Category Archives: Recipes

Art of Awareness Blog Hop – the power of purple


Lori Anderson is one of my favourite people – in addition to being uber-talented and creative, she’s a huge inspiration to me. So when she announced she was taking a break from the Bead Soup Blog Hop and changing things up this spring, I knew I wanted to participate. Anything Lori organizes is going to be fun.

This time, Lori teamed up with Heather Millican, of Swoondimples, for the Art of Awareness Blog Hop. Heather made a gorgeous one-of-a-kind awareness bean bead for each participant. Our job was to use our imaginations and make a piece of jewelry (although we weren’t limited just to jewelry). Given M’s challenges, ADHD seemed like a logical choice for me. Except the awareness colour is orange – not one of my favourite colours (I like it on other people but it looks horrible on me). As I was browsing through the list thoughtfully provided by Lori, I noticed that purple signifies migraine awareness. Not only is purple is my favourite colour, but I’m a chronic migraine sufferer.

I asked Heather to print “in the moment” on my bead.


This is a reminder that my headaches, however nasty, will pass. I’m also a generic worrywort, so my bean is also a good motto for every day.

As it happens, I had a particularly nasty migraine the day I planned to make my piece. Normally, I’m not very creative or efficient when I have a headache, but the design came together quickly and relatively painlessly. I finally found my long-lost cache of jump rings, which helped make the whole project go easier.

I originally planned to make a bracelet but when I looked at my bean, I realized that the hole was drilled up and down, instead of across the bead. I decided to go with a mixed metal necklace, with my lovely purple bean as the focal.  I made a series of dangles with little bits of chain saved from previous projects  (you never know when an inch of chain will come in handy) and goodies recently acquired from Yvonne Irvin-Faus of MyELEMENTS, a lovely purple leaf bead from Heather Powers of Humblebeads and a tiny brass key. I added a length of beaded chain that I cut from a bracelet purchased from Michaels and a small piece of purple enamel chain, also from MyELEMENTS, to my “tassel”.


I strung a couple of copper-coloured spacers, a large purple plastic trixie (from Yvonne) and a furnace glass bead with a hint of purple and gold highlights from my stash (origins unknown) with my focal. The chain came from my stash, along with a black enamelled toggle clasp from MissFickleMedia.



It took me about 2 hours, from start to finish, which is relatively fast for me. My headache was mostly gone by the time I finished my necklace, which was a bonus.


While I really enjoyed participating in Lori’s Bead Soup Blog Hops, I think the Art of Awareness Blog Hop is my favourite. Maybe it was the colour of my bean or just taking the time to truly be “in the moment”, but the process of making my necklace was energizing. I didn’t struggle with coming up with a design, nor did I have any problems with execution.  It’s not a super-complicated design. With the exception of my awareness bean, everything came from my own stash. The end result is a funky, one-of-a-kind necklace with lots of movement and texture. I wore it today and I expect it will be a go-to piece for me all year round.


Please check out Lori’s blog, Pretty Things, for a full list of participants and to see what she made. Enjoy your weekend!



February project – getting outside with snow dyeing


This month’s project came about literally by accident. I had been musing about doing a dyeing project for February but hadn’t gotten to actually doing anything. Last Saturday, I took a workshop on hand-embroidery at my favourite local fabric store and was chatting with the instructor, Pat Caffery, after the class. She mentioned that she hand-dyes much of the fabric she uses for her embroidery. When I expressed that I too was interested in fabric dyeing, she asked me if I had ever tried snow-dyeing?All I needed was snow, fabric dye and a plastic container with a lid.

One thing we’ve got lots of this year is snow. We haven’t broken any snow fall records, but it’s been very cold – no February thaw in Eastern Ontario. What’s fallen from the sky has stayed on the ground. Everyone, myself included, is more than a bit tired of winter. Snow-dyeing sounded like a good excuse to get outside and a lot more fun than shovelling.

I had all the supplies on hand, so as soon as I got home, I pulled on my boots and parka and headed outside. It was dark outside, but there was enough light from our house and our neighbour’s to work more (not so great for photos), plus lots of fluffy white snow within reach.

