Monday, November 11, 2013

The Craft-Tacular Art Spectacle is Coming!!

Darlings, it is a mere nineteen days until the first ever Craft-Tacular Art Spectacle!!

There's so much to be done! Posters and flyers to distribute, emails to send, event invites to post, marketing galore! And I have to make sure my vendors have everything they need to be successful. It's exciting and fun! It's like a planning a wedding without the bridezilla!!!

I also have to crochet a bunch of stuff to sell. Hats and scarves and fingerless gloves and baby blankets and baby hats and flower pins -- lots and lots of flower pins!!

I made two hats last night and one and-a-half this afternoon -- I feel like I work in a sweatshop!! And that's the way it's going to be around my house for the next two and-a-half weeks!

Don't nobody bring me no bad news!

Well, I'd love to chat, but those fine crocheted accessories are not going to crochet themselves! It's back to work for me! I believe the lovely and talented Emily is stitching at G & L Tavern tonight. I'm not going because it's snowing and I'm still recovering from throwing my back out at work last Wednesday. But go in my stead and tip that Matt Roben behind the bar handsomely, because boy-howdy, is he handsome! Until next time, my darlings, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn! XOXOXO

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Crocheting to Wagner

Today is the dress rehearsal for "Parsifal" at Lyric Opera. With intermissions, the production runs five hours. Wagner had a lot to say!

I have an established and proud history of crocheting to Wagner. Three years ago, I dressed the supplementary men's chorus for "Lohengrin". I decided to crochet a skull cap for each of the gentlemen I dressed. Each act was an hour, and, coincidentally, it takes me about an hour to crochet a hat. So I brought in a bag of different colors of yarn and asked each of my guys in turn what color hat they wanted. He'd tell me, go onstage to sing for an hour, and when he got back, his hat would be waiting for him on his desk.

Last year we did "Der Meistersinger". I dressed the circus performers. There was lots of crochet time. I was able to crochet a knight's helmet with a  movable face guard, and have those circus fellas start teaching me how to juggle.

And now it's Wagner again. I brought three crochet projects to work on, and I even got a little juggling in! I love my job!

Sooooo that's the news for now! Easy, Drink, and Be Crafty is at R Public House tonight at 7. Until next time my darlings, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn! XOXOXO

Monday, November 4, 2013

Let's Get Moving!

"What you want is on the other side of fear."
                                                                     -- Jack Canfield

Yesterday morning, four of my friends that I met through Lyric Opera ran a 5k. I've always said that I only run when I'm being chased, but seeing Facebook posts from Linda, John, Alejandra, and Evan got me thinking that, in light of my recent twenty-pound weight loss and my desire to step up my physical activity,  I might be ready to start training for my very own 5k.

I had heard about a training program called Couch to 5K (C25K), so I Googled it. It's through a website called Cool Running. No, not like the movie about the Jamaican bobsledding team!! I read through the C25K plan and decided that I'd give it a try. It's a nine-week program; three training sessions a week, starting relatively slowly with a five-minute walk to warm up, followed by twenty minutes of intervals of 60 seconds jogging and 90 seconds walking. I'm starting training this very afternoon!

I posted on Facebook last night about my intent to start training and my friends who inspired me. Alejandra commented that I should let her know which 5k I decided to run so she could be there rooting me on. So I Googled Chicago 5k 2014 and found the Warm Your Heart 5k, an indoor single loop run at McCormick Place on February 23. So this is my goal. I am now a runner. Well, a jogger! Start small!!

That's all the news for now! I'll be at the G & L Tavern this evening for some stitching, bitching, and Bears football. You should come by too -- the bartender is ADORABLE!! And I'll be at R Public House on Wednesday at 7:00 for Eat, Drink and Be Crafty!! Until next time, my darlings, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn! XOXOXO

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Grandma's Legacy

I guess I was about seven when my grandma taught me to crochet. She was my primary caregiver, and she crocheted voraciously. The crocheting strengthened her hand-eye coordination after her stroke. It also eased the pain in her arthritic fingers. I was fascinated by the dancing of her crochet hook and the beautiful fabric she created out of simple yarn. I begged her to teach me. She was very patient and kind, as she was whenever I asked her to teach me something. We had our differences and frequently fought like cats and dogs, but she was a gracious and skilled teacher.

Grandma made afghans and pillows, lap robes and goofy 1970's toilet paper covers. She crocheted these silly chickens that fit over the plastic eggs that L'eggs pantyhose used to come in. She made countless lap robes that she donated to "old folks' homes" (she was the same age as the majority of these "old folks"!). She made at least one special item for each of her nine grandchildren.

Through the many moves of my adult life, my beautiful round pillow with the braided chains in variegated pink, blue, and white yarn got misplaced. I consoled myself in the knowledge that I didn't need the THING that Grandma made because she gave me a more precious gift in the SKILL to make my own things.

And then my mom did something miraculous. She pulled from her sewing room an afghan that Grandma had crocheted in the 80's. It was one of her "Indian Pattern" afghans, worked in rows and rows of single crochet, every ninth stitch a double crochet into the row beneath. Then in the next row you start your nine count a stitch earlier, so you end up with a diagonal line pattern throughout.

Grandma made this particular afghan with scrap yarn from her myriad other projects. It's very Joseph's Coat of Many Colors! It's also very cozy, and I love it! Mom gave it to me because she thought it would look fabulous on my red couch. It does.
For this picture, I covered the couch in the afghan to show off the array of colors Grandma combined. I also put the pillows I made on either end to make it more artistic and meaningful. Roxie accessorized the photo with herself, because she has to get her paws on everything I do!

The bonus miracle here is that I have a ton -- A TON!! -- of scrap yarn and had been thinking about how I wished I had this very pattern to put that yarn to work. And here comes the afghan, out of Mom's sewing room and into my arms!

So that's the news for now. Don't forget the Stitch 'n' Bitch at RPH tonight! 7:00! Bring your friends! And as always, til next time, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn! XOXOXO

Monday, October 21, 2013

All You Need is Love

Thanks to a lot of love and support from a lot of people dear to me, I survived another October 20th. I lost Michael Richard Schultze, the first man who ever loved me right, on October 20, 2010. I lost my father on October 20, 2011. Last October 20, I stayed in my pajamas all day, waiting for the next crisis to befall me.

This year, I approached October 20 with a new attitude. I girded myself with weeks of journaling, meditation, prayer, and daily trips to the beach. I had a very cathartic counseling session ten days ago. I made sure my Habibi was coming over to distract me on the 20th. And he did distract me -- he sat on my sofa with my head in his lap, stroking my hair and saying really funny things, for two hours. I really love this man.

I also made a list of everything I feel guilty about with regard to my relationships with Michael and with my father -- all this unnecessary baggage I've been carrying around. Things like, I was impatient when Michael told a story. He liked to paint a picture when he told a story. I just wanted a snapshot. And now I regret that.

