A Jolly July!

July is here!!

And I’m super excited about this month for lots of reasons. There will be celebrations – the Fourth, our daughter’s half-birthday, and my own birthday at the end of the month. There will be travels – we are driving to Arkansas to pick up our son who is performing with Opera in the Ozarks; and I hope to travel to Virginia to visit with a childhood friend. I’m planning on drawing and sketching my way through the month, knitting up some pretty things, and stitching my drawings onto collaged fabric fragments (my recent obsession:).

To start off my birthday month with a bang, I’m offering a little present to you, Hobbit-style! For anything and everything in my ETSY shop, you may use the discount code HAPPYBIRTHDAY to receive 50% off the price! No, I haven’t gone nuts! Well, maybe I have…I’m setting my intention for this month to be a a jolly one, a true Christmas in July sort of celebration from the beginning to the end.

I do hope you will avail yourself of this once-in-a-blue-moon offer!! For cheap as chips, you can enhance your sketching and drawing practice by purchasing the Discover Your Life Beautiful, One Drawing At A Time ebook & video course. For pennies you can knit or crochet a lovely shawl or sweater, wrap or scarf. So go ahead and indulge! Use the above discount code when you check out. From now until the 31st of July! Enjoy!

I just returned from the Ocean’s Edge and I’m refueled and ready for this Jolly month. If you’d like to read all about the week by the Ocean and see some stitcherly goodness, plus drawings and sketches, visit The Silver Dapple, a new blog dedicated to an exciting medium as I stitch my drawings onto collaged fabric fragments. It’s slow stitching, but all the more savory in its slowness.

To catch all the drawings, watercolors, knitting and crocheting, stitching and whatever else strikes my fancy, do follow me on Instagram as that is where I tend to hang out the most. Above all, I hope you have a Jolly July making things with your hands! Indoors, outdoors, on the road or at home, may your month be an Artful one!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Befriending Curiosity

Do you ever look around your studio and scratching your head, wonder…What am I doing here? Not because you have a temporary lapse of memory as to your location (which happens to me on occasion ;/), but because the things you are making are new and different in some way.

I find myself scratching my head a lot. Have done so for lo these many years. The flip-flopping around from drawing to knitting, painting to crochet, realism to abstraction, weaving to embroidery…fairly makes my head spin sometimes. It is a very real struggle that brings not a little consternation to this artist’s heart.

I was listening to a podcast recently whose topic was completely unrelated to art. The person interviewed was talking about “befriending endings”. That phrase sounded lovely to me, a true way to affirm life and it’s many beginnings and endings, directions and switch-backs. I’ve been thinking of all the ways this helps me as an artist:

Befriend Interruptions. Befriend new directions. Befriend busyness. Befriend the curiosity to try new things.

This curiosity leads me down some magical paths. I seem to return to a very familiar intersection where creativity meets all manner of mediums. At this intersection a host of questions begin to fill my head… how can I make images with yarn? Can I create abstract drawings that have movement and feeling? How can I translate my drawings into embroidery? Oooohhh…could I even create abstract  embroidered pieces? Or superimpose line drawings that are stitched onto abstractly collaged fabrics?

These and other curiosities light me up and send me off down new paths, or sometimes old paths with a different twist or a more fervent embrace. I seem to feel the need to create fresh blogs for each of these paths. It may seem silly to you dear reader or perhaps it doesn’t matter a hill of beans that I do this. But my need for each new path to have a fresh, uncluttered page seems to defy what my studio looks like, and affords breathing space for all the questions and curiosities I am currently working out.

