Make Your Own Black Walnut Ink

homemade black walnut ink2Hi friends! In my last post, I talked about my recent adventures in dyeing wool with plants. Today, I want to share another really fun experiment I tried: making my own blank walnut ink! It was incredibly rewarding.

I followed the instructions offered by You Grow Girl, but honestly, it’s so easy you hardly need instructions.

First, my daughter and I collected about 20 black walnuts off the ground from a local park. We did this in late September. They were still green, but we wanted to grab them before the squirrels got them all. The pigment comes from the skin, so you need them to have the skin still intact.

black walnuts

Then I threw them in an enameled stock pot, covered them with water, and left them outside to let them blacken and ferment for about three weeks. (Note: by the end, there was a tiny bit of mould floating on top. I just scooped it off with a slotted spoon. It didn’t harm the finished ink.)

Then I put it on an outdoor burner and let it simmer for a couple of hours. (It has a strong, woodsy smell, so I preferred to do it outside). Then I just turned it off and let it cool overnight.


The next morning, I strained out the walnuts (I left them outside for the squirrels to help themselves to) and moved the ink to a smaller pot. I let it simmer a little longer on the stove inside to increase the intensity of the pigment.

Annnnd… that’s it! I ended up with about two cups of liquid. I was amazed to discover that the very first time I dipped my pen into the still-warm liquid, I had a gorgeous, brown-black ink that flowed perfectly and dried with a slight sheen. It worked beautifully with my inexpensive pointed nib pen. (I have this set of nibs with this holder — the ink works great with the 512 — the total ensemble costs less than $10.)

I added a few tablespoons of rubbing alcohol as a preservative.

I transferred a small amount into a tiny glass jar I’d saved, to make dipping easier.

black walnut ink

After testing the ink out on different papers, I found that it worked best on my Strathmore Calligraphy paper. (It doesn’t bleed, and it doesn’t snag on the nib.) It was so fun, Lydia couldn’t stop playing with it.

drawing with walnut ink

black walnut ink drawinglady knight, done in black walnut ink

I was amazed how well the ink and pen worked together: I could write up to three sentences out with a single dip. And it’s so fun! You feel like Shakespeare! (Note: I realize he probably used oak gall ink.)

black walut ink test

It works great in calligraphy…

black walnut ink calligraphy(Full disclosure: I practised about 20 times before creating what you see here)

A few days later I learned how to make a folded pen and gave it a whirl with my new ink. I LOVED the results.

homemade folded pen and black walnut ink

All in all, the whole experience was just so fun and satisfying, and didn’t take much time or effort.

I honestly prefer my homemade ink to the India ink and calligraphy ink I’ve purchased! It looks deeper and richer when it dries. It does take a long time to dry, though, which is especially challenging as a leftie.

If you’ve got access to a black walnut tree dropping nuts onto the ground (and, you know, I desire to use a dip pen), I highly recommend giving it a try!

Experiments in Dyeing Wool With Plants

dyeing wool with plants

Hi friends! Since I can’t seem to decide what this blog is about, I thought it would be fun to share my recent adventures in natural dyeing!

As regular readers know, I’ve been knitting and crocheting for four years now. That’s what got me interested in fibre arts. When I stumbled upon a blog post where someone used goldenrod (which grows plentifully in our neighbourhood) to dye fabric, I thought it would be fun to try dyeing some wool yarn with plants. I already had some undyed wool in my stash I could try it on.

So I did what I always do in such situations: I took a book on the subject out of the library.

harvesting color book

This is Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dye by Rebecca Burgess, and it is perfect. I learned all about mordants and afterbaths. She has recipes for all kinds of wild plant dyes from all over North America, organized by season.

Flipping through the book, I was thrilled to discover that you can make natural dyes from a number of plants that grow naturally in the waste spaces around our neighbourhood, and that I was currently in the perfect season (September) to harvest several of them. I decided to try three of them: goldenrod, staghorn sumac, and pokeberry (pokeweed).

Going for walks to harvest plants with Lydia was a lot of fun: she felt so proud as she tried to find the best flowers and berries for the job. And what could possibly feel more wholesome than taking a barefoot walk down a nature trail and filling a woven basket with local wildflowers to dye your own wool? Nothing, that’s what.

Note: I won’t go into too much detail about how exactly I did all this. I highly recommend checking out the above book. I just wanted to share briefly, with the hopes that it might inspire you to try something interesting and new, too!

