Textile News: Tapestry Cakes


These extraordinary cakes have been created by cake artist Leslie Vigil. Somehow she figured out how to mimic intricate embroidery stitches and designs using the medium of icing. As someone who is challenged by the mundane task of frosting a plain cake, I am truly in awe of this woman’s talent and ingenuity. To gain a true appreciation of the exacting detail in these patterns, enlarge the photos above.

Leslie enjoys “harmonizing textile traditions from different cultures” , in this case, Mexico and Russia. For more stunning examples of her work, refer to this brief article , which contains many more photos.

Wool Dyeing: Copper Penny Blue

This dye substance is not a plant, but it would have been available in one form or other to many colonial home dyers. Known as “Copper Penny Blue”, this is a dye that does not need a separate mordant or even heat. The recipe is simple but it does take from 2-4 weeks for the process to complete itself. Fill a gallon jar to about three inches from the top with non-sudsing ammonia and put in: either 2 cups of pennies, OR a length of copper pipe OR a coil of copper wire. Screw the lid on tightly. Let this mixture sit for a week and watch it become a beautiful blue. At this point remove the copper , with rubber gloves, and put in the pre-wetted fleece to soak; varying the time gives different color effects. Some sources say it is also possible to do this with white vinegar instead of ammonia, but others say vinegar doesn’t work as well. Some recipes say to add a few teaspoons of salt to fix the color.

I’ve used this method several times with different results. One was a pale aqua, and the others various shades of icy green. I think it might be more reliable to use wire or pipe as the amount of copper in pennies these days is so small. Dyeing times, once the dye is made, have ranged from 1 day to 3 weeks of soaking the wool fiber. If you leave the jar in the sun it speeds the process somewhat. I would NOT try heating the mixture on a stove or fire, however.

My results have always been close to this.

Post revised 8/28/20

Knitting Tips: Kitchener Stitch Cheat Sheet Revised


A couple of years back I posted a link to Tricksy Knitter’s ever-so-helpful chart showing the steps involved in Kitchener Stitch, which I always use to close the toes of my hand knit socks. I find it much easier to follow than a tutorial. Tried to access the chart today,  only to discover a broken link. Disheartened, I hopped over to search the TK site, and was thrilled to find the chart under a new one. And here it is! Hope you find it as useful as I do. Please let me know if you notice another broken link so I can get back on it ASAP. 

Free Knitting Pattern: His or Her Vintage Pullover

Every once in a while, I browse through the vintage pattern booklets inherited from my mom and MIL. It’s fun to check out the styles from way back then, and some of them, I have to admit, make me laugh out loud. Once in a while, there’s a pattern I might consider making. I’ve used their two needle mitten pattern many times when I don’t feel like knitting in the round.  This sweater  is one of the nice ones, from American Thread Co. Star Book No. 185, Fashions. Probably 1960’s. Click on photo and link to access. I haven’t made it, but if you do, I’d love to see a photo, and with your consent, would post it here.



Making an 18th Century Hussif (Sewing Kit)

A Housewife, or Hussif, is nothing more than an 18th century sewing kit. Women used them at home, and soldiers used them when serving in the military. A few years back, I made one for myself, and use it mostly at re-enactments and museum programs. It’s a very handy thing to carry, and a very easy thing to make. All you need is some appropriate cloth, and simple directions. Here’s how I make mine.


Several 1/2 yard lengths of period appropriate cloth, in various patterns. I like checks. Alternatively, you can use a single color, if you prefer.

2 yards of seam binding or bias tape, or you can make your own.

Matching thread and sewing needles.

Plastic cover from a 15 ounce margarine container.


Cut the following:

A. Plain color lining piece – I generally use muslin. Cut to 4″ x 11″.

B. Backing piece: fabric of your choice. Cut to  4″ X 11″.

C and D:  For pockets: Cut two  3 1/2″ x 4″ pieces;

E. Cut one  4″ x 5″ pocket piece

F. Round the tops of the lining and backing, tracing the arc with the margarine lid. If desired, cut a liner piece for the curved top.


1. Using a neat slip stitch, hem 1 long side of pieces C and D. The hem should be narrow – approximately 1/8″ folded twice.

2. Hem 1 short side of piece E similarly.

3. Lay the lining (A) right side up with the rounded edge to the top. Place piece E, also right side up, so that its cut edges are even with the rectangular end of the lining. This will become the lowest pocket. Bast E in position, leaving hemmed edge free.

4. Place piece C, right side up, on the lining with its hem touching the hem of piece E. Carefully fold      under 1/4″ of the other end of C. Baste C in place, and carefully slip stitch the folded over side to the lining

5. Place D, right side up, on the lining with its hem toward the rectangular end, and approximately 3″ away from the hemmed end of C. Carefully fold under 1/4 ” of the other end of D. Baste D in place, then slip stitch the folded under edge to the lining.

6. Place the lining/pocket over the cover piece (B), matching up the edges. Baste together. Trim away any excess material from the edges.

7. The binding tape is sewn around the edges, beginning at the center of the rectangular end. You can sew through all the layers at once with small running stitches, or slip stitch each side separately. Be sure to miter the corners, and overlap neatly at the bottom.