With the onset of summer, I’ll be camping out on a new blog created especially for my embroidered fragments. You can read more about them here and here and even follow me there if you are curious to see where this path takes me. Perhaps you’d even like to join me in a Summer of Stitching. But I will also be drawing and painting abstracts. I am particularly interested in seeing if I can create abstracts that are based on actual things/objects/places etc. Above you can see the first of its kind and you can check in with numerous others, as well as the embroidery, on Instagram as the summer unfolds. These two things are not mutually exclusive of one another. In fact, I’ve been creating abstract fabric collages and stitching my line drawings atop of them. I recently made a fabric collage based on an abstract sketch from my sketchbook. It is being stitched and embellished with embroidery, beads, stitched drawings, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

If this is all a bit dizzying to you dear reader, please know that it is for me as well. But I am endlessly curious, and seem to thrive on trying to solve creative riddles and searching for answers to the numerous artistic questions in my head. What is a constant and helps me make sense of it all, is that all roads seem to branch off of and lead me back to my sketchbook. That’s a pretty cool idea –

A sketchbook is an intersection where magical paths await exploration.

Let’s go exploring this summer and befriend curiosity!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Yep. That’s me! Sitting at the intersection, sketching the path ahead. 🙂

An Everyday Outlet

For Day 6 of #drawtheordinary through Lent, I’m to draw a “wall plug”. I should’ve thought about that wording a bit more because what I meant was “an outlet”.  No matter, plug or outlet, they are both ordinary things. (At least they are to those of us fortunate enough to live in parts of the world where electricity is  available.:)

The crazy thing about all this focusing on the ordinary long enough to draw it in our sketchbooks, is that sparks start flying as we do. Each ordinary sketch of an everyday item ignites a world of thought, delight, and sometimes even…transformation.

I sat for a bit just looking at the simple rectangle with two receptacles noting that there’s a bit of form and shape where the 3 prongs of a plug go in. Then I notice that these three holes look interestingly like a face…or a house – two eyes and a mouth OR two windows and a door. All of a  sudden I’m wondering –

What’s inside this thing?

How in the world does it hold energy or electricity that is accessed merely by placing metal prongs (or one’s fingers) inside?

What magic lies inside those black shapes? Is it a colony of lightening bolts? A family hanging out waiting patiently (or not) for the time when they’ll be put to use?

And so on and so forth…

The crazy…and wonderful…thing about this 20 second reverie is that by simply turning my focus to an ordinary object, my imagination was ignited. It was as if by focusing in on this everyday, typically unnoticed thing in my home, I had plugged into a source of creativity that led me to magical worlds were families of electric bolts live and move and have their being.

This doesn’t happen every single time I draw something. No, sometimes a wall plug is just that…a wall plug. Or outlet. But it is in the focus and attention to things I wouldn’t normally engage with, that creativity is sparked. I can fan it into flame by drawing it and having a bit of fun imagining what these electric bolt people look like. Perhaps they need me to plug my lamp in so they don’t get too bored. Perhaps that little guy up in the right window reached out and zapped me as I sat staring into their home. I dunno. Could be.

What I do know is that I’ll continue peering into ordinary places, drawing what I see there, knowing that sparks may fly in the process. Do jump in on the fun! You’re never too late to join the Lenten drawing party! You can download all the drawing prompts through Lent or simply find ordinary things to draw each day in your sketchbook.

Buen Camino friends!

-Jennifer

*The drawing journey through Lent is blogged HERE, and Instagrammed HERE.

*Inspiration & Instruction for drawing your life is HERE. 🙂

Oh No… I think I’ve ruined it!

This is such a regular thought that goes marching through my head as I create, that I am used to it now, and I’ve even grown to expect it. It wasn’t always so. There were years that  a fair panic would nearly shut me down completely when this thought would blaze its way into my consciousness as I painted or knitted. Nowadays, I have the thought less frequently and I’m better able to say “yeah, yeah I know, it might all fall apart here, but let’s just wait and see, or let me just try this…” And 9 times out of 10 the painting resolves itself, or I figure out how to bring about a satisfying stopping point. :0)

In both the above painting and in my recently completed weaving, I’ve had to deal with this pesky thought. Watercolor has a mind all its own. Add to that my own purposeful slap-dashery approach and you’ll likely have numerous points where the thing feels totally out of control! I now know that usually a press of paper-towel and a fresh splash of color will do the trick of wrangling the watery hues into some semblance of an exuberant image. This is actually what I love most – a painting or drawing that teeters on the edge of chaos, yet somehow holds together.

