Bogus Internet Shopping Sites

So almost every day I find myself attracted to the sweater/skirt/scarf….whatever….staring at me from the far right column of my screen, whispering gently “click on me…buy me…you want me.” And more often than not I do. CLICK! And behold: I am in Nirvana surrounded by things I truly want to buy, wear, and give as gifts. Stunning clothes. Beautiful colors. I’m so attracted to the offerings I don’t care how obscene the shipping charges are. But then the sting. There is always a sting.

Wotoba. What is this Wotoba? Where did they get all these beautiful clothes? And so cheap. So I look them up and I get pages of negative reviews saying they are a scam; they are a figment of the Internet’s imagination; they capture other photos online and then try to sell them with inferior knockoffs. Damn. I wanted that scarf.

So I went back to the photo that started my investigation and looked a bit more closely. The scarf that grabbed my attention is made of wool. Of this I am sure. There is the “fuzz” that is always on the horizon of anything wool, and I can even tell how this scarf was made. But the description calls it cotton in one part, and polyester in another. OK. So it’s fake. They didn’t catch me. Not this time.  But I’ll never get to buy anything new again because let’s face it. All the good stuff is online and if it really isn’t there, then where can we shop.

Apparently this phony online store issue is an ongoing problem. Clearly someone is falling for the scam or how else could they exist? Or not exist? I’m confused by this. But I ask you, anyone who is reading this, have you found a legitimate online shop that has nice clothes and good customer service? If so, I’d like to hear about it. The only one I found (Vivid Linen) is spectacularly expensive, but I’ve gotten what I’ve paid for. Their clothing line is beautiful and well made. I’m just a little tired of it now.  I’m looking for something new.  And real.

Posted in A Day In My Life, Altered Clothing, clothes, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Holy Crap! It’s been a year….

needle felted nest

I just told someone that I run a blog, which is a bit of an overstatement since I haven’t been in here in a year.  Too busy being retired.  Too depressed over the state of the nation. But there’s a lot going on now, and I thought I might share.

Took a Janet Rogers week-long watercolor class at Cheap Joes last week and had a ball. Ran into some old friends and just learned a lot in a very peaceful, comfortable setting up on that cool mountaintop.  I’m on a waiting list for another class in October by the illustrator Brenda Swensen.  Got my fingers cross on this one.

A recent trip to Black Mountain put me in search mode for Freeman Beard who has a show at Seven Sisters on the main street.  He lives in Durham but teaches locally and often.  I managed to get on his mailing list so I am hopeful for a few lessons from him.

But in addition to redecorating my bedroom (paint, wallpaper, new furniture and curtains), I am severely into needle felting.  It’s like sculpting with wool instead of clay or paper mache (which I also do now) by using a needle to shape things like animals, masks; just about anything,  I’ve made a rabbit and a bird’s nest, and I’m working on an owl and some tiny birds.

If you’re looking for something different, needle felting is a challenge and very fun.  This fall I’m headed to a Georgia alpaca farm for a needle felting class of a sleeping chipmunk. Looking forward to that, and hopefully this will kick my butt into posting more.  “hopefully.”

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Pumpkin Barn Quilt…Voila!

Fall Pumpkin Barn Quilt

Fall Pumpkin Barn Quilt

While it didn’t take as long as I thought, I learned much from working through this project.  Number One:  Painting BIG is difficult.  Aside from my short arms (which go with my 5’1” height) 42” X 42” is just a big painting.  I see big paintings on restaurant walls and wonder who might own enough interior wall space to hang such a thing.  But now I have more respect for those who can handle such projects as well as those who buy them.

This project was about 6 days work, if only a few hours a day.  Drying time is annoying but necessary.  One tip I learned for those who paint these on a flat surface: put two large PVC  pipes under the board so you can roll it both toward and away from you.  Bringing it closer gives you access from the side to paint more easily in the middle.  Also, turpentine (very stinky) on your brush thins the oil paint enough for some shading.  I was not happy with the starkness of the pumpkin.  Even at a distance (the “300 foot rule” taught in the barn quilt class) this was too linear and bright.  It needed some softening and depth.  I even thought of painting in some stitching (little lines “in the ditch”) to tone it down, and may do this later after I’ve framed it.  (I’m thinking orange for the frame.)