So anyway, I made this list. And then I burned the list -- safely, in a glass bowl, in the back yard. And then I took those ashes and scattered them at the lighthouse pier on Pratt Avenue beach -- the same place I scattered Michael's ashes in the spring of 2011. And it felt really cleansing; really freeing. Because I don't need that guilt anymore. I need to celebrate the lives -- no longer mourn the deaths -- of these two men who were so integral in shaping the woman that I have become.

I still love them both dearly, and I think of them every day, but with the release of that outdated guilt, I can think of them with a smile on my face.

So that's the news for now. I'm dressing at the opera tonight, but I'm pretty sure Emily will be stitching at Grace & Leavitt Tavern at 7. If not, her adorable and entertaining husband Matt will be behind the bar, so you can just hang with him! I'll be back at RPH on Wednesday night. Until Wednesday, as always, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn! XOXOXO

Friday, October 18, 2013

October Blah!

It's cold. It's overcast. My sinuses are very angry. It's going to get colder. The forecast calls for partly to mostly cloudy til NEXT FRIDAY!! What is a person to do?

I have some ideas to ease your grey October funk. Here they are, in no particular order.

Cook something comforting. Here's my new favorite quick comfort food recipe:

Sausage with White Beans and Tarragon

Serves 4| Hands-On Time: | Total Time:



  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
  3. Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat.
  4. Add the carrots, onion, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Add the beans and wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Fold in the sliced sausage and tarragon.
 Baking something could work too. I'm thinking of trying Ricki Carroll's Whey Bread recipe from her book Home Cheese Making. I've got almost two gallons of whey in the freezer from making my first two batches of cheese at home. Which reminds me, I still owe homemade cheese to all of my friends who helped me move (except Pastor John -- he hates cheese!). Cheese making could probably cheer one up too!

 Go see a play! Support local theatres! Some of my favorites are Lifeline, Corn Productions, and The Hypocrites. See what they've got going on.

Take a class! The Old Town School of Folk Music has a new session starting at the end of October. I'm jonesing to get back to Belly Dancing Class!!
It also helps to wear bright, happy colors. I find it very difficult to be mopey when I'm wearing pink, for instance! I've been seeing a lot of fuchsia and orange together, which is a ridiculously happy combination! 
Or pick up some yarn! Knit! Crochet! This very night, Sifu has an event called Sci-Fiber Fridays. The people gather together to watch a Science Fiction movie and stitch. It's a great time! And when I went, we all chipped in and got pizza!!
And of course Emily will be crocheting at Grace & Leavitt Tavern Monday at 7:00 pm (I'm working at the opera) and I'll be back at R Public House on Wednesday at 7:00. So that's about all the news for now. Now go and put on a brightly-colored sweater, bake me something, and bring it to a Stitch 'n' Bitch near you!! Until Monday, my darlings, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn. XOXOXO

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Inspiration Everywhere

Last night I was unwinding in front of the TV. The WE channel was airing many, many episodes of "Will & Grace" all in a row --perfect!

I was partaking of the episode where Karen sets Will up on a date with her cousin, Barry. In this episode, Grace is unpacking in Leo's apartment. Rosanna Arquette plays Grace's neighbor. She comes in wearing a fabulous crocheted hat. I stopped paying attention to the lighthearted comedy and focused solely on the construction of the hat. I think I figured it out. I'm going to start experimenting with it later in the week.

This is not the first time inspiration has struck in an unexpected place. I am not a stranger to taking photos of people's interesting scarves or hats as they sit in front of me on the El. I've never been caught -- thanks be to God! But you can't let creative awesomeness just pass you by!

In other news, I will not be at R Public House for Stitch 'n' Bitch tonight, but I'm pretty sure some other awesome crafters will be there. So there is no reason not to carry on without me! And check back here on Friday -- I'm rocking a three-post week nowadays! As always, friends, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn. XOXOXO

Monday, October 14, 2013

New, Amazing Stitch 'n' Bitch!!

If you know me at all, you know that three of my favorite things are yarn, adult beverages, and circus performers. Have you any idea how blissfully happy I am on the somewhat rare occasions when I can combine all of these things in one convenient location?? Really, expansively, blissfully happy!! Well, this combination is happening tonight, at the Grace & Leavitt Tavern, 2157 W. Grace, in Chicago, at 7:00 pm! You see, my good friend Matt Roben, who is a circus performer, tends bar at Grace & Leavitt Tavern. His circus performer buddies tend to socialize there on Mondays, thus the circus performing and adult beverages.

Matt's wife, my good friend Emily Roben, is a brilliant crocheter and my partner in crime to the majority of the yarn events I attend, thus the yarn.

 Emily made that adorable necklace she's wearing in the picture, by the way.

In a Facebook post last Monday, Emily said that if you weren't at Grace & Leavitt Tavern, you couldn't possibly be having as much fun as she was having. Subsequent to that post, Emily and I decided that Grace & Leavitt Tavern needed a Monday night Stitch 'n' Bitch. And a future legend was born! So please grab your yarn bag, your embroidery hoop, your sketchpad, your juggling balls, your spinning plates -- whatever you've got -- and join us for the Very First Ever Grace & Leavitt Tavern Monday Night Stitch 'n' Bitch!!

And join the gang on Wednesday at 7:00 at R Public House, 1508 W. Jarvis, for our Underground Stitch 'n' Bitch!

And look for tomorrow's launch of my new blog, Craft-Tacular Art Spectacle.

And I Crochet in Bars will now be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

That's the news for now. Til next time, as always, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!! XOXOXO

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Craft-tacular Art Spectacle

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it is my pleasure and thrill to announce to you the First Annual Craft-tacular Art Spectacle, a holiday craft bazaar, which will take place at the Loyola Park Field House in Rogers Park on Saturday, November 30th, from noon til 4:00. I have gathered a talented group of artists and crafters to provide for your shopping pleasure fiber arts, pottery, shadow boxes, bookmarks, handmade Christmas cards, paintings, drawings, T-shirts, jewelry, and balloon animals. That's right -- I said BALLOON ANIMALS! Stay tuned here for more information on this amazing event!

In other news, my Stitch 'n' Bitch has a new location on a new evening. We can now be found on WEDNESDAYS from 7:00-10:00 at R PUBLIC HOUSE, 1508 W. Jarvis. RPH is a wonderful, friendly place with marvelous pub food. I'm so excited to be there!

That's all the news for now! Please check back here regularly for more information on exciting upcoming events! Annnddd, add always, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Catching up

Hello, darlings! So much has happened in the past two weeks! Let me tell you all about it!

My friend Angela and I went on our cheese-making adventure the weekend of the 7th and 8th. We left Friday afternoon to set up camp (I camped!!) at Rock Cut State Park, which is beautiful and HUGE!! We asked for a tent site on high ground because there was rain in the forecast. Truth be told, we got a light rain as we were having a delicious breakfast of Nutella and bananas on whole wheat English muffins, but that was all the precipitation we encountered.

Saturday morning we headed to Angelic Organics Learning Center in Caledonia, Illinois, to take our class in making soft cheeses. April was our teacher. She's enthusiastic and informative and very friendly. We really enjoyed ourselves, and we learned how to make six kinds of soft cheeses!! We also milked a goat.

