Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I love you, Davy Jones

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Michael Putland/Getty Images

Taking a moment to pause and remember.  He meant a lot to me. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wool blankets and calico edges

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Isn’t wool itchy?  I hear this all the time, and it always makes me feel sad, because I think wool is possibly the loveliest thing anywhere, and that’s even with me remembering about silk, which is also nice.  I know there are people out there with actual wool allergies (and if you are one of these unfortunates, I wish I could just give you a big hug right now) but I think mostly it’s just that some people find wool itchy.  They just don’t like it.  It makes their skin feel oogy or something.  I don’t know how it happens that some feel that way (and I believe they do, which is fine because there’s more for me that way) and some feel that wool is awesome and snuggly and cozy and (maybe a little rough but never itchy) and almost always perfect. 

So, knowing that there can never be enough wool, and that sleeping under a wool blanket is the very best--no matter the season--when I found these blankets the other day, while out on a thrifting binge with (blogless but crafty) Michelle, I greedily grabbed them up. 

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The satiny edgings were a little tattered and I don’t know if I saw this in a Cath Kidston book or not—probably I did—but they needed new bindings, and what’s cuter than calico?  I held my breath and tossed the blankets into the washing machine (delicate cycle, no agitation) and then hung them to dry in front of the living room fire.  The room smelled not unpleasantly of damp wool—it reminded me of wet mittens on a snowy day—and the next day they were dry, and had not shrunk at all, somehow.  I think they’d been washed before, and were already felted a little, and are therefore even more cozy, if such a thing is possible.  Then, I just cut long lengths of calico and sewed it on, presto.  They are now, if you can believe it, just as cozy as before, but now they are crafty, too, and much cuter.

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Two of them had this awesome tag, which made me hope I’d made one of those Antiques Roadshow-style finds, but it looks like these are just some ordinary but nifty wool blankets of the kind you would have slept under at camp. 

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Oh I love these.  Love love love. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Honey Cowl

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Even though it was 60 degrees F and the daffodils were blooming in Central Park and the birds would have been singing if there had been any birds, and even though my mama (who is a Midwestern gal and knows a thing or two about weather) thought it was a little too warm, everyone on the street in New York was bundled up like they were heading off into a blizzard at the South Pole.   The drag queen being filmed for an arty short movie in the park was quickly hustled into his fur coat between takes.  The nannies on the Upper West Side were swathed in wool.  The pouty-lipped and long-legged knee-boot wearers of Midtown were wrapped in three layers of puffy coat and cowls.   These people look like they have been cold before and do not want to go there again. 

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New York is a city on foot.  Here’s what I learned:  if you walk as much as they do, blocks and blocks of walking; it might be several blocks to your subway station, and there are stairs to climb everywhere, then you can eat all the pizza, hot dogs, gelato, and foot-tall pastrami on rye sandwiches you can handle and still you will look like a million bucks.  This is great to know. 

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Meanwhile, it is not 60 degrees F here in my neighborhood at home.  It is still pretty cold.  So I made this cowl, to wear while I walk and walk and walk.  I used a gorgeous soft wool gifted to me by a very generous knitter, two skeins of Shepherd’s Wool, in “Beaches” and “Milk Chocolate”.  The yarn was made in my home state of Michigan, where it is also still pretty cold.  The cowl pattern can be found here, and as you can see, it knits up fast. 

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That thing is the soul of urban chic right now, and it’s cozy, too.  I thought I saw Steven Spielberg wearing one of these last week.  But it wasn’t him. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Love Letter

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Let us caption this photo.  I will call it “Teenage Boy Being Patient.”  I was not about to go to New York without visiting that incredible nexus of taste and style and visible demonstrations of color theory in action that is Purl Soho.  It is small, but every inch of the store counts, and that wall of yarn up there?  That is a work of art.  It was so hard to know where to start, because I wanted all of it, and then it was so hard to know when to quit.  In fact, I sort of want to live upstairs at Purl, with a view of  the “Eat Your Veggies” graffiti on the building next door.  I would buy coffee in the East Village and then bring it home on the subway (oh, the subway!  Surprise, the subway in NYC is wonderful) and then carry it home to my loft on Broome Street in Soho, made of windows and brick and filled with all my crochet blankets and maybe a bunch of expressionist art painted by my bohemian friends.   That coffee would be the best coffee I’d ever had, and I would walk to Chinatown and have dumplings for dinner.  Then I’d come home, crawl out onto the fire escape, and knit and knit and knit.  That’s the dream. 

