Noni Q&A: Sewing Purses to Their Frames Using Beads as Anchors for BEAUTIFUL Results

It is interesting to me how we can go along doing something a particular way for a long long time and then try something new that is a great improvement. So great an improvement that we wonder why we never had the thought before. . . such it is with beads and sew-on purse frames.

I have been teaching quite a bit lately and sometimes I make suggestions for the participants to try things that I have been meaning to try myself but have not yet had the opportunity.

In a recent workshop at Auburn Needleworks in Auburn, California I suggested that the ladies who were finishing bags that required frames use beads to attach the frames (much as is done with the W Bag and 6-8-10) . . . but use beads on both inside and outside. Here’s what I mean: instead of the not so attractive running stitch on the inside of a purse frame . . .

It’s much lovelier to use beads as the anchors for stitching a bag to its frame. In this case, the inside of the same design as above (Ella’s Going Out Bag), but this time with size 8 seed beads used to anchor stitches on the inside instead of a running stitch.

The resulting look is so lovey and dazzling, I think I will adopt this in most cases and suggest as a default methodology. Take a look at how fantastic the inside of “6” is when beads are used as anchors on both inside and outside of the frame:

No need to cover up stitches or stitch pricks with a lining.

If you intend to line your bag, this same method can be used when sewing in the lining. I recommend that the sewing into the frame and sewing in of the lining are done as a single step. In other words, complete the lining before you sew the bag to the frame, baste the lining to bag body for a perfect fit, then sew bag and lining to the frame in one step.

Coooooo-eeeeee! . . . Amanda nudges Nora out of Silence

On 9/26/12 6:31 AM  Cooooooo-eeeeeeeee…. any one home?
Hiya Nora,

Haven’t heard from you in ages. Hope all is well and you’re busy doing fun things.



On 9/26/12 12:15 PM
Dear Amanda,
I have been, I confess, turtling. Nothing bad. . . Actually doing fun things on the weekends at times—Misha, Soma, and I have been taking trecks into West Virginia. I find the landscape there fascinating. It’s an area that is currently being mined for natural gas. Here they call it fracking as they fracture the rock by forcing water into the earth. Fissures are created and they can capture the natural gas that is released. It’s pretty controversial, but a big boom there. We go to the State Parks, which are BEAUTIFUL! We went to one park called Babcock Park way West. 7 hours driving to get there.  Worth every hour. Rhododendrons way over your head. Great tumbles of rocks. West Virginia is known for caves because the tumbles of rocks create caverns underground.

We love staying in log cabins such as this one.

Hiking through the forests . . .

Very refreshing.

In Lost River Park, we hiked 15 out of the 25 miles of trails in 2 days–Soma was quite the little hiker!

I have a busy day here at the studio as I begin to prepare for the New York Sheep & Wool Festival, commonly known around here as Rhinebeck . . . more about this shortly, but I must get back to that at the moment.

I think perhaps the antidote to my silences is to write a bit more about the things that occupy my thoughts: I have lovely quiet things that happen, seeing the hummingbirds, building cairns with Soma . . .

. . . teaching Soma to knit (that truly has been a highlight in the last few weeks!

. . .teaching a great workshop, but then challenges and frustrations. I tend not to write about the challenges and frustrations and then I fall into silence because those are the things I chew on and think about long after the hummingbirds have gone.

Much much more to say. . .



On 9/27/12

Dear Nora,

Its great to hear from you! Busy doing fun things is always good. We’ve been doing a lot of that too.

We went to Andyfest, had a great time, spent far far too much, spent a bit more and then decided that since we’d been a bit reckless we might as well be really reckless so we left with an array of silk based yarns, some undyed yarn to dye ourselves… eventually…. quite a lot of laceweight in some incredibly soft colours, more than a bit of sock yarn and a 1kg cone of black coloured BlueFaced Leicester which was reduced in the sale from £110 to £10, well it would have been silly not to. Its more than perfect for the Noni Ribbed jumper 🙂

Whilst we were there a few of the spinners were kind enough to allow DD2 to try out their wheels. She was hooked.

A fortnight later we got a call to say our wheel was in Wales along with a niddynoddy, nostepinne, pair of carders, a drop spindle and a whole lot of roving with which to spin. A friend with far more confidence in me than I have sent me a bag of fluff to play with . . .

the end result was gobsmacking.

I’ve been dealing with my frustrations in a boringly practical way. The small child with her head permanently buried in my Kindle now has one of her own which means I no longer turn it on to find it half way through “The mouse who farted, look what he started”. Darryl is attempting to quit smoking, fortunately hes spending much of his time in the shed building a hovercraft so we’re saved the worst of it. The most frustrating thing at the mo, as always here, is the weather. We’ve had tempestuous deluges for days on end. The rivers have burst their banks, the roads and fields flooded but so far its not affected any of the houses which is v. good as they’re still drying out from Augusts flash floods which left us paddling knee deep at the bottom of the garden.

As always I’m on the verge of being late for work. Which isn’t good as I’m attempting to cram an extra 15 hours into my working week to cover absences and am failing miserably.

Hope to hear from you soon


Noni Q & A: Cutting Down a Zipper to Fit

Zippers need not be feared nor loathed.

There seems to be a lot of negativity that surrounds zippers and putting them into a sweater or felted bag by hand. It is, however, not as difficult as it looks and I am of the opinion that fear and loathing should be abandoned in favor of persistence and knowledge. . .

Thus, I present to you instructions on how to cut down a zipper by hand and set it into a static opening, such as a bag opening or the opening of a pillow.


Always look for zippers that are at least slightly longer than you need

A too short zipper will never work. . . and if you try to make it work, your knitting will buck and buckle–not a great look. So, that slightly or much too long zipper is perfect. . .