8. Attach a length of binding tape or ribbon on the exterior to serve as a tie to hold the folded case closed. One third should lie on top of the case, and 2/3 away from the case.

This case can be folded in a variety of ways, depending on how full it is. You can also roll it. Fill it with needles, threads, pins, and any other small objects that you need for sewing. Show off your beautiful new “hussif”!

Felted Mitten – keep your hands COOL

Felted Oven Mitt

This pattern features an unusual 2 piece construction, knitting separate fronts and backs. I don’t see why it couldn’t be used to make cold weather mittens as well as oven mitts. Makes for good, useful gifts!


  • 100% wool worsted weight yarn: 150 yards ecru (MC); 50 yards red (CC)
  • size 11 straight knitting needles
  • stitch markers (M)


11 stitches and 18 rows = 4 inches in stockinette (St) with yarn doubled


Yarn is doubled throughout. Abbreviation M1: Make 1 increase by making a backward loop on right hand needle.


With MC, cast on 19 sts. Work 16 rows St stitch.

Row 17: *K to last 2 sts, K1, M1, K1

Row 18: Purl

Rows 19-30: Rpt rows 17 & 18 (27 sts).

Row 31: K 19, BO 1, K7.


Working on 8 thumb stitches only, work even in St stitch for 3 rows.

Row 4: K1, ssk, K2, K2tog, K2.

Row 5: Purl

Row 6: K1, ssk, K2tog, K2.

BO last 4 sts.


With RS facing, attach yarn and work on remaining 19 stitches.

Row 1: purl.

Row 2: K2, place M, beg Chart, place M, K1, M1.

Rows 3-25: Work in St st, following Chart.

Rows 26-28: Remove markers,work in MC.

Row 29: K1, ssk, k to last 3 sts, K2tog, K1.

Row 30: purl.

Rows 31-34: Rpt rows 29 and 30.BO remaining 13 sts.

Make second piece, reversing pattern and omitting chart.


With RS together, sew pieces of mitt together and weave in ends.

Optional: Blanket stitch around edges with CC, placing sts 1/2 inch apart and 1/2 inch deep.

Felt using your favorite method.

You can easily knit some matching potholders using chart and sizing as desired.

Knitting Tips: Counting Rows

A few weeks back, the website weareknitters posted a very helpful, illustrated article about how to count rows on projects made in stockinette stitch, reverse stockinette stitch, moss stitch, garter stitch, and seed stitch. Because it’s such a great, handy  reference, I’m including it here on Dances With Wools. Hope you find it useful too. Click on the link below the photo to access it.



Access article Here.






Knitting Knews: Knitting Mr. Rogers’ Iconic Sweaters

Excerpted from New York Post article by Raquel Laneri, 11/21/19.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the biopic about the iconic Fred Rogers, has just been released to critical acclaim, and I’m so looking forward to seeing it. Who else could have been cast as Mr. Rogers except Tom Hanks, another well-known nice guy? I never really thought about Mr. Rogers’ famous zip-up cardigans until this evening, when I read an article that popped up in my news feed, all about the knitter who was selected to make identical copies of them. One of his red ones is actually in the Smithsonian now. All of them were Christmas gifts handmade by his mother.

Anyhow, meet Yasmin Esmek, a talented tailor who helps create costumes for operas, Broadway shows, ballets, and other productions.

Ms. Esmek now lives in New Jersey, but grew up in Germany, where she learned to knit as a child. She studied knitwear design at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She also had her own line of knitwear featured at Barneys. When she agreed to recreate some of Mr. Rogers’ sweaters, she first researched his work in children’s TV and thoroughly familiarized herself with his signature look. Her first task was to locate some appropriate yarn, making a trek to my absolute favorite yarn store, Webs of Northampton, MA. After making up swatches from the many yarns she considered, she and the costume designers chose a cotton, and determined which particular sweaters to replicate. Ms Esmek would knit 6 cardigans, 2 in red and 1 each in mustard yellow, purple, teal, and green. She made them all over the course of nine weeks in 2018. Two were made on a machine, to represent those that Rogers bought after his mother had died.

Can’t wait to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, as much to check out those cardigans as to watch some evocative acting performances! Thanks to the Post and writer Laneri for their fascinating story.

Knitting News: International Yarn Bombing Day in Trevino

I’ve been aware of yarn bombing for quite a while now, the art of decorating hard urban spaces with soft sculpture, created by knitting, crochet, and other fiber arts. Until this afternoon, however, I had no idea that now there’s an official international Yarn Bombing Day, annually held on June 11. Also didn’t know that many individuals who’ve been involved one way or another with bomb-created violence object to the use of the word in this peaceful activity. “Yarn Graffiti” is one of the alternatives that has been suggested, but it still remarkable no to be seen if a change will be adopted. It would take time for everyone to adapt, one would think.

Anyway, I spent several hours surfing the net to check out the art installed in many of the locations around the world, and found a range of designs encompassing the simple to the original and complex. Lots of quirkiness and fun. Below I’ve posted my favorite creation, a small herd of lacy kangaroos, created by Nini &Wink. You can check them out over at Facebook, where they present their specialty, creating needlework covers for all sorts of objects.