Friday Finds: Crafty Goodness

In case you missed it (now that the month is over...), March was National Craft Month.

Since I have a marketing brain, and this kind of thing interests me, I started poking around to see what National Craft Month "meant". Discounts at craft stores? Events in my community? And, in the course of my digging, I stumbled on two sites I think every crafter should know about.

Here's a snippet from their "About" page:
CRE8TIME is a movement, a movement supported by a group of people who want to make a positive social change. As our lives become increasingly crowded with “responsibilities,” we tend to ignore ourselves and find it difficult to justify creative pursuits; they seem “selfish” and are often the first things we discard.  It’s time to reclaim our creativity!  CRE8TIME is a movement, a movement supported by a group of people who want to make a positive social change.  It is designed to help people recover eight hours a month and devote it to their particular craft, and to create a place for them to share their experiences – the joys, lessons, and results – with the creative community at large.
Check them out. The site serves as their hub - a place to pledge your time, get inspired, and connect with other Cre8ers. They're even a 501(c)3! Crafting as non-profit! I love it.

#2: The Craft and Hobby Association

And, from their "About" page:
The Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) is an international, not-for-profit trade association consisting of thousands of member companies engaged in the design, manufacture, distribution and retail sales of products in the nearly $30 billion U.S. craft and hobby industry.
CHA's vision, simply stated, is to create a vibrant industry with an exciting image, an expanding customer base and successful members. The goal is to stimulate the sales growth of the craft and hobby industry by creating consumer demand, helping members succeed and leading the industry.
Now, I can understand your confusion... "Why is she touting an industry association?" Well, as I mentioned earlier, I have a marketing brain and I think it's really interesting to keep in touch with what's happening on the business side of my hobbies. Plus, they have all the up-to-date information about craft conferences/expos! Now that Cassandra and I are, technically, professional crafters (that still makes me chuckle) we could actually go to these conferences and, if nothing else, walk away with loads of swag! Also, check out their blog. They have lots of good content.

As crafters, I think it's important to stay connected - to each other and to our industries. I hope you find something of value in these two Friday Finds.

- Alex

Spring Cleaning

Yesterday, for the first time this year, I felt a tinge of spring in the air. The light was a bit brighter in the afternoon and the scent of damp earth could be detected in the still-wintery breeze.

You see, here in Wisconsin, the landscape is still covered with snow and the temperatures have been below freezing (more often than not) over the last couple weeks. No one has dared to even utter the word spring. We planted seedlings the other day and the act seemed completely ridiculous. But I do believe I'm seeing it on the horizon. Finally.

Let's hope these tomatoes come up!

This hint of spring stirs up many feelings in me, but the main one is the need to clean. I mean clean EVERYTHING. Pull the contents out of cabinets and closets and jettison at least half of my stuff, wash furniture slipcovers, etc. Deep, satisfying cleaning. I would love to spend a week scrubbing the daylights out of my's going to have to happen a bit at a time because of my schedule. Though, it's amazing how much you can get done a few hours on a weekend morning, an hour or two after work, etc. Next thing you know, it's all done.

Over the past year my husband and I have made a huge effort to try to get our cleaning supplies to be as natural as possible. It's interesting to me how few products we actually need, many of the natural ones are quite versatile. Here is a list of the basics we use:

Doc Bronner's Sal Suds: THE BEST CLEANER EVER. Bar none. I use it as laundry detergent, diluted in a spray bottle as a bathroom and kitchen cleaner, or added to a bucket of warm water for an amazing floor and wall wash. I'm sure there are 1,000 other uses.

Vinegar and Water in a Spray Bottle: cleans glass and appliances like nobody's business

Straight Vinegar: used straight this is a great way to remove calcium deposits on your sink/faucet and I add a splash into every laundry rise cycle for the freshest clothes ever. I buy this stuff buy the jumbo bottle at Costco.

Baking Soda: I make a paste of vinegar and baking soda to use as a slight abrasive. This is great for tub and sink scrubbing. I also love this for cleaning my oven without harsh chemicals.

Ecos Dishmate: eh, it's okay. But I'd rather find something better for hand-washing dishes.

