Finishing a creative project feels SO gratifying

In these trying times, there’s absolutely nothing better for the soul than having one or more beloved hobbies to lean on. When you have a creative passion to turn to, you reap a wealth of healthy benefits:

  • Working toward a goal that you’re passionate about gives you a sense of purpose, which makes you feel happy and content.
  • Working with your hands as you immerse yourself in a project of your choosing is beyond relaxing. It’s the next best thing to meditation!
  • When you complete a project, you feel new stirrings of excitement as you think about the next.
  • Seeking out and experimenting with fresh ideas and new challenges takes you on a learning journey that never ends—your mind is ever expanding onto new pathways to discovery.
  • Finishing a project gives you a deep feeling of accomplishment. It’s a confidence-builder.
  • You are never bored. Your hobby is always there, waiting for you to dive in.
  • You learn more about yourself. Hobbies help you to explore and discover new skills, as well as unearth hidden talents that you may never have realized you had. 
  • It’s this simple: not only is it FUN to create new things, the act of doing so fills you with pure JOY!

With that said, here are some projects I’ve finished over the past few months. I still have to write out the patterns for some of them, which I’ll post for you at a later date.

Happy hobbying to you!

Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap and booties for a special new baby
Little drawstring bag
Easter bunny headband
Lemon meringue slouchy hat
Grey & cream pocket scarf
Blue jeans blue crocheted hippie skirt
Teal tie top
Rose lace top
Pen & ink doodle drawing: The most priceless things are wild and free
Pen & ink doodle drawing: You already have what you’re looking for

Looking for a craft to work on that’s uncomplicated, totally relaxing, and highly rewarding?

You’ll find all of that and more with the fun craft of cross-stitch.

The art of cross-stitch was so popular when I was a young mother in my 20s. I remember getting hooked on it as a relaxing way of spending “me” time while my toddler napped in the afternoon. 

This was a lot of fun to work on, with all the different colours.

It was easy to learn, simple to do, and always produced the most rewarding results. A finished cross-stitch looks a lot like a painting—but instead of paint, you use different colours of embroidery floss (thread) and follow the very clear pattern instructions by simply stitching X’s onto the little squares in the cloth.

For all the gardeners out there!

Over the years, my love affair with cross-stitch fell by the wayside as I experimented with other pursuits such as quilting and sewing, painting and drawing, and crochet. But every time I caught sight of one of my finished cross-stitch pieces, I felt a strong yearning to get back to it. 

This comes out of storage every Christmas.

And didn’t it take a pandemic to reset my focus on cross-stitch again after all these years! I have some storage bins filled with cross-stitch supplies that I’d had been keeping in the cellar for the past 15+ years. As I sorted through them, I rediscovered a beautiful kit that I’d bought eons ago, that I’d put away to work on “someday.” 

Still have to frame this one. Would look lovely in a child’s bedroom.

Well, “someday” had finally arrived. 

Last summer every time we went out on our boat for the day, I took my cross-stitch project along. Talk about relaxing. Cross-stitching while lounging in the middle of a lake, listening to the gentle sounds of water lapping against the side of your boat is stress relief on steroids!

This takes centre stage on my fireplace mantel.

By September, I had completed the adorable “Beach Babies.” Every time I look at it, I’m reminded of being out on my boat during the summer of 2020—it’s proof that beautiful things can still come out of the bleakest of times.  

“Beach Babies”, summer of 2020

Cross-stitch is the oldest form of embroidery, practiced as far back as the middle ages. Here’s a link with some fun facts about the art of cross-stitch: https://crossstitchacademy.com/fun-facts-history-of-cross-stitching/

Loved working on “The Toy Box”.

I would love to see cross-stitch taught in elementary schools to both boys and girls—needlework skills offer so many benefits to kids: improved fine motor skills, patience, self-confidence, improved math skills, and stoking imagination and creativity, to name a few.

As a writer and editor by trade, I couldn’t pass this one up!

