review: All New Square Foot Gardening

All New Square Foot Gardening

All New Square Foot Gardening: The revolutionary way to grow more in less space by Mel Bartholomew

Growing more edibles in a smaller space – who doesn’t want to know more about that? The SFG system, updated in 2013, aims to allow gardeners to make the most of the cultivated area and get more produce for their hopefully reduced efforts. All the designs here fit into a 4×4′ square, so you have a growing bed where you can still reach everything but never have to walk on the soil. The 4×4′ square is then divided up into 16 squares using a grid overlaying the soil. There are instructions here for the whole process: building garden boxes, planning what to plant and how much you’ll be able to harvest, creating an ideal planting mix (soil), seed starting, growing, and harvesting. The lengthy appendix also has a handy chart of types of plants and their basic stats (height, spacing, weeks from seed to harvest, and more), planting schedules for continuous harvesting, and plant profiles. My raised bed has gone from mostly full sun to now being partly shaded by a maple that is expanding in that direction, so I’m going to need to move it next year. I think instead of just moving the 8×8′ bed I have now, I’ll use this method to create a couple of 4×4′ beds instead.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Grand Ledge Area District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system


sweet Clover

Clover Sweater for Middie Blythe

I really need more clothes for my Middie Blythe, and I keep seeing other folks say the same thing. I designed this sweater while putting together a Blythe Swap that was Middie-specific and I’ve also made it for my own collection. It’s a simple cardigan with a little placket detail and ribbing at the hem and cuffs.

Get the clover sweater on Ravelry, Etsy, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy.


new freebie for August!

Happy new month! I’ve got another freebie here, and it’s another thing that I found I needed so I made it. I like to have a glass of ice water with me at pretty much all times. I take allergy medicine that dries me out so I’m almost always thirsty and a refreshing glass of ice water is the best. The only problem is that in the warmer months, my glass of ice water sweats copiously, which either soaks my coaster (if it’s a porous one like a beer deckle) or temporarily adheres the coaster to the glass and it falls off after I picked up the glass (leading the sweated-off water to splash all over and the coaster to fall to the floor). Either way I am annoyed.

So, here we have the Cotton Coaster! It’s just as simple as it sounds – it’s a coaster made of cotton yarn. It is super absorbent and soaks up the glass sweat without getting the surface underneath it wet and it doesn’t stick to the glass.

Cotton Coaster

It works well for other things like La Croix, of course, or a mixed drink or a glass of chocolate milk or whatever suits you. It’s astonishingly simple and quick to knit and takes a very small amount of yarn.

Cotton Coaster

Grab this free pattern on Ravelry, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy.


review: Fix Your Garden

Fix Your Garden

Fix Your Garden: How to make small spaces into green oases by Jane Moseley & Jackie Strachan, illustrations by Claire Rollet

This cute book is designed as a guide to creating your garden, whether it be a big yard, balcony pots, or something in between (most of the information is written to an audience working with an in-ground garden plot, though). It starts with the basics and features homey illustrations throughout, providing inspiration and occasional chuckles (such as with adorable depictions of pests like ‘Mrs. Earwig’). The goal of creating a cottage garden is referenced several times and fits well with the design of the book. As this was published in the UK, resources listed are UK-based.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Baldwin Public Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system


review: Colored Pencil Painting Portraits

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits by Alyona Nickelsen

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits: Master a revolutionary method for rendering depth and imitating life by Alonya Nickelsen

I have not done much in the way of colored pencil art myself, but I am a fan of picture books and some of my favorites use colored pencil (among other media). This book focuses on realistically rendered portraits, though, so it’s quite different from those picture books. Nickelsen focuses on using colored pencils to achieve the look of painting and starts with a discussion of some of the other tools that can be used (solvents, blenders, fixatives, and such). She then moves on to discuss portraiture techniques while integrating specific tips related to using colored pencils throughout. The book closes with a focus on five portraits she created, detailing the tools she used and steps she took to create them. An appendix rates various brands of colored pencils when used with different types of papers.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books


review: Garden Made

Garden Made

Garden Made: A Year of Seasonal Projects to Beautify Your Garden & Your Life by Stephanie Whitney-Rose

Divided by season, these projects are made using and reusing commonly available items and range from decorated pots and signs to things that are more fully created from start to finish, like seed paper. Stylistically, they fall into either the cottage garden or shabby chic aesthetic. Most of the projects are designed to live in the garden but several winter projects are suited to the indoors, including a variety of terrariums. A list of resources is provided for vendors offering the materials needed for some of the more specific projects.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Marine City Public Library through the awesome MeLCat ILL service


garage garden progress

This weekend we finally got a little bit of a break from the heat and humidity so I was able to get out and transplant some more clearance perennials and hand-me-downs from my folks.