Anyhow….I’m still on board (pun intended) with these and today I’ll buy my wood for next week’s winter barn quilt.  Because these take up so much space in my studio, I’m going to knock all the seasons out at once, clean up and move on to the next obsession.


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Barn Quilts Aren’t Just for Barns

A few weeks ago my friend Robin and I took a class on painting barn quilts.  It was just for fun; something to do on a hot summer day.  But in fact, it turned out to be more than fun.  Since I made my small Ohio Star barn quilt in the class, I’ve spent some time learning about where these came from and why.  Also, they’ve become somewhat trendy; a way for farmers or even simple homeowners such as myself to show off their talents and interests.  Barn quilts don’t have to ward off bad luck, or enhance prosperity or fertility as they once did, but rather they can be simply ornamental.  Twenty-six states now have barn quilt trails and maps.  I actually saw my first one in NC on the way to Mt. Airy this weekend (which should be another post because that was incredibly fun too.)

So I just finished my first large (42″ X 42″) barn quilt.  Robin painted this same stylized American flag and I instantly regretted painting the Ohio Star.  But now I’m glad because the one we did in class was too small for my large shed.  I’m happy to have this big one!

In retrospect, no one “needs” a class.  Sanding the board smooth and taping off areas you’re not currently painting are pretty simple.  I chose to use oil based paint instead of an acrylic.  It dries quickly with a fan, and the colors are deeper and more true.  I bought red, yellow, blue, black and white, and have been mixing my own custom colors.  Oil paint will last longer in the sun, if that’s where you plan to put it.  My flag has a different configuration of red and white stripes than the original, which I am happy with because now it’s unique.  (That’s what I always say when I make a mistake….it’s “unique.”)

So I’ve decided to make three more…actually four more.  One for each season of the year, and these will go on the front of my house instead of on the shed.  Installation is easy by just putting up two by fours with a level and then screwing the quilt onto them.  Using screws will make it easy to change them out with the seasons.

I’m working on this fall’s pumpkin with vines on a checkered “quilted” background (preview at left). Wish me luck, and by all means, give this a try.  It’s fun!

TIPS:  Save some small glass jars (I used Cracker Barrel blueberry syrup jars) to store your custom colors for touchup.  Also, use small jelly jars to hold some black and white so you’re not opening up the big cans all the time.  This will make your paint last longer and stay cleaner.  Use small rollers from the dollar store (2 for $1) for the larger areas, and foam one-inch brushes for the smaller ones.  I wrap my brushes and rollers with plastic wrap between coats and reuse them several times.  The blue painters tape is essential, but it doesn’t have to be expensive.  I found that the sooner I removed the tape, the cleaner the line.  Once the paint is tacky, remove the tape.  Do not let it sit overnight.  Remember to prime your wood with Zinsser.

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Punch Needle and a Very Big Frame (or A Solution to Punching a Large Rug)

An old table turned rug frame.

Not everyone knows that you can “punch” a rug.  Many punch needle enthusiasts have not looked beyond the  5” x 6,” or thereabouts, patterns for small decorative projects.  I sell them on my Etsy site (PLEASE VISIT), and none are larger than a two-slice toaster.

But you can punch a rug.  A big rug.  And it’s just as easy as punching something small; maybe easier.  I use frames for punching my small designs, so I’m not really traveling with my projects. I have a set up in my studio next to my computer and surrounded by my kitties. I listen to Ted Talks and music.  I value the time of just sitting and zen punching my current design.

But I needed a solution to framing a rug for punching.  I went “yardsaling” with a purpose a few years ago.  I was looking for a table with a large lip and a removable tabletop, which was easily found and incredibly cheap given that the condition of the top was not an issue. I threw that out.  It was the lip and the rock solid legs that were important.  Once the top was tossed I tacked carpet strips onto the rim of the lip.  These are thin strips of wood with sharp tiny nails protruding through at a slant.  This holds the carpet, or in this case, the fabric drum tight.  I have to use a protective pad on top of the rim so I don’t scratch myself. But once these were nailed on, I had myself a gigantic rug frame.