Think you might want to learn how to cross-stitch? You’ll find lots of instruction on the web, but here’s a good YouTube instructional video for beginners offered by Bucilla, a popular needlework supply manufacturer:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Kiuy4ZwIDI

I made this cross-stitch into a cushion for my dad for Father’s Day. He loved it.

It’s easy to find cross-stitch supplies online at your local craft store sites. Beginners can buy a kit that contains everything you need: the pattern, Aida cloth, floss, and cross-stitch needle. 

Worked on this while sitting in the stands during my daughter’s baseball games.

Try it. I guarantee you’ll love it!

This is a tribute to my good buddy, Otis.

Here are some of my finished projects from the past. I have good memories of working on every one of them.

Alone

Immobile, 
I stand watch 
over my surroundings. 

My eyes never close.
My stance never changes. 
I am always aware. 

I cannot speak, yet I can hear and see. 
I cannot touch, yet I can feel.

I yearn to scream, 
to reach out, 
to be heard. 

I yearn in vain, 
for I will never be free of 
the binds that confine me 
to this fate.

I long to touch, 
to trail a fingertip along 
the surface of a leaf 
on the plant that sits beside me. 
So delicate in appearance, yet 
such strength, 
such tenacity in its growth. 
I have memorized 
the intricate web of veins 
etched into each leaf, 
the curling vines, 
the blend of jade and olive 
stippled with shadows and light. 

I feel the powerful resonance of your music 
as it seeps its way 
into my being. 
I want to move, to sway, to leap 
with the vibrations.

I smell the enticing aromas 
of your kitchen;
they drift and curl around me—
such agonizing wisps 
of temptation. 
I watch you partake. 
My hunger 
is my anguish.

So weary am I of observing, 
of studying, 
of longing. 

How eager I am to live as you do, 
to experience all 
that I watch you take 
for granted.

Yet, remain here I will, 
for as long as you will have me; 
standing still and silent 
until the day you grow tired of me,
and throw me 
to my final death.

Can you see the tears in my eyes? 
Of course not, 
for I cannot cry. 

I am just an ornament—
a decorative figure to
embellish your mantle.

As you pause to study me, 
to admire me, 
I invite you to look a little closer. 

Try to see the invisible tears 
of one who lives 
dormant and lonely.

The Halstead Shawl…Like a warm hug

This is a good choice for beginners who have mastered the basic stitches and now want to expand their skills by trying their hand at making a shawl. The entire shawl is made with simple double crochet stitches, and the pattern is very easy to follow. 

Get the free pattern at the Berroco website
You can find the pattern at the Berroco yarn website (along with lots of other free crochet and knit patterns). Here’s the link: https://www.berroco.com/patterns/halstead

To make the shawl pictured, I used:
– 2 balls Red Heart super saver Stripes (5 oz/141 g/236 yds/215 m) Colour: Sutherland Stripe
– 1 ball denim blue yarn for edging (I just matched a blue yarn I already had on my shelves to the shade of blue that was in the Stripes yarn—feel free to use any colour of preference that will match one of the colours in the striping)
– 6 mm hook 

With the Red Heart yarn, my shawl is more of a chunky look, and I’ll use it as a warm shawl/scarf under my coat. I would definitely like to try the same pattern again with a fine, lace-weight yarn that would give it more of a slinky/drapey appearance—more of a dressy result. The type of yarn that you use makes a big difference to the look you’re trying to achieve.

Refashioned Blue Jeans… My salute to late 60s/early 70s Hippie Fashion

I believe in trying to recycle rather than just trashing—especially when it comes to a lovingly worn and torn pair of blue jeans. After spending some time thinking about what to do with them, I came up with the idea to fashion them into a tribute to the late 60s/early 70s—transforming them into a replica of hippie style from back in the day.

As a child of the 60s and 70s, what better way to memorialize a simpler time—a time when we didn’t need social media to communicate with each other, when TV shows and movies were truly entertaining, when some of the hands-down best music in history was produced.

If you grew up during the 60s/70s, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Here’s a step-by-step pictorial of how I transformed an old pair of denims.

