Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tutorial for New "Krazy Kats" Candle Mat - Part 1 of 2

My newest design is well underway, called "Krazy Kats", for a 15-inch candle mat I'm making in both 100% wool and also with National Nonwovens Woolfelt (a wool/rayon blend that looks and acts a lot like 100% wool). You'll find that National Nonwovens Woolfelt is inexpensive, comes in many wonderful colors and is ready to use as-is (it won’t fray).  You can usually find both regular 100% wool (hand or factory dyed) and National Nonwovens Woolfelt at your local fabric or quilt shop and in many places on the internet.  However, If you don't enjoy shopping for wool or would rather have everything in one place, I'll also be offering a kit next week on this blog and through my website at,

I promised a tutorial for "Krazy Kats" while I'm developing the full pattern, and I wanted to get you started with how easy and fun this candle mat is to make.  Unfortunately, you might not get away with making just one when your in-laws see how cute your alley cats turn out!  So let's begin . . .

Photo of Unfinished Candle Mat

Here's How it Looks on the Drawing Board!

Step 1 - The Scalloped Background

In the pattern I'm releasing next week, you'll find a template for the scalloped background pieces you'll make for the front and back of your candle mat.  The first step in creating your mat is to trace the scalloped template onto the non-shiny side of common freezer paper you can find in your grocery store.  We use freezer paper because (1) it's cheap and readily available, (2) we can iron it to our wool or Woolfelt and it won't leave a sticky residue, and (3) it stabilizes the wool while you cut out your templates.

Place the freezer paper against your wool or Woolfelt with the shiny side facing the wool and iron it to your wool with a fairly hot iron:

With a pair of sharp scissors, cut out your background piece along the traced lines and then peel away the freezer paper to reveal your perfect background piece.  Repeat for the back of the candle mat and then set these pieces aside for now.  Remember not to worry, because the freezer paper peels away without leaving any residue on your wool!

Step 2 - Let's Make Some Cats!

The full paper pattern will also supply you with all the templates you need to make the cats and their little friends, the mice and birds. Remember, if you don't enjoy shopping for wool or would rather have everything in one place, I'll also be offering a kit next week with all the National Nonwovens Woolfelt you'll need to create your own candle mat.

As with the scalloped background, you'll just need to trace those templates onto the non-shiny side of freezer paper and then cut them out with sharp scissors.  The following photo shows you what your freezer paper looks like when it is ironed to the wool.  Again, the freezer paper will easily peel away and won't leave a residue!

 Step 3 - Arranging the Pieces on the Background

Once you are done cutting out all the pieces, just peel the freezer paper away and position them on the background.  In my pattern, I will provide a full-color photograph of the finished candle mat, as well as a master diagram so you can see how to easily position your template pieces. Some are small (like the eyes and noses), so if you are like me this will be the most time-consuming part of completing your candle mat, but it's still fun!

When you are satisfied with the layout, we'll use washable fabric glue to temporarily tack the pieces into place.  If you make a mistake, remove the template piece and dab it with a warm washcloth to remove the glue.

Looks Hard, But It's Simple!

You can see by now that by breaking this candle mat down into simple steps, it makes it very easy to complete your own candle mat that will look adorable on your table or china hutch.  And remember not to panic if you're no good at picking colors or if you don't want to shop for your own wool or Woolfelt, because the kit will be available next week too!

Step 4 - What's Coming Up Next . . .

Here's how our candle mat looks so far. In Part 2 of my Tutorial, I show you how to embellish and finish your candle mat with simple stitches, and we'll add the eyes, face details and some other surprises along the way.  And I do mean the stitches will be simple!  If you've never done embroidery stitches before like the blanket stitch or the french knot, my pattern will have very complete details on how to do these stitches, along with diagrams so you can get them just right.

I hope you've enjoyed Part 1 of my tutorial for "Krazy Kats".  Stay tuned for the final Part 2 coming in a couple of days and for the pattern and kit release next week.  Please leave me a post if you have any questions or if there is something you would like to see added to this tutorial.  In the meantime, have a great week, and Happy Stitchin'!  xoxo--Melanie

Friday, February 22, 2013

For Rug Hookers: "What the Heck is a #8 Cut" (and Other Musings of a Beginner Rug Hooker)

When I first started rug hooking, I remember being confused by the "cuts" referred to for wool strips. The cuts refer to the width of a wool strip.  Since I don't have a mathematical mind and never successfully committed the cuts to memory, I keep this handy chart posted on a bulletin board in my workshop:

