All posts by Sonja Hakala

I have been a professional writer since 1987. I've written for newspapers, magazines, worked in the book publishing industry, and published novels and non-fiction books. In addition, I've guided numerous authors through the process of independent publishing, and offer workshops in that same vein. I'm the founder of the Parkinson's Comfort Project and over the course of six years, we gathered and gave away over 500 handmade quilts to people with Parkinson's disease.

Haven Hats

HHat-gree-white stripe-closeup-1 for web
I was out of the house early this morning to grocery shop and my first stop was at this great store in Norwich, Vermont called Dan & Whit’s. They are doing something very special this holiday season, and I’m planning to write about it over the next couple of days. But we’re going to start with hats.

Haven Hats, to be exact.

There’s a homeless shelter on Route 5 in White River Junction called the Upper Valley Haven. It’s an amazing place. They’re part of the Dan & Whit’s story so you’re going to learn more about them.

Back to the hats.

When you’re a maker, someone compelled to create with her or his hands, you have to have a place for your stuff to go. Some people are content with letting their creations pile up in totes under the bed.

But most of us need a reason to create.

I write books for people to read. I make quilts for people with Parkinson’s Disease. And when I’m itching to feel the pull of yarn between my fingers, I crochet.

I’m not a master crocheter and don’t have any desire to be. I just love the meditative quality of repeating stitches until there’s a hat or a scarf or a pair of slippers where there used to be a ball of yarn. So I gravitate to simple patterns, the kind you can make on autopilot.

I developed a hat pattern that I named the Haven Hat pattern because I make them to give to the Upper Valley Haven. (See, this all connects.) I put it all together in a PDF and if you crochet or know someone who does, I encourage you to download it, and make a few for someone in need

The picture below was taken in 2011 just before I took a batch of hats to the Haven. We had a lot of great snowball snow that winter.
Haven hat collection-1 for web

Tomatoes, Pesto, Carrots and Potatoes

Ripening cherry tomatoes for webIf you own a garden of any sort, you know this is a really busy time of year.

We’ve already had one light frost (that shrieking sound you heard was everyone with basil still in the ground), and there’s nothing like a little frozen precipitations for spurring yard cleanup, canning, cooking, and picking.

Here at Crow Town Bakery, we no longer grow the large tomatoes prized by so many. We switched to cherry tomatoes years ago, picking them as they ripen, using them in all sorts of salads, and eating them straight from the vines like candy.

When frost threatened, we picked them all—green and red—washed them then threw them whole into plastic bags and then into the freezer.

We use them all winter long in soups, stews, chili and sauces. Just take a handful out of the bag, put them in a bowl to let them thaw for five minutes or so then cut them in half. They cut easily if they are still a bit frozen. If you this when they’re straight from the freezer, you’ll be struggling more than you need to.

You’ll be amazed at how much flavor the green ones add to sauces and soups.

And it’s much easier than blanching and peeling those big ones.

We’ll be looking for you.
Little Crow’s Mom | September 19 | Categories: Local Food

The Golden Glow Days

Golden glow and purple morning glories on the fence in front of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts
Golden glow and purple morning glories on the fence in front of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts

by Edie Wolfe

I sometimes wonder at the compulsive human fascination with time. We strap clocks to our wrists. We adorn our walls with calendars. The computer-driven universe couldn’t run without the inaudible tick, tick, tick of its internal clocks.

And would someone please explain to me why Google thinks it important to announce how many nano-seconds it took to find a million pages on how to cook zucchini. Come to think of it, why are there a million pages about cooking zucchini?

No matter.

We could throw away all those clocks this minute and still understand that we’re nearing the receding edge of summer. The sun’s hitting the tops of the trees up on the hills before six. It takes longer for the morning mist to dissipate. And the tall, gangly form of the yellow golden glow is co-habitating with those purple morning glories that be such a pest when they get into a garden.

But aren’t they beautiful together?

In any event, the botanical calendar in the Carding Academy’s front garden tells me that our new fall schedule of classes will begin soon. We’ve added one new mosaic class with Carrie Fradkin and Chloe Cooper has added a quilt design class. If you’re interested, sign up quick. These teachers always fill up fast.

Edie Wolfe is the executive director of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

Edie Wolfe | August 30 | Local Arts

The Great Disappearing Variegated Thread Mystery

Believe it or not, the stitching you can see waving across the top of this block (especially visible over the red fabric) continues its journey over the blue fabric.

You can’t see it?

Nope, neither can I.

That’s because the top thread in my machine is variegated.

I’d noticed this phenomenon in previous quilts but didn’t focus on it until I heard a comment from a long-arm quilter who called variegated thread “the most invisible thread you can use.”

Strange, isn’t it, that something supposedly designed for maximum visibility (or so it seems to me) actually disappears.