Determine the best zipper for your needs

Best for bags are zippers that have 2 closed ends and 2 sliders.

Best for jackets, a separating zipper.

Best for dresses and skirts, and invisible zipper with a closed bottom end.


Materials you will need

Scissors (rough & tough ones that can cut through plastic or metal zipper teeth0)

Pins to mark the spot (and later to hold the zipper in place as you set it in)

Sewing thread

Sewing needle

Measure the opening into which you will set the zipper.

Once you have laid our your materials and are getting to the business of cutting your zipper to fit, measure your opening carefully. Then measure the zipper and mark with a straight pin where the zipper needs to be cut.

For zippers that have closed ends (for the openings of bags and pillows, for example), you will recreate 1 of the bottom stops with thread.

For a separating zipper, but to cut down from the top stops and you don’t want to interfere with the separating portion of the zipper.

For zippers that have one closed end, such as those for dresses, skirts, and pants, best to shorten the closed end bit.


Make a thread “stop”

To make a thread stop, thread your needle with a double strand of sewing thread, then ‘wrap” the zipper teach multiple times with the thread at the place you marked with the straight pin.

I recommend wrapping the teeth of the zipper as many times as you need to to feel confident that the stop will hold. I’d say 5 wraps is about the minimum with which I would feel comfortable. If you are a comfortable with a sewing machine, you can perform this step with an appropriately size zig zag stitch.


Cut the zipper down once stop is complete

One you have completed your thread “stop,” use your heavy duty workhorse scissors to cut the end of the zipper you no longer need. I recommend leaving about 1/2″ beyond the stop.

If you have any other zipper questions, please post them in the comments to this post and I will answer them in a future Noni Q&A.


Breaking Silences: Talking Across the Pond Again. . .

July 17, 2012

Morning Nora!

Power outages and fires in residential neighbourhoods sound dire. At least things here are just wet, its not like we’re not used to that, just not in the vast quantities we’re having a the mo.

It did stop raining briefly on Sunday, just long enough to get a few loads through the washing machine before breakfast at which point we abandoned all pretense of any interest in domestic drudgery and legged it to the country park.

It makes a bit of a change from walking through fields because there aren’t any sheep which means the hairball can run for miles without feeling the urge to round any up, although she still herds the children (both mine and other peoples). The other added bonus is that both parking and footpaths are solid which means no wheel spinning in mud wondering why the heck I chose that particular parking spot. It also reduces the amount of laundry I have to do on our return, or at least it would have done had the girls not run through every muddy puddle they could find.

We walked for miles and miles managing to spend half a day there, only leaving when the rumble of tummies outweighed the need for fresh air.

We finally managed to put the finishing touches to D’s shed which meant we could start moving his stash of things out of the house. It’s amazing what a difference moving a few boxes makes. It was also a heck of an incentive for a ruthless clear out of outgrown toys and the detritus of everyday life.

The rest of the week was pretty much spent dodging rainstorms or avoiding venturing outdoors unless essential. The road outside the house is a couple of inches deep in water, the lawn is waterlogged and very squelchy and the chickens are knee deep in mud.  Fortunately it will eventually dry out, in the meantime we’re making the most of indoor activities. In Fs case this means revising for her pony club theory exam, B is sitting the same exam but is rather more blasé about the whole thing.

I’ve had more time than ever to do crafty things which is always good. I dug out the drop spindle I bought last month but never seemed to find the time to try out and gave that a whirl. Several hours and one small blister later I had a teeny skein of yarn. Was most chuffed by this and rather relaxed at the end of it.

I did a little knitting, well ok rather a lot of knitting. Anouk was a dream to knit, the pattern was a doddle to follow, intuitively written and most surprisingly it felted to precisely the dimensions given in the instructions. Am itching to add the hardwear but she’s taking an eternity to dry. Wondering if that’s because the thing that makes sheepy wool water repellent also stops it drying easily or if that’s just because its so cold and damp here.

Also managed to block the shawl, neglecting to instantly tidy up after myself, went back to do that sometime later and found my blocking mats transformed into a den. The imagination of a small child never ceases to amaze me.

B ended her academic year with a deluge of awards which included the Head Teachers Award for effort and the School Governors’ Award for outstanding attitude. I can’t begin to put into words just how proud we are of her.

F and I have three more days to go before school shuts to pupils until September. Fortunately it’s three days of bouncy castles, parties and art classes rather than traditional lessons. It’s quite possibly my favourite week of the year.


July 31, 2012

Dear Amanda

Please forgive my long silence, both with you and with the blog. I have been swamped and overwhelmed and rather enjoying not talking into the dark which is the way the blog feels to me a lot of the time (not our letters!).  Plus spending a lot of time getting things ready to launch my two new bags—you’re going to LOVE them.

But without further ado, THANK YOU FOR THE PRESENT FOR SOMA!!!  O Wow!  How very cool!  He was so excited that he put on his official London 2012 Olympic T-shirt and cap to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies. When we sit down to watch the games in the evening, he puts on his cap. I’ll take a picture one of these nights to send.  So adorable.

The heat wave/lack of rain has broken here, and it looks from pictures on TV that the rain has finally stopped there, though I did see the archery competitions took place in the rain!  How are things going weather-wise now? Your on-the-ground reports are better than googling the weather . . . I like the pictures of the walk in the countryside. Beautiful and soothing. Here, it is almost impossible to find such a vast space with such great sky. We are always down in the trees, the landscape (at least where I am) hilly enough that the sky gets small. We are always enclosed.  I was recently out in Texas where the sky is very big and even in the Hill Country (I was near San Antonio teaching in a WONDERFUL SHOP called The Tinsmith’s Wife that is, truly, in an old tinsmith’s.  Across the street, rumor has it, was the forge itself. Next door was the tinsmith’s residence. More pictures posted on facebook later.