It was awesome! When we got back to Rock Cut with our fabulous array of soft cheeses and some fresh produce from the Kitchen Garden, we went kayaking for an hour. I just adore kayaking! Afterward, I called my Habibi and said, "I learned how to make six kinds of cheese, milked a goat, and went kayaking today. What did you do?" He chuckled and said, "Nothing!"

Sunday afternoon was our hard cheese class. Don, a local farmer and cheese ninja, taught that class. We made gouda and feta. These are being aged, and will be waxed and mailed to us in about a week and a half.

After class, I met my favorite goat, Azabache.
She's a princess, and she runs that goat enclosure! She also jumped two fences in the snow (goats hate precipitation) to get to the Billy goats when she was a mere one year old. So she's also a bit of a tart. She's my best friend now.

I wanted to test out my new cheese-making skills right away, so I made ricotta in my kitchen at home Monday evening. It was good. Next time, I'll add more salt and a ton more basil from my mom's kitchen window and it will be GREAT!!

Thursday I got my hair done. I love my stylist, Patrick Fuller, at Robert Jeffrey Salon. He makes me look like this.

Friday afternoon, I went home to Batavia to accompany my mom to my Uncle Bud's 84th birthday party. I love spending time with my crazy, funny, loud, energetic family! It makes me feel so good!!

Saturday Kath and I went to the Batavia Farmers Market. It was my first time there. It's very nice! And there was a woman there who was selling soaps that look like cupcakes. Love her!!

 My next project is this cowl.
It's a challenge because it's a smaller hook -- an F hook -- than I'm used to. We'll see how my patience holds up!!

And lastly, I've lost 10.5 pounds and twelve inches on the Flat Belly Diet in the past eighteen days. I feel great!! And I eat awesome food! I don't even crave ice cream and Oreos anymore!!

So that's the news for now, darlings! No more Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood, but stay tuned for a new night and location very soon!! As always, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!! XOXOXO

Sunday, September 1, 2013

New Project -- Just for Me!!

Happy Labor Day, everybody! I hope your barbecues are safe, your adult beverages are icy cold, and your charred meats are delicious!! I'll be at the beach with my buddy Yvette.

I've challenged myself to do more difficult projects. I just moved into a new apartment, for which my awesome mother, who firmly believes in spending my inheritance on me while she can watch me enjoy it, bought me a love seat and a sofa (and a kitchen table and chairs, AND a dresser. Don't get me started on how spoiled I am!!). Although I am taller than my roommate Miss Sarah, I have taken up residency on the love seat because it resides in the bay window. I love the bay window. So I needed a little lumbar support for when I curl up on said love seat. I needed a throw pillow. Truth be told, I need several. But every journey starts with one step.  I began shopping for throw pillows. Throw pillows are ridiculously expensive, darlings!! And, thanks to my dear friend Dr. Emily Roben, I have acquired a new mantra. It goes a little something like this: I can make that myself!!

I decided it would be cool to crochet a basket weave pillow cover. I decided it would be cool to make each side a different color and stitch it together with a third color.  I was right -- it's cool! I splurged a little on the pillow form -- a 16" square of goose down for $15 -- because the yarn I used was already in my possession. I did 35 rows of basket weave, 50 stitches wide. I stitched the pieces together with two double crochet in each stitch around, four in each corner. Here's how it looks.

I'm so. Very. Happy with the result! And look how gorgeous those colors look on my cool red love seat!! Now to determine what kind of pillow Miss Sarah would like to start with for her sofa.

Oh, and also, Sarah wants me to design her a basket weave skirt! A SKIRT!! I've never done CLOTHES!! The plot thickens!!

That's the news for now, darlings!! No Stitch 'n' Bitch tonight because of the holiday. But as always, until next time, Peace, (radical) Love and Yarn!! XOXOXO

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School

Today is the first day of school in Chicago. A big shout-out to all my teacher friends and parent friends and student friends. You all lived through it!

Back to School has me thinking about goal-setting. I have been very lax about goal-setting in the past because I felt trapped by my personal circumstances. Now I have a clean slate, so it's time to put on my big-girl pants and set some goals.

I'm getting more and more concerned about the long-term health consequences of the excess weight that I carry around, so this week I'm starting the Flat Belly Diet. I had great success with it in 2010, before Michael's illness caused me to turn back to my emotional eating ways. It's a great eating plan. Four 400-calorie meals a day. Each meal includes a monounsaturated fat like olives or nuts or dark chocolate, plus lean proteins and fruits and vegetables. In 2010, I lost 11 pounds in the first two weeks. So Goal #1 is to Get Healthy.

I'm thinking and praying about participating in a craft show at the DuPage County fairgrounds in November. I'm thinking about it because it would be a lot of travel back and forth from Chicago for two days, and the small booths cost $150 for the two days. I'm also thinking and praying about creating my own craft show in Rogers Park sometime in December. Less travel, less cost. More name recognition for me. So Goal #2 is to Participate in a Craft Show.

 I'm delighted to be creating a home with my wonderful roommate (whose birthday is today), Ms. Sarah Bell. The past three weeks have been great fun deciding where things go and adding to the comfort of our domicile as we go. Sarah's most recent addition is a chalkboard wall in the kitchen for messages and doodling, which has been very fun so far. So Goal #3 is to Maintain a Comfortable Home.

 I'm becoming more and more aware of a horrible habit I have in my friendships, where I tend to take for granted that the people who are the most important to me will always be there when I need them, no matter how much or little attention I pay to them on a regular basis. So far, it's worked out for me -- a testament to my faithful friends, not the quality of relationship I offer. But this has recently become unacceptable to me. So Goal #4 is to Nurture My Friendships.

 I also really want to learn how to sew like a champ. It's a great skill to have as a creative outlet, and it will also serve me well professionally. So Goal #5 is to Really Learn to Sew.

In the past, I've alluded to my desire to take my crocheting to the next level and to create more daring designs. Let's make that a goal, shall we? Goal #6 is to Crochet More Difficult Stuff.

So these are my Back-to-School goals, friends. I share them with all of you in this public forum so that I will be held accountable for them. I'll post updates to let you know how I'm doing on all this stuff. Meanwhile, your prayers and positive thoughts would be appreciated!

That's the news for now, darlings. No Stitch 'n' Bitch tonight, as it is Sarah's birthday and she must be celebrated. So until next time, as always, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!! XOXOXO

Monday, August 19, 2013

Glenwood Avenue Arts Festival

This past weekend was my favorite weekend of the year in Rogers Park, the Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest. It's two and a half days of art and music and food and drink and vibrating energy. And it's literally right outside my door! From my living room sofa, I could hear the bands performing at the North Stage! How exciting!

The Fest gets bigger and better every year, and this year I was able to spend several hours each day exploring and experiencing. Yesterday my lovely and talented friend Yvette drove in from Countryside, Illinois, to fest with me, and we had a ball! Yvette decided that no Sunday will ever again be complete without Puppet Bike, Go-Go Dancers, and Buffalo fries.

