"I mean, what is an un-birthday present?"
"A present given when it isn't your birthday, of course."
Alice considered a little.  "I like birthday presents best," she said at last.
You don't know what you're talking about!" cried Humpty Dumpty.  "How many days are there in a year?"
"Three hundred and sixty-five," said Alice.
"And how many birthdays have you?"
-- Lewis Carroll

My birthday was last week. I made an ice cream cake (above), received cards, phone calls, emails + messages from near and far, a hug from one son, a hastily scrawled card from the other, and the most horrible bouquet of flowers from my husband. I adore flowers, but apparently the aroma of Stargazer lilies makes me nauseated (and in an odd twist, my sons felt sentimental about the flowers and became upset when I suggested that the best way to deal with the offending smell would be to send the flowers on a quick trip to the compost; so the flowers hung around the house, making me ill for several days).

On the heels of what shall heretofore and forever be known as "the horrible birthday bouquet," a magical parcel arrived on my doorstep from my dear friend Christine in France.

The first thing this parcel-of-marvels revealed was a birthday card; you can see the P.S. which Christine wrote at the bottom of the card. After reading this, I went through each item in the parcel, mystified.

After the card, next out of the box was not one but two(!) chocolate bars.  And no door to open.  Then, a pretty little paper packet of acorn caps came out of the box -- each variety of oak tree, across the world over, bears different shape acorns + caps, and I love receiving them. But there was no door here either.  I dug deeper into the box: a fancifully embroidered bag containing two ceramic feves for inserting into a galette des rois(!), plus two paper crowns (for setting atop a galette des rois)!  But no door.  And then...

The final little paper packet revealed... a door! Christine and I laugh when sharing peculiar vocabulary, and so, describing the little house as "biscornu," she asked what the translation might be. The best words I could come up with were lopsided, tumbledown, ramshackle, or simply crooked, which brings to my mind the traditional nursery rhyme, "There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile, He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked style; He bought a crooked cat which caught crooked mouse, And they all lived together in a little crooked house." Can you imagine a little crooked cat (and mouse) peering out of that tiny window beneath the roof-peak?

And then I did finally open the door to find a tiny bird, chirping a happy birthday message...

Detail upon detail... when I turned the bookmark over, there was a tiny apple tree.  The little crooked man, the little crooked cat, the little crooked mouse and the birthday bird, must surely feast well on tiny apple tarts, baked in a little crooked oven, of course.

And can you tell that Christine is part fairy?  Her stitches are so small, surely only a fairy could have sewn them. And surely only a fairy could have imagined such a bookmark...

Thank you, Christine, for this beautiful gift -- a perfect companion for my literary wanderings... xo



 Let's light the lanterns on the tiered stand,
Let's arrange the peach blossom branches.
Five court musicians are playing flutes & drums.
Today is a joyful Dolls' Festival.
-- Traditional Song

Hinamatsuri is celebrated in Japan on March 3rd. For this festival, families bring out a special set of dolls dressed in traditional court costumes of the Heian period, and modern doll designs are popular, too.  

This tradition inspired me to design a set of Hinamatsuri dolls for my first book (Making Peg Dolls, Hawthorn Press 2012), but this morning, I felt like updating my design and making a new set (see photo at top of the post).

photo courtesy of folkeshi

And my recent entree into the world of Instagram has sparked a renewed interest for me in kokeshi. Via Instagram, I've become acquainted with Laetitia Hebert who runs the shop Folkeshi where she carries a beautiful collection of vintage and modern dolls -- I've become especially enamored with the modern designs of Hiraga Teruyuki and Tayama Izumi.

Below are two videos of kokeshi artists at work.  They're mesmerizing.

Happy Hinamatusuri!


book review :: stitch camp!

FTC Compliant Disclosure:  I was sent a copy of this book by Storey Publishing Co. to facilitate a review, however, all opinions expressed below are entirely my son's and my own.

Last fall, this gorgeous book arrived in my mailbox, and since then, it's been living on the kitchen table in constant use.  The moment I pulled it from the envelope, my 7 year old son grabbed it and got to work.  First was the bean bag sewing project. Then crochet.  Then weaving.  And about a month ago he learned to knit.  Looking through Stitch Camp, his enthusiasm is hardly surprising.  The photos are bright & bold, and the projects are super kid-friendly.  I could go on and on about this fabulously fun book, but honestly, I'm not the one who's been using it.  Hence, my 7 year old (LB) will be writing the rest of this review.

