Painting on Rocks: Whimsical Owls

Painting on rocks has become one of my favourite crafty pursuits. It’s challenging (and fun!) to transform a plain stone into a decorative keepsake. It’s also one of the most relaxing ways to spend an afternoon.

I went for a walk along Oakville’s Lake Ontario shoreline, where I gathered a treasure trove of smooth rocks in a variety of shapes and sizes. Once back home, I just used soap and water to wash all of the rocks.

After choosing four shapes that suited my project, I roughly penciled a different owl design on each one.

Next, I chose a different colour combination of acrylic paints for each owl. Working on only one owl per day, I painted a couple of coats of the base colours and allowed them to dry overnight. 

Once the base painting was complete, I used a black ultra fineline marker to carefully outline each of the painted areas. After allowing the marker lines to dry, I used a combination of both fineline marker and acrylic paint (with the finest size of paintbrush) to add intricate designs in each section. You need an extremely steady hand and a ton of patience to get it right!

Once I was satisfied with my finished owls, I sprayed them with Krylon Kamar Varnish, a clear, protective sealant. Next, I used black acrylic to paint a plain, leafless tree on an 8.5” x 11” white canvas board. Once that was dry, I used a heavy-duty glue (LePage Carpenter’s Glue) to affix each rock to a branch on the board.

Then, I sanded a light-coloured wood frame that I had in my stash, painted it black, and sprayed it with a protective sealant (Armor Coat Clear Finish Acrylic Spray Paint).

All done!

Here are both of my completed sets. Stay tuned for my next rock project.

Free crochet pattern: Half & Half Pocket Scarf

Featuring WOW colours and convenient pockets for carrying your phone and car keys, it’s a scarf that’s as great-looking as it is functional.

Materials: Red Heart super saver yarn (or any worsted weight yarn in your desired colours) (7 oz/198 g/364 yds/333 m), 1 ball black, 1 ball hot pink / 6 mm hook

Instructions: You will make 2 panels, one in each colour, each panel approximately 9” wide x 31” long (unblocked). Then, with right sides together, you will seam together the ch-37 end of each panel, using a yarn needle and piece of black yarn. Next, you will make two pockets: one in black, the other in hot pink. The pockets are each approximately 7” wide x 5” deep (unblocked), or you can make them to your desired size.

Scarf Panel #1: Using hot pink, ch 37

Row 1: 3 dc in fifth ch from hook; skip 3 chs; sc in next ch; *ch 3, 3 dc in same ch as sc, sk 3 chs, sc in next ch; repeat from * to end. Turn.

Row 2: ch 4; sc in first ch-3, ch 3, 3 dc in same space as sc, *sc in next ch-3 sp, ch 3, 3 dc in same sp; repeat from * to end, ending with sc in last ch-3; turn.

Repeat Row 2 until approximately 31” long. Fasten off and weave in end.

Scarf Panel #2: Using black yarn, repeat same process above to make Scarf Panel #2.

Finishing Scarf piece:

Seam both panels together as described in Instructions above.

Pocket #1:

Using hot pink, ch 25 and repeat the same instructions given for Panel Row 1 and Row 2. Repeat Row 2 until pocket is about 5” deep, or repeat a couple more rows if you want a deeper pocket. Leave a long tail for sewing onto scarf.

Pocket #2:

Repeat above instructions, using black yarn.

Using long yarn tail and yarn needle, sew black pocket onto pink panel, and pink pocket onto black panel (placement as shown in photo).

Here’s the perfect analogy for anti-vaxxers

I discovered this brilliant article the other day in The Atlantic magazine, and I thought it was so spot on, I felt I had to share it here with all of you. I’ve printed the content below, and here is the link to the magazine: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2022/02/covid-anti-vaccine-smoking/622819/

Send a copy of it to the anti-vaxxer in your life. Perhaps it will finally help open their eyes.
But then again, probably not.