Rockefeller Plaza looks like this:
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Strawberry Fields in Central Park looks like this:

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That’s pretty nice.  I’m just saying.  Well done, New York.  Okay, back to work.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pieces of New York

 

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So much to tell.  I love New York.  First, some laundry.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hand towels and corners

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And now I have a humungous pile of hand towels.  This is the second half of a project I began back in August, after I shockingly sadly fortuitously shrank a two-sided cotton shower curtain in the wash.  That episode was actually a perfect example of the way I operate:  first, make a stupid mistake.  Shrinking something in the laundry is rookie stuff, and this isn’t my first rodeo, so you’d think I’d have that one nailed down by now, but clearly not.  Then, make lemons into lemonade by looking at other uses for the busted/shrunken/stained up thing of which I am suddenly in possession. 

So, clutching my ruined shower curtain in my hands, I thought to myself, what besides a shower curtain is made of terry cloth and waffle-weave cotton?  Well, towels!  First I made these, and they worked out pretty well, except they are mostly white and therefore I don’t like to use them.  Do you all have that problem?  I have a serious problem with that problem.  The other day, somebody used one of them to wipe the counter, and to myself, I wailed, What are you doing????  That towel is white!!!  Of course, that’s what Oxi-clean is for, so I know it’s just me and I’m working on it. 

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The curtain yielded six hand towel sized pieces of this waffle-y woven cotton, which I cut out last summer, then realized they would need bias edging, and became overwhelmed by the prospect, so I stashed them in a basket on a high shelf and tried to forget about it.  But a crisis revolving around the arrival of company, combined with an actual shortage of towels firmed my resolve and I finally got it together to finish them. 

There are six towels, which means there are 24 corners, and so I decided to use this tedious chore as an opportunity to work on my miters.  There were quite a few failures:

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Bleah!  But there were also a lot of successes:

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There were more good than bad, I’m happy to say.  I do love me a nice sharp mitered corner.  I don’t make them often enough to really do it well, but I want to.  Twenty-four corners later, I think I’ve got this.

I’ll be away for the next few days; my mom is coming for a visit, and together we are heading somewhere fun!  See you next week. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Knitter: a crochet story

 

I finally, suddenly, had 400 little three-round grannies (oh, how lovely they look, all piled together in their neat stacks!  I love them.  I want to take them out to dinner.  I want to smooth their bangs and hem their pants and teach them about life.)  It’s time to join them together, and I’ve had so many brilliant suggestions about which color to use for the joining round.  Lots of you, including a few people who have never been wrong yet about color, have suggested I should go with a lovely pale gray, but I can’t, and here’s why:

 

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I already have a gray-bordered granny square blanket.  (For the record, I also have a red one, you may remember the ice blue one, and I also have a chocolate brown one I haven’t even mentioned yet.  The granny sickness is fully upon me.)

This was my first granny square blanket, made back when I was a Knitter.  Not just a knitter, like I am now, but a Knitter, and one who didn’t understand the crazy impulses of others to use hooks and scraps and orange yarn.  In my life as a Knitter, I once had occasion to be the owner of three skeins of Cascade 220 in bubblegum pink, and could not, for the life of me, imagine what I might ever do with it.  Really.  In my life as a Knitter, I had a big stash cupboard full of yarn that was either gray or brown or cream, or some variant of those colors.   I don’t want to suggest that I wasn’t happy as a Knitter, but I will say that having both needles and hooks in my life has made me a much more fulfilled girl.  I still knit things, lots of things, and I am still probably mostly a knitter, but I am not, any longer, a Knitter.  Once, I would never have entertained the idea that crocheting a blanket might be worth my time, even though I loved crocheting as a child.  It just wasn’t on my radar. 

Then came Alicia, who made these granny squares, and my mind opened a crack, and I found myself at the yarn shop buying four bags of yarn in every color.  And so it began. 

All of which is to say that I have decided, in my arbitrary way, to use white as the joining color for this new scrappy, motley, super-colored granny blanket.   I think there really, in the end, were too many different colors in this thing for me to be able to make a non-gray choice.  White was the original intent anyway, and as I said before, seeing this really sealed it.

