Monday, December 31, 2007

TriMiters - A Felted Bag

I finished the mitered triangle bag! I'm really pleased with the results. I designed this bag to wear with jeans. My favorite "what do you wear when it's not really dress up, but not exactly casual" outfit is a pair of totally expensive jeans with a long black cabled sweater and black turtleneck. This bag goes perfectly with my trendy duds and gets lots of oohs and aahs.

I call it TriMeters - it's based on mitered triangles tumbling in a pinwheel pattern across the body of the bag. The written instructions are much more complicated than the process - once you've knitted one triangle, it all flows quite logically.


A mathematical felted handbag by Knitternall


  • 2 skeins black worsted wool
  • 1 skein denim blue worsted wool (I used Cascade 220 for both)
  • Size 10 1/2 straight needles
  • Size 10 1/2 circular needles
  • Size 10 1/2 double-pointed needles
  • Four silver D-rings
  • Set of black shoulder-length purse straps (I found mine at

The main design for this handbag is based on a mitered triangle. Six contiguous triangles create a pinwheel pattern across the main body. You will begin with the pinwheel section, four sets of six mitered triangles.

SK2po: slip 1 purlwise with yarn in back, knit 2 stitches together, pass slipped stitch over (also known as a double decrease).

SSK: Slip 2 stitches purlwise, knit both together through back of stitches.

K2tog: Knit two stitches together knitwise.


SECTION 1: Pinwheel Mitered Equilateral Triangle Pattern
(You will change colors on the right side - RS.)

With 10 1/2 straight needles:
Row 1: (RS) With blue wool, cast on 37 stitches using long tail method.
Row 2: (WS) K17, SK2po, K17
Row 3: With black wool, K2tog, K14, SK2po, K16
Row 4: K2tog, K13, SK2po, K14
Row 5: With blue wool, K2tog, K27.

Row 6: K2tog, K11, K2po, K12
Row 7: With black wool, K2tog, K9, SK2po, K11
Row 8: K2tog, K8, SK2po, K9
Row 9: With blue wool, K2tog, K17
Row 10: K2tog, K6, SK2po, K7. Break blue wool (you'll weave in end later).
Row 11: With black wool, K2tog, K4, SK2po, K6
Row 12: K2tog, K3, SK2po, K4
Row 13: K2tog, K1, SK2po, K3
Row 14: K2tog, SK2po, K1
Row 15: K1, K2tog, pass second stitch over first stitch, and fasten off.

Pinwheel Diagram

Pinwheel #1

Follow instructions for Basic Mitered Equilateral Triangle to knit Triangle #1.

With right side facing, pick up 19 stitches along base of Triangle #1 (you just cast off in the middle of the base).

Cast on 18 stitches. You now have 37 stitches on your needles.

Triangle #2: Follow instructions for Basic Mitered Equilateral Triangle. You now have two triangles.

Triangles #3 - #6: Continue this pattern, always picking up stitches form the base of the previous triangle, until you have five triangles completed.

To close the pinwheel, seam together Triangle #6 to Triangle #1 with blue wool yarn.

Pinwheel #2

Cast on 19 stitches. Pick up 18 stitches from any side of any triangle in Pinwheel #1.Follow instructions for Basic Mitered Equilateral Triangle, and create 6 new triangles for Pinwheel #2.

Pinwheel #3

Pick up 19 stitches from Triangle #4 of Pinwheel #2. Follow instructions for Pinwheel #1.

Pinwheel #4
Pick up 19 stitches from Triangle #4 of Pinwheel #3. Follow instructions for Pinwheel #1.Join Pinwheel #4 to Pinwheel #1 by seaming sides of the continuous triangles (Triangle #4 in Pinwheel #4 and Triangle #1 in Pinwheel #1) with blue wool yarn.

The center row of pinwheels is now complete.

Now, create a straight field for the pinwheel by knitting mitered triangles in black wool along the top, between the 5th triangle of one pinwheel and the 6th triangle of the adjacent pinwheel. These are NOT equilateral triangles as in the Pinwheel. The angle is much wider, so these mitered triangles will bind off to fit the new angle.

Mitered 120 degree Triangle Pattern
With black wool

Row 1: With RS facing, pick up 37 stitches, 19 from Triangle #5 and 18 from Triangle #6 in adjacent pinwheels.
Rows 3, 5, and all other odd rows: K2tog, knit to center 3 stitches, SK2po, knit to last 2 stitches, K2tog.
Rows 2, 4, and all other even rows: Knit across.
Repeat last two rows until you end with K2tog, SK2po, K2tog.
Knit a row.
Sk2po and fasten off.

Knit the same triangles across the bottom of the pinwheel row, between the 2nd triangle of one pinwheel and the 3rd triangle of the adjacent pinwheel.

SECTION 2: Top Of Bag

With black wool and 10 1/2 circular needles, with RS facing, pick up stitches along tops of Mitered 120 degree Triangles. Knit in round until this section is 2-3" from pick-up row. Bind off.

