April 27, 2009

Your Craft Hobby Can Benefit Others

A few years ago, I learned about the Knit for Kids: Handmade Sweaters from the Heart organization promoted by Guideposts magazine. I was looking for simple patterns to crochet: my family had all the scarves they needed... So I visited Knit for Kids and found that they have patterns for crocheters too. I bought a skein of bright multi-colored yarn and began working on a sweater for to fit a four-year-old. My sweater looked slightly different than the example in the pattern. A male friend laughed at it! But I kept on, finished it, and mailed it off with good wishes.

Months later, I received a postcard from Knit for Kids and there, right on the front, was a young boy wearing "my" sweater. Well, I think it was mine. It was the same yarn; but of course Red Heart is a common brand. And I am sure many, many other crocheters submitted similar sweaters. But I like to think that child was wearing the one I made.

Today, I'd like to share with you some other organizations that can use your knitting, crocheting or sewing skills. There is something wonderful about creating a handmade gift to benefit another person. Sometimes that person doesn't even have to be someone you know.

Last year I met a women in a hair salon whose husband had died unexpectedly, tragically, and much too young. I asked her if she did any knitting. She said she did knit and was working on a prayer shawl for someone because she had received a prayer shawl when her husband died and it had meant a lot to her.

As you are looking at your stash of yarn and the pile of afghans, sweaters, scarves, socks, and other handmade items throughout your home, think about making a gift for someone else. It will mean a lot to them, and, to you.

The SHIPS Project: Supporting America's Troops Deployed on the War on Terror, One Stitch at a Time. You can see a list of the patterns (hats, slippers, and more, for knitting and crochet) HERE.

Warm Woolies: "In 2009, we're continuing to knit for children living in orphanages in Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia and on Reservations throughout the northern United States. Our goal for 2009 is to knit 10,000 pieces of warm wool clothing for these children!"

Binky Patrol: "We make blankets and give them away to children in need of comfort. It's as simple as that."

Blankets of Gratitude: "Since we can't visit them all in person, our goal is to wrap 25,000 of these Veterans in lap robes, representative of our support and appreciation, called "Blankets of Gratitude." The lap robes will be a physical reminder that they are not alone." (crocheting, knitting, loom weaving)

Blankets of Hope: "The Blankets of Hope team creates unique, handmade blankets to send hope, support and gratitude to America's wounded and veterans. Used on hospital beds, wheelchairs, and transport litters on medevac flights, Blankets of Hope bring the message that each servicemember is loved and not forgotten. They are included in our First Response Backpacks and Vet Packs sent to Combat Support Hospitals in the war zones, major medical facilities in Germany and around the world, and selected military hospitals and veterans centers here at home." (sewing) Note: the website for Blankets of Hope and Blankets of Gratitude explains that crocheted/knitted/woven items are best for veterans and sewn/quilted blankets are best for wounded, hospitalized vets as medical personnel state the sewn blankets do not get caught on the medical equipment as crocheted/knitted/ items can. Hence the reason for two organizations which seem so similar, but are specifically geared to the needs of the recipients.

Hats for the Homeless: "Hats for the Homeless grew out of the heart of one young man who cared about those less fortunate. He died suddenly in 1998. Hats for the Homeless was created in his memory to continue the tradition he started." (crochet, knitting; scarves and mittens too)

Project Linus: Providing Security through Blankets. "Project Linus is comprised of hundreds of local chapters and thousands of volunteers across the United States. Each volunteer and local chapter all work together to help us achieve our mission statement, which states:

  1. First, it is our mission to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.”
  2. Second, it is our mission to provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities, for the benefit of children."

"Together we have distributed over two million blankets to children in need since our inception in 1995."

Chemo Caps: "Wherever you live, somewhere in your community there are cancerpatients in need of hand knit chemocaps. Get together with other knitters, get school groups, scouts and other young people involved. It's a great community service project for everyone...." (knitting patterns online)

All Free Crafts: "Crafters are generous, warm-hearted people. Here we try to link you with charitable sites and organizations that would appreciate donations of homemade knitting, crochet and craft works for people in need all over the world." This website lists many outlets for crafting for charities.

The Mother Bear Project: "The Mother Bear Project is dedicated to providing comfort and hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations, by giving them a gift of love in the form of a hand-knit or crocheted bear."

