Introducing The New Noni Special Edition Tiny Purse: Welcome, Spring!

I have been making a lot of tiny purses lately. They are an ideal pandemic distraction: small, portable, quick to make. They are stash busters. They are easy to knit while watching Neflix . . . They make great gifts for loved ones far away, or next door.

Two metal hands sit on a black surface. Cradled in the metal hands is a small, yellow and grey striped (knitted and then felted) purse that has been hand-beaded and then decorated with yellow knitted flowers.

Welcome, Change! is More Than Just A Change Purse

All of the new On The Go! tiny purses are as practical as they are great looking. Welcome, Spring! and Welcome, Change! are ideal change purses, but they are also lovely trinket and treasure bags. I’m making one for my mom for Mother’s day. They make lovely hostess gifts, and you can make one in the evening and complete all the finishing the next day.

Ready, Set, Go! Is The Perfect Shopping Companion

Ready, Set, Go! is the little purse I clip to my big bag and take with me everywhere. Truly. My little black one is clipped onto a new tote I will tell you about soon . . . but the point is that she can carry my most-used credit cards, folded bills, change, and I clip my car and house keys to her little key chain set up on the back. I grab her and go! I love that I don’t need to dig through my tote to find my credit card. I’m already checked out and out the door while some folks are still putting their groceries in bags one at a time.

Clip It! Can Keep You Organized . . . And Safe

And Clip It! She can carry everything Ready, Set, Go! can but she can also carry your pen, your glasses. Know someone who has complained that she can’t find a cute bag for her epi pen? This is it! If my dad would carry a little purse, he’d love it. He has his pen with him at. all. times. Just the other day, I clipped Clip It! to my knitting bag. She now keeps track of my short double-points, my needle case, my stitch holders, and my long skinny needle gauge. I stowed my glasses in the other one. . . the one I dressed up with a sugar skull ornament and some cabochon rivets. Noni has more decorative ornaments coming soon . . .

A pink purse lies on top of a grey purse. Both are on the wood and canvas background of an old steamer trunk.

Welcome to Welcome, Spring!: A Beautiful Easter or Mother’s Day Gift

And the absolute newest tiny purse is Welcome, Spring! a special edition pattern that you can only get if you purchase the On The Go! purse pattern (contains the trio of Welcome, Change!; Ready, Set, Go!; and Clip It!) or one of the singles (each purse is also featured in her own pattern at a half the price of On The Go!). You must also purchase at least one On The Go! purse hardware kit and then I’ll send Welcome, Spring! to you as my gift.

If you have already purchased the pattern and a kit, please take a picture of your order confirmation or the kit and pattern and send it to me at nora@nonipatterns.com and I will send you your pattern.

Until Thursday, February 25, get 15% off orders of $50 or more. JUL Leather handles and kits that include leather handles are excluded. Use Promo code blog15off50 at checkout and then be sure to press APPLY to activate your discount.

This tiny yellow and grey striped felted purse is decorated with yellow cherry blossom (knitted) flowers with grey beaded centers.

You can make your own On The Go! tiny purses! Or shop the entire Noni Store Now. Welcome, Spring can be not only the prettiest key chain you’ve owned, but you can attach a chain and locket and carry her as a wristlet. An Easter or Mother’s Day Corsage that is also practical. Make Something Beautiful!

I Made The Dining Room Into My Creative Studio. . . And I’m never giving it back

Yellow felted purses hang from an antique floor lamp. The garden is visible through french doors behind the lamp.

This is the story of how I turned our library-quiet, unused, uninhabited dining room into my light-filled, color-filled creative studio space.

The dining room in my house is the only room with twelve foot ceilings. It has fantastic light, even though it’s North-facing: the french doors open into the garden. In Spring and Fall, and even some Summer days when the breezes are lovely and the humidity low, I open the doors wide and the air sweeps through the house.

An antique couch with white upholstery and white sheep skins sits empty. Next to it, a small table is covered with books and carved fruit. A unique light sits on the table.
The white couch amongst my flat weave textiles.