D’s shed looks amazing and makes me want my own! I know what you mean about how a bit of moving things around, ruthless decisions about what to donate, pitch, or save feels as though a weight lifts from your shoulders with each decision. How much of the time do we walk around feeling the weight of decisions not yet made? I’ve recently taken on a bit more space at the studio. I have hopes that this will help with efficiency if I set things up right at the outset. I’ll have three rooms now, each connected to the other by doorways (without doors, just walk throughs, really). The largest room will be devoted to display, retail (such as it is . . . Very little foot traffic here, which sometimes seems quite nice as I am always very busy and involved in a project of some sort of another–but don’t let that stop you if you are in the area! It’s always nice to stop and show everything), and teaching. I’ve got a great big table that comfortably seats 8 so very nice for an intimate class.  The light is fabulous as there are two great windows at one end.

The second room is my office. Painted a lovely red as I’ve always wanted a red room. It’s a long skinny room with a single great window at one end.

The new room is long and skinny as well but with a bit of an L shape toward the windows. So, I’ll have 2 great windows in that room. This new room will be devoted to all my shipping business and bins of inventory (all that right now is in the big room so makes for a bit of a mess and confusion in the place that is supposed to be tidy and welcoming).

The fellow who is moving out is a photographer who is moving into a space with other photographers upstairs. As soon as he moves his things, the door will be cut and the make-it-and-fix-it guys will start creating a doorway and put up unattractive but functional lights—the photographer is taking his fancy lights with him . . .

Perhaps I’ll post before and after pictures and blog about the move on the Monday blog. . . What do you think? I won’t feel so much as though I’m talking into a dark closet if I know you and my friend Mary E. are reading. [If you are reading this and want to see the big studio transformation captured in the Monday blog, say something in the comments . . .]

The summer is winding down here. I can feel the change in the air, the quality and temperature. I’ve watched the lilies come and go, the gladiolas. The Ligularia flower stalks get longer by the day. Every day Soma and I check for tomatoes—there are green ones and flowers, but no fruits to eat yet–we were a bit late with the planting as you might have guessed from our late harvest. We did make our first eggplant harvest and I cooked a dish I have not made for a long time: sauteed eggplant with sweet onions and ground turkey. A little garlic. A savory brown sauce. Over rice. Delicious.  Soma loved it.

So happy to hear about the accolades of your daughter!  Three cheers!

And so happy to see lovely Anouk! I’ve just read through your notes and love them love them love them. Delightful and thank you for saying such lovely and kind things about me! If you love Anouk, you’ll love the new bags I’m coming out with this week. Take a peak at them:

Introducing W in small and large size (large is the dark grey with longer body and slightly bigger).

And 6-8-10. The perfect beginner bag: 3 sizes. The hardware is spectacular! Kits are beautiful. Pester your local shop to bring them in and all your friends to knit them!  They will make the best gift ever.

And here is 6 in red:

Let me know what you think of these new beauties!.


Talking Across the Pond: 6 am on the back steps

Preface, there is a bit of a lag in these letters as you will see because we write and then almost a full week later I post them here. I have been to TNNA this past week. I am very tired and have been extremely busy, thus no post until now. . . sorry! Perhaps I’ll do my Monday post on Thursday because my garden is AMAZING! When I got home very late last night from Columbus the scent of the lilies just hung in the garden. So strong it was like a Gardenia bush. . .



You are completely barking but I love it!

A trip to the UK sounds fab. You could try Stash who have a growing weekly knitting group and offer a range of workshops, they also have the added advantage of being right on my doorstep or as on my doorstep as anything is and best of all they have an endless supply of free coffee which is offered on walking through the door and which is the only reason my other half doesn’t object to going there. I have been known to loose track of time and be rather late returning to work having managed to spend five hours at the knitting group there munching homemade cake and trying not to take advantage of their generous 10% discount. Its as close to perfect as a knitting group is ever going to get.

If you’re brave enough to put up with us then you’re more than welcome to stay. I’ll leave the pie making to you though because my pastry could double up as building material. I do make a mean rhubarb crumble so you won’t starve. Unfortunately there’s a shortage of mud slides and tornadoes in this part of the UK, the children ate the last of the guinea fowl last summer and the sod house was shelved to make way for my husband’s shed which arrived this evening, a day earlier than planned. You’ll have to come up with some better excuses to stay in a proper hotel. I won’t mention tents in the garden to the children just yet otherwise they’ll be harassing me daily. They love any excuse to camp out, they’ve even been known to erect the tent in the house having been told it was too cold/wet/boring grown up excuse to camp in the garden.

Aim for July, August, or early September otherwise bring lots of warm waterproof clothing because it seems to rain continuously from October through to June. Schools close for the summer from the middle of July to the end of August. You’ll need a couple of weeks to do everything though as Doc Martin is filmed in Cornwall not far from Padstow which is famous for its fish restaurants. Since you’re that far south you couldn’t leave without going to The Eden Project.  In fact, I get the distinct impression you’ll like it so much you’ll want to spend a couple of days there. Next stop would be Get Knitted in Bristol via Somerset, home to The Wurzels (Youtube them) and scrumpy. Visit a scrumpy farm, any scrumpy farm, but don’t plan on driving any further that day. Detour through Wales via The National Wool Museum, stopping off at Harlech just because its beautiful. Head inland via the steam railways at Blaenau Ffeistiniog and Llangollen before reaching us. After that head to Pavi Yarns via The Lake District and then on to Scotland or do it all in reverse. There are so many amazing things to see that its hard to know what to suggest. The National Trust have hundreds of properties scattered throughout the UK and also rent out holiday cottages so you can stay in the grounds of a stately home or on a secluded beach somewhere.

