Happy October!

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October is my favorite month. I love this time of year… Cooler weather, sweaters, pumpkin everything….

Wait… I live in the South now.

It’s not much cooler here, yet, but every so often you get a little hint of it in the breeze. I admit, I’m really looking forward to finding out what fall is like down here. Meanwhile, I’ve purchased lighter-weight sweaters and can still get pumpkin anything.

Anyway, it’s the 1st of October, and you know what that means: DECORATING!

My mom and I did a little decorating last night for autumn/Halloween.

Mom gave me battery-operated tea lights to put inside my cute cat and ghost tea light holders. I love them and feel safe knowing I’m not going to catch the fake leaves on fire, LOL!

She also had the idea of finding an autumnal garland of some kind to put on either the buffet or the mantle. I decided on one that looked like autumn leaves. We then twisted some colored lights through it (they’re green/purple/orange), placed a cute “Eek!” sign, and hung a Halloween-themed paper garland over the mirror.

The Halloween-themed cross-stitch was completed by me back in the early 2000s, and I believe was the very last cross-stitch I did. (I may be misremembering the exact date, but if you read my last post about not being able to see to cross-stitch for many years, that’s what I’m referring to.)

When I pulled out my box of decorations to get started yesterday, I was disappointed to learn the glass in that cross-stitch piece had shattered in the move. Thankfully, I was able to whisk it away to the local craft store, and their framers could repair it while I waited.

Halloween decorating would not be complete without cute knits hanging all over the place. Here are two of my favorites:

The tiny painting by Skylar Blue is entitled “Vintage Halloween” and was purchased at the Riverview Cafe in Plymouth, NC.
Bat pattern by Anna Hrachovec/Mochimochi Land.
I can’t find the designer/pattern on Ravelry. If I find it, I’ll update!

So that’s what I’ve done so far. I’m not sure if I’ll do more, but I’m really happy with it all so far.

Are you going to decorate for Halloween or autumn? Let me know in the comments!

Enjoy the month of October!

Rekindling a Love of Cross-Stitch

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Wow. . . As we head into the 4th quarter of 2021, I’m sitting here wondering where the year has gone. It’s been a crazy year for us, and I feel like I haven’t had a lot of time for crafting, not because of the pandemic, but because my husband and I had a HUGE life change: we moved South.

From the odd weather patterns of Pittsburgh (hot and cold in the same day) to the much warmer (and more humid) South, we are now officially North Carolinians, having bought and moved to a home in a small coastal town known for its fried seafood, golf, and beaches.

We have started to settle in, though, and are enjoying evening walks, meeting neighbors, and getting to know our new area. We are now living near my family, too, which is nice.

But with the move came something unexpected—a rekindled love of a craft I’d put down for a long time. . . cross-stitching!

Back in my twenties I was an avid cross-stitcher, picking up needle and thread any time I wasn’t out clubbing with my friends or working. (Like you do in your twenties, right?)

As I started to age, however, my near vision got worse, and I had a hard time enjoying the craft. My eye doctor didn’t really see the need for close vision help until I’d hit my mid forties. . . by which time I’d forgotten all about my old, favorite hobby. After several years not stitching, I had sold, donated, or given away almost all of my old supplies.

Several weeks ago, I saw some cute patterns online and realized: now I have progressives. I CAN SEE! So I bought them and got to work. 🙂

Here’s a “just finished” pic of the cutest Loch Ness Monster you ever did see. I haven’t even ironed and framed her, yet:

I really love those cute flipper-doos—don’t you?

You can find the pattern for this and other cute cryptids on Etsy. If you decide to make one of them, let me know!

Fun DIY reading tracker

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So at the begining of the year, I pulled out my journal and finished the reading tracker I’d started earlier in the year:

Photo (c) Beth Wojiski. Drawing my own.

I was surprised to see I’d read 75 books! Some of them were shorter, but I also feel like I forgot to include a few. I did not include any of the books for which I was the editor.

