IMG_2062This is an ugly photo.  But I am posting it here because my digital design class is going to learn how to turn this photo into this seamless repeat…

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 2.09.22 PMOr even this seamless repeat…

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If I post it here to my blog then it is easy for the whole class to find it and download it for class.  But I also thought it would be fun to talk about how that ugly photo gets to be something cool.  My top seamless sample needs a little work still to make a few more flaws disappear where the edges of the repeat tile meet, but once you add a filter effect on top of it (like sample 2) the flaws pretty much vanish.  For the third week of class, I let the students vote on what kind of a repeat we are going to work on and my class this semester chose to work with something photographic.  We are going to use a tool called Pixlr to do our photo editing.  It is a free online graphics program and it is pretty sophisticated.

In a nutshell, here’s what we are going to do:

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 2.31.45 PMWish us luck!


photo(7)Lots of things have been going on behind the scenes here at Chez Rahn, but one of the biggest is the new members of our family.  This is Leo (blue) and Chester (red).  It took us a long time after we lost our Lucy in April to decide we were ready for another dog.  And we weren’t going to get a puppy and we most certainly weren’t going to get two.  But then these two happened.

They are brothers, almost 7 months old and are lab/springer spaniel mutts.  We met both parent dogs who were absolute sweethearts.  These two were almost the last of a large litter and their people were really trying to find them good homes. In fact, we realized that our Lucy was part of an overstock clearance sale and these two were a buy-one-get-one-free.  I guess we like dog bargains. They were such good buddies we couldn’t not take them both.  It’s crazy, but it just had to be.

They are already each 50+ lbs, so they are very grown up.  No roly-poly puppies here.  They grew up on a farm belonging to a family friend and we have been introducing them to the adventures of living in the city for the past 3 weeks:  riding in the car (not fans), going to the vet to get neutered (riding in the car is worse), airplanes flying over (WTF!), leashes, kids at bus stops, mud puddles (hooray!) and more.


dripdropThis is my piece that is in the A Common Thread show at Textile Center this year.  It’s a 3 piece “suit” with three different techniques.  It started with the fabric for the skirt.  I taught a class last summer about silk screening and I needed a sample of how  you would create an all over repeat with silk screens.  This is two screens – one printed in dark silver and the other in blue.  So it took many passes to screen it to make sure that I wasn’t touching any of the wet paint where the edges of the screen might overlap.  I made the screens using a thermofax machine and specially treated fabric – you print your design on a laser printer or copier and run it through the machine with the fabric.  The coating on the screen is burned away whereever it touches your artwork.  It is a very cool process.  The fabric is a metallic denim and it is printed in metallic ink, so it is hard to photograph because everything reflects the light.  The pattern is a simple pencil skirt because I didn’t want to do much to interrupt the pattern.

The top is digitally printed “silky faille” which is one of Spoonflower’s newer fabrics.  I needed an excuse to get some and try it out.  The pattern is the same rainclouds from the silk screen, shrunk down and colored using the Spoonflower color chart.  The color chart is a piece of fabric printed with “chips” of about 1600 colors that can be printed.  Each one has a code, so you can choose the color you want and enter the code in Photoshop as you create your design. Since I had already printed the skirt fabric, I could compare colors on the color chart to the paint colors and get a pretty great match.  I forgot when I printed this that the pattern pieces are supposed to be cut on the diagonal grain for this top, but I wanted to keep the design running the same way as on the skirt, so I cut  it with the grain.  This is such a nice drapey fabric that it worked just fine.

The jacket is a simple bolero trimmed with a little blue organza around the collar and cuffs and then hand embroidered with rows of running stitch, matching the rain drops from the design.  I laid out the stitching lines with masking tape that I stitched along the edges of. The buttons are vintage ones I found on Etsy.


photo (6)


Pattern:  Seeded Mitts by Heidi Buekelman, Yarn:  Happy Feet by Plymouth, dyed by ME

This was my first experiment in self striping yarn.  My mama-in-law asked for some nice sock yarn for Christmas and so I decided that was an excuse to dye some nice sock yarn for her.  Happy Feet is my favorite base.  I have seen it dyed up by many dyers and I just love it.  I love the way it takes the color, I like knitting it and it makes me happy.

So I did some research and it seems that in order to dye something that will self stripe for a sock, you need a section of yarn about 30 inches long.  In otherwords, each 30 inch section you dye equals one row of your sock.  Fingerless mitts are about the same as a sock, so this means that for each of the stripes you see, I had about 3+ yards of that color.