I saw this picture in a fabric applique book and thought it would be perfect for covering up the big hole just above the knee. From there, a leafy vine growing up toward the pocket would cover up a couple more tears.

I drew a rough sketch of what I wanted to achieve, then I chose the colours of fabric that I wanted to use. I also turned the pants to the wrong side, used some iron-on patching fabric to strengthen where I would be appliqueing over the holes, then turned them back out to the right side.

Using the templates in the book, I cut out the flower parts and leaves, and pinned them into position, starting with the flower that would cover up the largest hole on the right leg. 

Then I began placement on the left leg. I used lace edging to make the vine. I also found a piece of fabric I had with a similar colour of floral print on it, so I cut those flowers out and incorporated them. When I work on a project, I might start out following a set pattern, but I rarely stick with it—I like to shake things up as the project moves along, so I can never really predict how something will turn out. I guess that’s my way of challenging myself. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it absolutely tanks. It’s all a learning experience.

I used one of the flower cutouts from the printed fabric to decorate a front pocket.

Once each piece was pinned down, I used white thread to temporarily baste everything into place.

Then I used thread that matched the flowers and leaves to hand sew each piece down permanently, using a blanket stitch. Talk about time-intensive! It wasn’t long before I got fed up with the hand sewing (I am a VERY impatient person), so I pulled apart the leg seam along the inside of each leg, and used the zigzag stitch on my sewing machine to sew the flowers and leaves down. A much quicker choice.

Once the main parts were secure, I began to embellish using hand-stitching, starting with the left leg. I used copper metallic thread (in an embroidery chain stitch) to embellish certain flowers and leaves. The flower on the pocket was one. It’s hard to really see it in the picture, but it adds a pretty glitter around each petal.

I also used some old broken jewelry as embellishments. I used one brooch as a flower center, hand-stitching it on securely. (I knew I’d kept that in my junk cupboard for a reason!)

I used another old brooch as a leaf on the vine, again, hand-stitching it onto the jeans securely. That brooch once belonged to somebody who was special to me, so I was glad I could incorporate it into the design.

Of course, I can’t have a vine without a ladybug!

Or a beautiful butterfly.

Next, I began on the right leg, using metallic thread to stitch around the berries. I added a sparkly button too—because, why not?

Another broken brooch used as a flower center (instead of landfill).

Once I’d finished both legs, I decided that the back pocket couldn’t remain bare. So I stitched on a ribbon rose, then decided to incorporate a saying in hand embroidery. First, I sketched out the saying on tissue paper, then I pinned the tissue paper into place on the pocket. (I wanted to transfer the saying onto the pocket using a transfer pen and an iron, but my transfer pen had run out of ink.) Instead, I just stitched over top of the paper, then picked the paper off afterward. More of a hassle, but works just as well. (Re the saying I chose: everything I make is perfectly imperfect… but, hey, it’s perfect enough for me!)

And it worked! Using a chain stitch and embroidery floss, I stitched over it a couple of times, and it turned out perfect enough for me.

Last, I went back to my sewing machine, turned the pants inside out, and re-stitched the inside seams together. Voila! Bring on the Pink Floyd… Deep Purple… Led Zeppelin… 

Frosty the Crocheted Snowman

Always experimenting with my crochet hook, I decided to make myself a snowman. I didn’t follow a pattern—just winged it. I didn’t write down specifics, but I’ll describe the basics below.

First, using a 6 mm hook, white worsted weight yarn, and the single crochet stitch, I crocheted two “snowballs” for the body. Then I switched to a 5 mm hook to make a slightly smaller snowball for the head. 

To make a standard ball shape, you’re crocheting in rounds: chain 4 and slip stitch closed to make a ring; 8 sc in ring; increase the first 3 rounds; do a few rounds with just one sc in each sc; decrease the last few rounds, stuffing with fiberfill before completely closed, then fasten off and leave a tail for sewing the three balls together.

Next, I made a hat using black yarn and the 5 mm hook, again crocheting in the rounds: just a few rounds of sc for the top of the hat, and increases to make the brim. 