As for beading stores … There’s nothing here. The nearest beading store is about 25 miles away. I know it doesn’t sound far but diesel is currently £1.50 per litre ($14 per gallon). The minimum UK wage is £6 per hour before taxes of a third are deducted, anything in the region of £8 per hour is considered good and over £12 excellent, and almost unheard of in rural areas. That’s cheap compared to the cost of public transport though, if you turn up at a railway station without pre-booking then a return ticket from here to London is £400. Not that there’s any public transport here. We have four buses a day, two in each direction.

The nearest house to us is attached but empty and has been for the last five years. The neighbours the other side are about 5 minutes walk away across a field. The only noises we hear are distant tractors, clucking hens, snorting pigs, sheep, the occasional cow and a whole menagerie of wildlife. Most of my neighbours are related in some way to someone else in the immediate area which confuses the kids no end as Grandma C isn’t their grandma, nor is Nanny W their granny but they are everyone else’s so the names have stuck.

My daily commute to work can be stretched out to a five minute drive, during which I pass half a dozen cars all of whom wave, not that I’ve ever met the drivers of any of them but we’ve been passing at the same time of day for years. Occasionally I’m late for work because the cows are crossing the road to the milking parlour or a neighbour drops by with some home grown produce on their morning walk. In the winter I walk because its quicker than defrosting the car. Most of the roads here are only big enough for one, I find multi-lane roads quite scary and driving on motorways at 70 miles an hour gives me the heebie jeebies, more so when other cars are whumping past doing closer to 100 mph.

Both girls go to school in hot pink hi-visibility jackets as we don’t have pavements (sidewalks) and on really dark misty mornings. One daughter has flashing armbands too, our overgrown puppy has a flashing collar and reflective coat, and we go out in bright yellow hi-vis winter gear just to be on the safe side.

Our local village shop sounds just like “Everything”. Officially its nameless but the locals know it as “Mrs Kay’s” on account of the owner several decades back being called Mrs Kay. The shop is now run by her grand-daughter but little has changed. Some goods still bear their pre-decimal prices in shillings and pence although at some point in the distant past they were updated to reflect the UKs current currency. Generally you ignore the price label as it would be rude to pay a shillings and six pence for a shoelace which would be roughly 18p in current money. You can’t even buy a packet of crisps for that any more. Its worth wandering round because she sells pretty much everything from zips to fresh cream cakes, although I’ve never seen a toilet she probably has one in the back room, its quite amazing just what is stashed out the back and equally its quite scary. The window display hasn’t changed since we moved here almost a decade ago, the labels have faded to the point you can’t figure out what they might once have been, the toys are bleached white from the sun, so it comes as quite a surprise to find that its always busy.


ps. I’m amazed you have scissors in your kitchen drawer. Mine always seem to end up in the shed or in one of the girls bedrooms or halfway down the garden, in fact anywhere but the kitchen drawer and buying a dozen pairs hasn’t solved this.



Dear Amanda,
I certainly hope my barking turns to biting!  Especially since you have figured out the whole trip and it sounds wonderful! Can’t wait to make a rhubarb pie in your kitchen. Just make sure you have some vodka in the freezer (not to drink . .). Must start working on this trip one little piece at a time. Perhaps your Stash (looks AMAZING!) would bring in Noni and my new hardware kits?  I’d love to teach there. With the book coming out over there next month in July, might be good timing.

Thank you for your note and the pictures. I looked at them for a long time and tried to imagine them all strung together in a panoramic. I will aim to take one set in same fashion from my side or back yard so you can see what I see when I step out the door in the morning to feed the cats. I’ll take those pictures early, at about 6:10 am tomorrow when I am first up.

Sorry so silent for about a week, as lots going on here.

Last Week, All Week: I have been preparing for the knitting industry trade show. I won’t go on about it to much, except to say I’ve been working on new patterns—some new little-ish bags, some accessories. Lots of ideas that I’m not ready to bring out yet  . . . Maybe into Fall. My goal with the show is to focus on the book, on combining patterns for a unique end product, and on introducing my new hardware kits. I’ve been working on re-thinking my packaging and I’ve hit on a great look . . . I hope everyone likes it as much as I do!

Last Friday: My little guy graduated from Kindergarten on Friday. Now, when I first learned there was going to be a ceremony with pomp and circumstance and the little ones wearing little gowns and caps and what all, I about guffawed or rolled my eyes and said “WE never graduated from Kindergarten!.” I thought, What’s the fuss?! But my Soma has been in pre-school since he was about 3, with this Kindergarten year being the third year in “school.” Next year he will attend first grade at a new school.  While for me Kindergarten was the beginning of primary school, it is, for him, the end of Pre-school. It is the first of many school rites of passage, a big transition. My heart about burst when he said all his lines correctly without prompting. And so handsome he was!

Last Saturday: Soma and I are working on a research project. He is going to present to his summer camp class (2 –weeks long) about the International Space Station. I grumbled a bit at first, but then we went to the library and got a big stack of books. It’s FASCINATING. Of course I’m convinced just about anything is fascinating if you look long enough to start figuring something out about it. We’ve already learned a lot. For example, aside from learning about space food and the danger of crumbs to the equipment and how everything must be without crumbs (cheese sticks a good food, for example), they do loads of cool experiments. They took orb spiders into space—there are the spiders, I’m sure you know, that make such lovely circular webs. Now, aside from the very cool fact that such small creatures withstood G-forces, the spiders tried for the first few days to make webs in zero gravity and all they made were sad messes. BUT after a few days, they were able to learn how to negotiate zero gravity and their webs were glorious. It made me want to see a video of just how they did this. . . AND they took some rats up to the space station. You’ve probably seen those little upside down bottles that they drink out of. Metal ball bearing at the end of a tube to keep the water from running out but they can drink by pushing the ball bearing with their snouts or tongues.  Well, in space the rats learned how to grab the drops of water with their paws and pull them to their mouths. So, on we continue to read every day about what goes on up there, studies of weather down here, studies of diseases, drugs, plants, animals, etc.  Big report next week.

