Something for the Cats

Dear Liza,

Cats are a big part of our life, so it’s only right they should get some presents.

This year I am making sleeping pads, like braided rugs, for Auntie Katie’s cats, Hopey and Maggie.

I have never made one before, but a cat-sized project is good place to learn. I found a good do it yourself video on Megan Nielsen’s youtube channel. It seemed like a good using-up-the-scraps project, too.

I cut a pile of Cotton polyester blend scraps into 1 inch strips, but tee shirt fabric works well, too. On my first try, I combined long and short strips, and quickly realized this made for a very bumpy braid.

So I undid the 7 feet I had done (about half an hour’s work) and cut more, longer strips.

Much better!

I tied it around the back of a heavy chair so I could adjust it easily.

Then it got really long, really fast. I kept trying to guess when it would be long enough for a cat to sleep on, and finally realized I should just machine zigzag it together like Megan shows in her video, and see how big it got.

Once I started sewing, it was fiddley and tricky making sure the rug stayed flat and that the zigzag stitch caught both the rug and the new coil as it was added, but after not very long, I had a 12 inch diameter circle.

Measuring our own dear Mouse, I decided to make the rug 15 inches in diameter so the cats would have lots of room. This took more strips, and took a braid about 10 yards long in all. Adding the extra braid was interesting but not difficult.

And when it was big enough, I finished by tucking the end under and continuing the zigzag stitch.

I had a few gaps where the zigzag had missed, so I hand-stitched them up. And when it was all done, Mouse got curious…

I am so happy with the way it turned out, I may make one for Mouse. She would look sweet napping in front of the fire, like a real Pioneer cat.


Grandma Judy

More Gifty Crafting

Dear Liza,

While Cousin Kestrel loves Fairies and Goblincore, 12 year old Cousin Jasper is a life-long Dungeons and Dragons player. Auntie Katie suggested I make him a “battle board”, which is a way of keeping track of what your characters are doing during the game.

Continuing my habit of ”using what you have”, I pulled our old, unused Trivial Pursuit game out of the closet. Since we only ever use the cards, I decided the board and box would be useful for Jasper’s present.

Auntie Bridgett got me started by giving everything we were going to paint a nice layer of gesso.

I mixed some leftover indoor acrylic housepaint with a bit of black and painted the battle surface, then added a bit more black and made dark speckles with a crinkled up potato bag.

A little more black gave me a third color and made it nice and rocky looking.

I liked it so much, I painted the lid of the box and the little boxes inside, as well.
The little boxes are useful for holding the weird dice, the character pieces, and whatever else you need.

But to make everything good for playing, it needed a grid pattern, which can determine distances, battle plans and magical spells in the game. I borrowed Auntie Bridgett’s white Posca marker and spent most of Saturday drawing really ……careful …… lines.

I liked it! I added a little bit of green speckles and blobs to look like moss on the vertical surfaces ( we are in Portland, after all).

And when the whole thing was dry, I folded it up. The back side of the new battle board still has the original surface and the “Trivial Pursuit” logo, which I decided to leave just as it was. I like things to be able to tell their own story.

Jasper has the cool dice and character sheets, and in a different package is his new Player’s Guide with all the rules. I just need to wrap these up and wait until Christmas.

I’m feeling like a very successful crafter!


Grandma Judy

Stitching Some Goblincore

Dear Liza,

Our weather has been wet, cold, and threatening to ice up, but I have been having a busy week , sewing.

Cousin Kestrel is still very into Goblincore. This is a style of art and clothes that is fairy-like, but with more of a focus on nature like mushrooms, spiders, and snakes. Kes loves walking in the woods and parks, finding tiny things, and appreciating all the processes of life.

Continuing with my idea of “using what I have”, I found this pale sparkly fabric in the Big Box in the garage and made a Crazy Quilt.

After I laid down some curvy vines in embroidery, I found pictures of mushrooms online and tried my hand at watercoloring them. Once I was confident at that, it was just a matter of paying attention to do the embroidery, which is just like watercoloring, but with thread.

