I planted these three years ago as tiny little one gallon sprouts and in their second winter, we had a terrible cold spell with temperatures at minus 25 degrees. They came through in fine shape and I didn't do anything to protect them from the cold. We are at 7000 feet altitude, with some intense sun, snowy winters, monsoons in summer and sometimes hurricane force winds. They seem to thrive in all of that. When they were young and tender that first summer, something was eating them and I had to surround them with a chicken wire cage, but when they matured enough to become woody, that stopped.
Russian sage grows about 4-5 feet high and blooms continuously all summer. The foliage is grey green and the blooms are vibrant purple. The bees love the blooms, so don't plant it close to where you like to sit or in high traffic areas where bees and humans would be more likely to come in contact. Mine is planted along the driveway to camouflage a not so attractive view of our foundation and a steep grassy slope. I could have planted them further apart, 5-7 feet, and they would still have filled in the space. Live and learn. I definitely recommend this plant for southwest gardeners.
When I learned to knit, my very first lesson was making a diagonally knitted square. I learned to increase, decrease and the knit stitch, all while making a relatively useful project, a wash cloth or dishcloth. After that, I did a multitude of scarves and hats before I struck out to learn more techniques. But I kept coming back to the square.
There are so many simple designs that are made from squares or triangles (half a square) and the pattern is so easy that it is perfect for beginners. So I have started designing patterns based on that simple diagonal square, just to see how many projects I can make.
The pattern stitch I learned, and still use, is very simple (below):
Close up view of Nightwatch Shawl (left) and full view of shawl (right).
This knitted shawl is made from 2 skeins of 'I Love This Yarn' Ombre Nightwatch, 251 yards (230 meters) per skein for a total of 502 yards (460 meters). Any size yarn could be used, but bulkier yarns with bigger needles will work up much faster, which I would recommend for a beginning knitter. Or you could use two light weight yarns. I used size 17 needles, but a smaller size would work. I knitted the increase row until the sides were about 52" when laid flat (be careful not to stretch the yarn), then I bound off the edge loosely. (That means no decrease rows; you are stopping with half a square-i.e. a triangle). I am tall, though, so you would want to adjust your number of rows to fit your need.
I wanted this shawl to be a light and airy, easy care summer accessory. The large needle made a very open stitch and was very quick to knit. I added a simple 5 inch fringe (10 inch strands doubled with a larks head knot), but you could also leave the edge with the knitted finish. I would caution you not to choose a yarn that has a lot of give, because with a stretchy yarn, this shawl would be dragging on the ground. If I make it again, I will probably use a cotton yarn or something similar that has very little stretch to it and is summery (cotton is just summery to me). As it is, the shawl is long enough that I can turn back a collar at the neck and still have a fairly long shawl.
I like to full and block my knitted pieces by rinsing them gently in warm water (this is entirely dependent on the yarn you are using--read the washing instructions on the skein), then rolling them up in a heavy towel and squeezing out the excess water. I then lay them out flat (or folded in half length wise in the case of a large shawl) on a moisture proof, fade proof surface and pin them down and let them dry.
My blocking board is a large piece of 1.5 inch compressed styrofoam left over from insulating our house. I covered it with a clean, white and very large towel and use quilting pins to block my projects. When I'm not using it, it stands behind the door of my craft room/office. Works great!
I just finished a class on Craftsy on pattern writing for knitters. The title of the class is "How to say it: Pattern writing for knitters" and it goes in depth on how to write patterns for publishers and for self publishing. The instructor, Edie Eckman, is an experienced knitting designer, technical editor and author and she spends considerable time on the professional aspects of writing patterns--the roles of editors, copy editors, technical editors and others who you will deal with if you write for a publisher as well as those roles you will have to assume as a self-published designer and the roles you really should hire, even if you are self-published. In the course you will learn:
If you are interested in taking your knitting up a few notches to become a designer, then this class is definitely worth the time and money. I highly recommend it.
_I recently added three Royal Golden Broom to my flower bed behind the garage. Two did fantastically, but the third started dropping leaves almost immediately and turning yellow. I mulled it over for a couple of days, wondering if it was just a sickly plant or if something else was going on. Then it dawned on me…it was almost directly under the bird feeder, which I kept stocked with black oil sunflower seeds. I had this vague memory from my plant pathology days that this could be a bad thing. So I did a little research and found that sunflowers can have allelopathic properties. This means that they put out a chemical that can be harmful to other plants. Black walnut trees are famous for this, having a substance called juglone in their roots and leaves that inhibits many other plants. Not necessarily all plants, but those that are susceptible will wither away.
