Merino and Silk Hand Woven Scarf

I used my rigid heddle loom to weave a scarf using the silk/yak/wool yarn I hand spun last fall. I really wanted it to be a shawl or wrap, but the width of the loom limits the size to a maximum of 15″ wide. I had enough yarn to make it as wide as the loom will allow, and about six feet long. Don’t be surprised if someday I get a bigger loom.

For the warp yarn (the long way on the scarf) I used a skein of Madeleine Tosh sport weight “Pashmina” from my yarn store inventory purchase. It is very soft with 75% merino wool, 15% silk, and 10% cashmere. The weft (the short way) is my handspun silk/yak/wool yarn that I posted about in December. It is a little thicker.

It is hard to get the colors right in the photos, and they look different depending on what device you are using to read the blog post. My hand spun has a little variegation, but it is primarily a traditional denim blue. The Madeline Tosh yarn color is called “Arch”, and includes some tan, taupe, gray, blue, and bits of off white.

My hand spun yarn with the Madeline Tosh yarn

Our dog Lyla kept me company on the recliner while I warped the loom with 90″ of warp yarn in our small rental unit in Arizona. That is the entire living and dining area.

90 inches of warp yarn
Closer view of warp yarn
Warp yarn ready for weaving

Weaving every row with the hand spun yarn went quickly since I did not have any pattern to follow or changes of yarn. You can see the weaving in progress in the photo below.

Weaving in progress

As the weaving progressed, the completed fabric was rolled onto the front beam in order to access more warp yarn. See photo below.

Completed weaving wound onto the front beam

When I got to the end of the warp yarn, or as far as possible given the ends were attached to the apron bar, I did a hem stitch while the weaving was still on the loom.

Reached the end of the warp, working on hem stitching while still attached

After cutting the weaving off the loom, I twisted the fringe, using a technique I learned last summer. I could have left the ends loose, but the twisting method gives it a professional look. If you want to see how this is done, you can look at the following youtube tutorial. The tutorial uses a special gadget that I don’t have, so I used my fingers to hold the yarn while twisting.

Fringe twisting in progress

The next photo was taken after finishing the fringe, but before washing the scarf.

Fringe finished but not yet washed

I thought I was measuring out the warp yarn for a 72″ scarf. I did not account for “take up”, which is a reduction in length and width due to the yarn going over and under repeatedly in the weaving process. I knew the width would be a bit less than 15″ due to not using every slot and hole in the reed all the way to the edges. The finished size ended up being 14″ wide, and only 61″ long. A little longer would have been ideal, but it will work. After finishing the fringe, I hand washed the scarf carefully to allow the fibers to set and bloom, but not shrink or felt.

Washed and drying

Finished scarf!

More 100% Cotton Towels

I made another set of 100% cotton towels. This time I used something called 8/4 cotton weaving yarn, which is thinner than the Peaches & Creme yarn I used for my first set of woven towels. It has a higher number of yarns per inch (think sheet thread counts). There are other cotton yarns called 8/2, 6/2, 6/4, and more. The two numbers signify the thickness and number of plies.

8/4 Cotton Weaving Yarn

The rigid heddle loom has a wood and plastic part called a “reed” (see photo below) with holes and slots that the warp yarn is threaded through. It is used to separate the warp (vertical) threads into alternating groups (the holes and the slots…haha sounds like names of gangs), so that while one group is up and the other group is down you can slide the weft (horizontal) yarn between them to weave a row (see photo below). In this type of loom, the reed is also used to push the weft yarn in place up against the completed weaving as you go.

My first set of towels used the “8 dent” (8 threads per inch) reed that came with the loom. The 8/4 cotton yarn required a “10 dent” reed (10 yarns per inch). The following photo shows the 8 dent reed and the 10 dent reed. You can see that there are more holes and slots in the 10 dent reed.

8 dent reed and 10 dent reed

The photo below is from my first towel weaving project, showing how the reed separates the yarns in the slots from the yarns in the holes, so you can slide the weft yarn across between them.

