Cultivating Solace Part 1: Or How The Korean Side Dish Dubu Jorim Brings Me Joy

A Korean dish of spicy braised tofu, called Dubu Jorim, sits atop some steamed Jasmine Rice on a square black plate. Metal chopsticks sit on the edge of the plate.

This last week has been tense for me. For a lot of us. I was with my sister, Laura Bellows of JUL Designs on Thursday. It was to be a working as well as social visit. But it was tough: I was agitated and upset by what was unfolding on Capitol Hill. We were alternately talking about our latest creative projects and absolutely sick about and rivetted by the news coming out of DC. I was distracted, sad, angry, worried, disbelieving, not surprised. So many emotions. It was hard to concentrate and settle down: I didn’t get my Thursday blog post written, or my Friday one.

As the afternoon became evening and I worked on pictures of fruit as inspiration for new colorways and as I knit and reknit a new small bag I will share with you this coming week, I found myself seeking solace, some joy to balance the anxiety of the day.

Once home, I wanted something soothing after such a day. My husband and I decided to relax by watching a lovely, quiet Japanese import TV series we have been enjoying on Netflix: Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. Here is a review that you might like to watch. The stories center around a tiny little diner in Shinjuku, Tokyo, that is only open from Midnight until 7am. There is only one thing on the menu, but the cook, know only as Master, will make anything you ask for as long as he has the ingredients.

The show is an homage to comfort food, to foods whose deliciousness is as much about the fresh ingredients and skill of Master as it is about the memories and emotions the different diners associate with their requested dishes. it is beautiful, poitnant. I cherish each episode. I want such a diner to be tucked away in my own town . . . the sort of gem you want to succeed but you want to keep it secret so it will always be intimate, special, welcoming. Watching the way Master prepares food, and the way his customers enjoy it, had made me take more care with the dishes that I make myself.

I thought I’d share with you here one of the dishes I have recently made . . . ia Korean dish called Dubu Jorim, officially a side dish, or “banchan,” that we had been buying already prepared from a local asian grocery store. But it was expensive there and served in plastic packaging that I really didn’t want to take home and wonder if it was ending up recycled or the landfill. Plus, it was not always as fresh as I would have liked.

Lately, I have been trying to learn how to make some things that I have always previously purchased, such as Naan, tempeh, my favorite Indian dishes, harissa spice paste, and things like this tasty Korean braised tofu. What I have discovered is that it is always better when I make it myself. And my life is better, too. . .

A Korean dish of spicy braised tofu, called Dubu Jorim, sits atop some steamed Jasmine Rice on a square black plate.
This is the version of this dish that I served to my son during one of his breaks in on-line school.

At first, I didn’t know what it was called . . . but some googled descriptions turned an abundance of recipes quickly. I’ve made it many times now and from several different recipes, so here is my own rendition of a “double” recipe using 2 cakes of extra firm tofu. You can serve as banchan, eat as a main course with sauteed baby bok choy over jasmine rice, or make a wonderful innovation of your own. Delicious!

Steaming sauteed baby bok choy with the extra Dubu Jorim sauce drizzled over the top. Umami!

Here is what you will need:

For the tofu

  • 2 cakes of extra firm tofu
  • 2 tbs neutral oil such as grapeseed or canola for frying the tofu

Prepare the tofu by removing it from the packaging and draining off any water. Place the two cakes on a paper or cloth towel and pat dry.

Next cut the tofu into 1/4 inch slices. Pat the slices dry if necessary.

Put the oil in a non-stick pan and heat over medium heat. Add the tofu to the frying pan in a single layer – for 2 cakes, you will need to fry in 2 – 3 batches. After one side has browned slightly, flip using tongs and lightly brown the other side. My son likes the tofu to be slightly crisp while I like a softer skin . . . try both and see what you like. Once each piece is browned on both sides, remove and arrangeattractively on a plate. Some people lay the pieces down so that they are like dominoes that have already been toppled. You can also simply arrange them so that they are not touching. I try different things each time.

While the tofu is gently frying, you can mix up the sauce.

For the sauce (mix in a small mixing bowl – this reciipe makes enough to have some left over):

  • 6 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 2 tbs water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp korean red chili flakes
  • 1 tbs sesame seeds – I like to use black and white mixed but just toasted white is nice by itself, too.
  • 1 large or 2 medium cloves of garlic minced finely or grated using a fine grater
  • 4 – 5 fresh scallions
  • Extra sesame seeds, chili flakes, and scallions for garnish.

Mix all together with a spoon or fork until well integrated. Separately, wash and remove the roots and any yellowing bits of 4 – 5 scallions. Cut into small rounds. I use the entire scallion, not just the white or green part. These will be sprinkled on top of the dish. You can certainly add some to the sauce as well so the scallions marinate.

Scallions both whole and chopped sit on a dark wood cutting board.

Once the tofu is arranged on a plate, spoon the sauce over the top, making sure each piece of tofu has some sauce and that all pieces are sitting in a little bit of sauce.

Slices of tofu are lined up on a black plate and drizzled with a spicy Korean sauce of soy sauce, sesame oil, and chilli flakes to make Dubu Jorim, a classic Korean side dish.