The reason I was surprised was I’m pretty busy. I work full time as an in-house editor for a consulting and training company. I also edit and proofread on a freelance basis many nights and/or weekends (I severely reduced my project intake once I started working full time, but I still work at least 3 nights and 1 weekend day per week, most weeks.)

I also made approximately 25 doilies and 5 rosaries (both being Christmas gifts either given or commissioned to make based on posts I’ve made), plus I finished some other crochet projects.

So how on Earth did I read 75 books???? I guess that Kindle Unlimited subscription really made it easy. I did find I’d power through a series if I really liked it! And I do sometimes use audiobooks while I’m crafting, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I can also craft and read eBooks at the same time. Just prop the device in front of me and turn pages with a tap in between stitches.

Making this cute bookcase was really easy. I found I wanted to draw the “books” as I went so there’d be enough room for me to write the title.

I used a ruler to do the bookcase lines but otherwise did the books freehand. I penciled in the title names until I was happy with how it looked, then went over it in permanent ink. (I like this ultra-fine-tip Sharpie, but be careful using one on thinner paper or it may bleed through.)

Then it was a matter of coloring in the book spines lightly in colored pencil so the titles would show through. I know it’s not fine art, but it was a great outlet for some creativity.

I’m really loving tracking my reading and will be doing it again this year. Do you do anything similar? Drop a comment below!

Boxing Day Reflections

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I hope everyone is safe and sound and enjoying a cozy winter. Today is Boxing Day, or in the States, simply the day after Christmas, and I’ve been sitting here wrapped up in a cozy afghan and reflecting on the holiday and the year.

It’s been a challenging year for everyone, I’m sure, myself included, but we’re almost into 2021 with hope in sight since the release of two vaccines to fight COVID-19.

Because of the pandemic, we couldn’t travel to see family as we normally would have done, so instead, we made the best of it at home here in snowy Pittsburgh. I’m actually grateful that we had a white Christmas this year, with Christmas Eve bringing a few inches of ice and snow and making things look pretty for a while, at least until they got salted and slushed up by snow plows.

I’m grateful for snow plows, too, by the way.

Since I’ve been working like crazy this year, I took off some time around the holidays, and my husband has off the week between Christmas and New Year, so we have been getting some much needed relaxation. I haven’t been crafting quite as much as I usually do, due to some end-of-year projects I had to complete, but now that I’m on a break, I’ve been taking a breather and doing some things I don’t always do. Namely: coloring, cooking, and baking. I also did finally start a crochet project for myself, but I’ll save that for another post.

For coloring, I have a few coloring books I’ve had set aside for a while, and I found my colored pencils and markers, too. But there’s another way I like to color that may sound a bit unconventional: an app I used to use a long time ago and just reacquainted myself with called Happy Color. And it’s so fun! It’s totally free and there are a lot of designs to choose from. Better yet, if you follow their Facebook page, they often have free bonus pics as well. I use the ad-supported free version, but I believe there is a paid version to remove ads if you prefer. Here is a small sampling of what I’ve done the past few days:

Pictures: Happy Color. This collage (c) Beth Wojiski.

If you like coloring on an app, I highly recommend it!

For cooking and baking, my husband requested steak for Christmas dinner, so that’s what we did. He seasoned and cooked the steaks beautifully. I made a couple of tiny baked potatoes, and my neighbor gave us a plateful of her homemade pierogies. I also made a green bean casserole that was delicious!

I also made some Christmas cookies and a cake. My family usually bakes together around the holidays, so I decided there was no reason why I couldn’t do that by myself this year. I turned on the Christmas tunes in the kitchen and got to work making three types of cookies:

  • Snowballs — a nut, flour and sugar mixture that’s baked, then rolled in powdered sugar. I used walnuts in mine, but many people use pecans
  • Italian wedding cookies — a rolled dough that you let cool completely after baking, then ice with a glaze made from powdered sugar, a flavoring extract, and milk — I added a tiny bit of lemon extract to my icing, then decorated with nonpareils. You are supposed to flavor the dough with an extract, too; I used vanilla, but I also like anise or almond. I like to use vanilla in the cookie dough and something else in the icing, but you can experiment
  • Peanut butter blossom cookies — a traditional peanut butter cookie rolled in granulated sugar before baking, and then when you take them out of the oven, you immediately plop a Hershey’s kiss into the center and let them cool thoroughly so the cookie hardens and holds the kiss in

I delivered bags of cookies to some of my neighbors, which was fun. They’re almost always feeding or gifting us something (see above about a plateful of pierogis), so I wanted to return the kindness they’ve shown us. Bonus is that while my husband and I got to eat some cookies, we didn’t have an over abundance of them because I gave away a bunch.

