Raised Beds: Part I

I constructed two different types of raised beds for growing vegetables, herbs and flowers a few years back. One was out of the Ikea shelving unit Hejne


Dimensions: 78cm x 50cm x 171cm


I had this at home already and only had to modify the way it was built to turn it into a planter.

Construct the shelving unit by shifting 2 of the 4 long posts so that they sit just outside the frame of the shelving unit and not flush with the edge as shown in the picture. (This will give you more room at the top side of the planter for plants.)



Arrange the shelves so that they line the outside of the frame like the top shelf shown in the first picture above. You will need 6 shelf pieces:
Two on each long side of the planter with a gap in the middle, which we’ll address in the next step, and one on each short side.

The set only comes with 4 shelves so you will need to buy the expansion pack which adds an additional 2 shelves…



You won’t be needing the metal brace pieces that come with the shelf set, so set those aside. You will need two additional pieces of cut wood the same width as your gaps (or wider is also ok) cut to 47 cm long.

You can use two cut pieces of an old pallet, which is what I used, or other scrap wood planks that are cut to 47 cm long. Nail them to the inside of the frame to fill in the gaps between the two shelves on the long sides of the planter.

You should now have a raised bed that looks something like this…


This planter was very easy to construct as the shelves are already assembled when you buy the kit and just need to be faced outward along the edge of the frame to form a top and bottomless rectangular planting frame. Normally if you buy a raised bed for plants at a garden store they can run hundreds of dollars each. This planter cost me:

Hejne Storage System          Cost: € 25

Hejne Additional Shelves    Cost: € 9

Scrap Wood                            Cost: € 1

Nails                                         Cost: € 0.60

Total                                     Cost: € 35.60


Ear Flap Hat


I knit this hat with a skein of yarn that I had gotten for free from Cephalopod Yarns in return for donating a hand-made item, that I had knit about a year ago, to the relief project called Afghans for Afghans. Afghans for Afghans is in the organization’s own words “a humanitarian and educational people-to-people project that sends hand-knit and crocheted blankets and sweaters, vests, hats, mittens, and socks to the beleaguered people of Afghanistan”. This is a grassroots effort dedicated to clothing people in need of warm clothes during times of war and crisis. It was inspired by the Red Cross tradition of knitting hand-made items for soldiers and refugees during World Wars I & II.


It’s really nice to donate a hand-made item and know that all of your effort and money/time is going to the aid of people in need.
Afghans for Afghans will be accepting donations of hand-knit hats, mittens and scarfs through the end of February if you are interested in donating to this cause.


Last year I knit this hat and donated it and it seemed fitting to knit another hat with the yarn I got for participating in the project.


Since my family has been experiencing an especially tough winter this year in upstate New York, with lots of snow and subzero temperatures, I decided to send this hat to my mom as a belated birthday gift. It has a loose fit, which I know she prefers, and knitted with double strands of yarn it is warm and cozy. You can knit this with just one strand of Merino yarn if you like but the addition of a fluffy mohair yarn makes this hat softer and fuzzier which makes for a better buffer against the cold weather.


Ear Flap Hat

Adult sizes S/M and M/L

You will need:

  • 4.5 mm* double pointed and/or circular needles (circular needles are optional)
  • Size J Crochet hook
  • 1 skein (280 yds/256 m) DK/ light worsted weight merino yarn like: Cephalopod Yarn’s Traveller
  • 1 skein (220 yds/200 m) worsted weight 10 ply mohair yarn like: Lana Grossa’s Babykid

Guage: 16 stitches and 25 rows = 4in x 4in in stockinette
*Or size needed to obtain guage!

What to do:
Size S/M follow instructions below
Size M/L follow instructions below including those in [ ]
For the Ear flaps:
(Make 2)
Cast on 3 stitches on circular or double pointed needles.
Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Purl
Row 3: Knit 1, Increase one to the left, knit 1, increase one to the right, knit 1
Row 4: Purl
Row 5: Knit 1,
Increase one to the left, knit 3, increase one to the right, knit 1
Rows 6, 8, 10, [12, 14]: Purl
Rows 7, 9, 11, [13, 15]: Continue to increase as before with one left and one right increase
(total of 13 [17] stitches)
Row 12 [16]: Purl
Rows 13 [17]: Knit
Rows 14-23 [18-25]: Repeat the two rows above
Row 24 [26]: Purl
Cut the yarn leaving a tail to weave in later and transfer flap from your needles to a long piece of waste yarn

On circular (or double pointed needles) cast on 13 [16] stitches.
Place the earflap with the knit side facing you and knit across.
Cast on 28 [34] stitches.
With the second earflap’s knit side facing you, knit across.
Cast on 13 [16] more stitches. (Total of 80 [100] stitches)
Join in the round and continue knitting for 35 [40] more rows: about 5 1/2 [6] inches from cast on rim of hat.