With blue wool, add knitted I-Cord trim between Mitered 120 degree Triangles and 2-3" black border by picking up stitches from triangles.

I-Cord Trim

Cast on 5 stitches on a 10 1/2 double-pointed needle.
*Slide the stitches back to the beginning of the needle.
Knit 4.
Knit the 5th stitch together with the next stitch in the mitered triangle. Do not turn.
Move the needle with the stitches to left hand.
Pull the yarn across the back of the cord and slide the stitches to the other side of the double-point needle.*
Repeat from *.

When beginning and end of I-cord meet, bind off and weave ends together to create a smooth line.


With black wool and tapestry needle, stitch base together.

Felt bag: Place bag in zippered laundry bag. With a small amount of detergent, wash in hottest possible water cycle of top-loading washing machine, checking in ten-minute increments for felting progress. Once you're satisfied, let bag go through rest of rinse/spin cycles.

Block bag by stretching and pulling until it's fairly straight, then placing it on a large box wrapped in plastic. Add more plastic bags until bag has a firm form. Let air dry (may take 2-3 days).

Attach your choice of handles. I used leather straps and d-rings. I made small holes in the felted wool with a seam ripper, just big enough for d-rings to pass through. I then added leather straps, as seen in photo.)

Thanks to Michelle (Michelle's Romantic Tangle), here's a suggestion for the myriad ends these triangles produce. Make sure they're on the "inside" of the bag. Then, after you felt it, CUT THEM OFF! You don't have to weave them in! Thanks, Michelle, for helping me update these directions.

I welcome suggestions and questions and will gladly clarify the instructions as needed!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Making do at year's end

Tomorrow is the last time we'll write 2007 on checks, school work, letters, "to do" lists, and the calendar. It's been a pretty good year Chez Making Do. A had just one surgery, AG finally got a major wish fulfilled (learning to play the sax), T is having lots of good work and church stuff, and I'm knitting like a fool. Not bad, not bad at all.

I just finished dismantling the Christmas effect. It's all so much easier now. Two years ago, I purchased plastic bins and labelled them with their Christmas contents. One bin at a time makes the work pretty smooth. And I use the bins to store the various accessories temporarily displaced by all the fa-la-la. All is calm and clean. We're ready for the New Year!

My Preschool Phonics business is in its sixth year and I fully expect to be scheduling classes next fall. Juggling the Nature Center, Preschool Phonics, freelance writing, and a burgeoning design business seems to be working so far. Scheduling and organization are critical. Just as I tell my kids, you can't put off the minor stuff because it'll get in the way of the unexpected major stuff that's always waiting around the corner. Which means I have to finish the laundry and ironing in the AM. My niece is arriving for two days (she and AG are just two months apart in age) and I want to be able to focus on two very busy and quite social ten year old girls!

Speaking of Preschool Phonics, I'm doing some preliminary work for the Level 2 classes that begin the second week of January. My little respite is nearly over and I'm raring to get back to the preschool world.

Making Do Pointer #5: Treasure other people's cast-offs.
I hit the Goodwill in Sandy Springs and came home with two ginormous bags of toys for the Preschool Phonics treasure box. Most are brand new - stuffed animals, birthday party goodies, fast food toys, and more, all with tags or in the original packages. I aced nearly 70 prizes for less than ten bucks. That sure beats even the reasonable costs of prizes from Oriental Trading Company!

Making Do Pointer #6: Sometimes it's just as important to save time.
For years, I stood at two copiers at the local Kinko's, copying and colating 36 to 48 workbooks (depending on how many classes I scheduled that year). It took several hours, then I had to assemble them once I got home. After a spontaneous discussion with the services guru at Office Max, I discovered that they would do the copying, colating, and hole-punching as well as laminating the covers - for about the same amount of money. All I'd have to do is the plastic combi-binding with my machine at home. Blinding glimpse of the obvious here - let someone else do the heavy stuff! I'd just assumed that do-it-yourself was cheaper. Not so in this case!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Knitting with care

For two years now, I've alternated "giving knitting" with projects for custom orders and myself. At first, I worked primarily on prayer shawls. The first thing I ever knitted was a prayer shawl, knitted through the long nights in the pediatric ICU while my son fought septic shock and other complications from Crohn's Disease. I've kept that one, and given every other one since to Children's Healthcare at Scottish Rite, to give to moms in the same situation. Those ICU rooms are freezing, and there's nothing like a tangible hug that warms you inside and out. That's the power of a prayer shawl. My two favorite patterns are also the easiest:

For a "trinity" patterned shawl: Cast on 99+ in any yarn, any needle size of your choosing. Knit in K3 P3 ribbing until shawl reaches from fingertip to fingertip. Add fringe. Say a prayer. And give it away.

