Green Crafting

During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Mary Jo Borchardt is an Artisan, Farmer, Momma, and Wordsmith keeping a small homestead in the US near Madison, WI.  It is her life’s work to achieve the distinction of Renaissance Woman, whereby she will expertly wield a sheep shears, needle, frying pan, ax, design code, and pen, but perhaps not simultaneously.  She is the voice behind Five Green Acres  – a blog to capture some of the great material that is spawned by such an undertaking, and a mercantile to offer her homegrown :: This is Wool. yarn and original pattern designs.

Intro.spinning Intro.sheep

For the month of April, we’re going to explore the theme of Functional Creativity – Making to fulfill a specific need.  I’d wager that much of the making we already do falls under this category, yet I suspect that we can gain a lot of useful perspective if we examine the whole thing more closely.  I’ll go so far as to say that Making under the guise of Problem Solving vs. making for the sake of Art or Beauty allows us to bypass many of the creative blocks our brain uses to sabotage the process. I speak from experience.

I graduated from college with badge in Art and a vague idea that I’d make and sell it for a living. To get that art into a gallery, I understood, it must convey a brilliant new perspective, must shake up the status quo. I quickly set about making… absolutely nothing. For years. I collected materials, took full-time jobs to sustain me until I could made it big, moved the ever-growing stash of materials from home to home, and cultivated a hearty collection of plans for the pieces that I’d create. Setting out to make these pieces was, for me, each and every time mired in the realization that the ideas were not profound enough, not original enough. So for years I continued to make absolutely nothing.

A number of things came together at the same time to change this: I became reacquainted with my sewing machine, my exacto knife, and glue, ditched the idea of making art and focused instead on making things one could use – us, you, anybody at all, and opened a small shop to sell these things. The impeding birth of my first child inspired me to learn how to knit so that I could make my own woolen cloth diaper covers that I was convinced she needed. I never did knit a single wool soaker but added to my bag of tricks the skill of knitting and the conviction that wool was a fiber I wanted to explore. This trickle of Making that had started slowly over a couple of years quickly exploded into a mushroom cloud of pent-up creativity after we moved to the Five Green Acres homestead and then made another child. A whole house to fill with handmade things, and a new person to adorn – just imagine the force of all those years of stifled creativity coming to a head to meet these needs. That pent-up energy is still propelling me today.

So, make something because you need it. Because you’re cold (Hearth). Because you’re hungry and all you have are three things in the pantry (Feed). Because your kids’ sleeves are too short (Clothe). Because you need a place to live that houses you from the onslaught of the world (Shelter). Set out to make what you need and I promise that beauty will find its way into that thing without you even trying hard to put it there. The things that we make with intention, by hand, that surround us in our everyday are what add to the quality of our life; every Maker knows this. For me, Making is a need only slightly less urgent that breathing. As such, the muscles that support it need to be exercised regularly to keep me sane and balanced and happy. (and Fed, Clothed, Sheltered, and Warm) Letting go of the intense pressure to make lovely, perfect things and instead focusing on making what you need is such a liberating way to approach the Making process.

Let’s do it. For the next four weeks I will be focussing on :: Build the Hearth :: Feed :: Shelter :: Clothe.


During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Introducing Abby and Stacey for the month of March.

Guest editor: Abby Glassenberg :: Blog :: Twitter: @abbyglassenberg


I’ve stocked much of my sewing studio from local thrift stores and rummage sales. Reusing materials you find secondhand is eco-friendly and usually much cheaper than buying new. Here are my best tips for a successful shopping trip to the resale shop:

1. Don’t buy thread
Thread becomes brittle over time. Old thread will fray and snap so you can’t sew with it. Because I love wooden spools I buy old thread, but just for display purposes.

2. Find the “holiday décor” section
People who organize rummage sales often stick the fabric and sewing supplies in the holiday décor section. Search for the Santa figurines and Christmas ornaments. I’ve found tons of awesome fabric shoved in bins under the holiday table.

3. Look under the table
Fabric is bulky and hard to display. It often gets shoved into garbage bags or cardboard boxes and is underneath the table at the sale. Be sure to pull the bags and bins out and have a thorough look inside.

4. Head over to the “linens” section
Large cuts of fabric are often mistaken as tablecloths and may be hanging with the linens. Old linens themselves are also awesome sources of fabric. Vintage cloth napkins, linen placements, and tablecloths make great fabrics for tote bags and all kinds of other craft projects.

5. Check for stains, weak spots, holes, and smells
Items often end up at a thrift shop for a reason. Be sure to look things over carefully. But just because something has a stain, or a moth hole, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it, but do assess how much of the piece is usable before making your purchase.