I, too, am a huge fan of Puppet Bike. Jack, the puppeteer genius behind Puppet Bike, is a tireless performer who delights crowds and crowds of people every Chicago summer. He's legendary!

My absolute favorite experience of the Glenwood Fest was when artist Anna Todaro showed me her marvelous children's book, Everybody Hoops but Me...., and read the entire book to me as though I were five years old. She used voices too! I think she's amazing! I ended up going back to her tent later in the evening, expressing my delight at her having read me the book, and buying a copy of said book, which she graciously autographed for me!

My second favorite experience of the Fest was when I noticed that the artist studios on the second floor on Glenwood south of Morse were open. There's a violin-making shop that I've always wanted to visit. I've seen it from the El stop for years and have been DYING to see the inside! So I waltzed in the open door, marched up the stairs, and asserted myself onto the violin studio. It was a magical place. It's owned and run by Sean Colledge, a mutual friend of Jillian Frank's and mine. Once I dropped Jillian's name, I was an instant family member! Sean told me he'd been making violins for twelve years, that he'd pretty much designed his own curriculum through an apprenticeship he'd had. He also told me about his awesome Cajun band (whom I'd heard through my living room window, performing on the North Stage) and invited me to try some of his wife's delicious Crayfish Etoufe!

There was so much creative energy buzzing around my home all weekend long that I actually got out my sketchbook and pencils today and drew something for the first time in a year! I am inspired!! Speaking of inspiration, don't forget the Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood Bar at 7:00 tonight! And as always, my dear ones, til next time, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

What I Learned at Renaissance Camp

Today was the first day of Renaissance Camp, an all-day historical immersion camp for kids aged five to twelve, with the program where I teach. I am the art teacher, which means I get one hour with each of the four groups of children to create a Renaissance-inspired art project.

Today we made papier mache gargoyles. We talked about what gargoyles are and what their purpose on buildings is. Most kids said gargoyles were put on buildings to protect the buildings from demons. Some kids said gargoyles helped to siphon rain water from buildings. A couple of kids talked about rain water gargoyles being constructed so that it looked like they were peeing. Kids love bathroom humor. Of course, all the things they said were true.

We talked about papier mache and how the strips of paper dipped in the glue mixture (I used Mod Podge and water) can be used to attach pieces such as wings or heads together, or can be smoothed over crumpled newspaper to change the texture of the piece.

Kids will teach you things. I always learn great stuff from kids -- valuable life lessons. Today I learned that papier mache is a very difficult craft for a kid with OCD issues. I also learned that if you ask said kid with OCD issues HOW to help him, rather than forcing him into a papier mache cage, the kid can get through the art project without shedding a single tear. The tears were on the horizon, but we combatted them with empathy and active listening.

I learned the benefits of not getting angry at a six-year-old who tips over a bucket of Mod Podge and water, dousing herself and her neighbors. You see, the bucket was too tall and the six-year-olds too short to get the paper strips properly coated in mucilage. She was just trying to follow my instructions on getting the paper saturated. I also learned that resourceful six-year-olds will dip their paper strips in the spill on the table, thus soaking up the spilled glue while ensuring not to tip the bucket a second time.

I learned (on two occasions) that guessing someone's gender is sometimes a tricky endeavor, so it's probably better to ask the person's name before assigning them a gender. I erred on the side of caution and asked names first. Good thing I did -- my initial impulse was wrong on both counts!!

I learned that one back-up activity is not always enough. I dodged the heartache of trying to get a five-year-old to write in calligraphy by having some drawing paper and markers at the ready for free drawing.

But most importantly, I learned that the attention that I pay to children is often repaid with very sticky hugs and beautiful drawings for my refrigerator. I came home with two pieces of art for my personal collection!

It was a big day for me, education-wise. I wonder what those kids will teach me tomorrow.

That's all the news for now. I'm off to the Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood. You should come. It's Wally's last night. Until next time, my dear ones, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Coming Soon: Milking Goats and Making Cheese

It's two days before My Big Move. I should be packing boxes and cleaning. What am I doing? Registering for a cheese making class.

About a month ago, my wonderful Renaissance woman friend Angela asked me, "Hey, do you want to learn to make cheese with me?" It seems there's a place in the northwest suburbs, Angelic Organics Learning Center, that teaches classes on cheese making. It's the real deal -- we'll milk goats and make several kinds of soft cheeses on Saturday morning, then camp in Rock Cut State Park, where we'll drink wine and eat the soft cheeses we just made. Sunday we'll explore the town that is purportedly quaint and rustic, then return to the Learning Center Sunday afternoon for a class in hard cheeses. The hard cheeses have to age, so they'll mail them to me a couple of weeks after the class. Tada!! Here's a box of cheese that I made, right in my mailbox!!

And then I'll know how to make cheese. And you will invite me to every dinner party you have because you know in your heart of hearts that your host gift will be cheese, lovingly handmade by me!! I'll also know how to milk a goat, which probably won't get me invited to any extra parties.

I'm moving Saturday. Please pray/send positive thoughts/do what you do. I'll be much less stressed now that I'm registered to become a cheese-making aficionado. There is no Knit Night at Squiggly's tonight -- as a matter of fact, the store is going to be closed all weekend. I'll be back with all of you on Monday to tell you about The Move and, potentially, a Yarn Adventure with Dr. Emily. As always my darlings, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!

Monday, July 29, 2013

The End of an Era

I'm moving. I've lived in my tiny studio apartment for seven and a half years. When my second marriage ended, my beloved "caramel sister" Mia let me sleep on her couch. The next morning, I was lamenting that I had no place to go, so she called her landlord. He showed me three apartments, the third of which was across the hall from Mia's place. I told him I needed that one so that Mia and I could start our sitcom. He did no credit check, asked for no security deposit, and let me move in four days later. I lived across the hall from Mia until she moved out last June. It was time for her to take a new direction in her life. I miss her proximity.

Michael lived there with me for three years. He called it "Living French", two people in such a small space. I don't know how we didn't drive each other crazy living in 600 square feet. Love makes you do strange things. The night Michael died, I again slept on Mia's couch. God bless Mia.

After I lost Michael, the apartment became kind of a prison cell for me. I could function on the outside, but I was trapped by memories in my own home. People deal with grief differently, and I was paralyzed by mine, but only at home. I could function perfectly well on the outside world, but I couldn't even bring myself to go through Michael's belongings. Grief is weird.

But this is a happy blog! My dear friend and talented artist Sarah Bell and I are going to be roommates!! Sarah is a sweet, fun girl with a generous spirit and a sparkly aura. Moreover, she found us a beautiful two-bedroom apartment in our beloved Rogers Park!
 Here's Sarah and some of her art
Here's some more of Sarah's art. She's cute AND political!!