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Progress is slow—good grief, there’s almost as much crocheting left to do as I have done already!  But there’s me with my hook, and I am happy. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Little Leaf Whimsy

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I am constitutionally unable to leave any flat surface uncovered.  There was a little table that needed a dose of something pretty, so here is this piece of whimsy to be of remedy.  It was much more sharp and square before I removed the ill-advised ball fringe that I originally added around the edge, which certainly looked whimsical, but which, I eventually felt, added a little too much goofiness to the whole thing.  Now it just needs a good pressing at the edges, and it will snap to attention. 

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This is a quilt block design called “Little Leaves” from this book, by Elizabeth Hartman.  I used an assortment of scraps, mostly from my much-loved and ever-shrinking stash of Loulouthi, and pressed lightweight fusible web to the wrong side of the fabric pieces.  Then I traced the leaf patterns onto the paper side of the web and cut them all out.  Now, I think there must be a better way to remove the paper backing from the fabric at this point, because picking at it with my fingernail and cussing a lot didn’t seem to work that well and it took most of the morning.  Anyway, once that was done, I fused the leaves to the white backing with a hot iron and blanket stitched around them with embroidery floss.  Then I stitched the whole thing to a second square of white muslin and turned it right side out, pressing well.  [At which point I added the aforementioned ball fringe, feeling all the while, sinkingly, that it was not working, and so this morning, I took it off again.  I don’t know, now I’m thinking the ball fringe was kind of cool.  Indecision!]

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It is going to live with an art student whose current medium is charcoal, so I rather fear for it, and actually I assume it will not last long.  Better enjoy it now. 

You might want to see it with the fringe:

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Oh dear, now I like it again.  Sigh.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gingham blanket progress report, and a few boot details

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Gradually, this pile of yarn is being turned into a pile of blanket.  I’ve done six strips of thirteen squares so far, and I’m hoping to have the stamina to make eleven strips, though I may bail at nine.  Then I’ll whipstitch them together and put on an unobtrusive border, and it’ll be done, after which time I’ll probably wander sadly from room to room, wishing I had a big garter stitch blanket to gently, mindlessly knit as my brain goes on about other things. 

Thank you all for your lovely comments on my hexagon slipper boots!  A few have asked me to write up a pattern, and while a whole pattern is beyond my abilities, I can give you the basics of what I did to modify the original.

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As you know, I first made ten hexagons according to the pattern, in five pairs of scrappy color combinations.  In other words, each boot is an assortment of scrap hexagons, but both boots are the same.  Then I chose two different hot pink yarns and worked three additional rounds of sc (all terms are US) on each hexagon, alternating light, dark, light.  So now, the hexagons are bigger than the pattern intends.  Good thing I’m using the smallest hook they recommend—US F, or 3.75mm. 

Next, I crocheted them together using the darker pink as called for in the pattern, and adding two more hexagons to the leg portion of each boot.  At this point, I left the bottom of the boots open and worked on the upper leg, peering at the photo and figuring it out as I went. 

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I began at the back of the leg, joined with a sl st, and worked a few sc, then a few hdc, then a few dc, then one tc, then a few dc, then a few hdc, then a few sc again—in effect, using the graduated heights of those stitches to fill in the “dent” at the point where the two hexagons came together.  I just improvised this as I went, so I don’t know how many of each to tell you—just work the single crochets where the hexagon is at its highest point, and work the triple crochet in the lowest point, and fill in between with the other stitches.  The first round didn’t quite fill in the dent, so the second round was worked much the same way, using sc and hdc.  These two rounds level out the top edge.  Then, alternating colors as my whims dictated, I worked four rounds of dc3 clusters (as described in the original pattern) three rounds of dc, and one final round of sc.  I toyed with the idea of adding yet another round of fancy shell edging at the top, and I still may do that, but it seemed like it was getting to be decorative enough already.