(I did all of these very slowly, one at a time, over the course of several weeks. They often involved soaking overnight. But I’m cramming them all together in this post.)

So first, we gathered:



Staghorn sumac cones:




Then I made the dyes!

All of these plants required slightly different treatments, though they all involved simmering the plant matter in water for a few hours, straining, and then simmering the yarn in the dye for an hour or two. Most, I allowed to cool and soak overnight as well.

goldenrod dye(goldenrod dye)

pokeberry dye(pokeberry dye)

Then I squeezed out the liquid, rinsed, and hung them out to dry.

goldenrod hanging

In every case, I was surprised by the final colour: none of them quite matched the colour of the original plant matter.

natural plant dyes - goldenrod, sumac, pokeberry

Here’s a closer look at each:

The bright goldenrod flowers produced a soft, buttery yellow:

natural goldenrod dye

The red sumac berries/cones produced a golden-bronzy colour:

natural sumac dye

And most surprising of all, the purple pokeberries — which turn bright fushia when crushed — produced a deep scarlet:

homemade pokeberry dye

All in all, I was quite happy with the results. It was a fun learning experience! Next year I would use more goldenrod flowers, with the hopes that I could get a brighter colour.

Have you ever tried dyeing with plants? What should I try next?

Spring Knitting and Crocheting (2018)

spring knitting

Here’s a philosophical question for you? What’s the point of having skills in the internet age unless you’re going to show them off to the online world?

Since I have a blog, I thought I’d share what I’ve been knitting and crocheting over the last couple of months. Please indulge me, because I love seeing other people’s finished crafts!

Most of these are wintery items, and that’s partly because we didn’t actually get real spring weather here in Canada until halfway through April. Knitting was a cheering activity when I was feeling miserable and cooped-up.

Fingerless Mittens

fingerless mitts malabrigo

Info on Ravelry here. Pattern from this book.

After I knitted Lydia a pair, a friend requested a pair as well. I ordered my first boutique yarn for the job — Malabrigo Arroyo, in the colourway Vaa — and it was positively dr-e-a-m-y to work with. Photos cannot capture the beauty of this marvelous hand-dyed yarn. The subtle variations of green — from emerald to lime to olive to aqua — shimmer like jewels in sunlight. I am completely in love.

Adult-Sized Fox Hatfox hat blog

sly fox hat adult

Info on Raverly here. Free pattern here.

After I crocheted Lydia a Sly Fox Hat, my little sister admired it so much I decided to make her an adult-sized version. (The original pattern doesn’t include an adult version, but offers some suggestions.) It took a couple of tries to get one big enough, but I finally managed it and I’m quite pleased with the finished product.

Chunky Cabled Hats

easy cabled hat

cabled hat red

Info on Ravelry here. Free Pattern here.

I really wanted to learn how to do cables, and I conveniently realized I didn’t have a nice winter hat for myself, so I bought some chunky merino yarn and knit myself a Northward hat. I added a faux fur pompom to make it super on-trend. (Because as you know, I am sooooooo trendy. Evidence: I am still writing on a blog in 2018.)

Then I knit one for my middle sister, so she wouldn’t feel left out of the homemade hat club.

Whimsy Pixie Bonnet

whimsy pixie bonnet


….And finally, another pixie bonnet. Details on Ravelry here.

For some reason I just LOOOOVE this silhouette on young kids.

I had “inherited” some hand-spun, hand-dyed, fingering-weight alpaca wool from a friend’s grandma, and I didn’t know what to do with for the longest time. But I knew it was a really expensive, high-quality yarn that I didn’t want to go to waste. I finally landed on this pattern. I adore it. I’m a very slow knitter so it took me forever but it was worth it. And I finally had to learn how to make I-cord, and I’m a fan.

Juniper Bonnet

juniper bonnet flat

juniper bonnet

Details on Ravelry here. Pattern here. Okay, okay, one last thing. I participated in an Instagram knit-along and knit this lovely little bonnet. It was my first time knitting lace and it was a real challenge at first. But I’m delighted by the result!

Okay, that’s everything! Dang, I just realized how many new skills I learned over the course of the season. My kids definitely don’t need this much knitted headwear but I just love tackling new challenges.

Thanks for sticking around! And I always enjoy seeing/hearing about what you’re making!

Winter Knitting and Crocheting

winter knitting

(I’ve fallen off the face of the blog world in the last couple of months, so I’m trying to ease back in with an easy post. Here’s a quick update on my creative life!)

I didn’t knit at all last spring or summer.

