Sunday, July 31, 2016

For the Wee Folk

some of Annake's puppets
Some of Annake's many puppet designs
If you have followed this blog for some time, you have read about my puppets occasionally. I started making them for my own children, made more for the children of family and friends, and used many as teaching aids throughout the years.

Earlier this year (February 29, 2016), I showed a puppet made into a simple stuffed toy. I call these toys ‘loveys’ because they remind me of simple, even crude, toys called that which I saw as a child when living in the southern United States. Here are some other examples:

'Loveys", made from Annake's puppets

Lately I have begun combining the ‘loveys’ with another of my favorite pastimes, making afghans in this case, baby afghans. I've never cared much for the “Pink is for girls, blue is for boys” idea. Babies don't see pastels very well. The first color that babies really focus on is usually bright red. Toy manufacturers know this and make good use of the fact. I used bright colors for my children and incorporate them in most of my afghans.

big red barn afghan and lovey
"Big Red Barn" afghan/lovey set

I mean for the afghans to be used long after they are needed to wrap a tiny baby. I envision toddlers using them as nap blankets and play mats, cuddling in them while being read to or told stories, even using them as “security blankets”. Therefore, I try to incorporate features that inspire “teachable moments” for parents and care-givers. “Cottontail's Garden”' for example, could help children learn colors, associate the colors with favorite vegetables and fruits, and learn the names of those edibles. That should make trips to the grocery store more fun. (J. D. says it makes him hungry just to look at that afghan.) The association of the garden pattern with the rabbit ‘lovey’ leads naturally to reading storybooks like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit series.

cottontails garden afghan and lovey
"Cottontail's Garden" afghan and lovey set

Later this spring (May 12, 2016), I used a puppet to show how simple designs like those in coloring books could be adapted to create various kinds of needlework items for children and decorations for their rooms. The first thing I did was to convert my lion puppet pattern into a down-loadable outline drawing, similar to a coloring book picture, suitable for several kinds of needlework projects.

Puppet and new design outline
Puppet and new design outline

I used a copy of the outline pattern to cut out pieces of felt. Then I stitched the felt pieces together and appliqued them to a background. At this point, the picture would be suitable to be framed or to be made into a small wall hanging. There were, however, several other options. Eventually the picture was used to decorate a tote bag a nice place for a coloring book and crayons perhaps?

lion applique tote bag
Lion applique on tote bag
Needlework pictures, wall hangings and other decorations are ideal for a child's room because they are not likely to cause any injuries to the children. I never put glass in a picture designed for a child's room, and I use narrow, light-weight frames. I learned this lesson the hard way. One day when my oldest child was about 14 months old and already walking and climbing out of his crib I found he had climbed onto the bench of my spinet piano. From there he had climbed onto the closed keyboard and then onto the top of the piano. He was trying to lift a framed painting that was bigger than he was off the wall. The painting had glass in it and a very heavy frame. There were dangers of several sorts of disasters. I think I got my first gray hair that day! We moved all the pictures closer to the ceiling and secured them to the walls with adhesive. Then I began making things for the nursery that weren't hazardous to young would-be mountain climbers, like this blackwork cat embroidery which, even framed, weighs just a few ounces.

cat nap framed blackwork
"Cat Nap",  framed blackwork embroidery
I'm still embroidering animals in blackwork, redwork, whitework, and Holbein embroidery (which is essentially blackwork stitches done in many colors). I decided to do the lion design in Holbein embroidery on checked gingham. Once again, I used the simple outline design, this time to make a hot-iron transfer that I ironed onto the gingham. You will notice that the pattern is reversed when you use the iron-on technique. You can see more animal designs these destined to become a child's quilt on the blog post for October 18, 2013. Go to our Archive or the search engine on this blog to find them, along with a pattern you can download.

lion Holbein embroidery
Lion pattern done in Holbein embroidery
The last little lion is done in latch-hook, a soft medium that children like to touch. I traced the outline directly onto the latch-hook canvas with a permanent marker. I had to adjust the position of the tail a little to make it look right. This little fellow became a small wall hanging. As you can see, the three projects are similar, but different.

lion latch hooked
Lion pattern as a latch hooked wall hanging
I hope you will try one or more of these projects, whether with the downloaded designs or ones of your own making. If you don't have children or grand-children of your own, please make something for a child in need of kindness. There are far too many of them out there.

Thank you,

we love you this much wall hanging
"We Love You THIS Much", latch hooked wall hanging from our Etsy shop

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Irises, Poppies, and Lilies - Oh, My!

From time to time, J.D. and I like to share some of the flowers in our garden with you through J. D.'s photographs. Despite a very dry winter and late freezes and frosts, the irises were especially beautiful and bountiful. The miniature iris appeared in early April while the crocuses were still in bloom. The dwarfs were in full bloom in mid-April, followed by Dutch and species irises, and the tall bearded irises bloomed until mid-June.

iris collage

iris marked with yarn
Iris marked for removal with yarn
Many of the clumps have multiplied so much that they must be thinned. This should be done every three or four years, but we are doing it for the second year in a row! J. D. has been designating plants that need to be removed by tying lengths of colored yarn (never in short supply around here) around the stalks. Some will be relocated to other parts of the garden, while others will be sold at the farmers' markets.

