Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When Your Husband Turns 60

We survived the weather without harm!  We had some strong winds and lots of rain but our power never went out and we had no property damage other than a few tree branches down here and there.  Two months ago, we had our house roof and the siding on the back and sides of our house replaced because hail damage.  With that insurance claim plus two others that we had over the last 4 years, I really didn't want to have to go through that again.  We were certainly lucky we didn't get the storm that was predicted for our area.  Unfortunately, those along the coast wern't so lucky. 

My husband is 4 years older than me and it's been really nice because his birthdays prepare me for the time that I reach his age.  He just had his 60th and that birthday has hit me hard.  We celebrated the day before his birthday, as a "last day of the 50s' " celebration.  I've started calling him "59" (instead of Jimmy) so that he will always be 59.

Sorry to offend those who are but gosh ... Sixty is OLD!

I'm getting used to it now and I've decided to enjoy my final 4 years of the 50s' before I hit the dreaded 60.
Anyway, I wanted to do something really special for him for this special day .

                                                                               This is what I made for him....
It's made completely with 100% wool with the blue hand-dyed to match his actual car. 
His actual car, a '53 chevy has been stored and sitting in his garage. His uncle was the original owner and my husband got the car from his uncle back in 1972 or so.

                                                    This wall hanging measures 10" x18" and GOSH, it was really difficult to do.
First of all, it was difficult because I could only work on it when he wasn't around....I wanted it to be a complete surprise for his birthday.  That's a problem, you see.  He's ALWAYS around now that he's retired.  Even if he's working outside, he's still in and out enough that I just didn't want to take a chance.  Sooo...
I waited for him to go to bed. 
He usually goes up around 11pm or so.  I'd wait until I knew for sure he was sleeping and then start working on it.  I worked on it for 4 nights until 3-3:30am every time.  The last night, right before his birthday, I stayed up until 4:30am to finish it.  It's easy to figure out how many hours it took me to make this ... I figure about 21 hours from start to finish.

It was also extremely difficult because I wasn't able to take a full profile picture of his car.  He has it stored in the garage, which means he has other things packed up against it.  I had to sneak into his garage when he wasn't around to take pictures of the different parts of the car that I could see.
I could only rely on internet pictures for the full side view of the car ..and those are difficult to find because this year isn't exactly a collector model year so there aren't many out there. 

So I kept sending him away on different errands so that I could get out to the garage to take pictures of car parts ...

He has the hood propped up so I couldn't even get the front profile.  I'll have to ask him why the heck that hood is propped up.

And then of course, if you prop the hood up, the trunk has to be up too!  I was quietly cursing him while taking these pictures ...I didn't want to stitch a car with the trunk and hood propped up! .... and he's going to be upset that I'm showing the inside of his man-cave garage.  It's like showing the world a picture of him in his underwear.  shhh.. don't tell him I'm doing this!

I couldn't even take aim to get the front bumper.  I held the camera down into a tiny space between the car and stuff and snapped. 

I managed to get a good picture of the taillights

I have about 20 other pictures of each and every car part and then drew up the pattern for the car shape as best I could.
Making the pattern for the car shape and getting it to scale size was the most time consuming.  Once I started stitching, it was just pure joy to see it all come together, stitch by stitch.  I really REALLY loved and enjoyed the challenge.

I so much missed hubby while I was making this and wished that he could've helped with the fine details.
I made my bro-in-laws, Mark's car for his birthday...

Jimmy helped me with this along the way, giving me suggestions and advice when it came to adding the details. 

The only thing that bothers me is the hubcaps.  I couldn't see the hubcaps on his actual car so I just put circles.  If I could've just got a glimpse of them, I could've put in more details.
Even without his help and advice, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. 
And he was absolutely thrilled with it.  The look on his face when he opened it was worth every single minute of time that I spent making it. 

Now I'm wishing he owned more old cars so that I can do them ... he does have a couple Harleys ... hmmmm...