I’m finding this to be true in weaving as well! How delightful to be able to work with fibers in a manner quite similar to painting. I do not plan it all out. That is not how I like to work. I like to have a general , overall feeling or gist to a painting or weaving, and then dive in with an intuitive search for that initial feel and/or look. Personally, this is exciting to me! So when I have that pesky thought that I may have ruined it, it is an opportunity to do a couple of things:

1. LET GO of my original, albeit loose, plan or idea.

2. USE whatever I’m perceiving as ruined as the basis for something new.

3. CONTINUE working with a Well-I’m-not-sure-where-this-is-going, but-I’ll-see-it-to-the-end attitude.

Most of the time, I’m satisfied with the outcome of drawings and paintings that go through this “ruined” phase. And this weaving is also resolving quite nicely even though I’ve had this thought more than once as I added colors and textures. Perhaps, when we are new to a craft, this pesky thought bothers us more frequently. It’s good to remember…

It’s not ruined……it’s only re-routed.

It isn’t a failure…..it’s an opportunity.

It isn’t hopeless…..from this point on magic and mystery ensues!

Here’s to a day of magic and mystery as we weave our lives with color and grace amid the “ruins”!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

A New Year Brings Change…

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Dear friend and fellow creatives!
A New Year has rolled in and along with it a plethora of ideas are swirling in my head! I have so much to share with you! As I noted in my last newsletter, the Knitterly Arts Newsletter will be changing. In fact, tomorrow I will be sending out the first of its kind. It will be called:

An Artful Lifeline
Weekly notes of encouragement…a lifeline…
to keep you inspired on your quest to live an Artful Life!

This new version is intended for any and ALL who like making things with their hands, be it drawings & paintings, knitted & crocheted projects, spinning & weaving, and whatever else your particular love might be. Our craft, no matter what form it takes, is our Lifeline. For me, creative work allows me to take flights of fancy while also tethering me, grounding me to all that is true, good and beautiful in my life. I have a feeling your creative work does this for you too. And we always need encouragement to see our work in this way. All of us, no matter whether we are beginners in our art & craft, or whether we are seasoned artists, need to be reminded of how our art speaks to us and infuses our everyday lives with beauty and joy.

Each week you will receive a short but sweet note in your e-mailbox with the following:
**An Artful thought for the week ahead designed to encourage you to keep on making things and to see your life through the lens of creativity.

This is the main focus of An Artful Lifeline, and may be the only thing sent to you each week. But there will also be, from time to time:
**Links to any of my recent blog posts you might have missed.
**More links to resources, both my own as well as others, for further creative encouragement.
**Shop Updates and discount codes for my ETSY shops as well as my Fine Art America shop!

If you are wanting all the good stuff that the Knitterly Arts Newsletter used to have, you can find it in my video podcast, which I’ll be continuing this year!!

All Episodes of the Knitterly Arts Podcast are now on You Tube
and each episode’s Show Notes are housed on my Knitterly Arts blog.

Be sure to subscribe both places so you won’t miss any episodes!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If this new Artful Lifeline doesn’t sound like something you are interested in, NO PROBLEM! Simply hit the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the newsletter. If you want to receive An Artful Lifeline , and you are already receiving the Knitterly Arts Newsletter, then do nothing at all! I will be keeping you on the subscriber list.

**If you have never received the Knitterly Arts Newsletter but wish to receive An Artful Lifeline, SUBSCRIBE HERE!

But if not, no offense is taken at all. I am grateful for your past support and for any who desire to keep living Artfully along with me!

Artfully yours,
Jennifer

Could It Be?

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Could it be, in these small un-arted hours, beauty is wrought?

Could it be, in dishes and diapers, laundry and lunches, heaven is laid out?

Could it be, in lack and leanness, provision is lavished?

Could it be, in faces – not fancies – that fullness is found?

Could it be, as I embrace the small, my life is enlarged?