Closeup of rug tacking strips and kitty screen.

I put the table on wheels so I could move it to the window across the room when I knew it would snow or the hummingbirds were back.  It’s also nice to have my big window open so that it’s almost like rug punching outside.

You don’t have to waste monks cloth by covering the entire table for a smaller than table-sized project.  For one dollar, Goodwill will sell you a top bed sheet. Place your ready-to-punch rug pattern-on-monks cloth onto the middle of the sheet and machine sew it into place along the edges of the monks cloth.  Then sew it again to assure it will hold tight.  Then cut away to expose the pattern, leaving the sheet to bind to the carpet strips and hold everything tight.  It’s just like enlarging the rug size.  When you’re finished punching the rug you can fold that sheet back onto the underside of the rug for even more protection when finishing it off. Nothing will go to waste.  I use Amy Oxford punch needles.  I have the entire set, and I am in love with these. Check out her site.  You can see two of my rugs in her “Gallery.”

This large window is handy for several reasons, but I love to roll the frame over here, open the window, and watch the hummingbirds.

Hope this whets your whistle on punching a rug.  In my next post I will give you a very easy way to enlarge your small punch needle pattern into a rug size of your choice.

Please visit my Etsy site for smaller patterns, and subscribe to this blog for more tips and thoughts on punch needle.

ps:  That blue and white striped sheet under the frame is to keep the kitties from pulling on the rug loops and tails, once their favorite activity.


Posted in Needle Punch, Needlework, Punch Needle, Punch Needle Threader, Rug Hooking, Textile Art, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Hold a Punch Needle Tool


Since I have now been asked this question twice, this would be a good place to start with my “advice” column for punch needle. Just so everyone remembers:  I didn’t invent this craft, and I am no expert.

I’ve seen dozens of videos and read numerous posts showing the user holding the punch needle tool straight up.  “Always punch away from the thread, and never turn the tool, but rather turn the hoop.”  I agree with half of this.

I punch sideways now, though I did start the learning process doing my level best to mimic the instructions exactly, coming in at a 90 degree angle.  But the more I punched, the lazier I got, and in the process realized that bringing the tool in at a 45 degree angle, almost exactly how you might hold a pencil, gave me an easier punch. Furthermore, I don’t have my lumen (that’s the hole in the needle where the thread comes out of the handle before it goes into the next hole) facing up, but rather I have it facing me. This means I am punching sideways, with the thread always on the other, away, side of the needle.  I can move this from left to right, and then come back from right to left, if I wanted.  I usually like to swirl my way around the pattern.  And while I have not done the math with the amount of thread I’m using by doing it this way, my stitches are smoother but there is definitely more thread in the back.

Also, I make an attempt to punch AWAY from an adjacent stitch so as not to catch it.  This normally works.  The greatest aggravation in punch needle is hooking an adjacent thread in such a way that you push it out of alignment and you wind up with a orphaned long loop.  You can feel this happening.  It’s a sinking feeling, and I used to have the tendency to ignore these until the end.  I have mentioned that I don’t like simply cutting them topside, and the reason for this will be made known in another post, but I have learned that if I stop immediately, turn the frame over and see the origin of the long loop, I can tell exactly where it is on the back and pull it back into correct position.  If there is a long loop, there is a short one next to it.  I fix them BOTH right then and there, and then continue to punch.

I have recently mastered FaceTime to speak with my surrogate son’s children in England. I love it.  But even more impressively, I am emboldened to try to make a video of my own and demonstrate my techniques for punch needle.  That’s on my list for 2018.

That lobster pattern above is available in my Etsy Shop.  Just click on the photo to see it.

Posted in Needle Punch, Punch Needle, Rug Hooking, Textile Art, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Punch Needle Focus

Posted in A Day In My Life, Needlework, Punch Needle, Punch Needle Threader, Rug Hooking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Punch Needle Prospects Revisited

Running Rabbit Recipe Box

On January 15, 2012 I wrote a post entitled Punch Needle Prospects. Moments ago, on the auspicious occasion of opening my new Etsy Shop Whimseytopia, I, inexplicably, went back and read what I’d written so long ago.  Really?

