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Linda K Murdock, author of A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices and All Things Colorado blogs about things to do in Colorado, networks with crafty Coloradans, gives spice advice and writes gentle rants. See Categories or use search to find what interests you most.

Sewing Festival and Trails near Highlands Ranch

Sewing Festival and Trails near Highlands Ranch

Devil’s Head via Highlands Ranch

Last weekend was packed with creative ideas and a little suburban exploration at the sewing festival and trails near Highlands Ranch. Saturday there were two shows in town that I wanted to see. A couple of friends from my crochet group accompanied me to the Quilt, Craft and Sewing Festival at the Denver Mart. I managed to buy a few trinkets, mostly decorative attachments for hats (see “Strash” blog). Styria Bakery was there, so I picked up a couple of loaves for my husband. We also saw the folks from Craft Scraps, where Leah bought some fabric. It was after one, and we were famished and a bit tired. So, we headed back toward Suzanne’s home to eat at True Food in Cherry Creek. Suzanne is a tough sell when it comes to restaurants. She spots the prep and servers doing things, like wiping a nose on the back of a latex-enclosed hand, and we all cringe. The meal was yummy. My only complaint was tepid water served after the initial cup of tea was steeped in very hot water. Lukewarm tea is about as tasty as lukewarm coffee and it won’t steep unless the water is boiling hot. We all decided we had enough yarn and had spent enough money not to regret too much about missing the Interweave Yarn Fest up in Loveland. (Nothing to report, Jane.)

The suburban exploration on Sunday was necessary because of the recent wet weather. Many of the trails in the foothills were too wet or still snow covered. So we went south to Highlands Ranch to check out the trails along the Douglas County East-West Trail aka the Highlands Point Trail System. Even there the trails were muddy, and we had to back track to higher ground. When you are in the city you don’t get the same perspective as you can from higher points to the east. Along the well-marked trails you could see Devil’s Head, Mt. Evans, Long’s Peak, downtown Denver and DTC. The distance to Long’s Peak from where we stood was 61 miles. Yucca plants and prickly pear cactus were abundant and a trigger to how unpleasantly hot the trails are in the heat of summer. For my husband the trails appeared like a fun grouping to be explored on his mountain bike at some later time in the season. In spite of the mud we still got in about 3.5 to 4 miles of walking.

Get Creative Using Filet Crochet

Get Creative Using Filet CrochetI purchased a book on filet crochet recently (Stitch Collection Filet Crochet, More than 70 designs with easy-to-follow charts by Betty Barnden) and invite everyone to get creative using filet crochet. I love the concept, because filet crochet allows you to make a graph of any image or repeated images in a grid pattern. Think in terms of a blown up black and white photograph, enlarged enough to see the individual pixels that make up the photo. You can take a photo of any object, reduce it to a 2-dimensional black and white image and get an outline that can then be “filled” with double crochet squares. Open and filled squares form the object you are trying to create. Repeating a pattern can also help you create some unique clothes.

I wanted to dress up a casual black, long-sleeved T-shirt by crocheting a sweater-like front panel on it. I’m glad I spent some time mulling it over, because I saw the concept in several department store blouses recently. They were simple, short-sleeved polyester pullovers with a lacy front covering that looked more hand-made. Wandering around in stores is a great way to help you get creative using filet crochet or any other crochet. The panel is a rectangle with a few increases and decreases to shape the neck. The combination of the open and closed boxes of filet crochet, Barnden’s book with designs I’ve been wanting to try and seeing my idea represented at the stores were just what I needed to get inspired and I am very pleased with the outcome.

What is filet crochet? If you can count, do a chain stitch and a double crochet stitch, you can do filet crochet. Start with some graph paper and mark off 4 inches by 4 inches. Do a simple block letter (your initial) to make a coaster. Fill in the squares on the graph paper with a pencil to make your initial, leaving at least one open square on all sides of the letter for an open border. Size will depend upon the yarn that you are using and the size of your crochet hook.

