End of Winter

January was a glorious month of storms, fog, and frost. These days we still cozy up in socks and sweaters at night, but by mid-afternoon the windows are open for gentle breezes and warm sunshine. Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted another six weeks of winter, but here in Southern California we’re well into spring and halfway through autumn. (Half the trees in town are still dropping bright orange and yellow leaves, while the other half are covered in poofy white blossoms. No one knows what’s going on, and that’s totally normal.)

Into the New Year we’ve been busy with deadlines, designing, sketching, stitching, planning – all the things that go into new patterns. And we’ve even had a blissful spell of introversion – few social obligations, lots of quiet time to work, read, stitch, crochet, tinker, potter, and just regenerate our creative energies. After the bustle and madness of the Holidays, it’s a blessing to be able to sort one’s self out this way. (A quiet January with a cup of tea is the true holiday…)

I’ve been stitching one of our latest designs, Somebunny Loves You, and having a really lovely time. This happy bunny always brings a smile to my face. I’ve got plans to stitch up his cheery Happy-Go-Duckie friend, as well.

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On the crochet front, I’ve been having a wonderful time hooking hexagons. I’ve always been enamored of crochet hexagons, and this sweet granny hex pattern is my favorite. It’s quick and simple and fun. It’s delightful in multi-color, but I’m really loving solids right now, and wondering about pretty ways to bring them together.

I fiddled about with joining techniques; Whipstitch has been a favorite of mine in the past, but I wanted to give the single crochet join a go. Turns out, I’m not fond of it. It’s pretty, and the ridge creates a lovely texture to the fabric, but sadly, the process just wasn’t fun for me. It’s a bit tedious, actually. (And not in that fun challenge sort of way.)

Enter, join-as-you-go. (Why had I not tried JAYG yet?!) It took a few tries before my fingers got the hang of it (because it’s always about establishing muscle memory, isn’t it?) Once things got going, it was love. JAYG is fast, fun, utterly darling, and efficient. After hooking up 200 squares/hexies/whatever, you’re not suddenly left with the monumental task of piecing them all together, (although some of you may actually enjoy that – you lucky ducks!) Bringing everything together as you go is just my thing. A quick internet search of ‘join as you go crochet’ will open up a world of tips and techniques, if you’re so inclined.

Below is one of my latest projects: An afghan inspired by and named for Coney Island. I wanted all the bright and vivid colors of a seaside carnival, mingling with pale and salty sea air. It’s growing rather quickly, though my crochet time is split between it and another afghan project. (More on both later.)

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We’re delighted our first set of designs for Cross Stitch Crazy magazine came out recently. The designer’s life is rather funny – working on seasonal projects six months in advance is a curiosity at first, but thoroughly enjoyable once you embrace it. You’re always so far ahead of the season, you never feel rushed or hurried. And best of all, you’re always early.

It’s back to work for me. (Or maybe I’ll have a cup of coffee and some stitchery first. Yes, I think so.) We hope the days are treating you kindly. Otherwise, do remember to treat yourself kindly. Do a bit of what you love, whenever you can. It works wonders.


It’s almost Christmas. Where did the time go? And isn’t it always so swift?

There’s been so much going on here, and yet, we’ve managed to carve out moments of peace and relaxation. It’s a nice thing to deliberately slow down. And why not during the holidays, when everything begs to be admired and enjoyed? Lately, I’ve been curling up on the floor in front of our little Christmas tree. Turns out, looking up into a twinkly tree, with sparkling ornaments, is every bit as magical when you’re an adult as when you were a child. If you have a chance, do give it a try. (Maybe with a cup of hot cocoa in hand? Or a soft kitty to hold in your lap. But not both.)

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So this has been happening. Wintry, stitchy magic. I love the gently unfolding story of cross stitch samplers. The trotting palomino is my absolute favorite. These days I stitch with the sun in my eyes. It comes through the dining room window at a sharp angle, over the neighbor’s rooftop and across the garden wall, as it always does this time of year.