Finally, sprinkle the scallions over the tofu and then sprinkle more chili flakes and sesame seeds over all.

A plate of Dubu Jorim: Slices of fried tofu are lined up on a black plate and then drizzled with spicy sauce and sprinkled with fresh scallions and sesame seeds.

Eat as a snack, with your fingers standing up in the kitchen! Or serve over steaming hot Jasmine rice. Or serve the platter alongside baby bok choy that has been sauteed in a little bit of oil. Put in a pretty bowl while it is still bright bright green and drizzle with the extra Dubu Jorim sauce. Joyful food. I hope you love this dish as much as I do.

I will be sharing more of the ways I add joy to my days or meals.

How do you inject moments of solace and pleasure into your own days? Please share in the comments.

A Bit Of Hope: A Tiny Felted Purse – Free Knitting Pattern

I have been thinking a lot about hope as winter begins. For me, hope can be a small thing, but always with you. We tuck it away. Hold it tight in our hands or worry it with nervous fingers. Small hope gets us through. Hope is big. This tiny bag, is the little big bag that carries hope.

As any knitter knows, the knitted gift is always more than its physical self. It is hours of thought, a meditation often, of love. Of hope. This tiny purse is no different, even though it is quick to knit and easy to finish. This tiny purse is perfect for small treasures. It is a re-usable gift box for a lovely gift. Or it is the gift itself. It is a bodacious stash buster, too, requiring only 20 yards of feltable worsted weight yarn. You don’t have 20 yards of one color? Stripes are fun. Maybe more fun. Make several for tiny precious surprises or as a happy container for your stitch markers and other small knitting notions. Attach a key chain and carry it with you.

Pattern Difficulty Level

Easy: This project requires knowledge of casting on, knitting, purling, increasing, decreasing, knitting in the round on double-pointed needles, binding off, and some hand-sewing to complete the finishing process and to make the tiny bag linings (if desired).

Finished Dimensions

2 1/2 inches wide (6.25cm) by 2 1/2 inches tall (6.25cm

Unfelted Gauge

20 sts and 28 rounds = 4″ (10cm) in stockinette stitch on a US size 7 (4.5mm) needle

Yarn & Materials

Buy A LIttle Bit of Hope Limited Edition Hardware Kit – total Noni Designs inventory for this kit is only 28 pieces, so if you love this little bag, don’t wait!

If you love this little bag and might want to make more tiny bags, consider buying the Little Sweets Pattern. The Little Sweets pattern is also for sale on Ravelry. Little Sweets contains 3 bag patterns: A Little Bit of Hope plus Just Lipstick and Little Poof. All adorable.

If you’d like a copy of A Little Bit of Hope in your Ravelry Library, you can download the free pattern on Ravelry HERE.

Use promocode blogpost20 for a 20% discount off of the A LIttle Bit of Hope Limited Edition Hardware Kit and nearly everything* in the store from now until Friday, January 8th at midnight EST.

*Excluded from the sale are JUL leather handles and leather handle kits.

A tiny purse frame, a spool of white thread, silver-lined clear seed beads, and A Noni Design Label comprise the Little Bit Of Hope purse hardware kit displayed here on a wooden surface.

The Little Bit of Hope Kit Contains:

  • 1 Little Flirt Purse Frame
  • 1 Noni seed beads and thread: white with silver-lined clear beads
  • 1 A Noni Design label in lead-free, USA-made pewter
  • A tiny working lock and key as a gift from Noni (a $10 value!)

You will also need:

  • 20 yds (18.5m) worsted-weight, feltable wool from your stash or purchase a skein from Noni. The pictured bags are made with Stonehedge Fiber Mill’s Shepherd’s Wool
  • US size 7 (4.5mm) set of 5 double-pointed needles 
  • 2 locking stitch markers in different colors to mark sides
  • Sewing needle for finishing work
  • Tapestry needle for weaving in ends
  • Locktite Super Glue “Extra Time Control”
  • 1/16 yd (.05m) lining fabric if desired (optional)

A Little Bit Of Hope Purse Pattern

Purse Flaps (make 2)
First, cast on 6 stitches using your preferred cast on method. I worked the flaps separately on double-pointed needles, but you can certainly use a circular needle and work the flaps simultaneously if you prefer.
Row 1 (WS): P6.
Row 2: K1, m1r, k to last st, m1l, k1—8 sts.
Row 3: P8.
Row 4: Repeat row 2—10 sts.
Row 5: P10.
Row 6: Repeat row 2—12 sts.
Row 7: P12.
Row 8: Repeat row 2—14 sts.
Rows 9 – 11: Continue in St st. Place stitches for first flap on a spare needle if working separately and work the second flap as for the first.
Round 12: Note: Use your preferred needle(s) to work in the round, taking into consideration that you will be knitting a very small circumference, and, in the end, will perform a three-needle bind off, by dividing the stitches in half at the side markers. 

Join the 2 flaps together to finish the bag in the round as follows: knit across the last worked flap, place a marker to indicate the side seam of the bag, continue to work across the stitches from the second flap, place different colored marker to designate the side seam and beginning of the round. 