The rigid heddle reed makes alternating warp yarns go up or down

The first part of the weaving project is measuring out the right length of warp yarn for the project, and threading it through the holes and slots in the reed. After all the warp yarns are threaded, the yarn is wound on to a beam at the back of the loom (the back beam), so it is not taking up your entire work space. As you weave, you unwind from the back beam, and wind on to the front beam. At that point, instead of needing my whole dining area, the work was contained on the loom itself, which is about 17″ square.

First step of warping the loom

The next photo shows the weaving in progress, using some linen and cotton blend yarn for contrasting horizontal stripes.

Off white cotton for the main color with accent stripes in a yellow cotton/linen blend

The following photo was taken after weaving five towels back to back, and removing the fabric from the loom. There was supposed to be enough warp yarn for four towels, but after I finished four there was still quite a bit left. Rather than wasting the extra I kept on weaving a shorter fifth towel.

Weaving removed from the loom

I had woven one row of yellow yarn between each towel. Washing the fabric after removing it from the loom causes the cotton yarn to shrink, so the towels become more dense. After washing, but before cutting the towels apart, I used my sewing machine to zig zap on each side of the yellow threads.

Zig Zagging on each side of the yellow thread woven between each towel

It was scary to actually cut in the middle of the weaving, but it worked out fine with the zig zag stitches to prevent raveling.

After cutting the towels apart

The towels got very wrinkly in the dryer. I could not iron them smooth even after multiple attempts with high heat and steam. Next time I will take them out of the dryer before they are completely dry. Two of the towels have hand finished hems, while the other three I folded over and zig zagged down with the sewing machine. The zig zag method worked fine and is not as bulky, but is not as neat as hand stitching. Following are three of the completed wrinkly towels. The two on the left with yellow stripes and blue stripes have the zig zagged hem. The towel on the right has the rolled and hand stitched hem. The red stripes were made with the thicker peaches & creme yarn, which makes it bow out on the sides.

Wrinkly towels with different styles of hem

Next is a close up photo of the two different styles of hem. Zig zagged on the left, rolled and hand stitched on the right. The towel with red stripes was given to my Wisconsin Badger alumnae son.

Zig zagged vs hand stitched hem

The following photos show the other two towels from the current project using the thinner 8/4 cotton yarn, next to one of the heavier Peaches & Creme towels from my first set.

Towels from the current set and the previous set

The next photo is a close up showing a thinner towel with rolled and hand stitched hem, next to a thicker towel with hem stitch and fringe.

Close up of a towel using the thinner yarn next to a towel with the thicker yarn

After completing the set of 8/4 cotton yarn towels and giving them all away for Christmas gifts, I made another set so I would have some for myself. The third set, using 8/4 cotton yarn, had some vertical stripes of blue in the warp. The towels with the thinner yarn look more professional, the thicker towels are very absorbent. I like them both!

Another set of towels using the thinner 8/4 cotton yarn

Frostline Kits

Does anyone remember Frostline Kits from the 1970’s and 1980’s? That was a company selling kits with fabric, 100% goose down filling, and accessories for sewing outdoor clothing and equipment, including down vests and jackets, backpacks and tents.

Frostline Kits was started in 1966 in Colorado by a former employee of Gerry Mountaineering. At the time it was a cost effective alternative to paying high prices for good quality gear. In the late 1970’s they had 18 retail stores in addition to mail order. The company was bought by Gillette in 1978, but downsized and changed ownership several times after that before disappearing by 2010.

I made four Frostline Kit vests when I was in high school and college. I customized one for me, and one for my sister, by adding some cotton fabric on the yoke. Those two vests turned up 40 years later and were claimed by my niece and daughter.

My daughter and my niece modeling Frostline Kit vests I made

The kits came with a professional looking label. At the time I also had a roll of fabric tape labels with my (maiden) name printed on it. There is still some of that personalized fabric tape left.

Close up of the professional label that came with the kit, and a printed label with my maiden name

More recently my green vest was found crammed in a box with some of my daughters things, so now it is wrinkly and smells musty.