LB:  I like this book because you can learn all this cool step-by-step embroidery, weaving, crochet and knitting... It can teach children of all ages and grown-ups.

LB: I chose this beanbag sewing project first because it would be fun to play with.  It was a little bit hard to do the blanket-stitch, but I figured it out.  I started off doing the whip-stitch, but then I got good at the blanket-stitch!

LB: And the weaving was very very very fun because you can go over and under and over and under, because it's just like swimming where you go underwater, then you come up to take a breath, and go under water again, and keep doing that again and again.

LB: This weaving necklace was very easy and fun to make!

LB: I made this beaded crochet chain bracelet for my mom. I added a pink button because it matched the pink yarn!!

LB: My mom said maybe knitting would be too hard for me and that I could learn when I was nine.  But I kept asking her to show me, and then she showed me and at first I was very frustrated and then I learned.  And I'm not nine.  I'm still seven!  I love knitting -- I want to knit all day and never stop.

Thank you Nicole Blum & Catherine Newman!  Thank you Storey Publishing for this fun book!  Thank you LB for helping me write this review!


happy valentines day

Who can take a rainbow,
Wrap it in a sigh,
Soak it in the sun 
and make a groovy lemon pie?
The Candy Man...

The Candy Man can
'Cause he mixes it with love
And makes the world taste good.
lyrics: Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley


valentine door mat

We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God's family.  (Desmond Tutu)

I originally made this door mat in 2011, and have made new ones since then, replacing the mats when they wear out. Is there any better way to create a welcome than with a big, bright symbol of openhearted love?

-- A coir fiber mat
-- A sheet of newspaper
-- Masking tape (optional)
-- Fabric paint (or other waterproof paint)
-- A paper plate or other disposable container
-- A foam paint brush/applicator

STEP 1 :: Use scissors to cut a heart shape out of the newspaper sheet.  Place the newspaper with the cut-out heart over your coir mat. Tape in place (optional).

STEP 2 :: Pour some paint onto a paper plate (or other disposable container), dip brush into paint and dab paint inside the newspaper heart stencil.

STEP 3 :: Allow paint to dry and...

STEP 4 :: Welcome all who cross your threshold with an open heart.


tutorial :: felt heart sachet

There is only one happiness 
in this life, to love and be loved.
-- George Sand

Not just on Valentine's Day, but every day, shouldn't our actions always come from a place of compassion and our words express what is good + true within our hearts? Perhaps this is why I have been stitching, sewing, knitting and felting heart shaped projects. Without stop. Without end.

-- Wool felt
-- Paper, pencil and scissors
-- Pinking shears + a pin
-- Embroidery floss + a neeedle
-- Dried camomile, rose petals + lavender
    (if you don't have dried herbs on hand,
     you can cut open a chamomile teabag
     and use the little flowers inside!)

STEP 1 ::  Use a pencil to draw a heart on your piece of paper, and cut it out with standard scissors. Note - the heart I cut out is 3 in. (approx. 7 1/2 cm) high, but you should feel free to make your heart pattern as small or large as you please.

STEP 2 :: Use pin to secure paper pattern to a single layer of felt. With pinking shears, cut around the outside of the pattern (i.e. do not cut the paper), leaving a 1/8 inch (3 mm) pinked perimeter. Then repeat and cut a second heart from your felt. Note - if you do not have pinking shears, don't let that stop you from making these little hearts... you can use a regular scissors to create hearts with smooth edges.

STEP 3 ::Thread a needle with embroidery floss in a color which contrasts with the color of your felt.  I used red felt and white embroidery floss, but you should use whichever colors make your heart happy!

STEP 4 :: Use a running stitch to sew the two felt hearts together, leaving approx. 1 inch (25 mm) open for filling.

STEP 5 :: Fill with dried flowers (and if you don't have dried flowers on hand, you can cut open an herbal teabag -- chamomile or peppermint teabags would be perfect for filling these little sachets).

STEP 6 :: Sew up the opening, add a loop of embroidery floss at the top (optional), and you're done.