I started to think maybe knitting had been a phase in my life that I was now over — something that had helped me deal with the trauma of my son’s hospitalization, but was no longer meant to be a part of my life.

But then, all of a sudden in September, I was hit with an intense need to knit. And I have been knitting (and crocheting) up a storm these last few months! (And interestingly, I completely dropped watercolour painting, which was really big for me in the summer. I guess my hobbies flow with the seasons. I suspect I’ll pick it up again when we have more hours of sunshine in a day.)

Because I love seeing other people’s finished project, here are a few of my recent ones. (I’ve already shared my projects from October and November in my What-I’m-Into posts.) If you’re on Ravelry, you can see all my projects here.

Crocheted Cactus Pillow

textured cactus pillow

cactus pillow

(Info on Ravelry here. Pattern here.)

This pillow serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever. I just saw something similar in a friend’s Instagram feed and had to make one for myself.

It took forever and a ton of yarn, thanks to those bobble stitches. But it turned out adorable. Lydia slept with it for the first few nights, and even took it along to Florida. It’s surprisingly cuddly and looks great as a throw pillow.

Fingerless Mittens

fingerless mittens

fingerless gloves(Info on Ravelry.)

Lydia kept eyeing up the fingerless mittens for sale at the farmer’s market, but I didn’t love the quality so I told her I’d make her a better pair. It was a delight to use some superwash merino gifted from a friend a few years ago.

She looooooves them. In fact, you might notice that one of the mittens is quite fuzzy already — she wore it nonstop while I knitted the second one. It’s so gratifying to have your knitting appreciated!

I made a few mistakes on this project, so I’m working on a second pair for a friend which I think will turn out even better.

Pointy Elf Hat

pointy elf hat(Info on Ravelry.)

Again, this was a project that nobody asked for, but I was compelled to make after I saw a picture on the cover of a book. It was just so perfectly whimsical and sweet.

It actually took a year for inspiration to turn to reality because I couldn’t find any suitable yarn (the pattern calls for an extra-bulky thick/thin yarn that’s been discontinued.) I finally found something similar at Joann, which doesn’t even exist in Canada (I had to get in when I was in the US). I was so thrilled that it was finally going to happen!

It was a fast and fun knit, and Lydia loves it.

Well, I’ve still got a couple of projects on the go, but these are the ones I’ve finished so far.

What have you been knitting or crocheting?? If you’re on Ravelry I’d love to follow you there!!

How to Make Sun Prints

How to make sun prints. Fun summer activity for kids!

Hi friends! Lydia and I recently did a fun, inexpensive, outdoorsy+artsy activity that I thought I’d share about: making sun prints. It was pretty cool!

sunprint kit

You can buy a little Sunprint Paper Kit for about $6.50 USD on Amazon. That’s the one we got, anyway. It’s the 4×4-inch kit, and it has 12 sheets of sun print paper in it. Somehow I was surprised how tiny the squares were. You can only fit, like, one maple leaf on a square. It ended up looking awesome, though, when you put them all together. I discovered you can get much bigger kits, too — in the future it would be fun to try this kit that contains 8×10-inch sheets (i.e. closer to the size of standard printer paper), for about $12.50.

Anyway, here’s how it works:

First, gather your materials and take them outside. (You need pretty bright, direct sunshine to get a crisp image.) All you need is your Sunprint kit and a small square/rectangular dish of water to rinse your prints. Plus the things you want to print, of course.

Next, collect some objects you’d like to make prints of. I decided we should stick with items from nature (leaves, flowers, seeds, etc), but you could just as easily use household items with distinctive shapes (toys, keys, etc). They had to be small, though, to fit on the 4×4 sheets. Flat objects work best, but you can use 3-dimensional objects, too (for example, we did a pine branch.)

nature items

(These are the items we used, after we were done with them. That’s why they’re wilty.)

Time to make your prints! You have to make them one at a time, because the kit only includes one acrylic cover.

Lay down a sheet of print paper. It starts out blue. Lay your item on top, and then cover with the acrylic sheet that comes in the kit.

making sunprints: fern 1

Tip: we made sure to keep our materials in the shadows our bodies cast as we prepared them.

The acrylic sheet keeps the item from moving around. You can print 3D items (e.g. the pine branch) without the cover, but when possible (e.g. with flat object like leaves), the acrylic sheet really helps.

Anyway, let it sit in the sun for about one minute, until the blue turns almost white.