6. Finish what other people start
Half completed needlework canvases, quilt squares that have been sewn but not assembled, embroidery kits that were never begun… these are all wonderful treasures! Don’t feel limited by the work that has already been done. You can disassemble or cut up what’s there and use the materials in a new way.

7. Don’t buy stuff just because it’s cheap
Having too much stuff crammed into your studio space is demoralizing. Just because fabric is cheap doesn’t mean you need to take it home with you. Evaluate your finds and try to think clearly about them. Do you need 3 yards of zebra print canvas at a $1 a yard? Maybe not (or maybe yes!).

Soft Toy Sewing Books

8. Don’t forget the books
I learned to sew stuffed animals from vintage soft toy books. Be sure to peruse the book section of any thrift store before you check out. Craft books are often shoved in with the gardening titles and cookbooks. Vintage craft books are like gems, full of crazy color combinations, antiquated language, and terrific inspiration.

9. Keep an open mind
Thrifting is a treasure hunt. If you have time, look at everything that’s for sale. Those leather gloves could be cut up and used as teddy bear paws. That skein of yarn would make awesome doll hair. And the funky fleece scarf could become an excellent elephant. Think broadly and embrace the thrill of the hunt.

Do you shop secondhand for craft supplies? If you’ve got story of a great find, we’d love to hear about it! And please share your tips for successful thrift store shopping.


During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Introducing Abby and Stacey for the month of March. The theme for their month here together is the notion of making something from nothing.

Stacey Trock: blog :: twitter: @freshstitches

Have you heard of a magic ball?

magic ball

It’s a ball of yarn that changes colors and textures as you work. It’s something offered by a number of artisan yarn makers… but it’s also something you can make yourself with your leftover yarn!

pile of scraps


Besides ending up with an awesomely fun end-product… you’ll finally get to use up all of those weird leftover pieces of yarn that are too small (you thought!) to do anything with! How great is that?

Ready to get started?

You’ll need two things. One, gather all of the leftover yarn bits that are lurking in your stash. You know what I mean. They’re too small for their own projects, but too big to toss out. You keep thinking you’ll do something with them…

And a tapestry needle — (mine is a bent-tip needle, but that’s by no means necessary for this. All you need is a needle that’s big enough to fit your yarn through the eye.)

Okay, now we’re ready to start! We’re going to make our magic ball by joining all of these leftover yarns together using a technique called the ‘Russian Join’. The Russian join allows you to fasten yarns together without a knot, and it has the advantage of working with any type of yarn (unlike the ‘spit splice’, which relies on 100% wool yarn.)

In terms of grouping your yarns together, you’ll want to group yarns in a way that is pleasing to you. Some folks prefer the random approach, but I like creating a color theme. For my magic ball, I’m attaching only various shades of purple. I also recommend using yarns of the same weight. My magic ball is composed entirely of worsted weight yarns.

Let’s learn how to do the Russian Join.

Step 1: Thread your tapestry needle with yarn A (to start, yarn A will be an arbitrary choice. As you continue, yarn A will be the yarn that is attached to your ball).


Step 2: About 2 inches from the end of the yarn, insert your tapestry needle through the yarn. Split the plies, and work the needle through the yarn for about an inch, then pull the needle through, bringing the yarn tail through this bit of yarn.



Notice that you have a loop!


Step 3: Okay, now, thread yarn B (the other yarn) through the tapestry needle, and stick the tapestry needle through the loop in yarn A.


Step 4: About 2 inches from the end of yarn B’s tail, insert the tapestry needle through the yarn… just like you did before.


Now you’ve made a second loop, joined onto yarn A!


When you pull the ends, you’ll notice the two yarns are fully joined! Hooray!

step7To make a magic ball, keep attaching yarns, one after another. You’ll probably find it helpful to wind the ball up as you go, particularly if you’re using long leftover lengths of yarn.

Once you’ve run out of leftovers (or have a ball that’s big enough), you can use your magic ball for any project! When knitted or crocheted, it’ll create an awesome striping-effect! And, you don’t need to do anything special at the joins, just keep working!

Isn’t that fun? And doesn’t it make you want to gather up (and use) your leftovers?


We both share a love of making practical things from humble materials, but what brought us together initially was our love of designing patterns for stuffed animals. We are really excited to announce that we’ll be releasing our first collaborative pattern on March 20th: Pepper the Penguin.
Together we’ve designed an adorable penguin softie. Stacey created the crochet pattern and Abby created the sewing pattern. And you’ll get both in one! Pepper comes with patterns for a cute wintry hat and scarf, too, so that you can mix and match. Sew Pepper, then give him a crocheted hat and scarf, or crochet him and then sew up his accessories. It’s so much fun to mix and match! We hope you’ll enjoy sewing and crocheting Pepper. He’s terrific both ways!
Get the pattern beginning on Wednesday, March 20, at freshstitches and whileshenaps Thank you!