There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved. George Sand
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/george_sand_383232?src=t_love


tutorial :: valentine velvet hearts

What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
It's the only thing that there's just too little of.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some, but for everyone...
 -- Dionne Warwick

These velvet hearts are so soft and simple.  I have given them as tokens of friendship and also offered them at times when friends or their children (or my children) needed comfort.  They are small enough to keep in a pocket or on a bedside table, and they feel lovely when rubbed between the fingers or against a cheek.

-- A small scrap of velvet or velour fabric
-- Paper, pencil and scissors
-- Needle and thread
-- Stuffing (wool or fiberfill)

STEP 1 :: Use a pencil to design a heart shape on your piece of paper and cut out with scissors to create a pattern. Note: my hearts are approx. 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) tall, and so, to account for seam allowance, my pattern is approx. 4 inches (10 cm) tall.

STEP 2 :: Fold your velvet with right sides together, pin your heart-shaped paper pattern to the fabric, and cut out velvet per the pattern.

STEP 3 :: Remove paper pattern and pin the velvet hearts with right-sides together. Thread your needle and use small stitches to sew around the edges, leaving approx. 11/2 inch (3 cm) open for stuffing.

STEP 4 :: Use the unsewn section to turn your heart right-side out, add stuffing and sew closed.

STEP 5 :: Give your heart, with love, to someone you care for.


tutorial :: peg doll valentine stamps


This little peg doll craft is a repeat from two years ago, but these sweeties are so perfect for creating peg doll gifts and Valentines, that I just can't help pulling them out of my hat again this year.


-- 1 sheet of craft-foam (this stuff)

-- Larger size peg dolls, at least
    2 3/8 in tall (6 cm) like these

-- water color paint

-- beeswax polish (tutorial HERE)

-- Scissors + glue


STEP 1 ::Use watercolors to paint your peg doll, and allow to dry.

STEP 2 :: Cut a shape from craft foam.  The shape you cut should be smaller than the diameter of the peg doll base.

STEP 3 :: Glue your foam shape to the bottom of the peg doll and allow the glue to dry for at least an hour or two.

STEP 4 :: Have fun using your stamp!

Note: If you use water soluble glue, be careful washing your stamp.  I find it's best to clean these stamps by dampening a paper towel and gently wiping off ink residue.


tutorial :: a sweet valentine necklace

How many slams in an old screen door? 
Depends how loud you shut it. 
How many slices in a bread?  
Depends how thin you cut it. 
How much good inside a day? 
Depends how good you live 'em. 
How much love inside a friend? 
Depends how much you give 'em.
― Shel Silverstein

I adore Valentine's Day. Some people fuss that it's a holiday invented by greeting card and chocolate companies to part us from our money, but as far as I'm concerned... a holiday celebrating love + friendship? Hooray! When my older son started kindergarten and he had to make 20+ Valentine cards (one for each of his classmates), I was secretly thrilled.  The world can never have too many doily-bedecked, kindergartner-scrawled cards.  Now that my second son is in 2nd grade, we still go full-force into Valentine production every February, and this year we made the sweetest Valentine necklaces. Simple and perfect.  Just a small felt heart strung on a piece of embroidery floss -- "a heart on a string," if you will.

-- Wool felt
-- Embroidery floss
-- Fabric scissors
-- Needle which will accommodate embroidery floss

STEP 1 :: Use fabric scissors to cut small hearts from felt.  Our felt hearts are approx. 1 in. (25 mm) long, and we used traditional Valentine colors, but you could cut your hearts larger or smaller and in any rainbow of colors you please!

 STEP 2 :: Cut 15 in. (38 cm) lengths of embroidery floss.

STEP 3 :: Thread needle, string a heart onto each piece of floss, and pull through so that the ends of the floss are even.  Tie a knot just above the heart and then knot the ends of the floss together to create a necklace.

STEP 4 :: Try on a necklace and admire yourself in the mirror because you have good taste and are well accessorized. Keep one necklace for yourself and give the rest away so that everyone you know will be well accessorized, too.
xo mb


i carry your heart mitts :: knitting pattern

Dear Lovely Readers! It's finally February and time to re-post my favorite knitting pattern of all time (immodest to say, since I created the pattern, but I do love it so... hearts, valentines, soft colors, warm hands... love love love).