Then remove the cover and the item. It now looks like this:

making sunprints: fern 3

Cool! But the magic isn’t over yet: quickly rinse your new sun print in water. For about another minute.

making sunprints: fern 4

making sun print - rinsing

Now lay it flat to dry in the shade. Be amazed as the colours reverse: the background goes back to blue, and the silhouette of the object turns white! Whaaaat? #science


Over the next few hours, the blue will deepen to a deep, rich indigo.


making sunprints: fern

Some other items we tried were maple keys, an English ivy leaf, a pine branch, a Japanese maple leaf, and a stem of bleeding heart blooms.

sun prints - maple keys

making sun prints

They looked so pretty together that I decided to frame them. I already had a floating frame that was just perfect for this.

Lydia wants this up in her room. I agree that it will look awesome! What a lovely piece of artwork!

sun prints framed

(PS trying to take a photo of something so shiny and reflective is HARD!)

There you go! Give it a try and tell me how it goes!

Disclaimer: post contains affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I get a tiny commission. Thanks for your support!





April in Review: A Month of Making


I don’t know what it was about April, but I was seized with a need to MAKE STUFF WITH MY HANDS.

Beautiful stuff. Practical stuff. Fun stuff. I just had to do it.

Writing was not in the program.

So in lieu of a proper blog post, here’s a gallery of the things I made, or had Ben make, during the month of April.

I don’t even know how we did it, honestly, on so little sleep and with so little free time. Or why. Except to somehow hang to our humanity in the midst of continuous existential crises?

Anyway, here’s what we’ve been up to.

First, a painting that my mom commissioned for her living room wall. She paid me in free babysitting, the best currency.



Then there was the wooden Waldorf rainbow stacker that I had Ben cut out in his shop. I helped sand it and then painted it with food colouring diluted with rubbing alcohol. As a late Easter present for Felix.


I then got the urge to break out my sewing machine and finally make that canvas teepee/tent I’ve been wanting to make for the kids. I followed a pattern I bought from Etsy.

teepeeLydia and a friend enjoying a snack in front of their chalk “bonfire.”

I was also recently overcome with a passionate desire to learn how to paint with watercolours. I’ve been obsessively watching tutorials on Youtube whenever I feed Felix. I dream about it at night and take out stacks of books from the library for inspiration. I think I’ve already spent $200 in materials.

watercolor paintingMe and Lydia taking over the kitchen table with our artwork.



And lastly: I asked Ben to make Felix a Pikler triangle to practice his climbing.

Felix’s gross motor development kind of plateaued last year despite continued physiotherapy and the use of orthotics, and I’ve been trying to think of ways we can add to his environment to encourage his development. I came across the idea of the Pikler triangle from someone on Instagram — it’s fairly common (or at least recognized) in Montessori and RIE circles.  Anyway, my amazing husband whipped one up in an afternoon, just by looking at a few pictures online. (He’s a carpenter by profession, if you didn’t know.) Felix immediately took to it and has been getting some awesome practice in.

pickler traingle - Montessori

(P.S. isn’t his hat adorable? We put it on him to help him keep in his hearing aids.)

Anyway, if you wonder where I’ve been or why I haven’t been blogging, this is part of the reason. I’ve been busy making stuff.

That, and I’m struggling to understand who I am in the world and the purpose of my existence. My life feels like a mess and I’m stumbling through it aimlessly, wondering what it’s all for and how we can find meaning and happiness.

You know, that kind of stuff.

(Turns out, it takes a really, really long time to process a child’s near-death experience and continued special needs. Right now, my spiritual journey seems to be taking me through arts and crafts as a form of coping and healing. I’m trying to follow the prompting of the Spirit and see where it takes me.)


DIY Natural Mineral Makeup Liquid Foundation (Only 3 Ingredients!)

makeup header

Those who know me know that over the years, I’ve transitioned to non-toxic home and body care products. I make my own deodorant and toothpaste, I wash my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar, and I moisturize with natural oils. I clean most of my home with baking soda, vinegar, and elbow grease.

One thing that took longer to change up was makeup. Yes, the best thing to do would be to give up makeup entirely. I am not a high-maintenance girl, and I wish I could do that; but man, I have the worst skin. I have had terrible acne since I was 11 and it is not letting up at all in my thirties.

I . . . I don’t want to talk about it. It really bums me out. Suffice it to say, I’m really self-conscious about my skin and I feel better with a bit of makeup.

I tried a few commercial brands of less-toxic makeup, but they were very expensive, the ingredients were still kind of sketchy, and they didn’t work as well. Making my own makeup just seemed too hard. How would I get the right shade for my skin? How could I get homemade mascara to not run?

