Archive of ‘Craft’ category

Hot Eggs on a Cold Day

coziesA boiled egg for breakfast is one of life’s simple pleasures. But in an old house on a cold Minnesota morning, even a boiled egg needs a little help staying warm. These warm, wooly egg cozies are like a stocking cap for your eggs, keeping them hot until the coffee’s made or the kids are at the table.

I found the free instructions for these felted egg cozies on Ravelry. They were a quick project, with each one taking about an hour to knit. I opted to use some colorful Peer Gynt yarn remnants that I had around the house. I’ve had varying success with felting projects in the past, but after a few minutes in some hot, soapy water and a couple of cold rinses — voila! — these felted right up. (more…)

Scandinavian Stoneware

tokeim_jul 2I’ve long been an fan of Tokheim Stoneware, and recently I had the chance to hear a talk by Lucy Tokheim, who runs the business along with her husband, Gene. After hearing some of Lucy’s stories of the couple’s experiences and influences over the years — including a stint studying at Rauland Academy (Raulandsakademi) in Telemark, Norway — I have an even greater appreciation for these artists and their work.

The Tokheims began producing their wheel-thrown pottery in their western-Minnesota studio in 1973. Over the years, their work has become known for its Scandinavian folk art influences: floral designs and color palettes from rosemaling, animal figures from wooden ale bowls and other carved pieces, geometric shapes found in textiles and chip carving, and symbols from the primstav, or ancient calendar stick.

The Tokheims are taking orders on their 2014 God Jul bowl (shown here) until Thanksgiving. Or if you live in the region, you can visit their gallery during their Holiday Open House, Nov. 20–22. The studio is located in rural Lac Qui Parle county, between Dawson and Montevideo, about 2-1/2 hours west of Minneapolis. (Visit their website for hours and directions.) No time for a road trip? You’re in luck: Tokheim Stoneware offers mail order and a small number of products online. You can also find a nice selection of their products at Ingebretsen’s in Minneapolis.

Northern Lights Necklace

beadYears ago, while sleeping in a tent on the shore of Lake Superior, my husband and I found ourselves awake in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. We stepped outside the tent and saw an incredible display of Northern Lights. It was as if we were both pulled from sleep by the atmosphere’s energy.

I was reminded of that night’s amazing light show when I saw my friend wearing this necklace. It was made by Leanne Kinvig, who was inspired by the Northern Lights that are so often visible from her home in Canada’s Yukon Territory. She calls them Borealis Beads. Handcrafted from polymer clay, with no two beads alike, they are “as unique and ever changing as the Northern Lights,” she says. To learn more, visit Kinvig’s page on Facebook.

Inspired by Spring


Spring is in the air after a long, challenging winter. Maybe that’s why I’ve embraced spring decorating with unusual fervor this year. I’ve been inspired by fastelavnsris and påskeristhe festively decorated branches seen in Scandinavia around Easter time.

Like a lot of holiday traditions, the origin of these decorated branches goes way back. “Fastelavn” is the Scandinavian word for Carnival, the celebration that precedes Lent, and “Påske” means Easter. “Ris” is a bundle of fresh branches—typically birch. But these twigs didn’t always represent a celebration: In the old days, some parents struck their children with branches on Good Friday as a reminder of Jesus’ suffering. The custom later evolved from a pious act into a more lighthearted fertility ritual: people “flogged” each other with budding branches in the hope that a little of the powerful life force might rub off.


Warm and Wonderful

scarfBaby, it’s cold outside. Which is why I knit my daughter this supremely warm and soft scarf. It was fun, fast, and you can make it, too!

I used Misti Chunky Baby Alpaca yarn, and the basic pattern (Ribs and Ruffles scarf) is available on their website. Skip the ruffle instructions (steps 1–3) and work the Eve’s Rib pattern (steps 4–6) throughout. Since my daughter wanted a wider scarf, I cast on 31 stitches. (Note that the instructions say 15. You can make the scarf any width, but you’ll want to increase in multiples of four, since the pattern repeats every four stitches.) My daughter also wanted an infinity scarf, so I knit to a length of 60″ (152 cm) before joining the ends using a three-needle bind-off.

I’ll admit that my modifications to this pattern pushed it into three-skein territory. To keep the cost in check, you could scale back the width a bit. But when it’s -20° F on a cold winter morning, those extra ounces are kjempe koselig and worth every penny.

From Lye to Lather


I’ve been a fan of handmade soap for years. I love the long-lasting, rough-hewn bars and the wonderful fragrances. But a nice bar of handcrafted soap can be pricey. When I got hooked on the stuff, I quickly decided the way to make this an affordable luxury was to make it myself.

Soapmaking has likely been going on for about 5000 years, and the basic chemical reaction is the same: An acid (the fats) and base (the lye) combine to form soap, which is technically a salt. Our ancestors probably made soap from the ashes and animal fats left over from their cooking fires. Today, the process is equal parts art and science, with an array of techniques, ingredients, fragrances, colors, and molds to choose from.


Sami-Inspired Bracelet

braceletLast weekend I accomplished something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time: I made a Sami-style bracelet. I’ve been eyeing them in Scandinavian gift shops and on Etsy, and looking for an opportunity to learn how to make them. My intentions paid off: I traveled with St. Olaf College’s Folk School Interim class on a field trip to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where—among other fun things—the group took a bracelet workshop from Norma Refsal.

Refsal is a master metalsmith and a great teacher—I was amazed how well every student’s bracelet turned out! I came home with supplies for 3 more kits so I could make them for my husband and kids, all of whom (unlike me) can claim some Sami heritage.

Want to make one yourself? If you live in the Midwest, you can sign up for Refsal’s class offered by Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum this April. Or check out the bracelet classes offered this spring at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, cheats for episode Minnesota.

Photo: Doug Bratland