Happy Day everyone!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bracing For Hurricane Sandy

We live in Western Pa which is way across the state from the coast but yet, we're getting warnings of bad, bad weather in the next few days.  We've been told that our power will go out. 
Now, we've had warnings like this before and most times, I take the attitude of "I'll believe it when I see it" simply because most times, we get very little of what is actually predicted. 
In this case though, I'm taking the "better safe than sorry" route.  It really does sound like we're going to get hit with it. So I've been preparing for the worst....
I'm stocking up on water.  Since we have well water, when the power goes out, we have no water. I don't know about you and I know it's a psychological issue that is in my head, but as soon as the power goes out and we have no water, I start craving water.  I realize that it's the whole "want what you can't have" thing and I realize that I'm not really so parched that my throat feels like sandpaper when I swallow.  It's in my head. I know it is but  I just can't help it.  So, I'm making sure that when our power goes out, I will be able to consume as much water as my brain wishes.  All empty bottles are filled with water.  Gosh, I'm thirsty now just writing about not having water.
 Hubby is kinda rolling his eyes about me and the water thing but he has this way of never outwardly making fun of me. Instead, he just kinda gets this grin and then ignores what I'm doing, hoping that if he doesn't say anything, I'll either stop or it will go away.

But he is the one that became obsessed with flashlights.  This morning, I got two of them out of the cupboard, just to check to make sure they worked.  He insisted that we buy fresh batteries for them and then proceeded to get all of the flashlights out of the cupboard and get them in working order.  Now, in my head, I'm thinking, "there's only two of us. How can we possibly use more than two flashlights at a time?" .  I'm also thinking "should I tell him this or should I just see how he plans to use all these flashlights at one time?"   Perhaps a toolbelt strapped around our waists with all of the flashlights in holsters?

So, being the incredibly inquisitive person that I am and also fully aware of the saying "curiosity killed the cat" I asked him.."umm...there're only two of us so why do we need more than two flashlights?"  He stopped pulling the dead batteries out of the flashlight he was currently working on and with that little grin of his, he proceeded to put the unfixed flashlights away in the cupboard.  He never said anything more but I knew by that look that, with my words, he suddenly realized that we only really need two flashlights.  We have six working flashlights now with extra batteries and I'm glad that I was instantly able to stop his obsession.
Also, to prepare, hubby wanted to use some of his 5 gallon buckets in the garage to store water in so that we can flush the toilet.  The only thing is, hubby has accumulated some 20 or so 5 gallon buckets which are sitting everywhere in the house garage and also his other garage and every single one except 2 are being used to hold something or other. So I donated two of my plastic bins that I use to store my wool, to the toilet flushing cause.
The bins will hold enough water to flush the toilet for a few days at least. 

The only thing I'm worried about now ... I just talked to our good friends, who are also our neighbors, and they are doing absolutely nothing to prepare for the storm and the power outage. Linda is unconcerned and said that as long as she has milk and cereal, she doesn't care....She loves her cereal.

I told her she needs to save up water so at least they can flush the toilet.  Linda said back to me, "now that I know you have so much water stored, we'll just come up and use your toilet." 

I'm thinking maybe I need to donate two more of my plastic bins to the cause.

Other things that I've done ...
*downloaded 3 audio books from the library, onto my ipod, so that I won't be horribly bored in the evening.
*cleaned the dustbunnies out of the fireplace so that we can fire up the gaslogs to heat the first floor.
*move the gas grill to the garage so that we can make coffee and cook food.
*dug the paperplates out of the cupboard, cuz  I'm NOT washin' dishes during an outage.
 *Put some containers of water in our freezer in the basement ...just in case I run out of drinking water, this will be thawed by the time that I would need it.
 And speaking of freezers.... when I was rooting around in our freezer, making room for the containers of water, I came across this tupperware bowl which was filled with an unknown substance.  I don't remember putting this bowl in the freezer so needless to say, I had no clue whatsoever what the frozen substance was. 

So I brought it upstairs and set it out to thaw a little and then stuck it in the fridge to finish thawing overnight.
To our delight, once thawed, I discovered that it was BEAN SOUP!
I know this picture looks really disgusting but it was pure delightful  goodness when heated up for lunch.  Probably the best bean soup I've ever had in my life! 
Not only don't I remember putting it in the freezer, I don't remember making it.  I remember a few months ago looking for that bowl and wondering what happened to it.  I don't think it's been in there for more than 5 years or so .....
If we die tomorrow from eating 5 year old bean soup and I miss out on experiencing this big storm that I've spent so much time preparing for, I'm really going to be angry. 