For a triangular shawl (three sides = Trinity), follow "Grandma's Dishcloth" pattern: Cast on 4 stitches with any yarn, any needle size. Turn. Knit across. Turn. Knit 2, YO, knit across. Continue K2, YO, knit across until shawl is large enough to wrap the recipient warmly.

Then, my knitting circle started making layettes for Share Atlanta, a bereavement support group for parents of children lost during pregnancy. (Their web site, has lots of wonderful background information.) I had personal reasons for participating in this "giving knitting," so have tried to make at least one set of blanket, booties, & hat each month.

I've added a link to CareWear, which has the best set of patterns I've found for these ultra-tiny gifts.

Monday, December 24, 2007

New pajamas and a midnight clear

It's Christmas Eve, and all through our house there's a quiet happiness underlying our routines and relaxation.

Today is a bit unusual in that we have a real estate appraiser arriving shortly to speed us on our way to a new, lower mortgage rate for our home. That meant way more cleaning and straightening this weekend. But it was SO worth it, since this is the nicest our home has looked in a long time. Oh, it's always fairly tidy. But this is CLEAN, down to the baseboards and heating vents CLEAN. I still need to make sure the family room is tidied up, but we're good.

Lucy the Elf left both AG and A a set of pajamas, plus a bonus pair of one-piece, footed flannel PJs for AG. (She'd been asking for those for quite a while, but we could never find them in town. Lucy has the shopping genius!) AG is sad to see Lucy go, but excited because her return to the North Pole means Christmas Day is just hours away.

We'll have our family favorite for our Christmas Eve dinner - fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pineapple au gratin - then attend the 11:00 service at St. Luke's Presbyterian Church. That's a new tradition for our family, since we've always attended the family service at 5:30. I'm very glad, because it makes it so much easier to cook the meal and savor it. (Christmas morning is always sweet rolls and sausage, then potluck and leftovers for the rest of the day. I love the quiet pace!)

Knitting Pattern Central published a pattern for a mitered star that has me thinking. That would make a terrific foundation for a scarf. I'm thinking . . . and may get designing this afternoon!

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Warning: Elves At Work

For nearly 9 years, two elves have joined our family every Christmas . . . for as long as we've lived in Dunwoody. They arrive the Sunday after Thanksgiving and leave Christmas Eve. Lucy comes for AG, and, until two years ago, Bentley came for A. Their needs are simple (fresh water and crackers left out each night plus a sprinkling of snow dust to re-animate them after midnight) and their ways quite mischievous. Through the years, they have:

  • toilet-papered the house
  • scattered Christmas books all over the floor
  • lined up all of the kids' shoes through the upstairs hall and down the stairs
  • hidden in some really imaginative spots
  • stacked all the kitchen chairs on top of the table
  • tried to hitch a ride in the kids' backpacks to school
  • practiced driving in the family van
  • cooked up pancakes and made a huge mess with the flour
  • helped complete the annual mega-puzzle we all work on
  • teased Scooter the Wonder Dog by banging on his kennel
  • and had pillow fights under the Christmas tree
This may be Lucy's last year with AG. At ten, she's been asking a lot of questions. A didn't look for Bentley last year, but what then-14-year-old male would? For the past few years, he'd just been sharing with his sister.

Ah, well. It's been a lovely tradition. Who knows . . . just because the kids get older doesn't mean Mom has to grow up! Those mischievous elves may still have a willing host for Christmas Future.

It looks like New Year's will be a festive time here in the neighborhood. We have a gathering for New Year's Eve that begins early in the evening and one for New Year's Day, a Southern-flavored open house featuring Hoppin' John. (That's black-eyed peas, rice, and ham plus lots of other yummy ingredients. It's good luck to start the New Year with a bowl-ful!) I think I'll make that Dunwoody Dip for the New Year's Eve party.

I'm still knitting away on the Einstein Coat and trying to finish the newest handbag design. It's so relaxing to have these few days at home. Back to work on Wednesday, but it'll be very quiet at the Nature Center, despite a camp for little ones. I might wander the trails a bit, picking up trash and checking on things.

Tomorrow, I'm hosting the church's continental breakfast. The Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins are ordered, the juice is cooling in the fridge, and now I need to make the Sausage Balls and Deviled Eggs. I love this time of year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's a Southern thing.

We were in Greensboro, NC for the annual family reunion. One of the "potluck" foods brought to the table was cocktail biscuits from Biscuitville. I really, really miss Biscuitville.

(Note to Biscuitville corporate management: Fresh Market has moved into Dunwoody with great success. Since they're a Triad-area corporate neighbor, why not consider joining them here? There's a vacant Boston Market right across the street that would fit you just perfectly. Those of us here who are ACC and NASCAR expatriates would sure appreciate it!)

There's just no other place like it here in Atlanta. These miniature gems of butterymilky goodness were filled with tiny slivers of country ham. Just a mouthful, but wonderfully good. They're not PC, but they're such a rare treat for us now that my husband loaded up on them. (He was at the end of the 50+ line of family members, so felt perfectly comfortable getting as much as he wanted.)