_I immediately dug up the plant and cleaned off all the soil, checking carefully for sunflower seeds or hulls, and repotted it in a soilless mix of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite with a little composted cow manure and Osmocote. It has taken a while, but it is recovering. It is now putting out new leaves on what were bare branches, so I moved it, pot and all back to the flower bed. I moved the bird feeder to an area that has only bare rock and gravel below it. I will have to clean out the flower bed and perhaps put in new soil before I replant the broom, but in the meantime it appears to be recovering. I read that the allelopathic properties can persist in the soil for a couple of months in some cases, so I need to do more research before I replant that end of the bed or find plants that can coexist with sunflowers. Either way, it's a lesson learned--no birdfeeders in a place where I want to grow a garden.
Those of us who are crafters may already know that gourds are fun to have around for all kinds of projects. They can be painted, carved, dyed, etched with woodburning and turned into all kinds of fanciful objects and useful objects. But did you also know that gourds are relatively easy to grow in a back yard garden? This picture is a gourd that I grew in my backyard, but I didn't plant it just for crafts.
Texas summers get terribly hot. At the time, I had a 10 foot by 30 foot kennel in my backyard for my four dachshunds. Doxies are notorious diggers, so I had built the kennel and put a wire bottom in it, a left over piece of 2" x 4" field fence, and covered it with mulch to have a safe place for them to stay while I was at work. However, I needed shade, and lots of it.
I stretched chicken wire as tightly as I could over one end, covering about one third. I planted gourds around the outside of the kennel where they could grow up and over the chicken wire. Depending on your space, you might want to make raised beds or set big pots up around the kennel, but I just planted mine straight into the ground and kept them watered.
The gourds quickly grew up and over the kennel, covering it with big leaves and lots of shade. I pulled the little gourds through where they could hang down as they grew...but you have to have dogs that will leave them alone. I did get a wilt in one vine and lost it, but still had lots of shade for the kennel all summer. You could also plant vining flowers if you did not want to dispose of all the gourds. As the vines grew, they got heavy enough that I had to prop the chicken wire up by adding a post on the unsecured edge inside the kennel, but otherwise it worked great. Little lizards and bugs took up residence in the vines and kept the dogs entertained for hours...another benefit that I had not considered, but appreciated. In winter the vines died and let the sun through. All in all, I think it was much better than shade cloth.
My favorite gourd craft books, all of which are on my bookshelf, are:
I tend to collect memories--treasures to me (junk to someone else?). When we were first married, my husband saw 'old stuff', but I saw the coffee table my mom started housekeeping with and the Singer sewing machine that belonged to my grandmother (he is adjusting nicely). I didn't want to restore them to original condition, but I did want to give them a purpose again.
I attached the coffee table top (the legs disappeared during a move) to the machine base with bolts recessed into the wood. I was planning to cover over it with tile, so I didn't worry about marring the surface. If you wanted to refinish the surface, you would need to plan on attaching from underneath, which might require fortifying the underside with additional wood.
I sanded the wooden top and applied two colors of stain around the sides--oak and walnut--to highlight some of the details of the table, sanding lightly between each coat per the instructions on the can of stain. This is a personal preference and would depend on the design of your table. Mine was solid wood and took the sanding and stain quite well and had raised details I wanted to highlight. If you might rather paint than stain, but again, that is personal preference. I cleaned the metal base thoroughly and left it unpainted because i liked the rusty patina, and sprayed on a couple of coats of clear polyurethane.
The mosaic tiles came as 12" by 12" tiles on a fiber mesh backing that I purchased individually from my local home and garden store. I bought 5 tiles at about $4 each. I got out my trusty tile book and read up on how to install glass tiles. I bought pre-mixed grout and white tile mastic in small containers, about a quart of each, and applied the tiles just as they came, trimming a few squares off one edge so it would fit neatly on the table top. You might have to use the powdered grout, and mix with water, to get the color that you want for your tile. The pre-mixed grout I bought was sanded. If I had it to do over, I would use unsanded grout, but all I could find at the time was in really big bags, so I took my chances on the one quart of sanded grout. I used a white mastic because some of my tiles were very light colored and somewhat translucent and chose a grout color that complemented the light colors in my tile.
This project took a couple of days because of drying time between coats of stain, mastic and grout. It is important not to rush that, so give yourself ample time and place it in a corner somewhere that it is protected from blowing wind and bugs until it is finished.
The table now sits in the entryway of my house and I have to say I am quite pleased with it. I think of my mom and grandmother every time I look at it. I think I will try something more complicated for my next mosaic project, if I can find just the right memory to recycle.
I am a maker--crafts, DIY, garden, upcycling, instructional design--I am always designing and making something, be it a new recipe, new knitting pattern, a class for compliance training or landscaping a flower bed.
I am also a collector and curator of vast amounts of information that interests or inspires me. I have a growing collection of DIY, crafts, and recipes on Pinterest.
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