Places to Party

Monday, June 30, 2014

Weave Your Home a Little Happy Rug

I love making things to make my home happy and cozy. Sure, you can go out and buy some mass produced item, but when you make a basket, quilt or rag rug for your home, you know what the quality of the item is, you choose the materials and you can change up the colors, textures, etc.

My weaving partner, Mr. Mittens at work!


I started this blog featuring one of these rugs. They are the perfect use up for selvages, old  flannel blankets that have torn or even to reduce that fabric stash we all have. These make wonderful gifts and they may last long enough to even be passed down. I made my first rag rug over a year ago and I'm happy to say, it's one of my favorite things I've ever made. Cushy and wonderful, it's the perfect partner to have under your feet when you are doing the dishes. Because I've packed a lot of material in there, it will last years.

As you can see this would be very simple to build.

The great thing about weaving these rugs is that if you want to create the frame, it really isn't all that difficult. There are a couple of books that you can get online that show you how. A few brads, four pieces of lumber, some hooks and some long stem hooked bars and you are on your way. If you don't want to make your own loom, you probably can find them online or maybe in your local quilt shop, that is where I found mine at
although the cost will be a lot more than what it'll cost to make it.

Once you have your frame, you start your rag rug by ripping fabric into 1" strips. You want to use a cotton or flannel that has been washed and dried so that the resultant fabric has been shrunk. Ripping the fabric makes sure you straighten out the selvage ends. While not really all that important when weaving a rug, it is when you are cutting out a quilt. You want to make sure that this is the final size of the fabric so that when you wash the rug for the first time, you don't get any unforeseen consequences. I accomplish this typically in two ways. One, if I have any selvages left or strips left after a quilting project, I use those or two, cut little cuts along one edge of the material you are going to use and rip it on down! You want strips at 12" or longer and trust me, it'll take a lot.

The placemat loom showing the warp. Always start with
a longer piece that fold so that one end is longer than the other.

The strips that form the base of your weaving is called the warp. It really doesn't matter what color or pattern you use as this is going to be completely covered. Utilize the ugliest fabric you'll never use here or whatever you have left over from other projects. I use whatever fabrics or strips I got left and just join them together.

Sandwich your strips together and cut a slit. Pull the top
strip through the bottom hole and pull tight.
Joining fabric strips together couldn't be easier! Just cut a vertical strip at the end of the row you are joining to. On your new strip, cut an identical hole. Now, with the new strip on top, layer your strips together. Feed the top strip underneath your layer and feed up through the bottom hole. Pull though and tug so that you have a solid join. Don't worry if you have a few "wings" peaking out. You'll be weaving over them.

To warp your loom, start by making a simple square knot in the upper left hand corner on

the bar. Then start your warp by wrapping the strip up and down to make a grid like this. When you run out of a strip and you will... trust me it takes a lot of fabric to warp and weave... simply tie a simple not around the brad and make sure to keep your tension on the grid even. You want your grid to be tight... not tight enough to bend your brads but tight on them. Finish your warp by tying yet another square knot on the bar at the other end.


Now the fun part, actual weaving! Yeah!

Unlike a loom or basket, weaving on this loom you are
twining around the warp on either side so the warp is
never seen. Use your fingers to push the fabric up
tightly against your previous row of weaving. Your fingers
become your "beater bar".
With a decently long piece, fold it so one end is longer than the other. Does this sound familiar? If you read through the basket piece it is the same idea. You don't want both pieces to end in the same place so you don't have a "lump" in your finished project. To weave, simply go in and out around your warping strips making sure that you pack the strips as tight as you can towards the top of the brads. There is no sewing on this rug, so when you remove it off the loom, you want to make sure it is packed tight.

Now comes the tricky part, the edges. You need to make them tight. When you get to the edge, on the strip that is ending on the top of the bar, wrap it around the bar. Open up a loop and slide this in the loop and pull it tight. Knowing that a picture is worth a thousand words, here we go.

Bring the strip on top around the bar, open the loop formed
and slide the strip through.

Pull tight. Starting with the strip in the back (in the case the
pink strip, begin your weaving with the second strip in.

 When you get several rows of weaving, turn the piece and begin the process over again and weave the other side. You are going to be weaving this way switching sides each time until your rug is completed. The rug completes in the middle and you simply weave the loose ends back into your weaving cutting off any long ends.