During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Hi! We are Abby Glassenberg and Stacey Trock and we are guest editors together here on WhipUp for the month of March.

We are both stuffed animal designers, Stacey crochets amigurumi and Abby sews softies, and we both have creative businesses centered around our crafts. We share a love of making something new and wonderful, by hand, where nothing existed before. The theme for our month here together is the notion of making something from nothing.

Craft, in its essence, is about turning humble materials, such as yarn and cloth, into beautiful, useful things that enrich our lives. It is DIY at its essence and we are excited to share our ideas on this topic and to hear yours, too. Thank you for joining us!

owl and the pussycat

Owl and the pussycat


I spent winter vacation at my in-laws house. I always bring a project with me on trips and this year I brought my scrap bin. While everyone sat around the fire, watching movies in the evening, I sat on the floor and sorted a year’s worth of fabric scraps into color-coded baggies. Some scraps were fairly large and some were treasured bits of vintage fabric, but others were just tiny leftovers from some project or other. Looking at some of those tiny pieces my mother-in-law said to me, “Don’t you throw anything away?”

Here’s the thing. I love crafting for a whole host of reasons, but primary among them is my devotion to making something from nothing. That tiny scrap could become a beautiful covered button or a fabric flower pin! I save what other people might sweep up and throw out. Why? Because I’m a crafter.

This month on WhipUP my friend and fellow plush maker, Stacey Trock, and I will be talking about our mutual love of making something from nothing. We’ve got lots of thoughts and ideas for you on this topic and we’re excited to be here.

Abby’s Blog: While she naps :: Etsy :: Facebook


Dragon pattern

Stacey: I absolutely love quilts. The idea that you can take tiny scraps from well-worn clothing and make something functional… even something beautiful, has always astounded me. I never became a very skilled quilter, but my passion for using and reusing every scrap of material and fiber lives on. Professionally, I’m a crochet designer who specializes in making stuffed animals. I live the lucky life of being surrounded by yarn and making beautiful things that I (and others) enjoy. But after my design-work is done, there are leftovers. A half-skein of blue yarn. A little patch of felt. A fun fluffy orange yarn. I can’t bear to see them vanish into the garbage bin. Instead, I stow these leftovers in a bag in my closet. They’re still valuable… they have a crafting purpose left!

This month, I’m delighted to team up with Abby Glassenberg, a fellow plush maker, who also shares my passion for letting no crafting material go to waste. I hope you love what we have to share!

Stacey’s blog: Fresh stitches :: Twitter @freshstitches


The Essential Herbal for Natural Health: How to Transform Easy-to-Find Herbs into Healing Remedies for the Whole Family by Holly Bellebuono [blog]. Roost Books (March 13, 2012).

As you may have guessed I am very much into home herbal healing and beauty products lately. I love how they make me feel, how they smell, how satisfying they are to make and that they do really work. I recently published my latest Action Pack Magazine all about this topic – it’s called Family Apothecary – you can download a free excerpt – how to make healing salves.

Holly begins the book by describing the 11 essential herbs that she refers to throughout this book and the various methods for using the herbs — tinctures and herbal oils, tisanes and teas, infusions, decoctions and syrups, plasters and liniments and soaks – it is very thorough. Holly’s writing style is easy to digest and understand — she explains all of this in a very non-stuffy friendly way. The recipes focus on specific remedies to men, women, children and then the whole family.

This book really feels complete. Its compact size and easy layout will mean it can remain in the kitchen or bathroom or close at hand for when you need to quickly look something up, and the lovely breezy, yet knowledgeable writing style will make you want to sit on the couch and read it all cover to cover with a cup of herbal brew.

There is a really lovely chapter titled ‘mind and spirit’ which has recipes for easing anxiety and insomnia, there are teas and tinctures for sleeping and improving memory and for boosting your emotional strength.

I want to share this recipe for Crossroads tea

Holly says that this tea is grounding and centering.

2 tablespoons of dried chopped ginger
1 quart of water (just under 1 litre)
2 tablespoons of dried violet flowers

Simmer the ginger in the water for 5-8 minutes, add the violets and stir and remove from the heat. Cover and let steep for 5-8 minutes. Strain and drink.

Oh and I need to mention the wonderful illustrations — hand drawn by Geninne Zlatkis.