Star Trek baby quilt

Kona Sunny is the perfect command gold.


Simply layered over black fleece, tacked down with a decorative stitch “braid”, machine embroidery.

For baby Pippa.


Maynard Plaza quilt

I forget how much I like my quilts when I give them away immediately after finishing!


This is “Maynard Plaza”, a throw-size pattern by Esch House Quilts. Made as a wedding present.


The windows are a Quilt-Con pack of Kona from several years back. Background is Kona Kale. Backing is a teal wave from a local quilt shop.

Handspun T-Rex Dice Bag

From FO’s

A 2011 Christmas present, finally finished.

The T-rex intarsia is a free chart by Ivy Kim, to commemorate Dinosaur Comics. The blue base yarn is my handspun aran-weight merino dyed by Yarn Chef in “Little Islands”, the most gorgeous saturated blue and the third skein I ever spun; the neon green is slightly thinner handspun superwash merino dyed by Crazy Monkey Creations.

From FO’s

I lined the bag with a fat quarter of “Really Old Cameos” by sammyk, from Spoonflower. Spoonflower is a very dangerous place, by the way. I fused the top, front, back and bottom lining to some scrap Timtex leftover from a quilting class to give the bag some structure – leaving the sides soft for some squishability. The handle is extra-wide double fold bias tape.

Rough pattern details after the fold.

Continue reading

This quilt is what will push me over the edge into quilting as a new hobby. The black ribbon extending across the blocks makes this into true modern art of my favorite flavor, textile.

The ND Capital Quilter’s Guild is having their spring quilt show and class day this Saturday, March 10 – and classes are only $5! You never see intro classes that cheap! I will be taking the String-Pieced Folder class Saturday night.

Mmmm… best Saturday night evar…

The Modern Quilt Guild

The first quilt during the Week of Using What You Have is called “Skirting the Circle” by none other than Beth Copeland who shows us how she connects her family in this quilt by using fabric from a skirt that both she and her mother wore. Beth blogs at and you can also find her work on flickr under the flickr name “smazoochie”. She is a proud member of the Houston Modern Quilt Guild. Read more as Beth explains a little more about this quilt and her love of using re-purposed fabric.

Tell Us About Your Quilt
The heart and soul of this quilt is an old circle skirt from the 1950’s. It belonged to my Mom. I was always a fan of vintage clothing and in high school and college, I used to wear this skirt. Long after I was thin enough to wear it, I carried it…

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Next skill – knifemaking?

I have been debating what skill would be most efficient to learn next.

Flintknapping? I am in the right geographical area for it, and I can find practitioners to learn from at the annual pioneer-skills fairs or at the Heritage Center. It requires minimal tools and energy input (holding a rock in your hand and hitting it with another rock to make it sharp, anyone?) but carries risk of physical injury (holding a rock in your hand and hitting it with another rock to make it sharp, anyone?)

Luck and networking seem to have brought me another option, though!

See me smiling?

I’ve been interested in metals since I did my senior comprehensive paper on the unique crystalline structure of Damascus steel – but I haven’t had a chance to work with it past tiny craft workshops on enameling. So this was a dream come true.

On January 15th, I joined Trampas on a trip to PrairieCon’s Winter Gamesday – where we played Galaxy Trucker and lots of Agricola (mmm, Agricola!)  His parents live around there so we took advantage of their guest rooms. Trampas’s dad Cliff happens to be an accomplished blacksmith, and loves sharing his skills with excited newbies. So, with a great deal of help, I got to both forge a knife from a railroad spike AND heat-treat, haft and sharpen a used sawzall blade into a paring knife!!!!


Cliff’s propane forge, Hotsy.

This is forging temp. You WILL singe your eyebrows if you get too close.

Propane turned all the way up, for grins and comparison.

Cliff did the drawing-out with a 7-pound hammer he made himself from a sledgehammer, and I did the shaping and smoothing with the 1-pound wussy girl hammer that was the only one I could control. Even the 2-pound hammer was hilariously ineffective.

Trampas helped shape the point!

This is why you have a hole on both ends of the forge – so you can position the part that needs greatest heating, in the hot center area. Here we were heating the join between blade and handle so I could straighten it back out – it got a bit turned during forging.

Finished forged blade, with scorch mark where I leaned too close to the hilt while concentrating on a detail of shaping. The blade is not entirely smooth – I intended to leave some areas in forged-condition instead of polished to prove that it was a forged knife, but the final polishing and sharpening took them quite a bit smoother than I expected.

And coolest of all, Cliff sent me home with a teeny firebrick forge like the one in the center of this photo, to practice more on my own! This is entirely suitable for recycling used blades – in fact, we heat-treated the paring knife entirely in my own forge.

