Saturday, September 26, 2015

Afternoon Tea - A Birthday Party for Miss Abigail

Miss Abigail and I hosted an afternoon tea for our club ladies in honor of Abigail's birthday. It was so fun and turned out so well. Of course, not being a tea drinker myself, I enlisted the help of our good friend Isobel, who handled the all important tea. Isobel brewed several kinds, including a local herbal tea. Abigail and I had only to make the sandwiches and goodies. There was an important reason why I wanted to host the tea. Long-time readers might remember that one of our good friends gave Abigail a beautiful tea set for her hope chest. Three years have gone by and we have never "baptized" the tea set. There seems to be so many rules about having a tea, but the one very important lesson that I've learned from being with friends over tea is that it really, truly isn't about the tea. It is, above all, completely about the friends. But the rest of it is kind of fun too.

I really wanted Miss Abigail to learn what was involved in hosting a tea party, in particular one that includes those who don't drink tea as well as those who do. Pat's gift of the tea set was such a sincere wish for Abigail to enjoy this kind of party that I wanted to help Abigail get past that first intimidating experience. I don't want the tea set to languish in her hope chest as a sort of "sacred object," too pretty and so intimidating to actually use. Plus, I thought it would be nice to attach a memory to it as well. Now when she uses the set again, she will remember as well the wonderful women who have taught her to enjoy taking tea. It was a fabulous day and we all had a lovely time. We only wished for Pat to be there too. Alas.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Yellow Ruffled Towels

I recently made these cotton plain weave hand towels for a kitchen set that has been almost finished for a few years now. I have several sets for the kitchen that just need embellished hand towels or the apron sewn or crocheted dishcloths to match or a set of hot pads that are not crocheted! (I'm thinking Abigail might want a little variety in her kitchen linen drawer.) There is always a reason the final set isn't finished. Maybe I can't find a cotton yarn to match the rest of the set, or I can't think of a good way to fancy up the terry hand towel.

Take the yellow, blue and green set, for example. I had purchased the fabric for these towels quite a while ago because it was the perfect color to match the set and it was 100% cotton and it was just begging to be made into towels. You know how that is! Abigail embroidered one of a set of two dishtowels for the county fair a few years ago, but hasn't been interested in finishing the second one. The apron for this set is now sewn, but it still needs a pocket. I have planned to do one in filet crochet, similar to an apron my grandmother made for my hope chest, but I've needed to design the pattern and that just gets put off. So it goes.

I've decided to be disciplined. (Hah! We'll see how if that works.) I've made a list of all the unfinished items languishing in the kitchen sets that are otherwise finished. Naturally, this list is in my hope chest planning book! I am dutifully working on these projects before other, more mentally inspiring projects and methodically crossing things off as I finish them. This process has been good for me because, in some cases, I've just decided to eliminate items that I had planned for certain sets. The number of kitchen linens has become such a joke between my husband and Miss Abigail, that I think I can just call some of the sets finished.

I think I'm making good progress on the list. These towels are now crossed off the list. Now, if I can just turn my head when I see cute ideas on Pinterest or lovely fabric or darling tea towels...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Link: Article - "Hope Chests"

I wanted to let you all know about a delightful blog post about making a hope chest. In a blog celebration of the anniversary of the LDS document "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," Jill Wright has written a very thoughtful article and has helpfully included a nice list of suggestions of what to include in a hope chest. Her article is very warm and encouraging. You'll come away feeling that this project isn't as hard as it might seem. If you have ever wondered how to get started, or feel even a bit discouraged or daunted, don't miss Jill's post on "Hope Chests"!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hope Chest Planning Book

In a recent post I mentioned that I have a hope chest planning book. I am a list maker. I sometimes don't follow the list because I'm also creative and change plans at the drop of a hat, but I love to make lists and I love to cross things off a list. So this ordinary composition book is where I've kept all my plans for Miss Abigail's hope chest.

This is the inside front cover. Some years ago, I made a list of categories for items in a hope chest. You can find the list on the side-bar of this blog. I also have a list of categories for skills that I hope Miss Abigail will learn. I think we are making pretty good progress!

On the pages inside I have a list of items that I want to make for each kitchen set, planned table linens, bed linens and bath linens. Plus lists for other specialized sets, like a first aid kit, sewing basket and supplies (done - yay!), craft tools, gardening and canning tools, practical books, family history records / scrapbooks and holiday decorations. For example, I want to make a picnic set with a picnic basket or cooler, a picnic blanket and a picnic recipe book. So there is a list for a picnic set. I haven't gotten to it yet, but it is in the book. I also have a list of special pieces that I want to include; a birthday cake plate, candlesticks, a bread cloth, a piece of petrified wood (I won't go into the reason, LOL), a framed picture of Jesus Christ, a Sabbath cookbook and menu book, etc.

I also keep pictures of ideas that I find in magazines and on Pinterest. I'm not a digital person, so I print these out and paste them in my book. I record my own ideas and designs. Trying to illustrate them is often a challenge. I sometimes write recipes or household tips here because the book is a handy place to keep them.

I paste things in. I draw patterns. I keep published patterns stuffed in pockets and taped between pages. I copy out crochet patterns and record those that I design myself. The book is just an all-purpose place to keep my thoughts and ideas of anything related to the hope chest. I also have written inspirational quotes to keep me going.

I'm not sure why these pictures are appearing vertical - sorry!