And finally, I baked a box mix cake for our Christmas dessert. Nothing fancy, but it was fun icing and decorating it. Here are some photos of the baking:

2020 baking frenzy (c) Beth Wojiski.

And there you have it! I had a lot of fun doing these things I don’t normally do. It’s been a wonderful holiday, sadness about pandemic restrictions aside!

More later about some holiday crafting I did. The super-secret project I referred to in a past post has been delivered, so I can finally reveal what it was.

Stay warm and safe out there!

Halloween 2020: Old Socks & New Ways of Trick or Treating

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I knit these socks years ago and just dug them out for the first time this year. It’s cold and rainy out, and they may be a little worn, but they’re soft, cozy, and warm!

It’s been a long time, and unfortunately I don’t have a record of this in my Ravelry projects, but I am pretty sure this is a basic toe-up recipe from Wendy Johnson’s book, Socks from the Toe Up.

I love this book! I used to be a very hesitant sock knitter, especially for toe-up patterns, but this book really unlocked it for me. I actually prefer going from the toe up now instead of from the cuff down.

I wasn’t too good at finishing a cuff back then; you can see where I made a tiny mistake with that, but I was so proud of learning it and absolutely love wearing them. 😊

I’m also afraid I can’t remember which yarn I used! Apparently I didn’t track my stash in Rav at that time. It is a fingering weight self-striping yarn, and I believe it is from an indie dyer. If I figure it out, I’ll update the post. Whatever it is, it’s worn well despite heavy use and gentle machine washing. 👍🏻

Meanwhile, it’s Halloween night, and I have no idea what to expect in terms of trick or treaters. We live in a quiet neighborhood, but we still get between 20-30 kids most years. One year we had between 40-50.

But this is an unusual time, with a pandemic changing our Halloween customs. Instead of answering the door with a bowl of candy, I’ve set up a Halloween station on my front walk. I got some black organza bags (a friend of mine gave me the idea), put candy in them, and set them out. This will hopefully keep everyone safe by avoiding a lot of people touching the same bowl.

I’ve heard that schools are also doing “trunk or treat” in school parking lots, and my neighbors had some families over for a socially distanced, outdoor playdate. Kids are so resilient, so I hope they’re all having a great time despite the odd circumstances.

Meanwhile, my husband and I are kicking back, ordering a pizza, and watching some spooky movies tonight!

How are you celebrating? Whatever you end up doing, hope you all have a great Halloween and a great weekend! 🎃👻🦇

Changing Tides Blanket

Since I had put this blog down for a really long time, I’d like to spend some time in my next few posts catching up on finishes.

Today I’d like to feature a project I finished a few months ago, and it’s the blanket I referenced in my post about using your handiwork as a meditative practice. I made this for myself, and while I worked on it, I was very mindful of the thoughts going through my head. I made sure I was relaxed and happy while making it, and I envisioned myself all wrapped up in it, cozy, maybe reading a good book and drinking a cup of tea. I let my imagination guide my intentions.

Imaginging good things for other people as I work on something for them is not a super-new concept for me, but imaginging good things for myself as I worked on a piece was pretty new. It was eye-opening!

Pardon the messy sheet — the wind kicked up!

Anyway, here is my Changing Tides Blanket. It was designed by Eleonora of Coastal Crochet, and is a free CAL (crochet-a-long) pattern on her site, or you can pay for an ad-free pattern.

This is the largest, most complicated crochet piece I have done to date. I’d say the pattern is good for someone with intermediate (or perhaps adventurous beginner) crochet skills.