I’ve always loved this dining room. But it has been little used in the nearly sixteen years since we have lived in this house. Like many formal dining rooms, it was an homage to a different time and a different way of living. If we all sat down together at the big table, it was at Thanksgiving and then again at Christmas, perhaps New Year’s Eve if my husband’s parents were visiting. But maybe not even then.

The kitchen, as in many households, is the center of our home universe. But it’s not the best place for all of my projects . . . all in various states of completion and, dare I say, beautiful disarray.

Several felted bags designed by Nora J. Bellows of Noni Designs are arranged together: they are all shades of pink and red. Some have bold red or pink felted flowers.
My favorite bags.

The kitchen, as in many households, is the center of our home universe. And when family or friends gather with us, it is in the kitchen . . . or it is in one of the outdoor dining rooms I have created in my garden. So the dining room sat silent and empty. My studio was in a spare bedroom that we deconstructed, re-insulated (even the ceiling), re-constructed, and redecorated. A wall of books, my favorite red Federalist era Empire couch in carved mahogony. My Empire library table desk, a barrister book case full of yarn and pretty little bags I’ve made over the years.

The pandemic has re-vised the way we use our house, however. My engineer husband has been working at home since March. At first, we set him up on a spare table in our bedroom. This is what a lot of people have done. But our bedroom is cozy and dark while my husband craves the sun. It wasn’t long before he was miserable: irritable, depressed. Pandemic life is hard enough, isolating and depressing enough . . . I insisted he move into the studio where the light is lovely and the space calm and comfortable. It agrees with him very well.

I was a creative nomad. I needed my own room.

This made me a creative nomad. I moved to the kitchen because I needed the horizontal surface and our kitchen island is nice for big projects. But soon every horizontal surface was colonized by my projects: it was a chaos of books in various states of being read, knitting projects, sour dough bread rising, a stack of nutrition texts and cook books from the library stacked next to the huge fruit bowl I keep stocked with apples, bananas, plantains, mangoes, oranges, dragon fruit, and sometimes papayas, starfruit, plums, peaches. It all depends what is in season.

I don’t like to pack up my projects all the time, so there was a lof of moving things aside with a slow sweep of one arm in order that we could sit down at the counter and have a meal together.

“Mom, you need to clean up your messes,” my fourteen year old son said soberly one day, annoyance at the edges of his voice, “You’re colonizing the kitchen,” he said a few minutes later, with irritation and some indignation. Hearing him say this made me feel very proud and pleased. How many times had I said the same thing to him? He was right, of course.

I moved my projects to the den. This created problems, too. I needed my own room.

The guest room was not ideal because I didn’t want to be a nomad again if we had guests, even if the prospect of guests is a long way off. I wanted a permanent place to rest. And a big table. And good light.

“I’m taking over the dining room,” I said to my husband one afternoon.

“I’m taking over the dining room,” I said to my husband one afternoon. I stood in the doorway of my once-studio and now his 10-, 12-, 14-hours a day workspace. His fingers continued to click on the keys for a moment, his back to me, as I stood there, leaning on the door frame.

“That’s good,” he said as he turned around. This surprised me a little, because he had argued against me turning the guest bedroom into a studio space. But Misha is exceedingly practical, an engineer through and through. He is also a casual person, more interested in connection than formality. More interested in using things now than in putting them away for some future date or some rarefied use.

“Maybe we are finally figuring out how to use all of the rooms in our house,” he said, thoughtfully.

“I’m not going to give it back,” I said to him as I walked from the studio into the kitchen one evening to start dinner, thinking about our post-covid re-arranging. He should keep that work station in the old studio, so he can work comfortably from home. And, anyway, I have to wonder just what our relationships will be with big campuses of colleagues after we no longer need to worry about the coronavirus.

“Good,” he said. “You don’t have to.” He smiled and I smiled back.

An array of Nonibags are arranged together on a wooden surface: a black and white purse with pink flowers, a small white purse, a poofy pink purse, a purse with lots of pink and red flowers, etc.
Beautiful chaos of purses and purse frames.