On reflection, I think there’s a gardening analogy here. When I first started laying out flower gardens, I had a tendency (because I like so many different plants) to buy just one or two of this or that.

Then I’d sit back to watch the show—and not see much of what I’d planted.

That’s when I discovered a basic law of flower garden design—much better to plant twenty of the same plant, and keep the variety small than to buy twenty different plants.

It’s the visual impact thing.

That’s why variegated thread disappears. There’s not enough of any single color to have an impact on the surface of a quilt. Looks good on a spool but really, that’s about it.

I’m going to use up what I have left in my thread stash because one of the basic laws of quilting is that you never waste anything. But from now on, it’s single colors all the way.

Shadow + Meandering = Shandering

Passion for Patchwork by Lise Bergene

I’ve developed a simple way to machine quilt that’s not stitch-in-the-ditch but can still be done with the feed dogs up, and the walking foot in place. I guess you could call it shadow meandering.

My first quilts were quilted in straight lines, the most difficult pattern to quilt. Boring.

Then I tripped across Lise Bergene’s book, A Passion for Patchwork, and she has all these wavy lines criss-crossing her quilts. Have I told you how much I love this book? I haven’t made anything from it, so far, but her design style inspires me.

Detail from Treehouse Steps quilt by Sonja Hakala

So I started quilting in wavy lines. It’s pretty easy, actually, especially if you are wearing sticky-fingered gloves to move your fabric around. You set yourself a steady pace of stitching, feed dogs up with walking foot engaged, and while the quilt is in motion, hold your fingers in one spot on the left. The quilt will pivot around the point you set so your stitching curves.

Lift your left hand, put down your right, and do the same thing so your stitching waves in the opposite direction.

Or plant both hands on either side of your needle, and use them together to shift your quilt gently from side to side as you stitch.

You can see the results from this in the detail of my Treehouse Steps quilt pictured above.

This was fine, as far as it went, but the result looked too scattered to me. I wasn’t completely satisfied.

Detail from Werthy Sampler by Sonja Hakala

Then during a conversation with a quilting friend, she happened to mention how much she likes to shadow quilt—making two identical lines of quilting, most often around a particular shape in a top to emphasize it.

So what would it look like if I shadowed my meandering quilting? I’m here to tell you, I loved the effect. I stitch a single meandering line from top to bottom, side to side or along a diagonal. When I reach the end, I return to my starting point, align the outside left edge of my presser foot with the stitching I just put down, and follow that line to the end.

Most of the time, I sew only two lines together but for my Werthy Sampler, pictured above, I used three and sometimes four, using different color thread.

A wide open zig zag stitch meandering across a quilt

Now I’m shadow meandering (shandering?) with different kinds of stitches, like the wide-open zig zag I’m applying to my orphan block quilt, a detail of which is pictured above. So far, I like the slightly ruffled quality it adds to the surface. I’m withholding final judgement until I get the stitching done in the other direction so I can see if it causes wrinkling problems at the intersections.

This is quick, good-looking utility quilting that adds a level of interest to a piece. Try it. Send me pictures if you do, and I’ll post them here for all to enjoy.

More Than One Way to Make a Goose

Large flying geese blocks
Orphan block quilt by Sonja Hakala

A quilting friend once teased me that it’s all right if I sew without a purpose.

But I have a wide practical streak in my nature that I couldn’t ignore if I tried so this orphan block quilt had a reason for being right from the start.

My favorite quilt size is the one I make for the Parkinson’s Comfort Quilt Project. (See the page for this to the right.) The optimal size for these quilts is anywhere from 32 to 36 inches wide and 50 to 60 inches long. With that in mind, this quilt still had a ways to go once its center was complete.

Enter the large, scrappy flying geese running up and down the two sides of this quilt.

Every quilter organizes her scraps in different ways. A couple of years ago, I started cutting the bits of fabric left over from my projects into squares ranging in size from 2 1/2 to 6 inches. I cut my leftovers to the largest size in that range, and store them in plastic bags.

Well, of course, when you have enough of that sort of thing, you have to use it once in a while.

That’s how these geese got their start, as 6-inch squares of light fabric. Since I wanted the final blocks to be as large as possible, I decided to construct them out of two half-square triangles instead of the more traditional route of squares sewn to triangles.

As I pin basted this project at a sit and sew sponsored by my guild (there are large tables there just perfect for this activity), one of the other quilters commented on how I’d made these.

“I would think the points would be harder to line up,” she said.

I’ve made flying geese this way many times without a hitch, and find this method especially useful for making the larger birds in a flock.

Also note, in the finished top, that I added a block of olive green fabric to finish up the strip so that it would be the right size. And the dark brown fabric in the geese is also used in the border at the top and bottom of the project, tying it all together.