Purse Body
Rounds 13 – 16: Knit in the round.
Round 17: *K1, ssk, knit to 3 sts before marker, k2tog, k1, sm; repeat from *, slip round marker—12sts each side.
Round 18: Knit in the round.
Round 19: Repeat round 16—10sts each side.
Round 20: Knit around.
Round 21: Repeat round 16—8 sts each side.
Round 22: Knit around.

After the last round turn the bag inside out so that RSs face each other and the WS of the fabric is facing you. Divide the sts onto 2 needles at the side markers so that the two sides sit parallel to each other. Perform a 3-needle bind off. Cut yarn. Weave in all ends. 

Three tiny knitted purses sit on a window sill waiting to be felted.

Finishing

Where possible, I have created live links to other blog post tutorials here in The Noni Blog that offer additional details about each finishing step. Details about how to felt your knitted bags are coming within the next few days to this blog. When that post is live on Tuesday, January 5, the Felt Your Bag heading below will become a live link.

Prepare to Felt Your Purse

For best results, have the purse frame available to check the size of the purse so that you do not over-felt or under-felt your bag. Felt your bag until the bag, from side seam to side seam, measures between 2.5 – 2.75″ (6.25 – 6.75cm).

I caution against overfelting as a general principle: an over-felted bag is difficult if not impossible to put in a frame. Once the purse is the desired size, rinse and then spin or press between absorbent cloths until slightly damp. Keep the purse slightly damp (not wet) until you can sew the purse into the frame. If you are not able to begin the finishing process immediately, place your felted purse in a plastic bag and store in the freezer until you are ready to glue the purse into the frame (see below).

Felt Your Bag

In the top-loading washer, choose the smallest (hot wash/cold rinse) load size since this purse is so tiny. Put in a small lingerie bag. You do not need to add anything else to the washer. You especially should not add anything, such as towels, that will add lint to the wash. Add a few drops of wool-wash or baking soda to create an alkaline wash environment. Turn back the agitation dial until the bag is felted to measurement specifications. Then spin or press dry.

In a dryer, choose the hottest setting. Soak the purse in cool water until the wool is saturated. Then put in the dryer. Felt just as you would in the washer: the agitation of the dryer and project wetness is what causes the felting. Stay close by, smooth out, check size, and re-wet often. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to keep the bag absolutely soaking wet and to check it every few minutes.

The purpose for such vigilance is not only to make sure the bag does not shrink too little or too much but also to ensure that it does not develop creases or curling at the bag edges and/or top. Creasing and curling are a particular danger with this really tiny purse: it is so tiny that it can get balled up and stay that way. I urge you to set a timer so that you are reminded to check your bag often in order to wet it, block it, and check its felting process.

Both during the felting process and once the bag has shrunk to the desired measurements, pull, push, and mush into shape using the photographs here and its size in relation to the frame itself to direct your efforts. Questions, worries, or felting emergencies? Take the bag out of the felting process, put in a plastic bag, and put it into the freezer. Then write to me in the comments section below and I will get back to you as quickly as I can.

Once your purse is felted, proceed to the finishing below and glue the purse into the purse frame.

Glue And Then Sew Your Purse Into The Purse Frame 

I recommend that you do not to skip this important step: Apply clear-drying, Locktite Extra Time Control glue into the “slot” of purse frame. Do NOT fill the slot, but rather put a single line of glue on the non-hole side of the flap.

Press flap edges into the slot with a tapestry or small-gauge double-pointed needle.

If needed, keep flaps in place with long (snug) basting stitches that go through the purse fabric and around frame (going through the sew holes is not necessary unless the purse is very densely felted and is difficult to keep in the frame). Immediately sew the purse into the frame as described below as sometimes the glue makes this step nearly or completely impossible.

Only remove basting stitches once glue has dried.

Sew the purse into frame while the glue is still drying: With a sharp, small- gauge sewing needle and beading thread, begin on inside of purse: bring threaded needle through felt, through first metal purse frame hole, and through a bead on the outside. 

*To reach the next sew-hole, angle the needle toward that hole as you put it back through the same frame hole out of which the needle just came. Pull snug. Your needle is now on the inside of the purse and the bead is secure on the outside of the purse. Repeat from * until each hole on frame exterior is filled with a bead. Finish off thread on the inside of the purse with a knot. Weave end(s) into the felt so as to be invisible before cutting the thread. 

Two tiny felted purses side by side: on the left is a light turquoise bag with clear beads and on the right is a blue and green striped bag.

Sew on The “A Noni Design” Label

A pile of A Noni Design labels are arranged on a wooden surface.
Noni Labels take your bag to the next level of finishing.

Measure carefully to position the label in the center front or back of the purse. Secure the label to the purse as follows: Place just a tiny dot of fabric or super glue on the label back and place in desired location. Hold in place until dry. Second, beginning on the inside of the purse, bring a threaded needle through purse fabric, through one of the metal label holes, and finally through a bead. Then go back through the same hole and through purse fabric. Travel on the inside of the purse (for invisible stitches, travel through the fabric of the felt) to next label hole and repeat the procedure until the label is secured through all four holes using beads. Cut the thread and secure on the inside of the purse.

