Friday, October 09, 2015

Cheryl's Sunflower + A Question for You All?

I've been trying to figure out how I can have a place on the web where people who are inspired by me, my books, farm, garden, art, or something I write here on the blog and other things could live. I know that if folks knit or crochet, they can post their projects made from my patterns to Ravelry. But Ravelry is finite - nothing but knit and crochet - no embroidery, no painting, no art, no food. 

First off, I'm wondering if anyone has an idea of an easy place for such a "page." I've been thinking about having a Facebook Group called "Inspired by Kristin Nicholas." I thought that might be kind of easy. But then, in my last "Getting Stitched on the Farm" Retreat, I mentioned it and NONE of the four students "did" Facebook. 

I often get emails with photos from people and do not always have time or space to write a blog post about each nice note or project. An open group might work because you all could just post it yourself? 

Do any of you have an idea for me? I don't think many people do Flickr anymore - goodness knows I could never figure it out. The biggest thing is -- it has to be easy for everyone to do - me and you.

Now, onto the subject of today's post called Cheryl's Sunflower. This past summer, I had a student at one of my retreats named Cheryl. She lives locally and signed up early for the Crewel Retreat. Cheryl really got into stitching. On Day Two, she printed some fabric to be stitched this winter. She also traced an outline of another student's - Cynthia - sunflower project. Here is the beginning of the stitching. 

Cheryl kept sending me progress of the pillow. 

She ran out of yarn and met me at the farmers market for extra supplies. 

What I loved about Cheryl's interpretation of her sunflower was the play and experimentation she did. She used so many different stitches. It really is so pretty. Best of all, she had a great time stitching it. 

She finished the pillow and sent me a photo. What a great job Cheryl. Thanks for sharing it with me and all of us. 

If you want to learn Crewel Embroidery, you can take my class Stitch It with Wool: Crewel Embroidery. Here is the link to get the class at $20 off the regular price of $39.99
You can purchase supplies  - linen, wool crewel thread, needles and hoops on my website here.  

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Sunflowers and Van Gogh

I flipped the coffee table top over on the porch a few weeks ago for the Country Home photo shoot. We laid down one of my plates and placed some pretty sunflowers on it. What a cheerful way to celebrate summer. The other side of the tabletop looks like this. 

It is a project from my book "Crafting A Colorful Home." The book includes complete instructions for making the circles tabletop. 

The end of the Autumn Beauty Sunflowers in my cutting garden
In celebration of the finale of the blooming of the sunflowers here at the farm, I want to share with you a book I just read called "The Sunflowers Are Mine." Written by Van Gogh scholar Martin Bailey, this book is a two part story. The first section tells the story of how and why Vincent Van Gogh painted his sunflower paintings. I learned that he painted the famous oil paintings to decorate his yellow house that he was renting in Arles in Provence. He wanted to have beautiful paintings on the wall when his friend Gaugin arrived.

What I didn't realize is that Vincent painted several different sunflower paintings. These works of art are among the most recognizable paintings in the modern world.

He began with Three Sunflowers.

Then he painted Six Sunflowers.

Next was Fourteen Sunflowers. And then Fifteen Sunflowers. 

These four paintings were done in 5 days! 

After the success of these paintings, he went on to make several copies of his sunflower paintings. Some were signed by Vincent and some were not. 

All of these paintings became the property of Vincent's brother Theo and his wife Jo after Vincent committed suicide. Theo died shortly after and Jo was left with not only these paintings but hundreds of others. That is where Part Two of the book begins. What an interesting tale of how Jo got Vincent's work out there to the public and how poorly it was received. Over the years, the interest in his work increased and she slowly sold the work. 

Not only are the initial sales by sister in law Jo of Vincent's work described but the progression of the fame of the Sunflower Paintings is followed. As Van Gogh's fame spread, his paintings increased in value by crazy amounts. You will have to read the book to learn more. I encourage you to if you are interested in art and art history. It is a fascinating read.  

Here is an interesting short article from The Guardian about the writing of the book. If you are interested in art and Van Gogh in particular. Here is my affiliate link to purchase the book via Amazon. It is a great read. 

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Gee's Bend Quilts in Brattleboro

Last Thursday I was in the process of waking up with coffee after the mad dash to get lunch made for Julia and put her on the bus safely - while making sure the puppies didn't run away. Mark and I listen to the radio in the a.m. while getting ready for the day. I couldn't believe my ears - the Gee's Bend Quilters were going to be in Brattleboro, VT just 25 minutes from our farm on Friday evening. I had to get there somehow. I had to skip my neighbor Alicia Hunsicker's art opening - sorry Alicia - I will get there. And cancel a movie date that Julia and I had made to see The Intern (has anyone seen it?). 