I decided to dye an old white t-shirt and a piece of fabric that was part of a failed shibori dyeing experiment last summer (I was trying for an indigo effect but the end result was a muddy, washed out blue).


There aren’t really any directions to snow dyeing. Cathy at Orange Octopus has a post that walks through the various steps. Like many hand dyeing practitioners, she recommends pre-washing the article to be dyed with soda ash, to help set the colour. Since both pieces had been previously washed, I rinsed then out under the tap and made sure they were well wrung out. I folded up the fabric into loose pleats, but I didn’t worry about doing anything fancy with the t-shirt – just arranged it on the bottom of the plastic box.



The great thing about snow-dyeing is that it’s easy and self-contained. As long as you use rubber gloves, it’s practically mess-less (I couldn’t find mine, so I had purple fingers for 24 hours). I used a combination of powder and liquid dye – indigo, turquoise, fuchsia and purple. I filled up the containers, dumped the dye on top, and closed them up.



The trick to snow-dyeing is to let the containers sit inside for 24 hours –  a bit challenging, if you’re like me and impatient.


I broke down and opened up the shoe boxes after 23 hours (it was Sunday evening and I wanted to finish up before supper). I don’t think the extra hour would have made much difference in terms of the end result.

For the t-shirt, I used a combination of all four colours. The purple dye was an after thought and I probably added more than necessary. Plus, it was in powder form and would have been much more concentrated than the other colours. Although purple is the predominant colour, there’s a great marbling effect on the shirt. It’s subtle but very pretty. Next time, I’ll use less dye.





I used primarily liquid fuchsia dye for the piece of material and a sprinkling of the purple powdered dye. The colour isn’t as intense as with the t-shirt (confirming my suspicions that it’s a blend of some sort). However, it’s much more interesting than it was before and the flower pattern on the fabric is much more visible.



I’m not sure what I’ll do with it – I’ve got about 2.5 metres, which would be more than enough to make a muslin for Grainline Studio’s Scout tee.

So a big yes to snow-dyeing. Given how much snow we have (with more on the way), I plan on playing around with different colour combinations. I found a white knit cardigan at the thrift store this week and it’s currently marinating in pink, bright blue, violent and indigo dye (so far, I find the liquid easier to work with, but fabric artists prefer powdered dyes).


As for the March project, I’m more organized this time and it’s ready to go. It will include hand-embroidery, so I can practice my newly acquired skills.


The January project – a reversible apron


For 2015, I set myself the goal of completing one craft project per month. January’s project was a full-length reversible apron for a friend – a belated Christmas gift.P1050674


[True disclosure: I finished the apron on January 30, but wasn’t able to post about it before the end of the month because I was away for the weekend and then WordPress ate the first several drafts of this post].

I’ve made a couple of half aprons in the past, including a reversible one for my mother a couple of years ago.


However, this was my first time making a full-length one. For the apron itself, I used fabric from my stash, including a red and green holiday print that I bought at a flea market. I love Christmas aprons, but their really only wearable for about a month evry year. Although the fabric isn’t overly christmasy, I wanted my friend to be able to wear her apron any time of the year, so I chose an abstract stripe in bright colours for the other side. I used a contrasting green with tiny white squares for the neck and waist ties that I found at my local fabric store.


I couldn’t find any apron tutorials online to fit my friend, so I drafted my own pattern based on the one of my own aprons, using XL women’s measurements I found on a website: chest = 43 1/2 inches; waist = 35 inches; and hips = 45 1/2 inches.


I used newspaper to make the pattern, as it was all I had on hand. I wasn’t worried about the newsprint leaving marks on the fabric, since both pieces were brightly coloured with lots of pattern. I probably wouldn’t use a newsprint pattern on light fabric, but it worked just fine for my purposes. When I was finished with the pattern, I just tossed it into the paper recycling bin – extra points for being environmentally friendly.


For the ties, I cut out 2 pieces 32 x 4 inches for the waist and one 22 x 4 inches for the neck piece. I was guessing about the length of the ties. The final measurement is about 17 inches, so I ended up cutting an inch or off both ends of the neck piece – 20 inches would have been plenty long enough. I angled the ends of the waist ties, following the “Big Bow and Sash Sewing Tutorial” on The Mother Huddle. Rather than eyeballing the angle, I measured it out with a ruler and marked it with tailor’s chalk, which made cutting a crisp angle a snap.


