Fiber & Cats

When looking through my digitized slides and photographs the other day, I came across a bunch of silly cat pictures… If you have cat/s, you know that they love fiber and must be in the center of it all, supervising or testing. For you cat lovers, here are some of our kitties over the years including a bit of history of my life creating textiles…

These are the kittens we called Big Boy, Little Boy and Caraway. We brought their mother, who was hugely pregnant, in from our apartment complex parking lot and she had these 3 before we’d even decided what to do! (Kept Caraway, and gave away the other three.) This is vintage 1970’s fiber, showing a latch hooked rug of my own design as well as a wool coiled basket. The basket was appropriated by Sassafrass (below) and never was completed.

Three kittens

And here is the very naughty Sassafrass, who was the first kitten we adopted who survived, sleeping on some wool shawls that were just off the loom. She was the Queen Bee for 19 years! She took it upon herself to nip every kitten we got after her in the ear – a sort of a I-guess-I’ll-let-you-stay marking.

Sassafrass on a shawl

We’ve had many cats who like to sit on the loom on whatever piece is in progress. This is Caraway on my first set of looper rugs. She was always a tiny girl because her mother was so malnourished.

Caraway & looper rug

Basil was one of our dearest cats. He was a stray who wandered to our back door one cold November night and was one of the most affectionate cuddlers we’ve ever had. He is napping on a Peter Collingswood double corduroy rug in progress. Yow – whatever was I thinking??? It was a gorgeous rug but how was I planning to keep it clean with four cats? I made it to replace the latch hooked rug and it only lasted a few years until it was just too catty. (That dragging the rug on new fallen snow business didn’t work for cleaning this rug.)

Basil on double corduroy rug

Widget is sitting on the diningroom table in Shanghai, China (a poor scan of a poor photo!). On the wall behind her is one of my entirely hand-made quilts. The pattern is called nosegay and is a favorite of mine. The plain colors were dyed to match the printed fabrics, which you cannot see. The shiny bits are buttons. Widget was a wonderful cat and was good company for me (along with Schminky) when we lived in Asia. She lived in three counties and three states and spent 17 years with us.


Jasmine just likes to be in the middle of whatever project I am working on.

Jasmine quilting

Gizmo is  more of an equipment and procedure guy. He likes to get in things and sleep in them. This is a rug hooking frame!

Gizmo framed!

He also likes to make sure that I get my dyeing recipes done correctly and clean up well after I’m done.

Gizmo dyeing

This last picture has nothing to do with fiber, but I had to include it. This is Kascha, our only dog, sleeping with Schminky, her best friend. Schminky grew up with Kascha and we were fairly sure that she thought she was a dog. Kascha would run after the frisbee and Schminky would run after her and they would end up in a flying heap as Kascha tripped over her. Most nights they slept together. It was a sad day for Schminky and Peter and I when we had to give Kascha up before we moved to Asia. Schminky was never quite the same.


I know many of you have animal helpers and couldn’t manage without their aid. I hope you’ll add a comment or link to your post of animals and fiber in your life.

Making Pasta

This is not what I wanted to do today……I have such a big to-do list going. But I made pasta. I’m planning ahead for relatives who are coming on the 26th and don’t eat turkey leftovers {sigh}. I thought of Italian pasta entrees as they freeze well and manicotti sounded good. I breezed down the  pasta aisle yesterday and remembered why I always make sheets of pasta to roll around the manicotti filling…..commercial manicotti shells are thick and hard to boil and then tear when you fill them with the cheese-y goodness.

Many, many years ago, Peter and I took some Italian cooking lessons at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education in MA, a truly wonderful place. I’m delighted to see is still around. It was the first time we ate fresh pasta and good ricotta and amazing Parmigana Reggiano and that workshop with a woman named Anna was the beginning of us becoming foodies. If you’ve never made pasta before, I thought you might be interested to see how easy it is. It does take time and some patience, but the pasta is beyond delicious.

No recipe is needed and I use two ingredients, eggs and flour. You can add salt and extra virgin olive oil, but it’s not necessary. The traditional way of mixing the two ingredients is mounding sifted flour on a counter top, but I find it’s a mess to clean up. I use a very large metal bowl. I sift some flour, drop in 4 eggs and the process begins.

4 eggs

Using a fork, I scramble the eggs in the hole in the flour.

Scrambling the eggs

Then as I stir and stir and swirl the fork around the bowl, the flour is pulled into the eggs and gradually a mass starts to form. And I stir and swirl and stir some more.

The dough starts to form

When it holds its shape a bit, but is still tremendously gooey, I sift some flour onto the counter and drop the blob of dough onto the flour. If there is flour left in the bowl, I sift that and make a mound on the counter. Can you see the floury bits left in the sieve? It is very important to keep sifting the flour that is re-used. I don’t want the dried up bits of dough getting incorporated into the lovely soft dough I’m making. At this point a board scraper is a very useful tool. When the dough is this sticky, I use the scraper to incorporate more flour.