Calling a miniature country ham biscuit a "cocktail biscuit" is about as Southern as you get.

I love the South.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Knitting with your slip hanging out

Having my first pattern linked with Knitting Pattern Central is feeling a bit like walking around with my slip hanging out (I'm dating myself). I'm thrilled, excited, breathless. But I'm also anxious that I wrote the pattern accurately and clearly. Here's hoping! The Felted Tote is making its rounds. So now I have to just sit back and wait . . .

The staff at the Nature Center headed to the World Peace Cafe in Sandy Springs for a Christmas luncheon. Delish, to quote Rachel Ray. Our gathering was small, but our enjoyment was immense. Mushroom strogonoff, carrot ginger soup, mozzarella/basil/tomato sandwiches, and homemade pimento cheese sandwiches. Yum! We shared sweets we'd each made for taking home.

World Peace Cafe is a fascinating place. The wait staff was all volunteers! This was my first time, and I really love the ambiance and philosophy behind the food. This Buddhist restaurant has homes throughout the world, specializing in locally grown, organic food. I highly recommend it to Sandy Springs and Dunwoody readers . . . it's worth a trip for you ITP knitters as well.

(ITP: Inside the perimeter. OTP: Outside the perimeter. In the traffic horror that is Atlanta, there is a definite demarcation between inside I-285 and outside I-285 dwellers. There are those who SWEAR they will NEVER cross that line, no matter what. I happily hop across with careless abandon, but only between the hours of 10 and 3. Those of you who live here know what I mean.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Knitting up a party

Glad tidings . . . I've finished my knitting gifts, satisfied the hard-to-find yearnings for friends and family, baked the last batch of cookies and breads for exchanges, and settled in for the heart of the holiday.

Today I'm leaving work a bit early to attend the Christmas party for my knitting circle. I call it "my" knitting circle even though my job now precludes regular attendance. I love the ROCKers - such a delightful mix of personalities that meld beautifully together. I have my treat to warm up in the Nature Center kitchen, a knitting project in hand, and I'm on my way!

The St. Luke's Presbyterian Church Rockers (Reaching Out Through Crocheting and Knitting) has a mission of creating layettes for stillborns through Share Atlanta, a wonderful grassroots bereavement organization that does wonderful work for parents of children who don't come home from the hospital. That's awfully hard to say, let alone experience. We create luscious, soft blankets, hats, and booties in a range of sizes, from premature to full term. Nurses wrap the babies in these hand-knit gifts and give parents time to hold their child and say good-bye. The parents keep the sets as a keepsake. I try to make one set each month . . . our circle has made hundreds of sets in the past two years.

The Einstein Coat is still in progress - the lower section is half finished. I want to finish it pretty soon because it already feels heavy and warm. I added a few inches to the length so it'll hit me mid-thigh. Since designer Sally Melville cautioned that the coat lengthens with wear, I hope it'll eventually come to just above the knee.

One of my many pleasures is teaching phonics to preschoolers. My business, Preschool Phonics, means I get to stay in the preschool world long after my own children have moved on to tween and teendom. After six years, my little "graduates" number more than 220, which means I run into familiar faces at the grocery store, elementary school, music studio, pool, and everywhere in Dunwoody we roam. They love to tell me what they're reading. Introducing them to phonics concepts is the core of the classes, but nurturing excitement about reading is equally important. It's so much fun to see those light bulbs click on.

Then, of course, comes a time when they don't recognize me anymore. Hey - three years is a long time to a seven-year-old! That happened at my son's most recent Boy Scout meeting, a Court of Honor when he was recognized for completing 100+ service hours and receiving the Presidential Service Award (wow). A little Phonics friend was there, watching his own brother advance in rank. M didn't recognize me at all! Ah, well. I have enough memory for both of us.

Making Do Pointer #4
School - whether public or private - will not meet all of your child's needs. Since my children were in preschool, we've had "Mom School" during the summer. I've focused on content that was inadequate or not mastered so that my children could be comfortable with each subject. I've seen many discussions about the concept of summer school in the home - that kids need time off, that summer should be carefree. An hour in the morning isn't a burden for my children, and it's such a habit for them that they are completely comfortable with the lessons. Part of Mom School is also reading for pleasure. I want to make sure, particularly as my kids get older, that t hey continue to read books they enjoy because required reading takes over so much of their time in the upper grades during the school year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Dunwoody Dip

It was a weekend of parties. My favorite was the annual St. Luke's Presbyterian Church adult party, each year held in a private home. Despite pouring rain and a rapidly lowering temperature, it was well attended and very enjoyable. Lots of delicious food - guests brought appetizers, desserts, and sides for the ham.