Off I went to the Catherine Dianich Gallery. The gallery is tucked in an alley behind Main St. On the street hung this quilt.

Inside, it was packed with all kinds of people - men, women, kids, quilters and non-quilters. There was a film being shown about the Gees Bend Quilters by Vanessa Vadim. Unfortunately I didn't time my visit right so missed it. Maybe I can borrow it from the library. 

Added later: Thank you "anonymous" for passing on the link so that we can all watch. Here it is:

In the lobby, there was a quilting frame set up. Around it sat many of the Gee's Bend Quilters along with regular folks. They were teaching people to quilt. 

I sat down and added some stitches and chatted with other women who were adding their stitches. The GB Quilters were off on their way to perform a play.

It was a fun evening and I'm so happy I made myself get there. 

If you are in Brattleboro before November 28th, you too will be able to see the show. Here's the info you need. The gallery is open on Friday and Saturdays only and by appointment. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

How I Make Basil Pesto + The Sheep on The Hill

This morning on the radio, they mentioned a slight chance of frost and I went into a panic - a basil panic. Whenever there is a chance of frost, I harvest my basil. It is so tender, it seems to turn brown and mushy before a real killing frost like the other plants I grow. 

This afternoon Julia and I made a several batches of basil pesto. It is annual rite of fall here at the farm. I grow a long row of basil and each fall, just before frost, go into mass production. I put it in small deli containers and freeze it to use through the winter. I grow the traditional Genovese basil with the large leaf. I have tried the mini leaf basil but it is too tedious for me to pick all the little leaves off the stems. 

Leyden Glen Farm Basil Pesto Recipe

1/4 cup walnuts
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups basil
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese - grated

I wouldn't make pesto without a food processor. It would take too long and I don't have the patience to grind things with a mortar and pestle. 

In your food processor, place walnuts, garlic, and salt and process until finely chopped. Add the basil leaves to the bowl and process for a few seconds. Slowly pour in the olive oil and wait until the leaves are all chopped. You can tell this is done because the basil becomes a mass of whirring slurry. Add the parmesan and process just for a second. 

Using a rubber spatula, scoop the pesto into small plastic deli containers. For each batch, I usually split it in half and make 2 containers from a batch. Write "Pesto - 2015" on top of each container. Freeze immediately.

Use it on sandwiches and pizza. Add it to soups and pasta all winter long.  

Earlier in the day, I helped Mark round up the sheep into the large sheep handling unit. Kate and Ness helped mostly. Kate is beginning to really work the sheep - perfect timing as Nessie has really slowed down. Kate has a long way to go but at least we are seeing progress. Best thing is she is always super excited to jump in the truck with Mark and go off to do some kind of farm chore. She is so excited that she actually trembles with excitement. 

Here are some photos of the sheep. The sheep are moving to other pastures as where they are now is pretty much out of feed. The leaves are beginning to turn and it is going to be a splendid week here for color and nice autumn weather. 

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Meet Beau and Sadie - The Two New Great Pyrenees Guard Pups

I've had quite a few dogs in my life. I grew up with dogs in our house and over the years, Mark and I have had our fair share - Haida, Kelso, Paisley, Devon, Phoebe, Ness, Winston, Archie and Kate. These days, we choose working dogs - those canines who have been bred to have a job and help out on a farm. Border Collies take care of the herding. Great Pyrenees guard the sheep from the predators. I can't imagine even being able to sheep farm without a good dog or two or four or five. Dogs cover ground at amazing speed - they know their job - whether herding or guarding. As a sheep farmer, you come to rely on your dogs like family. And they are our family for sure. Our dogs rarely ever let us down, once they are out of the pup stage and know their role here at the farm. 

Sadly, two weeks ago, we lost Winston, our 4 year old Great Pyrenees Livestock Guard Dog to bone cancer. We knew there was not much to be done about his short life. No matter how much it pained me to think about life on the farm without Winston, I knew I had to think about replacing him. Knowing that it wouldn't take the coyotes long to figure out that Winston was ailing and gone, I started a search for another Great Pyrenees pup. We love the breed, the gentleness, the deep bark and their instinct to protect our sheep. Because we have frequent visitors here at our farm, we wanted to know that we could trust the dog. Luckily, I found a litter of pups at a sheep farm about a half hour from us and we were first on the list for a new pup. 

Off we went to visit Huckowicz Farm Suffolks in late August. The Great Pyrenees pups were in a barn with their sheep and alpacas. We met their Mom and Dad - Buddy and Abby - and chose not one but two pups. I couldn't bear the the thought of one little pup out in the field with the sheep in the wide open spaces since I didn't know how long Winston would be with us. 

