Category Archives: Crafts

All things about my obsession with learning, trying, buying all the equipment, and then generally not getting much further with a vast range of crafts.

Therapy from a season of reading

Feels like I haven’t been keeping up with things lately.

This blog, for one. Has it really been a half year since I posted last? And a year before that?

Crafting in general. I get an idea to try a new craft, buy all of the supplies I need for a project, and put them somewhere safe for when I’m ready to get around to it.

Homeschooling hasn’t been a choice, but I’m not doing all the extras we used to do, just the basic lessons.

I haven’t written anything for my novel since January. (Though the good news is that the full first draft is done and now I’m on edits. No wonder I’m avoiding it.)

In fact, it has felt a bit like my life is on pause. Or maybe fast-forward. Like I can’t accomplish anything, or I’m accomplishing the same thing over and over again and a year has gone by in the blink. Like I’m diminished to just getting work done and dealing with medical issues and that’s all I have the energy to really do well.

It seems that life comes in seasons.

Periods of time where you go through a particular arc of learning, being, trying, or resting — and that this is my waiting season.  Or, maybe more accurately, my reading season.

Lately, when I have a bit of downtime, I’ve found myself reaching for a book, or graphic novel. In the past few years, I’ve read around 180 books each year (friend me on Goodreads if you’d like to see what I’m enjoying). I’ve also been posting regularly to a book review blog with a couple of friends. (Feel free to check it out at

But the thing is, it’s okay to be in a season of waiting. And when you’re waiting, books are great company.

Though I read mostly fiction, the characters struggling through those stories are bringing me lessons at their own pace. I just finished a book that bludgeoned me with lessons about how you have to choose to live, and it’s not worth dwelling on regrets, and that we’re each full of a multitude of possibilities — the only mistake is not to try any of them.

The past few years have felt a bit like a limbo, but I can feel myself at the edge… almost ready to push through. I looked at the cross stitch I haven’t touched in over a year and thought about it. I opened my WIP doc for the novel I’m editing and thought about it. I pulled out my Kumihimo gear this morning, and thought about it.

Being at the edge like this, almost ready to jump but not quite, is a comfortable place to be. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay here.

Who knows what my next season will bring?

Happy living!

Photo of books by Suzy Hazelwood from StockSnap

Why you should read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is not a review. It’s more like a love letter, in multiple parts, arranged like a book report. By the end, you’ll know why you should immediately read Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book about creative living.

Why did I choose to spend my time on this book?

I. I have never read anything by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m super glad Eat.Pray.Love. was a success, but it didn’t speak to me so I didn’t read it.

II. I was drawn to Big Magic because of the title (who doesn’t love magic, and if it’s big so much the better!) as well as the description. An excerpt: “With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration.”

III. I always enjoy when an author records his or her own book, and this one was read by Elizabeth Gilbert herself.

IV. Full disclosure: I was looking for something pretty quick to listen to, and this one was only about four hours worth of listening time.

Why do I think you should spend your time on the book?

I. It was totally inspiring! Yes, some parts weren’t for me (e.g. I’ve never worried about “seeming” like a writer). But I found myself wanting to get back to creating even as I listened to her talk about creating.

II. Even if you’re not a writer, she talks about creative living in general, and her examples apply to just about anything you could want to try, from getting into a new sport (even if you thought sports were just for the young), to making something with your hands, to finally finishing that novel.

III. She is no-nonsense, and funny. From stories about her ice skating friend to her lobster-costume-wearing brother, the anecdotes made her points while making me smile.

IV. She is right. We each have some kind of creativity inside of us. Something that speaks to the soul. Something that wants to be recognized just for the sake of being recognized, no matter whether it “amounts to anything.” Also, her list of the fears we all face were spot on.

V. At no time did it feel like she was preaching at me. If anything, it felt like she was on the same journey, and trying to make sense of it while accidentally helping me make sense of it by sharing.

Thus, whether you are planning a creative endeavor, feel stuck on what you’re working on, or haven’t felt creatively charged for a long time, this is a pretty quick read, and if it inspires you as much as it did me you’ll find yourself back on track.

Thanks, Elizabeth Gilbert.

Happy Creating!

Photo of reading in a coffeeshop by Freely Photos on

Creative charge: Tree of life

Last weekend, I needed a break from writing. I love trying many different crafts, both because learning new skills is fun, and because it gives me a creative boost to create something beautiful. So I took a few hours to just let myself try something new.

I’d been seeing a variety of wire-wrapped pendants pop up on my Pinterest digest emails, and thought I might be able to make one (given a good tutorial). I ended up on YouTube, where I found this lovely, easy to follow video:

I had almost all of the needed supplies, but ended up making do with wrapping two 20-gauge wires together for the frame. All in all, I think it turned out pretty okay for a first attempt:

Plus, sometimes it’s nice to start and finish something in the same sitting. Now back to the never ending task of writing and editing my manuscript, though with a bit more creative juice flowing.

Happy crafting!

#StainedGlass window is finally done! #crafting #inspiration

This is it! The 6′ x 3′ window I’ve been working on since 2010 is finally done.