One appetizer caught T's attention. Somehow I've lived in Dunwoody nearly ten years without enjoying or hearing about the Dunwoody Dip. When I got up Sunday morning, he'd Googled the recipe and found a reference in a Colorado patio store flyer, of all places. I'll check among my girl friends, but the ingredients sound like what I tasted.

Dunwoody Dip
1 pound Jimmy Dean hot sausage
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
2 cans Rotel tomatoes
1 large bag Tostido scoops

Crumble and brown sausage in large fry pan. DO NOT DRAIN.

Add cream cheese and Rotel tomatoes. Stir until blended and creamy. Place in casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until edges are bubbly.

Serve with Tostido scoops.

I found time Saturday and Sunday to work on a few last-minute Christmas gifts. Dishcloths are a favorite. It's fun to create a stack of complementary patterns and colors. For a special volunteer at Dunwoody Nature Center, I worked with two patterns from Mason-Dixon Knitting: the Ballband Dishcloth from their book and the Lobby Dishcloth, "hidden" in an extended version of one of their posts: Since it's so gray outside, I chose a cheery turqoise and yellow combination that turned out really well. Now I want to make some for myself, but that'll wait until all the Christmas knitting is finished.

What a crazy Southern winter. Last week, it was nearly 80 degrees. This morning, it was a frigid 27 degrees F. I didn't see too many critters scurrying about as I drove into the Nature Center and the bees were huddled in a tight ball around their queen in the indoors demonstration hive. I'm wearing many layers to offset the chill. All in all, though, I do appreciate the cold. Too much more warm weather and the plants and trees might have tried a premature bloom that would have ruined the spring for fruits and flowers!

I'm writing the pattern for a modular felted handbag I created this summer. It's a bit complicated, and I don't want to miss any details. But my goal is to post it, with pictures, some time this week. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Knitternall Felted Tote

I needed something for my knitting - a bit girly and definitely noticeable. I love felted bags for this time of year. I decided a straightforward rectangular shape would work best, with minimal counting and shaping. The "plain jane" design gets its oomph from the rich purple and bright green wool and the simple flower accent. Here's the result, a free pattern for the "knitter in all" of us:

Knitternall Felted Tote
purple and proud of it!


Patons Classic Merino worsted weight wool

3 skeins in 210 Royal Purple

1 skein in 240 Leaf Green

1 skein in any shade pink you choose (I used a remnant of a Cascade 220 marled pink/salmon for the flower)

2 round plastic purse handles, 6" diameter

Size 10 ½ straight and circular needles Gauge: not essential to finished design Finished Dimensions: approximately 12 1/2" x 4" at base, 10 x 12 1/2" for body of bag, 6" diameter handles.

Note: yarn is held double for the base to increase stability. I used a single strand for the sides, but for added strength and an even larger tote you can continue doubling throughout. You'll need at least 2 more skeins of yarn if you double throughout.

On straight needles and holding two strands of purple together, cast on 60 stitches using long-tail method.

Knit 20 rows in garter stitch. (Note: some other knitters' completed projects have felted much narrower than my prototype. You may have to knit more rows to maximize the width of the base. You'll also have more stitches to pick up along the sides in the next step.)

With circular needles, pick up and knit 10 stitches along short side of base, 60 stitches along opposite long side of base, 10 stitches along other short side of base: 140 stitches in all.

Knit in the round until sides are approximately 18-20" from base.

Change to Leaf Green and bind off top of bag with I-Cord.

Finish base of bag by adding I-cord trim in Leaf Green.

(For instructions working with I-cord trims, there are many web-based tutorials, including one at


Holding a strand of Purple and a strand of Green together, single crochet yarn around each handle. This method creates a “seam” along the inside of the circles for added stability and dimension.

With straight needles, cast on six stitches in purple. Knit a flat piece in garter stitch approximately 12 inches in length. You will felt this piece, then cut it to attach the handles.


With pink wool and using straight needles, cast on 20 stitches.

Row 1: Purl

Row 2: Knit 1, K2tog, knit across to next to last stitch, K2tog, K1.

Row 3: Purl

Row 4: K1, K2tog, knit across to next to last stitch, K2tog, K1.

Continue this pattern until there are about 14 stitches on needles.

Bind off, leaving a 9” tail.

"Roll" strip into a coil, creating a rose shape. Thread tail into a tapestry needle and secure flower.

LEAF (make 2)

With green wool, cast on 4 stitches

Rows 1 – 3, knit across all stitches. 4 stitches

Row 4, K1, Kf&b, K2 = 5 stitches

Row 5, K1, kf&b, k1, kf&b, k1 =  7 stitches

Row 6, knit across = 7 stitches

Row 7, K1, Kf&b, K3, Kf&b, K1 = 9 stitches

Rows 8-16, knit across =  9 stitches

Row 17, K2tog, K6, K2tog = 7 stitches

Row 18, K2tog, K4, K2tog =  6 stitches

Row 19, K2tog, K3, K2tog = 5 stitches

Row 20, K2tog, K2 = 4 stitches

Rows 21, K2tog, K2 =  3 stitches

Row 22, K2tog, K1 = 1 stitch

Row 23, K2tog, pull yarn through loop to bind off.