To complete your rug, simply remove the two bars on either side that you wove & knotted the weaving around. Then gently lift your rug off the loom.

Weaving your first rug can be as quick or long as you make it. I find the repetitive nature of weaving very relaxing. I can listen to the TV and keep my hands I weaving in and out of piece and it's very gratifying to see how many rows you can weave in a setting and watch the pattern emerge. I don't ever plan my color palette and find that regardless of the color or pattern of the fabric, the end result is very beautiful. Sometimes I make sure that if I have a dominate color on one side, I'll do it on another just to be somewhat symmetrical.

These are wonderful additions to any home. They are perfect and unexpected gifts for the holiday season. Start one today, you may find a new hobby that you'll enjoy for years.

UPDATE: Since I originally posted this, I've made several rugs. Having had to wash them and line dry them this weekend, I decided to take some pictures.

I like doing the multi-color because they use up a variety of fabric.

Lately, however, I've been doing more color blocked work. I used old bed sheets I buy at the local Goodwill to get enough fabric for these because they take so much of one color.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream!


Yeah I know. Sounds exotic, esoteric.. who makes ice cream at home? That is something you always buy right?

Ice cream takes a while but really is not all that hard. My Aunt Rita used to wax poetic about the homemade ice cream of her youth. "The best ice cream I remember", she used to say, "was made with condensed milk and strawberries".

To this day I wish I had that recipe. Baring that I went to one of my cookbooks, "Simply Strawberries" and tried my hand at their recipe. It wasn't that hard and boy is it delicious!

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/8 tsp salt
4 cups light cream , divided in 2 cup measures
(I used heavy cream, yum!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup sugar

In a bowl, put in the sliced strawberries with the 1/2 cup sugar and refrigerate for up to 24 hours to produce juice.

Beat eggs with your mixer until light and foamy. Set aside.  In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour an salt. Gradually stir in 2 cups of the cream. Cook and stir over low heat taking care not to scald cream. Cook until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to thicken 10-15 mins.

Temper your eggs by gently putting in a small amount of hot cream into the beaten eggs, stirring as you incorporate it. When the container the eggs come in becomes warm to the touch, add the remaining cream. Put the entire mixture back in the saucepan and cook for one minute more. Remove from heat and chill until completely cool. Add the remainder 2 cups of cream and vanilla.

Drain strawberry "juice" into the cream base and process in your ice cream maker for 20-40 mins or per your ice cream maker's manual.   When the ice cream is finished, it will still be very soft and now mix in the reserved strawberries from your "juice". Put in a freezer safe container and freeze for several hours.

Homemade ice cream is so far better than store bought and it's a great project to do with your children. Make some before this summer is through and you'll be glad you did!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Organizing the Homefront & Odd Chores

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer

                                             -Nat King Cole

Lazy days of summer? Are you kidding me? Anyone that has lived on a farm knows that summer is the time you got to "Make Hay While the Sun Shines"! My little oasis is no different.

Living in an old house there are chores that I don't think most people ever have to do. One of these chores is painting the inside of your cabinets. My kitchen was built somewhere around 1867-1930. When we bought the house, we were told that the bathroom and the kitchen were put in in the 1920's, but when we put down hardwood in the kitchen, we found a well underneath my stove that seem to point to an earlier time.

My kitchen cabinets were clearly built into the kitchen when it was being constructed as it follows the roofline of the kitchen. These crazy things are made out of 3/4" plywood? and when we first moved in, were in sorry shape. I don't know why but as some point, it must have been really fashionable to paint all your woodwork flat white and put on the handles with the spade shape that looks like someone had a Euchre fetish because I've seen these handles in so many old houses. Needless to say, we stripped those cabinet doors and I tole painted them with patterns from my favorite painters and we love it. I'll teach you how to tole paint in a future post as I truly believe anyone who can color in a coloring book can tole paint something they can be proud of.

Pattern created by my favorite painter, Catherine Holman. Painted by me!

This is what my cabinets look like now.

But the insides, especially the cabinet that houses my pots and pans are in a word: Sad.
These cabinets are dark, long and there are a lot of wasted space. They are finished only in paint so they get pretty banged up and end up looking like this atrocious mess after a few years:


So out with whatever paint I may have left over, I begin the project.