Next, I made the boot soles. You work them separately, and I made them strictly according to Priscilla’s instructions—this was a technique new to me, but easily figured out, if tough on the knuckles (if you try it, you’ll see) and when I sewed them to the boots according to the instructions and tried them on, the fit was not so great—closely fitted at the toe, but very baggy at the ankle.  So I took the soles off, sewed the two hexagons at the back of the heel together at the bottom (I don’t know how to explain that any better—you’ll just see that there are two hexagons at the back of the heel, and if you sew the bottom edges of them together, you’ll have it) and then sewed the sole down on top of that.  The sole went over the hexagons at the heel, and was seamed to the toe hexagon as called for in the instructions.  The sole is double thick now, at the heel only, and the two hexagons edges come together at the inside of the boot, under my foot.  I hope this makes sense—I think you’ll see what I mean when you get there.

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Those are my modifications to this already very clever pattern, and the results are relaxed and comfy and fabulous!  You’ll probably be able to wear these with socks, and might even be able to sew in a fleecy liner (somebody out there on Ravelry did that, I think) and you can forget being able to fit them in your shoes, but for snuggling up on the couch working on your endless miles of garter stitch blanket in three exciting shades of taupe, they are perfect.  Good luck! 

Many thanks, too, to the very talented Sandra for the lovely award--gosh, Sandra is crocheting circles around me.   Muchas gracias, mi amiga! 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Caravan Hexagon Boots

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I can’t even tell you how many times I have sat here in the living room with bare feet and wished I’d put on a pair of socks.  “You should go get some socks on,” says Dean, looking at my purpling toes.  “Yeah, I should,” I always say, not getting up.  I’d put on my slippers, but since I wear those everywhere, including sometimes when going outside to the chicken coop, I have to keep them off the white couch. 

So I was having a flick through Ravelry the other day, just browsing “granny squares” because I frankly love to look at granny square projects, when I suddenly saw these and time stood still for a minute.  I needed a pair of those in the most desperate way.  There was a flurry of yarn as I tore through the cupboard and then ten gorgeous hexagons were born.  That was the easy part. 

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The original pattern (here) only calls for six hexagons to make ankle-length booties, which are cute but I wanted boots, baby!  I wanted spectacular!  Outrageous!  The inspiration boots had no accompanying notes for modifications, so I had to figure them out as I went, by studying the photo.  There was a lot of ripping back and a lot of re-doing. 

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These are just for wearing while hanging around the house.  (Note to self:  they are not for wearing into the chicken coop.)  They are customized blankets for my feet.  This is a pair of hot pink and scrappy visible symbols of my purely lazy nature—I do not like to get up off the couch, leaving the fireside and the warm room and go get a pair of socks.  Now there is no longer any need, these are right here! 

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Now everything looks like it could be made up of hexagons.  The sky is the limit. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Crochet Hexagon Love

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I have come to believe you can use hexagons to make anything.  This might even already be a scientific fact. 

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I have also adopted this credo:  when in doubt, make it hot pink. 

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I could have gone on and on with these, happily into the sunset, waving over my shoulder; but I only needed ten.  I can hardly wait to show you what they’re for. 

Thank you, Laura, for the lovely award!  I’m passing it on to one of my fave bloggers, the Lovely Leah, whose new ripple blanket is giving me a huge case of the wants.  If you don’t already know Leah, you should.  Get on over there!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fireside Alphabet Sampler

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It looks like I’m on a mission to see how many nail holes I can put in the walls.  I guess I’m one of those people who can’t bear an empty space, because whenever I see one, I immediately make plans to fill it up with something.  This sampler happened because we painted the room and when all the art and stuff went back up on the walls, it all kind of went into one corner, leaving the rest of the room looking pretty spare.  So I set out to do something about that, and missing no opportunity to craft, I designed and stitched this alphabet sampler. 

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I have to say this was great fun, although I was more or less continually second-guessing everything I did.  I had to resist the enormous urge to keep adding more colors to the palette, and to embellish every single square inch of the thing with french knots; and I had to make myself use the bold colors, even though they kept looking a little too bold.  In the end, I think it worked out pretty well. 

Here’s how I did it:  as usual, start with the frame.  Maybe this is a little like painting something to match your couch, I don’t know, but I just find it easier.  If you’re making it up yourself, you can have it any size you want, and you might as well not have to go get a custom frame made, right?   Anyway, choose a background fabric to go with the frame and cut it to fit, leaving at least three inches extra fabric all the way around.  My frame is 11” x 14” so I cut a piece of fabric—it’s just quilter’s cotton—roughly 14” x 17”.  Then I turned to the computer and started sorting through fonts.  I was looking for a balanced mix of letters that were bold and plain; fancy and detailed.  I wanted to give myself a lot of room to play with stitch patterns. 