After a couple of hours of our research, I gardened all day. Got everything in the ground but one Camellia. Tomatoes and eggplants planted, Geum plants planted, moved some chocolate coral bells to my shade garden, teased some hostas out from between the bricks in the walk and planted them in pots to grown them big, planted lettuce seeds in a pot. . . More to come, including pictures, about the garden.

Last Sunday: We all went to my friend Gwen’s farm.

It was wonderful and lazy but Gwen put us to work cleaning out the animal troughs. The lambs had just been separated from their mothers so they were calling to each other all afternoon, a serenade of longing to the quiet of our work. The swish of the brushes on the trough sides, the toads under the trough hopping into the grass to get away from Soma’s delighted hands, I was the only one brave enough to pick up slugs to feed to the chickens (to their delight!), Soma showed me the old stone quarry (he’s quite at home there), and then we drove through the countryside and I picked out farms I wish to buy. Home late. Very tired.

Monday: Working like crazy to prepare for the big trade show. . .
Tuesday: Today! More of the same. . . Working late. I have a few new bags I’m going to launch at the show. . . Have not even had the photo shoot yet! Here’s a teaser:

I think you are going to LOVE the new bags and hardware!
Wednesday: Ah, the tedium and excitement of preparations sure to come. I rent a big cargo van in the morning and pack it late at night.
Thursday: Head out in the van for a day of driving and talking. Beth is driving. . . I’ll be knitting and working as we talk.

I’ll send pictures from my back steps soon.

Hope you and yours are well!

Talking Across the Fish Pond: Letters to and from Amanda, Installment 1

You might have read the post about Amanda (Moo2Moo) some time ago. I asked her questions, she answered. . . Well, we’ve been talking a bit since. I thought I’d start posting some of our back and forth. . . she thought it was a fine idea.  So, here’s the latest, with more to come once a week on Wednesdays until we tire of it, I suppose.

Subject: Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!

Hi Nora,

The postie has just been bringing with him the most amazing parcel. Can’t begin to convey the level of excitement at this. The contents are amazing. Fabulous. Anouk is jaw-droppingly beautiful. I can’t get over just how squooshy Shepherds Wool is; there’s nothing even vaguely close in the UK without paying $30 or more per skein and the presentation bag is such a fabulous finishing touch. I have a huge beaming grin from ear to ear.

I was rather miffed at having to stay in all day tomorrow to wait for the OH’s shed to be delivered but its the perfect excuse to familiarize myself with Anouk. The quality of the patterns is outstanding, makes such a change from flimsy paper ones that start to fall to bits before you’re part way through.  I love the attention to detail and the notes on the rear about Soma are so damn cute and the suggestion about felting in a clothes dryer rather than a washing machine is so obvious it rates a *duh* as I’d previously done it by stopping the washer mid cycle and faffing about emptying it in order to check it which takes 15 minutes each time, top loading machines are extremely uncommon in the UK.

I can’t even begin to thank you enough. I’ve been wanting to knit your top down ribbed pullover for ages but kept persuading myself it was beyond me. Thanks to you I’ve discovered that I’m stubborn enough to try anything at least twice and in the case of a shawl named Haruni 8 times before conceding that its just not working and trying something else before having another go.

Going to whizz thorough today’s housework, massacre a couple of dozen metres of hedge, finish the last half dozen rows of a tea cosy and cast on for Anouk. The Fuschia Wrap is on hold until I can find somewhere that stocks the wire for shaping the flowers because all I’ve come across so far is far too thick and I’ve yet to some across a rigid enough alternative. Rather than knit them from a single strand and find I can’t shape them I’m holding off until I know what gauge wire I can get hold off. Its most infuriating. The best my local store was able to come up with was plumbers solder or paperclips and the local craft shop owner looked at me like I’d grown two heads but then she can’t understand why anyone would want to knit anything tha’ts not a pale acrylic.

Enough waffle. Domestic drudgery beckons.

Hope you had a great holiday.

Thank you very very very much!



Subject: RE: Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!

Dear Amanda,

You are such a love to say such lovely things—I want a recording for when I have low days!  I have sat here reading your note with a bit of a dopey grin on my face.  You write such great letters.

I’m trying to plan a teaching trip to the UK. I’ve asked Pavi Yarns if they are interested and they are keen to do it if we can work out the details. I was wondering if I might bring my family out to you and we could all meet (if I can pull this whole thing off)? The place where your forever home sits looks so absolutely breath-taking I want to sit and look for days. I have the bold idea that you might even have an extra bedroom and we would all get along so well you might say “stay!” and that would be that. And you are so deft with words that if just the thought makes you grab the edge of the table and whisper, “o no!” you’ll say, O, do come for tea or coffee and we can make a pie together (I mean that about the pie), but the back bedroom we used to use for guests has been taken over by the guinea fowls and now you wouldn’t want to stay there. Or, Just last week we lost our back bedroom to a horrible mud slide and simultaneous tornado and now there’s just a sad spot where it used to be. Or, the sod house we are building that will look out over the water and house the steady stream of guests we sometime have is still, pity, under construction probably until 2020, so I am so dreadfully sorry to say that we know a little place in town that you will love!

Most important, what time of year do you think is best both for knitting workshops and visiting? I’m trying to put together a proposal to several shops. I’ve got one in Scotland, Pavi, maybe Get Knitted. . .