The first thing I changed in my makeup kit was my eyeliner. I started making my own eyeliner out of activated charcoal. That was super-easy and inexpensive, and also really effective.

But the rest? It stayed the same for years. I’d been buying the exact same CoverGirl liquid powder foundation for the last 13 years. (I’m from the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it camp on just about everything.)

I live in a small Canadian town, so I don’t have access to a lot of local shops making small batches of homemade lotions and makeup. And shipping is bonkers expensive here. Buying makeup online is risky because you can’t test it out. What’s a girl to do?

Mineral Makeup: Almost Right?

mineral makeup powder

Finally, a few years ago, I got a chance to try mineral makeup, which I’d been wanting to try for years.

Mineral makeup uses minerals such as iron oxides, talc, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide, which are ground and milled into tiny particles to create makeup. It sits on the skin rather than being absorbed into it, making it safer. It’s free of parabens, chemical dyes, and perfumes, and are healthy for all skin types. Many brands even claim to nourish the skin rather than damage it.

But real mineral makeup always comes in a loose powdered form. One of the main reasons is because the ingredients that turn makeup into a liquid are generally the most toxic ones.

Basically, you need harsh ingredients to create a liquid makeup that won’t go bad.

Microbes thrive in water, so liquid formulations must include some kind of preservative. If you don’t want nasty preservatives in your makeup, you can’t have it in a liquid form.

So I gave powdered mineral makeup a good try. I watched all the YouTube videos on how to apply it and bought the fancy kabuki brush.

Brush, brush, brush, brush, brush, I went. And then brush, brush, brush, brush, brush some more. (Mineral makeup is hardcore, you guys. So much brushing.)

I couldn’t get it to work for me.

Like I said, I have really crappy skin: I have constant acne, and it’s always simultaneously dry, too. Powder always looks cakey on me, and it takes a ton of it to cover all my blemishes.

Mineral makeup is expensive. And I’m lazy. I can’t be brushing powder all over my face for ten minutes every day.

I wanted the natural-ness of mineral makeup, but the creamy texture of my favourite CoverGirl liquid powder foundation. But none of the toxic ingredients necessary for a commercial liquid makeup.

It was time to turn my powdered mineral makeup into a DIY liquid foundation.

(So in case it wasn’t clear yet: my DIY recipe uses pre-purchased mineral makeup powder. This is not one of those recipes that uses cinnamon and cocoa powder to provide colour. So you will have to go out and find a good mineral makeup that matches your skin tone to follow this recipe.)

MY DIY Liquid Powder Foundation

homemade liquid makeup

I realized that if I wanted to make my own liquid makeup, I would need to make it in small batches to prevent contamination and growth of microbes.

And if I needed to make it frequently, the recipe needed a minimum of ingredients to make it quick and easy.

One DIY recipe I came across online demands that you make a small batch every single day to prevent the growth of mould. Sheesh! I’m not that concerned about contamination. So I make a batch that lasts me about a month. I figure that most makeup you pick up from the drugstore shelf is probably already a month old by the time it gets into your shopping cart, so I’m at least doing better than that.

That same recipe claims to have only “two ingredients,” but one of the ingredients is a homemade lotion consisting of five other ingredients. So . . . no thanks. I wanted something quicker and easier.

After experimenting with a few different natural oils and butters, and playing with the proportions, I found one that made me happy. Just plain shea butter was too thick and pastey, so I added skin-friendly jojoba oil to thin it and add some slip. You may want to play around with it, too, in order to control the amount of coverage it offers and how thick you like it.

Okay, so now you’re wondering, Does it work? How does it look?

Here are my before and after pictures. I am being very vulnerable showing you my untouched, blemish-riddled “before” picture, so be nice. I really hope this isn’t the image that gets pinned. (I did not retouch these photos at all.)

homemade liquid mineral makeup

So maybe I don’t look like a model in a shampoo commercial, but I feel a lot more confident leaving the house looking like the “after” than the “before.”

(P.S. the homemade eyeliner recipe can be found here.)

The Recipe

This creates a thick, creamy foundation similar to CoverGirl’s Ultimate Finish Liquid Powder. It’s not pourable at room temperature. It can also work as a concealer.


  • 1/2 tsp shea butter
  • 1/2 tsp jojoba oil
  • 1 tsp loose powder mineral makeup*

*I buy mine from a small store in London, Ontario. I’ve heard good things about Jane Iredale and Bare Minerals, available at Sephora. I’ve also purchased a decent mineral makeup from the Body Shop.