The pictures speak for themselves, so you can stop reading if you don’t want to know any more, but below I’ve put a few thoughts on the process.

IMG_1155 Finished piece waiting on the table in the garage.

Why did it take so long? Life gets in the way. Given the amount of time I have to work on this type of project, had I done it straight through (meaning, had I not gotten pregnant had a small baby, and taken a couple of years off of glass crafting because it takes time and concentration, both of which I didn’t have), I think it would have taken a couple of months. But it’s that much sweeter to see it hanging in our morning room knowing that it’s been waiting for me for a while now.

This has been my largest piece to date, and one that I did every step entirely on my own (other than installation; my wonderful husband and father did that for me) — all my own cutting, foiling, soldering, etc. Feels really good to have accomplished it!

IMG_1186 One of the boys working on installing the window.

A few lessons I learned along the way:

1) Making your own design is fun, and doesn’t have to be hard. I don’t think of myself as an artist, but I couldn’t find a design that quite did what I needed it to do (i.e. covering the strips that were already between the glass in the window this went in front of). Turns out, you don’t have to be a great artist to make your own design — just try it and see what you get. Plus, unless you go crazy on colors and textures, just about any glass looks nice together.

2) It’s always good to consult with professionals. The advice I got from the glass shop (Leaded Glass Design over in Cuyahoga Falls) was invaluable. For example, I did not know the value of an exact cardboard template until the people at the glass shop mentioned it. I actually ended up taking a “large panel” class there to make sure I did everything right, and it was very helpful.


Finished window, installed. Cardboard template is resting on the scaffolding below.

3) Don’t be afraid of the glass. I also got great advice from a professional installer (who ended up telling us we didn’t need to pay him to do it, but instead told us how to do it on our own). There’s so much fear when you’ve put this much effort into something. Mostly fear that it will break. The installer told us to be careful, take precaution, but he said that if you’re afraid of the glass you’re much more likely to drop it than if you lift and carry it as if you’re not afraid.

All in all, it’s been a great journey. Now I get to decide what my next glass project will be!

Happy Crafting!

#CherryBlossom #crossstitch

Just wanted to share. This is the cross stitch that I entered in the needlework show at the library (she’s about 14×16 on 18 count Aida fabric):


Here are some close-ups of the cool details, including cording and backstitching with complementary colors as well as gold thread in some places:


Her belt is also corded, and I had to learn how to do lazy daisies for her hair:


This is how she looks displayed on my wall with two smaller companion pieces I made to go with her:


Happy stitching!

You can do it too! #Kumihimo with #beads, #beading

Looking at some of the amazing beaded Kumihimo* projects in the book I have (see below for a link to it), I was initially a little bit nervous. But when I finally tried one, it turned out not to be so bad. Here’s what I made on my first try:


Here’s what I learned from it:

1) You can’t tell, but that’s two colors of beads (white and light green). Unfortunately, the mint-colored thread I used overpowered the white beads and they all ended up looking like the same color. I’ll use white cord if I’m using white beads next time.

2) I used a ton of cord to make sure I’d have enough and it ended up being way more than what I needed. There is a way to figure out how much cord and how many beads you need, which is shared in this book: Braiding with Beads 2 – Braiding Solutions on the Kumihimo Disk by Karen DeSousa.

I ended up capping the ends right near the beads and turning it into a bracelet. In any case, I’ll definitely try another beaded project as this one was fun and turned out looking beautiful. 🙂

Happy Kumihimo-ing!

*If you don’ t know what Kumihimo is, check out my post on the subject from a few weeks ago: What is Kumihimo?

Boosting the #brain with #zentangle? #doodles #writing

I recently heard (apparently late, because TONS of people already do this) about a technique to enhance creativity called Zentangle. According to their website:

“Almost anyone can use it to create beautiful images. It increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being. The Zentangle Method is enjoyed all over this world across a wide range of skills, interests and ages.”

It intrigued me. I’m definitely not someone who draws — in fact, when I “doodle” it’s mostly in words — so I thought this could be a good way to try to exercise a different part of my brain. In fact, some people said that they use it as a quick way to get the creative juices flowing before they do their writing.

The idea is that you take a small space, randomly separate it into smaller areas, then doodle those in, not worrying about making it perfect. I used the website and some YouTube tutorials to get the gist, and bought one book to get some pattern ideas:


Here’s my first tangle:  


I also tried to figure out a slightly more complicated pattern:


I thought that doing this for a few minutes before sitting down for a writing session might help me get focused, but haven’t tried that yet. I’ll report back once I do to let you know whether it helped me, but I’d love anyone’s opinion who has already tried it — did it work for you?

Happy tangling!

Any day now. Finishing my #StainedGlass #window

This is the 6ft x 3ft (see my husband standing behind it to get a sense of the scale) stained glass window that I designed to fit in front of a particular window in my house. I’ve been working on it for… what year was my son born? That’s right. I started more than three years ago.


It hasn’t taken so long because it was particularly tricky to make. It’s just hard to work on glass projects when you have a baby and a curious toddler in the house.