Modeling the vest I sewed for myself

My niece posted a photo this winter while wearing the red vest originally sewed for her mother.

Following is a photo of the vest I made for my dad, which is still hanging in the front hall closet at their house (not wrinkly or musty).

Vest I made for my dad

I found an advertisement online from 1978 with a photo of the same style of down vest as the green one above. The model in the photo is looking rugged and about to chop some wood in his vest.

An advertisement from 1978

The pattern pieces in the kit were already cut out, and every notion needed to complete the project was included. I remember the little plastic tubes of down filling. You had to be careful when opening them to avoid an explosion of down flying all over the room.

Image from Pinterest showing part of the contents of a Frostline Kit

I sewed a vest for a friend while at college. Yes, I brought my sewing machine with me 1300 miles to college. I was probably the only person on campus with a sewing machine in my dorm room. I never enjoyed the “mixers” that were the dorm parties of that time and place. After a drunk townie asked me something about “Minneanapolis” (notice the extra syllable), I never went to another one. I found other ways to spend my time, including making things!

That reminds me of the Sociology class I took at college where the professor babbled on randomly for the entire class period. The lectures were interesting but there was no outline or train of thought. I found it impossible to take notes, and it was not necessary as the entire grade for the class was based on a project. So instead I sat in the back row and knit a sweater while listening to the lecture. I still have that sweater, which was the result of a visit to The Yarn Shop in Glen Arbor, MI. The proprietor, my mom’s cousin Mary Turak, was always successful in inspiring me and sending me on my way with a new project. If you have not read my post about The Yarn Shop, you can check it out at the following link.

There are many completed products made from Frostline Kits for sale on ETSY and Ebay, as well as a few original kits waiting to be sewn into a finished product. I am very tempted to buy a kit.

Minnesota Winter

Minnesota winters can be brutal, but they are not as bad as they used to be due to climate change. There are still stretches of severely cold weather, but not as many or for as long, and days with above freezing temperatures are more common. Being comfortable outside is not necessarily about the temperature. A dry zero degrees with no wind can be pleasant if you are dressed properly. On the other hand 35 degrees on a damp windy day can be miserable. Snowy landscapes are beautiful and provide many options for outdoor recreation and exercise.

We have had several days of beautiful hoarfrost this winter

Birds come to the bird feeders all year around. I am not much of a green thumb, so it is kind of a relief that I do not have to do any yardwork in the winter. And there are no bugs!! Notice in the photo below my pink glass flower sticking out of the snow near the bottom of the bird feeder. A few days later it was buried under several inches of new snow.

Notice the glass flower poking out near the bottom of the bird feeder.

I have memories of walking one mile to school in seventh grade during the winter (uphill both ways…haha not really). During high school there were some bitterly cold days standing outside waiting for the school bus. We would get dropped off behind the junior high and have to walk up a long flight of steps and across a practice field, against the west wind, to the high school building. It was not cool to wear boots to school. One time I missed the bus because I was wearing clogs and could not get up a hill on the way from my house to the bus stop.

Getting up early for work in the dark on cold winter days is part of life in Minnesota. Going outside after work to a bitterly cold car, possibly having to scrape off a layer of snow, sitting on a freezing stiff seat and finding a frozen solid water bottle, is not fun. Now that I am retired, it is not so bad because I don’t have to get up early, and I don’t have to go anywhere if I don’t want to.

I enjoy ice skating. I am not very good at it, but in a relative scale of all people including those who live in warm climates, I am probably better than average. When I was in elementary school in the 1960’s the neighborhood skating rink was huge and always packed. I was terrified when boys carrying hockey sticks would whiz by within inches of me. As an adult, I took skating lessons where I learned some basic skills which really boosted my confidence.

Skating path on Lake Alice in Fergus Falls

The following photo was taken by my sister on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. The poor tiny fish was frozen a few inches below the surface of the ice.