I should note it really wasn’t THAT hard to do, even though it may look complicated. The pattern was very well written and had excellent photos and tutorials to guide you, and there is a Facebook group for support. I feel like my crochet skills grew quite a bit in the completion of this piece.

What are your recent wins or finishes? Leave a comment and tell me!

Apparently Doilies Are “in” Again

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When I learned how to do a granny square all those years ago (and someday I’ll write my crochet origin story), I had no idea where crochet would take me. For instance, despite my early efforts with thread crochet resulting in my swearing and thread sailing across the room (those tiny hooks were soooo frustrating!), it is now my favorite medium. But how to best use this skill now that I’ve learned it?

I’ve always been a bit of an old soul, appreciating antiques and older decorative items that most modern homes would not feature.

Take doilies, for instance. When I was very little, I have a memory of my great-grandmother’s home having doilies on the armrests or headrests of upholstered chairs. I thought they were beautiful! I didn’t realize until later, though, that doilies served a function: they’d prevent wear and tear on the furniture while being pretty and decorative.

I’ve also seen doilies on credenzas under vases, on dressers under family photos, or on end tables under lamps. They’re so lacy, lightweight, and beautiful, and I admit I’ve fallen in love with them!

What I didn’t realize until recently was how much other people would appreciate them, too. I posted a finished doily with a small write-up elsewhere last year, and people were moved to ask me about them. I am now making doilies for other people!

Here is the doily that started all of that:

Poinsettia doily designed by Gemma Owen and made by me

I was at an LYS (local yarn store) one day last year and sitting around the table with other fiber crafters, crocheting a baby blanket. The woman next to me was making this doily. She shared the designer’s name and I immediately hopped over to the Internet and bought the pattern. (Which was tough to do, considering I had terrible cell signal in that store, LOL, but I was committed!)

I’m so chuffed doilies are making a comeback. We may no longer put them on our furniture to protect armrests and cushions from wear, but we can still use them decoratively. I used this one under an LED pillar candle at Christmastime last year, and it looked so pretty!

Thanks, friends, for appreciating and supporting my handiwork. You’ve made this old soul happy, and I’m always happy to share my love of crafting with you.

Cute Halloween Crochet

I saw that a friend of mine was making a cute spider granny square, so of course I needed to know the pattern info. Check out this adorable Granny Squares Halloween CAL (crochet-a-long) by Raffaella at Raffamusa Designs!

This CAL is totally free; all you need to do is sign up for the CAL email list. Raffaella will send you links to previous squares you missed and any upcoming squares as they are released.

I’m so glad my friend shared her site with me so I could get in on the cute Halloween crochet action! 🎃

Drop me a comment and let me know if you’re going to try it!

Crafting a Path to Peace: 5 Steps to Turn Your Hobby into a Meditative Art Form

Below is a rare crosspost from one of my other blogs, positively b.e.e. The reason I am crossposting is I think people who follow a crafts/DIY blog will get something out of the concept of using our crafts as a meditative practice. Enjoy! (And if you like what you see, consider subscribing to positively b.e.e.!)

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Happy Autumn! At the time I am drafting this post, fall has just ticked over from summer, and we are feeling that shift here in Pittsburgh. I am enjoying the cool mornings, warm and sunny afternoons, and crisp evenings, and I plan to enjoy every minute of it. 

Most people “hate” this change over from summer because they know winter is coming soon after, but I choose to live in the moment and take it for what it is: gorgeous weather. There will be time to complain about rain and snow soon enough. 🙂 

We all know that 2020 has been a you-know-what, am I right? There are so many lessons in this year. For this month’s post, I wanted to talk about how you can use hobbies to gain some peace. I’ve mentioned it before, both in writing and in talks I’ve given—indeed, I was supposed to give a workshop on this topic in Sedona this past spring, but that never happened—so let’s talk about it here instead!

As you may know from past posts, I’m really into prayer, meditation, and intuition work as a source of being true to myself, to always make decisions based on that truth, and to keep my blood pressure and stress hormone levels low. Paying attention to and developing these skills has brought me a great deal of peace in my life: reducing anxiety, helping me sleep better, and keeping me clear-minded. But it was only in the last several years that I realized I could apply these concepts to my crafting hobbies. 