The Snuggles Project: security blankets for shelter animals

Sewing Charities: A huge, huge, alphabetized list of various charities seeking sewn items. (Also includes knitting and crocheted as well).

April 25, 2009

Crocheted Satchel or Purse for Kindle

Recently, I wrote about the Kindle (see HERE for that blog article). Now, to bring the creative side into things...I wanted to share a photo of the crocheted purse I made a few years ago that sat pretty much unused. It's a bit floppy to put an assortment of things in; I didn't like the way glasses, wallet, cell phone, all poked bumps in the side. But....

It turned out to be PERFECT for carrying around my new Kindle (which is also contained in its leather-like cover purchased with the reader). I can slide my phone, keys, or business card holder (with cash or credit cards) into the little pocket on the front.

This satchel was made using something I already had in my yarn stash: 100% cotton Lily Sugar'n Cream that comes in a ball rather than a skein. I used a natural beige for the body of the satchel and a verigated beige/navy for the trim around the pocket and the strap.

I am not a crochet designer, but I do tend to make things up as I go along. This item was made using double crochet. There are 30 double-crochets across and 18 rows of double-crochet from bottom to top. the strap is 60 inches long. It consists of:

Using navy/beige, make a chain 60 inches long, then make row 1) sc across.

Then using beige make row 2) double crochet across.

Then switch back to navy/beige for row 3) single crochet across.

The pocket is made of a crocheted piece that was 40 dc wide and 10 rows high. But it is placed on the purse so the rows run vertically, not horizontally. I fashioned a hole for the "hook" using the navy/beige and making a trim. I sewed the pocket to the front of the satchel with yarn.

This is an easy project for beginners who want to try making something without using a strict pattern. It is washable too.

I use this same type of cotton to make dishtowels which work better than any I can buy in the store.

Now my Kindle is ready to go with me wherever and has its own special purse.

The dimensions are:width of purse: 9 inchesheight of purse: 10 inches.
length of strap: 60 inches. Dimensions of pocket 4.5 x 5.5 h, excluding trim.

UPDATE: 6/18/09: Appalachian Morning Creativity Blog is now available to download to your Kindle! Click on this link, and you can enjoy 14 days free (including reading all past articles) and after that it is only $1.99 a month to read this blog anytime, anywhere. Automatically updated to your Kindle, as I post new articles.

UPDATE: 6/23/09: For more tips on carrying a Kindle, including practical advice for guys looking for a shirt, vest, or carrying case for their Kindle, check out the Kindle Forum.

© 2009 Janice Phelps Williams. All rights reserved.

April 20, 2009

Soul of Athens Website Wins Prestigious Award

Congratulations to the Soul of Athens! Their website, www.soulofathens.com placed fourth in the "Award of Excellence for Best Online Publication of the Pictures of the Year International Competition."

How prestigious is this award?
1st place was National Geographic
2nd place was Wall St. Journal
3rd place was LA Times.

As you may have read in earlier posts, we moved to Athens, Ohio, just last year and love it here. Soul of Athens reflects so many of the things we love about this beautiful area. Hills, forests, arts and crafts, education... It is a friendly, beautiful, wonderful place to call home.

April 15, 2009

Colored Pencils

I've gone on and on in the past about my love of Sharpie Markers. Now I am also running a parallel love with Prismacolor Premium Colored Pencils (accept no substitutes).

They are pricey...dozens of dollars for a nice tin of choices, but you can also buy them individually in some art/craft stores and online. Spend an extra $25 for an electric pencil sharpener from an office supply store, it will save you aggravation.

I've actually blended the two mediums. I get the basic colors, shapes, and values down with the Sharpie (or now Prismacolor, since I've supplemented my color selection with Prismacolors); then I fill in with Prismacolor colored pencils. I actually prefer them to the effects I got with markers because they produce a softer, richer look.

Smudgey sometimes, too, but depending on the end result wanted that may or may not be a problem and can be overcome with better care on the artist's part.

Prismacolor is running a competition. See here. Deadline is May 31, 2009.

I've got four colored pencil pieces in a show at the Worthington (OH) High Road Gallery. Here they are.

April 13, 2009


I've got a Kindle. Yes, it's true. I am a writer. I am a publisher. I make my living in the book business and I have bought...an electronic book reader. Actually, Mark bought it for me, but he asked first and I said "Yes!" Why?

In the 10+ years I've been in the book business I have seen our industry go from printing and storing thousands of books to books that are published and able to be instantly sent to the reader by electronic means. I can't help it, I love it.