#2 Cut
#3 Cut

#4 Cut
#5 Cut

#6 Cut

#7 Cut

#8 Cut
#9 Cut
#10 Cut

The most common width used by beginning and experienced rug hookers alike is the #8 cut, which is 1/4" wide. This cut is often used for folk-art-style or primitive pieces because it is an easy width to work with on the hook and you can fill the canvas in a reasonable amount of time.  To this day, the #8 cut remains my favorite width and the one I use most often in my patterns:

If you are creating a very primitive rug, I suggest you use a #9 or #10 wool strip.  Primitive rugs are charming in that they don't have a lot of fine detail and they are fun to hook because the canvas fills quickly. And last, for a finely-shaded rug, I recommend you use a #2, #3 or #4 cut.  These cuts are very thin and allow you to hook a great deal of shading and detail into your piece.

How Long Should You Cut Your Strips?  The length of your strips does not have to be absolute.  For me, it often depends on how big the piece of wool is that I am working with (obviously I can't get an 18" strip from a 12"x12" piece of wool). Conventional lengths are 16" to 18", but I have worked with strips from 26" to 30" long. The thing to keep in mind is short strips must be ended and started more often (which allows you to build more color/shading variations into your rug) and long strips let you hook longer without stopping and starting (alas, less color/shading variations). Remember, there are no right or wrong choices here and the rug police are not watching.  Just grab your hook and go!

Speaking of Hooks . . .  There are many types of hooks available and you might be confused as to what to choose.  Very generally speaking, if you are working with a fine cut of wool, say a #2 or #3 cut, I recommend you use a fine-tipped hook like the ones you see below. They have a small shaft and you can grab the wool strip easily with the small head:

For primitive pieces using a #9 or #10 cut (up to 1/2" wide), you might choose a hook something like the ones you see in the lower-left-hand-side of the picture below.  These types of hooks allow you to grab the wool and pull the loops up through your canvas with a minimum amount of effort:
However, my all-time favorite hooks are bent hooks.  Like most people, I started with a straight hook and held it like a pencil.  Unfortunately, I noticed lots of strain in my wrist and my arm would tire easily.  First, I changed to "palming" my hook, meaning I held the hook as one would grip a bicycle handle so the top of my clenched hand was facing up toward me.  And then finally, I combined the palming method with the use of a bent hook, as the bend naturally lessens the amount of work my wrist and arm has to do:

I hope this information helps you with understanding cuts and hook choices.  Next week, in addition to showing the beginning tutorials for a new wool applique candle mat pattern, I'll post a guide on how to figure how much wool you need for your rug hooking projects.  Please feel free to post a comment or just let me know how you're doing!  In the meantime, Happy Stitchin'!  xoxo--Melanie

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Just a quick post today to announce my ONE-DAY FLASH SALE FOR 15% OFF EVERYTHING ON MY WEBSITE!  The sale begins when the clock ticks to February 22, 2013, in your part of the world and ends when the clock moves to February 23, 2013!  This is a special FLASH SALE that's good on all my patterns and kits, so if there's something you've been wanting, this is a good time to take advantage!

To participate, visit my website at and add the items you want to your shopping cart.  During checkout, enter the special code below and you will automatically receive 15% OFF YOUR ENTIRE ORDER!

If you don't want to check out through my website, just email me at and I'll personally arrange for your discount.
That's it for today (I'll have a longer post tomorrow).  In the meantime, Happy Stitchin'!  xoxo--Melanie

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Spring Gift: FREE Images for Scrapbooking, Greeting Cards, Baby Clothes, Etc!

Your loyalty and friendship is so important to me I thought I would post some of my favorite spring and Easter images as my spring gift to you! To the best of my knowledge,  these images were created during the late 1800's or early 1900's and are copyright free and in the public domain.  That means you can share them, use them for scrapbooking, transfer them to children's t-shirts and other clothing and use them for greeting cards and other projects.  If these images are not high enough resolution for your projects, just email me at and I'll be happy to send you the images in high-resolution format so they will print and transfer nicely!

These first three images were created by Beatrix Potter for her Tales of Peter Rabbit children's books in the early 1900s.  I think these images would be darling on a baby's bib or onesie.  I love the the use of simple springtime colors in these pics . . .

These next two images are collages of old greeting cards or trade cards I collected from the late 1800's(?).  If you email me, I can send you these collages in better resolution so you can cut, paste and print them as you like for your projects.  I think these would make wonderful scrapbooking images or cards to send to friends . . .