I looked at pictures I had taken on our hikes in the woods to get ideas for the smaller patches. Ferns, flowers, and a spiderweb are helping create a wallhanging I am very proud of.

And there is, of course, a patch dedicated to Sir Isaac Snooten, Kestrel’s pet snake.

I added quilting and a back, edged the whole thing with bias tape, and added three loops. A branch I found at the park does nicely for a support bar.

Now, onto the next project!


Grandma Judy

Using What We Have

Dear Liza,

I love making presents for folks. Usually, the only trick is to start early enough to finish on time. This year, though, there may be supply chain issues, as well. That exact color of yarn, that color of thread, might not be available. So I am taking a page from my Mother’s philosophy: Use what you have.

I started this scarf for Yen, the nice lady who cuts my hair, the day of my last haircut. It is now finished, just in time for my next haircut. I only know one knitting stitch and had bought the yarn a few years ago from BackStory Books and Yarn down on Hawthorne. The project went quickly.

I used to make gifts for folks because I didn’t have a lot of spending money, and I really enjoyed it. I like being creative, using the skills I have and learning new ones.

For Auntie Katie’s wedding years ago, the late, great Barbara Binder Kadden and I stayed up all night to make the huppa. The time spent problem solving with Barbara, I now see, was a gift. She passed away a few years ago, much too soon.

And if you need a gift that is not like anything on the planet, the best way to get it is to make it yourself! I created this odd dude for Cousin Kyle years ago.

I am currently up to my eyeballs in a new creation, which I hope to show you tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

For Tim

Dear Liza,

Your great uncle, my oldest brother Tim, is having a birthday next week. After enjoying making an Art Journal for myself and a book for my friend Pat, I decided to make a book for him, too.

Tim is eight years older than me, so even though we grew up in the same house, we were at different parts of our lives at any given adventure. He taught me to climb trees, fish, and change the oil on a car. He joined the Marine Corps when I was 10 and retired when I was 40. He was, and still is, a rascal.

So I decided to remind him of some of our childhood adventures. I chose six to include and did a bit of writing and illustration for each. They are silly and short and should tickle his memory.

Trees played a big part in our childhoods. Climbing them, mostly, to test our wits and have space to ourselves.

Of course I included Momma’s recipe for Heavenly Buns, her go-to quick lunch that fed about a million neighborhood kids.

Camping and learning about outdoor living was an every-weekend activity. We learned about making fires, cooking in cast iron dutch ovens, and, one Thanksgiving, burying a turkey in the ground with coals and hot stones. “I bet it’ll work,” Dad grinned. He was right.

Since I had made the book small to fit in Tim’s pocket, but wanted to tell longer stories, I got creative about the page design. Accordion folds and other devices let me fit the stories in.

Maybe the best summer ever…

I am really enjoying this ability to tell stories and make them into books all by myself! A lot of my last few years have been spent researching and writing a story, and in the back of my head I was always wondering… “How is anyone going to see this?” Well, maybe I have solved my problem. We’ll see.


Grandma Judy

Making Gifts

Dear Liza,

A goofy doll from many Christmases ago…

I have always loved making gifts. You great grandma Billie taught me to sew, and I have made baby quilts and wedding quilts for friends and family. I have sewn goofy dolls, Covid-19 masks, and helped with Auntie Katie’s wedding huppa.

A “big boy” quilt, now long outgrown….

I have baked tons of celebratory cookies and rum balls, peanut butter balls, and Bundt cakes for Kosher luncheons. I have even knitted scarves and hats, for those who wouldn’t be upset about a few dropped stitches.

Nifty bug cookies

And now I have something new I can make and give to friends: Art Journals!

Art Journal for a friend

I just sent my dear friend Pat a journal, a book built from scratch via lessons from Ruth Inman. It is filled with silly poems, by me and other people. It has thoughts and thanks and bits of art to make her smile.

There isn’t another one like it in the whole world. It was made by the ME I am right now for the Pat that she is right now. It has politics, pets, wine, art, and memories of travel.

I love having a new way to show my special people how much I love them!


Grandma Judy