Starting to knead

When the mass of dough is less sticky, I start to knead it. It is not like kneading bread; I was admonished for my bread kneading motion in class! It’s more of a push and pull and smear, which I sometimes do with pie crust. I had Christmas music playing and I planned meals in my head as I worked. When it seemed to be lovely and soft, I kneaded it for 5 more minutes and then it was amazing. It should feel like…. you guessed it…. a baby’s bottom. Just so silky and soft.


Then the dough needs to rest, for at least 30 minutes and I put it under a bowl. Can you see how soft it looks? After 30 minutes, you can do whatever you like with the dough. Since I am making manicotti, I need sheets of pasta which I will wrap around the filling.

Rolling pasta

We bought this pasta machine after we took the class. You can get an attachment for a stand mixer or roll it by hand with a rolling pin, but I like using the machine best. It’s really fun to watch it become thinner and longer as I change the setting.

Sheets of pasta

Then the pasta needs to rest and dry out a bit. I cut the sheets into the size I want to use for the manicotti. I rolled the scraps through the pasta machine to make some rough noodles, which I might share with Peter for dinner! ;-D Meanwhile I need to making the yummy filling for the manicotti and get it frozen.

And, as always, I have a helper! I was cutting the pasta in the dining room and came back to the kitchen to find Gizmo investigating! What would I do without him?

Gizmo makes pasta

A Cat’s Christmas in Illinois

Wow – we forget every year how much there is to do between Christmas and New Years! A good vantage point is under the tree on the fairly new tree skirt.

Jas & tree skirt

It is seriously fun to play on the bed in crunchy tissue papers and bite the stockings on Christmas morning. If we have enough energy we rip the paper in shreds which Peter and Debbie find for months. We always want to nap after breakfast and the excitement of playing on the bed wears us out!

Sleeping puds

The big no-no is fooling in the new wrapping paper bin, but we so like to make Deb yell!

Gizmo & paper

Boxes….there are still so many boxes this year! Trash Day came at an inopportune time, so until next week there are loads of choices. Like Goldilocks, we move from carton to box to find the one with the new purple sweater or the toasty fleece tucked inside.

Gizmo's box

After Christmas there are generally projects to do, relating to gifts we assume. This year it’s been the installation of an Apple TV device. After Peter cleaned the very dirty cabinet, we had to make sure all the cables were connected to the proper ports. Of course it’s the boys who are good at such things.

Cable check

Being attentive, hanging around and looking adorable is important around mealtimes, at Christmas or any time of the year. They might forget to feed us after all!


When one gets weary of exploring, snacking on turkey and the looking cute thing, bliss is sleeping in the heater bed! This was purchased for the other cat, the very old Widget who liked heat to ease her arthritis. Neither of us youngsters “need” to get in the heater bed but we love it!!!!!!!! Whoever doesn’t grab it for the night has to go upstairs and sleep on Peter’s side of the bed because he turns the electric blanket on.

Jasmine in the heater bed

We sure hope you’re enjoying Christmas week as much as we are.

Jasmine & Gizmo

Fun for Cats!

I know there are a lot of cat lovers out there, and this post is for you!

We have had cats since we got home from our honeymoon! Neither set of parents would agree to having a pet cat and we both decided we loved them, so we rushed off to the SPCA as soon as we were settled in our new apartment. Sadly, our local SPCA could not afford distemper shots for the kittens and little Smokey Topaz lasted about 10 days… Sassafrass came next ( and was around for 19 years!) and then another kitten, named Juniper, again from the SPCA and again had distemper … We had 9 cats at one point (a mother we rescued had kittens in my closet!) but tend towards 2-4. And depending on where we live, sometimes they stay indoors or sometimes they are allowed out.

I know that vets say the healthiest cats and most long-lived stay indoors, but I have always felt that it’s wonderful for cats to be outdoors, with all the sights and smells and noises. When our cats have been allowed outdoors, we always tried to get them inside for supper and then didn’t let them out. Bad things, indeed, happen at night when the predators are out in full force.

We now live in a neighborhood where only stray cats are outside; there are lots of people talking on the phone and driving faster than they should on our dead-end road plus we have a small yard, so Jasmine and Gizmo stay indoors. When Jas was little and we opened the slider door for her, she would stay there for hours, looking at everything and chittering at the squirrels. I felt so badly, but of course the problem is that you cannot reason with cats to make them stay in their yard! Then I found what we call The Tube. When we first put Jas out in it she was so excited, she kept running from end to end, bouncing off the netting! We had 2 sections for her and then when we got Gizmo, we added two more. The down side of taking animals out in any way is the flea meds; they are so expensive but they do work.