COVID Won’t End Up Like the Flu. 
It Will Be Like Smoking.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths, from either tobacco or the pandemic, could be prevented with a single behavioral change.
By Benjamin Mazer

It’s suddenly become acceptable to say that COVID is—or will soon be—like the flu. Such analogies have long been the preserve of pandemic minimizers, but lately they’ve been creeping into more enlightened circles. Last month the dean of a medical school wrote an open letter to his students suggesting that for a vaccinated person, the risk of death from COVID-19 is “in the same realm, or even lower, as the average American’s risk from flu.” A few days later, David Leonhardt said as much to his millions of readers in the The New York Times’ morning newsletter. And three prominent public-health experts have called for the government to recognize a “new normal” in which the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus “is but one of several circulating respiratory viruses that include influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and more.”

The end state of this pandemic may indeed be one where COVID comes to look something like the flu. Both diseases, after all, are caused by a dangerous respiratory virus that ebbs and flows in seasonal cycles. But I’d propose a different metaphor to help us think about our tenuous moment: The “new normal” will arrive when we acknowledge that COVID’s risks have become more in line with those of smoking cigarettes—and that many COVID deaths, like many smoking-related deaths, could be prevented with a single intervention.

The pandemic’s greatest source of danger has transformed from a pathogen into a behavior. Choosing not to get vaccinated against COVID is, right now, a modifiable health risk on par with smoking, which kills more than 400,000 people each year in the United States. Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at UC Irvine, told me that if COVID continues to account for a few hundred thousand American deaths every year—“a realistic worst-case scenario,” he calls it—that would wipe out all of the life-expectancy gains we’ve accrued from the past two decades’ worth of smoking-prevention efforts.

The COVID vaccines are, without exaggeration, among the safest and most effective therapies in all of modern medicine. An unvaccinated adult is an astonishing 68 times more likely to die from COVID than a boosted one. Yet widespread vaccine hesitancy in the United States has caused more than 163,000 preventable deaths and counting. Because too few people are vaccinated, COVID surges still overwhelm hospitals—interfering with routine medical services and leading to thousands of lives lost from other conditions. If everyone who is eligible were triply vaccinated, our health-care system would be functioning normally again. (We do have other methods of protection—antiviral pills and monoclonal antibodies—but these remain in short supply and often fail to make their way to the highest-risk patients.) Countries such as Denmark and Sweden have already declared themselves broken up with COVID. They are confidently doing so not because the virus is no longer circulating or because they’ve achieved mythical herd immunity from natural infection; they’ve simply inoculated enough people.

President Joe Biden said in January that “this continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” and vaccine holdouts are indeed prolonging our crisis. The data suggest that most of the unvaccinated hold that status voluntarilyat this point. Last month, only 1 percent of adults told the Kaiser Family Foundation that they wanted to get vaccinated soon, and just 4 percent suggested that they were taking a “wait-and-see” approach. Seventeen percent of respondents, however, said they definitely don’t want to get vaccinated or would do so only if required (and 41 percent of vaccinated adults say the same thing about boosters). Among the vaccine-hesitant, a mere 2 percent say it would be hard for them to access the shots if they wanted them. We can acknowledge that some people have faced structural barriers to getting immunized while also listening to the many others who have simply told us how they feel, sometimes from the very beginning.

The same arguments apply to tobacco: Smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Quitting the habit is akin to receiving a staggeringly powerful medicine, one that wipes out most of this excess risk. Yet smokers, like those who now refuse vaccines, often continue their dangerous lifestyle in the face of aggressive attempts to persuade them otherwise. Even in absolute numbers, America’s unvaccinated and current-smoker populations seem to match up rather well: Right now, the CDC pegs them at 13 percent and 14 percent of all U.S. adults, respectively, and both groups are likely to be poorer and less educated.

In either context, public-health campaigns must reckon with the very difficult task of changing people’s behavior. Anti-smoking efforts, for example, have tried to incentivize good health choices and disincentivize bad ones, whether through cash payments to people who quit, gruesome visual warnings on cigarette packs, taxessmoke-free zones, or employer smoking bans. Over the past 50 years, this crusade has very slowly but consistently driven change: Nearly half of Americans used to smoke; now only about one in seven does. Hundreds of thousands of lung-cancer deaths have been averted in the process.