Share Your Projects With Your Knitting Friends and With Us!

A series of tiny Noni "A Bit of Hope" Felted bags are lined up vertically.

This pattern is also available for free on Ravelry. Please post your Little Bit Of Hope purses in your own Ravelry projects (it’s up in mine) and link to the pattern page. I would be delighted if you would share with all of your knitting friends!

Let me know what you think in the comments. As always, let me know if there are questions, comments, or if you need my help with anything.

Happy New Year!

Nora

My 2020: I’ve been taking lots and lots of walks.

Since I shuttered my storefront in 2015, I have tried a few different things . . . Most recently, I taught English Composition at the local community college. Like many other jobs everywhere on the planet, that gig was upended by Covid-19. I had to figure out what to do with myself again.

As for most of us, 2020 was a challenge for me. I have been lonely and isolated in ways that made me reach out in order to connect and reach into myself in order to find solid ground: where do I want to stand? What do I want to stand up for, publicly? I have always wanted to stay away from politics when it came to business. But isn’t it true to say that just about all of our decisions have socio-political, cultural consequences and a carbon footprint?

The events of the past year are still very present in my mind: my heart aches for the losses we have suffered because of Covid-19, the losses that go on and on. And I am disgusted by the losses that are the consequence of systemic racism in our country and world. We need to transform our thinking. I can only hope the detestable acts of violence we continue to see may finally be bringing about a cultural reckoning. I am hearing stories I have never heard before – maybe you are, too, truths that are hard to bear but that must be heard and borne in order to grow and do better. I have work to do. I believe that the lives of black people matter. All of them. A writer friend of mine, Reginald McKnight, always said, “Take everyone as they come.” It is the best antidote to any -ism I have found. Like most simple, true advice, it is harder than it seems . . . for all of us.

So, what have I been up to?

I have been in a state of grief and hope. I have not seen my most loved elders and some friends in over a year. I don’t hug anymore. I have been observing my self. All spring and summer I gardened my small, much-too-shady-for-a-proper-vegetable-garden yard. I’ve taught myself how to make sourdough bread with the help of a who knows how old it is? starter from King Arthur Flour company that I came into possession of by way of my dad who took a class there on making bread several years ago and has dutifully tended to his starter ever since. I also studied the book, Tartine. I learned the Russian Kale I like to eat likes to grow even in the a bit too shady sliver of side garden where it volunteered. I have discovered that if you love our planet and you want to reduce your carbon footprint, one of the most powerful things you can do is eat more plants – see for yourself by taking this quiz. The more you replace meat with plants, the better it is for your health (in general, but every one is different) and our world. Maybe you already know this but it was a surprise to me. So this, coupled with some health issues in our little family, spurred me to start giving myself a crash course in nutrition. Physical pain I thought I might always just endure is mostly gone. I have more flexibility than I have had for years, and more energy. My memory is returning: all that menopausal “brain fog” bullshit . . . am I going crazy? feeling . . . Gone. I’m clear. Awake. I remember.

I have started reading novels again, a delicious past time I have not enjoyed much since graduate school. I am even reading one out loud to my husband in the evenings, a chapter or two at a time. Recently, I also picked up my knitting needles again, the designer’s pen, my writing pen. As most journeys are, this one was an indirect path to this moment, this very one. It all began years ago, when my friend James mentioned that he writes Morning Pages. I didn’t know what they were, save that he wrote them in the morning. I didn’t investigate. But I did remember.

The Artist’s Way has helped countless people find an art-filled path and purpose.

Just over a month ago, I heard the term Morning Pages again. Seth Godin mentioned them in a conversation with Marie Forleo about his latest book. Both are content creators who have helped thousands if not millions figure out how to follow a passion and turn it into a business. I could tell from Marie’s reaction that she knew exactly what they were. . . “She probably writes them, too,” I thought. I was intriqued. “Two such inspiring and successful people write Morning Pages?” I wondered to myself. “Those must be some powerful pages.” And then I thought of James, too. “I want to be in that club,” I thought to myself.

The title Morning Pages is just visible at the top of a journal page.

Over Thanksgiving, I started my own. I didn’t know the rules, exactly, as specified by their originator, Julia Cameron, a brilliant woman who has made inspiring works in many fields and is the creative force behind The Artist’s Way, a book – or, more accurately, a self-guided creative program, to help you find your artist self (again) – that has helped many (maybe millions?) find their way to a sense of purpose and intention.

Somehow I did know that I was supposed to write three long-hand pages on 8.5″ x 11″ paper. Analogue writing gets our thoughts and brains to places we can’t reach when we type, because long-hand forces us to slow down. If you can’t write long-hand, however, use the tools you must. While Cameron assures us that long-hand is best, she also acknowledges that writing at all is better than not writing. I am into my second month and have not missed a single day, though I did have to write Afternoon Pages once because I messed up my morning. I am closing in on the last few pages in a notebook that had lain empty for over 16 years just waiting for these pages. I tell you, Morning Pages are hard, annoying, illuminating, tedious, in-my-face, the best therapist I’ve ever had (if I had only known!), damn broken record stop it already confrontational when I’m avoiding something, persistent is an understatement, amazing, amazing AMAZING. Wow.