Love the electronic paper; love the Oxford dictionary that can tell me what words I don't know mean; love the pictures on the screen saver; love being able to browse Amazon and read reviews from the comfort of my couch. Love the ability to bookmark, copy and save items within the book, enlarge reduce the type, and, if feeling weary-eyed, listen to the weird male/female voice read to me.

The first book I read on the Kindle was by Jodi Picoult: Handle with Care. I couldn't put it down. Once I started reading I was unaware that I was reading on anything other than a traditional book. Once the story captivates you, it seems to not make a difference.

The second book I ordered was Art Incorporated. Then I received a notice that His Majesty's Dragon was available for free. I've never been into sci fi/fantasy/alternative history, but what the heck, free. So I downloaded it and started reading. I was hooked. I read all 400+ pages in a happy weekend and purchased Book 2, Throne of Jade, in Naomi Novik's Taumeraire series. Then, I went to the local library and took out books 3, 4, and 5. I'm going to purchase the printed versions of the books too, though the hardcover of Throne of Jade is selling for $87.50. What's with that? There's a nice boxed set of books 1 -3 in mass market format. I think I'll get that set to keep forever.

The thing is: I only have so many bookshelves. Let's see: there are floor-to-ceiling shelves in Mark's office on 3 walls. They are pretty much totally full. I have 1 wall of floor-to-ceiling shelves in my office: full. We have various coffee table art books in the living room. Stacks of art/literary/news/craft/pet magazines throughout the house, and I have several shelves of art/craft books in my art studio. I plan on reading for a few more decades, where would I put all those new books?

So, my plan has changed.
In the case of fiction: I will first see if a book is available at the library or on Kindle. If it is and I read it and love it, and want to read it again in the future or gift it, I will purchase it.

In the case of nonfiction: I will most likely purchase it in printed form or take it out of the library. I find I like reading fiction on the kindle better than nonfiction. Part of that is my reading style.

In the case of books with color photos or graphics, I will purchase the book new after looking at it in the bookstore or using Amazon's search inside the book feature. I love books on art, crochet, alternative arts, etc... I love the idea of going to a museum by looking at a book (since I don't travel as much as I'd like). These books, I can't image ever being replaced with an ebook. I like everything about beautiful physical books.

But I like everything about reading fiction on the Kindle. I don't need to hold a "real" book in my hands when reading Jodi Picoult any more than I need to have the $14 St. Andre's cheese when a $4 cheddar will suffice for an afternoon snack.

Now, Amy Tan... I love and collect her books- I will always get them in hardcover. But if I were traveling, I'd want to download them to my kindle. Yeah, says my back and carpel tunnel hands. Yeah, says the airline and my husband who carries my book bag.

Do I worry about my friends in distribution, shipping, printing? Yes, but I think the industry will adapt, as businesses always have. It's just that things seem to be changing faster and faster, don't they. It seems not to give businesses a chance to revise their mission statements. There is certainly a lot to consider.

In the March 30, 2009 Newsweek, Jacob Weisberg states: I've done most of my recreational reading on the Kindle...and can honestly say I prefer it to inked paper. It provides a fundamentally better experience, and will surely produce a readically better one with coming iterations...The notino that physical books are ending their life cycile is upseeting to people who hold them to be synonymous with literature..."

Weisberg goes on to ask why should a society that reads on electronic readers be any less literate than one that reads on printed books? I agree. The Internet, the Kindle, the local bookstore, the used bookseller at the flea market--they are getting out the words of writers, and that's a good thing. I don't care if someone reads my words on a computer, a Kindle; a newspaper; or the back of a t-shirt. If I'm compensated fairly for my writing and people deem it worthwhile to read, then I am thankful.

Read Weisberg's article "How the Kindle will Change the World" at slate.com. He says "When it comes to literature, I'm optimistic that electronic reading will bring more good than harm."

I couldn't agree more, and I'm not going to apologize for it.

Update: Amazon has released a larger-size Kindle that will make it easier for textbooks and books filled with photographs and graphics to be included on the Kindle. Learn more at this NY Times article.

New update: 6/18/09: Appalachian Morning Creativity Blog is now available to download to your Kindle! Click on this link, and you can enjoy 14 days free (including reading all past articles) and after that it is only $1.99 a month to read this blog anytime, anywhere. Automatically updated to your Kindle, as I post new articles.