Friday, April 2, 2021


DBDC/x = Diary of a Brain Damaged Creative in the Unknown

I was born with the cord wrapped around my neck. The doctors  must have told my parents I would be brain damaged.                                                                                                                                        

Heaven forbid they give them any hope for me.

If I wasn't brain damaged at birth, I was by the time I left home, with only what I could carry.                                                                                     

If you think me complaining, you are wrong.

Because I didn't see myself as smart, pretty, or having any value whatsoever, I tried to learn what I lacked.                                                                                                                                                                                                       I learned to love learning as a hero loves his quest.

I've never completed the task, and have never fit in.                                                                                       

However, accepting that fact, I did whatever necessary to survive and be happy.

In my 70s, I've achieved that blissful state.

But then, I'm a slow learner.

Friday, March 26, 2021

How to ply yarn


How to “ply” yarn:

Why would you want to?

  1.   3 different shades of the same color plied together

            will produce a yarn with subtle depth.

      2.   Yarn is weak and breaks easily.

      3.   Pattern calls for worsted weight (10 ply)

            and all you have is 2 ply.

      4.  You want to blend fibers.


DPNs in wood or bamboo

(DPN = Double pointed needle)

Whittling knife


Optional: a wooden bead or wheel on one

     end of each DPN.


Carve a notch in the end of a DPN.

Attach yarn to DPN with a half hitch knot.

Spin the DPN so the yarn winds tighter – much tighter – til it curls up on itself.

Holding yarn so it doesn’t curl up on itself, undo the hitch knot and wind the yarn around the spindle – (DPN).

With two or more full spindles in clamps so they will turn only when you pull on them, tie the ends together on another spindle.

Wind the spindle the opposite direction to spin the plies together – or let them relax and spin themselves, a little at a time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Circular Swatch Knitting

 Circular Stockinette Swatch

© Elaine Rutledge, 2021. Permission granted to reprint for educational purposes. Any reprint for profit will be prosecuted.

Yarn: Wool of Andes Worsted, cotton *fence yarn

Needle: size 7 plastic circular

Gauge 19 st = 4”

CO 29: – Knot *fencing yarn to tail  at end of cast-on:

19  pattern stitches and 10 (5 x 2) selvedge stitches.

Work 1 row, slide work to the other end creating a float and secure with a clove hitch. Tie the floating end to the fence*. remove the clove hitch, knit a few stitches, and cut the float.

Norah’s 5 Stitch Selvedges***:

1st Row: Sl-2 (purlwise) YIB, P1, K1, P1 work in pattern to last 5 st, P1, K1, P1, K2

2nd Row: Sl-2 (purlwise) YIF, K3, work to last 5, K5.

Repeat the row sequence.

 If you examine your work

at the end of each row, you can

fix mistakes sooner.

“A stitch in time, saves 9”


*Fencing yarn: Tie one at each end to ‘fence in’ your work. Cotton fence on wool will not ‘felt’, and vice-versa.

How to do it: With float secured to both needles (clove hitched to opposite side needle), using a strand of string or yarn, knot each row end with a double half hitch or clove knot. You can slide the row end up or down the fence to adjust the tension to match your knitting. Not too tight, not too 

loose. The floating yarn must be kept taut while tying the fence knot.

If you use 2 different colored fence yarns, you will always know which is the “right” side. Some patterns have no right or wrong side when finished. I sometimes let ‘habit’ take over and turn the work.


Work foundation row and 4 rows of your choice for a hem: It should be at least a 2 stitch, 2 row opposing sequence** to balance the stitches. If the hem stitch is not the same gauge as the stitch you are swatching, add or decrease stitches after, and before the hems to adjust for the difference.

The exception: working a swatch at least 8” square, measuring in 3 places, and taking an average count will compensate for the discrepancy.

**Opposing sequence: a rhythm of knits and purls that will lay flat without curling or distortion. For example: (1) garter, (2) moss stitch. NOT good: Stockinette or ribbing.