But the kids are getting older, and this is the year. (You hear me, Amy? We’re really doing it this year!) I’ve just got to finish the edging along the bottom, fit the two halves more permanently together, and install the darn thing.

Wish me luck!

Happy crafting.

GREAT site for #Kumihimo designs!

I recently stumbled on a site that allows you to create your own patterns for kumihimo round braids. The general site is With just a little bit of searching, I discovered a number of kumihimo patterns that others have created at

The patterns have anywhere up to 40 strands, but the braiding process for all of these patterns is exactly the same as for an 8-strand round braid (right down, left up, turn; right down, left up, turn; etc). I was able to quickly and easily make this flowered bracelet with a pattern I found:

Flower Bracelet

On the kumihimo page, there is a place to click that takes you to a page where you can make your own pattern:

kumihimo generator

It took me a little while playing around with it to figure out the most effective way to use it, but once I did it became very fun to try different patterns and see what would happen.

I found the easiest for me was to clear out the default pattern before I started creating:

Step 1) click in the “fill color” box and a color chart will pop up

Step 2) select the color “white” by dragging the little color indicator circle all the way to the top left corner, or by typing “ffffff”

Step 3) start clicking on the circles in the flowered pattern until everything is white

Now you’ve got a blank canvas to start designing!

My first pattern looked like this:

original yylb

I had already determined that trying to make do with a 32-space disc for more than about 16 strands wasn’t going to work. Luckily the site has a “wheel designer” section ( where you can tell it how many strands your braid requires and how big you want your wheel diameter to be, and it creates a template that looks like this (I’ve made this smaller for the purposes of the post; the actual template will be the actual size you asked for in terms of diameter):

wheel designer

I then proceeded to make a cardboard template because that was a relatively stiff material that I had handy.

Cardboard template

I don’t recommend this. Though stiff, it was not as stiff as the foam disc I usually use, and thus the strands wouldn’t stay as taut as I wanted them to. That made it very frustrating to use, and the braid came out lumpy.

finished yylb braid

The lumpy braid was only one reason I ended up ditching the pattern. The other, as you see, was that with so many strands, and given that the pattern wraps around, in bracelet form it didn’t end up looking like yin yangs as much as it had done on paper.

I still haven’t figured out the disc problem for making patterns with more strands, but if I do I’ll be sure to share. Or if anyone else has done this and has suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

A few hints about using the website:

1)   If you don’t create a user name you can’t save your patterns. I didn’t want yet another log-in, so I worked around this by just taking a screenshot of my pattern and saving it to my desktop.

2)   There are tons of great patterns that others have made, but it’s hard to search through them. I suggest, if you’re looking for something particular, to use the filter function on the left side of the patterns page to help weed through what you don’t want.

3)   The pattern maker was frustrating at first, but can really be fun once you figure it out. Play around with it for a while and you’ll see.

Happy kumihimo-ing!

What is #Kumihimo?

A couple of years ago, I found out about a really cool method for making braids that can be used for jewelry, pet accessories (collars, leashes, etc), belts, cording (to use as trim, etc), and more.

It’s called Kumihimo. It’s based on ancient Asian braiding techniques that generally use a large, wooden loom (called a maru dai) that looks something like this:


Nowadays, there are small foam discs available that can be used as mini handheld looms. They’re usually round our square, but my favorite one that I’ve ever used is called the KumiLoom (available from Primitive Originals) and looks like this:


The coolest thing about the resurgence of the interest in Kumihimo is that there are now tons of supplies available (check out Amazon,, Primitive Originals, or just about any other craft store or site) so you don’t have to go searching for specialty sites (though there are lots of neat finds available on some of the specialty sites).

I started with the beginner’s kit from Primitive Originals, which got me the disc, some bobbins, and enough supplies to make my first project, plus a book that gave me the basics on how to do it. It’s a satisfying craft because you can make a simple bracelet in a single night while watching a movie, or you can create much more complicated patterns when you add beads or embellishments, or start braiding with wire.

Some of my favorite Kumihimo books (I’ve purchased all of these through Amazon):

A Complete Guide To Kumihimo On A Braiding Loom: Round, Flat, Square, Hollow, And Beaded Braids And Necklaces
by Kathy King James
–This is a great starter guide with instructions for all of the basic braids. I consult it almost every time I start a project. WELL WORTH the price!

Kumihimo Wire Jewelry: Essential Techniques and 20 Jewelry Projects for the Japanese Art of Braiding
by Giovanna Imperia
–There are some AMAZING projects in here. I haven’t gotten the wire technique down quite yet, but have even used floss for some of these and they still come out beautifully.

Braiding with Beads 2 – Braiding Solutions on the Kumihimo Disk
by Karen DeSousa
–I wanted to get some bead advice, so I picked up this book. This author has a lot of great advice, particularly see the section at the beginning on how to measure how much supplies (floss and beads) you’ll need to complete a project. The booklet was a little bit slimmer than the other books I’ve purchased even though it cost just as much so I don’t know if I’ll buy another one by this author, but it’s got some unique ideas and so it’s definitely worth it to have this one.

Any other suggestions for Kumihimo books or resources you really love?

Happy Kumihimo-ing!