Weave in ends.


Place all pieces into a zipped lingerie bag or pillow case. Felt in a top-loading washer at hottest water temperature. Check every ten minutes of wash cycle to assess felting. Wh

en you’re satisfied with the results, let wash continue through rinse and spin cycles.

Stretch and shape bag, rose, leaves, and handles, then air dry. Place main part of handbag upside down over a form. (I used two large cereal boxes wrapped in a plastic trash bag.)

Lay leaves and purple pieces flat to dry.


Cut purple strip into four equal sections of approximately 3” each. Wrap two around each handle and sew to main bag on the inside, just below the green icord trim (see photo).

Sew flower pieces onto main bag with purple or black thread held double. Be sure they are attached at multiple points for stability.

I like a very stable base in felted bags. For this one, I purchased a 12" x 3 1/2" piece of thin, unfinished wood (similar to balsa) at my

local crafts store. I sanded it, painted it a crisp gold, and let it dry. It inserts

neatly into the base of the tote, adding dimension and support.

Alternately, you can line your tote with a contrasting fabric.

Comments welcome! If you have any questions about the pattern or suggestions for writing the directions more clearly, please let me know. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

5 Reasons I CAN'T Be Sick

I can't have a cold. Despite evidence to the contrary, I cannot be sick.

1. My son has Crohn's, and the Remicade treatment gives him a double whammy when it comes to a compromised immune system. I am cleaning my hands like crazy and avoiding contact with a kid I love to hug.

2. I'm the Mom. (If you're a mom, you know exactly what that means.)

3. I have work - job, house chores, carpool and a grocery run this afternoon, and a kids Choir holiday party to put on tonight.

4. It's a hundred degrees outside in this crazy Southern December.

5. I can't knit because every time I look down, my nose drips. Ewwww.

Did I mention I CAN'T be sick?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fa la la la la and Shalom

I've been a wrist-warmer generator this past two weeks. AG wanted to give two of her closest friends a pair after both admired the set I made for her in royal blue wool earlier this month. Both celebrate Hanukkah, so my gift-making had to hit much earlier than expected. Thanks to one thing and another, I didn't get to the second set until last evening. As Tin Man rewound on SciFi, I cast on and played the double points until a pair of male kid-size indigo wool wrist-warmers emerged.

Thanks to They truly can be made in one day! I made the wrist area and the rounds above the thumb hole shorter to fit kid hands.

Here in Dunwoody, the diversity of faiths makes for interesting holidays, particularly when Hanukkah comes so much earlier than Christmas. The kids work things out really well. I often have no clue who goes where until they have dinner with us or gift-giving starts, when AG announces she needs a Hanukkah gift for this friend and a Christmas gift for another. I've learned to ask about food preferences and "no's" and that's about it. Now that she's knitting, I expect her to take over the gift-making in the future!

I went to a cookie exchange in the neighborhood last week - wonderful fun, beautifully decorated home, and a delightful hostess. Despite working full time and a four-year-old in the house, L had at least three themed trees as well as the primary family tree, beautifully designed interiors, and a spotless kitchen. (Absolutely amazing.) She had come up with a party game - trivia questions about cookies from around the world. The questions touched on traditions from all faiths and countries and was really terrific for bonding among the generations, faiths, and life stories of her guests. What a great idea!

I wore my favorite cream sweater, composed of modular triangles in a dozen different cream/ivory yarns and finished late this summer. To my delight, I discovered that a neighbor, who I didn't know very well, is a knitter of 30+ years. We will definitely be getting together for a knit-and-chat over the holidays. We talked about techniques and works in progress. And, of course, I loved the oohs and aahs over my labor of love.

10 Weekend FOs:

1. One gi-normous Douglas Fir Christmas tree, picked up at Home Depot and deposited in the family room. Decorated in record time the by family, who had "stuff" to do.

2. One pair of indigo wrist warmers.

3. Nine mini-Pumpkin bread loaves baked for the Presbyterian Women's holiday sale.

4. One shift for the PW's sale before and after the Lessons & Carols service at St. Luke's.

5. Raked and blew the leaves from the back yard - since we skipped two weeks, it took three hours.

6. Four loads of laundry washed, folded, ironed, and put away.

7. Two bathrooms cleaned.

8. Four more inches of the lower section of my Einstein Coat knitted.

9. One unexpected movie break early Sunday morning: A Period of Adjustment starring a screeching Southern Jane Fonda (yikes), Tony Franciosa, and Jim Hutton. What a hoot!

10. Two freelance writing assignments started and finished!

Have a great day.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Excuse Me!