WOW!

On the first day after writing the Morning Pages, I was seeing differently. I was inhabiting the landscape in a way that felt fundamentally changed. It had been a long time since I was seeing and thinking like a writer, dare I whisper . . . like an artist.

I look forward to them. I work things out, solve problems, ask big and small questions, try out answers. Write down ideas. Sometimes they feel horrible, difficult, laborious, like pulling teeth out of the hard-baked ground. Some days, I recount what happened yesterday, or what I remember from a day when I was four. I am look forward to where they will take me, what I will discover.

Here’s what I do know: I have lots of ideas.

Morning Pages have led me back to Noni: I have turned my attentions to some designs that I teased you with in the past (but did not publish), I am working on some really great new stuff, too, soonish.

My next blog post is a free pattern for a little bag called A Bit of Hope. She is tiny, and lovely, and comforting. Let your knitting friends know to come and visit, subscribe, or look for my latest on my Facebook page or in my Instagram feed. Please share this post with them and other artists you might know who just might need or want Morning Pages.

Black and white, horizontally-striped bag with hot pink handle and flowers.

For now, I invite you to start your own Morning Pages. For a very clear synopsis, try this article by the MasterClass people (they have some great free content) entitled, Journaling Techniques: 12 Tips For Writing Morning Pages

Here is my own shorter synopsis:

  1. Set out your necessary materials. You will need 3 pieces of 8.5 x 11 paper and a pen. At minimum. I humbly suggest you make a committment and give it a go for a while. Get a notebook to devote to your pages. I have recently pillaged my son’s old notebooks from elementary school . . . some empty or nearly empty. Those are waiting to be filled with morning pages. Or go all out on a fancy notebook. Whatever works for you. What is most important is that you write.
  2. Set up your coffee/tea and your space the night before. Think ahead of time about where you want to write and what you will need first thing in the morning so you don’t get sidetracked by your daily routine. Must have coffee? Set it up the night before so all you have to do is get it out of the fridge OR all you have to do is hit a button. I load up my french press and the water kettle so all I have to do is wait for the water to boil and pour. My pen, journal, and a clean, well-lit place to write (with a little side table for my coffee) are all waiting for me to curl up and get to work.
  3. Write without stopping until 3 pages are completed. Some people say you should keep the pen moving without censoring what you are writing. The point is to get used to writing whether you want to or not, whether you think what you are writing is bad, terrible, drivel, amazing, brilliant, publishible, or crap. Write. Write anyway. Keep writing. In order to produce a piece of writing, we must all write through sunny days and gloomy ones. The Morning Pages teach us this. And a lot more, too. I must confess that sometimes I look up when the Carolina Wren scrabbles around the window I can see from my table. When she flies off, I remember to turn again to my pages. I do not beat myself up for this.
  4. Do NOT share your Morning Pages with others. The last thing you need is someone saying something about the pages that makes you not want to write them, or write at all. The pages are for you. Protect them.
  5. Repeat steps 1 – 4 every day, first thing in the morning. But if you can’t make the morning work out one day, write as soon as you can. Sometime-of-day pages are better than no pages at all.

Share Your Thoughs about your own journey this past year. What is one way you have coped with the difficulties of 2020? If you start writing Morning Pages, or if you already write them, what is one way they have worked for you? What have you discovered about yourself and your artist self?

It’s Flower-Knitting Season

Web-Flowers-are-Quick-Knits

Knitted Flowers are the quintessential quick knit. Add knitted flowers to anything old, new, hand-made, ready-to-wear, unapologetically for you, and that made-to-be-special heirloom gift.

While a scarf of simple construction takes days, or much much longer if it is made in fingering weight yarn and has any sort of color-work, short rows, or gradient color changes and patterning so popular now. Brioche can take weeks.

Flowers, on the other hand, require a few hours, or as little as 20 minutes. I was sitting at the kitchen table the other day making Camellias and Bling Flowers (Cherry Blossoms by another name) in different gauge yarns, from fingering to worsted-weight, so as to achieve a variety of sizes, from delicate cherry blossoms to  . . . one right after another.

The picture below shows a purse I recently made: a W purse in Hot Pink with 2 beaded Camellias and many Bling Flowers. After beading all those flowers, I decorated the purse in an extravagant way.

W-purse-with-camellias-and-bling-flowers

Picture a 6-8-10 bag in white and pale green for a spectacular bridal keepsake purse. Or Grace Kelly’s Overnight Bag in black and grey for a gallery opening, or in palest blue with a bright garden of flowers in the colors of sorbet as a Mother’s Day gift.

For smaller, quicker gifts, I make pairs of flowers, sew them onto flower clips and give them as decorations that can be used singly or in pairs to adorn sandals, one’s hair. . . the neckline of a favorite t-shirt. Here is a picture of a purchased ruffly scarf decorated with a single beaded bling flower.

Noni-bling-flower-with-ruffled-scarf

How long does a Bling Flower take to make? you might be wondering.