If I'm feeling particularly DYI, I'll buy some TSP and wash the inside of the cabinet down. I wasn't in this case so Pine sol worked. After cleaning and letting them dry, I literally have to crawl inside the cabinet to paint it. Clearly the last time I wasn't as ambious, as the original Pepto-Bismol pink was still in the back portion of the cabinet. After painting the entire thing and letting it dry, came the purging.


Can anyone explain how we get so many lids for so few pots and pans? And where did some of these pots and pans come from? Maybe that lost space in the back is being use for by those pots and pans for more lascivious actions? Yikes.

So, after a few hours of work, I can now enjoy the next couple of years with a nice, freshly painted cabinet and only the pots and pans I use. And I can now shut the door to this cabinet! Bonus!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sweet & Sassy Little Strawberry Basket

The strawberries are forming on my plants and soon it'll be time to go out and pick...I can hardly wait! My parent's garden produces so many that by the end of the season, they get really tired of picking them, but my garden...well, not so much. Still the plants are large this year and I already see green little berries, so hope rings eternal in the gardener's heart.

If  you are going to pick berries, however, you really need to know how many quarts you picked, if for nothing else, bragging rights if you are so inclined (and what gardener isn't?). For years, I have wanted to weave some cute little strawberry baskets. I've never seen a pattern for any, although I'm sure they exist, so I made my own. Sure,  you can use the cheap little pressed cardboard ones that you get at the farm market, but once you get water on them you're done and besides, where is the style in that? These little baskets are durable and  if wet, will dry out and be reusable. You can make them as utilitarian as you want or as decorative as you want. This basket would be really adorable sitting on your bathroom counter with maybe some potpourri stuffed strawberries.

Sweet & Sassy Little Strawberry Basket*

10 pieces: 1/2 inch Flat reed cut 24" and center marked at 12"
#2 oval reed
1/4" flat oval reed

Optional: Dyed 1/4 flat oval
                Strip of ash, tulip or oak for
                 decorative painting

I'm keeping the supply list to very basic sized reed so that if  you enjoy this project, you'll have enough reed to make more or the basic sizes to make other baskets. If you decide you don't like weaving, you should have no issue getting rid of these sizes of reed.

If this is your first weaving project, here are some basics you'll want to know.

First, reed is typically sold two ways, in hanks or pound coil.
A hank is basically a long bunch of reeds folded in half in a loop and secured. They are good for hanging but other than that, a bit of pain to work with. The benefit of the hank is that the reed doesn't become intangled like it can with a pound coil. The pound is typically easier to store  until you open it. Then typically you either make smaller bunches of the coil or try to reroll the coil as best as you can.

Wrong side.

Second, reed has a right side and a wrong side.
Some reed is so nice that it is really hard to tell but typically if you lightly bend the reed, one side will be "hairy" and this is the wrong side of the reed. this will be the side facing inside the basket and the one in which you will make your marks.

Third, reed needs to be soaked to be pliable and not break.
The thicker the reed, the more soaking time. Reed is sold by size, the higher the number, the bigger the reed. Soaking in warm or hot water will make the reed more pliable faster. You can also put in a used softener sheet to assist in this.

Finally, reed is always sold in three different forms:


Here are some of the basic tools you'll need.

You probably have all the items (other than the reed)
you need for basketweaving already in your home!

Water bucket w/ water
YardstickFlat head screwdriver or packing tools
Hinged Clothes pins (not pictured)

To begin, remove some of the reed from your coil or hank. Measuring on your yardstick, mark off each 24" section. Cut these out and on the wrong side of each piece mark a small tick mark at the 12" point. Put in bucket to soak.

Mark your centers on the wrong side in pencil.

After reed is pliable, remove five of your 24" pieces of reed and lay them one next to the other vertically, matching up the 12" tick marks. Remove the next five and weave your first piece under then over right across the 12" mark sections. Weave the remaining four pieces, two above this 1st piece and 2 below the 1st piece alternating first over then under then to top and bottom piece under then over. Using a scrap piece of 1/2" reed, space the base out so that it is even and the base measures slightly smaller than 4 1/4". Clip each corner point with a clothes pin.

Take care to have your round reed (rr) lay NEXT to
itself and not on top of each other.
Now we are going to twine. Soak your #2 round reed. Take a long piece and bend it over gently offsetting the center of the bend so one reed is at least 2" or more longer than the other end. We offset it so that we don't find ourselves ending on the same spoke (spoke being the reed we are weaving around). After you have a suitable bend, slide that bend over a inside spoke and start weaving by bringing one side of the #2 in front of the spoke and the other

side behind. Weave three rows around the outside of the basket this way keeping the weaving tight. Take care around the corners that you don't bunch up the reed. The trick to doing that is to bend one reed
back while bringing the other reed around as shown to the right.