With COVID, too, we’ve haphazardly pursued behavioral nudges to turn the hesitant into the inoculated. Governments and businesses have given lotteries and free beers a chance. Some corporations, universities, health-care systems, and local jurisdictions implemented mandates. But many good ideas have turned out to be of little benefit: A randomized trial in nursing homes published in January, for example, found that an intensive information-and-persuasion campaign from community leaders had failed to budge vaccination rates among the predominantly disadvantaged and low-income staff. Despite the altruistic efforts of public-health professionals and physicians, it’s becoming harder by the day to reach immunological holdouts. Booster uptake is also lagging far behind.

This is where the “new normal” of COVID might come to resemble our decades-long battle with tobacco. We should neither expect that every stubbornly unvaccinated person will get jabbed before next winter nor despair that none of them will ever change their mind. Let’s accept instead that we may make headway slowly, and with considerable effort. This plausible outcome has important, if uncomfortable, policy implications. With a vaccination timeline that stretches over years, our patience for restrictions, especially on the already vaccinated, will be very limited. But there is middle ground. We haven’t banned tobacco outright—in fact, most states protect smokers from job discrimination—but we have embarked on a permanent, society-wide campaign of disincentivizing its use. Long-term actions for COVID might include charging the unvaccinated a premium on their health insurance, just as we do for smokers, or distributing frightening health warnings about the perils of remaining uninoculated. And once the political furor dies down, COVID shots will probably be added to the lists of required vaccinations for many more schools and workplaces.

To compare vaccine resistance and smoking seems to overlook an obvious and important difference: COVID is an infectious disease and tobacco use isn’t. (Tobacco is also addictive in a physiological sense, while vaccine resistance is not.) Many pandemic restrictions are based on the idea that any individual’s behavior may pose a direct health risk to everyone else. People who get vaccinated don’t just protect themselves from COVID; they reduce their risk of passing on the disease to those around them, at least for some limited period of time. Even during the Omicron wave, that protective effect has appeared significant: A person who has received a booster is 67 percent less likely to test positive for the virus than an unvaccinated person.

But the harms of tobacco can also be passed along from smokers to their peers. Second-hand smoke inhalation causes more than 41,000 deaths annually in the U.S. (a higher mortality rate than some flu seasons’). Yet despite smoking’s well-known risks, many states don’t completely ban the practice in public venues; second-hand smoke exposure in private homes and cars—affecting 25 percent of U.S. middle- and high-school children—remains largely unregulated. The general acceptance of these bleak outcomes, for smokers and nonsmokers alike, may hint at another aspect of where we’re headed with COVID. Tobacco is lethal enough that we are willing to restrict smokers’ personal freedoms—but only to a degree. As deadly as COVID is, some people won’t get vaccinated, no matter what, and both the vaccinated and unvaccinated will spread disease to others. A large number of excess deaths could end up being tolerated or even explicitly permitted. Noel Brewer, a public-health professor at the University of North Carolina, told me that anti-COVID actions, much like anti-smoking policies, will be limited not by their effectiveness but by the degree to which they are politically palatable.

Without greater vaccination, living with COVID could mean enduring a yearly death toll that is an order of magnitude higher than the one from flu. And yet this, too, might come to feel like its own sort of ending. Endemic tobacco use causes hundreds of thousands of casualties, year after year after year, while fierce public-health efforts to reduce its toll continue in the background. Yet tobacco doesn’t really feel like a catastrophe for the average person. Noymer, of UC Irvine, said that the effects of endemic COVID, even in the context of persistent gaps in vaccination, would hardly be noticeable. Losing a year or two from average life expectancy only bumps us back to where we were in … 2000.