The apartment is on a beautiful, tree-lined street a little bit north of Morse Avenue. It's got a big living room, a formal-sized dining room that will become our craft room, a good-sized closet that Sarah has claimed as her "cloffice", two bedrooms, a built-in hutch in the hallway across from the bathroom, and an eat-in kitchen with a sizable pantry. There's a small yard in the front and a small yard in the back -- basically the whole thing is a little slice of heaven.

So this week, I'm going through seven and a half years of accumulated stuff. I spent most of today on yarn. Seriously -- who needs all that yarn? I untangled skeins and skeins of yarn that my cats had gotten into. I always tell my Habibi that I crochet and have two cats -- without him, I'm a pathetic middle-aged stereotype! I tenderly balled each tangled skein and nestled it in a Ziploc bag so the cats can't undo my work, then I put the bags in a see-through heavy-duty plastic zippered "jumbo" storage bag. This way I can see what I have, have easy access, and squish it into smaller spaces so the yarn is not taking over my life. Now I can use the bins in which the yarn used to reside to pack clothes and linens and kitchen stuff.

It's taken me a while to get motivated to begin this task -- I've been talking about moving for months now -- but once I get through the skeins and skeins of yarn, I think I'll be about halfway done!

Saturday is moving day. I can't wait to begin a new chapter of my life with room to move about!! I'll post pictures of our little hermitage in next Monday's blog post. And then I'll post more pictures when the furniture that my wonderful mother is purchasing for me arrives!!

So that's the news for now! I'd better grab some dinner to fortify me for tonight's Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood. I hope to see you there at 7:00! Until next time, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Read This Book!!

 This weekend I borrowed my boss' copy of Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon. It's a fabulous book! In it, writer and artist Kleon gives advice on how to tap into your creativity, find your artistic voice, and get your work into the world. Kleon offers ten jumping-off points to quell the voice of your inner critic and get you to make stuff.

First he points out that NOTHING IS ORIGINAL, and that every new piece of art is a remix of old ideas. You just need to find the best stuff to put together in a conglomeration that speaks in your voice. Do research. Devour other people's work. Build an artistic ancestry.

Later he talks about the importance of unplugging and working with your hands. He shares a picture of his office, which has a digital area for final editing and sharing with the world, as well as an analog area where he can draw and play and listen to the music of the marker squeaking on the paper. Along the same lines, he talks about the importance of hobbies; that your work is for others and your hobbies are for you. Those hobbies feed your creative spirit and nourish the areas of your life in which you make the money.

Kleon talks about networking in the digital neighborhood and being a mentee. My favorite quote in the whole book is from this section: "If you ever find that you're the most talented person in the room, you need to find a new room."

My favorite page from the book is pictured above. This is my new manifesto. Curiosity, kindness, stamina, and a willingness to look stupid. I've got all that stuff!!

So buy this book. Borrow this book. Get this book from the library. Read this book. It will take you less than an afternoon. And it's worth it. And now I want more than ever to visit Kleon's place of residence, Austin, Texas.

That's the news for now, darlings. Oh! Except that my Habibi took me to Lincoln Park Zoo for my birthday and we saw this
and it made me laugh really hard. Come to the Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood tonight, 7-??. Bring a craft. And until next time, as always, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Monday, July 1, 2013

There IS a Cure for the Monday Blues

I've got a case of the Mondays. I have been an absolute oxygen thief all day! Thankfully, I had no obligations except blog-writing and stitching 'n' bitching today. Last week was my first week teaching camp this summer. I had to be at work by 8:30 AM all week. I am NOT a morning person, and to have that alarm go off every morning at 6:45 was not delightful. Camp, however, was delightful. So ultimately it was worth it. I had sixteen great girls and two amazing assistants. Crafters Camp was a huge success!

The secret to getting up early when you're not a morning person is a good, solid afternoon nap. You know you're not going to be able to get to sleep earlier at night, so you feed that deprivation with a nice siesta. Those Spaniards are really onto something! This weekend was very social. Friday night mojito party, Saturday community brunch, coffee date with one of my best friends, and barbecue with dear friends, Sunday house party at my opera buddy's place. Long story short, as a direct result of the activities of the last seven days, today has been one extended siesta. My cats have been very supportive of my decision to lounge in bed today. They don't understand the appeal of leaving my spot of sunshine on the pillow anyway, unless it's a trip to acquire them kibble.

I've found the solution to my general malaise. A couple of weeks ago, I went to Windy Knitty and bought from the clearance bin four skeins of mulberry silk yarn. Oooh, aaah!! What is mulberry silk, you may be asking. I sure did! Had no clue! I made some pithy comment about the pink yarn being named mulberry, and that mulberries aren't pink. Was educated by the very helpful Tara, one of the yarn mavens at Windy Knitty. You see, mulberry silk is spun by silkworms who only eat mulberry leaves. It makes for a very soft and lustrous fiber. And it was on sale. And I knew I would need it someday. Today is that day!

Darlings, I was very tempted to cancel my Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood tonight because I feel so blah today. And then I remembered the two skeins of pink and two skeins of navy mulberry silk yarn waiting patiently for me on my shelf at home. The siren song of the silkworms in the mulberry trees is calling me to stitch. The silkworms are singing me home. So I'll be at the Glenwood at 7 tonight, sipping on a tall mocktail of club soda, cranberry juice, and limes, turning some mulberry silk into a fabulous shawl for myself.

Until next time, my darlings, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!

Monday, June 24, 2013

I am a Chicago Blackhawk

Tonight is a very big night for me. You see, I am a Chicago Blackhawk. I'm a member of the team. No, I don't ice skate. No, I don't have access to the players' entrance at the Madhouse on Madison. Yes, all my teeth are my own. And yet, I am a member of the team.

How am I, a plus-sized, middle-aged GIRL, a member of the Chicago Blackhawks? There is an ever-growing coterie of hardcore Blackhawks fans who are of the belief that if I crochet -- especially if I crochet with red yarn -- during a Blackhawks game, more often than not we will come out victorious. I remember one Saturday night much earlier in the season when I had been working at the Lyric and had completely forgotten the Hawks were playing. I went to the Glenwood after work and the Hawks were down by one with about two minutes left in the third period. My dear friend Wally was bartending that night, and he rushed over to me and said, "Dawn-Marie! We're losing! DO SOMETHING!!"

"It's all right, Wally -- I got this," I replied calmly as I pulled yarn and a hook out of my handbag. I started to crochet as I resumed my conversation with another bar patron. And shortly thereafter, the Hawks tied it up. I think it was about two minutes into overtime when the Hawks scored the winning goal. And there I sat, calmly and diligently crocheting them to victory.

It doesn't always work. It didn't work last Monday. But it works the vast majority of the time. So tonight, I'll be at the Glenwood with some red yarn. And I'll do my part, right along with my teammates and Coach Q, to win the Stanley Cup tonight. Game time is 7:00. I am a Chicago Blackhawk.

Until next time, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Neuro Knitting

Darlings, people send me the coolest things! For example, just yesterday, my friend Eric Paige, a local artist, sent me this picture of a Mini Cooper that has been expertly yarn-bombed.