I have always wanted to see the V&A and I want to see where Doc Martin is filmed (I don’t have to, but I just love that place or someplace similar) and all my graduate work was on English religio-political tracts so I’m keen to see the places I’ve only thought and read about.

But to the issue of wire. Have you no beading stores or anything of the sort? You’ll probably laugh at that question. I should know the answer just looking at that picture you sent of the shore line with not a soul on it for miles. And the story of the man in the shop and his incredulity.

But I live in a place like so many here in the North East of the US where the house next to mine is a stone’s throw, literally, away and we have to contend (while we happily watch the hummingbirds fly back and forth and try to hear the buzz of the bumblebee’s wings as it works over the lambs ears) with the motor of the next door neighbor’s pool filter rackety packety from 8 am until 8 pm every day–I could set my watch!. And huge stores with more plastic throw away things to tempt your money out of your pocket than you will ever care to see in your life! So we have whole shops (some of them quite large) devoted to beads and bead tools, and the assorted wires you might need, depending on your project. You can get silver covered wire that is then colored different shades you think you must have because you are convinced for a time that a red tulip must be wired with red wire. You’ll get over this, of course, because the silver wire is twice the price and the color wears off with the sort of wiring of flowers that you might be wanting to do, and it bends too easily with even that little bit of silver coating.  I think you should have 26 gauge brass wire.  A plumbing supply place might not be a bad place to start. I found my first little reel of wire in a funny hardware store. Brass or copper wire will do, though brass might be a bit more stable?

When I was writing the book, I was in rural Michigan—not so rural as a friend down the road whose house could be reached if you followed the signs for “yarn” written small in paint. First off the main road to a smaller road where the cars scoot over to the side as its really only big enough for one, and then turn a corner to a yet smaller road that is dirt and quite a fun bumpity bump ride for about the first 30 seconds, and then to a yet smaller road that’s barely bigger than a driveway, and finally to her farm where her little out building is home to a tiny yarn shop and in the summer if you visit she’s got lemonade in pretty glasses on a board table in the shade and you’ll wish to stay there until you need something like beading wire and it’s nowhere to be found for tens of miles or even hundreds of miles.

Unless you happen, in desperation, to go into a shop aptly named “Everything” or something like that and you’ll find there a bright orange hunting cap that you think will come in handy as it might be November you’re in there and it’s hunting season so even going to the car seems like a risk. And a bright orange jacket with the name of the high school sports team emblazoned on it over the heart, but it’s big enough for your father in law, which means its big enough to fit over your winter coat comfortably and you can even go for a walk without fear for your life.

And on you go down each isle carefully. There are two toilets on a low shelf.  Some faux flowers of unspecified botanical origin, several shower curtains in faded and dusty packaging that shows a slim, smiling woman with one hand raised to touch the curtain and the other hand poised in the air. Around the corner is the wire “section” if it can be called that. There is dusty plastic tubing on dusty shelves, and there, on a little hook, is 26 gauge brass wire on little reels that allows you to cut the wire right off the reel without resorting to the kitchen scissors you keep in the drawer for challenging cutting tasks. . .

Here I’ve just sent you a present (I’m so glad you like it!) and I’ve invited myself over for dinner and a vacation! You will think I’ve lost my mind and wonder about these crazy designers over there in Maryland and wish you’d never got all excited about that name the bag contest. . . Or maybe if I’m lucky you’ll be delighted and like the idea.  I’ll hope for the best and push send. . .


Dear Gentle Reader: If you like this post, please share it with like-minded friends and sign up for the RSS feed. . . Look for an installment in Talking Across the Fish Pond every Wednesday. For a new feature, Noni Q&A, check in on Fridays. Mondays–I will do better and post Monday’s post on Monday!–will be my whatever comes to mind post. Maybe gardening, maybe knitting, maybe something else . . .


Monday post on Tuesday: Making Plans

I’ve been getting ready for the big knitting industry trade show. . . it’s been keeping me very busy, and when I’m not in the studio working on new designs, I’m at home trying not to. I watched my son graduate from Kindergarten. . . and felt my heart swell with pride at his poise and bearing. He was so delighted to wear his cap and gown and his fancy clothes underneath. The first big rite of passage! In the Fall a new school and first grade.

You might have guessed that I’ve been gardening. . . but I’ll post more about that later.

And visiting my friend Gwen Handler’s Farm.  Here are a few pictures I took there (visit the Nora Bellows Facebook page for the whole album):

But I’ve also been making BLOG PLANS! I’ve even advance written some things for posting while I’m at TNNA.

Monday will remain my day to write about what I will. Some of you wrote lovely responses to my post about the garden, so I will do more of that, and I will tell you about the Yellow Foxglove and the Stephanotis, and other things that cross my mind.

Wednesday: Talking Across the Fish Pond. . . Amanda/Moo2Moo and I have started to write letters to one another . . . and it’s so much fun getting to know her, I thought you might be interested to listen in. I’ll share our back and forth on Wednesdays.

Fridays are now a Noni Q&A. If you find yourself knitting something in Noni Flowers, have a bag finishing question, a felting question, or any other noni-related question, send it along either to my studio e-mail ( or put it in the comments. I will answer questions with pictures, text explanations, and maybe even one of the highly polished and spectacularly produced videos you have come to expect from me.

No question is too basic . . . I promise. The goal here is to clarify something, trouble-shoot, offer advice, inspiration, and other exclusive content that one just cannot fit into 2 – 3 pattern pages.

Remember that the best questions are specific. Here’s a sample question: I am working on the Blah Blah flower and every time I transfer the stitches to holders, and move on to the next step, I realize that somehow the center of the flower (on holders) ends up sticking out of the side of the flower. . . (picture of said mutant should be included). I am obviously doing the same odd thing each time. . . can you help me figure out what I’m doing wrong?