When I had decided on the letter designs, I had to make them all roughly the same size, and I’m sure there’s a better, more computery way of doing this, but I just find it easier to use a pencil, so I figured out how big each letter’s “space” needed to be, and how to arrange them on the fabric so they came out even and looked pleasing.  I decided each letter would get a space of 1 1/2” by 2” and drew 26 boxes that size.  Then I drew each letter in freehand, trying to eyeball it well enough to make them approximately the same size inside the box. 

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Then I cut all the squares out and arranged them to make the overall design.  Once I had that figured out, I used my super-fancy light box—okay, I used the window in the front door—to trace each letter on the reverse side of the paper with a heat transfer pencil.  After I had all the letters traced, I taped the squares together and used a hot iron to transfer the whole design to the fabric.  At that point, all the hard work was done and it was just a couple evenings of cozy stitching beside the fire to finish it. 

The thread I used was kind of a gamble—it is called Dee-Lite and it’s made for punch-needle embroidery, which is a mystery to me, but I had a lot of it somehow.  I see these things in the thrifty craft store and they’re only a dollar for the whole bag or whatever, and I just know I’ll use it for something.  It seems to be a little like a thin perle cotton, and it actually was great to use since I didn’t have to keep separating out two strands from the long tangled piece, I just unwound a length from the spool and started stitching.  It gave me very little difficulty with knots, too, which was also a plus.  And it didn’t keep breaking like crewel wool can sometimes do, so I guess I have to recommend it. 

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I’d do this again in a heartbeat.  It was so much fun.  I miss it already.  There’s got to be another empty wall around here someplace.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Embroidered Alphabet Sampler, sneak peek

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I really love to embroider.  I am not very good at it, but I keep trying. 

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Ever since I finished Alicia’s fabulous Daisychain ABCs Sampler, I have been missing it.  I wanted more alphabet samplers.  Needed them! 

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Ahhh, that’s better.   Wow, that’s pretty wrinkled.  I hope the iron is up to the task. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Paper butterfly collection

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I am so tempted by that wall of scrapbooking paper at the craft store.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  It’s so colorful and interesting, and all I can see is possibilities, and at twenty cents a sheet you can’t beat it for a bargain.  I always buy a handful of them every time I go.  It’s a good thing, too, because then when I get these mad ideas at midnight, I don’t have to lie awake thinking about it and planning my run to town; instead, I can just get out my scissors and start right away. 

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I love to stay up late, working on things, making a pot of coffee and listening to the radio—there are the weirdest radio shows on during the night, with those smoky-voiced DJs who sound like they’re half asleep themselves (are they still called DJs?  I’m such a nerd), and the whole house is dark except for the circle of light around my work table.  I think that’s so cozy. 

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This whimsical butterfly collection was so easy to make.  Here’s what I did:  First, I found the frame.  I think it’s best to start there, so find a frame you like and then figure out how many paper butterflies you can fit in it.  Decide how big you want the butterflies to be:  I decided if I made them about 1 1/2” I could fit twelve in my 9 x 9” frame.  I wanted a few different  shapes, so I just googled “butterfly clip art” and then scrolled around through the free images until I found three or four I liked.  I don’t have a printer, so I just went low-tech and traced them onto white paper right from my computer screen.  (Who needs a light box, right?) Then I cut those out and traced them carefully onto different decorative papers.  I carefully cut inside the pencil lines and then bent the wings up on either side of the “bodies” to give them a 3-D look.

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Choose a background paper, and then measure to space them evenly, allowing for a little fake Latin name to go underneath—for that, I just used Google again, this time to translate a bunch of words I like into Latin:  the two above mean “fairies” and “porch light”.  Then I used a fine point felt-tip pen to hand write the pretend Latin names under where the butterflies would go, then glued the paper butterflies in place.  Do the writing first, unless you really love a challenge.  If you try to do the gluing first, you’ll probably find it difficult to write in the labels.

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Then wait for the glue to dry and frame it up.  That’s it!  It’s a butterfly collection and I didn’t even have to get dressed.