Work selvedges, then knit each row for circ stockinette.

***Norah’s 5 Stitch Selvedge might work for a hem. Adapted for circular knitting from The Knitting Cables Sourcebook, by Norah Gaughan.

Back Side of work. Take care to keep floats loose.

Otherwise, your corner will curve like mine did. 

First Clove Hitch fence knot step: With the bridge held taut

jump over the bridge and run in front of the tree.

Also called a Half Hitch

To do a double half hitch, do it again.

Subsequent Clove Hitch step: then jump under 

the bridge and go into the hole.

 (This is an example of an **opposing sequence. 

The first step is made in one direction 

and the second step in the opposite direction.)

Notes on the side fences:

Use contrasting yarn: if knitting wool, use cotton, 

or vice versa. Wool on wool will felt, and the float 

will not slide easily in the knot.

The whole idea is to be able to slide the floats

 along the hitch to adjust the tension when finished. 

The tail (illustrated as a ‘bridge’) must be kept taut 

when tightening the knot, or it will become entangled in the knot, and will not slide.

I turn my work to the back side to tie to the fence. It reminds me to work only on the front.

 Deepest gratitude to

Norah Gaughan, 

author of Knitted Cables Sourcebook

For sharing with me her

5 Stitch Selvedge stitch sequence.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Back to Appliqué Basics

 After years of trying all the new fangled ways to do appliqué, I am re-learning the "right" way. Practice, practice, practice.

The project is a composition of two different patterns - the center medallion is:

Tapestry, by Urban Elementz, 

and the surrounding blocks are: 

Fleur by Bobbie Ashley. 

The Tapestry pattern is perfect for new and old beginners - one shape, 

many different sizes and placements. 

I remembered a teacher once saying: List the things you think you know and learn that first! 

Here is a photo of me re-learning how to take a simple stitch:

The method I am using reminds me of the way Ami Simms works. 

She accomplishes the same thing with an entirely different approach.  

I love her website. 

By holding the work this way, with the thumb on the unit, and the foundation rolling 

over the index finger you can see into the space to stitch. 

I am using silk thread, 100 wt. 

and have it tied in a knot to the needle. 

The back basted appliqué design on the foundation stays in place. 

I stitch next to it, being carefully to not stitch into it

It's easy to remove if I do, but why work unnecessarily?

Each stitch goes only through one layer of fabric, and the stitches line up. 

The needle goes into the fabric next to where it came out of the unit. 

When the thread is pulled taut, everything falls into place, like magic.

Notice my edge is not creased. I don't want to accidently crease in a tuck 

under the unit that will never lay right.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Make a quilt - not a UFO

Think about where the journey starts. Do you browse the Internet and see a pattern or a ‘Block-of-the-Month’ that calls your name? Is your guild planning a guest speaker who will lead you down a path? Do you visit the fabric store and shop for ideas?

A common scenario: We see something we like, and decide to buy the pattern. We may get a kit, or shop for the recommended fabric, whether in the store or from our stash. Shifting into high gear, we study the pattern and begin to cut and sew. Before long, something else has grabbed our attention; we weary of the repetitive sewing involved; or we find the pattern more difficult than we first thought and are unhappy with the whole process.

The anticipation of embarking on a new journey can carry us forward to a point somewhere in the middle. We have done enough to see a where the quilt is heading. We no longer focus on a vision of the quilt, but long hours of repetitive tasks. Self doubt steps in: Is my sewing good enough? Why don’t the corners match? This doesn’t look like the picture; I’m tired; my blocks aren’t square...why did I ever start this big a project? I just don’t have the time and energy right now. Maybe tomorrow - or next week - or next year.

The only thing we have produced is yet another UFO: Un-Finished Object.

Problem #1- We are materializing someone else’s vision
If the only investment we have is the purchase of fabric, and a book or pattern, it isn’t really ours. We may think it is, and vow to finish this one. Spending money, time and labor will never make it our own. Too often we see those expenditures as disposable.