For the “carrot” nose, I used orange yarn and basically a few sc stitches over and over again to make a long shape, decreasing to a point near the end.

For the scarf, I made a rectangle shape with some red yarn, and added a bit of fringe at either end.

Last, I sewed the hat and carrot to the head, the scarf to the body, and used 2 black seed beads for the eyes and a snowflake button to decorate the scarf. Later, I decided to stick a couple of tiny tree branch arms on either side of the body.

If you’d like to make your own snowman and my instructions are too loose, you’ll find tons of different crocheted snowman patterns to try at this All Free Crochet link: https://www.allfreecrochet.com/Seasonal-Crochet/34-Snowman-Decorations-and-Crochet-Snowflakes

And while I’m on the topic of Frosty the Snowman, here are the lyrics in case you want to exercise your lungs!

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children know
How he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in
That old top hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

O, Frosty the snowman
Was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh and play
Just the same as you and me.

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in
That Old top hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

Frosty the snowman
Knew the sun was hot that day,
So he said, “Let’s run
And we’ll have some fun
Now before I melt away.”

Frosty the snowman
Had to hurry on his way,
But he waved goodbye saying,
“Don’t you cry,
I’ll be back again some day.”

Crocheted Unisex Pocket Scarf

This so-easy-to-make winter scarf not only looks great, it also features two pockets that you can use to carry around your phone and other odds and ends when you’re walking outdoors. It was quick to make—I finished it over a couple of nights while watching Netflix. It makes a great gift too!

Materials: Bernat CozyStyle yarn [16 oz/454 g/978 yds/894 m] / 6 mm hook / Scarf is 68” L x 6” W / Each pocket is 5” W x 6” D [Note: If you use this particular yarn, you’ll still have half the ball left over once the project is finished.]

Scarf: Ch 250

Row 1: sc in second ch from hook and in each across, turn.

Row 2: ch 1 [does not count as a stitch], sc in first sp, skip 2 sps, *(sc, ch 1, sc) in next sp, skip 2 sps, repeat from * across, end with sc in last sp, turn.

Row 3: ch 1, sc in same sp, *(sc, ch 1, sc) in next ch-1 sp, repeat from * across, end with sc in last sp, turn.

Row 4-Row 17: repeat Row 3. [If you want a wider scarf, just keep repeating Row 3 until you’ve reached your desired width.] Do not fasten off.

Last Row: [You’ll now use the (sc, ch 1, sc) to create a border around the scarf]: ch 1, sc in same sp [use a marker to mark this sc], work (sc, ch 1, sc) in each ch-1 sp, place 3 sc in the first corner, and when you’re working along the short ends, place your (sc, ch 1, sc) in spaces as evenly across as possible. Keep working around to marked sc and sl st in that sc to close. Fasten off and weave in end.

Pockets [make 2]: Ch 17
[Now, you’ll follow the same pattern as the scarf.]

Row 1: sc in second ch from hook and in each across, turn.

Row 2: ch 1 [does not count as a stitch], sc in first sp, skip 2 sps, *(sc, ch 1, sc) in next sp, skip 2 sps, repeat from * across, end with sc in last sp, turn.

Row 3: ch 1, sc in same sp, *(sc, ch 1, sc) in next ch-1 sp, repeat from * across, end with sc in last sp, turn.

Row 4+: repeat Row 3 until you’ve reached your desired pocket depth.

Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing onto scarf.

Finishing: Working on the right side, pin one pocket to one end of scarf and sew [with a whipstitch] onto scarf using long yarn tail and yarn needle. Repeat this process with the second pocket on the other scarf end.

Crocheted Red Filet Poncho

EASY TO MAKE
The poncho consists of a crocheted rectangle, folded in half lengthwise, then seamed together along the upper side, leaving a 11” space that creates the neckline hole. I finished the neckline with one row of sc around, and added fringe along both open sides.