We have gotten almost all of the bad chemicals out of our lifestyle...but not all. Dishwasher detergent has been a tough one for us. We've tried a few of the natural ones but the results haven't been good. I'm intrigued by this product by Nellie and I might try this tutorial. I hate to admit that I've been using Method Wood Cleaner...because I've been dubious of the recipes I've found that are just olive oil and lemon juice. For some reason it just doesn't seem like it could be that simple. I really should try it though.

If you have some other ideas for me...please share!


Wow. Just, Wow.

Every now and again people surprise me in a big way.

A couple of weeks ago, in upholstery class, I finished covering the core of my current chair. All that's left to do is make the cushion covers for the back and the seat. Because of the size of the cushions and the "grain" of my fabric, I need about 3.5 yards to finish up. Can you guess where this is going??

I laid out the cushion cover "patterns" (aka: the deconstructed old covers) on my remaining yardage and my heart sank. I only had enough to do one side of each cusion and MAYBE, if I cut it well, I'd have enough for the boxing, which is that vertical piece that fits between the top and bottom of the cushion. I talked it through with my instructor and figured out how much additional yardage I'd need. So... no big deal. I'd just stop at Joann Fabrics over the weekend and pick up what I needed.

Oh... the optimism of an occasional sewer.

I'm sure that those of you who work with fabric more often than I are aware of the nuances of buying fabric. Things like "exclusive" to a store means that you can't buy it ANYWHERE ELSE. And that you should probably buy what you need up front because anything can be discontinued at any time.

Yeah. Totally discontinued. All that was left in the store was the 8x8 fabric swatch (which I bought). The manager confirmed that there was none at the other store in town or in the warehouse. He recommended that I check the website. I left the store feeling desolate and angry and I checked as soon as I got home.

sad, little 8x8 swatches

All that was available on the website were 8x8 fabric swatches. Well, at this point I was desperate so I put a bunch of the swatches in my shopping cart. I figured that, at least, I could make a "patchwork" underside for the cushions in the correct fabric.

Two days later my phone rings and it's a number I don't recognize so I let it go to voice mail. Turns out that it was Wendy from Joann Fabrics' fulfillment center. She called to make sure I understood that I was ordering swatches and not yardage. LOL!  So, I called her back and got HER voice mail. I left her a message telling her my tale of woe and explaining why I was buying all the swatches. Then I half-jokingly added that, if she could find any yardage anywhere, I'd pay anything for it.

Well... two days later and my phone rang again. I recognized the number this time so I answered. Wendy had located yardage!!!!! I nearly fell on the floor. She went on to explain that it's against policy to ship discontinued fabric between stores so she was going to have to work out the logistics. I told her to order me five yards (not taking any chances this time!) if they had that much. About an hour later I got a call that the fabric was shipping to my local Joann's and that the store manager would call me when it arrived. A few days later my local Joann's manager called me with the good news - the fabric was in her store! It was a March Miracle. Seriously.

This kind of "above and beyond" service is pretty rare these days so, when it happens, I'm always sort of gobsmacked. And, no offense to Joann Fabrics, but I never expect this level of help from them. I shop there often and have come to expect very little. A perfect example is the fact that the local stores don't have access to the store inventories on a national level. My fabric was found in a store in Texas. However, my local store would never, ever, know that. And, even if I got on the phone and called every Joann's in the country, the best they could do would be to ship the inventory to my local store. In other words, I couldn't pay the Texas store for my yardage and have them ship it directly to my home. This seems like a flaw. The other rule that baffles me is the "no shipping of discontinued merchandise". I mean... if a customer wants the last of your discontinued "exclusive to Joann" fabric, you'd think you'd want to get rid of it quickly.

Regardless of these gripes, I don't have enough words in my vocabulary to describe how happy I am to have my fabric and how incredibly grateful I am to Wendy for going above and beyond. It's people like her that will keep me shopping at their stores.

Here's to more great customer service experiences in our lives!

- Alex

Follow Us

Doesn't this post title sound like we are some kind of cult? We should be so lucky!