 We have made no sustainable investment. Before we can own a creative endeavor, we must invest something of our creative self in it. Appliqué lends itself to enhancing patterns, or can be the basis for a new pattern, in which we are 100% personally invested. We invest ourselves by adding to the quilt or modifying it according to personal significance.

I still buy patterns I love. At the very beginning, I decide: Will I copy the designer or traditional block, or will I use the pattern as a foundation on which to express my personal vision. How will I adapt it to my vision and purpose?

If I am following every step of a pattern, it is usually because I want to learn the lessons embodied in the design. When I have achieved that, chances are I will lose interest.

Problem #2 - Self doubt is a double edged sword.
Self doubt can be a useful tool, or it can stall our development.

Every artist I have ever known has learned to deal with the ugly specter of self-doubt. It’s a fact of creative life. We either give in and give up, or doggedly work away, disliking ourselves and the piece. Another alternative is to examine the niggling discomfort of self-doubt. Ask yourself if those thoughts are valid. Are you really incapable of sewing a straight seam? Or is there another way to do the same thing that makes it easier? Find a way that works for you.

We all make mistakes. When I get down on myself I joke that I am “suffering delusions of adequacy.” By joking about it, I’m reminded to not take those feelings seriously.

Problem #3 - Mental fatigue sneaks up on us.

Could you be working past your most effective level of energy? Or is the impetus carrying you along till you become tired without realizing it?

When we schedule a dedicated time to work on our craft, we can set the time frame to allow for rest periods. When feeling daunted by the work ahead of us, the temptation is to work faster - get it done!
In reality, the solution is to slow the pace and work deliberately, mindful of what is causing the frustration and fatigue.

I was working on one commission when I realized I was “taking a break” way too often. Not finishing the quilt was not an option. I had to step back and determine what problems were causing the stress and fatigue.

1. The “invisible thread” kept breaking. Simple fix - new spool.
2. I was having difficulty guiding  the layers of fabric under the needle while doing the machine quilting. The fix - a Teflon sheet on the machine bed, and a pair of quilting gloves to replace the rubber fingers and rubber gloves that made my hands sweat.

Creativity is a journey of discovery...

What if we did this? How can I change that? We may not know exactly where the journey will end, only that it starts with the seed of an idea. One thing leads to another as our vision expands. Ideas come from seeing what we like. A photo of a heron on Dauphin Island inspired a ‘sea’ of variable log cabin blocks for my appliqué of a heron in flight. That idea led to adding an appliqué of a hermit crab on the beach of sandy colored log cabin blocks. Sand Dunes have always reminded me of the waving action of the sea. Using the same traditional pattern in both elements made a visual connection between the two areas.

One successful quilt commission began with a young girl who liked ladybugs. The design process began with - I have a ladybug: Where do you see ladybugs? The garden. I decided on a favorite quilt pattern: Garden Trellis. When I had the top finished, I appliqué’d large ladybugs over the surface randomly.

Browsing through beautiful photos of wildflowers led to a quilt of hand painted wildflowers of North Carolina. Permission was given by the photographer to use his photos as reference.

My favorite quilt began with the intention of using my stash of “orphan blocks.”  When learning a new technique or trying out a pattern, I often make only one block. Over time, my stash of blocks become the ‘orphans’ that have never become part of a quilt. I re-visit those old friends and while trying to think of ways to use them, the creative process takes over and may lead me on an entirely new journey 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Filet Lace as done by Mary of Scotland

As published in NeedleArts Magazine - a publication of the Embroiderers' Guild of America. This article led to a wonderful correspondence with Pauline Knight, author of Filet Lace, published by Batsford, UK.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The linen shell

I still haven't published instructions for the white piping. 
This is what it looks like on the outside.
It's clean finished on the inside.
It doesn't ripple or flare 
after washing.