I have another knitting pattern to share with you very soon, plus a backlog of posts which will hopefully be rolling out like an avalanche over the course of this month.  Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this pattern... And also, in case you missed it last week, I mentioned in a blog post that I am FINALLY on Instagram.  You can find me by name (Margaret Bloom) or my blog name (webloomhere).  See you there, or here, or someplace soon, I hope. xo

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
-- ee cummings

The materials you need for these mitts are basic: worsted yarn plus some lace weight (or 2-3 plies separated from a length of 6-ply DMC embroidery floss).

Please note: for me, knitting is a calming meditation, but I don't find it relaxing to hold the tension between DPN's as I switch from needle to needle.  Hence these instructions are written for the mitts to be knit flat and then seamed up the side, however, this project may easily be converted to be knit in the round with DPN's.  Please feel free to convert it if that's your preference!

i carry your heart mitts

For this project you will need worsted weight and lace weight yarn.  I knit two pairs of these mitts using Berrocco Ultra Alpaca and a third pair using Knit Picks Wool of the Andes (combined with a strand of Knit Picks Aloft for extra color and dimension).  For the embroidery, I combined one strand of Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud with a strand of Knit Picks Aloft.  If you don’t have lace weight yarn on hand, you might substitute 2-3 plies separated from a 6-ply strand of DMC embroidery floss.

US size 7 (4.5mm)

Stockinette Stitch: knit (RS), purl (WS)
Ribbed Stitch 1: k3, p1 (RS)/ p3, k1 (WS)
Ribbed Stitch 2: k1, p1 (RS)/p1, k1 (WS)

9 st/14 rows = 2 in stockinette

3.25 (8 cm) wide (after seaming)
6.25 inches(16 cm)  long

This pattern is designed to knit flat and seam up the side, however the pattern can easily be converted to knit with DPN’s in the round.  To knit in the round, CO 32 (to complete ribbing pattern) and proceed.

CO 31 st (leave long tail for seaming)
Odd # rows 1-15: (k3, p1)* repeat until last 3 st, k3
Even # rows 2-16: (p3, k1)* repeat until last 3 st, p3

Odd # rows 17-35: k across row
Even # rows 18-36: p across row

Row 37: (k1, p1) repeat across row (ending on k st)
Row 38: (p1, k1) repeat across row (ending on p st)
Cast off in 1x1 ribbing pattern. Leave long tail for seaming.

placing markers to indicate the bottom tip of the heart

First mitt: From left edge, count 8st. From bottom edge, count up 20 rows (or count up 4 rows from 1st row of stockinet section). Place a marker.  This marker indicates the bottom point of the heart.  You will find instructions for doing cross-stitch on hand knit fabric and a diagram for embroidering cross-stitch heart below.

Second mitt: From right edge, count 8st. From bottom edge, count up 20 rows (or count up 4 rows from 1st row of stockinet section). Place a marker.  This marker indicates the bottom point of the heart.  Use diagram for embroidering cross-stitch heart.  You will find instructions for doing cross-stitch on hand knit fabric and a diagram for embroidering cross-stitch heart below.

Note: if you are not sure regarding placement of markers to indicate bottom points of the hearts, please refer to above photo showing the markers.  


Thread a tapestry needle with 2 strands of lace-weight yarn; you can use a strand of two different types of lace weight for various effects and texture, or two strands of the same type of yarn – you may also substitute 2-3 plies DMC embroidery floss.  Please refer to diagram for stitching the heart, plus instructions below and/or photo indicating method for cross-stitch on hand knit fabric.

The following instructions are from Knitted Embellishments by Nicky Epstein (Interweave Press, 1999):

For the best appearance, the top strand of all cross-stitches should be worked in the same direction.

Bring threaded needle out from back to front at lower left edge of the knitted stitch you want to cover.  Working from left to right, *insert the needle at the upper right edge of the same stitch and bring it back out at the lower edge of the adjacent stitch, directly below and in line with the insertion point.  Repeat from * to form one half of the X.  Then work from right to left in the same manner to work the other half of the cross-stitch.

Fold mitt in half so that 1x1 ribbing is across the top.  Thread tapestry needle with tail of yarn left over from binding off.  Sew edges together 1.5 inches (4 cm) using mattress stitch. Make a discreet knot and weave in end. Instructions for mattress stitch can be found here and here.

Thread tapestry needle with tail from casting on.  Sew up side of mitt from the bottom, until the opening for thumb is 1.75 inches (4.5 cm).  Make a discreet knot and weave in end.

* If you enjoyed this project, I hope you will post a photo of your own work on the Ravelry page here.