Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Midnight Hatter: Miranda Yearwood

While many entrepreneurs brag that they started their business on a shoestring, Miranda Yearwood started her business, The Midnight Hatter, with sweater sleeves and a hand needle. Yearwood's felted fingerless gloves and flower-bedecked hats please the eye as much as they warm the hands and heart.

Yearwood, who moved to South Dakota in 2011, needed a way to keep her hands warm while she wrote freelance articles for various publishers. Ordinary gloves were out of the question, but an Internet search lead her to try making a pair of fingerless gloves. Since she did not have a sewing machine, Yearwood decided to hand-stitch a pair. The gloves worked so well that she soon found herself selling them on Etsy.

Yearwood recycles second-hand sweaters and clothing to make her hats, gloves and other items. According to Yearwood, "Lots of crafters use felted wool, which is the process of washing and drying 100 percent wool sweaters. You don't have to hem felted wool because the fibers lock up like dreadlocks in hair. I didn't own any wool sweaters, because they itch my skin so much, so I visited the Goodwill thrift store, where I hit the mother lode in wonderful woolly sweaters."

Yearwood uses the sleeves of each sweater to make gloves. The bottom half of the bodice on both sides of the sweater becomes fabric for hats. Yearwood saves the leftovers to make flowers and odd projects, such as scarflettes and Kindle sleeves.

While her fingerless gloves and flower-bedecked hats are top sellers, Yearwood decided to make some little boys' clothing for spring. Her current project is a woolen pullover vest with a felt robot applique on the front.

Yearwood uses cashmere blends that are ultra soft and not at all itchy, so most of her items are not lined. She found big bags of scrapped fabrics at Goodwill, though, which she may use as a liner for the thicker gloves. Yearwood has tried using silk ties to line some of the wool hats she has made, but she discovered that the material doesn't work well with stretchy hat bands.

When selecting sweaters to make her hats, gloves and other items, Yearwood sorts through all the available wool sweaters, looking for colors or prints that appeal to her own taste in clothing. Says Yearwood, "Everything I make is something I would wear myself, so that helps me keep them in a familiar style. I have also branched out into leather pieces. My aesthetic is more natural, earthy tones. I do like bright colors, as well, though; my favorites are yellow, orange and red.

Yearwood's floral brooches are the ideal gift for Valentine's Day, Easter or Mother's Day. Yearwood makes her brooches from fabric and wool scraps. Says Yearwood, "You can add the flower pins to your shirt, a hat, shoes, or a bag. I can also make custom felt bouquets. For Valentine's Day I suggest a pair of my cashmere gloves, particularly the ones with buttons. These are super soft. They will keep your lady's hands warm while still looking chic and cool. For Valentine's Day I will offer one day shipping. Order a week before your desired shipping date for Easter and Mother's Day."

Gardening by Accident

Sometimes the nicest gardens happen by accident, not by design. Here in Arizona, the high temperatures and low humidity murder plants faster than you can pot them or plant them. Instead of the lush, emerald lawns you see back east, we use gravel, rocks and fallen cactus or mesquite.

Our big Cereus peruvianus cactus is the most successful plant in our front yard, besides the palms. I took photos earlier this year, when it was in full bloom, and posted them at Trifter. Two days ago a few old branches broke off, and three Cereus buds fell with them. I tossed one bud into the big terra cotta pot with our potted Cereus, and planted the other two buds. They look like they are going to take, and the smallest one even has a flower bud on it.

Cereus peruvianus by Jack V. Sage, 2012

Cereus peruvianus by Jack V. Sage, 2012

Despite the fact that we usually burn or pull the weeds, a little orange daisy popped up. I doubt that it will last long, but it adds a touch of flame to our front lawn.

Flame daisy by Jack V. Sage, 2012

I planted some garlic bulbs that I bought at Ranch Market about a week ago in 2-liter soda bottles, and they are now 15 inches tall. I also planted some Roma tomato seeds. I now have 11 healthy garlic plants and 6 Roma plants. I cut the tops off each bottle at the shoulder, then filled the bottles about 2/3 with shredded, crumpled newspaper. Then I added enough potting soil to make the newspaper "disappear" all the way around the sides. The newspaper serves as a wick between the bottom of the bottles and the roots of the plants, while the bottom of each bottle forms an oasis.

I watered each plant just enough to fill the bumps in the bottom of the soda bottles, adding water only every third day or so. It took about four weeks for the seeds to sprout. Once they have their second set of leaves, I will transplant them outside.

Garlic by Jack V. Sage, 2012

Roma tomatoes by Jack V. Sage, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

More Than Firewood

When one of our mesquite trees blew apart in a storm earlier this year, we decided to harvest as much of the wood as possible rather than dump it in the alley for trash pickup. While many people think mesquite is only good for burning, it is a fine hardwood with a beautiful range of colors from light cream to espresso brown. We now have a pile of thin twigs to use at our first burn when we fire the terra cotta and the bentonite items we made in summer and fall, but that is only the leftover bits. We also have a pile of walking sticks, shillelaghs, staves, canes, besom handles, wands and hat or bun pins.

While mesquite is beautiful, it cracks during curing. We wiped each piece with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil, followed by a wipe with a clean paper towel to ensure even distribution. Below is a vampire skull incense burner Gypsy made for a friend's birthday, showing the range of colors in the wood:

Photo by Gypsy Wilburn, February 2012

Photo by Gypsy Wilburn, February 2012

Photo by Gypsy Wilburn, February 2012

Here is what it started out as:

Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 2012