Since the main fabrics for the apron were fairly busy, I decided to keep the decorative elements to a minimum. I came across a tutorial from Sew4Home for the citrus holiday hostess apron, that used jumbo rick rack, inserted into the top seam of the apron. I found some pale blue jumbo rick rack at my local fabric store that matched the blue in both main fabrics. The instructions in the tutorial are quite clear about how to put the rick rack in the seam and how to position the neck ties behind the rick rack. Except there’s no explanation of how to position the rick rack correctly so it doesn’t bunch up when you sew up the side seams.



I’ve come to the conclusion that there must be some sort of secret rick rack club – none of the other tutorials or resources I consulted provided any directions on how to correctly line up the rick rack so it lies flat in the seam (even my go-to apron resource, A is for Apron only explained how to insert the rick rack into the top of a pocket). I ended up ripping out the rick rack out of the apron 2 times and making 2 samples before I figured  it out. I had to make an emergency trip to the fabric store one Sunday morning to buy more rick rack. Even on my third try, I still had to adjust my seam allowance so the stitching caught the rick rack at the right point. Very happy with the final result.


If this hadn’t been my January project, this is probably the point where I would have tossed the whole thing aside and stuffed it into the recesses of my sewing basket. Once I had conquered the rick rack, I added a red button on the Christmas side, right below the ties, for a bit more visual interest.




I’m not going to lie – rick rack crisis aside, there more than I few moments when I could have cheerfully walked away from the sewing machine and not looked back. A more experienced sewer could have knocked off this project in weekend (or less). It took me several evenings and a good chunk of two weekends to complete the entire project. However, I learned a few important lessons that will hold me in good stead for future projects.

Firstly, tailor’s chalk is my new favourite sewing tool. It allowed me to make much more precise markings than straight pins. After I cut the two main pieces out, I folded them in half together and traced the necessary adjustments directly onto the fabric with the chalk. It rubs off, so making corrections was easy. Tailor’s chalk doesn’t leave any residue on your hands. I was using yellow chalk and it didn’t leave any marks on my fabric.

Secondly, not all online tutorials show you every step of the project. I appreciate that people take the time to post tutorials online and find them incredibly useful. However, in my experience, sewing tutorials often assume the reader has some sewing experience and can fill in the blanks. If you’re a beginner like me, this can create some frustrating moments – when you discover that your seams look wonky because you haven’t pressed them flat or your corners are round instead of square because you didn’t mitre them. I’m still going to keep checking out online tutorials but I’m going to read them very carefully before I start a project. And then re-read them. FYI – I’m working on a step-by-step tutorial on decorating a seam with rick rack.

Finally, my January project underscored the old adage, “practice makes perfect.” The top-stitching on the apron ties is a little crooked. I pulled out the worst sections with my handy seam ripper, but decided not to drive myself crazy trying to sew it in a perfectly straight line. For one thing, the fabric and the thread are almost the same colour and for another thing, you can’t see the top-stitching when the ties are done up. I top-stitched around the entire apron and to my surprise, my stitching was much straighter and more consistent. It was nice to see a noticeable improvement in a short period of time.


So that’s it for January. One project down, 11 to go. Haven’t decided on the February project yet – it’s a short month, so I better get busy.

Special thanks to M for taking time from playing MindCraft to take photos of me modelling both sides of the apron.


Frightenly silly Halloween wreath


M is almost past dressing up and going out for Halloween – it’s only 5 days away and he’s still on the fence about whether or not to go out. Regardless of what he does, we always get trick or treaters. To dress up the door, I decided to make a Halloween wreath.

The wreath was essentially a re-fashion of one I made with a feather boa last year.


I rounded up some spooky decorations from Michaels and the local dollar store (plastic chain with skeleton, rubber bats and an acid green garland with skeleton heads) and raided our box of Halloween decorations (spider’s web, hand and silver skull). The piece de resistance was a huge fake spider that I found at a church bazaar while I was helping out some friends out with their table.