But seriously, we are lucky to live far enough away that we won't be hit nearly as badly as those who live close to Philly and the coast.  Here's hoping and praying that everyone from those parts will weather the storm and come through safely without too much devastation.  It's a scarey thing this weather.

If, over the next few days, you order from me but haven't heard back, just know that most likely, our power is out.   I'll get your order out as soon as life has turned normal again!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dyeing Your Wool With Kool-Aid!

When I first started working with wool, I used to experiment using Kool-Aid to dye my wool to get the colors that I needed.  I use Cushings Professional Dyes for all of my wool now but if I happen to run out, I know I can use Kool-Aid in a pinch.

I've been asked so many times for help with dyeing this way, I think it's about time that I wrote about my own experiment results.

There are good things and bad things about dyeing wool with Kool-Aid.  The good thing is that it's much safer to use if you have children around.  The smell is MUCH nicer too!  When using professional dyes, extreme care must be used when mixing the powders. Those tiny particles, if breathed in, can be harmful to your lungs. I don't ever dye wool when my grandson is visiting ... I just don't want to take any chances with his lungs.  Even when dyeing with Kool-Aid, careful mixing is important so that the powder particles don't become airborne. Even with the extreme care that I use, I still find dye particles on my microwave, which is above my stove.

The only 2  bad things about dyeing with Kool-Aid is that the colors come out extremely bright and it can become expensive if you dye a lot of wool this way.  The packs are usually around .22 cents each but if you have to use 10-15 packs to dye a fat quarter of wool, that gets expensive.  If you watch for sales, the price becomes more reasonable.  As for the brightness of the dyed wool...I'm going to show you how to turn those brights into really rich deep and dirty shades....using COFFEE!
So to start....
I have dye pots that I use just for dyeing wool.  Find an old pot to use for this...one that you don't use for everyday cooking.  I've added lukewarm water.  The amount of water depends on the amount of wool you're dyeing. It should be enough to allow the wool to move freely around.  Since I'm dyeing just a small sample size, I have about 4 cups of water.

I'm pouring the unsweetened (it's important that it's UNSWEETENED Kool-Aid) orange Kool-aid into the pot of lukewarm water.  It's important that the Kool-aid is added before the water is steaming hot.  The steam catches those powder particles and carries them off to land on every surface above your stove, including your lungs.  I know this because my microwave, which is right above my stove, told me.

 Stir the Kool-Aid thoroughly, making sure that all the powder is completely dissolved off the sides of the pot and in the water.  This is important because the smallest undisolved particle will show up on your wool as a really dark spot.
 Meanwhile, while I am getting the pot ready, I've been soaking my wool in some hot water with a little bit of shampoo. You can use dishsoap instead, I prefer to use shampoo.  The soap helps soften the wool fibers so that it will take up the dye better.
 Once the Kool-Aid water is hot and almost boiling, I add in the wool.
 I turn the temp down to simmer.  I don't need to boil this.  I'll simmer the wool for oh...about 15-20 min or so but it depends on how much dye is being used and how much wool is being dyed.  Since I'm just doing a small scrap, it doesn't take more than 10 min or so for all the dye to be taken into the wool.
Stir often so that the dye will be taken in evenly.  If you prefer a more mottled look, then keep the wool bunched up and don't stir as often.
 The nice thing about the white enamel pots is that you can actually see the dye colors. As the dye seeps into the wool, the water will turn clearer.. When the water is clear, that's when you know that it's almost done. The longer you simmer the wool, the better the dye will set. The water is clear and this has been simmering for about 15 min.
 This is the color result...it's very bright!  Make sure to rinse it thoroughly with cold water.  This helps to set the dye and also get most of the fruity smell out too.
Now, I'll show you how to experiment with COFFEE to make the Kool-Aid colors a better, more useable shade.
Instead of water, I use coffee!  Regular brewed coffee is fine. 

Since the coffee that I'm using is steamy hot, I'm mixing the kool-aid in a separate bowl, using a little bit of warm water. Safety first!

I've added the mixed Kool-Aid into the coffee and stirred it well.  Don't let the dark color scare you ... you'll see, it will be fine!

I've added my wool and cooked it exactly the same way that I did previously.  The only difference is that most times the water won't turn clear .. it depends on the coffee/Kool-aid ratio as to how much coffee color remains.  It's also really important to simmer this for at least 20-30 minutes so that the coffee will set permanently into the wool.  Otherwise, when you rinse, the coffee will rinse out and you'll have wasted your time.