The last two images I have for today are from old greeting cards.  Again, I think they would be great for scrapbooking or for your own greeting cards to send to family and friends . . .

Don't Forget my "2013 Spring Contest" on Facebook!

Even though winter is still hovering in my neck of the woods here in Idaho, it's still time for three things: First,  it's time for a new contest, second, it's time to show off your creativity, and third, it's time to look forward to EASTER and SPRING!  I couldn't think of a better way to combine all those wonderful things than to start my "2013 Spring Contest", and I encourage you to enter. The winner will receive a bundle containing FOUR beautiful pieces of hand-dyed wool (each piece is approximately 6-7" wide and 16-18" long), and they are in wonderful butternut browns . . .

Just email me a picture of your favorite SPRING or EASTER-THEMED project you personally made (it does not have to be your own pattern and it can be hooked rugs, quilts, dolls, painted items, etc). I'll post it to my Facebook page, tally up all the "LIKES" or "COMMENTS" on each photo, and ANNOUNCE THE WINNER ON MARCH 25!  To see the current entries, just visit my "2013 Spring Contest" on my Facebook album page at Enter and win some wool!


Remember the great benefits you'll get when you join, including an instant 10% off coupon when you join, and here's the new details:
  • It's free to join (always and forever).
  • You get an INSTANT COUPON FOR 10% OFF everything on my website.
  • When your birthday time comes around, you'll receive a SPECIAL COUPON GOOD FOR 15% OFF all during your birthday month.
  • You are automatically entered in current and future contest to WIN FREE PATTERNS AND OTHER PRIZES!
  • You are always FIRST TO KNOW when new patterns are available so you can take advantage of special sales and discounts.
Just click here, enter your name and email address (yes, it's confidential) and in a few seconds you'll be a member.  I hope you'll join!

That's it for today!  I'm sorry for this short post, but I promised I would get these images to you in time for your spring projects.  Later today, I'm beginning work in earnest on a new candle mat design that I will post pictures and tutorials of during progress.  In the meantime, Happy Stitchin'!  xoxo--Melanie

Monday, February 11, 2013

New Pattern "Crazy Neighbors" and Tutorial for "How to Clean a Wool Rug with Snow"

Do You Have "Crazy Neighbors"?  I'm not talking about the kind that live next door with the barking dogs.  I'm talking about the kind of neighbors you'll see in my latest release, "Crazy Neighbors", a wool applique pillow that features the crazy quilt technique!  I had so much fun making this 12" pillow that I plan to introduce this technique in other patterns too!  The crazy quilt technique is fun, it uses up small pieces of wool from your scrap basket, and it's forgiving (there's no hard-and-fast seam allowances, so you can jiggle the template pieces around).

The pattern comes with complete instructions, including detailed info on how to complete several decorative embroidery stitches such as the herringbone stitch, the blanket stitch, the french knot, and others. It's so new that's it is not quite on my website yet, so from now until Friday, February 15, 2013, I'm offering an INSTANT 10% OFF this pattern! Just drop me an email at and let me know you want it and I'll give you the 10% off!

I hope you enjoy "Crazy Neighbors"!  Drop me a comment and let me know what you think!

Special Tutorial for my Blog Followers:
How to Clean a Wool Rug with Snow

Have you ever spent weeks, months (or years!) hooking a rug, only to find yourself afraid to lay it on the floor, to let it be walked upon, because it will get dirty?  Have you ever cleaned a rug in the bathtub, only to find it weighs 800 pounds soaking wet and takes two weeks to dry?  Having your rugs  professionally cleaned can be costly, and many cleaners use petroleum distillates that may also remove the wool's natural oil content and your beautiful colors along with the dirt.