You can start asking your questions today in response to this post. This will give me some time to prepare for the Friday blog. Bring it on!

No. 5: Sewing Fuchsias To Your Wrap

Today we sew Fuchsias to the Gossamer Wrap!

If you have been working in Silk Cloud, you have noticed how delicate your Fuchsia are.  I hope you have wired the petals as I suggested you do last week. If you have done this, you will see that the blossoms seem more sturdy, they keep their shape, but they are also squashable – a good thing if you get into the car and lean back on a fuchsia that is dangling so fabulously down your back. Wouldn’t want to be jabbed in a most uncomfortable way by a petal as you speed toward the opera!

What follows is a brief, illustrated guide to the process of embellishing your wrap.

1. Lay your wrap out on a large clean surface.

2. Gather your supplies: regular “sewing” or silk pins, scissors, sharp (rather slender) darning needle).

3. You have a choice to make. You can sew your Fuchsias to the wrap with a strand of Silk Cloud (or your wrap yarn) or sew them on with sewing thread.

Either is a perfectly respectable choice. I chose Silk Cloud in the color of the wrap. I made this choice because I didn’t want the stitches that hold the flower to the wrap to be visible. It might seem logical to use the fuchsia stem color. . . but then those tiny green stitches might show. I left my yarn live from the bind off (see the first photo above) and used it to sew the first Fuchsia on the wrap corner.

3. Using the sewing pins, secure your flower stems in place, then perfect the arrangement, before setting to work on one Fuchsia.

4. With the wrap still on the table, sew the flowers on one-at-a-time until all are secured, removing pins as you go.

But how do we hide the wrap color stitches on the Fuchsia itself? I used the stems like a little subway for the needle and thread: I traveled with the needle through the stem until I reached the destination for a stitch, momentarily emerged to catch just a thread of the wrap before traveling again through the stem subway to the next stop. Securing stitches were made–that is, the finishing off knots and such–in the wrap fabric toward the bottom of the wrap so as to be least visible and then the tail was woven back into the stem of the Fuchsia.

5. Check to make sure that your stitches are invisible on the back side. . . If they are not, consider re-doing.

LA! It’s ready to wear. I can’t wait to see your pictures!

Please post pictures of your finished or in-process wrap in your Ravelry project pages and link to the Gossamer Fuchsia Wrap KAL.

If you are posting your finished/in-process wrap on your Facebook page, please tag Noni Designs.

Anouk & Vianne . . . and The First Winner of Bag Naming Contest Introducted!

If you participated in the Ella Coat Knit-a-Long you know her as Moo2Moo, the fascinating lady of notable wit who made an amazing Ella Coat AND wrote the charming, funny notes that kept us all reading to the very end.

She beguiled me with her description of the 2 bags I offered for naming in my recent bag naming contest. . . I thought of the two bags (known to you then as Bag No. 3) as good enough to eat, sweet candies, and Moo2Moo (her name is Amanda) captured not only the sweetness of these bags but the relationship between them. [For those of you who wrote descriptions of the other bags, I have not forgotten about you. I will announce those winners when those patterns are released.]

Without further ado, I introduce to you Anouk & Vianne!

Here is the description of these delicious bags:

Mythical chocolatier Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk were weavers of magic, capable of transforming simple, every-day ingredients into mouth-watering works of art. Ginger, salt, cinnamon, gold . . . elements previously disparate surprise and delight the senses. These bags, like the chocolate confections of Vianne, are more than the sum of their parts, more than simple chocolate, simple bags: Anouk is small and playful, teaming with vibrant energy; Vianne is more refined and formal. You admire her across the room though she has said nothing. She is captivating. Both move with ease through cities, through gardens mysterious with fog, through windswept landscapes.

I have put the pattern up on Ravelry if you are interested in purchasing the PDF. If you would like the whole beautiful kit for Anouk, including the paper pattern, I have it available (domestic shipping included) for $90. I also have kits for Vianne–perfect knitting or everyday bag! Write to me for information at

After reading Moo2Moo’s/Amanda’s notes, her lovely description . . . I started to wonder, just who is Moo2Moo/Amanda? I scoured her Ella Coat page for clues and couldn’t even figure out what she looks like. I asked her for pictures. .  . and she sent me a portrait of herself.

And I asked her some questions to try to get a little peek into her life. I asked her the typical knitterly question of when did you learn to knit? Here’s what she said:

My great grandmother taught me to knit cotton dishcloths when I was somewhere between 6 and 8 years old. It was boring as hell and something I quickly abandoned, preferring to spend my time with my nose buried in a book, any book, something I’ve never grown out of. Last summer [my emphasis!] a friend came to stay bringing with her a scarf she was knitting. She wanted to knit a tea cosy as a gift for her sister and so we surfed and found Ravelry and a veritable deluge of tea cosy patterns. I fell in love with Debbie Birkin’s Owl Tea Cosy despite not having knitted anything in about 3 decades, nor owning a tea pot or even being a tea drinker.  We took a trip to Hobbycraft (a craft department store) and came home armed with the necessary materials (and quite a lot of totally unnecessary things). After that I watched quite a lot of YouTube videos in order to learn how to cast on and to remind myself how to knit. With each new technique I’ve needed I’ve found a YouTube video to suit.

Where are you from, I asked her next. . . and tell me your story:

I’m originally from Yorkshire (bleak rolling moors, huge mills and lots and lots of sheep – parts of it are just as they appear in Wuthering Heights) then I moved to Bristol (the worlds greyest city) for University where I emerged with a BSC. Hons Microbiology and a rather unexpected biological development of my own.  Six weeks after siting my final exam the OH and I got married and two months after that (daugher no. 1) arrived in the world. After that we moved to London which served only to confirm that I hate big cities, I’m not overly keen on small ones either. Shortly after that we moved to a cottage in North Wales where our closest neighbours are sheep, sheep and more sheep. The garden is full of chickens and we’re surrounded by green fields. Best of all you can see the stars each and every night. Birds sing all around us and at night you hear the hoots of owls and the swift whoosh of air as you’re buzzed by the local bats. The house is heated with coal stoves and warm and cosy all year round. This is my forever home.