On Tuesday, my cousin Beth Lau, creative genius and fellow crocheter, sent me a link to an article on the website for KDFC, the San Francisco Bay area classical music station. This article was about Neuro Knitting. It seems visual artists Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet teamed up with a science-y kind of music guy, Sebastian Maella, who studies Brain Tangible User Interfaces with the Music Technology Group in Barcelona (Please pronounce it "Barthelona". Let's be proper globe-trotters and use the Castilian pronunciation. Thank you.) got together and came up with this awesome project. In the video, they hooked Sr. Guljajeva up to a non-invasive EEG headset which was connected to a knitting loom. The EEG measured his brain waves while he listened to music. In this case, they used Bach's Goldberg Variations. The knitting loom then facilitated the embodiment of those brain waves into a scarf pattern. The mind reels! This is brilliant!

Here's a picture of Sr. Guljajeva on the left in his scarf and another gentleman (my research leads me to believe it is NOT Sr. Canet) in his scarf on the right. Purportedly they listened to the same piece of music. Look at the difference in the scarves!

I would like to participate in this project. I would like my scarf to be made of my brain waves when listening to Blondie's Parallel Lives album. I would wear that scarf proudly.

Thanks to my brilliant cousin Beth for making me aware of this slice of awesomeness! That's all the news for now. Knit Night at Squiggly's is cancelled tonight because Rico is not feeling well. Until next time, my angels, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Preparing for Camp

I'm about to embark on my second summer of teaching summer arts camps for the City of Evanston. Yes, my off-season job is just as much fun as my opera job! My days will be filled with Mod Podge and pony beads and felt and glitter. Lots and lots of glitter!

I've found that Pinterest makes me a much more inspired teacher. I created boards for each camp I teach, and I started collecting images in October. Writing my curricula was a snap because I just worked from my boards and grouped the projects in a way that made sense, then clicked on the pins to get to the websites with instructions and supply lists. Last year I sat and stewed and tried to come up with ideas on my own, then do Google searches for supply lists. Thanks, Pinterest, for making me extra-awesome!

My boss invented the brilliant "Snacktivity", an edible activity that goes along with the day's lesson plan. Several of my Snacktivities for my camps contain Nutella, the delicious chocolate hazelnut spread that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists and wants us to be happy. My Habibi has never had Nutella and doesn't understand my fascination with the stuff. He has come to the conclusion that I must be the heiress to the Nutella fortune, which is why I'm exposing my campers to the substance so that they'll beg their parents for it, thus expanding my Nutella empire. My Habibi is a very silly man.

Surprisingly, one of the most popular crafts with my campers last year was crocheting. Kids would come up to me every day and ask if we were crocheting that day. There was even a camper who drew a beautiful, colorful sign on the chalkboard that said, "I Love Croshay" (sic). I armed them with N-sized hooks (the size of a Sharpie marker) and light-colored yarn so they could see what they were doing. I taught them the importance of yarn tension. And I taught them to chain stitch. Some of them chain stitched -- just chain stitched -- for almost an hour! Two of my campers had their mothers take them to Tom Thumb to get yarn and crochet hooks of their very own. They loved the chain stitch! Personally, I think of the chain stitch as a means to an end. These kids thought crocheting chains WAS the end! This year I will teach them to Finger Crochet. They'll. Be. Ecstatic!!

Tonight is my Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood, 7-?. I hope to see you there! I'll probably be crocheting a red heart scarf for WomenHeart. Until next time my darlings, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Herrschners Afghan Contest, or Timing is Everything

Through one of the bazillion crochet pages I follow on Facebook, I saw a link for the Herrschners Afghan Contest. I was so excited! I've become the self-proclaimed Princess of the Baby Blanket in recent months, and here was my chance to show the world -- or at least the fine people at Herrschners -- and win some cash money, as well as fame and notoriety and the acclaim of my stitching peers! Darlings, I was READY to compete!

And then I clicked on the link to the contest information and saw the entry deadline. Entry forms must be received by June 15. Afghans must be received by July 15. I'll be in the thick of the Arts Camp Teaching season, and I'm planning to move residences at the end of June. It would appear that my life is much too chaotic to add in the pressure of creating an award-winning afghan. Alas.

I really enjoyed reading Herrschners' Tips for a Winning Afghan.
  • Avoid mixed dye lots in your afghan.
  • Take all steps necessary to keep your afghan clean and free of lint or hair.
  • Make sure your afghan has nicely squared edges and evenly worked borders – this shows off your stitching and designing abilities.
  • Use a hook or needle size that creates an afghan with body and a nice drape. A gauge that is too loose makes an afghan limp; gauge that is too tight makes an afghan stiff. Make a gauge swatch to test how the finished afghan will feel, and choose a hook or needle size accordingly.
  • Chose colors that reflect today’s decorating styles, colors that coordinate pleasingly or add to your design.
  • Choose a size appropriate to your category. The size must be useable for the purpose intended. If you are making a large counterpane style afghan, bedspread size is appropriate. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are making a baby afghan, a size that comfortably covers an infant or toddler is appropriate. We look for afghans that people will love making AND using.
They gave me a warm, cozy feeling, kind of like reading a small-town newspaper. I like that feeling. It's like a hug from a favorite aunt.

Last year's winning entries are absolutely gorgeous! Do yourself a favor and take a look at them. As for me, I will be dreaming up designs for next year's Herrschners Afghan Contest when I'm not preparing for Crafters Camp and Princess Camp or cleaning, sorting, and packing for a move!

Tonight is an abbreviated Knit/Crochet Night at Squiggly's. I'll be there for an hour or so, encouraging people to make squares for Windy Knitty's Oklahoma Project. Deadline for squares is next Thursday, June 13. Until next time, my darlings, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Aid to Oklahoma

Darlings, you know how I love to crochet for a good cause!! Our friends at Windy Knitty Yarn Shop in Andersonville are working on a great project right now! They're collecting 8" squares, either knitted or crocheted in washable yarn, to sew together into blankets for the tornado relief effort in Oklahoma. Would you love to help but you're short of cash and can't afford to buy yarn for this project? That's okay -- they have a giant bin of washable yarn that people have donated for others to stitch up! If you sweet talk our good friend Rico Blanco at Squiggly's, he might be willing to let you use some scrap yarn too.

The good folks at Windy Knitty are also having Sewing Parties where people can volunteer to sew those squares together. Those events are Sunday, June 9, from noon til 5 and Thursday, June 13, from 6-9. There will be snacks. Please feel free to bring goodies to share.

If you have 8" squares you'd like to donate and can't get them to Windy Knitty, you can bring them to me or leave them with Rico at Squiggly's.

Tonight at 7 is my Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood, where I will have scrap yarn and will be encouraging everyone to stitch up a square. Until next time, my darlings, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

New Amazing Project!!