Meet Beau and Sadie - the two new Livestock Guard Dog (LGD) Great Pyrenees pups. They are totally lovable balls of white fluffy fur. 

Beau and Sadie met Winston and lived with him for a couple weeks. Our vet Amy said she is sure he passed on his wisdom to them. Here's hoping they do their job as they grow into it. It has been a bit easier losing Winston with the distraction of puppies. Not that they will totally replace him. They will have their own personality that we will learn to love too. 

Sadie is smart as a whip and I'm sure will be the trouble maker and instigator. Her brown patches will fade as she grows.

I see a bit of Winston's personality in Beau - he is slower to move and not quite as rambunctious. His gray markings will probably remain as he grows older. 

It will take several months for the puppies to grow into their job. Right now we are trying to keep them safe and out of trouble. They are getting used to our family, the other dogs, and the sheep. 

Thank you everyone for the incredibly kind comments you left upon Winston's passing. We all read each and every one and appreciate your thoughts and sympathy. You guys are wonderful. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Easy DIY How to Print Faux Wallpaper Video by Kristin Nicholas on

Very happy to share with you all today a DIY video that is being featured on the website today. I taped it back in May when Rick and the team were here. 

If the player isn't showing on your device, HERE IS THE LINK for you to watch it

This video shows you how I printed the stairwell walls in our colorful farmhouse. I chose to demo this technique because it is so approachable and easy to do. Because we didn't have actual walls to demonstrate on, we used masonite boards. The one thing I forgot to say in the video is ---- If you screw up and your stamped print isn't quite right, you can easily just wipe off the print and try again. I have done this many times. Just make sure your surface is dry before you print again so that the paint doesn't run down your walls. 

Photo Rikki Snyder via
This technique doesn't have to be limited to walls. I used it to stamp the stairs in my studio as shown below. 

Photo Rikki Snyder

It's a quick technique and very inexpensive to do. It makes a great statement too. And you can design your very own motifs. Have fun with it! 

Learn more about decorating your home with handmade color in my book Crafting A Colorful Home available on my website here. Free shipping, bookplate included and free postcards. $27.95. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Colorful Knitting Retreat Wrap-Up

We had a fantastic weekend here at the farm with four knitters who travelled from CT, NJ, AZ and VT. From the moment they walked in the french doors into the living room, I knew we were all going to get along and have a blast. 

We started the day out with a getting to know you session on our porch. Then onto a tour of the handmade and hand painted decoration of our farmhouse. By sharing the decoration, my handmade work, paintings, and collections, I can easily share my sense of color and help students learn to work more proficiently with color themselves. 

Next it was down to my studio. I talked a little more about color and shared samples. Then it was out to my cutting garden where each student collected flowers and leaves that inspired them. 

Back inside, we built color palettes using our natural and floral inspiration. This is the funnest (is that a word?) part of the weekend for me. To see each knitter start discovering how colors go together and how nature does the most incredible job is such a joy. Do you see the intensity? 

Here are some of the colorways they put together. 

I also shared some art books and discussed another way to create a pretty colorway for knitting. 

In the afternoon, I taught them all about embroidering on knits. Here are 3 of the 4 samplers they made. Mary Kay had to rush off and I didn't have a chance to snap hers before she left. 

Charlie the cat hung out with us, testing everyone's knitting bag to see which was the most comfortable to nap on. 

On Day Two, we began with a sheep herding demonstration by Mark and Kate. Here are the sheep all bunched up awaiting Kate's next move. 

Back in the studio, the students sewed and cut a steek! Then they got to work on their pillow tops and added lots of embroidery. 

And here are Nancy, Mardie, and Cyd with their in process projects. Mary Kay left after Day One because she had to get back home for work.  

And here is a photo of Julia with as she calls them "the ladies." The older she gets, the more she is interested in everyone. She might even say she is slightly interested in what they are making - only slightly! 

Ahhh, the studio is so quiet now. Time to get back to my work now. And think about what I would like to teach next year. 

The entire Getting Stitched on the Farm Creative Retreat experience is impossible to duplicate with a slide show at a guild meeting or in a store setting. If you are really into color, the handmade, knitting, stitching, and fabric, think about coming to the farm in 2016. 

The best way to learn about the Creative Retreats is by signing up for my newsletter on the top right of the sidebar of my blog. Newsletter readers are notified of the dates FIRST - even before blog readers. 

I'll be back with more this week. Tuesday Farmers Market in Northampton behind Thornes Marketplace today in the rain! If you are local, stop by.