Row 1: *Knit 6 [8], Knit two together, repeat from * around
Row 2: *Knit 5 [7], Knit two together, repeat from * around
Continue in this manner for 4[6] more rounds. (total of 20 stitches)
Row 7 [9]: Knit around
Row 8 [10]: Knit two together, around (total of 10 stitches)
Row 9 [11]: Knit around
Row 10 [12]: Knit two together around (total of 5 stitches)
Cut a long tail. Pull yarn through remaining 5 stitches and to the inside of the hat. With a crochet hook single crochet all around the bottom edge of the hat. Weave in all loose ends. Use the crochet hook to pull loops of yarn through the bottom end of each ear flap that are 5 inches long. Tie the loops in place near the bottom of the ear flap and cut the ends of each loop to form a tassel. If you have enough yarn left over and you are so inclined you can also make a pom pom for the top of the hat. I used up exactly one skein of the merino yarn to make this. Block the hat carefully with a damp cloth and a hot iron. You can also line the hat by sewing in a layer of fleece to the inside to make it extra warm.


Ylva’s Lamb

Here’s a little lamb that I made for a friend’s daughter for her 3rd birthday….

My 4 year old daughter, Anna, helped me stuff the little lamb with carded sheep’s wool.
(It seemed appropriate for the project and it is also much nicer and softer to use than polyester stuffing when making dolls and stuffed animals.)

I used a free pattern from the site Pattern Bee called Little Lambkin.
The only changes I made to the pattern was that I printed it at 1 1/2 times its original size and added round pieces of fabric to the bottoms of each of the lambs legs to make him more realistic looking when he’s standing.


I used white fleece for the main body fabric and brown velvet for the contrasting ear fabric, buttons for the eyes were sewn on with white embroidery floss and pink embroidery floss for the nose and mouth (both colors were sewn with double strands).


I used less than a quarter of a yard of the white fleece fabric, scraps of velvet that I had left from another project, left over ribbon from last Christmas, and buttons and embroidery floss that I had in my stash already. The only costly item was the organic wool stuffing I used which came to about $5-7 for the total amount used in this project.

It was a pretty straight forward sewing project and Anna had fun helping me with the little details along the way. The only trouble I had was the fabric was very stretchy and didn’t want to stay put while I was sewing the body together so I needed to use a lot of pins and patience to get the face and legs right. Overall it was a moderate to easy project to work on.

Time wise this can be a weekend project if you have plenty of time to dedicate to it or can be finished up slowly over the course of a week or so.

Christmas Knits


I’ve been really busy the past few weeks knitting up a storm for Christmas. We had snow last week but it all melted this past weekend and sadly it’s been cold and rainy around here lately. Whether it’s rain or snow though these holiday knits should keep you warm on a cold winters day and with the  70 % Wool, 30% Alpaca blend yarn they are really soft too! The scarf/cowl is the adult version of Anna’s Scarf which I made longer by knitting to 52cm, the hat is an adult version of the Baby Garter-Stitch Knit Hat that I made and the mittens I adapted partly from this Drops Design pattern. I’ve written up my patterns for the hat and mittens here. I was able to knit all these up last weekend while I was stuck at home with a  pretty bad head cold, which I am hoping will be completely gone by the holidays and our trip back to the US to visit my family at the end of next week! These can easily be completed in the last few days we have before Christmas, using only 4 balls of chunky yarn which knits up very quickly, and you’ll still have time left over to make some Christmas cookies if you want too!


(Adult) Garter Stitch Hat

You will need:

2 Balls Lana Grossa: Linea Pura Fauna (or similar bulky weight Wool/Alpaca yarn blend)

Set of 5mm circular or double pointed needles

Set of 6mm circular and double pointed needles

Gauge: On 6mm needles in garter stitch, 8 stitches and 14 rows = 5cm x 5cm

Cast on 60 stitches evenly on a set of 5mm circular or double pointed needles,  join and knit in the round as follows:

(The addition of a marking thread to tell where your round begins/ends is helpful!)

Rows 1-6: Knit 1, Purl 1 around

Now on size 6mm circular (or double pointed needles):

Row 7: Knit 6, make one stitch, around (total of 70 stitches)

Row 8: Purl around

Row 9: Knit around

Rows 10 and up: Repeat rows 8 and 9 until the hat measures at least 15cm. (16cm or more will make for a slightly longer hat. Mine came down just to the bottom of my ears.)