Could it be, that ART is happening even when I’m not making it?

Could it be, in all I feel as futile, God is fashioning beauty?

Could it be, the big life I long for is found in the little life I live?

Could it be, the constraints of time and money, unleash creativity?

Could it be, the pain of not making is simply the longing to be near Thee?

Could it be, this passion that seems to leak out a sieve, is actually being sifted, refined, made pure?

Could it be, even if I had all the time, energy, and provision to do my art, to live the big life I long for, that it would not be enough to satisfy or reach said big life and big art?

Could it be, that in me – a common vessel – resides eternity?

Could it be, that this side of heaven, I’m to weave my little thread, even if it’s the same thread as yesterday, or a new one I find along the way?

Could it be, my daily work is to draw a line from everyday things to eternity and back again.

Could it be, that contained in my insignificant, small life, the realms of heaven abide and He lives in grace and truth abounding?

Could it be, that the King of all nations would be born in a barn and sleep in a trough?

Could it be, that the Master Artist comes to create in humble, insignificant lives?

Could it be, the grandest art is made on the littlest scale?

Could it be, that True Beauty is wrought in lack, insignificance, and tedium?

Could it be I have it all wrong – instead of this life being about ME being able to do my art and thereby live my BIG life…that it is rather about CHRIST, the high and holy one, coming to live BIG in my humble and insignificant life?

Could it be, that my insignificant life is transformed into a magnificent one through the humblest of events – a babe in a manger, Emmanuel, God with us.

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Retuning my heart this day after Christmas, weary from so much merry-making, wondering where the Beauty is, reclaiming what is true and good. May your days after Christmas be magnificently insignificant as the babe weaves His love into your life.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Nothing to Prove, Everything to Share

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Just like oozly watercolors on paper, the colorful mind of an artist can turn to mud with the introduction of just one wrong thought. You don’t think of it as a “wrong” color to add in the mix with all the rest. You think “oh I’m just assessing the work”, “I’m just analyzing” or “I’m just being realistic.” But the minute, the absolute second, the tip of your brush touches the paper with thoughts of self, outcomes, worthiness, or value, the brown mud creeps into every color on the page chasing joy right out of the picture.

This happens to me far more often than I’d like to admit. But what also happens, fairly soon after I’ve thrown my hands up in the air crying Uncle, is that help begins to rain down. My hands are then catching the lovely drops of nectar that speak directly to my ailment and soothe my soul.

The first of these drops came a few weeks ago as I was agonizing, for the umpteenth trillionth time, over whether or not to start a video podcast. I won’t bore you with all the artistic angst (and believe me – the angst isn’t artistic at all!) I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post from my favorite yogi Eoin Finn, which said:

Nothing to Prove. Everything to Share.

The quote was even in the shape of a droplet of water, like dew from heaven. These words leapt off the screen and lodged in my heart so grandly that within 24 hours I had taped and uploaded my first video podcast for sharing my love of knitting and drawing. Eoin had put a hashtag with this quote, #jenniesallen, who has a book coming out soon by this very title: Nothing to Prove. I cannot wait to get my hands (and heart) on this book.

The next gift was a short but profound Good Life Project Riff with Jonathan Fields. I’ve listened to his podcast interviews for years and love hearing from so many voices about the path their creativity takes them. But in his “riffs” (very short podcasts) he jams on a particular subject. In his latest Riff, I was reminded of a truth that sets me free in my creative angst every time! I won’t go into the whole description of Jonathan’s podcast because you will love hearing it straight from him (only 9 minutes!), but I’ll tell you the main gist:

There is no there there.

There is only here now.

Oh how this sets me free from the tyranny of outcomes and plants me firmly where I need to be, fully alive to the moment at hand.

The last gift, though certainly not the least, was discovering this week the work of Michael Nobbs. I had heard of him through Sketchbook Skool for a while, but only a few days ago ventured to his newly revamped website from the Sketchbook Skool Newsletter. After listening to several of his short daily podcasts and reading his writing on Sustainable Creativity, I fell in love with this slow, gentle approach to creative living that Michael embodies.

