Hawk Studio – Leather Braiding – The Mystery Braid

Chip showing the boys how to mystery braid

Ahhhhh – the question that always arises whenever someone sees a belt or a strap in which Chip has incorporated the mystery braid – “How did he do that?!!” Well, pay attention, because he is going to tell you how right here.

A mystery braid is a braid that is inserted into a solid strap of leather with no breaks at either end.

The mystery braid

The strips are cut into the leather with a strap cutter.

cutting straps into the belt

a belt which has been cut into strips

This is Chip’s strap cutter.

Chip's Strap Cutter

You can’t buy it. It is custom made for this type of work.

First – Chip is left handed so he had to have one made that would work in the direction he cuts.

chip holding strap cutter

Second, a commercial strap cutter contains a guard over the razor blade so you don’t cut your hand to smithereens. For a mystery braid, you need the blade exposed to cut the strands of leather inside of the belt.

exposed blade on strap cutter

It also needs to be adjustable to account for the varying widths you have to cut.

adjustment portion of the strap cutter

Next, you need to know that to make this work you have to cut an odd number of strands for the braid.  It can be five or eleven – but it can’t be four or ten.

varying amounts of strands

Once you cut your strands, you start to braid them.

braiding the strands

Next is the secret – after doing a bit of braiding, you take one of your ends and flip it through the braid.

flipping the belt through first time

And then you braid again – and flip again.

second flip through the belt

Then you kind of shake it out to level the braid.

shaking out the braid

You need to do an even number of flips through the braid. The more flips, the tighter the braid. Here is a 5 strand braid with differing numbers of flips.

2 flip and 4 flip braids

When Chip and I got married, our wedding bands were leather mystery braids. My beloved husband did a 5 strand mystery braid in a quarter inch wide piece of leather for me for that day. Not surprisingly, it did not hold up very long just because the leather was sooooo thin that it wore apart. He made me several more over the years until we finally found our current metal bands that we agreed to use instead. We did our engagement belts (yes, we both had matching engagement belts) using the mystery braid and it is incorporated into all of my bags. I love that idea of the continuous, unbroken piece of leather that still travels about itself in the center.

So that is Chip’s gift to you all today – the secret of the mystery braid.

Tomorrow – Markus shares his strawberry, almond, chocolate chip muffins with you. I just love my family.

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Days of Easter Past

Going through my pictures from the past year I found the pictures the boys took of their first foray into hand-painted easter eggs.  As we are rapidly heading into this year’s Easter egg projects, I wanted to post these now for my boys so they will remember their wonderful artistic eggs.  🙂

Vash painting eggs

Vash's green malachite egg

Jesse painting eggs

Jesse's purple eggMarkus painting eggs

Markus's orange egg2013 Easter Eggs


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A Lord Of The Rings Halloween

Today is another entry from the non-blogging year to catch up. As you may know, if you follow this blog, we spend a lot of time in making the boys’ costumes for Halloween. This past year was no exception.  With the release of the Hobbit, the boys renewed their interests in all things Tolkien and marathon viewings of the entire Lord of the Rings series of movies started occuring, resulting in a Halloween theme of Lord of the Rings.

Markus started growing his hair out for Legolas on the first day of November in 2012 to be ready for this year. No more bangs. He succeeded in getting it long enough for the Legolas braid down the back.

Legolas Braid down the back

We also spent a lot of time working on his jerkin. It still is not completed – I have to work on how to inset the wrap around sleeves and add the metallic design work – but it was functional for this year and we will keep working on the design.

Markus as Legolas

Chip made the bracers for him . . . .

green Legolas Bracers

and the quiver.

Back view of Legolas with his quiver

We did shortcut some of the costume – using a light blue long-sleeved t-shirt instead of the blue silk shirt he wears. I am trying to control my costume making and remind myself that it is only worn for 3 hours at most – since their school does not allow the older kids to wear costumes to school – and I have to stop knocking myself out with these costumes. Still . .. . .