Adding twining piece at base.

If you run out of reed along the base, simply bend a curve in the reed and slide it into your weaving. Bend a curve in a new piece of soaked #2 and place it right next to the old piece and begin where you left off.

Now we upset the basket. No, you aren't yelling at it (basket humor, I know, bad)..
Soaking the basket thoroughly, remove it from the water and make any adjustments that may be needed. The basket base should now measure approx. 4 1/2". Gently begin pushing the spoke pieces up using a "bouncing" type of motion. If you hear a "crack" at any point, put the basket base back in the water to soak a little more. Do this all the way around. If desired, clothes pin each corner of the basket in the upright stance. Soak a few pieces of your 1/2".

Gently bend the spokes upright. If you hear a crack noise,
soak basket immediately, your reed isn't soaked enough.

Plaiting is the act of weaving in an in and out pattern. Beginning on the second spoke from a corner, on the now outside part of the basket, clothes pin one end of 1/2 inch with the good side facing you. In and in/out pattern, weave around each spoke clothes pinning every other one or what feels comfortable. Take care to pin the corners as these are what typically can make or break your basket. It takes practice and if this is your first basket, you'll do fine, it may take a couple of times to get the feel of what it is suppose to look like.

Use lots of clothes pins for your first couple rows.

Overlap by four tucking the end in front of your beginning piece
but behind the spoke.
Once you've made a full circle around, overlap your starting point by four, cutting and tucking the piece behind a reed but in front of the first woven piece. Take another piece (or this one if it's long enough) and starting on the exact opposite side of the basket, start the platting again ending just like the first.

You can continue this  pattern until you reach about 3 1/4" or add in decorative elements like I have here again just platting different sizes of reed (or sea grass, or whatever).

Once you have reached the side of the basket being 3 1/4", we are going to twine again but this time we select two different pieces of #2 reed and placing the cut ends behind two adjacent reeds being twining over and under each reed for four turns. Once we reach the beginning two reeds we simply cut the twine to the inside of the basket letting it lay behind our starting reeds.

Packing: Packing is important. A poorly made basket typically looks that way because it's maker didn't pack it. Packing is the process of pushing down your reed with either a screwdriver or a packing tool to make sure the reed sits firmly against each other. My basket weaving teachers used to explain it like this: "You want the basket to look like it could hold water if it was possible", that is how well you want to pack it.

You can pack at the end and throughout the weaving process.


Once we finish packing, we have to finish the basket weaving portion of the basket. Making sure your basket is soaked well, begin bending over the top portion of the reed to measure where you can hide it behind your weaving. Mark with a pencil where this line is and cutting on an angle (to make it easier to side through your weaving) cut the reed and gently bend it and slide it through the layers of weaving ending on the inside of a piece. You will more than likely use your screwdriver tool to open a path to slide this weaving through.

Cutting and tucking.
Now there are two schools of thought on whether  you need to do this to each reed. I was trained to pack each reed as it prevents it from coming undone at the point where your reed was cut if you choose the cut method, so that is what I'm presenting here. The other school of thought is that you only need to pack every other reed and cut off the reeds flush with the basket. This wasn't the method I was taught but hey, it's your basket and I'm not going to know one way or the other so choose which method  you want.

Finish tucking in your ends.

Finally we have to burn the basket.

"Say what? I just made this basket and now you want me to burn it?"

Well, yes and no. Burning is what we do to remove all the nasty little "hairs" that show up in the reed. Making sure your basket is thoroughly wet, take a lighter, candle, what-have-you and slowly burn off any little hairs you see on your basket. Don't worry, if you've soaked your basket it won't catch on fire. If it darkens with soot, simply wash it off in your soaking water or under a tap.

Finish your basket with wood stain (never polyurethane which will make it brittle) or leave it natural. Once a year soak your baskets to add moisture to them and extend their life. Be proud of your cute little strawberry basket and display it with pride.

*Copyright Stacey K 2014, all rights reserved. Author gives full right to make basket for personal use or for resale but basket pattern may not be sold or resold under this or any other name.