Count how many squares from left to right that you filled in on your graph paper to make the letter. Add the number of open spaces on either side of the letter. For example, the letter L takes about 4 squares for the base of the letter on your graph. Your total number of filled squares is 4. With one open or empty square on either side of the L that gives you 6 total squares. You will need 3 foundation chains for every square that you make, thus 6 x 3 = 18 chains. Add 5 more chains to create the first open square in the corner of your coaster. That means you will add 5 to 18 for a total of 23 chains to begin your coaster. Your first double crochet will go in the 8th chain from the hook. Those 8 chains form three sides of your first open square, which is why you need to go to the 8th chain from the hook. The first double crochet makes the fourth side of the open square.

Now chain 2 and skip 2 chains on your original chain of 23. In the 3rd chain from your 1st double crochet you will do another double crochet. See how you have formed another box with 2 chains below and 2 chains above? Do that all the way to the end. Chain 5 at the very end to turn and do a double crochet in the double crochet of the previous row. (If the first box in the 2nd row of a pattern is a filled square, chain 2 instead of 5 to turn.)

When you do a filled in box as you follow your graph, do 2 double crochets in the open space created by your chain-2 stitches from the previous row. Now do a double crochet in the double crochet. You have just created a filled box. Do 2 more double crochets in the next open space and a double crochet for the next filled box of the L example. There are little tricks to master, but you have enough knowledge to complete a little coaster with your initial on it. Follow your graph and either fill in or leave open each box. You’re ready to get creative using filet crochet.

I made several “surname” table runners for friends and family several years ago. (See About: Crafted Gifts on the blog menu for a sample of my PEACE runner.) I graphed it all out first. You can see that you can do various letter “fonts” or simple block letters depending on your preference. Now you know why I had to have the Barnden book. It takes a long time to graph the patterns. I appreciated immediately the time saving that I saw in the book’s illustrated designs. My favorite section is the Allover Patterns, which includes zigzags and geometrical elements that I find appealing. I finally chose the Trellis pattern for my sweater panel project and couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

Bluez House

Bluez House

Bluez House leader Zilis on lead guitar

It is a challenge to find great blues music in Denver before 8 pm just about anywhere you look throughout the week. Many of us are fans, but it takes someone special to get us to come to a concert that starts late and then you have to wait through the warm up band. By the time the main act comes on stage, you’re trying to figure out if you want to stay through the second set or try to leave before the drunks hit the road and possibly you.

But because I subscribe to what’s happening at Blair-Caldwell Public Library, I couldn’t wait to see Bluez House at 3:30 pm last Saturday afternoon. The band participated as part of the library’s Harmony Street Concert Series, which  continues through May. The series is an attempt to showcase a variety of musical styles, as well as a “time to meet the musicians and neighbors in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.” With cheese, veggies and brownies to munch on, what’s not to like?

Often times free concerts mean mediocre music, but never in my experience in the Five Points neighborhood. I had not heard of Bluez House. In fact, there is little to be found online about the group, except for a few references to former band affiliations, like the Band Aids. So imagine my pleasure when Charles Fortney, Kenneth Parks and Richard Pettis delved into some a cappella harmonies that were by themselves worth the drive from Englewood. Then, when the band kicked into gear with a round of funky tunes… Well, let’s just say it was as close as I get to a religious experience.

It’s impossible to sit still through band leader Paul Zilis’ guitar solos. The hour of music went from the funkiness of Sly Stone’s I Want to Thank You to War’s Slippin Into Darkness, the latter an improvement over the original. The Temptations Shakey Ground completed the funk trifecta. While the three singers took a break, we were able to fully appreciate the talents of the rest of the band–John Raabe on trumpet, John Uchida on sax, Chris Harris on bass guitar and Jack Zilis on drums. A sing-along tune managed to bring everyone in the room together. All too quickly their heartfelt tribute to Prince’s Purple Rain brought the afternoon to a conclusion, and we made it home before the sun set.

Although my husband thought the band was loud, I felt the music was just loud enough to pierce my skin and touch my soul. Dare I say I had as much fun as when I saw Luther Allison at Herman’s Hideaway? Some thought he was too loud, too.