Irises reproduce from structures called rhizomes. Many people think of these as roots, but they are really modified stems. They lie mostly on the surface of the ground and the short, true roots grow down from the lightly buried lower surface of the rhizome. I'll let J.D. tell you about lifting and re-planting them.

Iris with rhizome and roots, and digging knife
Iris with rhizome and roots, and digging knife
You need something that will cut the rhizome to separate plants, and something to loosen the soil 4" to 6" down and get under the irises' roots to lift them out. For individual plants or small clumps, I use my Japanese digging knife (pictured at the right); for larger clumps, I have a stout square-end spade. Cut through the rhizomes at the borders of the mass of plants you plan to remove; then dig, loosening the soil until you can get your tool under the irises, gently prying up all around the clump until you can get it to come free of the ground and the adjacent plants. Clean the dirt off the roots, and separate out individual leaf clusters with rhizome and roots.

To re-plant, loosen up the soil to about 5" deep, then make a shallow depression just big and deep enough to spread the true roots and bury them an inch or two deep. If you have particularly poor soil, you can add a little blood and bone meal to the soil now, before filling the dirt in around and on top of the roots. Leave the top half of the rhizome exposed, but pack the dirt firmly around  it and over the roots. Water the iris in well; then pretty much ignore it. Irises seem to thrive on benign neglect - just water it when and as you do the plants that surround it, and leave it alone.

J.D. shared a picture of our earliest-blooming poppy in the June 1, 2016 post. This beautiful purple poppy was frozen last year, but came back vigorously this year. We have two varieties of orange poppies, one of which produces extra-large blooms. Visitors tell me it looks like it is made of silk and want to touch the blossoms to see that they are real. We have two red poppies, one of which has ruffled edges, and two peach varieties, one of which is ruffled. In addition, we have pink, rose, and a beautiful white poppy with a black “throat”.

Poppy Collage

Hands full of poppy
We got quite a nice surprise this spring. We know some of our poppies multiply by self-seeding (the orange ones have established themselves everywhere). This year we found a new one of the peach poppies at least two meters from its parents, growing out of a gravel path. Its top blossom was so large that I had to hold it still so that J. D. could photograph it. It covered both my hands and was larger than a salad plate! We will re-locate it to a more hospitable garden plot and see what it produces next year.

Bagged poppy seed heads
Bagged poppy seed heads
We dig and sell the surplus orange poppies and will divide the peach ones this year, too. We save and sell the seeds from all ten varieties. J. D. can tell you how he does that.

I bag the seed heads with paper lunch bags (plastic makes the heads subject to mold and rot, and slows the drying) secured with several tight wraps of electrical tape. I label the bags with permanent marker by color (before covering the seed heads - much easier to write legibly that way), and wait for the stalks and foliage to dry out before cutting the stems.

Lenten rose in bloom
Lenten rose in bloom
Our plants have kept their own schedules this year some blooming earlier than usual, some later; some blooming longer than usual, others for a shorter time. Some just seem confused. For example, we have a Lenten rose which bloomed and an Easter lily I planted after it bloomed last year. Both are blooming for the fourth of July! The Easter lily bloomed three times last year, the last time just before frost. It seems determined to “celebrate” as many holidays as possible.

orange daylilies
Orange daylilies
The orange daylilies are late this year. They are very prolific and need to be divided just about every year. They are popular at the markets a little later in the summer. They are also popular with our neighbors. One lady a few doors down started with a row of our lilies a few years ago. Now they take up a large portion of her lawn and really “put on a show” each summer. She likes the glossy green foliage even after the flowers are gone and says she has to mow less lawn every year.

Regal lily
Regal lily
I usually don't have to look up at any flowers except our climbing roses, flowering shrubs, and sunflowers. This year, however, we have a really ambitious regal lily. J. D. had to tie it to a long l bamboo pole. It is in a raised bed, so I'm not sure how tall it really is, bur I suspect it comes close to J. D.' s six-foot-one. It really overhangs my five-foot-one! In the same raised bed, there is a clump of white lilies that was only a single stalk last year. Now there are six stalks, so it, too, will need to be divided. I counted 19 buds and blossoms on the original stalk and nearly as many on the younger ones. They all smell marvelous!

White lilies
White lilies
Speaking of fragrances, we did a “tour” of the irises when they were at their best and identified 21 different scents in several categories: floral, fruity, musky, citrus, candy-like, spicy and “what-would-you-call -that?”. Not all of our irises are fragrant, but the majority certainly are. I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of our garden. I just wish you could smell the flowers as well as look at them.

Best wishes from us to all of you,

(and J.D.)

 Creative Commons LicenseThis post by Annake's Garden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.