I timed myself. It took between 15 and 30 minutes to make each worsted-weight Bling Flowers on a size 6 needle. It didn’t take long for me to memorized the pattern. That’s a speedy hand-knitted gift. You could have a lovely hostess gift flower clipped to a bottle of wine or jar of tasty Sundried Tomato bread spread done in less than an hour.

Sundried-Tomatoes-with-Cherry-Blossom.gif

Knitted flowers are a beautiful and economical gift that allow you to demonstrate your devotion to loved one in a heartfelt way. That’s the best kind of gift.

Knitting Old and Knitting New

Knit word bag

Most of us knitters have several projects in baskets, velvet bags, drawstring pouches, little baskets.

As I finish up my Moody Ella Coat, I’m excited about getting to work on several projects, some new, some languishing.

I’ve had a creamy-white, bulky-weight coat in the works for a while (3 years!). She is so close. So close. Sleeves and some decisions about the hem and cuffs. And the considerable but exciting finishing that includes a Mohair goat (beautiful) or Blue Faced Leicester fur collar, cuffs, and trim down the front. She needs a name. Constantia? Constance? She’s been patient. Harlow? (meaning a pile of rocks or a hill . . . I’m thinking ever there, waiting). She’s been very very patient. Hope? You get the idea.

Ella Coat Bulky White

And then there is the blue-black Ella-inspired duster I am going to make for my sister. Ella goes out West?  Ella learns to ride a Palomino? This color is stunning:

blue black yarn

And then the Pumpkin duster I am going to make for myself. The yarn is a DK weight, so I’ll be re-writing the stitch counts for the lighter weight. Of course it will take a while but the drape and swing will be lovely. The pumpkin is show-stopping with blue jeans or a black ensemble.

Pumpkin Yarn

I’m going to work a lovely little easy pattern into the work:  2 rows of St st and one row of K1, P1. Repeat the 3 rows. So pretty and so easy.

Pumpkin stitch pattern

I’m learning to crochet. My friend Roxy is teaching me. She’s tough. I keep telling her how fast I’m picking it up and then she laughs and rips it out and tells me to start over. I like it. This was last night’s practice session on my own. It’s a bit rough but I’ve got some things I want to make so I’m going to stick with it. A little each day.

Little crochet swatch

There is a lot to keep you up-to-date on as I progress through multiple projects!

Next update will be my Moody Ella . . . then we will see what’s next.

 

Recovering and Knitting

Ella Coat Palette.jpgWhen my son doesn’t write to me when he is at camp I know he must be having a great time. It is when the food is terrible or one of his tent-mates wakes up crying in the middle of the night, every night, that I hear about it.

I think I am the same way. You have not heard from me because I feel so great and I have so much energy.  I have not taken a single pain-killer in two weeks time, only 2 weeks out from surgery. I wake up at 6-ish am without an alarm (that never happened pre-surgery). Sleep is so restful. Walking feels amazing. So smooth. So easy. I am taking my little dog for hour-long walks, even in this cold (you should see how I bundle her up). Noni original girl dog coat coming soon!

I have taken everyone’s facebook advice about how to hold on to gratitude in everyday life. I strive to take stock each morning of the abundance around me. It is truly a time of renewal for me, of yet another reinvention. I am working on projects new and languishing. Friends are visiting since I am house-bound until January 10th when I see my surgeon again.

I have a lot to share with you. Today, my latest new project . . . another Ella coat is in the works. Are you surprised? The picture above is my original palette. I picked a number of tone on tone hand-dyes from several different dyers in a worsted weight – I’m pretty sure they are all the same base. You can tell I had stripes in mind. As I started knitting, though, I started to think that I really had two different palettes.

One with the greens and bright turquoise. I’ve since added more colors and some yellow.

ella coat palette partial greens and turquoise

And another colorway with the darker, moodier tones: royal purple, dark purple-magenta, blue-black, royal blue, black-purple with black-magenta elements. There were two skeins of a colorway that seemed so different I had to get both. One has turned out to have too much white, so I’ve gotten an array of sharpies to tone those little bits down. It’s fun! Hand painting stitch by stitch. Meditative. The finished results are really great. More about this below.

This was my first go at the new moody stripes colorway.

ella-coat-palette 1

And here is the palette I ended up with, but including the bright purple-magenta in the center above. I loved it so much I ran out! I searched everywhere in my considerable collection but could only find a brighter, more pink version that just didn’t want to be moody like the rest of the palette.

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And here is how it looks worked in stripes . . . this is my Ella sleeve.

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Back, briefly, to those 2 skeins that seemed so different. One had more color contrast, the different colors in the skein set off in blocks. In the skein it was dramatic and drew my attention. It’s colorway mate from a different dye-lot was muted. All of the same colors were there but they didn’t block up. To me, a different dyer’s hands were in evidence. I loved them both. What I didn’t love is how the color-block skein ended up with too much white. Some parts of the hank didn’t seem to have been dyed nearly at all. These near white stitches drew so much attention to themselves that they were distracting. Unfortunately, in my coat they were right across the bum and the bust. Looks almost like I planned it. Not what I wanted. When the body of the coat was nearly done, and thought about ripping it all out. Several times I thought about it but I kept going, reasoning I”d think of something.