Michael’s podcasts and writings, timely and inspirational during this week of Art Show preparations, have felt like a comforting hug. With tea in hand, short bursts of work, followed by times of rest, a bit of homely baking and a generous amount of pondering, I will make it to the Art Show and beyond…one small step at a time.

I highly recommend you check out Michael’s beautiful offering! As well as Jonathan Fields and his Good Life Project, Eoin Finn, and Jennie Allen. This season of thankfulness has me abounding in gratitude for all the fellow creatives valiantly sharing their love and messages with us. They enable me to go forth valiantly as well, with nothing whatsoever to prove…

just everything to share.

See you at the Show! 

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****Note on the above sketch: I have taken to drawing jumbles in my home. These are places where lots of STUFF seems to assemble itself into a colorful mess. They are great places to draw!! Drawing the jumbles of my life helps me see that there is beauty in messes. And it also delays the tidying up…:0

The Anti-Inspiration that Works!

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I have found some of the most unusual inspirations along the creative path as an artist. I may be the only one who finds freedom and renewed passion in these quirky anti-inspirations, but I’ll share this latest one with you, just in case it helps you too!

Here’s how it goes…

My passion for drawing and painting starts to flag, droop, wither, recede. Whatever the description, I tend to first label it as don’t-have-enough-time, or i’ve-drawn-all-this-before, etc. But if I really dig deep and get totally honest with myself, I realize that sometimes lurking behind the flagging passion is an insidious thought that what I do just isn’t special. This thought somehow creeps in (might it be from comparing my art to the reams of other awesome online artists…maybe?) and I begin to look at my drawings and paintings as run-of-the-mill, everyone-else-does-this-and-better, nothing-unique, nuttin’-special.

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Yes, there it is folks! Someone who has been painting and drawing for nigh unto 20 years now, still…STILL…has these stupid thoughts running amuck from time to time. The struggle is real. Very real.

On my daily walk a few days ago, as I took a good look at this crazy belief that had snuck into my artist’s heart through the back door, I actually had this thought:

You need to embrace the possibility that you are not unique!

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I stopped walking. I looked around. And wondered where in the world this could have come from. I rolled that phrase over in my head again:

Embrace your UN-uniqueness!

Let go of the demand to be special in the art world.

Be free of the need to stake out artistic territory that is only yours.

Just be YOU. Whatever that is. However it looks on the page. Wherever your pen takes you. Just Draw. And Draw. And Draw!

And the strangest thing happened…I felt light as a feather! I started walking again, faster than I had before all this, running this new, surprising inspiration through the cobwebs of my artsy heart. It swept it out clean!

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And each day since, I waken to a renewed excitement about lines on a page, wondering where they will take me today. As much as I, as a teacher, might not ever want to say to you that you are not unique, I do think the pressure to BE unique can really get us in a bind. Setting ourselves free from the net of having to be special, allows us to swim with abandon, in any direction we’d like to go!

Try it…embrace your UN-uniqueness…and see what happens!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

P.S. As always…you can follow these daily #Inktober drawings on my Instagram feed. 🙂

What if….?

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What if you could create for just 7 days, a mere week of your life, and at the end of the week have a small series of works that hold together, have taught you a lot, and bring a smile to your face? And what if you didn’t have to go anywhere or pay lots of money in order to have a week like this? And furthermore, what if you didn’t have to clear out your entire life to create some small works of art?

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The last seven days have been an answer to these questions and more as I said Yes to Tara Leaver’s offer to join her in a 7-Day Mini Painting Challenge. Surely I can commit to something like this for one week? Before thinking too much about it, I was pulling out leftover bits of yarn, a couple of crochet hooks and sketching out some thumbnail ideas for the next 7 days.

I’m not going to say that this was easy. In fact, I probably should have thought twice about what it would mean to try to make a small fiber painting each day. Working with stitches and yarn requires far more time than it does in paint and paper! And then to make these paintings in and around a full-schedule and a holiday weekend. But I didn’t think about this. I just dove in. Sometimes it is best  NOT to think. Just begin!