Winter arrived rather suddenly on Wednesday afternoon. The sky darkened – something it hadn’t done in ages – and burst open in a torrent of wind and rain. Bright orange and yellow leaves blew across the road, trees bent forward, rain lashed against the windows. It was brilliant. Normally our first storm arrives around October 31st. For a while there we felt we’d lost winter: The sun shone perennially, the weather was fair, flowers were blooming, and everything was decidedly springish. Now that the cold has truly arrived, there’s a bit of hope for a good solid winter – the kind that keeps us bundled up in soft throws and hand-knit mufflers. (And the kind that has me dreaming of cozy sleigh-rides through frosted woodland…)

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I’ve got my 2018 reading list off to a happy start. Happy is the operative word here. I want sweet and thoughtful stories, with perhaps touches of melancholy, and overall life-affirming. Goodness knows I get enough local, national, and international news, painting an all-too vivid image of what’s wrong with our world. But what’s right with the world is every bit as valid and important, and it’s good to focus on that. It’s also good to remember that all the small, kind, joyful, thoughtful, pretty, everyday things we do and create – they add up. Like a field of flowers. Or stars in a dark sky.

I discovered Jenny Colgan’s Little Beach Street Bakery series quite by accident. And thank goodness for that, because they look absolutely delightful, and I can’t wait to jump right in come January. (Throughout December I’m reading Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, and re-reading my all-time favorite, Susan Branch’s Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.)

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The zinnias we sowed last spring are still blooming. They’re growing quite wild, actually. (The cold hasn’t frightened them much, but once the frost arrives…) I stopped tending to them months ago, as life and work got rather busy. I’m not making excuses though, as I love a wild-looking garden. Ages ago, when I first started gardening, I made sure to pinch, pluck, trim, and prune. And everything was neat and pretty. Then I discovered the ruffled, tousled look of the cottage garden, fell madly in love, and decided to be more hands-off. Aside from occasional pruning and deadheading, we just sort of let things be, and enjoy the unfolding story of plants doing what plants do.

It’s a wee bit early, but I’m already planning our spring garden. It’s hard not to think about it, actually. We’ve decided to return to our well-loved container garden. We’ve grown so many wonderful things in containers, and it’s always been the most efficient form of gardening for our environment. Much more on all of that later.

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Does anyone else look forward to seasonal Dum Dum flavors? Apple Cider is a winner. Also, I’m pretty sure Sugar Cookie is actually Butterscotch. That’s too bad, because a sweet vanilla flavor would’ve been nice.

I’ve bought a lovely new planner by Katie Daisy. It’s filled with her colorful artwork, inspirational quotes, and plenty of space to write daily notes, lists, plans, whatever. I make sure to take some notes each day: what I’ve done, what I have to do, etc. I have a tendency to want to do all the things. A planner reigns that in a bit. It’s good for me.

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Then there’s Fluffo. She’s a bit bossy, but terribly cute. And I love how she sits like a furry tank.

And my favorite Christmas book from when I was a child – The Care Bear Cousins and the Snowy Christmas. The pages are yellowed, but still colorful and full of magic. (It’s been hanging around my bookshelf for over 30 years. Goodness.)

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I’m still working on my Rock Candy muffler. (Isn’t “muffler” so much cozier than “scarf”? I love it.) I’ll share more of that in the next post. In the meantime, I bumped into an issue of Mollie Makes which featured this beautiful Folk Circle Pot Holder by Emma Lamb. So I worked it up in two evenings. The colors were inspired by the cheerful jar of candy canes – Christmassy, but also perfect for next summer, (though I imagine I’ll have made about twenty of these by then.) Oh, and I should note that I skipped the whole ‘pot holder’ part of things, as I was mainly looking for a pretty granny circle doily for around the house. It worked out splendidly.

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There’s a lot more going on, but I think I’ll pause for now and wish you a very Merry Christmas. We hope that wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, you’re well and happy. Remember to take good care of yourself, every bit as much as you care for others. (I know that sounds a bit backward for this time of year, but I find that if we are kind and loving with ourselves, we have so much more love and kindness to give to others.)

For me, this Christmas is about reflecting on all the wonderful gifts we already have. Like my darling 13 year-old niece reminded me, sometimes when we see something too often, we don’t notice it anymore. I’m all for changing that. Let’s count the blessings, one by one.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays.

Sosae (& Dennis)

A Case of the Jollies

While I do make it a point to eat a lot of candy in December, I should note that December is not all candy. In between the pre-requisite holiday automobile troubles, and the myriad other things that make a day go right sour, I find myself invariably returning to craft-as-therapy.

Stitching is very much a part of my work as a designer. But when the designing’s done, and my creative energies are spent, I still stitch. (Or crochet, or sew, or knit…) It helps me relax, it helps me unwind, it helps me reduce stress. Most of the time I’m only conscious of the fact that I craft for pleasure. But it’s so much more than that.