Two weeks ago, one of the crocheting groups I follow on Facebook posted this picture of a crocheted Frisbee.
I thought it was awesome and something I would try eventually. I reposted it on my wall and went about my day. Not five minutes later, I received the following email from my adorable cousin John Ryun: "Can you make 2 of the coozie Frisbees? I would gladly pay you for them...." Well, if you know my cousin John Ryun, you know he's practically irresistible! He's tall and handsome and funny and sweet -- a Packer fan, but you know what they say: Love the sinner, hate the sin! So I set about to crocheting Frisbees for John's equally adorable children. I asked John what colors he wanted, and he said, "One boy one girl colors... I will leave the creativity up to you." Brilliant! Creative Freedom!!

John's daughter, Grace, is kind of a girly girl like me, so I chose Teal, Yellow, Purple, Pink, and Spring Green for hers. It turned out like this.
Now, I'm not much of a Frisbee-throwing expert (read: I stink at playing Frisbee), but on the test flight down the hallway in my apartment building, this bad boy went about twenty feet! I posted this picture on Twitter and my Facebook page, and my hairdresser said, "I want one! WANT!"

As I said, the Ryuns are Packer fans, so I did the one for John's son, Davis, in Green, Yellow, White, Black and Grey. I couldn't take a picture of it -- my Bears fan sensibilities kicked in and precluded me from creating any photographic evidence of its existence! My good friend Kate Kamphausen gave Davis's Frisbee a toss in her sewing studio, and on its maiden voyage it, too, went at least 20 feet.

These things are awesome! They're fun to make (they take about an hour and a half), they fold up into your pocket, beach bag, or picnic basket, they're safe for doggies and children, they're machine washable, and they're pretty darned cute too! This is the new thing that I make! Place your orders now, boys and girls!! Operators are standing by!

Tonight at 7:00 is Knit and Crochet Night at Squiggly's Yarn Shop and Studio, and that is where I plan to be. You should come too. Until next time, my darlings, Peace, (radical) Love and Yarn!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Never Say Never Again

You may be asking yourself, What does British Agent 007 have to do with crocheting? Precious little, actually! It's not like the Bond girls bide their time between death-defying adventures with a basket of yarn on their laps - although I would find that hilarious!! What if Miss Pussy Galore made afghans?

No, the reason I refer to this particular Bond film is the origin of the title. The film is based on the James Bond novel Thunderball. The film is not called "Thunderball". That's because the film's title is a good-natured barb directed toward Mr. Sean Connery. He hadn't played James Bond since "Diamonds Are Forever" in 1971. Roger Moore played Bond in six Bond films since Connery's last turn, including "Octopussy", which came out earlier in the same year (1983). In 1971, Sean Connery told the press he would NEVER play James Bond again. And a mere twelve years later, at age 52, look what he did!! "Never Say Never Again"!!

Okay, Dawn-Marie, we've been patient. We get that sometimes you feel the need to impress us with your trivial knowledge. But what has this to do with crocheting? Really! We mean it, now!

I have said that I'll never crochet something larger than 3'X3', and I've done two ginormous baby blankets.

I have said I wouldn't do anything that required excessive counting and/or concentration, and I'm currently working on this as a treat to myself for having made the aforementioned ginormous baby blanket (NB: This project requires both counting and concentration).

I've been crocheting in earnest for five and a half years, and I have recently decided to step up my game. I'm going to tackle projects that challenge me and take time and concentration. And I will make every attempt to never say never again.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Little Something for Me

My coworker Michelle had her baby yesterday morning! Welcome to the world, Baby Chloe!! Both mama and baby are doing well. Both are going to look so adorable sunggled up in the purple baby blanket I made. 

I finished the blue blanket for Michelle's very pregnant twin sister on Friday night, thanks to a rousing pep rally from my "Oklahoma!" women's ensemble. The ring leaders for said pep rally were my girls from Cincy; Stephanie Park, Christine Smith, and Hannah Freeman. It's much easier to finish the final row of an extra-large baby blanked when I'm laughing uncontrollably at the antics of a roomful of singers and dancers at Lyric!

When I finish a big project like this, I like to make a little something for myself as a reward. I found this beautiful ruana wrap in a pattern book from Red Heart Yarn. 
I'm making it in Caron Simply Soft yarn in Grey Heather. 

I'm glad I decided to make something cozy for myself because I'm feeling a little sad about "Oklahoma!" closing. I got to work with such wonderful and talented people for eight shows a week. Some people I met for the first time and some were folks that I've known for some time and got to know better. And the music was beautiful! It never got old! It's difficult to say goodbye to that. 

So I'm making myself a little something snuggly that has some of that energy in it. It will be like getting a collective hug from all of those wonderful people. And how cute will I be all wrapped up in a soft grey ruana?

That's all the news for now. There's no Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood tonight because I'm dog-sitting out of town. I'll be back hosting next Monday. Until next time, my darlings, Peace, (Radical) Love and Yarn!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Love is All You Need

This blog post is neither about crocheting nor about bars. It's about love -- Radical Love. You see, I had an epiphany yesterday. I've been doing it wrong!! When someone's views are different than mine and her opinions hurt people I care about, I have a tendency to get angry and judgmental. I rail about how misguided she is -- how dare she not be as enlightened as I perceive myself to be? When, in actual fact, I'm merely the other side of the judgment coin. And please be aware, darlings, that my usage of the pronoun "she" is intended as a universal and gender-neutral pronoun here and throughout.

People hate what they fear, and they fear what they don't understand. And they don't understand what they're not exposed to. So I shouldn't judge.

I also shouldn't judge because Jesus said it's not my job -- that's His Father's job. My job, says Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40, is to love God with all my heart and to love my neighbor as myself. "All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments." This is corroborated in Luke 10:25-28.

Radical Love, darlings! This is our job! Someone disagrees with you? Love her. Someone hurts you? Love her. Someone hurts someone you love? This is the hardest one for me, but you know what I need to do?? LOVE HER!! That's my job. That's all! Simple! Of course, my Buddhist friends would remind me that simple isn't always easy. I can't think of anything Radical that's easy. But it's my job -- it's what I'm expected to do. And I'm moving toward embracing that job.

Okay, darlings, Aunt DM is off her soapbox. Tonight is my Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood. I'm altering my usual signoff ever so slightly today. Peace, Yarn and RADICAL LOVE!! XOXOXO

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What's the Name of the Blog?

<p>I talked about this blog for a long time before I started publishing it. I would be sitting at my neighborhood bar, yarn entwined in my fingers, an adult beverage in front of me, and I would say, "I should start a blog and call it 'I Crochet in Bars!" Because it's kind of a novelty that I crochet in bars. It's kind of unexpected to see someone crafting at a bar. Never was this more true than one Friday night in January.

My friends Jimmy Kays and Lee Trudell are roommates who work at Sidetrack, a behemoth bar and Boystown institution. Sidetrack takes up the majority of the block on which it resides and has for years been the largest purveyor if vodka in the state of Illinois. Lee had gotten a puppy that Tuesday and I was able to meet the adorable pup because Jimmy had invited me over for a movie night. I offered to crochet a sweater for the new addition and said I could deliver it to Sidetrack that Friday. Jimmy would be managing and Lee would be working coat check that night.