Tiny fish frozen into the ice on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis

In December there was still a massive pile of stumps and brush at our family cabin property, left from trees that came down in the tornado this past summer. Our son and his fiance were visiting just before Christmas, so we decided to have a winter solstice bonfire and outdoor potluck dinner. A couple of other relatives and friends on the lake joined us for a fun evening. Facing the heat from the huge fire provided for a very warm front side, but did not reach our backsides. Someone mentioned the Saturn and Jupiter convergence, and just then we all looked up and could see it in the sky as some clouds moved out of the way.

Burning brush left from the summer tornado cleanup
S’mores anyone?

During high school the family of a friend owned a small second home they used like a cabin on Lake Minnetonka, west of Minneapolis. Interestingly, I don’t have any memories of swimming there, but I do remember fun times snowmobiling in the winter. Later when I was first married my husband was editor for a snowmobile magazine. He had the use of a snowmobile, so I got to go for an occasional ride.

Now that we live on a lake, Wayne bought a used snowmobile for a winter activity, and to use for towing his ice fishing gear out onto the lake. Normally I prefer something quiet like cross country skiing, or in the summer, canoeing or hiking. The snowmobile is loud, but it is fun for a little while, until the jiggling makes me feel like I have to make a pit stop back at the house. There are miles of snowmobile trails in Otter Tail County, as well as in other parts of Minnesota. During non-Covid times, and assuming there is enough snow, it is common for folks to spend hours snowmobiling from one country bar to another along the trail. There might be dozens of snowmobiles parked outside any given watering hole.

Staged in the front yard
The back yard
In the woods
Me posing as if I am driving

My husband has an ice fishing tent, although if it is a “nice” day, he will not even bother with it and will instead just sit out in the open on a bucket while fishing. He likes to scope out some of the other 1,000 lakes in Otter Tail County (the most of any county in the United States). We have eaten several dinners of fresh fish this winter.

The snowmobile can tow ice fishing equipment out onto the lake

There are dozens of ice fishing houses on the lake in all sizes, up to large rigs with TV’s and sofas and kitchenettes.

Many ice fishing houses on the lake

December and January were mild for Minnesota, allowing for more outdoor time than average. With that said….we left for Arizona, just in time to miss a polar vortex stretch of subzero weather.

Upcycle Dog Carrier Backpack

Last winter when we were snow birding in the southwest, we used my backpack to carry our small dog around while on day trips. This fall I decided to make Lyla a dedicated carrier using a thrift store denim skirt my daughter had abandoned. It looked like the right size and shape for the purpose.

I also had some yellow strapping purchased years ago at a fair trade sale. The tag says it was woven in India. The narrower blue strapping and the white toggle were in with my sewing supplies. The only thing I had to buy was the “strap adjuster”.

A thrift shop denim skirt, with accessories to make a dog carrier

The first thing I did was undo the hem of the skirt. I trimmed some of the fabric off and zig zagged the edge using my sewing machine.

After ripping out the hem, trimming and zig zagging the edge

Next I turned it inside out and sewed the bottom shut.

Sewing the bottom edge closed

In order to have a flat bottom, I sewed across the bottom at each side. I also cut out the metal button closest to the bottom, and then had to sew on a scrap of fabric to cover up the hole.

Forming a box shape on each side at the bottom

It seemed like it needed a lining. I found some blue and white striped fabric on hand, cut out pieces in the same shape as the skirt, and sewed it together to match the denim.

Skirt and lining fabric ready for the next step
Lining ready for hand sewing inside the denim outer layer

I pinned and and hand stitched the lining and straps in place. I also machine stitched across the back to make sure the straps were secure.

Ready for stitching the lining and straps in place

Once the lining was attached, I wanted to try it out. The dog knew something was up and hid under the dining room table when I tried to put her in the bag. I caught her off guard later, and got her inside. She seemed to settle in and looked peaceful, and did not try to get out, when I sat on the sofa with her in the bag on my lap.