Lucky are those who live in areas where winter abounds!  The same cold, snowy weather that makes you want to snuggle up in wool provides a great way to clean your wool hooked rugs.  Here are the steps to cleaning your hooked rugs with snow:
  • Cleaning is best done when it's verrrry cold outside, at least 25 degrees farenheight or colder.
  • You need new, powdery snow (or powdery snow that has been in the shade).  Very fine, windblown powder that is several inches deep works well.  Although I don't usually get snow like that in my back yard, I don't live far from an a ski area that gets really great powder several times a year.
  • Step 1:  Put your rug outside in the cold for half an hour or so. Why? Because the little bits of greasy dirt that have collected on your rug will harden and break up at below-freezing temps.  Also, snow won't melt on a chilly rug, which is important in a later step.
  • Step 2:  Spread your rug out and cover it with clean snow. Tramp on the rug (yes, you want to tramp enough that the fine particles of snow work their way into the loops of wool).
  • Step 3:  Turn the rug over, cover it with snow and beat the back broom.
  • Step 4:  Turn the rug over and beat it with the broom again.
  • Step 5:  Sweep the snow from the rug.
  • Step 6:  Move the rug to a fresh area and repeat the process until you are satisfied with the result, making sure you clean both sides of the rug.  When finished, brush off any remaining snow and allow your rug to dry indoors.  Since your rug was not immersed in water, it will dry in a snap!
I understand the Scandinavians use this method for cleaning wool rugs during winter.  The deep freeze of the snow kills smelly bacteria and loosens dirt and grime.  Sweeping the tiny snow crystals from the rug removes grease and dirt buildup and results in a clean, deodorized rug.

So the next time I start to whine about how cold it gets here in Idaho, I'm going to remember the old adage,  There's a silver lining in every cloud (snow cloud, that is!).

That's it for today!  I hope you are enjoying these posts and getting some interesting information from them.  More to come later this week.  In the meantime, Happy Stitchin'!  xoxo--Melanie

Friday, February 8, 2013

It's Time for Birthday Club Members to Win a Pattern!

That's right, it's time for a little contest for members-only of my Birthday Club!  From now through sometime this coming Wednesday morning (February 13) (right after I have my coffee), all members of my Birthday Club are AUTOMATICALLY ENTERED to win a free pattern that I purchased from my friend, Cheryl Gunn of Waltzing with Bears. Cheryl is a talented designer and I loved her cute little wool-and-fabric purse design so much that I picked it up when I visited my local fabric store . . .

Remember, if you are already a member, that's wonderful and you are automatically entered and don't have to do anything.  If you are not already a member, I do hope you'll join, as you'll get:
  • An INSTANT COUPON FOR 10% OFF anything you order from my website!
  • A whopping 15% OFF anything from my website during your birthday month!
  • You are automatically entered in current and future contests to WIN FREE PATTERNS AND OTHER PRIZES!
  • You are always FIRST TO KNOW when new patterns are available so you can take advantage of special sales and discounts!
Just click here and you'll see your 10% OFF COUPON in a few seconds (you'll also get a confirmation email). Then when your birthday time comes around, you'll automatically receive a special 15% off coupon good all during your birthday month!

So What's Coming Up?  Next week I'll be posting BEAUTIFUL IMAGES YOU CAN DOWNLOAD and use for greeting cards, stamping, children's clothing and other great projects  They are from vintage artwork done in the late 1800's and to the best of my belief they are copyright-free and open to the public domain.  There will be images from Beatrix Potter, who wrote and illustrated the "Peter Rabbit" children's books, as well as images from vintage postcards and other media from the 1800's.  I hope you enjoy them!

I'll also be releasing my new design, "Crazy Neighbors", a 12"x12" wool applique pillow done with the "crazy quilt" method.  If you've never tried the crazy quilt method, you are going to love how easy and fun it is to get into this new craze.  And since crazy quilting usually uses lots of vintage embroidery stitches for embellishment, my pattern will include detailed pictures and instructions on how to complete some of the old stitches like the herringbone and the traditional blanket stitch.

That's it for now!  Be sure to join the Birthday Club below to get your chance at winning the pattern from Waltzing with Bears.  Until next week, Happy Stitchin'!  xoxo--Melanie

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Enjoy my FREE Printable Pattern, "Jack-and-the-Cat", and a recipe for Chocolate Turtle Cake!

Many of you have heard of Primitive Quilts & Projects Magazine, a thick, wonderful, glossy magazine dedicated to the more primitive side of handmades.  Each issue is packed with instructions for at least 15 projects, ranging from hooked rugs to quilts, table runners, dolls and other great ideas.  I was very pleased that one of my rug hooking designs, Jack-and-the-Cat, was chosen for their fall 2012 issue, which I blogged about last year (to see those posts, just search this blog for "Jack-and-the-Cat" and you'll be instantly updated).

I'm happy to say that the magazine's temporary copyright on my design has now expired, and that means I can now publish it on my blog and website.  But geeesh! my little inner voice whined that it would be tacky to charge for the pattern, so instead I've created a full-color printable download with complete instructions and the template.  I hope you enjoy it!  To access the pattern, just click on the picture below . . .