That I am still a “glutton for punishment” is obvious, but this should be a day of celebration for me.  For the first time in several months I have not run down the basement steps in my bare feet and pajamas to work like a freaking fool until light-headedness from starvation brought me back upstairs to eat, shower, and check my emails.  Then I’d head back down and work until I’d realize even the cats were asleep for their long night’s nap.  I looked in the mirror this morning and can swear I look 10 years older.  Definitely paler.  Basement life will do that to you.

I can barely hold a thought in my head other than those surrounding my patterns:  Are they good enough?  Will anyone buy them?  What if I’ve made an error – a glaring error – an error so glaring that anyone who finds it will think I’m …….stupid!  Then I turned on the morning news and breathed a sign of relief.

So, after reviewing my zeros on my stats page, and finding the majority of my products dead last in virtually every category they appear, I started thinking about how some people read the last page of a book before they start it.  I guess the rationale there is in case they die before they finish it, they will at least die knowing the ending.  So I am going to operate on the principle that there MUST be people who punch needle AND are those people who like to start things at the very end.  And there I’ll be….waiting for them.


Posted in A Day In My Life, Needlework, Punch Needle, Textile Art, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Punch Needle Project: 27 Days to Go

Whimseytopia traffic has dramatically increased since I published my announcement about my new Etsy site.  I’m surprised and thrilled that there’s interest in this art form and my patterns.

I have high hopes.

But the best part is that I am in my element designing these patterns.  While I’ve been punching for over five years, I have not had a way to share my work other than place it on WordPress.  Now I may, or may not, get the validation I so crave (and maybe a little cash!)   For me, building an Etsy site was like building the Lunar Lander.  I started this project thinking I was pretty tech savvy.  Surprise.  I’m not.  And learning the postal system and starting PayPal, opening a bank account, and dedicating a credit card for the site were all more time consuming and complex than I expected.  Tax forms and pricing, and the thought of the future math and filings are daunting.  Editing and uploading photos weren’t the most difficult tasks, but getting supplies, fabrics for stamping; ordering stamps for each pattern, shipping materials and labels didn’t quite fly off my to-do list.  It’s all been an enormous task, but I am on track for the February 1st launch. I’m posting three of the ten patterns here, just to give you an idea of where this is headed.  All my designs are original, and once my site is open, future patterns will be seasonal and monthly.

There are many just like me entering into a foray of selling needlework patterns on the Internet.  There are dozens and dozens just on Etsy alone.  But I hope the Whimseytopia name and the thousands of previous visits to my “textile art” pages will help me.  Only time will tell.

To my friends who thought I dropped off the face of the earth, this is why.  I’ve been reading you daily, if not commenting, and to many of you, know that you are the “Joneses” I’m trying to keep up with.

Happy New Year everyone.


Posted in Needle Punch, Needlework, Punch Needle, Punch Needle Threader, Textile Art, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Happy Endings

On the heels of two very bad days of broken phones, lost credit cards, and a litany of other mishaps that I will spare you the details, life handed me a little miracle.

When I opened my back door this morning a cute but clearly exhausted dog was sitting on the step, looking like that RCA dog, only peering into my kitchen instead of a Victrola.  He wasn’t bouncing around, but rather waiting, like waiting for me to do something about his predicament.  Clearly he was lost and tired of trying to make his way back home.

This was not my first animal encounter in my little town, and frankly there could have been many more because I see a lot of loose dogs around here.  Being a city girl, free-range dogs are an unusual sight.  Here, well let’s just say that things are a big more laid back.

So I called animal control and here’s where the miracle happens.  Someone had JUST called about their missing dog; a dog who, last night, extricated himself from his collar and zapper and was off for his Jack London adventure.  But after a night on the town, he spent the last few hours in my screened porch reevaluating his decision and waiting for his family to arrive.

Reunions of lost dogs and their owners are definitely Hallmark moments.  Getting my phone service fixed would be another one.



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