I looked at how the straps worked on the back of my regular backpack, and then attached straps to my home made bag with the same technique, using the “strap adjuster” I bought online. I found a tie (that may have been pulled out of a hoody sweatshirt) and threaded it through the waistband, so I could cinch the top closed tighter.

Straps completed
Close up of the back
Close up of the top front

Voila! This bag can be used for the dog or for other things.

Completed backpack
Lyla in the backpack

I will probably have to chase Lyla around when she sees the backpack coming out, but once she is inside she will be safe and cozy on long hikes or outings.

Cotton Dish Towels

In December I wove some 100% cotton dish towels on my 15″ loom. Everyone can use a new dish towel, so I thought they would make nice gifts. And I can always use more myself whether they turn out perfectly or not.

I started researching patterns and yarns, finding many options. I learned that cotton yarn can be “mercerized” or “unmercerized”. The mercerized cotton is treated so it is smoother and holds dye better, but unmercerized will absorb more moisture. For my first attempt I decided to use the same inexpensive Peaches & Creme unmercerized cotton yarn I have used to knit dish cloths. There is thinner, more expensive, cotton yarn with more threads per inch, but I wanted to try the concept first with the cheaper yarn.

I used a pattern called “Classic Woven Dishtowels” from Purl Soho. It was a basic design using one main color with some horizontal stripes in a contrast color.

Unmercerized yarn for dish towels

After deciding on white for the main color, with blue for accent stripes, I “warped” the loom with enough yarn for the towels plus waste at the beginning and end. I forgot to take a photo while the entire 155″ warp length was stretched out across the living room. The photo below was taken after tying the warp yarns to the “front beam” of the loom, and winding most of the 155″ on to the “back beam”.

Warped and ready to start weaving
Close up of the warp yarns

Once the loom was all warped, I was ready to begin weaving. The weaving process is repetitive but calming. I can listen to music or an audio book while working, or just enjoy the quiet.

Weaving in process

The pattern suggested cutting the warp yarn after each towel and retying the remaining warp threads to the front beam. It said that this was better for maintaining an even tension for the remaining towels. The other option is to keep weaving all four towels, cutting and separating the individual towels later.

Since I was just learning, I went ahead and cut the first towel off as the pattern suggested. Before cutting, in order to keep the ends from coming undone during washing, and for a finished edge, I attempted to make a “hem stitch” on each end.

Hem stitching the end before cutting off the warp yarns to make fringe

I had trouble with the hem stitch on both ends. It was too loose and had too many warp threads in each group. I took the stitches out and sewed the hem stitch over again, after I had already cut the fringe to 1″, so the threads were flopping all over.

When I got part way through the second towel I started to have a problem with the tension along one side. The last two warp threads on one side got too tight. Towards the end of the towel I was tugging, and ended up cutting those two warp yarns to release the pressure so I could continue working.

In between towel two and three, in order to fix the tension problem, I cut the warp threads and then unwound the warp yarn off the back beam. I took the two offending warp threads off entirely so the weaving was not so close to the edge of the loom, and re “warped” the rest.

Towel number three looked good on the edges, and the hem stitching was successful! Yay! There was supposed to be enough warp yarn for 4 towels, but there was only about ten inches left after the third towel…so it ended up as waste.

All the waste yarn cut off the beginning and end of the warp, and between towels

After washing and drying, the towels shrank some as expected, and they are soft and thirsty. The second towel with the tension problem looks OK for my personal use. They work well for drying wet hands when working in the kitchen, drying dishes that have been washed by hand, and mopping up those annoying pools of water that collect on items after the dishwasher has been run.

Following are photos of the three completed towels. I am pleased with the results, despite their imperfections.

All three towels after washing.

I don’t usually hang three towels on the oven door handle at the same time, but I like the Scandinavian look in the next photo, which matches the colors in my kitchen. The towel on the right is one of the towels I just wove, and the towel on the left was designed and sold by my friend Cindy Lindgren.