Garage-surrounding garden

I started by clearing out the last section of this area next to the garage, which was full of crab grass and other weeds (speaking of, the Lamb’s Quarters has been ridiculous this year! It must love the heat). I yanked those out and put in some Coreopsis, Speedwell, Guara, Pachysandra, Lamium, and Vinca. I’m really just trying to get the area covered right now so that it will help keep weeds out. The gnats were THE WORST so I only stayed out as long as I needed to. There’s still some Wisteria popping up in this area but I didn’t take the time to do a good removal job – I just yanked what I could get. Maybe when it’s less horrible outside I can do a better job – I’m sure I will when, eventually, I am moving plants around.

The area this section continues into is looking pretty decent, actually:

Garage-surrounding garden

Aside from the big sprawl of crab grass I need to yank out of the Alyssum, this area is looking pretty okay:

Garage-surrounding garden

And the Alyssum and Hostas on the other side of the garage are looking pretty darn good considering I seeded and transplanted them all this season:

Garage-surrounding garden

Some Candytuft flowers are beginning to poke through the Alyssum in this area:

Dollar store Candytuft seeds coming through

And the Dill I seeded nearer the side of the garage is sprouting! Not sure I’ll get much usable this year, but next year hopefully it will come back:

Dill sprouting

Other areas of the yard are coming along, though due to heat and weeds things are definitely not looking as good as I wish they were. Please try to ignore the horrible crabgrass sprawling everywhere around everything!

The Moonflowers are starting to grow up my improvised triangular trellis:

Moonflower starting to climb

The Morning Glories and Zinnias around the birdbath are coming up:

Bird bath with morning glories and zinnias

I know that Morning Glories will want to be taller than this, but frankly I’m fine with just the foliage at this point.

The shrub rose out front has been reblooming again!

Shrub rose reblooming

I just love how unstoppable this thing is.

Despite being set upon by Japanese Beetles, the Zinnias along the front walkway are blooming pretty nicely!

Front walkway with zinnias and others

At least on the east side of the walkway. The west side must not have gotten as many seeds:

Front walkway with zinnias and others

I am so looking forward to cooler temperatures as we get into fall. I would love to spend a lot more time out in the garden than I’ve been able to – I just can’t take the heat! helped me a lot!


would you care for some Licorice?

Awhile back I wanted to make a hat for a friend who was going through a bit of a rough time. I looked to the internet, as you do, for inspiration and came up with licorice, which represents strength, gives a feeling of satisfaction, and is an anti-inflammatory. I also used multiples of 4, as four is reputed to provide a solid foundation, good support, reliability, commitment, patience, strength of spirit, and intuition.

Licorice Hat

This hat will also be comforting and warm based purely on the fact that it is made from worsted yarn at a gauge that provides coziness.

Licorice Hat

Take a bite at Ravelry, Etsy, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy.


Review: Just Add Watercolor

Just Add Watercolor

Just Add Watercolor by Helen Birch offers “inspiration & painting techniques from contemporary artists.” I am not a painter, nor do I think I’ll take it up anytime soon, but I adore this book regardless. It is set up so that each double page spread is a combination of information about a particular technique or strategy for using watercolors along with a lovely work of art that illustrates the technique or strategy.

I find it interesting to read about these techniques even though I’m not using them – some of the underlying philosophies and ideas translate to other forms of art and creativity. I also find the artwork featured in this book to be very inspiring. They vary quite a lot in style and feeling, but (perhaps because they were selected [or created?] to typify a specific idea, each one provides a connection for the viewer. Despite their relatively small size (the book is only about 5.5″ x 7.5″), I found myself drawn in when looking at each piece. (I will admit that much of my favorite picture book art uses gouache, and a lot of these use that.) I definitely see this as a book I’ll keep at hand to peruse and to use as inspiration for other creative endeavors.

Full disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books.