The apocalypse and the end of times

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Baggelboy: Artist and illustrator. At the moment I live in Cambridge a small medieval city on the edge of the world. Originally from London I came here to study illustration and found the medieval life suited me.

The linocut pictures I make come from a mixture of the fun side of our darker life and the fairy tales that Grandma used to tell us. They are firmly rooted in the tradition of Medieval woodcuts and early book printing but with a little twist in the tail. Some of these pictures will become book illustrations and others are workings for larger prints and posters.

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DC's Local Yarn Store

Stitch DC's front room

Washington DC is the nation’s capitol, the center of government, and headquarters for dozens of international organizations, but it many ways it is really just a small town. So small, in fact, that it only has one yarn store. That haven for local urban knitters is Stitch DC, owned and operated by Marie Connolly on Capitol Hill.

I remember my first visit to Stitch DC, not long after it had opened. I was strolling along 8th Street SE, what the guide books like to call “Barracks Row” (because the Marine Barracks are at the corner of 8th and I streets), while a friend of mine was browsing the bike shop down the street.

chunky hand dyed yarn

Back then, I wasn’t any more of a knitter or crocheter than I am now, but I was nevertheless enthralled with the store. Upon walking in, I was greeted by cheerful and enthusiastic staff and customers, and was immediately surrounded by beautiful fiber in bright colors and enticing textures. When I visited the store just last week, I was happy to find that none of that had changed. If anything, there were even more pretty things to look at. In addition to the lovely variety of yarns for knitting and crocheting, Stitch DC now also carries a small collection of colorful quilting cottons!

quilting cotton

As I consider myself a much better sewer than knitter, this was excellent news for me. However, just because I’m not good at knitting doesn’t mean I don’t love to look at beautiful yarn, and pine after all the samples of pretty knitted things. Stitch DC offers a wide range of knitting and crocheting classes for all skill levels, and there are samples from the class projects all over the store. Samples that are so pretty you want to buy them right off the shelf! Since Marie started offering fabric in December in 2009, she’s started to offer sewing classes as well.

sample projects

The birth of Stitch DC is a story about serendipity. Back in 2004, Marie was inspired to pick up knitting again in order to make her three-year-old daughter a sweater. Although Marie had learned to knit as a little girl, being pregnant and taking care of a newborn didn’t leave much time or energy for crafting. The hiatus ended when Marie saw some knitted baby sweaters at the mall that were cute, but not nearly cute enough for her daughter. Marie knew she could make one that was even better.

mohair

At the time, Marie and her husband were real estate brokers, but Marie was ready to try something different. One day, while she was was contemplating the renewal of her love affair with knitting, Marie received a panicky call from the owner of a property on Capitol Hill. Did Marie, by chance, know of anyone in search of retail space? Just in case she needed another sign from the universe to start a yarn store, it also turns out that 2004 was Marie’s seventh wedding anniversary. When a friend pointed out that the traditional gift for a seventh anniversary is wool, well, the deal was sealed.

purple and green roving

Stitch DC has been operating on Capitol Hill since June of 2004, offering a wide assortment of yarns in natural fibers, as well as tools, books, patterns, and classes. Marie has a number of free patterns posted on the Stitch DC blog, and is also the author of her own book of knitting patterns for growing families, called The Expectant Knitter. She also writes patterns for various knitting publications, including Interweave Knits, and is working on two more pattern books.

customer seating

Customers are always welcome to hang out and knit or crochet with the staff. Stitch DC is open seven days a week, and extra late on Wednesdays (731 8th Street, SE Washington, DC 20003).

  • Passive Aggressive Lunch Notes
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  • Fiber Jewelry by Susan Sanders
  • Spring Organization: Workspaces
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  • Woolly Fabulous

A Moveable Feast

“Summer Picnic” fine art print by Photo Atelier.

It never fails – as soon as we hit the open highway, I’m hungry. It could have something (or everything) to do with the countless convenience stores, drive-ins, and diners at every exit; not to mention the billboards that line the roadside, enticing people to take the next exit for a meal or a quick snack. These little fast-food diversions don’t come without a cost, however. They are both expensive AND usually rather environmentally un-friendly. A little pre-planning is all that it takes to stay green and healthy away from home.

Bulk up! – stop at your favourite bulk foods store for dried fruits, nuts, and organic snacks, and then repackage them at home in reusable containers and bags, like the lined ones pictured above, by Bells and Unicorns. (Tip: set out several bowls of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, candy and pretzels and let everyone create their own trail mix. Colour-code or label bags for easy identification on the road.)

It’s a wrap! – we are all sandwich artists at heart. Wraps, sandwiches, and subs can be made at home for a fraction of what you’ll pay on the road. Get creative with fillings and condiments, and be sure to pack high-moisture ingredients (like cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce) in separate containers to keep them from sogging up your bread. When choosing reusable sandwich bags, be sure to pick ones that are generously sized, like these (above) by http://www.etsy.com/shop/bellsandunicorns, to allow for healthy, hearty breads and fillings.

Keep your cool! – perishables, drinks, and fruit can be kept fresh in a cooler even on the hottest of days. Make your own ice packs by freezing recyclable tetra-packs of juice or by filling zipper-bags with crushed ice, which you can refill with fresh ice at stops along the way. And don’t let me catch you buying bottled water! Steel bottles, like the ones above by Pretty n Preppy, can be refilled over and over and keep your water fresh and cool. Eco-savvy coffee drinkers never leave home without their trusty travel mugs. Not only do they cut down on litter, they’ll usually save you a few cents per refill, too. Caffeine-heads and fabric-holics alike will love these colourful travel mugs (above), also by Pretty n Preppy.