This inside back cover has a master list again. Just more specific ideas of items that I want to include in the hope chest. So there it is - my hope chest planning / stuff book. I hope it inspires you to make a few lists too.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sunflower Hand Towels

Before August is over I wanted to show a picture of these towels. We live down a dirt road way out in the county and the sunflowers are just lovely every year in late August. This year we've had more rain than usual and the sunflowers are blooming like there is no tomorrow. I love them. I have made these towels for the hope chest so that Abigail could be reminded of sunflowers and home. I put a fancy edging on one end of the towel and a simpler edging on the other end. I like both colors together.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Washing Wool

I want to share how I wash wool. I know it is a bit unusual to post here, but it keeps you all on your toes, and proves that I do creative things other than hope chest projects. It also shows how I jump from one project to another. This aspect of my personality drives some of the people close to me CRAZY! I've also been obsessed with the new smash book fad, but we won't go into that now...

I assure you that I'm still busily working on hope chest things, but I admit that I am slow to get the final bits of my projects finished - so no pictures yet. I have three kitchen sets almost finished. Abigail is turning 17 years old in a couple of weeks and I still have the big projects, like quilts, to do. Time is ticking away and I am feeling some pressure to be finished with this. Only because I know how quickly these last years go by! I don't expect she will need it anytime too soon. I just want to see it done.

I think that making the kitchen sets has been my favorite part of creating the hope chest. I love embroidery and crocheting small (read quick) things. In fact, I love quick projects period. I like to see something finished in a short time, and you know that some things just seem to drag on and get put off. I have some embroidered quilt blocks that I've been working on and off for years now. Sad, I know. I will get them done sooner or later. I think I'm not the only one with less enjoyable unfinished projects like these.

Anyway, the picture above shows my husband shearing the sheep. He shears sheep all over the countryside around here, and even travels overnight to some larger flocks. He shears mainly small, backyard flocks for hand spinners like ourselves. AND, he uses hand shears, which is another story altogether.

So, on to wool washing. Once I have the wool fleece, the next step is to separate a small portion and "pick" it to remove as much vegetable matter as possible before washing. Depending on how dirty the fleece is, this can be quite a job.

I place the portion of fleece loosely into a mesh lingerie bag.

I use three buckets, lined up in my bathtub to wash the wool. I'll just say that there are many ways to wash wool. Everyone seems to have their favorite method. Some folks just use their washing machine. Some others have a kind of set up in the backyard. Using the bathtub to soak a whole fleece  is another method I've heard of, but I don't want this very dirty water to go down the drain into the septic tank, so I use buckets and lift and carry them to pour outside.  I fill two of the three buckets with water as hot as my water heater can deliver. The hotter the water the better to melt and remove the lanolin.  Then I add a tablespoon of Dawn dish soap. Lower the soap into the water, but don't swish it. Just let it melt off the spoon and disperse into the water. Suds are harder to remove later in the rinse, so I don't make bubbles.


When the soap has melted into the water, I gently lower the bag into the bucket and leave the wool to soak. Set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes.


When the timer signals, lift the bag into the second bucket. If the wool is particularly dirty, this bucket is a second wash with just a bit more soap. Perhaps a half teaspoon, or so. If the wool isn't too dirty, this second bucket is the first rinse. You can tell how dirty the wool is by the color of the wash water. If the water is very brown, I do another wash. Because we live in a dry, windy place, I almost always have to wash twice, but maybe you won't have to. By the way, the reason I filled this bucket with water at the same time as the first bucket is because the water will cool at the same rate and be the same temperature as the first bucket. This can be important so that you don't "shock" the wool by changing the temperature of the water. If the water is significantly different, this difference in temperature may affect the way the lanolin acts and it may also cause some felting. I've not had trouble with this, but am careful still.

Sometimes I have to do a third wash. While waiting for this last wash soak, I refill the other two buckets for the rinse. I try to judge and adjust the temperature of the water so that it remains as constant as possible.

Just as the washing, I lift the bag from one rinse bucket to another and time twenty minutes for each soak. I always do at least two rinses. Sometimes I will put a half cup of vinegar into the last rinse.

After the final rinse, I lift the bag and let it drain until it isn't dripping. Then I take it outside and whirl the bag around my head to allow centrifugal force to remove as much water as can be. Stand well away from everyone you don't want to get wet!

Then I take the wool from the bag and fluff it out onto a towel. At this point I can see whether the wool is clean or if there is still lanolin clumped in it. A little lanolin doesn't bother me, as long as the dirt is gone and it feels and smells clean. The wool will always smell a little like lanolin and wet wool, but it should have a clean smell also. Let the clean wool dry in a protected place, away from the wind. My enclosed back porch is perfect since then I don't have to smell wet wool inside the house. If the wool still seems dirty, just let it dry and then repeat the wash process.

Once the wool is dry, I like to store it in a brown paper bag. This batch of wool was for Abigail's projects and it fit into a shoebox. Another cardboard box would work too. Many people store their wool in plastic totes or other containers. Paper grocery bags work well for me. Although I haven't had too much trouble with moths, I have a natural moth sachet recipe to help discourage them and try to regularly check the stored wool to make sure it isn't infested.

There are times when I wish I had a better system. It would be nice to wash more wool at one time, and I would rather not carry buckets through the house. But there are benefits to doing small batches as well, so I try to be content.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mason Jar Flower Frog

I was so pleased to run into these inexpensive flower frogs! They cleverly fit onto a mason jar. It reminds me of all the times Miss Abigail gathered field and sometimes garden flowers to bring me a bouquet. She could always find a canning jar on the shelf to stuff the flowers into. What a sweet memory! The flowers would fall to the edges though, so the bouquet looked just a little awkward. Moms don't usually care about that, but one of these flower frogs will be just the ticket to help the blooms stand more upright. I'm excited to put these into the hope chest.

edit - I should have mentioned that I purchased these at the JoAnn's store in Albuquerque. Happily, they are also available on  Link on Amazon --km
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