Jesse as Frodo

Jesse was Frodo – Chip even took a gold picture hanger and bent it into a ring for him to wear.

close up of Jesse as Frodo

The transformation in Jesse was crazy when we added the wig. This wig is not only a very handy costume accessory, it is downright transformative when your boys have long blonde hair.

Jesse in character as Frodo

We used the same fabric that we used in Markus’s costume for Jesse’s pants and found a stretch velvet for the cape as the elven fabric was supposed to change in the light.

Jesse in his elven cape

We did not forget the furry feet – attached with an elastic across the bottom of his foot – though it looks like we attached it to the sandal. It was just too cold for him to walk barefoot that day so we made do.

Jesse's furry feet

Finally we have the Ringwraith – and not any Ringwraith – the Witch King who is the chief Ringwraith.

Beware the Ringwraith

This was the easiest costume for me, since Vash was a Dementor from Harry Potter the year before, and the hardest for Chip since Chip had to make the helmet. LOVE the helmet!! So did Vash, though we had to pack his head with fabric because it was a little loose on him. I think Chip was kind of amazed when I told him to paint our wooden claymore black. He kept asking me if I was sure and I kept telling him yes. He had to have a big black sword. And one must sacrifice to stay true to the character. 🙂

The Witch King costume

So that is our 2013 Halloween costumes. Markus wants to continue as Legolas for this coming year. I will figure out the sleeve wraps this summer and be ready for the fall. We told Vash that he could pick anything he wanted but we had to be able to see his face. The last three years he was a ghost, a dementor and a ringwraith and we never saw more than his eyes.

He said he wants to be a beagle. Oh my.

Hope you liked the costumes.

Have a great Tuesday.

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Monday Project Report – Incognito

Every year our family gathers together on Christmas Eve at Chip sister’s house to celebrate the holiday.  It is really the only time during the year that we all get together because the rest of the family lives 2½ hours away from us and everyone is busy with work, raising their kids and their own lives.  When the kids were all little, one of the Aunts would buy matching pajamas for all of the kids to put on after they opened their presents and we would take pictures (there are 7 first cousins on Chip’s side of the family), but that got harder as the older ones grew out of child sizes.

This year I wanted to make something that kept that idea but on that the entire family would be part of.  I have been carrying around this project in my head for awhile and this year we are going to do it.

Incognito Jesse

We are going to make the Incognito mustache cowls for everyone in the family.

Incognito Markus

They all will be matching – but with different mustaches.

Incognito Vash

I have only made one so far – but you get the idea.

First I had to pick a base color that everyone would wear that I had in my stash.  I had 20 skeins of the Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran in my stash in a stonewashed denim blue which I thought would be perfect.  Everyone wears blue jeans.  I also had a large skein of Plymouth Encore Worsted in a dark brown for the mustaches so I was ready to begin.

The pattern is basically a plain cowl and then you add the mustaches using a duplicate stitch.  I was not sure if I wanted to do that so the first one I made I knit in the mustache and stranded the yarn around the cowl.  The problem with this method is that you see the brown under the blue when it is stretched.  On the otherhand, I thought it would add a bit more warmth around the face.  It worked out alright.  Then next one I will try the duplicate stitch and see if I like it more.

Incognito cowl with it stranded rather than duplicate stitched

The pattern can be made simply, knitting the cowl and then sewing up the hem edges into the cowl after it is done, which worked out okay.  The first hem I did I forgot to sew it loosely so it could stretch when going over the head.  I noticed the pull when putting it one but it still went over the head okay.  The second hem I sewed looser and it worked out fine.  I think I am going to try the “tangy” version on the second one.

The pattern is free and is a Knitty.com pattern.  Lots of folks have made this pattern and have posted charts for different mustaches that I want to try.  If I get them done I will post a family picture after Christmas to show you how they worked out.  For now, I just have to get knitting.

Hope your Monday is a good start to a good week.

Onward and upward.