Super scary spider

After removing the feather boa, I wrapped the wreath in metallic burlap ribbon and the skeleton garland. Rather than hot gluing, the decorations to the wreath, I used pins and wire, in case I want take it apart next year


Creepy hand and skeleton


Spooky skull

It took me a couple of hours and about $7 to make.


Not sure it’s going to terrify the trick or treaters, but it make may some of them laugh.





Avocado chocolate pudding (it’s yummy – really!)


Since I don’t eat dairy or sugar, I rarely eat dessert. While I don’t really miss it, from time to time, I get a craving for something sweet. When those moments hit, avocado chocolate pudding hits the spot.


It only takes a few minutes to make. It’s vegan – no dairy or refined sugars. Despite its high fat content, avocados contain monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to lower cholesterol and improve heart health. Plus, the fats contained in avocados have anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike cheesecake, avocado chocolate pudding is really good for you (like cheesecake, it’s probably best consumed in moderation).

The recipe is really simple:

1 very ripe avocado (the riper the better; otherwise, your pudding will have a vaguely avocado taste)

1/2 tsp to 1 tsp soy milk (I use unsweetened; almond or rice milk would work too)

3-5 generous tsp pure cocoa powder (depends on your personal taste)

1 tsp agave syrup or other liquid sweetener (again, to taste)

Peel the avocado and cut into rough chunks. Throw the pieces into a blender or a food processor. Add a small amount of the soy milk and combine. Add more soy milk, as required – enough so the blades of the blender or food processor mix up the avocado. Add cocoa powder and agave to taste. Combine well, using a spatula to scrap the mixture off the sides/bottom of your machine (this helps ensure all the avocado is well-combined with the other ingredients), until it’s very smooth. Pour/scrape into a bowl and chill for 5-10 minutes. If you want a thicker consistency, put the bowl in the freezer for 15-20 mins – the mixture will have the texture soft ice cream.

Using an average size avocado, this recipe makes a generous serving of pudding. Enough for second helpings or sharing.


Bracelet inspiration – memory wire with leather tassels


One of my favourite on-line beading stores/websites is Ornamenta, in Raleigh, NC. The cost of shipping from the US to Canada means I’ve never bought actually anything from them, but the selection is both eclectic and comprehensive. Plus, the owner sends out regular newsletters that include both ideas and tutorials. Recently, I saw a tutorial for a funky memory wire bracelet with tassels, the Guitar and Bass Bangle, designed by Erin Siegel.

I love this bracelet, but I was looking to make a birthday gift for my niece and black and gold aren’t her colours. A quick visit to my local bead store (LBS) for purple and turquoise seed beads, 1.5 mm leather cording in contrasting colours and I was in business.


I (mostly) followed the directions for Erin’s version. I used 8mm seed beads rather than charlotte beads. Had I read the directions properly before I went to my LBS, I probably would have bought suede cord. But the leader cord worked fine. Rather than cutting it into individual strips and then tying it together (missed that step in the directions too), I folded a metre-long length of leather into approximately 2 inch sections until the tassel would fit tightly into the bead cap. Tip: I tied each tassel with matching waxed linen cord from my stash and used a wooden skewer to poke the cord under the bead cap as I was glueing it (the skewer is handy for removing excess glue too). I cut the tassels to the desired length as I was finishing the bracelet (a sharp pair of scissors will help cut the leather evenly).


Note: pictures were taken at night, so colour is a bit off, especially on the purple tassel

The rest of the bracelet came together quickly. When working with memory wire, it’s important to keep the coils in order, rather than letting them get tangled up in each other. I used about 4 coils for the bracelet and eye-balled the half-way point to add the second colour.

While the original bracelet is really striking, I think my version is fun and bright – a perfect summer bracelet. Thanks to the Birthday Girl for being such a great (and patient) hand model.




Bead Soup – ready, set, make


Today is the Big Reveal for Bead Soup 2014. It’s also my birthday. What better way to celebrate than checking out the great designs from all the Bead Soup participants?