Yes, it does take a lot of fossil-fuel input – but right now that is available, and practicing the skills with easy heat will certainly not be wasted if in the future I have to use hard heat. Plus, recycling old metal? Heck yes! Now to collect old horseshoes, railroad spikes, dull sawzall blades, and circular saw blades with carbon all the way through…  

(The facilitator for the brain-tanning class had made the class wahintkas out of chopped up circular saw blades that he ground sharp. Starting with the right kind of saw blade  – carbon all the way through instead of only on the teeth – and heat-treating would have made them a great deal better at retaining an edge. There are elk farms around here that sell shed antlers for hafting…)

I took notes, but there was SO MUCH going on. Can anyone recommend a good introductory text to serve as a memory aid?

Brock Samson Art Yarn

Gah! No posts since April 2011? Ouch!

Well then! Also done in April 2011, spun at the Harvey get-together: Brock Samson.

From Spinning

The Palette, Before the Spin: red corriedale top, white merino top, red sari silk threads, red and gold mohair locks, stripped denim, stripped white cotton t-shirts, flax, carbonized bamboo, tussah silk cocoons, feather monarch butterflies on wire, #10 crochet cotton as a binder.

From Spinning

This section would be lovely reproduced as a holiday yarn, in and of itself. Red corriedale, wild-harvested tussah cocoons, gold mohair locks.

From Spinning
From Spinning

I believe I took 2nd place in Novelty Yarns at both the 2011 Shepherd’s Harvest Festival and North Country Fiber Fair.

From Spinning

I ended up popping the butterflies off their wire backing, spinning in the wire with 1/4″ hanging unwrapped, then reattaching the butterflies on the other side of the orifice before winding on to the bobbin. My Clemes and Clemes Modern has a pretty narrow orifice. I am seriously thinking about upgrading to the bulky flyer – I have some 1/2″ skull beads calling to me.

What I Did with my Summer Vacation: Brain Tanning a Bison Robe

Imagine you have rabbits in your permaculture setup. They provide services to you such as efficient conversion of weeds into human-favored protein, manure, and body heat. They can also provide you warmth in the winter in the form of hides:


After 8 days in 90+-degree-heat, I have a semi-authentic Lakota buffalo robe!

Using hand tools approximating that used by the Lakota 100 years ago, we framed, fleshed, scraped, brained and stretched a buffalo calf hide using a dry-scrape brain-tan method.

  • The hides came salted from a bison coop in New Rockford – the organizers had soaked them overnight before we came. The afternoon of the first day, we assembled a 10×10 frame of 2×6″ boards, then laid out the hide skin side up within it. I learned that you can easily cut holes in the hide for lacing onto that frame by placing a scrap piece of 2×4 underneath; setting the tip of a narrow blade into the hide, above that 2×4; then pulling the hide up against the cutting edge of the blade. Much much easier than trying to cut a hole from the top. We laced them and washed the manure off the fur. We then covered the hides with towel scraps to keep them moist overnight.
  • The next day we had to scrape the leftover fat and flesh off the hide. It looked almost like beef jerky! The hand tool used for this  was a pipe sliced diagonally, with notches cut into the protruding end. I sliced nicely into my thumb and managed not to get infected! Woo! The faster the flesh came off,  the lighter in color the hides dried.
  • The next 2.5 days we spent scraping the hides to an overall even thickness, using an elk antler wahintka. The teacher can do it in 4 hours. I learned that 1/3 of the necessary force applied 3 times in no way equals 100% of the force applied once. The teacher had to help most people get through the thick membrane over the spine. After this, we rewetted the hides.
The hide scrapings look disturbingly like katsuobonito. From Brain-Tan
  • Next day is brain time! We used pork brains from the supermarket. First we put them through a blender to help with even penetration. Several people swore off strawberry milkshakes for life. We then cooked them to avoid interesting prion diseases; and applied them to the hides with paintbrushes. They should sit long enough for the brains to soak in and break down the glycerins in the hide, enabling it to stretch and become supple.
A brain-covered hide ready for stretching
Why one should not cover brained hides with dark blue sheets, This is supposed to be pinky-beige.
  • We then squeegeed off whatever brains had not soaked in; then used crescent-bladed shovels to stretch the hide. The color of the hide lightened as the grain stretched open; it was amazing seeing the color change progress ahead of your blade as you leaned it in. It really did not smell at all, until a couple people wandered off leaving brains applied for an extra day in 95-degree weather. Brains will spoil overnight in a refrigerator.
  • After repeating this once more, it’s time for hard work again – you need to keep working and stretching the hide until it’s completely dry – this is what makes the hide soft and pleasant to use. With only one person and 1.5 days, I got a few spots really nice and soft but the thick spine and rump areas weren’t dry till a few days later and now make a crinkly noise when stretched.

The teacher’s sharp edge for breaking the drying hides

Some of the dust that came off the hide during the stretching process. This will need some vacuuming.
If you’re in the North Dakota area and would like to tan your own buffalo hide to take home, keep an eye on the Sitting Bull College website. They do two workshops every summer, in different places every year, for free.