The Tube is really called Fun Run Outdoor Cat Enclosure. Each section is 62″, so the cats can roam around a bit. You unzip an end and zip it together with the next end and that makes the run. It’s made fairly well, though you might notice that some areas are sewn together. The first two sections that we bought had good, sturdy zippers but the second ones did not, so I have taken string and sewn them together. If Jas gets bored and starts pawing at the bad zippers, she can get them undone and then it’s a merry race around the yard trying to catch her.

Another reason I had to sew certain areas was because of a squirrel. One day I went outside and a squirrel had gotten into The Tube. The dopey thing didn’t realize that it could get out and was busy chewing holes in the netting! I had to darn the holes shut, so now when we let the cats in the house, we try to remember to zip up the end to keep out silly animals. A few more tips – I don’t leave the cats alone in it. It would be so scary if a dog (or coyote!) happened by and they were trapped inside. When the lawn services come to nearby yards, the noise of all the equipment really spooks Gizmo as well. Another tip – monitor the weather. Jasmine loves to bake, but Giz is a black and white long-haired cat and gets hot in a hurry. I make sure that part of the tube is in the shade so he has a cool spot. If I see him panting, he goes in the house ASAP. I usually go outside with them during lunch. I eat and then do a crossword puzzle or some stitching. We’re all happy.

“Nothing like a nap in the sun” says Jasmine! Have a happy long weekend…… ;-D

P.S. This is an edit – Garden2day left a comment which reminded me – Jasmine & Gizmo are declawed on their front paws. Perhaps a cat with claws would be able to make a hole and escape….

Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair-

Registration is Open!

This is the fair’s 5th anniversary and it will be held June 24 – 26 at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Illinois. This will be the second year at this location and I am sure will be better than ever.

I have been teaching there since the beginning and over the years I have taught some fun classes and enjoyed great students. One year I was crazy and taught an all day shibori class. The students were exhausted by the end of the day and I was too! In the morning we did folding and clamping and a bit of sewing,

and in the afternoon, it was on to arashi shibori. I often wonder if any of them still dye…

Last year I offered wool applique.

I think the ladies chose some pretty combinations.

This will be the third year I have taught Primitive Rug Hooking. Here are some of the colors I’ve dyed for class.

And here are a group of ladies happily hooking! Doesn’t it look like fun?

As well as rug hooking, I will also have several hour class/demos on English Paper Piecing. There’s yummy food, music, many, many vendors and lots of interesting artsy people to chat with. There are loads of interesting classes with some “big” name teachers this year, and as I said, registration is open, so I hope you will check out the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair.

New Month, New Theme & Dilemmas

I am a woman who likes choices! Never back me into a corner by saying “this one or else”! Happily, WordPress has lots of choices and I have been eyeing this theme for a while. I’m becoming more and more familiar with the blogging business and I wanted something new. Hope you like it. (I am very fond of dots…)

So here it is March 1st and I am feeling like February flew by. My calendar looks even busier this month.

The January to do’s seem like ages ago! I had a class here on Saturday and Peter asked if I had taken the ladies down to the studio and I said “Heavens, no!”. It looks dreadful; perhaps as bad as it did in January when it was on the top of the to do list. One problem is that I have taught several classes lately and the supplies are sitting all over the room. I am guilty of bringing my bags down to the studio and “parking” them. So this week I certainly need to put everything away and definitely vacuum the cat fuzz.

Also, I think I am in the midst of too many projects and I can’t seem to concentrate on one.

  • I need to dye some wool for a quilt store and I am worried about getting the color and value that was requested.
  • I am going to visit my brother in a few weeks and he wants to learn how to hook a rug, so I have been trying to design a pillow that he will enjoy working on. That also involves  doing some color planning and – oh- then I will have to dye the wool.
  • I had a bit of interaction with a local Girl Scout troop about helping with their sewing badge. Seemed like a fun project so I sent them a mock up but then it escalated into many phone calls, many e-mails and Too Much Fuss!
  • The quilt stores are working on summer class schedules so I am coming up with ideas and wondering how much I want to schedule.
  • And don’t forget all the quilting, hooking, cross stitching projects underway!

I know; this is all not like a 9 to 5 job and believe me, I remember those days. But when you work alone it is very easy to go through a day and not get much checked off the to do list. I find myself darting from project to project – – – when I am hand quilting I think “Oh- I need to make a doctor’s appointment” and I go make it – – – I start to piece a quilt and think “Oh good grief, what are we having for dinner?”. And so it goes.

I’m not alone in my what to do next dilemma! I found Gizmo sitting in the kitchen sink the other day, staring off into space. When I asked him what he was thinking, he said that he was trying to decide whether to pull the towel down into the sink and nap, or lie on his bed in the sun and watch the birds….now those are some decisions!

Perhaps this is the week to remember Peter’s advice: do each project for an hour and see what gets done. While I am quilting I will not stop to check my e-mail. While I am piecing I will not jump up to write a class description. And perhaps I will not spend so much time perusing WordPress themes and looking at other blogs….

(;-D)… just a thought!