My Scandinavian theme kitchen towels, with one of my hand woven towels on the right

Cindy Lindgren is a graphic designer in Minneapolis, a close friend of my sister-in-law. She sells cards, puzzles, prints and posters, stickers, magnets, and textiles with her unique designs including themes of Twin Cities, Paul Bunyan, Texas, Scandinavian, Frank Lloyd Wright, Christmas and others. Cindy designed the St. Paul Winter Carnival button for 2019, and more importantly, my business card and blog logos. Check out her products on ETSY

Following is a photo of Cindy’s towel next to my own hand woven towel.

My Cindy Lindgren Scandinavian design towel on the left, next to my own

Happy Holidays

I have written before about my mom’s extraordinary creative abilities. In today’s post, to celebrate Christmas and honor my mother, I am sharing photos of Christmas decorations and other things she made over the years.

The yellow angel has been around for as long as I can remember. My mom must have made that in her early years of marriage. It is made out of fabric and scraps of trim with a ceramic head that she bought.

Handmade cloth Angel, 8″ tall

In more recent years when my mom was doing ceramics, she made a series of angels. In the following photos they are staged next to a blue ceramic basket that she also made (she did not make the plate leaning against the back).

Ceramic basket and 9″ tall Angel made by my mom
More from the Liz Sweder ceramic Angel collection
Closeup of the brown haired angel
Another ceramic angel, 8 1/2″ high

The gnome shown below is formed out of ceramic with a wool beard and actual stick for a walking stick. It is sitting next to a bronze bust of my dad that my mom also made, which eerily looks very much like him.

Bust of my dad next to a ceramic gnome

The Three Wise Men below are made out of felt and embellished with rick rack, beads, shiny ribbon and trim. The faces are embroidered on. Like the fabric angel, they are probably at least 60 years old.

The three wise men

The following gnome is four feet tall and made in the last 20 years. Some family members think he is creepy. Note in this photo he is standing in front of the kitchen fireplace checking his email. My mom made the fireplace tiles when they built the house (which she designed).

4′ tall tall gnome checking his email
Closeup of the kitchen fireplace with tiles made by my mom
Living room fireplace with Liz Sweder made tiles

Happy Holidays to all and wishes for a better 2021.

Wool/Silk/Yak Yarn

A spinning project is a good activity for long pandemic days at home. I figured out how to download audio books on my phone using an app called OverDrive, so I hardly notice the time going by while listening and spinning. I had two ounces of a “braid” of 50% silk /50% yak roving that I bought at a fiber fair. It was $40…what was I thinking.

Braid of 50% silk 50% yak

In order to make the expensive fiber go farther, and be easier to spin, I found two ounces of some shades of blue wool in my stash to blend with the silk/yak.

Some wool from my stash with the yak/silk

Almost all of the yarn I spin comes out about the same thickness. My earliest attempts at spinning produced very bulky yarn, partly because that is what I wanted at the time. But also because I did not understand how the end result would be thicker after plying two singles together and then washing it. Over the years I have spun thinner yarn, closer to worsted or aran weight, but I am still always surprised when it comes out a bit thicker than I was expecting.

The spinning wheel has adjustments and parts for making thicker or thinner yarn. I have trouble wrapping my head around how all the components work together to end up with yarn on the bobbin. Trying to explain it would be an entire blog post, and I am not sure I can even do it adequately. In a nutshell, the settings for thinner yarn make the wheel go around more times per each time you peddle, adding more twist. Generally thicker yarn needs less twist, and thinner yarn needs more twist. In the entire time I have owned my Lendrum spinning wheel I have always used the same settings for average yarn (not super thin, not super thick art yarn).

For this current project I decided to try spinning thinner yarn than than I have made before, using one of the settings designed for that. It would be a healthy brain exercise for me, and hopefully result in yarn suited for a weaving a scarf. The first step was dividing up the wool roving into groups for blending.

First pass with some of the blue wool run through the drum carder, sorted with some other blue waiting to be blended

After carding the different blues of wool together into batts, I divided up the silk/yak to blend in with it.

