature, they will stabilize the soil, provide shelter for wildlife, and prevent runoff. I love having this project near enough to watch and watch over.

Our Eagle Scout

In June, shortly before his 16th birthday, we gathered to celebrate David's achievement of Eagle Scout status, the highest award in Boy Scouts. Here's a picture of the medal.

Members of his troop (and a leader from his Sea Scout ship) joined us for the short ceremony. Here's David watching his honor guard (a few carefully chosen scouting friends) approach.

Mom gets to pin on the medal, even though Dad is the one who really helped David get to this day.

A new neckerchief

Saying a few words

Party time!

Cake note: It's chocolate cake with French Buttercream. I made Lauren's cake the day before, and needed some simpler decorations, thus the ribbon border. I was going to make a replica of the award out of fondant, but Len printed a photo he found online. I mounted it on funfoam, and voila!