Ending on a purl row proceed to decrease as follows, switching to double pointed needles when needed:

Row 1: Knit 5, knit two together, around (total 60 stitches)

Row 2: Purl around

Row 3: Knit 4, knit 2 together, around (total 50 stitches)

Row 4: Purl around

Row 5: Knit 3, knit 2 together, around (total 40 stitches)

Row 6: Purl around

Row 7: Knit 2, knit 2 together, around (total 30 stitches)

Row 8: Purl around

Row 9: Knit 1, knit 2 together, around (total 20 stitches)

Row 10: Purl around

Row 11: Knit 2 together, around (total 10 stitches)

Row 12: Purl around

Row 13: Knit 2 together, around (total 5 stitches)

Cut the thread leaving a tail and thread the tail through the remaining stitches. Pull tight so there is no gap and weave the ends in. Sew a button of similar color on the top of the hat with the same yarn and a tapestry needle (optional).


Mittens in Stockinette Stitch

Adapted from Drops Design

You will need:

2 Balls Lana Grossa: Linea Pura Fauna (or similar bulky weight Wool/Alpaca yarn blend)

Set of 5mm double pointed needles

Set of 6mm double pointed needles

Gauge: On 6mm needles in stockinette stitch, 7 stitches and 9 rows = 5cm x 5cm

For the rib:

Cast on 24 stitches with a set of 5mm double pointed needles and knit in the round as follows:

Knit 3, Purl 3, around until the rib measures 8cm

Change now to size 6mm double pointed needles for the rest.

For the body of the mitten:

Knit 5 rounds

Increase for the thumb (place a marking thread before and after each increased stitch):

Row 1: Make one stitch, Knit 1, Make one stitch, Knit around (3 thumb stitches and 26 stitches total)

Row 2: Knit around

Row 3: Make one, Knit 3, Make one, Knit around (5 thumb stitches and 28 stitches total)

Row 4: Knit around

Row 5: Make one, Knit 5, Make one, Knit around (7 thumb stitches and 30 stitches total)

Row 6: Knit around

Row 7: Make one, Knit 7, Make one, Knit around (9 thumb stitches and 32 stitches total)

Row 8: Knit around

Height should now be 14cm from the bottom of the mitten. If not knit until a length of at least 14cm is reached and then:

Put the 9 thumb stitches on a long thread and cast on 3 new stitches behind these thumb stitches.(Now a total of 26 stitches on the needles)

Make sure your stitches are evenly spaced on at least 3 needles. (I reduced from having stitches on 4 to 3 needles here but you can keep all 4 if you want.)

Knit in the round until piece measures 24cm or at least comes up over the top of your pinkie finger.

Decrease as follows:

Row 1: Knit two together, knit 11, knit 2 together, knit 11 (total of 24 stitches)

Row2: Knit two together, knit 4, repeat around (total of 20 stitches)

Row 3: Knit two together, knit 3, repeat around (total of 16 stitches)

Row 4: Knit two together, knit 2, repeat around (total of 12 stitches)

Row 5: Knit two together, around (total of 6 stitches)

Cut the yarn leaving a tail and pull through the remaining stitches. Pull tight and weave the end in on the inside of the mitten.

For the thumb:

Pick up 4 stitches with a new strand of yarn and a crochet hook evenly spaced behind the thumb and preferably over two legs of a former stitch so you won’t make a hole in the mitten here. (total of 13 stitches)

Place a marking thread at the beginning of the round and knit in the round on 6mm double pointed needles until the thumb measures 6cm from the shortest side.


Row 1: Knit 2 together around (total of 7 stitches)

Row 2: Knit 2 together around (total of 4 stitches)

Cut yarn and pull through remaining 4 stitches. Weave in the loose ends.


Baby Knits

I knit these garter-stitch boots for a friend of mine who was having a baby last month and I was looking around for a hat to match them. I saw this really cute garter-stitch knit hat with a button on top at Gap.com and thought it would go perfectly with the boots I had just made. I did not, however, want to pay $16.95 for the hat plus shipping and handling on top of that and since I currently live in Germany the cost for shipping would have come to almost the same price as the hat! So I used the handy zoom feature on the product page and scrutinized the hat a little closer and thought, I can make this myself!  From the picture I was able to do a bit of row counting and stitch calculating and it wasn’t too hard to come up with this pattern for the mock “Gap garter-stitch knit hat”. I used the same yarn as for the boots and I think the pair would make a very nice gift for a new baby or mom to be. This hat is a cinch to make. I was a little nervous about making the boots when I first started, as I’ve never made any before, but they knit up extremely quickly and were no trouble to make at all. Yarn choice is key when making baby garments and I wanted something that was soft, organic and neutral in color since I didn’t know the sex of the baby yet. I had quite a bit of this extremely soft, organic, hand-spun lamb’s wool  in my stash, left over from some Christmas projects that I made last year, so I decided to use that. I used a button that came as an extra button from some clothing that I had bought for my daughter Anna, that was sitting in my stash of buttons, and it made a great accent to the hat. Altogether the hat and boots cost me nothing to make, just a little bit of my time.