A wool batt waiting to be blended with some silk/yak , next to a batt with the silk/yak/wool all blended together
Sections of wool alternated with sections of silk/yak

The silk/yak “rope” was rolled up tight, so I opened it out into a wider flatter thinner shape.

A wool batt, next to part of the silk/yak opened out

In order to blend the very different fibers together, I took each batt of the wool, and each section of the silk/yak and peeled them apart into smaller pieces. Feeding them into the drum carder in layers would result in a more thorough blend.

I peeled, divided, layered and carded all the fiber into batts. After this first pass of combining the silk/yak with the wool you could still see the layers of each type of fiber.

Pushing some of the fiber into the drum carder

The last step was to peel the batts up into narrower sections lengthwise, flatten them out, and run them through the drum carder again for a more complete blend.

Peeling a batt off the drum carder

Finally the batts were ready for spinning.

A completed batt of wool blended with the silk/yak, ready to spin

After I finished spinning, plying, and then winding the yarn into a skein, I gently washed it using a bar of wool wash I bought at Tangles to Treasures in Fergus Falls. This is a gentle soap for washing wool fabric, yarn or clothing, custom made by a local craftsperson.

A locally made bar of wool wash

You can see my final result below, after washing. Around 270 yards, weighing 158 grams or 5.6 ounces. A little bit thinner than my default yarn.

Completed skein of silk/yak/wool blend yarn

I won’t be selling this yarn. The cost of the materials and time spent in creating it are too high in relation to what I could sell it for. I will use it myself for a woven scarf. Watch for a blog post about that, later in the winter.

Vintage Buttons

I was preparing to post some store sample hats from my cousin’s yarn shop for sale on ETSY. Normally I go for simple and practical, without a lot of embellishment. But I felt that these hats needed something more to distinguish them from the many other hats for sale.

I had the idea of adding buttons, tassels, or pompoms. I found some scraps of yarn in my stash that worked for each hat, then stopped at Tangles to Treasures in Fergus Falls to look at my large collection of Mary Turak buttons, and to consult with Torri. Torri suggested crocheting flowers to adorn the hats, which could have a button in the center. Bingo.

The button collection came with my Mary Turak yarn store inventory purchase in the fall of 2018. Many of them are cool vintage buttons from the 1960’s. Each unique design of button lives in a plastic tube as seen in the photo below. Some of the tubes have only one button, others have many. The tubes pack horizontally into display cubes so you can see the sample button attached to the top of each one.

Plastic tube for storing buttons

There are over 500 plastic tubes of buttons, packed into six display cubes. They are fun to look at, and technically for sale, but no one has bought a single button there. I can think of many ideas for using the buttons in art projects or fiber projects. Or I could try selling them on ETSY, but for now I am busy with other things.

Six display cubes housing over 500 tubes of buttons
A cool fish button
Mother of pearl and other unique buttons
An elephant button
More vintage buttons

I had fun looking at all the buttons and picking some out that worked with the colors of each hat. It is easy to google for patterns and instructions. I have not crocheted much for a long time, but after watching a couple of YouTube video’s, I was ready to go.

I used a pattern called “Autumn Berry Flower” by Jenny Dickens for the crochet flowers. It is available for free on Ravelry. Check out my first crochet flower in the photo below, with one of the Mary Turak buttons in the center.

My first crochet flower with button

Following are photos of Mary Turak store sample hats, with my crochet flowers and buttons added.

The hats are for sale on my ETSY shop, where you can find more photos. Following is the link to my ETSY shop (also found in the menu above).

Too Much Stuff

Throughout history most people have lived with few possessions, by necessity, economic limits, or cultural norms. Early nomadic groups moved regularly. Most people for thousands of years were, or are still, just surviving. After WWII in the United States there was an economic boom that resulted in many people owning homes and experiencing financial stability for the first time, although noting that not every group benefited. The average size of a house in the 1950’s was around 1000 square feet. That increased to 1660 by 1975, and up to 2623 in 2018. Of course the larger houses of today have more closets and storage space, which naturally get filled.