Chronic problems eventually yield to acclimation, rendering them relatively imperceptible. We still care for smokers when they get sick, of course, and we reduce harm whenever possible. The health-care system makes $225 billion every year for doing so—paid out of all of our tax dollars and insurance premiums. I have no doubt that the system will adapt in this way, too, if the coronavirus continues to devastate the unvaccinated. Hospitals have a well-honed talent for transforming any terrible situation into a marketable “center of excellence.”

COVID is likely to remain a leading killer for a while, and some academics have suggested that pandemics end only when the public stops caring. But we shouldn’t forget the most important reason that the coronavirus isn’t like the flu: We’ve never had vaccines this effective in the midst of prior influenza outbreaks, which means we didn’t have a simple, clear approach to saving quite so many lives. Compassionate conversations, community outreach, insurance surcharges, even mandates—I’ll take them all. Now is not the time to quit.

Benjamin Mazer is a physician specializing in laboratory medicine.

Despite the pandemic, it’s without a doubt the best time ever to be alive!

How can I say such a thing when this pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our daily lives?

Well, here’s how…

1) Technology has opened doors to endless new choices available to us. It’s never been easier to keep in touch with old friends, new friends, and extended family. For those of us who grew up during a time when the only forms of communication available were to (A) mail a letter, or (B) use the one corded telephone that we shared with everyone else in the household, the options we now have today are magical. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, and so on, are the communication tools of our science-fiction dreams. We can blog, text, video conference, and chat on the phone no matter where in the world we happen to be.

We can shop for pretty much anything we need online and have it delivered to our doorstep. We can find answers to just about any question that pops into our mind simply by calling out, “Hey Google, Siri or Alexa.” Many of us can work from the comfort of home without having to tangle with rush-hour traffic. We can fix a plugged drain or build something in our basement workshop just by watching an instructional YouTube video.

I could go on until tomorrow, but I’m sure you get the message. Sometimes we forget that life is so much easier today in so many ways.

2) The municipalities where we live do a great job of keeping conservation parks and forests welcoming places where we can meet up with family and friends for a walk together while immersed in the great glory of the outdoors. Opportunities to connect with nature are never far away. There is no better conductor than fresh air and nature to fill the soul with the most heavenly music on earth.

3) Public libraries are the most precious resource within our communities. Library systems are set up to make it easier than ever for all of us to simply sign in and borrow electronic reading material from a massive database of books and magazines—whatever your heart desires is available for you to download right onto your computer or reading device for FREE. You can choose to satisfy your interest about anything that stokes your fancy, or be entertained with your favourite story genre, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year… and did I mention that it’s COMPLETELY FREE?

Pandemic (or anytime) Pastimes

You can choose to view these times through a lens of optimism… we’ve been given the gift of more free time than we’ve ever had before, which means that we have an opportunity to enjoy activities that we might not have considered doing pre-pandemic…

1) Immerse yourself in an afternoon of creativity that takes you back to your childhood. Think popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue, finger paints and huge sheets of paper, Ivory soap bar carvings, paper mache with a balloon, newspaper strips and paste. With a Dollar store around every corner, materials are inexpensive and easy to find. Need some inspiration? Check out Pinterest for endless ideas, or try an instructional video on YouTube. 

2) Look for an online class at your municipal website, or on the site of any college/university in your vicinity. Scroll through the many course selections and choose something that you never thought you’d ever attempt. Of course, if you visit your public library website, you’ll also find an educational selection filled with free courses on more topics that you could begin to imagine. 

3) Embrace nature. It’s winter and you probably feel more cooped up than ever. So put on a warm coat, hat, scarf and boots and try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Go for a hike on a groomed forest trail in a regional forest or conservation park. Take a few sandwiches and a thermos of hot chocolate and turn it into a winter picnic. 

4) Has it been eons since you’ve attempted a puzzle? Next time you have to pick up something at the store, also pick yourself up a crossword or Sudoku puzzle book. Or challenge yourself with a jigsaw puzzle. I recently finished my first jigsaw puzzle in a long time—talk about being completely absorbed in something. At times, it was hard to tear myself away! 