You see, I used to be a stressy crafter. I used to craft as a means of escape, but would often find myself ruminating in the background. I had the wrong idea of what “escape” meant. My mind was so focused on what was bothering me that soon I’d find I was stabbing the fabric when I cross-stitched, tightening my tension too much in my knitting, or constantly breaking my singles while spinning yarn due to not paying attention to my drafting.

But now, I realize that “escape” is really transcendence, that I can craft my way to peace by being mindful about what I’m doing instead of ruminating. Keep reading… 

I’ve turned crafting into my own form of meditation. 

There are five steps you can take to start turning your hobby into a meditative practice and pass along all that good energy to others while you’re at it. Here are the 5 steps I take every time I sit down to work on a hobby: 

  1. Breathe and stretch — before picking up my piece, I take a good 5–10 deep breaths. I stretch my neck, my hands, roll my shoulders, and shake out any tension from the day.
  2. Focus — I focus on the craft I’m about to pick up. For example, if I’m going to crochet, then I put myself into “crochet mind” by envisioning myself using the hook to make something beautiful. 
  3. Set an intention — whoever the recipient is going to be (including myself), I imagine that person in my mind and set a nice wish for them. I picture them wearing it or using it or smiling upon opening it. I imagine them happy and at peace. I might think of a specific situation that I want to turn out well for them and say prayers for them. This is where intuition can step in and help, too: what is your intuition telling you about what the recipient needs? You can pick up on that and focus on something good for them based on that nudge.
  4. Work mindfully—once I’ve done steps 1–3, I pick up the piece and begin. As I work, I continue to engage my breathing. Deep breaths in and out; no shallow breathing. I also focus on keeping my tension even. If I start to tense up, or feel my shoulders start to rise, I take a second to regroup, breathe, and focus on even tension. I refocus on happy things for the person I’m working the piece for. Mindfulness is the name of the game in this step.
  5. Don’t ruminate! — energy transference is real, and I don’t want to infuse the piece with anything negative. If I find my mind chewing on problems, I stop, regroup, breathe, then continue working. I stay focused on the task at hand; not my problems, the world’s problems, or any other problems I could possibly dream up. If I start to ruminate, I might smile to myself to break the cycle, then…you guessed it: take a second to breathe, set my intention and envision happy things for the recipient again, and only then do I continue. If I can’t get this last part right, then I put the piece down. (More about that in the next section.)

Energy Transference and Crafting

Some people take their crafts to the next level by learning new skills. I take mine to the next level with energy and intention. Some folks don’t believe energy transference is real, but have you ever found yourself around someone really negative and not wanted to hang out with them any more? 
Your crafts (and any recipients, including yourself) are similarly affected.

Don’t put your bad mood into your work. Level yourself up by using intention and breath work. If you want to take your crafting into a safe space, where you can GET AWAY from your problems, not ruminate or stress out, taking steps 1–5 above are a great way to do that. I promise you it’s next-level stuff. You may even find you’re branching out in your actual skills as you engage with this new way of crafting. I can’t tell you what this has done for my own abilities!

This process has become so important to me, so ingrained into my lifestyle now, that if I’m in a bad mood, stressed out, etc., I absolutely WILL NOT pick up a craft until I shift my mindset. I will not put any negativity into that piece, especially since most of what I make now goes to other people. Why would I give them a gift that has anything negative attached to it?

Here are some scenarios you can consider, followed by suggested answers/intentions.