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Food on Friday – Avocado-Mango Salsa

Scallops were on sale last week so Chip came home from shopping with both a pound of scallops and a pound of shrimp.  Next was to find a recipe that would use both.  Nothing in the cookbooks so I did my usual and went to the Bon Appetit website, did a search for scallops and shrimp and found their Mexican Seafood Saute with Avocado-Mango Salsa.   Since we only had two pounds of shellfish, we also did the Mexican Pepper Casserole from the Moosewood Cookbook and Popovers.  But to pull this off we needed all hands on deck.

Vash prepared the star of this post – the Avocado-Mango Salsa.  What I love is the simplicity of this dish combined with the great flavor punch it gives to the meal.  It is simple in its ingredients.salsa ingredients

Can I just say that I LOVE that you can buy pre-sliced mango.  I used to mangle mine trying to get the fruit off the pit.  Buying the slices made this recipe a breeze.  As you can see, all you need is sliced mango, ripe avocados, a shallot, a jalapeno pepper and some limes for their wonderful juice.  We gave everything to Vash and he got to work.

First he diced the mango (we used the entire package).

Vash dicing mango

Then he halved each avocado (we used two), twisting it to remove the pit.

twisting the avocado to remove the pitNext, he took his knife and cut slices into the avocado – then cutting across the slices to cut chunks in the avocado.  They came out a little small – we will make fatter slices next time.

Vash cutting slices into the avocado

Then he diced the shallot – again, first cutting slices and then cutting them cross-wise for the smaller pieces.

Vash cutting the shallot

Then he diced the jalapeno – being VERY CAREFUL not to rub his eyes after his hands touched the pepper.

Vash dicing the jalapeno

And finally he juiced two limes and added the juice to the remaining ingredients.

Vash juicing limes

That was it.  Avocado Mango Salsa.

avocado mango salsa

While that was being made, Chip had made the marinade for the saute (we left out the tequila and just used water, and I hate cumin so that was left out too).  After getting the scallops in the marinade, he and Jesse started working on peeling the shrimp (which was thankfully deveined prior to purchase.)

Chip and Jesse peeling shrimp

Let me jump in here to say that the crazy messy kitchen and life I have are part of why this is a family life blog and not a food blog.  Food blogs have pictures taken in beautiful clean kitchens with white countertops and food in pretty china bowls.  In my house you see the dog chewed cabinets (leftovers from our puppy fostering days), the boxes on the table that were dropped there from unloading the car, wrappers on the counters because we don’t clean up until after we are done cooking, and all the rest of the mess that goes with having a houseful of kids and dogs and four businesses all working out of one space.  So yes, here you get real family life – though just once I would like to have a food blogger’s kitchen.  But that is for another day.  Back to this day – which was Tuesday by the way.

My job for this meal, besides handing out cooking assignments, was the Mexican Pepper Casserole.  While I usually love the recipes from Moosewood Cookbook, this one came out  a little too greasy/oily when it was done so I am not including it in the blog.   It is basically sauteed onions and peppers layered with slices of cheddar cheese, topped with a sour cream/egg custard sprinkled with paprika.  Here it is just before coming out of the oven.

mexican pepper casserole

The boys liked the paprika.

Markus’s job was to both help Chip and to make the popovers.  Now, popovers are not exactly mexican, but I needed something bready that I could make quick that would go into a 375 degree oven and they were the first thing I found.  He did a good job.

Markus's popovers

They came in handy to sop up the sauce from the saute.

I am not going to list the full process of making the saute.  It is in the recipe that is linked above.  However, after the shrimp and the scallops were sauteed, the marinade is added back to the pan to make a sauce that is out of this world good!!.

mexican seafood sauteNext time I think I will make rice so that I have something to really absorb that sauce because we were all taking our popovers and wiping the pan when we were done.