5) Go on a journey with your memories. You once made the effort to put together all those photo albums that are collecting dust in your cupboard. Now is the time to dig them out and look through them. Have old vacation videos? Watch them all.

6) Dust off your collection of old recipe books and try choosing some new dishes to try. Select a different one every week. You just might discover something new to love.

7) Increase your capacity for joy. Get a blank notebook and make a point, every day, of writing down one thing that you feel grateful for. Just one thing. When you look back at your notebook a year from now, you will be impressed at how much you have to be thankful for.

8) Seek out someone you’ve lost touch with and call them for a chat on the phone. 

Treasures to give thanks for no matter how dark your day has been:

1. Standing before an open field at dusk, watching sunset’s cocktail of colours spill across the sky. 

2. Gazing out over any body of water: a pond, a river, a lake, or an ocean. Water is life.

3. Deeply inhaling the fresh scent of pine as you meander along a groomed path in an evergreen forest.

4. Lounging before a picture window with a hot cup of tea while watching the flutter of snowflakes as they fall to the ground.

5. Absorbing the unconditional love of your pet as you run your fingers through its warm fur.

6. Having even one good friend that you can chat and laugh with.

7. Two legs that enable you to walk, two arms that enable you to hug, two hands that allow you to hold a book or cook a meal, two eyes that enable you to see that a whole world of beauty still exists around you.

8. A roof that shelters you, a warm bed to sleep in, food in your cupboard.

9. All of the simple things in life that we take for granted.

If I still haven’t convinced you that you’re living in the best of times, just imagine living in…

536 AD: Apart from falling empires the world over and general political chaos, the year 536 also marked one of the worst global famines in human history, thanks to a giant volcanic eruption in Iceland that resulted in an ash cloud that kept the northern hemisphere in the dark for 18 months, and dropped temperatures to their coldest period yet, leading to mass crop failure and starvation. 

541-542: The plague that ravished large parts of the world between 541 and 542 led to an estimated 25 to 50 million deaths. A quarter of the world’s population was wiped out within two years.

1316: Most of Europe’s harvests failed, leading to widespread starvation and death.

1347: Welcome to the peak of the bubonic plague, with about 60% of all Europeans dying swift, but agonizing deaths.

1520: Europeans brought smallpox to the Americas, wiping out most of the indigenous population.

1816: This was “the year with no summer,” as millions of tons of volcanic ash and sulphur spewed into the skies from Mount Tambora in Indonesia, causing temperatures around the world to fall below freezing in July.

1918-1919: The Spanish flu epidemic infected approximately one-third of the entire human population, with total casualties somewhere in the ballpark of 20 to 50 million. The virus acted so quickly that in many cases, victims would die within a few hours of infection. Of course, doctors back then simply didn’t have the capability to respond effectively.

1933: The great depression reached its peak, with some 15 million Americans unemployed (one-in-four adults) and half the nation’s banks defaulting. Unlike today, there was no unemployment insurance or welfare or gazillions of social services for the taking.

1939-1945: We all know about the horrors of WWII. Actually, any year in history stained by war would have been a devastating time to live, wouldn’t you agree? Let’s just pray that our world leaders have learned some valuable lessons from past history.

Easy Crocheted Chunky Hoodie Cowl

Why fiddle around with a hat and a scarf when you can wrap up in an all-in-one hoodie cowl! This super-warm accessory is handy to have for outdoor winter walks. Best of all, it’s easy enough for a beginning crocheter to make.

Materials
2 balls Bernat Roving yarn (100 g/3.5 oz/109 m/120 yds), Colour: Lichen / 10 mm hook / 3 medium-sized buttons to blend with yarn colour / Finished piece is 38” L x 11” W before blocking or finishing.

Instructions
Ch 48

Row 1: (sc, hdc, dc) in third ch from hook; *skip next 2 chs; (sc, hdc, dc) in next ch; repeat from * to last 3 chs; sk next 2 chs, hdc in last ch, turn.

Row 2: ch 2; *(sc, hdc, dc) in next dc; repeat from * to end; hdc in top of turning ch-2, turn.