Friday night came and I wasn't quite finished with the doggie sweater, so I grabbed a cocktail and found myself a tall table in the front of the room where I could work. In the biggest bar in Boystown. On a Friday night. A parade of curious strangers kept approaching my table to see what I was up to. When they learned that I was crocheting a dog sweater for the guy in coat check, the smartphones came out and pictures and stories of their own doggies, past and present, were proudly shared. And then these people would go and get their friends and bring them to my table. And the friends shared their pictures and stories. It was surreal and rather wonderful!! And, as you'll see in the pictures, Lana looked adorable in her sweater!

And that's why I do what I do where I do it! It's a conversation-starter. I meet fascinating people who tell me their stories. And art gets made.

Today is Thursday, which means Knit Night at Squiggly's. I won't be there tonight -- I'll be frolicking through the cornfields for "Oklahoma!" at Lyric. But you should go. Tell them Dawn-Marie sent you!! And as always, my darlings, Peace, Love and Yarn!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Do What You Love....

The old adage goes, "Do what you love and the money will follow." I have found this to be true with my crocheting on more than one occasion. My dear friend and colleague Michelle DiBennardi is expecting a baby girl any minute now. No, literally -- she's going to the doctor tomorrow to see if labor can be induced! And I adore Michelle, and I know how excited she is to be having her first child. So I made her a ginormous baby blanket. This is the biggest thing I've ever made -- I tend to lose interest in projects bigger than three feet square. But it was a labor of love for someone very special to me. Below is a picture that Rico Blanco took at Squiggly's Yarn Shop when I finished it.

I have also tended to shy away from pieced Granny Square projects. I love how quickly granny squares stitch up and how portable they are, but I could never find a cool way to piece them together. Never, that is, until now. I Googled "granny square crochet together", and the ninth entry was Carina's Craftblog, in which Carina gives an easy-to-follow tutorial on how to join the squares using double crochet back and forth. I was delighted with the way it turned out! Here's a picture that Rico took at the Glenwood Stitch 'n' Bitch when I was piecing the project together.

Michelle loved the blanket. She texted me and said that she just wanted to cuddle with it herself! And then she texted me and reminded me that her twin sister is expecting her first child -- a boy -- next month and asked if I would be willing to make a blanket to sell to her to give as a gift to her sister. I was blown away! How flattering is that? And then I thought about the pricing aspect. I'd never made anything that big to sell -- I list my 3'X3' blankets for $60. I had made Michelle's blanket as a labor of love! How would I price it? Would Michelle be willing to pay for it? With the help of my dear friend and creative marketing genius Matt Dans, I came up with a price that would be fair to me. I reluctantly quoted the price to Michelle, and she said that sounded great! So I started her sister's blanket on Thursday. The colors I'm using are pictured below. I should have it finished in two weeks.

The lesson I learned is to not undervalue my work. People are willing to pay for quality work. And, of course, to do what I love and the money will follow! I'll post pictures of the boy version of the Michelle Blanket as soon as it's finished!

Tonight is, of course, the Glenwood Stitch 'n' Bitch. I'm going to grab something to eat and head over there in a few minutes. That's all the news for now. As always, darlings, Peace, Love and Yarn!!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Another Opening, Another Show

Today is my first rehearsal for "Oklahoma!" at Lyric Opera. Every first rehearsal has a First Day Of School feel to it, which I really enjoy. Our call time is 9:00 am this morning, so last night I set my alarm for 7:00 am, a time I consider The Middle Of The Night, and went to bed at 11:30.

I awoke in an uncharacteristically chipper mood with "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" on my lips (of course I sing the alternate lyrics: "There's a bright golden haze on Jayne Meadows") -- I know!! I woke up all Disney Princess-y!! It's so not like me, but the truth is that I really, really love my job!!

Of course I had to bring yarn to work. It's my job at the Lyric that brought about my passion for crocheting. When I started at the Lyric, I knew there would be substantial downtime. I quickly learned that books were not the best pastime for me at the opera because I don't like to stop reading mid-paragraph. And magazines are expensive. So I thought rekindling my childhood crocheting skills would be just the thing. I brought yarn to the second opera I dressed and haven't been without it at the opera house since! Today I brought yarn to make a lightweight infinity scarf, my new favorite all-season neck flair. I also brought yarn to make a small crossbody handbag like the one I wear backstage. And I threw in a special project I'm working on for Habibi. He's adorable and deserves many special things!!

"Oklahoma!" opens at Lyric on Saturday and runs through May 19, with a possible extension through the 26th. It's a beautiful production! Every attempt should be made to see it! No, I can't get you free tickets!!

Tonight is the Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood. I hope to see you there. Until next time, my darlings, Peace, Love and Yarn!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Llama for your Mama

My friend and hairdresser, extraordinary gentleman Patrick Fuller, has a llama ranch in the family. The Northwind Llama Ranch in Sawyer, Michigan, to be exact. The ranch is home to about 49 llamas which are raised for show and high quality fiber!

Patrick's amazing soon-to-be-seven-year-old daughter Olivia owns two llamas and shows one by the name of Bandita at the Berrien County Youth Fair. She won a ridiculous amount of ribbons last year!!
Olivia leading Bandita to the ring at the Berrien County Fair

Olivia and her many, many ribbons!! Such a talented Llama Show-woman!!

The fiber is sent out to a local spot to be combined with sheep's wool and spun into yarn. The sheep's wool helps the llama fiber to retain its shape. It also makes it very soft and lanolin-rich. Llama wool contains no lanolin. The yarn is delicious to work with and fun to wear.

Late last spring, Patrick began promising to give me llama yarn for my birthday, which is July 6. Every time I saw him, he promised llama yarn for my birthday. I even scheduled a hair appointment ON my birthday so he wouldn't have to hunt me down and give me my wool. He forgot it. :( And then he forgot it for the next few hair appointments and social events we both attended. Meantime, he had asked me if, when I EVENTUALLY received the wool, I could make him a hat. Sure, Patrick. Sure I can!

When I went to the salon in February, I spied on Patrick's work station a hank of the most delicious natural fiber I'd ever seen. I said, "Oh, Patrick, is this my birthday present?? Or is it for your freakin' hat?" He assured me that it was my birthday present. I was beyond delighted! The yarn was a gorgeous and rich color of brown, and it felt like heaven when I ran it between my fingers! I decided to make myself a loosely stitched infinity scarf with it.

This pattern is deceptively simple. I stitched it up during a Blackhawks game. The Hawks lost in overtime, but I won this gorgeous scarf!!

In looking at pictures on the Northwinds Facebook page, I've finally figured out why Patrick has a penchant for sweeping my hair up into horns while my haircolor processes. It's so I look like a llama!!

Today is Thursday, which means Knit (and Crochet!!) Night at Squiggly's Yarn Shop, 1604 W. Morse, from 7-11. I hope to see you there! Until then, as always my darlings, Peace, Love and Yarn!!