And that something . . . was Sharpies.  I did a little test in a tiny corner with their most enduring original: the black Sharpie. I really liked it. Toned that white right down to nothing but moody wonderfulness, worked with the rest of the coat without being maudlin. The original teal or blue or raspberry was still there but without the distraction.

You probably know that Sharpies come in all different colors now. House-bound as I am until 1/10/18 and alone for the moment because my guys are in Utah skiing (I miss them but it has been lovely to work on my pile of projects). In any case, I had to put off shopping at Staples and the immediate gratification that would have brought me and ordered a 12-pack on-line. They came yesterday!

I love the results and the work is a meditation. I’m painting stitch by stitch. This process has alerted me to other moments in the work where there was not enough dye saturation and a little bit of too-much-whiteness shows through. Dab of the Sharpie in the right color and it’s gone. Beautiful.

Here is a before the Sharpie picture.

Before Sharpie.jpg

And after the Sharpie magic.

After Sharpie.jpg

Side By Side Comparison

Sharpie vs Non Sharpie.jpg

I might go over these sections with a little bit of black, or just paint in some darker bits with the same colors I originally used, or layer different colors sans black. Still a work in progress. I will assess after it is put together and then adorned with finishing touches such as hand-dyed silk around the neckline and cuffs. I’m toying with the idea of a wide hand-dyed/painted velvet collar but that’s going go take a while. Maybe I’ll go with the ruched silk around the neck as my immediate gratification so I can wear it tomorrow as I draft the collar, make the final version, and then hand-dye/paint it at my friend Gwen’s farm. However long it takes is however long it takes . . .  My coats are nothing if not patient.

What are you working on? I’d love to hear what you are doing in the comments. Post pictures, too!

 

What I’ve Been Doing and Where I’ve Been

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You might remember that I shuttered my studio in February nearly two years ago. I went to teach at a small private high school, with fond memories of my teaching at the University of Maryland as a strong motivator for that move in my life. I taught college composition, creative writing, and English literature to undergraduates for twelve years and loved it. Most of my students were thoughtful, motivated (or they became so), and I watched them change and grow over the course of a semester. I am still in contact with some of my students who have now become friends, gotten married, started families, and have interesting lives. It was rewarding, satisfying, intellectually challenging work. But my students of nearly 15 years ago are not the students of today. . . smart phones, and laptops, and the wifi in the classroom transform it and I’m not jazzed about how. It is not my cup of tea anymore.

I decided not to pursue that path though I am now glad I had the short experience I did in spite of the significant pain it caused me at the time. Even negative experiences are so valuable for helping us make choices about how we want to live our lives. For a long time I focused on my garden, on settling into my life in a different way. I read books. I cooked really pretty dinners. I was recovering in a way. Contemplating. Quiet.

Since late this past summer I have been spending time working in a brand new (and thriving!) yarn store called Knits and Pieces of Annapolis Maryland. I love it. I has re-awakened the designer in me and I am working on some new things I will introduce you to in short order, so more on that later.

I have also been in pain. It turns out I have really bad osteoarthritis in my hips. My grandmother on my Dad’s side had both of her hips replaced in a time when the technology was not so great. So I knew I was in for it: I have always had troubles with my hips. But now it’s official and since last winter for sure, it has been debilitating. It takes up a lot of brain space to be in pain. It is a series of constant calculations. How far can I walk. Can I do this. . . or this, or this.

On Monday the 4th of December, I had a double hip replacement. I am healing. I am excited. I am thinking about the mountains I will climb next summer with my son. We have the goal to hike all the 4,000 footers in the Adirondacks, all 46 of them. We will be called 46ers when we are done. We will get special patches that we will proudly wear on our backpacks. We have 44 to go! I’ve told Soma that he better be ready to hike every day for a week next summer.

Some of you may want to know how I am doing as I continue to recover. I will keep in touch with you through my blog and through my facebook page. I will let you know how I am doing and what I am up to, both in my recovery and in my creative life. This parentheses of recovery will be a time of renewal for me: there are some creative projects I want to tackle and I’ll bring you along with me as I do that work. And then there are the designs I will introduce to you.

The picture here is a walkway on a hike that Soma and I made this past summer. It was more or less level ground on my account. The walkway crosses a wetland and is all crookedy because bad spirits can’t turn corners. I love this. And I love the iconography of journey that is embedded in walkways that lead into the unknown. Our lives are full of twists and turns, jaggedy journeys to places we never expected. I invite you on this journey with me.

Thank you for following me. Nora

If You Love Noni, You Must Read This

100_Books_home_imgA page is turning in my life and I have decided to close Noni Designs (for the most part-I will still design and add new pdfs to my website) to follow a strong pull toward new and exciting opportunities. I plan to return to school for another advanced degree, spend more time writing, possibly on the knitting project people have asked for for a long time: new bags and flowers all in one book – I am working on the book proposal right now! I have other books in me, too.

New-Chapter-in-my-lifeI plan to spend more time having adventures with my son, Soma.

My son enjoying the ice cream left on the dasher after making ice cream the old way with my father.