So here it all is for that short period of time before it was all gone

mexican dinner

Reviews were that the Mexican Pepper Casserole is not to be repeated.  It just did not work.  Everyone loved the salsa EXCEPT for Vash, who found the heat of the jalapenos just tooooo spicy.  The Seafood Saute was a HUGE hit with everyone and the popovers all went quick too.

The boys are very happy that the Food on Friday blogs are back.  They love showing you what they cook.  Markus has been busy photographing alot of his baking but is finding that he is doing that same thing that I tend to do – forgetting to photograph the end results and then eating his work before he remembers – so we have to wait until we buy more strawberries for him to show you his strawberry, almond, chocolate chip muffins.

Have a great weekend everyone.  I have a new project to show you on Monday.  Can’t wait.

Onward and Upward.


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Hawk Studio Flies Again

One of the things that happened during my non-blogging year was that Chip and I decided to make a commitment to reopening our store – Hawk Studio.  We live in this great little village that gives us so much support, and we were given the opportunity to reopen the store in the same space that we used a couple of years ago which is just a couple of blocks from our house.

The store and pocket park

One of the nice things is that it comes with the little pocket park next door so that when the weather clears it will be a nice place for other artisans or musicians to set up and show their wares.  Chip likes working outside too.

The shop includes alot of our auction finds . . .

Coming into the shop

and, of course, Chip’s leatherwork.

leather rack in store

We have a special display of soaps and other wonderful bodywork goodies from our friends who are Asia Luna natural products . . . . .

Asia Luna in Hawk Studio

and Escape to Evermore has a rack in the back corner.  We sold that wonderful big mirror in the above picture and a new/old art deco period one will be going up next week to replace it.

Escape yarns in Hawk Studio

On top of my rack is this amazing gingerbread creation of a shepherd and her sheep.  It was made by Indigo Ocean, who is a wonderful artist in our local Waldorf School community, and I treasure this.

We bought a big bolt of sage green burlap that we hung on the walls to soften the stark white in the room.  I think it works.

Then, of course, we have Chip’s workbench on the other side of the room (which still has the white walls).

Chip's workbench

Chip is still trying to get used to the fishbowl type aspect of the store and we have curtains that we are working with now to try to cut it down some.  It is still a work in progress.

On Thursdays I will try to show you some more of the things that Chip is making as well as (hopefully) more work by Escape to Evermore.  Right now, finding time to keep the store open is a challenge all by itself considering the boys’ schedule and Chip’s committments for them as well as his work on our house and on the flats – more on that another day.  We are just doing the best we can right now and we will see if we can keep it all going/growing.

As long as we don’t stop moving, no one can complain, right?

Have a great opening day to Spring.

Onward and Upward. . . . .

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Stillness – that moment of pure existence – where the senses are irrelevant and you are but a molecule in that great what is – that is the moment that eludes me during my days.

I try to find time to touch it – but it seems that in this life of clocks and boys and bills and noise it is so very out of reach.  There are times it feels closer – like when I am spinning wool and my attention is focused on the movement of fiber through my fingers – but even then it is pushed aside by the wool – the breaks in the fibers, the concentration on the task.  There always seems to be something in the way.

I picked up the book “Start Where You Are” by Pema Chodron – the title seemed to say it all at the time.  I opened to the first chapter titled “No Escape, No Problem”.  Yup – that speaks to me too.  I read the first sentence – “We Already Have Everything We Need”.  Yes – I need to remember this and keep that in my focus.  And then she spoke about the importance of maintaining a practice, beginning with the practice of meditation, and I faltered.

I have tried to find the time to sit and meditate – to seek to shut out everything and be still – but there is no space in this house of children to make my own and no time when the noises of the village do not invade the house, even when everyone is away.  Even in the early morning, there are still the sounds of trucks outside and snoring – both dogs and humans – which invade the stillness.  My breath is mixed with all of these – and the stillness escapes my grasp.

So I am accepting that my life is not putting me in a place where I can be still – where the noises of the world will leave me in peace.  And if I have everything I need, then maybe I don’t need it right now – I just want it.  So I will continue to look for that opening in space and time where I can be still, knowing that for now, the noise of life is what I need – and I certainly have plenty of that!