  • double boiler (I just put a ceramic bowl over a small pot of boiling water)
  • small container (I use a Tupperware pill box)
  • makeup sponge

Place three ingredients in double boiler, and warm just until shea butter is melted. Then stir well. Scrape it into a small container and allow it to cool.

Apply to skin using a good-quality makeup sponge.

That’s it! I make a batch about every 6 weeks, but then, as a stay-at-home mom I rarely apply it.








Easy DIY Orange Candles (Cheap! Eco-Friendly! All-Natural! Fun!)

How to make a candle out of an orange. A fun, cheap, easy, eco-friendly DIY!Here’s a neat little craft/activity you and your family might enjoy: turn an orange into a candle (with stuff you already have in your house)!

We love having a candle burning while we eat our dinner, especially during the dark winter evenings. I typically burn my own homemade tallow-and-beeswax candles — it’s important that my candles are clean, natural, and unscented, especially around food.

But this DIY orange candle was a fun little twist. The orange rind acts as a bowl to hold the oil, and the orange’s “central column” (which you have to keep intact) acts as the wick.

We first tried this on little tangerines, and they burned for hours and hours! They have a slightly citrusy scent, which is delightful.

All you need for these homemade candles are:

  • an orange (or other citrus fruit. So far we’ve found that tangerines and clementines work better than large navel oranges)
  • some cooking oil (I used olive)
  • a knife
  • a lighter or match


  • it really helps to work over a napkin, because it gets pretty messy.
  • a spoon is helpful to loosen the fruit from the peel.

how to make a candle out of an orange and olive oil

Okay, here’s what you do.

1. Using a small knife, cut just the skin of the orange around the equator.

Is that actually what it’s called? Like, if the stem and navel are the north and soul poles, you’d cut around the equator. But not all the way through; just the peel. Here’s a picture of what I mean:

cutting an orange to make a diy candle

(Yeah, I’m a leftie — sorry.)

2. Loosen the orange peel from the fruit.

A spoon is really helpful for this step. Stick the tip under the rind and slide it around the perimeter of the orange to separate the rind from the fruit.

making an orange candle

(Whoa, what a crappy photo! Did I go partially blind for a second? I don’t know what happened there. Oh, well; it still gives you the right idea.)

If you don’t have a spoon, you can do it with just your fingers, but it will be messier.

3. Go ahead and cut the orange in half now, all the way through.

diy orange candle

(My little helper was eager to do this part.)

4. Now scoop out the fruit from both halves, being careful to keep the orange’s “central column” attached.

orange candle diy

(I totally had to google what that part of the orange is called. You know what I mean. That white, fibrous column that runs through the orange, stem to navel.)

diy orange candle

Now you have two candle bowls with wicks!

Go ahead and eat the fruit while you’re at it. Vitamin C!

5. Fill the orange halves with cooking oil, making sure to get some on the wick.

diy orange candle with olive oil

I used olive oil. I think just about any oil would work: vegetable, canola, peanut . . . whatever you have on hand.

Just leave a little bit of the wick sticking out.

6. Light it up!

diy orange candle -- light the middle

Note: be sure to place your orange candle on a ceramic or glass (or other heat-safe) dish before lighting. It can get very hot when it gets down to the bottom and could burn your table. I don’t want to be responsible for any house fires!

Lighting might take a few minutes, especially if you use a large orange with a really wet, fleshy column. (Yeah . . . sorry if that sounded perverted. I noticed it too.) Be patient and keep trying. The wick needs to be soaked in oil.

As I said above, I found the little tangerines and clementines worked the best and easiest, while the big navel orange gave me some trouble. (I could only get one half to light, in fact.)

And there you go! Your homemade, all-natural candle!

make a candle out of an orange

Keep an eye on your candle and keep adding oil as the level burns down, and it will keep going for hours. My first tangerine candles burned for over 4 hours! Jury’s still out on the navel orange. We’ve lit it every evening for the last 3 days and it’s still going strong.

Have fun!






The Best Materials for Your Very, Very First Knitting Project

the best materials for your very, very first knitting projectSo you want to learn how to knit. Hooray! That was me just a few short weeks ago.

Yup, I’m still a beginner myself. And I would love for you to learn from my mistakes.

I had a rough start of it. I just could not get the hang of it. I had to pull apart the first three projects I started.