Garter-Stitch Knit Hat

Inspired by the Baby Gap garter-stitch knit hat


4 and 5 mm (40 cm long) circular needles (or set of double pointed needles)

5 mm double pointed needles

1 skein of 100% Organic Lambs Wool or Organic Cotton Yarn (worsted weight)

1 button a similar color as the yarn


Tapestry needle and/or crochet hook (for weaving in the ends)

Gauge: On 5mm needles in garter stitch, 10 stitches and 18 rows = 5cm x 5cm


Cast on 80 stitches using  4 mm circular or double pointed needles (if using double pointed needles divide so that there are 20 stitches on each of 4 needles)

Row 1:  Knit 1, Purl 1 around and place a marking thread at the end of the round

Rows 2-5:  Repeat row 1

Row 6:  With size 5 mm circular or double pointed needles knit 6, knit 2 together, repeat around. (Total of 70 stitches)

Row 7:  Purl around

Row 8:  Knit around

Row 9:  Purl around

Rows 10- 35:  Repeat rows 8 and 9 (ending on a purl row)*

Row 36:  Knit 5, knit 2 together, repeat around (Total of 60 stitches)

Row 37: Purl around

Row 38: Knit 4, knit 2 together, repeat around (Total of 50 stitches)

Row 39:  Purl around

Row 40: Knit 3, knit 2 together, repeat around (total of 40 stitches)

Row 41: Purl around

Row 42: Knit 2, knit 2 together, repeat around (total of 30 stitches)

Row 43:  Purl around

Row 44: Knit 1, knit 2 together, repeat around (total of 20 stitches)

Row 45: Purl around

Row 46: Knit 2 together around (total of 10 stitches)

Row 47: Purl around

Row 48: Knit 2 together around (total of 5 stitches)

Cut the thread leaving a tail and thread the tail through the remaining stitches. Pull tight so there is no gap and weave the ends in. Sew a button of similar color on the top of the hat with the same yarn and a tapestry needle.

*Repeat rows 8 and 9 until the hat measures 9 cm or about 3 1/2 inches, that was row 35 for me, but make sure to end on a purl row before starting to decrease.

Upcycle: Making a Planter From Bed Frame Slats

When we purchased the twin sized bed frame from Ikea for our second bedroom, in anticipation of having my family come to visit us here in Germany, it came with a set of sturdy, inflexible, wooden slats.

These slats, which are commonly used to support beds here in Europe, are placed within the bed frame and the mattress goes on top. It’s rather uncomfortable to sleep on top of hard wooden slats, as you can imagine, so most people here opt to buy the “flexible” bed frame slats which are much pricier but a lot more comfortable to sleep on. A set of new “flexible” slats can run from at least a hundred euros and upwards depending on the style you buy. This is the system that’s commonplace throughout Europe and it’s what they use instead of the box-spring concept that we have in the United States. Since my brother was coming to stay with us for the entire summer this year, he’s staying with us from May through early October, we decided to buy a set of more comfortable and flexible slats for our guest bed. We looked around online for an affordable set of second hand slats and found a barely used set, on ebay, for a fraction of the cost that we would have paid for them new.

We then sent the Ikea planks straight down to retirement in our basement store room. It seemed like they might end up living there indefinitely if it hadn’t been for an idea I had earlier this summer to build another planter for our balcony. I needed some untreated, lightweight wood to do that and was also looking for a way to upcycle these wooden bed slats, so it worked out perfectly. I don’t have any plans because I just made up this planter as I went along but if you’re using wood that you already have on hand, fit the dimensions of your planter to the materials you have. I also in the end decided to make the planter a little bit larger than I had initially planned so that I could utilize all the wood from the slats. This meant, however, that I would be just shy of the amount of wood I would need to finish the planter and would need to purchase an additional small length of  similar wood. I figured it was better to have a larger planter and spend an extra euro or two on wood than to have a smaller one with left over wooden slats that I would have no use for.