Repeat Row 2 until piece is approx. 11” deep.Finishing: Block first, then fold in half lengthwise and seam approx. 10” down from fold. Sew on 3 buttons (spaced as shown) and use spaces between stitches to fasten over buttons.

Make a Mug Hug!

This is an ideal project for using up scrap yarn! These Mug Hugs make great gifts for coffee/tea lovers, and they’re useful for protecting hands from a hot cup. So easy to make—they’re perfect for beginner crocheters.

Hook: 6 mm hook for ceramic coffee mug; 5 mm hook for disposable takeout coffee cup
Yarn: Your yarn of choice (can use either worsted weight or Bernat handicrafter cotton)
Other: Yarn needle, scissors

Larger Mug Hug for a ceramic mug: 
Ch 32.

Row 1: hdc in third ch from hook and in each across, turn.

Row 2: ch 1, hdc in same space and in each across, turn.

Repeat Row 2 until piece is approximately 3.5” deep.

Using your yarn needle, sew short sides together for about ½” from the top and bottom, leaving approximately a 2-1/2” opening for the mug handle. Can just leave this part open, or sew a small button at one edge of the handle opening, and use one of the spaces on the opposite side as the button hole (as shown in photo). 

Smaller Mug Hug to fit disposable cup
Ch 25, slip stitch into first chain to make a ring, taking care not to twist.

Round 1: sc in each chain around, slip stitch into first sc to join.

Round 2-4: ch 3, dc in each sc around, slip stitch into top of ch-3 to join.

Round 5: sc in each dc around, slip stitch into first sc to join. Fasten off and weave in end.

Embellish using your favourite pattern of crocheted flowers, hearts or any other applique-type embellishment. Or use felt embellishments. Or use embroidery—the sky’s the limit!

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.

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… 

Here’s a quiz to test your tech intelligence (or lack thereof :))

Before you buy your loved one a tech gift, have them take this quiz so you’ll know whether or not you’re about to waste your hard-earned money.

ARE you a Technology: 
1. Crackerjack  2. Geek  3. Drama Queen or 4. Digi-Dunce?

Take this quiz and find out!

802.11a. A hard drive is:

  1. The road in to my cottage. Too many potholes. 
  2. OMG! My last golf game!
  3. Duhhhh—it’s the guts.
  4. A high-capacity, self-contained data storage device inside a sealed unit.

802.11b. Where do you use your computer most?

  1. I hammered four newel posts into my old laptop and now I have a handy little TV table to eat on while watching “Diff’rent Strokes” reruns. 
  2. Um…It was sitting on the stove and…OMG! I don’t know how it happenedbut somehow…I turned on the wrong burner by mistake! So, now only three burners on my stove are functional!
  3. While I chill inside the stainless-steel privacy pod I ordered from Amazon. 
  4. Anywhere I need it. It goes wherever I go. 

802.11c. Do you know what cache is?

  1. Naturally. It’s what I get out of the ATM. 
  2. I had a lot more of it before my laptop had a meltdown.
  3. Dumb question. It’s where I store all my internet porn.
  4. Basically, it’s storage. Cache stores recently used info where you can quickly access it.

802.11d. At the end of the day, do you shut it down or keep it running?

  1. With gas prices the way they are today, I shut it off. Most definitely. 
  2. Another time…by mistake…I left it running under my bedcovers (whoops!) while I was away for the weekend! The firefighters managed to salvage my garage…where I am now living.
  3. I’m on it 24/7. I can sleep and keyboard at the same time. 
  4. I shut it down and unplug to conserve energy. 

802.11e. Your laptop is really, really warm. You…

  1. Slip on my Speedo and go for a swim. 
  2. I make sure I haven’t turned on the wrong stove burner again!
  3. Where there’s no smoke, there’s no fire. Clearly, I keep on keeping on.
  4. Just run it on a cooling pad and you shouldn’t have that problem. 