How do you accomplish that?  It is MANY steps.  Not hard, but fiddly for sure.  I used a warping board because I have one.  A warping board (if you have never heard of one) is a giant peg board used by weavers for measuring out warp ends for weaving.  I put my original skein on the swift and wrapped it round and round the pegs to make a new giant skein and added lots of ties with scrap yarn to keep it from getting tangled.

My warping board is big enough that I could make a new loop of yarn that when I stretched it out it was about 5 yards.  (Imagine a letter O that you grab from both sides and pull apart to make a big squished loop.)  I have a huge long table at the Dye Lab at work.  I soaked the skein in citric acid and then I laid the skein on top of plastic wrap the whole length of the table.  The dye is Dharma Acid dyes added with a sponge brush.  4 bright colors mixed half and half with grey.  On the table I painted it in 4 quarters – pink, green, red, blue.

Once the yarn was saturated with the dye then I folded the saran wrap over the sides toward the center and rolled the whole thing up like a snail shell.  Pop it in to a ziploc bag (unsealed) and into a large steamer pot for about 1/2 hour.  You can tell when the dyes are set when the liquid in the ziploc is basically clear.  Then I pulled it out and tried very much to ignore it while it cooled off.  After rinsing and hanging to dry in the shower then it was time to re-skein once again.  This time I stretched it between two chairs in the dining room and walked between them winding it on to my niddy-noddy.  The niddy-noddy makes a skein that fits back on the swift and from there I could wind it in to a ball for knitting.  Each stripe is about 4 knitted rows.  Once I got going it was so fun to knit that these mitts took me just a couple of days of the polar vortex weekend to finish.

Nuts, huh?  Totally super cool yarn is completely worth it.

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1.  A couple more fun finished objects for the holidays.  The woven piece is a camera strap and two more octopi hats.

2.  The high temperature here today was -20 degrees.  It was beautifully bright and sunny, but with the windchill it felt something like 45 degrees below zero.  That is just crazy.  If you throw a cup of coffee in to the air it instantly freezes and patters down on to the ground as snow.  (I am not kidding)

3.  Just to prove that it is indeed a small world sometimes, I wanted to share an email that I got over the holidays.

I just happened upon your lovely blog while researching for my familys upcoming 150th anniversary and I immediately recognised an image of our family ribbons on your post, Exquisite Trims: Passamaneria Valmar.  The two ribbons he showed you are in fact created in my familys factory, Julien Faure of St. Etienne and not in Italy, these are two of the more well known designs. Our company is 5th generation artisans and is one of the only remaining silk ribbon companies still in operation as many have been forced to close after the World Wards due to changing fashions and economic constraints.  I’ve been creating jewellery from antique salesmans samples so I’ve gotten to know the archives pretty well….each ribbon is a miniature work of art!
How cool is that?  Ruth and I have emailed a little back and forth and I am super impressed that she found me and my ribbons and recognized them.  What a neat connection to have!  You should go and visit Rubanesque, her etsy shop, where she does beautiful things with samples and scraps of the ribbons.

PicMonkey Collage


The end of 2013 was just a whirlwind for us.  Events for work, fast flying trips, broken refrigerators, presents to finish, too much nose blowing. There wasn’t much to write about because we were too busy just getting through it.  These are a few snapshots from our trip to SD for the holidays.  For the most part the weather was lovely while we were there, the company was the very best and the vacation was a much needed reset.

PicMonkey Collage2One of my sisters spent the holidays with the other half of her family, so we spent Christmas eve sending her Jello Salad recipes. She was asked to be in charge of the Jello Salad for Christmas Eve dinner, so we wanted to make sure that she had an adequate supply of recipes to choose from.  These are treasures from my great-grandmothers’ recipe boxes/books.  Some are so horrible sounding we could only just laugh.


I made very few gifts this year (because I am working on a book and that takes more time than you think it will.)  A few have not yet been distributed (so they will wait for another post.)  My niece and nephew got this pair of hats.  Both from patterns I made up, but the tractors came from here and the octopus from here.  (The octopus is really clever and my first ever time following a crochet pattern.)

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Hope you all had a lovely wrap up to 2013 and you are starting 2014 on the right foot.




IMG_9462The Thief


Digitally printed fabric with hand embroidery

This piece was my contribution to the art auction in my hometown.  They do a fundraiser every year with a silent auction of 8×8 inch pieces.  The artists are kept anonymous until after the event, so I have been keeping this one under wraps.

This is a collaboration with my mom.  She snapped this photo of one of her neighbor deer. This particular deer had been recently snacking at the neighbors pear tree so I made the repeat pattern behind her with pears and flowers.  I embroidered with shiny rayon thread to addd texture to her nose and ears and then gave her extra thick eyelashes.  I love the “who me?” expression that mom captured.