Kudos to the amazing Lori Anderson, who organized 500+ beaders from around the world for this year’s Bead Soup. I was very fortunate to get Shalini Austin, as my partner. Shalini, who lives in the U.K., sent me a cache of lovely goodies, including a number of components she’s made herself, including a long strand of kumiho cord.


Plus this stunning wire-and-pearl tree of life pendant.


The colour palette Shalini sent me was bright red, green and yellow – a perfect antidote to the long, cold winter and a dreary, rainy April. Never having worked with kumiho cord before, I was eager to try it out. For me, that’s the essence of Bead Soup – pushing yourself creatively and try something new, whether it’s a different colour combination or a different technique. Not to mention making new friends.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know Shalini and I’m excited to see what she created with the ingredients I sent her – please be sure to check out her blog and see for yourself.

In terms of making jewelry, bracelets are my go-to. I started off by wrapping a piece of hand-dyed ribbon around the kumiho cord and then over-wrapped it with wire and seed beads. I’ve used this technique numerous times, but the effect is completely different with the cord.


Finishing the bracelet was a bit of a challenge (thanks to the ladies at my local bead store for pointing me in the direction of the necessary supplies) – it took a few tries before I got the end caps glued on properly. The seed beads really pop against the red ribbon. It’s a fun piece for summer – chunky without being too bulky.


Next up was a necklace. There aren’t a lot of rules to Bead Soup, but you are supposed to use the focal and the clasp. I spent a fair amount of time trying to come up with a design for a necklace using Shalini’s fabulous Tree of Life pendant, but I couldn’t land on a design that would do it justice (to be honest, I couldn’t even land near a decent design). Rather than throw in the creative towel, I used one of the silver flower links as a focal and combined the red felt balls with the red freshwater pearls and some of the antique sliver components, including the big S clasp from Shalini.


With the exception of the chain, some wire, and several Swarovski crystals, everything came from my Bead Soup package.


I wrapped a small piece of red wire around the S-clasp, just to add to the visual interest. The necklace has lots of texture and movement and will be a nice addition to my spring/summer wardrobe.


I don’t usually make earrings – I find them too fiddly. However, I came across Claire Lockwood’s tutorial on Art Bead Scene for a pair of wrapped column earrings. While I loved the earrings, I was particularly taken with her unique use of bead caps. My bag of metal goodies from Shalini contained a number of bead caps in different shapes and taking my inspiration from Claire, I started playing around with them. I ended up creating two pairs of earrings – a coordinating pair for my red necklace, which features a single bead cap covering a pearl and a twisted circle.


For the second pair of earring, I put the bottom of the two square-shaped caps together.. As it happens, I’d been experimenting with making tassels, using embroidery thread. I had some dark pink thread for another project and I used it to made a little tassel for the bottom of each earring and added a small matte crystal on top (they just happened to be on my craft table).


In another happy coincidence, I had just bought a pink shirt that included the same shade as my new earrings.


My final project was another necklace. The inspiration for this one started with a leftover piece of wire. I’ve always like to play with wire; even before I started making jewelry, I used to unwrap paperclips and roll them into different shapes. I arranged 3 of Shalini’s felt balls in order of size, poked a hole in each and randomly wrapped them with a length of lightweight wire. Since I was already on a tassel-making spree, I make a long one out of dark blue embroidery thread, added a decorative touch with a bit of wire and connected it to the felt beads to make a pendant. I hung the felt bead/tassel pendant from a wire necklace in the same shade of blue as the tassel from my stash (again, serendipity in action). Simple but fun.



Thanks to Shalini’s generosity, I’ve got lots of “leftovers”. I’m definitely going to work on making a necklace with the Tree of Life pendant – it’s too pretty to hide in my bead stash.

Since it is my birthday and it’s just as much fun to give as it is to receive, I’m going to give the felt ball and tassel necklace away. Just leave a comment with your email address so I can get it touch with you (I’ll mail it anywhere in the world).  My attempts to install Rafflecopter were unsuccessful, so I’ll have to go with the old-fashioned method and draw names from a hat.

Thanks for dropping by. Here’s a link to the full list of Bead Soup participants – enjoy!

(I’ve updated the link so you can go to the full list of participants – I apologize for any inconvenience).