…and if you do have to stop for snacks, instead of loading up on sketchy pre-wrapped sandwiches, chips and candy at the gas station, seek out roadside fruit/vegetable stands, local grocery stores, bakeries, and farmer’s markets (if you are lucky to be traveling on market days). Some of the best meals I have had on the road have consisted of fresh-off-the-vine fruit, local artisan cheeses, and freshly baked breads purchased right from the people who picked/made them. Be prepared by making sure you have cutlery included with your picnic essentials*. The handy Urban Picnic Roll-up, pictured above, by Nstar Studio includes two three-piece utensil sets & two napkins. The utensils are made from durable, sustainable bamboo and can be simply hand washed and air dried after use.

Lastly, take the time to stop and enjoy your meals and snacks. Pre-plan your stops or keep an eye out for picnic spots and parks along the way. Not only is it a chance to stretch your legs and let the kids run off some energy, it’s often the little stops along the way that make for the best memories. Pack an oversized vintage quilt for the whole family, or give everyone their own place to cop a squat. These organic travel blankets by Crzy Bag Lady can function as mini-picnic pads, change mats, stroller blankets and sleep-mats. Compact in size, but super-comfy, they’re ideal travel companions for the green family-on-the-go.

*Packable picnic essentials: blanket and/or tablecloth, reusable plates/bowls/cups, reusable cutlery, salt & pepper, bottle opener, can opener, cloth napkins, sharp knife, cutting board, bags for collecting garbage/recyclables (when containers are not available on-site), small container of dish-soap for clean-ups.

I would love to hear about your summer road trip adventures. Comment below and share your stories and advice!

  • Passive Aggressive Lunch Notes
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  • Fiber Jewelry by Susan Sanders
  • Spring Organization: Workspaces
  • Crescent Maille
  • Rainbow Crochet Toasties
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  • Woolly Fabulous

Dandelions – friend or foe?


Dandelion papercut – handcut from 100% rice paper by Li of Papercut Diecut

A wise person once said, “It’s only a weed if it bothers you.” Or, in the case of my yard, “It’s only a weed if it bothers the people next door.” Most people want a lush, green, lawn; free of weeds, including (or especially) dandelions. Personally, I’m fine with a bit of colour in my grass, but that opinion is not shared by my neighbours. So, in deference to their wishes, I am going to make a concerted effort to keep my yard relatively weed-free this summer; in an eco-friendly, non-toxic, low-maintenance way, of course. In my research of earth-friendly ways to eliminate Dandelions, I found myself way off-track discovering all sorts of interesting facts about them, too.

Dandelions have a long history as a medicinal herb. In fact, Taraxacum officinale, the scientific name for dandelion, translates to “the official remedy for disorders”. Applied topically, the naturally antibiotic juice can be used for treating everything from warts and corns to clearing eczema and acne. Taken internally, Dandelion promotes regularity and is an effective diuretic, blood purifier and kidney tonic. With a coffee-like taste and all of the medicinal benefits of dandelions, “Dande Day” is a great alternative for people looking to kick the java-habit. Jesse, of Good 4 You, roasts dandelion root and combines it with chicory to make an all-natural, caffeine-free coffee substitute.

As an edible herb, dandelions rank as of the most nutritious leafy greens out there; high in beta-carotene, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and K. The leaves can be used in salads, soups and stir-fries, while the flowers are most commonly used for beverages, such as wine and tea. With this in mind, four:paper’s Jacklynn includes a recipe with each of her wildflower-inspired notecards, like these (above) featuring cheerful, golden dandelion. (Note: although dandelions can be found just about everywhere, be sure to do your foraging well-away from public areas that may have been sprayed with poisonous herbicides, or look for organic greens at your local market or farmer’s market.)


Dandelion fine-art print by Sunshine Art & Design

In addition to being good for your health, dandelions are actually good for the eco-health of your yard…just ask any ladybug. They are a favourite of aphids (a ladybug’s favourite food) and help to detract them from your precious garden plants. Studies have shown that plots containing dandelions contain more ladybugs and fewer aphids than dandelion-free plots. As a result, the gardens with dandelions had less plant-damage and higher yields. In the lawn, dandelions help to aerate and feed the soil and, when you think of it, can actually make your yard-work easier.

I think I would have a hard time finding a mother who hasn’t at one time or another been offered a sticky fist-full of golden dandelion blooms. Perhaps it is their accessibility and abundance that makes dandelions a favourite flower for children everywhere. I remember spending hours as a child wishing on dandelions that had gone to seed; blowing as hard as I could on the white puffs to ensure that my wishes would scatter as far as the wind could carry the seeds. (Much to the chagrin of weeders for miles, I’m sure.) I still find myself drawn to dandelion puffs, but perhaps in the interest of weed-control I should pick up of these cute tees by Ellembee and make as many wishes as I want without scattering seeds throughout the neighbourhood.

With all of that said, however, I’m still going to have to get my dandelion situation under control before my neighbours revolt. According to the experts, the first step is to promote a healthy lawn through regular maintenance and judicious weeding. At the suggestion of a trusted friend, who is a bit of a gardening wiz, I have picked up an addictively-fun (really!), long-handled weed puller to use on some of my in-lawn weeds. As for the weeds popping up in the sidewalk cracks, I am going to try plain old boiling water, straight from the kettle. Once I’ve made myself a cup of dandelion tea, that is.

  • Passive Aggressive Lunch Notes
  • Handknit Hugs
  • Fiber Jewelry by Susan Sanders
  • Spring Organization: Workspaces
  • Crescent Maille
  • Rainbow Crochet Toasties
  • Twirly Fabulous Upcycled Sweater Skirts
  • Woolly Fabulous