Take a look at the landscape behind Amanda’s lovely daughters and cute dog! I’m ready to move myself!

What do you do when you are not knitting?

When I’m not knitting (which is the vast majority of the time) I take the dog for long rambles through the countryside, occasionally I remember to weed the garden, spend time with the children and make tons and tons of jam from pretty much anything I can get my hands on, I even joined my local Country Market Co-operative to get rid of the surplus. In between times I work full time at a local primary school which is the single most fantabulous job in the world….. although its a bilingual school and I’m not [bilingual], so I spend a fair amount of time improving my Welsh so I can reply when children ask “Gallau mynd i’r ty bach os gwelwch yn dda?” (can I go to the toilet please). My first school outing was to a Jamborii where the staff had to go up on stage to sing the Welsh National Anthem……. which meant much crash revision on the coach trip….. even with the words on paper I was scuppered, especially when one of my co-workers told me the first couple of lines were My Hen Laid a Haddock, one hand oiled a flea. Even now that’s the first thing that pops into my head.

What is your favorite food?

My favourite food has to be Mexican, although chocolate comes a close second… and bacon crisps (which my husband finds hilarious because I’m most definitely vegetarian).

And your favorite flower?

Honeysuckle. They seem to survive no matter what the weather is like here. The wind rips the heads of pretty much everything else. I like crocuses too just because they’re so cheery and hint at spring weather.

Favorite place?

Any windswept green open space with nothing but granite outcrops for miles on end – it reminds me of my childhood. Failing that, the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls–its a truly magnificent place and like stepping back in time a century or so.

I asked her with whom she would like to have coffee (famous person, famous deceased person?). I confided that I want to have coffee with my Uncle Henry, my grandmother, and Cesare Milan. This was her response:

Cesare Milan? He reminds me of George Michael back in the Wham days.

And her answer to the question made me wish I’d confessed different people because her answer was so intelligent. I thought maybe I’d like to have coffee with Milton, but I think I would rather be a fly on the wall when my professors from the grad school days (Ted Leinwand or Marshall Grossman–they, after all, can quote Paradise Lost by book and line!) had coffee with Milton. . . Here’s what Amanda said:

If I could have coffee with anyone it would be Marie Curie – how on earth did she come up with the idea that zapping people with radiation would be beneficial to them? I’d also love to have met Jim Henson (creator of the Muppets) but I doubt I’d have drunk anything for laughing.

When I asked her for some pictures, she sent me these. . .

I was delighted by these pictures and asked Amanda where they were taken. She answered thus:

They were taken on a photoshoot for WightLink Ferries which came about totally by accident after I filled in a questionaire pretending to be a dog whilst very bored on a ferry crossing.  If you download the following brochure we’re on Page 3.

The castle itself is a magnificent motte-and-bailey dating back roughly 1000 years. It has breathtaking views and a working donkey powered water wheel. Its a fabulous place for long walks and great for your thigh muscles as there are several hundred steps to go up and down as you wander along the ramparts and through the gardens. The day we visited co-incided with an English Heritage re-enactment weekend so we got to see cloth being woven, hand spinning and a very early spinning wheel in action. [My] daughters were more taken with the working black smith forge, which was set up in the middle of a field, and the gentleman in full battle dress wearing boots handmade by the chap who makes boots for the Yeomans guarding the Tower of London. The level of craftsmanship demonstrated and the sheer passion for history made this a superb day out and rekindled a childhood desire for a spinning wheel….. which I’m in the process of sourcing, not that I’ve let on to [my husband] yet. I’m waiting for his workshop and lathe to arrive before I drop that particular bombshell.

Amanda sent pictures of her chickens which you can picture in her garden:

I thank Amanda for answering my questions, sending such great pictures, and writing such lovely project notes and bag descriptions! I know we are all looking forward to her next set of Knit-A-Long project notes!

No. 4 Fuchsia Advice

I am late in posting this week’s installment, I know. I was teaching all weekend and got completely confused about the days. Took a day off and took my little guy to the park . . . It was wonderful.

But let’s to the task at hand! You are busily making fuchsia stems or you have made them all.  Now follow the pattern as written to complete the fuchsias.  I won’t interfere with any of that.

Some advice for finishing fuchsias.

1. Trust me when I say to tack the inner petals to one another. . . they look more beautiful and real if they are tacked together as suggested.

2. Wire the outer petals with 28 gauge wire. Even 30 gauge wire would do nicely. But I think that 26 gauge is too heavy for Silk Cloud. If you are working with heavier weight yarn, then you can work with a 26 gauge wire.

Here is a picture of a single fuchsia that has been half wired.

I think you can see which petals looks better!  Don’t worry about the wire making the wearing of the wrap into a pointy affair. It is so light weight that it will bend easily. You may find yourself re-shaping the petals now and agian.

Follow the instructions for wiring that you find in the Noni Flowers book.  Begin the wiring process in the stem. See this photograph for the idea:

3. For the best look of pistil and stamens, tie tiny knots in the strand of yarn that represent these parts of the flower. For this purpose, make pistil and stamens about twice as long as called for so you will have room to tie knots. Once knots are tied, then dot with fabric glue, let dry and then cut. Follow the stamen instructions in the book for best results.

Your Homework:

For next week, please finish your fuchsias. I will discuss the business of sewing them to your wrap in my next post.