Alex and I recently realized that over the past 3 years of blogging we have amassed quite a number of free patterns and tutorials. Some of them easily accessible by links in the tabs above, some (unfortunately) a little more hidden. We've come up with a few ideas to make your Mighty Distractible "user experience" a little friendlier...

First we are converting all patterns and tutorials into a pdf format. This way everyone can easily download and store the pdf on their desktop or print out the document on-demand. This is quite a process so keep checking back here as we add more pdfs a bit at a time.

Want to sew a denim maxi? This pdf is for you!

Second, we are making better use of our Mighty Distractible Craftsy and Ravelry accounts. We realize that a lot of our followers are active members on both of those wonderful sites. Follow us on either site to download our patterns and tutorials (more coming every day) and be the first to see new designs as they are released. We are also starting some accounts on other social media outlets for our readers that you will hear about shortly.

Lastly, we are moving things around on our site. Pardon our dust as we do some serious revamping and content shuffling. And we are being faced with the reality that Mighty Distractible is fast outgrowing its current digs. So a move will probably happen at some point soon too. Whew, who knew this blog experience was going to roll into something of a small business?

More patterns, more tutorials, more distractions to come this year. Thanks for being readers, you folks are the reason this whole Mighty Distractible thing is fun for us.



This past weekend my world was all about food, food, and more food. I'm not really sure how that happened but I'm not complaining, believe me!

Saturday was two big food events - brunch at my house for six people, then dinner at the North Bristol Sportsmen's Club for one of their four, annual Smelt Fries. Sunday was brunch with two of my favorite girlfriends (who both ate SALADS! while I ate a full, American breakfast) followed by family dinner with my son and his girlfriend.

Why, you ask, is she sharing her glutenous ways with us? Because I made one of my "best dishes ever" on Saturday for brunch and I was so happy with the outcome that I wanted to share it with you.

A few weeks ago, I bought a bag of raw, deveined, frozen shrimp for a recipe. Obviously, I didn't use the entire bag and I started to worry that the shrimp might get freezer-burned if they weren't used up soon. This drove the decision to make shrimp and grits for the brunch I hosted on Saturday.

Back at Christmas, a friend had made shrimp and grits for a holiday potluck and it was pretty amazing. I remembered her saying it was a Food Network recipe and I also thought she might have said it was attributed to Bobby Flay. However, in the interim, I had been to Luke in New Orleans - John Besh's restaurant - and had a divine, sublime, less "in your face" shrimp and grits than the one from Christmas. I asked the waiter about the grits because, frankly, they were creamy perfection, and I learned that they get their creaminess from the addition of marscapone cheese. Once I got home, I started making my own grits this way and, holy cow, are they wonderful.

So... I took the the Bobby Flay recipe and tweaked it. The most major difference is that I substituted cheddar cheese with marscapone and I ended up with, what I think is, the best shrimp and grits recipe ever. (If I do say so myself!)

Here you go folks! I hope you like it as well as I did. Oh! And it's great as leftovers. We had "breakfast for dinner" on Sunday and I reheated the remaining shrimp and grits (stovetop over low heat) and they were a hit. Just as good as the first round.

- Alex

Modified "Bobby Flay" Shrimp and Grits


  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup slow-cook grits (I used Quaker)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 8 oz container of marscapone cheese
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used frozen, raw)
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onion (including the green parts)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced

Bring water to a boil. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes and grits are thick but stirrable. Remove from heat and stir in salt, butter, and marscapone cheese. Grits can take a lot of salt so taste them and make sure they taste good on their own, before you add the shrimp.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Cook the bacon and retain the grease. The easiest way to do this is to cook the bacon in a fry pan and leave the grease in the pan. However, I don't like frying bacon so I cook it in the broiler and save the grease to a bowl after the bacon is done. Chop the bacon.

In a frying pan, add shrimp to the bacon grease. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.

Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately.