So here’s what you’ll need:

Light wood like pine, about 16-18 meters (I had 16 slats that were 96 cm x 7 cm x  2cm)

Hand saw




Straight edge or Speed Square

Work Bench or Sawhorse (or some level surface where you can cut the wood)


*I had everything I needed except for the saw.

The saw plus the the small amount of wood that I needed to buy cost me altogether around 10 euros.


I utilized the full length of the slats for the bottom and two long sides of the planter, using 4 slats evenly spaced for each of these three sides.


I cut the remaining 4 long slats that I had into thirds for a total of 12 shorter pieces (each 32 cm long).


I used these pieces to make the vertical sides on each end of the planter.


Using 4 pieces for each of the vertical sides, I now had only four short pieces left.

(this is where I needed to buy a little extra wood to finish, approx. 1.92 meters)

I needed a total of 10 of  these short pieces to brace the inside of the structure and hold all the pieces together.


To brace each side of the planter I used two short pieces each, one on each end, to hold the sides in place.

I nailed the inside bracing pieces flush with the top on each end. I did the same on the bottom to give the planter a little extra height.


For the two long sides I adjusted the spacing between the boards to make everything evenly match up and then nailed them in place.

And voila, a new planter for my balcony!

All you need to do now is staple some garden fabric to the inside of the planter and add some soil!

Saw                           Cost: € 6

Wood                        Cost: € 4

Garden Fabric         Cost: € 3

Soil                            Cost: € 6

Total                       Cost: € 19

DIY: Scrubby Dish Towels and Wash cloths

Knit your own dish cloths and/or wash cloths for the kitchen and bathroom. They are a breeze to make even for the inexperienced knitter and are durable and reusable. You can make them in an array of colors using 100% cotton yarn and they knit up very quickly: in about 1/2 an hour to an hour depending on how fast you are! They also make great personalized gifts  if you wrap up a few of them with a bar of locally handmade or organic soap and they use very little yarn so one ball will make more than one! If you have any cotton yarn left over from another project you can save it to make one of these “Little Tuffys” or if you are short on one specific color you can even combine colors and make a multicolored cloth! They are very versatile and handy! These “Little Tuffys” are non abrasive but have great scrubbing power for non stick pans, stove tops, counters  and tea/coffee cups.

“Little Tuffy Dish Cloth”

Pattern by Adrienne Medrano

Materials :

  • 1 ball Sugar’n Cream Cotton yarn or any cotton worsted weight yarn of your choice.
  • US Size 10 or 6mm knitting needles
  • Size J or 6mm crochet hook ( if you want a little loop for hanging)
  • A tapestry needle or crochet hook (to tuck in the ends)

Directions for a 6″ Square Dishcloth:

*I’ve included links to YouTube tutorials on how to knit for those of you who would like to attempt this project but have never knitted before.
Remove yarn label and find the inside and outside end of your yarn. (you can also use 2 different strands from two balls of yarn held together)

With 2 strands of yarn held together Cast on 18 stitches.

Row 1: Knit 1, Purl 1 across row

Row 2: Purl 1, Knit 1 across row

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until your cloth measures 6″ or it is as long as it is wide.

Cast off all stitches in the same manner as the pattern, but then transfer the last loop to your crochet hook. Chain 7 or 8 stiches depending on how large you want your loop to be and finish off by hooking the end of the chain to the beginning of the chain where it meets the dishcloth and cut the end leaving a tail of yarn. Tuck the tail ends in with a crochet hook or tapestry needle.

Directions for a 5″x 5″ Dish Scrubby:

Cast on 16 stitches using 2 strands of yarn held together

Use the directions for the 6″x 6″ dishcloth but omit the loop for hanging.


“Bath or Face Cloth”

My own pattern adapted from Adrienne Medrano’s  “Little Tuffy”


  • 1 Ball of 100% organic cotton worsted weight yarn (organic cotton is usually much softer than regularly processed cotton)
  • US Size 5 or 3.75 mm Knitting Needles
  • US Size G or 4 mm Crochet Hook or tapestry needle

With one strand of yarn cast on 30 stitches.

Row 1: Knit 1, Purl 1 across

Row 2: Purl 1, Knit 1 across

(this is know as Moss Stitch)

Continue in Moss Stitch until the face cloth is as long as it is wide.

Cast off in Moss Stitch pattern and tuck in loose ends with a crochet hook or tapestry needle.


1 Ball of Cotton – Organic Cotton Yarn       $2.49 – $5

Set of size 5 or size 10 Knitting Needles     $2

Size 4 or size 6 Crochet Hook                       $1

Total Cost:                                                       $5.49 – $8


I already had knitting needles and crochet hooks in these sizes and I used left over yarn from another project so making these was cost free for me.