Last week I had a rather sticky situation involving our car and its now time-worn tendency of stranding me by the roadside. There are much bigger problems going on in our precious world right now, but being human, I got a little upset. And a little angry. And a little stressed-out. But there was one big difference between this incident and the ones before it when I got stranded: This time I had my craft bag with me. It’s a pretty Cath Kidston thing, covered with tiny flowers, filled with yarn for my latest crochet project. Instead of falling deeper into frustration, I picked up my hook and crocheted. At first my fingers were tight and twitchy, but after a few minutes, I noticed my blood pressure lowering. A few minutes later I noticed I wasn’t angry anymore. After twenty minutes of crocheting, I actually started laughing. The whole thing looked ridiculous to me. Silly me, stupid car. Oh, is the tow-guy here already? Dang, I wanted to get one more square done…

So, lesson learned.

I, Sosae, will not leave this house without my craft bag, heretofore referred to as my Case of [the] Jollies or Therapy-to-Go Kit. And in this kit I will include the following:

– tools for current crafting medium (yarn & hook, embroidery thread/hoop/needle, knitting needles, patterns, drawing pad & pens, etc.)

– a favorite inspirational magazine or book

– a journal or notepad (because it’s good to write down your thoughts)

– some sweet treats or snack bars (because low blood-sugar happens)

Years ago I made it a point to take my craft bag along with me, always. Then life happened and I forgot to do this. The difference has been noticeable: Whenever I’ve had my “case of jollies” with me, I’ve felt empowered in the face of stress. I’ve handled unexpected problems much more calmly. I think a part of it is just knowing that I have my favorite meditation with me – my tried and true way of finding inner calm. That’s peace of mind right there. And when I’ve actually needed to dive in and stitch or crochet (or knit or draw or whatever,) I’ve immediately felt better. Maybe a ‘Therapy-to-go Kit’ might work for you, too. Or if you’ve got your own crafty way of dealing with stress, I’d love to hear it…

Oh, and just to note: Here’s the beginning of my latest crochet project. It’s a simple scarf, made up of solid granny squares, joined together with a complimentary solid. It’s vibrant, bold, and the perfect antidote to the drab hues of winter. I call it the Rock Candy Scarf. Much more on that later.

Hope you’re doing well this December. Dennis and the kitty cats say hello!

‘Till next time…

Hello, December

It’s wonderful to see December again. It still feels a lot like autumn, though. Trees are covered in gold and red leaves, and the days require a light cardigan. But the nights hint of winter. And winters are cold, foggy, and covered with frost. And somewhere in there I’ll get to wear my knit scarves and mittens, so that’s something. Dennis reminds me that once winter arrives, I’ll resume my annual Winter Lamentation, (something about frozen toes and too many bothersome layers of things.) But as of now, I’m still blissfully unaware of what I’ve forgotten, and perfectly pleased to indulge my wintry daydreams.

I’ve made a bit of progress on my crochet table runner, and I must say, every moment of it is lovely. It’s so sweet and simple and the perfect way to relax after a busy day. To note, I’m working with my two favorite yarns: Knitpicks Brava Worsted and Paintbox Aran. (Paintbox Aran is a touch thicker, but they work up well together with a 4.5mm hook.) These yarns are so divinely soft, snuggly, and buttery-smooth to work with, that this former fancy-wools-only snob is completely sold. Wool still has its place (because adorable sheep!) but quality acrylic is pure yarn-confectionery delight. (Did I mention the intense colors? Heaven.)

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Coolba – our sweet, snowy, indoor-only boy cat – has resumed his wintry tendencies. Early in the morning, when the house is still dark and cold, he climbs out of his bed (an oversized, padded shoebox – fancy, I know,) and nestles beside me, under my chin. I pull the blankets up, wrap my arms around him, and like a big warm teddy bear, I hug him ’till wakeup. Because of his size, he takes up a full 1/4 of the bed. You can imagine how this cramps things. But he is our little prince, and I do so love to snuggle with that poofy, soft, furry, purry boy.

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There’s all sorts of decorating going on around here, thanks to the winter holidays. I’ve brought out the bare birch tree and placed it in a corner of the living room. It’s decorated with rustic silver and gold mercury glass baubles, and shiny brass stars. We call it our New Year’s tree. And then there’s the Christmas tree: a darling little faux pine we bought years ago from Pottery Barn. It’s decorated with red and green mercury glass baubles, wooden cottages, golden pinecones, and our Woodland Fox, Owl, and Hedgehog softies. (I must say, the critters feel right at home in this twinkly, woodsy wonderland.)