“Knitting is HARD!” I complained to my husband.

Part of the problem was that I didn’t have a live teacher to instruct me — I was just watching a random assortment of Youtube videos without any real instruction on how to best begin. (Things got a little better when I bought The Idiot’s Guide to Knitting — I started at the beginning and am working my way through.)

But an even bigger problem, I soon realized, is that I was using the wrong materials.

I was using skinny aluminum needles and thin, slippery, cotton yarn.

The materials I chose were too fiddly and too small. My yarn kept slipping off my needles, I couldn’t see what I was doing, and my yarn had no give. It was stiff and tight, making it difficult to manipulate.

After watching this video, I realized what I needed to do.  I needed to start with different materials. So I went to my local yarn shop and selected some new needles and yarn.


After re-starting with my new materials, I quickly caught on. They were much easier to use. My confidence quickly grew, and soon I was knitting and purling with relative ease.

So if you’re looking to start knitting, I thought I’d pass along the advice no one gave me.

If you’re a brand-new knitter starting her very, very first knitting project, here’s what you need:

some large bamboo needles and some chunky, variegated wool yarn.

Let me explain the benefits of these materials.

Needles: Large, Bamboo

I got some US Size 10 (6mm) bamboo needles (like these). (Standard size is around size 8/5mm).Best tools for your very first knitting project: big bamboo needles and chunky yarn

  • Bigger (thicker) needles makes it easier to see your work and to count your stitches. They’re also easier to manipulate when you’re still new and clumsy.
  • Bamboo is much less slippery than steel or aluminum, so your stitches aren’t always slipping off. Newbies tend to be terrified of their stitches falling off (because it does happen), so they’re more likely to hold their yarn in a death-grip (I know I did!), which makes it hard to knit well. With more grippy needles, you can relax a little and focus your energy on getting the movements right.

Yarn: Chunky, Acrylic/Wool, Variegated


I purchased Patons Shetland Chunky yarn in Harvest Variegated. Here’s why it’s perfect:

  • Getting an acrylic/wool blend is great because it’s a little more grippy than, say, cotton or silk. Just like with the bamboo needles (above), more grip helps keep your stitches from sliding off. It also has some stretch to it, making it more forgiving when you’re just learning the movements. (Pure wool would probably be great, too, but it might be a little pricey for a first project. And plain acrylic is probably just fine, too, but the texture might not be as pleasant.)
  • A thicker, chunkier/bulkier yarn is easier to see, so you can count your stitches and keep track of your working yarn better.
  • Variegated colour, I learned by accident, helps you to catch your mistakes more easily. If you’re working along and all of a sudden one of your loops is a different colour from the surrounding loops, you know you’ve probably done something wrong. (Perhaps you’ve dropped a stitch or wound your working yarn over your needle when you weren’t supposed to.) This gives you a chance to stop and investigate before it’s too late to fix your mistake.

An example of how variegated colour can help you:

A common mistake among new knitters is getting your last stitch twisted, so that you end up with what looks like two stitches instead of one. You end up working both loops, adding an unwanted stitch to your row. With variegated yarn, it’s much easier to notice this mistake. Take a look:

twisted stitches on knitting needle

Oops! These last two loops shouldn’t be purple. They look out of place for a reason. The stitch must be twisted. There’s an extra loop here – don’t knit!

Adjust your stitches so that they match the surrounding loops. You’ll notice there’s only supposed to be one loop where you previously saw two.

The best materials for your first knitting project

Ahh, that’s better! Disaster averted. I may not have caught that with a single-coloured yarn.

And there you have it! The ideal knitting materials for your first knitting project.

(As my first project, I decided to make a blanket for my daughter’s doll, using this dishtowel pattern [the second one]. It’s a great opportunity to learn how to combine knits/purls/garter/stockinette without getting overly complicated, and not too big a commitment. Just a suggestion. You can see mine here.)

NOTE ON SELECTING YOUR MATERIALS: make sure the size of your needles and yarn are compatible. Your yarn ball band should have a recommended needle size on it. I went back and forth between a few different yarns and needles until I found a good match. In general, bulky-weight yarns work with a size 10-11 needle. Extra-bulky might require a 11 or 13.

yarn ball band(You can see my yarn is bulky-weight or category 5. The suggested needle size is US 10 or 6mm.Sorry about the crummy photo.)

Happy knitting!

*Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.*

Felted {Crocheted} Treasure Bowls: Pattern and Tutorial

DIY felted crocheted treasure bowl - tutorial and pattern

When I read Amanda Blake Soule’s Rhythm of the Family some time last year, I was immediately and completely smitten by her felted treasure bowls. They were adorable, and perfect for holding the types of things Lydia and I love to collect from nature. There was just one major problem: they’re knitted. I don’t know how to knit. I don’t know the first thing about knitting. So I sighed and turned the page, never to create her beautiful little bowls.

At the time, I didn’t know how to crochet, either. But during the five months we spent in the hospital with Felix, I got a chance to learn. And to get reasonably good at it, too.

As soon as I learned to crochet in the round, Soule’s little felted bowls snuck out from the back of my mind. Maybe I could make a crocheted version? Didn’t it work basically the same way?

It does! I’ve tried it.

I tried to find a pattern online but I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. So I made up my own pattern and figured out how to felt it by checking out a variety of other tutorials.

Here you have it!

A Few Notes

You need to use 100% wool yarn to create a felted piece. Felting is the process of the natural fibers matting together to form a dense fabric.

Felting also causes shrinkage. Your finished bowl will be smaller than the crocheted one you start with.

I’m writing this pattern with the assumption you already know how to crochet. It just uses a magic loop and single crochet stitches worked in a spiral. You need to know how to increase and decrease.

I started with this pattern for inspiration and tweaked it to suit what I had in mind.

 Step One: Crochet


  • Size G hook
  • 100% wool, worsted weight (One skein will make several bowls)
  • Stitch marker (a small safety pin works)


sc= single crochet

st = stitch (sts =stitches)

sc2tog = single crochet 2 stitches together (a.k.a. single crochet decrease)


Start with a magic ring (a.k.a adjustable ring, adjustable loop). Make 6 single crochets into the ring. Pull tail to close ring tightly.

(Alternative: chain 2. Make 6 single crochets into the second chain from the hook).

Rnd 2: 2 sc into each sc stitch (12)

Rnd 3: (2 sc into the first st, then 1 sc in next st) around (18) *From here on in, it’s helpful to mark the first stitch of each round with your stitch marker so you know where you started

crocheting round 3 of bowl(Note the stitch marker I’m using to keep track of the beginning of the round. Also, I’m a leftie, so this will probably look different for you.)

Rnd 4: Repeat Rnd 3 (27)

Rnd 5: (2 sc into the first st, then 1 sc into next 2 sts) around (36)

Rnd 6: (2 sc into first st, then 1 sc into next 3 sts) around (45)

Rnd 7: (2 sc into first st, then 1 sc into next 4 sts) around (Here I lost count but you get the idea)

Rnd 8-18: 1 sc into each stitch around. This is where your circle starts to turn into a bowl!

Rnd 19: (sc2tog, then sc into next 4 sts) around [You’re decreasing here to get the rim of the bowl to curve inward just a smidge]

Rnd 20: Repeat Rnd 19

Use a slip stitch in the next stitch to fasten off. Trim and weave in ends.

crocheting wool bowl

crocheted bowl - before felting

Step 2: Felting

This step is fun after all the counting and precision and repetition of the previous step.

To felt something made of wool, you need heat, water, and agitation. Soap helps, too. You want the fibers to all mat together to create a dense fabric. Some people use the washing machine to felt  their work, and I would probably choose to do it that way if I had a bunch of bowls to do at once; but when I’m making one at a time, I’d rather just do it by hand.

All you need is a tap and a bar of soap. (Liquid works too, but a bar adds agitation.)

Under running hot water — as hot as you can stand — start to soap up your bowl and lather it. Then you just go to town on your bowl. Squashing, rubbing, scrubbing, massaging, wringing, and twisting.  Rinse and repeat. Keep it up until it’s felted to your liking. I didn’t want to see too much stitch definition, but a little was okay.

My hands get kind of tired, so I did it in two ten-minute-ish sessions.

Then rinse with cold water to lock the fibers.

Squeeze out as much water as you can. Wrap in a towel and squeeze some more.

Then shape it with your hands and let it air dry. I put an orange inside mine for a few hours to keep it nice and round.

The stitches will tighten up to create a nice, dense fabric. Like this:

before and after felting a crocheted wool bowl

Tada: your bowl is felted!

felted wool bowl

Time to add your treasures:


I made a few different sizes, by increasing or decreasing the number of rounds:

DIY felted treasure bowls - three different sizes

Adults can use them for their treasures, too!

DIY felted treasure bowls for holding jewelry!

Hope you find these bowls as charming as I do!

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