So What's Cookin' Today?  Mmmm, how about a yummy Chocolate Turtle Cake recipe from Betty Crocker!  I've tasted this caramel-and-chocolate delight and bingo! I took one look at the photo and knew I'm gonna be a big hit at the next picnic with the in-laws . . .


  • 1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist devil's food cake mix (along with water, vegetable oil and eggs as called for on the cake mix box)
  • 1 bag (14oz) caramels
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans
  • 1 bag (6oz or 1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips (Mmmm!)
  • Caramel and chocolate toppings, if desired
Heat your oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for dark or non-stick pans).  Grease or spray the bottom of a 13"x9" pan.

Prepare the cake batter as directed on the box.  Pour half the batter into the prepared pan (refrigerate the remaining batter).  Bake for approximately 22 minutes.

While the cake is baking, heat the caramels and evaporated milk in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the caramels are melted.  Stir in the pecans.  When the cake comes out of the oven, pour the caramel mixture over the warm cake in the pan. Sprinkle the top with chocolate chips.  Then pour the remaining batter over the cake.  Bake another 25 to 28 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.  Run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake and then allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.  Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, or drizzle with chocolate and/or caramel toppings.  Store loosely covered.  Makes 20 servings.

That's It For Today!  I'm finishing up the last of the instructions and photography on a new pattern that features wool applique and the "crazy quilt" method, and I hope to release it this week.  There's also an idea for an Easter candle mat that I want to start working on this weekend, and I'll share tutorials on that pattern as I work along.  In the meantime, Happy Stitchin'!  xoxo--Melanie

Monday, February 4, 2013

Rug Hooking 101 - How to Get Consistent Loops and Evenly-Spaced Rows

I promised a few more tutorials and I thought it would be good to concentrate on rug hooking for a short time.  For you wool applique fans out there, hold tight 'cause I've got more tutorials in store for you too!  In the meantime . . . 

Are You Feeling a Little Cramped?  Uneven loops that make your work appear bumpy and loops that are hooked too close together are two of the biggest problems facing new rug hookers.  For my first rug, I tried to cram a loop in every hole in my canvas, which resulted in a hard, unforgiving hump in the center of one of my motifs.  Unfortunately, that rug ended up in the recycling bin because I had no one to help me achieve a smooth, even result.  The solution is so easy!

First of all, it surprises most beginners that only about 40 percent of all the holes in a given project actually get “hooked”. The other 60 percent are empty and provide breathing room between so your finished rug doesn’t curl.  If your wool is approximately 3/16” wide (called a #6 cut) to 1/4” wide (called a #8 cut), my tried-and-true method is to hook a loop in the first hole, hook a loop in the next hole, skip a hole, and repeat.  In other words, hook two loops and skip a hole, hook two loops and skip a hole.  If you are working with a finer cut of wool, you will want to skip fewer holes.  Likewise, if you are using a wider cut of wool, you should skip more holes.  The bottom line is you want your loops to fill the area so you cannot see empty space between them, but not be so crowded that they push each other out of the way.

Do You Have Uneven High and Low Loops?  This is a problem that frustrates many beginners, but if you follow three simple steps, your loops will be the same height:

  (1)        Generally speaking, hook your hoops as high as they are wide.  In other words, if you are using wool cut 1/4” wide (the #8 cut), then hook your loops approximately 1/4” high.

  (2)        As you pull your loop up through the canvas, pull it away from you, not toward you. This will keep you from pulling out or distorting the previous loops in your row.

  (3)        Over-pull your loop.  As you pull up the loop, pull it nice and high--maybe even an inch or two above the canvas--until the wool is snug on the back side of the canvas (you don’t want any loose loops on the back).  Then use your free hand underneath the canvas to pull the loop back down to match your other loops.

Remember, because your project is made with love instead of a machine, your loops are going to have personality and charm of their own.  Don’t get discouraged--just get them as close to the same height as possible and enjoy the hand-made beauty of your project.

How Far Apart Do You Space Your Rows?  I hook my rows so the loops “touch shoulders” on the front, but I see no empty white space between them.  When you turn your rug over, you’ll notice it’s totally the opposite--a properly hooked rug will have a small space between each row so the rug does not curl.

That's it for today.  Please check back for more tutorials on everything about wool--from rug hooking to wool applique to dyeing wool with Kool-Aid!  Please feel free to leave me your comments or with suggestions on tutorials or other information you'd like to see.  In the meantime, Happy Stitchin'!  xoxo--Melanie