  • How would a new parent feel about that gorgeous baby blanket you made swaddling their precious newborn if they knew you were angsty and angry about politics while making it? (Put politics aside and imagine that newborn growing up happy, healthy, cute, and giggly as they have tummy time and learn to crawl on that beautiful blanket.)
  • How would your mom feel while wearing the gorgeous necklace you made for her birthday if she knew you were upset about something the entire time you made it? (Why are you upset? Identify and deal with it, then take steps 1–5 and work on the necklace for your mom without those bad feelings; imagine her smiling beautifully and feeling thrilled as she proudly wears your elegant creation.)
  • How would your child feel hugging the new stuffed animal you sewed for them if they knew you cried over it every night while you made it because that was the only time you had to yourself and could let out your tears? (It’s tough being a parent, and parents often hide their feelings while putting their kids first. Have your cry first, then take steps 1–5 and sew that stuffy with a clear mind while imagining your kiddo enjoying the heck out of their new toy.)
  • How would a cancer patient feel wearing the chemo cap you made for them if they knew it had all your work frustrations stuck in it? (Look, we all have work frustrations. Moan about it to a coworker or friend first to get it out of your system. Then set an intention for that cancer patient, that they will be warm and comforted by this hat and that they will regain full health; imagine them vibrant and happy and resuming activities they love to do.)

Do you see how using your imagination is a part of setting your intentions? 
By taking a few moments to center yourself, breathe, envision positive things, watch your tension levels, etc., you are helping both yourself and the recipient of your gift. 

This applies even if the item you’re making is for yourself. By having a mindful crafting practice, you are helping yourself doubly. I absolutely ADORE a blanket I made for myself and feel so comforted by it because I know I am wrapped up in not only soft and squishy yarn, but in the positive feelings and intent I set for myself while I made it. 

Take Breaks for Physical Health and Flow

Finally, in order to make sure you stay healthy physically along with all this awesome emotional work you’re doing, make sure you take some breaks. Don’t get a repetitive stress injury (RSI) by doing a craft or hobby for too long. On your breaks, drink water or herbal tea and stretch. Do a little bit of flow, like Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi gong, or walking around. Keep that healthy, deep breathing pattern going. When you resume the project, remember to keep your intention in mind and stay in that positive mindset as you work.
You can apply the concepts I use to any hobby, too, as far as I can tell. Imagine following a similar process whether you’re a knitter, crocheter, painter, jeweler, stamp collector, scrapbooker, woodworker, metalworker, sculptor…. The important thing is to breathe, flow, and set your intention to be a positive one. 

The bottom line is: hobby time is an opportunity to create a mindful and meditative state that positively affects both yourself and others.

Drop me a comment and tell me: 

  • Have you been crafting or hobbying during the pandemic? If so, what are you making or doing?
  • If not, do you think you might try it again using these techniques to “meditate”? 
  • Have you ever done anything like what I do?

I look forward to hearing from you! 

Oh, and if you want to follow my crafting projects, you can find them on my newly resurrected Crafting/DIY blog!

Be safe, be well, and take care. Till next time! 💛🐝

In Memory of Cat Bordhi

By the time this posts, it’ll be a couple of weeks after the event, but I wanted to gather my thoughts regarding the loss of an amazing human being, one who inspired the yarn community not only with her designs, but with her personality, demeanor, and, after she got sick, her resilience and attitude.

Cat Bordhi was one of the very first “famous” knitting designers I’d ever heard of. She was one of those names that I just kept seeing in various contexts, whether it was class announcements, appearances at yarn stores, or in the Ravelry forums.

I enjoyed reading Cat’s blog, and her designs are just so beautiful. I was a bit intimidated when I first saw her patterns—everything she’s designed just looks so elegant—but I needn’t have been. I have several of her patterns in my “to-do wishlist,” but I’m reminded that time can be short, so if I want to do them, I should.

Here are some of my favorite patterns of hers:

Anemone Hats

Hither & Yon socks

Feather & Foliage socks

Island Embrace Blanket

Lacey Moebius Cowl

When Cat announced she was dying, she did it with grace, dignity, and an acceptance that I hope I’d have if I were in a similar situation. Plus, she wrote beautifully. I really respected and admired her for her messages of hope to everyone in her final days, and was glad to hear she was able to be with her loved ones through it, especially given how COVID-19 has sometimes separated families from each other.

Although I never had the opportunity to meet her, I wish I had.

Cat Bordhi died on September 19, 2020. May she rest in peace and her memory live on through her work and writing. ❤