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Even though I had made a couple of  fiber paintings in the past, I still had lots of questions I wanted to explore. Tara’s 7-Day Challenge was actually supposed to require 30 minutes or less, which I could have certainly done with paint, pens or pastels. But I regularly work this way…small increments of time happily drawing and painting, filling sketchbooks with images from my everyday life. For this challenge, I wanted to explore the questions I’ve had banging around in  my  head concerning making these images with a crochet hook and yarn, even if it meant spending more than a half hour each day, which I did, and staying up a couple of days past my usual bedtime to finish them. 🙂

Here are some of the questions I wanted to explore:

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Day 1: What if I used fibers to create the shapes of trees as well as suggesting light falling on the scene?

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Day 2 & 3 (largest fiber painting of the bunch): What if I tried to use varying tones of the same color to indicate volume and how light plays on a still-life subject? Can this be done with flowers?

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Day 5: Can this be done with fruit? And can I make “cast shadows” read as such in fibers?

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Day 4: What if I used the textures of fiber to suggest nature? i.e.. leafy trees, a “smooth” path, etc.

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Day 6: What if I used stitches and color to show the movement of water and sky? Could I also indicate the texture in a waterscape? i.e.. the foamy waves, the fluffy clouds? (Note: the photographs do not show off all the textures of the yarns. I do wish you could see them “in person”.:)

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Day 7: What if I tried to indicate depth in a landscape with things in the foreground and things in the background? Can I successfully portray this to the viewer? (This was explored in each of the landscape fiber paintings!)

Whether or not I successfully achieved all the “what if’s”, (or took two days to complete one painting!) these six paintings make me smile! They still have a bit of work to be done–backing them so they can be wall-hangings and some final embroidered touches here and there.

I know I will create more of these in the future, but for now I’ll just look at the ones I’ve made and smile. When they are fully finished, I may hang them in my home. Or I might exhibit them at my Annual Art Show in November, or offer them on ETSY. I don’t know yet. I’m just enjoying having made them and having many of my questions answered.

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I appreciate all of your positive responses to this little 7-day journey on FB and Instagram! And I’m thankful for Tara Leaver and her wonderful way of inspiring artists to be freed to create, to move through blocks and to offer our work in the world! If you aren’t familiar with Tara’s art and workshops, do check her out! She has a workshop coming up very soon you might want to participate in. She has lots there on her website to encourage you to be the artist you want to be.

OR, in my case, to spend 7-days being just “ONE-OF-THE-57-ARTISTS-THAT-LIVE-INSIDE-OF-YOU”! Thank you Tara!

Artfully Yours,

Jennifer

Placemat Pattern for YOU!

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Some years ago, my mom gave me a couple of white cotton placemats that my Grandma Bowen had crocheted. She was an avid maker (artist, knitter, crocheter, embroiderer), as is my mom, and now me, and well… my girls are makers too!! It’s lovely to have a heritage of creativity, art and making!

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So for some time now I’ve wanted to figure out how Grandma made these placemats. Since I only have two of them, they are used as centerpiece “doilies” (you can see the white one under the wooden pedestal in my photos) and I’ve often wanted to have a set of them to use under plates.

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I’ve worked it out now in pattern form to share with you! It’s FREE for you to print off and enjoy! Do let others know about it if you like this pattern, but please give credit where it is due! I changed the edging a bit since I love the fan stitch and added the picots in keeping with Grandma’s version.

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I’m now working on a set of them in multiple colors! I have the Fiesta dishware so I thought it would be fun to crochet different colored placemats to mix and match with the plates. I can still use just one if I like for centerpiece decoration.

I hope you enjoy making a set of these for yourself or for a gift. They work up quite easily, round and round you go.

I hope you are having a lovely weekend!

Jennifer 

P.S. You might enjoy these other Free Patterns as well, or browse the ones for purchase Here!