Be well.


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A Winter Walk With Tucker

Down the ravine.
winter boys mittens 053

winter boys mittens 054

Through the snow.

Markus and Tucker at the creek

Jesse along the creekbed

Playing in the creek.

Vash moving ice in the creek

Jesse sitting IN the creek

Markus and Tucker along the creekbed

And back up the ravine.

Vash climbing up the ravine

Happy Day for all involved.  😀

The boys and Tucker

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Monday Project Report – Warm, Soft Mittens and the Robot Overlord!!

Greetings All!!

I know – it has been a long time since I have posted to my blog and all I can say is that sometimes you have to readjust your focus for a bit to take care of, well, everything.  There has been so much going on that I was kind of shocked to realize that an entire year had gone by since I last posted.  So Dre, Pia, please know I have missed you and I hope to get back to my blogging life because it does help me focus more on my creative/family/crafty life.

Rather than try to get it all in on the first post – which had me so stressed it took two more weeks while I tried to find time to get more pictures done – I just decided to do a quick post to just get back into the swing of blogging.

This winter I finally made mittens for all of my boys.  They all loved the Misti Alpaca yarn that I made my sister Cindy’s mittens in – so we did three smaller pairs for the boys in their favorite colors.  Markus likes orange, Jesse – purple, and Vash loves green.

boys with new mittens

see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil

These are WARM mittens.  I am next on the list for a pair of these.

boys mixing up their mittens

I also finished an Uhlan for Vash using the Lorna’s Laces Robot Overlord colorway.  Something about the name screamed out Vash.  First – he loves Robots.  (Wall-EEEEEEEEE).  And if you know him, you would agree – he definitely has an Overlord type of aura about him.  He loves his Uhlan.

The Robot Overlord

Robot Overlord - looking out towards his kingdom

Jesse wants an Uhlan now too (Hah!)

Finally, we had A LOT of snow this winter – which for three boys is heaven.  Let me close with a shot of my boys in one of their many snow forts they built in the yard.

No really, we are warm in here.

Hope you are hanging in there through this winter and I hope to be more consistent with checking in on the blog.

Glad to be back.

Onward and upward. 🙂

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Monday Project Report – Socks, Socks and More Socks!

One of my dreams is to one day have a sock drawer full of handmade socks.  I was reading Glenna C.’s blog one day and she wrote about how cool it was to open her sock drawer and see all handmade socks.  That just sounded so cool that I decided I wanted that too.

That, of course, meant that I had to learn how to knit socks.

Which also meant that I had to learn how to make socks for Chip since if I was going to goof up on socks, I didn’t want it to be on mine.  (grin).

I have previously blogged about my first pair of socks, that I made for Chip.  What I may not have mentioned is that not too long ago we discovered that our puppy Tucker decided to express his undying devotion for Chip by eating everything that really smelled of him – which of course meant he had to eat every wool sock Chip owned – INCLUDING the pair I knit him.  Sigh.

Which is what spurred me to make Chip his second (and now only) pair of handknit socks using the Knitty.com Thuja pattern.  They turned out pretty good.

Chip's Thuja Socks

The thing I like about this pattern is one, it uses dk weight yarn rather than fingering weight so it knits up faster, and two, it uses a size 6 needle so it is finished even faster!  I made these socks in about 10 days – which is like speed racing in my world of sock knitting.  That part made me happy!!

top view of Chip's Thuja sock

Problems – the pattern states you should use worsted weight yarn but the gauge is a dk weight gauge so I went with a dk weight yarn – Regia’s Design Line Kaffe Fassett 6 ply which is also a washable sock yarn – and it worked out well.  I also did not like the slip stitch the pattern calls for in the heel turn because it resulted in noticeable holes that I later had to weave yarn into to fill.

heel of Thuja sock

However, as a quick knit sock, this one will do the trick and you can use varigated yarns too because there is no pattern you are going to hide.  Easy.