At nights, I love to brew a hot cup of tea and curl up on the couch with Nigel Slater’s latest, The Christmas Chronicles. Once in a while I’ll look up, admire our little tree and the sparkling decorations, and enjoy the tranquil loveliness of it all.

And then there’s the canal boat. This is one of our favorite little treasures, shipped from the Sylvanian Families shop in London, brought out for the festive season. We can’t resist a bit of English charm. Nor can I resist a lovely new magazine to pour over and admire. I recently discovered Daphne’s Diary – a beautiful, colorful, artistic, cottage-chic feast for the eyes. It’s published in the UK, but you can find it at all fine booksellers here in the States. Along with my usual crafting favorites, it’s become something I truly look forward to. Inspiration is so important to the creative mind (and I would say, to every mind.) So I make it a point to pause during the work day, and allow myself the time to enjoy the art of others. Whether it’s a new favorite magazine, book, or blog, it’s always inspiring, and good for the spirit.

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In between reading and crochet, I’ve been my usual stitchy self. Have I mentioned how much I love festive stitching? I think I have… Dennis thinks it’s cute how I always love our latest design the most. Isn’t that just how it always is? So naturally, Jingle All the Way has all my attention at this moment. It’s just the cheeriest thing. Small samplers are thoroughly enjoyable. We have plans for many more seasonal samplers like this one – relatively quick-stitches with gobs of charm. (I love gobs of charm.)

We hope you’re enjoying this first week of December, wherever you are, whatever the season in your part of the world. ‘Till next time!

Yarn in Autumn

November is a beautiful month in Southern California. The days are warm, crisp, and blue, with the occasional passing cloud. Leaves are turning all sorts of wild colors, falling wistfully to the ground. By Thanksgiving, the skies will sometimes turn gray and dark, and the nights grow cold. Winter peeks in over the garden wall, promising frost and a peaceful slumber to all the green things. Sometimes I wish I could hibernate in the winter, too. After a long and busy year, the shortened days are a reminder to turn inwards awhile, and tend to the spirit landscape. I try not to fight my body’s natural tendency towards slowing down, resting more, and being still.

In other news…I had to share with you this utterly magical thing that happened: we’re in Mollie Makes! (See the kawaii cuties poking out from the corner of the cover???) This was such a delightful project to work on, and it’s amazing to see our darlings in the pages of one of our most favorite magazines.

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This is the time of year my thoughts turn to yarn. Needlework is my forever love, but on the first frosty wind comes a yarnie passion I can’t resist. My mind races and tries to sort through all the possibilities: stripey knit fingerless gloves, crochet mittens, knit hats, colorblock crochet scarves, shawls, tree skirts, table runners, coasters… In other words, all the beautiful things. I couldn’t decide on my knitting needles or crochet hook, wool, cotton, or acrylic, something for the house or something to wear… So I played with yarn for a bit to see if any colors spoke to me. Then I started a crochet linen stitch square for a possible scarf project. Nothing was clicking.

One day, quite by accident, I discovered this beautiful blog. I think I heard bells then, or birdsong – it was lovely. So I chose a few of my favorite Christmassy colors and got started on the ‘Granny Square Table Runner.’ I’m hoping to get this lovely project done in the next week. (And I foresee one of these for every holiday!)

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November is like a second spring in the garden. All the plants that withered in the scorching summer sun have been revived. The tomato vines are flowering, nasturtiums are popping up everywhere, and the rosemary is covered in purple blooms. In a few short weeks the frost will come and put an end to the green things, but it’s lovely to see a green revival in the meantime.

Cuddles the Garden Cat has put on his winter coat – a perfectly poofy strawberry blond he is, sunning himself on the cinder block wall behind the flower bed.

And the zinnias. Love of my garden life. They’re still blooming away – the hot pinks and reds more ferocious than ever, the whites more stark, the yellows richer, and my heart fuller than ever.

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Ahh…needlework. Happy, soothing needlework. Without it, I would be one very grumpy frumpy girl. (Because why bother getting up in the morning?) I’m making progress on my ‘Jolly Reindeer’ cross stitch. He’s such a sweet thing, and I can’t wait to stitch up his eyes, mouth, and nose. I just need that jolly retro smile of his.

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We hope you’re enjoying these last few weeks of autumn, before winter sets in. If you’re in the States, we wish you a warm and happy Thanksgiving!

‘Till next time!