Save the Cherries

About a month or so ago, my friend SSAF had an epiphany regarding my backyard cherry tree and how to keep the birds away. This is how craft projects happen, isn't it? One day, you look at some thing - like the lid from a frozen orange juice container - and you realize that it shouldn't go in the trash but that it needs to have a new life as a bird deterrent on a fruit tree.
I use wind chimes in my tree but I love this idea. The lids are not super-shiny but they're "metal" enough to reflect some light and they're so easy to make that you can have tons of them decorating anything you want to keep the birds away from.

So, SSAF started saving juice can lids and she also started obsessively cutting out little paper things to decorate them with. She claims this is theraputic... All I can see is shoulder pain and strained eyes. :)  Thank goodness she enjoyed this part because we had SO much fun stuff to work with when we sat down to craft last weekend. Take a look at the itty-bitty bits we got to play with!!

Kitschy and cute.

SSAF knows I love ephemera.

So, how to make Bird (and, hopefully, Squirrel) Deterrent Tree Hangers:

Step one is to make a hole in the lid to run your hanger through. We used a hammer, screwdriver, and a block of wood. This did leave a bit of a sharp piece on the back that I mashed down with some pliers. If you have a metal punch, that would work well too. You may also punch some holes in the bottom so you can hang things (bells, beads, whatever) from the bottom of the piece.

Step two is to pick your decorations and do a "dry" layout. Once you're happy with how it's going to look, you move to...

Step three - Mod Podge! 

If you've never used this wonder stuff, get thee to a craft store. Made by Plaid, Mod Podge is an adhesive and a sealant and dries wonderfully clear and a little bit shiny. I hadn't worked with it in years and had forgotten how glorious it is.

Awesome stuff.
Paint some on the lid as glue

Place your pictures & cover with a good coat of Mod Podge
Step four - Tie & Dry. I used hemp twine, thinking that it might hold up well in the weather. We considered a number of different options but the twine was handy, easy to work with, and (we assume) sturdy.  :)

Then just hang them up or lay them flat to dry. C'est tout! The Mod Podge dries very clear as you can see from the pictures below. I can't wait for spring to sprung so I can hang these beauties on my tree!

The cutting of the fun paper bits was probably the most time-consuming part of this project. Of course, I was the delighted recipient of SSAF's efforts. You certainly don't have to have to make collages - you could cover them with nice wrapping paper or individual images cut from magazines. The beauty is, these can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make them.

I'll let you know how well they work after I put them on the tree this year!

- Alex

Classic Films

Hello friends,

Alex and I mention watching TV shows and movies a lot. Mostly because one of the perks of knitting, embroidery, etc. is that you can sit and do it while watching TV.

The two of us part company sometimes when it comes to what we watch (like when Alex watches Doomsday Preppers) but mostly we agree. We can actually spend an embarrassing amount of time discussing movies and TV shows. But, I would have to say that the genre that gets us most excited is old movies Classic Films. It's another tie that binds us as friends.

Cary Grant (think of a George Clooney who smokes)

It always shocks me when I hear people of my generation say they've never seen Gone with the Wind (or any of the blockbusters of the past). Because if you've never seen a movie like that, odds are that you've never seen less well-known gems like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or The Long Hot Summer. Tragedy.

Rita Hayworth (all this, and I sing too!)

I could wax poetic about why I love classic films, but I won't. Instead I have created a list of 10 classic films that will knock your socks off. By no means is this list my "top 10", it is more of a starting point for someone who doesn't know where to begin when it comes to picking out classic movies to watch. The catalog of those films is HUGE and I think it's helpful to see a few first off of recommendation because then you can get a feel for which type of classic film you like best.

1. Laura (a mind-trip)
2. 12 Angry Men (an emotional rollercoaster)
3. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (if you thought Liz Taylor's acting skills are overrated, think again)
4. Gigi (lushest sets and catchy tunes)
5. Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford acts her ass off)
6. Maltese Falcon (it's Bogart, nuff said)
7. The 7-Year Itch (just plain fun)
8. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (can turn you into a straight-up steampunk)
9. Harvey (heartbreakingly charming)
10. The Searchers (deeper than you expect it to be)

Good gravy I could go on and on. What would you add to the list?