Toe of Thuja sock

So then onto MY first pair of hand-knit socks.  I showed you previously the beginning of my Moody Stockings which were designed by Erica Lueder – who is currently my favorite sock designer.  Here is what they looked like completed – well – what one looked like completed.  I made two, however Markus was doing the sock modeling that day and he just wasn’t feeling it, you know?  So he only modeled one sock. 😀

The Moody Stocking

The other one looks just like it.

side view moody stocking

I like how the heel turned out.

moody stocking heel

It was also my first time using a kitchener grafting stitch.

moody stocking toe kitchener stitch

It came out okay, but I am not sure I like how the kitchener stitch forms two points on the sides of your toes.  I will have to give this more thought.  Knitting these socks was made even more wonderful by the fact that I was knitting using Sanguine Gryphon’s Little Traveller yarn in the Rojas colorway.  Absolutely wonderful yarn in a stunning deep red.  They are just great yarn dyers.

THEN we get to the socks I am working on now.

First, the Ravelry Sock Knitters Anonymous group sucked me in on another mystery sock KAL (the Moody sock was their November mystery sock) so I have started the Sock Strap sock, designed by General Hogbuffer which is their mystery sock for March.  I am using my Noro yarn (to use it up – I HATE the lack of quality of the Noro base yarns which no quality of dyeing can cover up) so I am only knitting one sock at a time in the hope I will be able to later find a repeat of the colors used in the first sock for the second.  I think my chances of making matching socks is little to none. 😛

Mystery socks are divided into four parts with each part provided weekly.  The first clue had me knit the center back panel of the sock through the heel turn.

clue one of sock strap sock

The second clue is the “strap”.  I had to pick up stitches all along both sides of the sock and around the base.

picking up stitches along the side

Then from these stitches I had to knit out from the back panel to make the strap.

sides of back panel added - clue 2

I am not loving this sock at all at this point.  First, though the designer recommended that we use a Noro yarn with gradual color changes, it did not work with the way we are directed to pick up stitches along one side using a long strand you save at the beginning of the sock.  By the time you are at the point that you are now working out the sides of the strap, the colors have changed drastically from what they were at the beginning – which is obvious from the one line of red that stands out like a sore thumb on one side of the panel that you will be able to see when worn.  Sigh.

Noro skein next to sock

Second, at this point this design feature is not looking all that attractive.  If you look at the outside of the Noro skein I bought, you can understand why I was not expecting to be knitting a teal and aqua sock.  And I would not have put that aqua against the purple/denim blue.  Sigh.

Third, the designer is not really clear on how to determine which size that is offered (of which there are 5 – from XS to XL) would be the correct size to knit for your size foot.  I am making the size small, figuring that if it doesn’t fit me, Jesse will LOVE this crazy color combination.  At least it should fit someone in this house.

But even this sock, knit on size 2 needles, is not my craziest sock endeavor yet.  My craziest sock project is the one I am starting this week.


Knit on size 1 needles with fingering weight yarn!!

the beginning of my Counterpane knee socks

At least the yarn is Madelinetosh (collective sigh) in the “Ink” colorway and I am using the Dreamz circular needle in a 40″ length – magic loop method.  I love the Dreamz needles.  Beautiful wood, long narrow tips and not sticky when knitting with them.

But I still think it will be awhile before I am posting a project report telling you they are done.

Oh, and I did cast on a second Uhlan hat – this time for Vash using the Lorna’s Laces “Robot Overlord” yarn.  We couldn’t resist the name for Vash.  Here is just a quick look at how the colors are knitting up.

swatch of Robot Overlord

He’s quite happy about it.  😀

So that is all on what is happening with socks in our house.  I will leave you with a picture of the boys hanging out on their fort in the dog run during some of our March snow.  Hope your March is feeling more like spring than winter.

the boys in the fort in the dog run

Onward and Upward.

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