Several major projects just wrapped up for me and I am finally feeling like I can come up for air a little bit. Last weekend we spent a day buying a new car.  Why does that always take an entire day to accomplish?  It’s bright orange.  Because it’s fun.  And we got a manual transmission, which is super hard to find.  The really nice guy at the car dealership was pretty dumbfounded when I told him that I could drive a stick.  :)  I am voting that we name her Clementine.

This is not my actual car, but mine’s just like this.

Yesterday we raked a bunch of leaves (many of them were orange) and made a trip to our favorite games store.  I have mentioned this before, but I love board games.  We have good friends that we play with very often and we have a gaming “rule” that we always choose the same color for our piece. Mostly it’s for our own sanity, you have to be able to remember who it is that you are ganging up on (green) or who always wins (red).  I am always orange or yellow, depending on what the game has.  We got a copy  of the new Firefly board game.  (Because we are big geeks, I know.)  It has BOTH orange and yellow pieces.  We are totally going to be messed up.


We played a game last night and it is pretty fun and especially so if you are a fan of the show.  The rules have a little ambiguity unfortunately, so we will be having some house rules discussion before we play again.

It was a cold and windy night, so we decided to make soup for dinner.  I saw a tweet from someone about making roasted carrot soup and one of my favorite lunch places makes a curried carrot soup that is amazing.  So we made roasted curry carrot soup.  So yummy (and very orange).

Curried Carrot Soup

2 lbs of carrots

3 small onions

3 inch piece of fresh ginger

3 endives

4 cloves of garlic

1/3 c cider vinegar

1/3 c olive oil

1 tbsp curry powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

vegetable broth

1/3 c heavy cream

Chop all of the vegetables into large chunks.  Put them in a large baking dish.  Combine olive oil, vinegar, curry powder and salt and pour it over the veggies.  Stir to coat them.  Roast at 450 for about 1/2 hour.  Transfer all of the contents of the baking dish to a large soup pot.  Add vegetable broth until the veggies are just covered and simmer for about 1/2 hour, until the carrots are very soft.  Puree. (we use an immersion blender).  You can add a little extra broth depending on how thick you like your soup and then finish by stirring in the heavy cream.

I know the endive is kind of a goofy ingredient.  We started with another recipe to get the proportions of everything and it called for endive.  They had them at the grocery store, so we got them.  I think you could add celery or leeks or leave them out completely and all would work.

Super simple, nicely sweet/spicy.  I am sure you could also add coconut milk instead of cream and it would be equally tasty.  We had it with bread and sharp cheddar cheese.




Pappa Pomodoro is a specialty of the region of Tuscany that we were visiting and I completely fell in love.  It is a simple tomato basil soup with the addition of bread which is simmered in the soup to make a thick hearty porridge-like texture.  If that doesn’t sound wonderful to you, just trust me.  In some places it is served slightly spicy and sometimes just plain.  We sampled several varieties.  It is the ultimate in fresh and flavorful comfort food.  When we got back from the trip, I knew I had to find a recipe and capture this before I forgot what it tasted like.

This is my very slight variation on a recipe I found from Jamie Oliver.

Pappa Pomodoro

2-3 cups chopped tomatoes – Jamie uses cherry tomatoes, I used romas from the Farmers Market chopped into quarters or big chunks.

3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

a large handful of fresh basil leaves

olive oil

salt & pepper

a large can of diced tomatoes (28 oz)

2-3 cups of stale ciabatta bread, chopped/ripped into bite-sized pieces

crushed red pepper (optional)

Chop the roma tomatoes into large chunks (or use cherry tomatoes and slash the skins so they don’t “pop”).  Place those on a large, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle generously with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Add one of the garlic cloves and rip up a small batch of basil leaves and sprinkle them over the top.  Roast these tomatoes at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, add a generous couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot and saute the remaining garlic for just a couple of minutes over medium heat. Rip up the rest of the basil leaves and add them to the pot.  Add the canned tomatoes and then fill the can with water and add that.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.  Finally add the bread and the tray of roasted tomatoes, scraping it with a rubber spatula to get all of the juices and oil. If you want to add a little red pepper, this would be the place to do it. I didn’t make the spicy version (yet), but I think a scant 1/4 tsp would be about right.  Simmer this for about 10 more minutes until the bread is very soft.  Then give it a good stir to break up the bread and get a thick porridge kind of texture.  Depending on how you feel about tomato skins, you can also puree this a little bit with a hand-blender to chop up some of the larger pieces.  This is served with a little fresh basil over the top and an extra drizzle of olive oil.  So very very good.  We had this the other night with some sliced pears, cheese and a glass of wine.

I didn’t take a photo of it, but this is a photo from Trattoria Omero, an excellent restaurant who introduced me to this dish.