Many people I know are having to figure out what to do with all the stuff that our parents accumulated, while we ourselves are trying to downsize at the same time. Closets and cupboards and drawers are crammed full. The young adults generally do not want any of it. Thrift shops are full. I admit that I have been a part of the problem, although over the last 10 years my mindset has been evolving. I have a vision of a more minimalist clutter free house, but it is challenging to get there.

I grew up in a home where you kept things in case you might use them later. My mother was a seamstress and artist. You might need that piece of elastic or craft paper. You might use that pattern again. My mom was also an excellent cook and liked entertaining. She loved her sets of dishes and china, and bought new ones at regular intervals without getting rid of the older ones.

Over the last 30 years in my own household, the things we accumulated changed as our children grew up and their toys and activities changed. I tried to get rid of things periodically, but somehow the house was always full. I also like sewing and creative activities, which require many tools and stashes of supplies. The laundry room, garage, and backyard shed were full with who knows what. I was always busy with more immediate needs, too tired or too overwhelmed to clean out closets and other storage spaces.

At one time we had five snowmobile helmets on a shelf in the laundry room. They were left from the 1980’s when my husband worked for a snowmobile magazine, but we have never owned a snowmobile. After much nagging and urging, I finally convinced him to pass the helmets on to his cousin who actually had a snowmobile.

We had a large guest bedroom that did not get much use in our early years of marriage. Any time there was box from a purchase or delivery, I would open the door and literally toss it in that bedroom. Eventually the room was filled solid with boxes. I delegated the job of flattening and disposing them to my husband, but he would never get around to it. Somehow, unlike me, he was finding time to watch TV, so one day I piled all the boxes up in the family room, blocking the space between the recliner and the TV. Finally that job got done and the guest room became available for human habitation again.

In preparation for moving last summer of 2019 we got rid of what seemed like massive amounts of stuff, including most of our furniture. It took a lot of mental energy and time to figure out what to do with various items we didn’t need or want any more, rather than throwing them in a dumpster. It was hard work. We sold things on Craigs List (almost getting scammed once), donated to various organizations, gave items to family members, recycled things, took bags of mixed paper to a business for shredding. Two pieces of furniture were placed in the alley at my sister-in-law’s house in Minneapolis. They were gone by the next day, taken by someone who needed them.

When we moved here to my parents home at the lake, we were adding what was left of our own possessions to their already full house. My sister and I had been working for years to sort and purge from our parents house, but there was still a complete household here. There are now boxes stored in the basement and garage including things from our kitchen and living room that I was not ready to get rid of. There are also boxes of things that my parents brought from their previous house 20 years ago that had never been unpacked.

My mom had sets of China stored in boxes in the basement, classic purses that were not really in style but might be needed to match a future outfit, drawers and chests of beautiful sweaters, trunks of high quality wool fabric (even though she had not sewed any clothes for many years), extra cookie tins stored in the basement bathroom. As she got older, she did not remember what she had anymore much less where it was stored.

Cleaning out my parents shed
Rubber overshoes found when cleaning out my parents storage shed
My mom’s bud vase collection
How many baskets are needed?
So many tee shirts

We had an entire trunk full of random extra hats, mittens and scarves from our old house. My parents also had baskets and plastic bins of extra winter gear. I dumped all of it on the living floor and sorted it all out. A few items in bad shape were tossed out, some organized for keeping on hand. Two entire grocery bags full were donated to the “Welcome Center” in Pelican Rapids, MN, where they were given directly to people who needed them.

Extra winter hats, scarves, mittens and socks

Now that our parents have both passed, my sister and I continue with the endless task of sorting and purging their things. I also continue paring down my own clothes and belongings. I have a vision of a clutter free life, and hope that when the time comes, my own children will have an easier time dealing with what is left of our lives.

P.S. My husband is now thinking about buying a used snowmobile, to keep cabin fever at bay over the upcoming covid winter. He will need a helmet. I will need a helmet. Any possible guests might need a different size helmet. Too bad we gave away those five helmets.