All I have been doing is hand embroidery. My knitting has been set aside for weeks now because of the final push I am doing to get my quilt finished. I have about half a block to embroider before the entire quit top is done. Who's idea was it to add hand-embroidered blocks to this project? I forget.

If you look carefully, you can see my poor Coraline
sweater waiting it's turn in the background.

Wow, it is going to be trippy when this thing is finally quilted and bound. This project has been a big part of my life for a while.  And now I am left with a whole bunch of questions. Things like, what do I do with all this scrap fabric? How can I store it in an organized way? (Any hints on that would be appreciated.)

My pattern is a mess of notes and scribbles.

Every time I finish a big project I'm always a little bit wistful. Mustering the stamina to keep marching on with a long-haul project keeps me in this "make-make-make" mindset, and when it's over, I'm suddenly left a little empty. Even with the next project(s) on my mind.

The quilt top patiently waiting to be quilted.

Speaking of next projects...there is that big boy quilt for my littlest one to design, a mitten pattern idea that's been rolling around in my head, and some other projects Alex and I have been trying to compile into a book for a while now. Gotta be like a shark...always moving forward!


The Snowball Is Rolling...

As Cassandra mentioned last week, we are thrilled that the release of What (else) Would Madam DeFarge Knit? is on the near horizon because, with this book, we become official, published (and paid!) knitwear designers. This prospect is both exciting and scary. We are going to be in the same book as some of our knitting heroes. Yikes!

That being said, we are exceedingly proud of the pattern we designed and are excited to see other people make it. I've nearly broken my fingers crossing them in hopes that there are no bad mistakes in the pattern. But I will accept all errata with grace and work hard to make sure we "clean up" the pattern as people work it.

The potential exposure that our pattern (and we) will be getting from the book has lit a fire under our collective butts. Cassandra and I have been talking, for a long time, about expanding our little online world and taking advantage of other crafting sites in order to reach more folks. To that end, we set up both Ravelry (DistractedMinds) and Craftsy (Mighty Distractible) pages. Starting immediately, we'll be loading all existing and new patterns to Craftsy (knitting/sewing/embroidery/etc) and all our existing and new knitting patterns to Ravelry. (It might takes us a bit so please be patient.) For those of you who have downloaded links to our Google Docs page for our existing patterns, those links will still be active.

Please visit our new pages and let us know what you think. Since we're still fairly new at this, any feedback will be appreciated. :)

In celebration of our new pages, today we're going to add the actual, final, tested "Hipster Hat" pattern that I started designing a couple of weeks ago. You may have read the original post (where I jumped the gun and posted the pattern before I'd actually finished test knitting the piece) or the update (where I THOUGHT I had a solution but still hadn't finished the second test knit). Well, I finally finished the pattern and I'm really happy with the result. It achieved exactly what I wanted - a loose-fitting hat with a large crown that would accomodate all my hair and not leave hat-marks on my 'do.

Hat pattern #1 resulted in a hat that was too shallow. Even though it had the large crown I wanted, it wasn't long enough and didn't cover my ears. Also, the decrease I used was too severe and, as a result, left big holes in the crown that had to be sewn shut. (annoying). I gave the hat to the smallest-headed person I know - Sara from my knitting group. Here she is, sporting the first test knit:

So, to fix it, I made the "cuff" over 2" long instead of 1" and I changed the decrease to both add some depth and also to close the holes that were created by the earlier severe decrease.

Here's the final hat:

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out! I've been wearing it a lot and have gotten quite a few compliments on it. I used a random, left-over skein of Cascade 220 but I think I'd like to make it again in a more exciting color. :)  Not that there's anything wrong with mushroom brown but...

So, please visit our Craftsy or Ravelry pages to download this new, free hat pattern! Thanks for continuing to read Mighty Distractible and for supporting us as we grow.

- Alex

Friday Finds: Photography Tutorial

Hi friends!

If you're anything like me, technical tips about how to take good photos of your crafts are always welcome. There are a lot of photography tutorials out there, but when I recently ran across this one by Eskimimi Makes I was impressed by it's simplicity and practicality.

Photo courtesy of Eskimimi Makes.
Take a peek when you get a chance.