MATERIALS
1 ball Loops & Threads Woolike yarn (678 yds/3.5 oz/620 m/100 g) in Red / 5.5 mm hook / To resize, use multiples of 12 + 3 / Rectangle size 56” wide x 18” deep / Fits most adults in the S/M range

RECTANGLE PATTERN: Ch 192 + 3
Row 1: dc in 4th ch from hook, dc in each of next 5 ch, (ch 1, sk 1, dc in next ch) 3 times, *dc in each of next 6 ch, (ch 1, sk 1, dc in next ch) 3 times, rep from *, turn.

Row 2: Ch 4, sk (first dc, 1 ch), dc in next dc, (ch 1, sk 1, dc in next dc) twice, dc in each of next 6 dc, *(ch 1, sk 1, dc in next dc) 3 times, dc in each of next 6 dc, rep from * with last dc in 3rd ch of turning ch, turn.

Row 3: Ch 3, sk first dc, *dc in each of next 6 dc, (ch 1, sk 1, dc in next dc) 3 times, rep from * with last dc in 3rd ch of turning ch, turn.

Row 4: Ch 3, sk first dc, *(dc in ch-1 sp, dc in dc) 3 times, (ch 1, sk dc, dc in next dc) 3 times, rep from * with last dc in 3rd ch of turning ch, turn.

Repeat Rows 2-4 until you reach the measurements listed above, or your desired size.

FINISHING
Fold in half lengthwise and, working on wrong side, seam as shown in picture below.

Working on right side, sc one row around neckline space to finish.

FRINGE: Cut 10” lengths of yarn, fold each in half and pull through each ch-1 space along bottom edge. Also add fringe in spaces along both side edges, spacing them as evenly as possible.

Crochet a Shimmer Poncho

IF YOU CAN DO BASIC CROCHET, YOU CAN MAKE THIS

The poncho consists of a crocheted rectangle, folded in half lengthwise, then seamed together along the upper side, leaving an 11” space that creates the neck opening. I finished the neckline with one row of sc around, and added fringe along both open sides.

MATERIALS

Loops & Threads Shimmer Shawl yarn cake, Pink N Black (962 yds/10.58 oz./880 m/300 g.) (You can make this with any similar cake yarn.)

5.5 mm hook / Rectangle size 57” wide x 17.5” deep / Fits most adults

RECTANGLE PATTERN: Ch 211

Row 1: sc in second ch from hook and in each across; turn (210 sc)

Row 2: ch 2 (counts as first hdc); hdc in next space and in each space across; turn (210 hdc)

Row 3: ch 1 (does not count as a stitch); sc in same space and in each across; turn.

Row 4: ch 3 (counts as hdc + ch 1); skip next space; *hdc in next space; ch 1; skip next space; repeat from * across to last 2 spaces; hdc in last 2 spaces; turn.

Row 5: ch 1; sc in each of first 2 hdc; sc in ch-1 space; sc in each hdc and ch-1 sp across; turn. (row of sc)

Row 6: repeat Row 2 (row of hdc)

Row 7: repeat Row 5 (row of sc)

Row 8: repeat Row 2 (row of hdc)

Row 9: repeat Row 5 (row of sc)

Row 10: repeat Row 4 (row of hdc+ch-1)

Row 11: repeat Row 5 (row of sc)

Row 12+: repeat Row 6-Row 11 for pattern, until you reach your desired length. Mine measured 17.5” deep, and I ended up with eight hdc+ch-1 rows (Row 4). To make your poncho longer, just keep repeating pattern rows. End your rectangle on a Row 10.

FINISHING

Fold rectangle in half lengthwise and, working on the wrong side, seam as shown in the drawing below.

Working on the right side, sc one row around neckline space to finish.

FRINGE: Cut 10” lengths of yarn, fold each in half and pull through each ch-1 space along bottom edge. Also add fringe in spaces along both side edges, spacing them as evenly as possible. (See photos below.)

A fall colour celebration

I wanted to capture Mother Nature’s glorious fall colours in a simple acrylic painting. To add some extra texture, I incorporated a side border of real dried leaves, then sprayed them with a gloss acrylic sealant.

“October gave a party … and the leaves came by the hundreds.”

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