I’m still working out the best way to ship orders out of my new space. And I am only just starting to go through the boxes of my things that lived all spread out in the Noni Studio in the Savage Mill when I had my little store front. It is not easy to winnow down three separate rooms of creativity into one. I still don’t know where everything is. Yesterday, I found a box of fabric I didn’t remember, and, finally, I located the old hat box full of special one-off purse frames that I want to design bags for. It will be, I think, a long process of unpacking, re-organizing, re-arranging.

For now, I sit on my beatiful white couch, or at my big work table and I look often out the tall windows of the French doors. The Carolina Wrens often scritch and hop in the dry leaves that have collected in the covered nook just outside the doors. They chide and argue. And just the other day, as I was gazing out into the woodland garden I have sculpted outside, a fox walked across the brick patio, to my astonishment, because I had just been writing about the fox in the Morning Pages.

An antique couch covered with sheep skins is centered in the photograph. Behind the couch is a wall tapestry that is shades of red and blue and black.
The white couch where I sit and knit. I’m able to see into the back garden from this vantage point.

“I’m in the right place,” I thought, sitting down on the white couch again after dashing outside to see where the fox had gone.

In the Springtime, I’ll open the doors wide and the divide between the inside rooms and the outside rooms will collapse, at least until nightfall. That’s what I’ve always wanted, to walk right out of my studio and into the garden. . .

How has the pandemic changed the way you use your own house? The way you live with your creativity and your creative projects?

Have you had to get creative about creating a work and creativity space for yourself? I’d love to hear in the comments how you have adjusted to this new way we are living and working.

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.

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.

 

An Argument for More Ruffles . . . and More Flowers

Ruffles and Flourishes . . .  you can just imagine how they will look. Abundant. Lush. A bodice crusty with embroidery, beading, gold flourishes. Or fine silk charmeuse ruffles across a pretty peach-pink chemise. In music, ruffles and flourishes are also lushness and also honor, the highest honor, in fact, that can be paid. Ruffles are played on the drums, and flourishes on bugles. Four Ruffles and Flourishes is the highest honor of all.

This is an argument for more Ruffles. . . and more flowers. In my own knitting bag right now, lying on top of the almost finished sleeves for my new Ella Coat, are dozens of little knitted flowers. You see, I intend to decorate the bodice of the coat with these floral flourishes, a nod to beauty, to knitting, and to honor my own work.

These little flowers, as I make them, please me, every single one. The patterns I’m using are Bling Flowers, the small and large flowers. I’ve also gotten out Hydrangeas (small ones), the Cactus Flower, and Forget-me-nots in DK weight yarn. Besides decorating the bodice of my Ella, I’m making flowers as gifts.

They are, in my opinion, perfect gifts. You see, I wish I had time to make gauntlets for my women friends, and lovely ruffled scarves that can be wound around and around on cold snowy days. But my knitting time is quite focused and gifts must be small. Last minute flowers sewn to flower clips (big shipment just in! Tell your LYS!) are just the thing: I clip them to the necks of wine bottles that have been tied round with ribbon, clip them to the tops of gift boxes. Clip one to the corner of a place card at a party, give a pair to clip to strapy sandals in summer or that mid-winter cruise to the Caribbean. Clip them to the cuffs of your cropped jeans, or the neckline of your t-shirt, to your hair before you go to that wedding, to your daughter’s hair before she goes down the isle. . . something blue, forget-me-not . . .

You’ll think of myriad lovely ways to deck and be’deck your friends, the halls, holiday wreaths, trees . . . yourself.

Starting next week I will be sharing several different ways you can hand knit some of these as last-minute, quick knits and economical but gorgeous ways to present them as special, thoughtful gifts! This time of year we all feel pressed for time to knit something beautiful for those we love. Come back soon and I will show you how easy it is to incorporate beauty into your holiday knitting without feeling overwhelmed . . . and without overwhelming your budget!