I was standing somewhat patiently in line at our local Ross after a blitz search for a dressy blouse to wear tonight. It was 2:20, and I had to pick up AG from school in just 20 minutes. Inevitably, there was just one cashier, while various and sundry staffers wandered the aisles and put up stock. I was fourth in line, and at least half a dozen people were behind me after a ten-minute wait.

A very well dressed woman bearing a Loehmann's bag and a pair of very dressy stilletto-heeled satin-and-rhinestone shoes was right in front of me. She hovered between the single lane and the service desk so she could move up to the next available cashier. Productive idea, and it was working pretty well. If the service desk person was free, she'd occasionally take a shopper.

Finally, the staff opened another lane. Now there were two cashiers plus the service desk. Loehmann's Lady still hovered somewhere in the middle, so the rest of us stayed courteously behind her.

An older woman came up from the side, saw the line between the two lanes, and decided we were all waiting for the same cashier. She moved briskly up to the newly opened lane.

"Excuse me," Loehmann's Lady said sternly and loudly. "The line is HERE."

Older woman meekly pushed her cart back at the end of the line.

I was impressed. Loehmann's Lady had designed a new line system and she made sure we all toed the line.

As soon as she paid, separate lines formed at the two lanes.

I don't think Loehmann's Lady is from the South. Bless her heart.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The "Making Do" Philosophy

There's a reality check in any family's life. Ours was the impact of medical costs. We are grateful for the exemplary care our son has received by pediatric gastroenterologists, by our providential proximity to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, by the rapid rate of research into treatment and (we pray) a cure for Crohn's Disease, by a generous and responsive health plan provided by my husband's employer, and the fact that Remicade is working for him. But all this comes at a tremendous cost. No health insurance covers 100%. 20% adds up when you're dealing with medical costs that run up to six figures each year.

Making do is our mantra. My children are still young enough not to realize how much their parents skimp and move and adjust and tweak. And that's wonderful. They take pleasure in family traditions, occasional outings and luxuries, and the continuity of everyday life. I've found resources that make our budget happy while indulging them in their special pleasures. Thrift shops and estate sales, consignment shops and sales, homemade cooking and hand-crafted treats - put it all together, and we live darned well!

Making Do Pointer #1: Income isn't really disposable.
If you find a Goodwill Store in a very upscale area of town, check it out! I have searched elbow to elbow with women decked in couture and found designer jeans, Coldwater Creek, and Chico's in mint condition for myself, and the trendiest Abercrombie & Fitch, Limited Too, and N Kids outfits for my daughter. It seems disposable income equates to a disposable attitude about nearly-new fashions!

Making Do Pointer #2: Shop with purpose.
I can't stand keeping up with coupons. It's just too much work. Instead, I always work with a menu and a shopping list. I plan four meals a week, two of which have no meat, and try to limit my shopping to just one trip. I find that my costs stay much lower when I'm disciplined. Buying off the menu and spontaneously always costs more!

Making Do Pointer #3: Make your hobby self-funding.

The Shakers got it right. Take pleasure in hand craftsmanship. Utilitarian objects can also be aesthetically pleasing. Knitting is my indulgence as well as a source of income. It began when my son was hospitalized the first time. He went from tummy pains to full septic shock in a matter of months. A dear lady in my Bible Study handed me a pair of needles and yarn and showed me how to knit. I knitted my first prayer shawl in the ICU during ten days of critical condition and slowly improvement. I knitted my first handbag during the few months we were "back to normal." Then I knitted scarf after scarf, another shawl, a few more handbags, and more when he went critical again, perforating at the ileum and sustaining multiple surgeries.

I sold more than $500 worth of those handbags and scarves the first bazaar I tried - that was more than enough to pay for the yarn and add some to the kitty for future projects. Such "self-funding" takes the guilt out of something I love doing so much.

Making do. It's a GREAT thing!

Tag . . . You're Not It

It's amazing how many "forward this or else" emails I get. The chain always breaks with me, because I don't forward things. I figure there are enough avenues for viruses and spam without me adding to the trash heap.

However, I do enjoy the tags that flow through knitting blogs. A recent one, "Four Things," got me thinking. So, without a tag and without tagging someone else, here goes:

Four Jobs I've Had
Waitress in a pizza restaurant
Cropping tobacco on a farm (I was 15)
Freelance writer

Four Movies I Love To Watch Over And Over
Texas Across the River (it's a childhood thing)
Steel Magnolias
National Treasure
Any Harry Potter movie (I'm a geek)

Four Places I Have Lived
Naha, Okinawa
Greensboro, North Carolina
Topeka, Kansas
Dunwoody, Georgia

Four TV Shows I Enjoy Watching
Decorating Cents on HGTV
Keeping Up Appearances on PBS
Animal Rescue on Animal Planet
StarGate Atlantis (I'm a geek)

Four Places I Have Been
Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Four Websites I Visit Daily
Knitting Pattern Central
Mason Dixon Knitting
Dunwoody High School website - Parent Portal - for announcements & grades - because I manage it!