802.11f. If you’re using Safe Mode, it means…

  1. Heh heh. Just take a look in my night-table drawer. 
  2. I’m picking up sushi tonight instead of going anywhere near my stove! 
  3. I don’t need Safe Mode. My computer is an extension of me. It is a superpower. 
  4. Your operating system is running in a diagnostic mode with minimal configuration and generic drivers, in order to attempt a correction of system errors.

802.11g. Where do you see the future of Artificial Intelligence?

  1. Back at Mar-a-Lago, where it belongs.
  2. You mean, like, aliensOMG! Have you seen one?!
  3. I could show NASA a thing or two. My entire house has been robotized since 2003.
  4. I believe that technology will continue evolving even faster to make our lives easier.

802.11i. Your keyboard is filled with snack crumbs. What do you do?

  1. I never eat while playing my piano. 
  2. Eat them! Especially if there’s chocolate in there! I LOVE chocolate!  
  3. Never happens. I designed and built a vacuum system into my keyboard.
  4. Use a can of compressed air to blow them out and it will be good as new.

802.11k. Your friend gets a new notebook that’s much cooler than yours. Reaction?

  1. So what? Maybe I prefer loose-leaf in a binder. Who really cares?
  2. Which friend? Is it Marcia? She owes me money! Can I put a lien on her notebook?
  3. Moot point. I have no friends. 
  4. I admire it…then I head over to my tech supplier and pick one up for myself.

ANSWERS:

MOSTLY A’s: You’re a Digi-Dunce
You live for reruns of “That 70s Show” and “All In The Family.” Contrary to what you believe—people are not always laughing with you—they’re often laughing at you. The only belonging that you can’t live without is your ratty La-z-boy chair with potato chip crumbs between the cushions and a pocket organizer filled with TV remotes hanging over one armrest. Your biggest-ever tech purchase was a pair of wired headphones that you use to listen to Neil Sedaka.
Helpful Tip: If you want to learn some basic tech instruction, try offering the second-grader next door a case of Mountain Dew and a family-size pack of Sour Patch Kids in return for his advice. If the kid gets frustrated and ditches you for the ice cream truck, just forget about it and go lose yourself in some more crossword puzzles.

MOSTLY B’s: You’re a Techno Drama Queen
You have watched every reality show ever produced (OMG! Jersey Shore! Big Brother! Laguna Beach! Naked and Afraid!!) People no longer bother emailing you blonde jokes because you just don’t get the punch line. You’re harmless as long as you don’t go within ten feet of a kitchen. You love your many friends as much as they love you, but you will never understand why their eyes cloud with puzzlement every time you tell a story…and then they roar with laughter because they think you’re joking—You’re not. 
Helpful Tip: Meal-delivery services were designed with you in mind, so please sign up for one. Then have someone help you to disconnect your stove and drag it to the curb for garbage pickup. Last, fill the empty space between your…cupboards with a desk unit—don’t even bother attempting to search for one online…you’ll have to visit a local furniture store where a nice salesperson will set you up in a wink. They’re trained to be nice to everybody—even people who watch reality TV.

MOSTLY C’s: You’re a Techno Geek
You own the original film reels for every Star Trek episode ever made; how they came to be in your possession is one of the great mysteries of the universe. You have dreams of arm-wrestling your idols: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, but not one of them have responded to your relentless rounds of email requests. Your long-time live-in girlfriend was built using a Roomba and other electronic odds and ends.
Helpful Tip: It’s time to donate your authentic Spock ears and Vulcan uniform to a Disney park, and go buy yourself a nice golf shirt and jeans. It’s also imperative that you cease and desist using your military-grade drone to spy through the neighbors’ bedroom windows; peeping toms are totally uncool. Most important: dude—get out there and make yourself some human friends! 

MOSTLY D’s: You’re a Techno Crackerjack
You are technically savvy and you’re also really cool and everybody likes you a lot. Although you have the ability to hack into any computer system on earth, your great sense of integrity prevents you from invading anyone’s privacy—unless of course Homeland or Mossad were to offer you a contract for gazillions of dollars. Aside from that, you techno-rock!

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