My son enjoying the ice cream left on the dasher after making ice cream the old way with my father.

I am excited about these new paths and where they will take me.

My-path-to-somewhereNevertheless, I will miss Noni and all of the wonderful and talented people I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting, teaching, working with: you, your stories, feed-back, projects, enthusiasm and support have made for an unforgettable 10 year chapter in my life.

I do have some great news for all of you: news I’d like you to share with as many knitters and bag-makers and bag-loves as you know: help me get the word ot that I will be selling many of my one-of-a-kind bags. This process may extend beyond the studio close date of January 31st. More on these small releases as we get closer to the first one and those following: it will be soon.

Delicious little bags . . . one could be yours

Delicious little bags . . . one could be yours

The other exciting news is that I will be designing a small fare-well collection that will include updates to some of my classics: look for my these exciting designs.

Possible_new_designs_2Possible-New-Bag-DesignsLOOK FOR MANY TASTY PROMOTIONS ON VARIOUS PRODUCTS EVERY WEEK STARTING THIS TUESDAY until the studio closes. Keep up-to-date on my latest activities, discounts, and special promotions via e-mail (make sure you sign up at the bottom left of my home page), Noni Designs Facebook page, blog postings, and Ravelry announcements in the groups associated with Noni. As inventory is sold, except for yarn and some essential products, it will not be replaced: In other words, shop early and often for patterns and kits containing everything you need to make those projects that have been on your mind for a time. Add them to your Noni queue.

Thank you for bringing me and my work into your creative life, and for making Noni such a wild, fun, beautiful, and rewarding journey for me.

It has been a great run. Help me make the last months of Noni just as wild and fun.

Thank you all. I've had so much fun!

Thank you all. I’ve had so much fun!

My Knitting to Please Myself Project

follow-your-passion2When a passion becomes a job it often changes the passion or even empties it out. There have even been studies about this. The landscaper who once had a beautiful garden gets so caught up with other people’s hard-scapes and gardens that his own are neglected. The knitter who began designing for herself with a sense of intrepid adventure lapses into design silence. There are no projects on the needles.

There are, of course, landscapers who constantly invest their creativity in their own garden, and so it becomes an oasis, an inspiration for others. If you reclaim knitting for yourself, perhaps the designs that result will be more sought after than the ones you thought would sell.

Lately I have been contemplating what I want to knit. Perhaps it is because Noni is 10 and I am looking back at where I started, the things I have done, and where I want to go.

But before I launch into ideas for myself (and I will in upcoming posts), I bet there are a lot of you who also don’t always knit to please yourself . . .

I’d love to hear in the comments what you would really like to make for yourself, or just for the pleasure of it . . . and for some reason you haven’t, yet.

When you seek inspiration, look into the world

Bluebells-Gauntlets-with-Forget-me-notsI look forward to and enjoy Spring flowers more than I ever did before I wrote my book on knitted flowers, Noni Flowers. It has always been my favorite time of year, but the process of working on knitted flowers for my book taught to me notice things about plants that I had previously been a bit blind to: the structure of a flower, the coloring of its petals, the way it unfurls, the shapes of buds, the procession of leaves, bud, flower. . . there are details I had not previously noticed. I notice the color of stems now, the shapes of sepal leaves, the colors and form of stamens all with an eye not just to enjoy but to knit.

The Forget-me-not flower details we can't usually see.

The Forget-me-not flower details we can’t usually see.

When an interviewer asked me, on the heels of the book’s publication in 2012 what inspired me to make these flowers, “lifelike flowers,” my answer to her question is, in many ways, the same answer or, rather, advice that I gave to writing students so many years ago and to my knitting students now: When you seek any inspiration, the basis for a story, a description of place, events in the past or future, a design theme, a color scheme, a fair isle design, the colors to pick for the tulip you might be inclined to knit out of my book, you don’t have to come up with that material whole cloth out of your own brain.

tulip-color-possibilitiesIf I resorted only to what resided in my mind already, the flowers I might knit would look little different from those in the drawings of daisy-like or tulip-ish flowers I drew as a child. They were approximations of what I was then capable of drawing, the flowers most familiar to me.

I suggest to all of my students to become better observers of the world, but also to trust their own creative impulses. So often we talk ourselves out of our ideas. The first idea might be so grand we don’t think we can possibly make it real . . . but maybe we can. Maybe you can. When I started working on my book, I didn’t know if I could pull it off. But I said I could and I told Random House I could. And then I did. There were flowers I chose not to try, telling myself they were too hard: orchids, for example. but I am quite certain now that if I set my mind to sit down and work on an orchid until I could hold the finished one in my hand, I could do it. I could make an orchid out of yarn.

It’s not easy to sit down and do what you don’t think you can do. . . but what if you do and you create something amazing. There are examples of this everywhere. Take a look at this inspiring Ted Talk “Embrace The Shake” by artist Phil Hansen. And his inspiring and unconventional work:

Phil Hansen's beautiful portrait on Starbucks cupsHis recipe for exploring the limits of your creativity?

phil-hansen-quoteDon’t talk yourself out of your creativity.

Expect to fail. Expect the creative process to lead you to a place you might not have thought you’d go.