Four Places I Would Rather Be
On an extended, all expenses paid vacation with my husband to anywhere
In my comfy clothes, enjoying quiet day at home

There! Consider yourself tagged, if you'd like to join the inner reflection pool.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Hello, Knitty!

Amy Singer's latest edition of Knitty just came out. Wonderful patterns. I particularly like the snow queen thing. The model is gorgeous - I'm absolutely sure I'd look quite as lovely if I made it. Okay, I'd FEEL quite as lovely. Nothing like a gorgeous piece of lace to bring out the girly.

I'm finishing this lovely green cabled handbag. Doesn't this vintage bakelite handle in teal look fabulous? I just have to line it and it's ready for gift-giving.

I just started the Einstein Coat from Sally Melville's Knitting Experience book. I'm doing it in black because I love long black sweaters with blue jeans. My current one, purchased ages ago at a discount place, is all fuzzy and pathetic. This will be much better. Textural, weighty, and a good fit. I chose Paton's Classic Merino for its simplicity, loft, and price. Doubled up, the yarn fits the gauge and, thanks to Michaels' amazing discount on Black Friday, the cost of the 20 or so skeins fits my budget.

AG started her saxophone lessons last night and regaled us with A, B, C, and D for the requisite half hour of practice today. She's so enthusiastic - it's something she's wanted for a long time, so I'm glad she can have the lessons. Talk about cost . . . whew! As a freelance writer, I truly appreciate the time and talent behind the hourly rate. As a cost-conscious mom, I'm gulping. A played the flute for three tense years in middle school and dropped it as soon as he started 9th grade this year. He was quite good, but the block schedule just doesn't allow any room for extracurriculars. I'm hoping a modified block will change things for AG when she moves up in a few years.

An unexpected gift came from a friend yesterday. She dropped off a gift certificate for a 60-minute massage at tres trendy Spa Sydell, right here in Atlanta. I'm stunned. Such generosity! She knows how many directions I'm flying, in addition to handling A's chronic health issues and anxieties. It's exhausting. Now I have a major splurge to look forward to! (Victory dance, right here, right now.)

Time to run A to mock trial practice and pick up AG from choir practice. Has it been another week already?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Snarky times

Twice in the past few weeks, I've wrestled verbally with snarky people. In both cases, I got in the way of some well mis-placed irritation. I wasn't the cause, but they wanted me to be the solution. Southern-born good manners get in the way of a healthy response. Instead, a smiling "I'm so sorry!" takes the place of "Grow up and take responsibility for your own mistake!" In one case, a Yankee raised his voice and got really heated about something I wasn't involved with in the first place. In the other, a new age mom was mad when her own procrastination led to the loss of something she valued.

I must give off vibes of Mom-hood. "There, there. Let Donna make it all right." Hmm. I'm too busy taking care of my brood, working the two jobs, handling all the sundry chores and Martha stuff, and carving out some knitting time to get too emotionally involved in taking care of other people's problems.

But I'm a Southerner. So rather than "Why in the world would you talk to me like that?" culprits see me grit my teeth, smile, and express sympathy.

Bless their hearts. (For you Yankees, that's the ultimate Southern put-down.)

Monday, December 3, 2007

12-Hour Drive, Four Hour Visit

On one hand, it's wonderful to see family. On the other hand, it's exhausting. We did our annual road trip to NC for my husband's family Christmas gathering. 40+ came, a cross-generational hug fest that was big on comfort food and short on time. Since it was A's birthday, we brought a cookie cake as well as the requisite box of fried chicken from the colonel and sodas. Since we're road-kin, they don't expect homemade goodies. It was our first time together since T's mother died, so it was nice to add some happy memories.

Of course, I knitted the entire trip. Well, except when I helped A with some Biology homework and indulged in a paperback. But all in all, it was a productive ride. I managed to finish all the dishcloths and present them, beautifully wrapped, to T's sister and brother's families. (This tradition of a homemade family gift was really hard until I learned how to knit. Now it's way easier.) D opened hers right away - forget waiting until Christmas! She seemed really delighted with the palette of colors and patterns in her set of six. B will likely wait - they're very patient people!

I have some really interesting wool yarn. Rich striated colors that seque from burgundy through creams and yellows to bright green and back again. I thought I'd use it for the Sunrise Jacket, but the colors don't work with the seaming between the circular back and sleeves. So I'm thinking about a really long pinwheel jacket, either a Berroco pattern or one I saw in Elann. I just need to gauge it this week.

For the past two years, I've sold my purses and scarf sets at a couple of holiday bazaars in town. I've done some great business - nearly everything sells. But this year, juggling two jobs and the family stuff has meant a sharp decrease in productivity. But a friend who knows I've made a few things anyway called to see if I have anything in my FO stash. Here's one:

If she doesn't like these, they'll likely go as gifts to my kids' teachers. They deserve something special!