This shows you the difference between dyeing with Kool-Aid and plain water compared to dyeing with Kool-Aid and coffee.
The coffee dyed wool has really nice deep tones.  Depending on how much coffee to Kool-aid you mix will depend on how or how light the color is. 

So give Kool-Aid a try! 
 Experiment  with Kool-Aid to get the colors you want.  I've done it with Lemonade and Black-Cherry too.  I've tried the Lemon-Lime and the Grape too but  I personally prefer the results of the orange, lemonade and black cherry colors the best.

Have Fun and Happy Day!

Monday, October 22, 2012

"Gingerbread Faces" New Pattern!

New Pattern!  
It's named "Gingerbread Faces"  ...and gosh, it's so darn cute when finished!

The finished size is 14 1/2" across.
It's shown made with 100% wool but this one can easily be substituted with wool felt for any or all of the 100% wool requirements.  It saves on expense!

The price includes the shipping cost for US & Canada.  If you prefer to pay by check just email me at
cathspennies@gmail.com and I'll email back with my mailing address.

The wool kit is available for this also..
The kit can be purchases from my website by clicking HERE

Happy Day!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Good Morning Roosters" New Pattern Ready!

This design was inspired by my sister-in-law, Janet, who has been a rooster collector (pretend ones)for a long long time.  It was also inspired by the roosters and chickens(real ones) that used to pester our house way back, 36 years ago.
 We bought our house back then and the farmer neighbor, who owned lots of land beside us, had a whole slew of chickens and roosters that he let run free. I guess they were the true definition of what we now call free range chickens, because they were permitted to roam anywhere they wished...which was, except when it was feeding time, always on our property.
Now, at first, those chickens and roosters were pretty awesome but all it took was a couple early mornings, waking up to roosters crowing under our bedroom window, for both my husband and me to start being annoyed with the varmin.
Pretty soon, the chickens were scratching in my flower beds, making quite a mess.  So with all the roosters crowing at all times of the day and the mess they were making in our garden, we needed them gone. 

We tried to catch them so that we could take them to a farmer that would take care of them properly, but if you've ever tried to catch a chicken, you know how virtually impossible that is.  We tried traps...we actually had fun trying to catch  them, but failed every time. I seem to recall there being about a dozen or so chickens and at least 2 roosters.
So one day, while starting off to work, I drove past our farmer neighbor's house.  I saw him standing outside so I pulled my car over, got out and made an attempt to speak to the very large, intimidating farmer guy named Walt.

I told him very nicely that his chickens and roosters were ruining our vegetable and flower gardens and would he please try to keep them contained.  Walt, the farmer, who just so happens to still live by us today, very sternly told me that they are "wild chickens" and he is not able to do anything about it.
So, ok. I guess he was not willing to take responsibility for his chickens.  Over the next  months ... well, let's just say ... you all know why chickens like to cross roads, doncha?  Of course .. it's cause they want to get to the other side.
In this case though,  ... well.... ummm.... one by one, the chickens became roadkill. Not one of them that I know of made it to the other side.   It was only about a year or so and they were all gone....crushed  And then, I kinda missed them.
I know this was a dreadfully long story but I want to emphasize how important the rooster and his crowing is to me which is one of the reasons why I sew roosters and eat fried chicken.
I tried to say it nicely ...that this pattern is inspired by the roosters in my life but really, to put it bluntly ....
This pattern is in memory of the rooster roadkill in front of farmer Wally's house. 

The finished size of this pretty candle mat is 16" across.  The picture shows it made with hand-dyed tweed wool, but I'm almost finished with one that I've made with plain colored wool and it's really pretty too.  I'll show the pic once it's completely done.
Price for the pattern includes shipping to US and Canada.
If you wish to pay by check instead of credit card, just email me and I'll send ya my mailing address
Either click the "buy now" button up there on the left sidebar to purchase it or go to my website to purchase it there.
The hand-dyed tweed wool is also available, in limited supply.  The wool can be found HERE

Thank you ladies and .... Happy Day! 
Note: please don't be angry about the rooster roadkill.  My husband and I did everything we could to try to save those chickens.  We even called the police.  Even the police couldn't save them from the tractor trailer tires.