Friday, December 29, 2006

Hi and Bye

Here's a quick drive-by posting.

Today I made some cupcakes.

These are red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate/peppermint/cream cheese frosting from Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor.

Today I'm tackling the laundry mountain, so I can pack to go out of town again in the morning. I'm also washing some Christmas sweaters, because there's nothing like unpacking a red sweater to wear to a party and realizing it has a big stain down the front from when you wore it last year. . .

I see I've been attacked with nasty comment spam. I hope to upgrade the blog to the newer version of blogger when I return. I'm excited because I'll be able to organize posts into categories. Also, I need to update my links. I have a new digital camera to play with, so the photo quality should improve. . .

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Holidays

I decorated the tiny tree on the side table of my knitting spot with the little stockings from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. The tiny mittens come from the Knitting Pattern a Day Calendar 2006, December 9 & 10.

I've been giving some of these away, tying them onto packages. You always wonder whether the recipients will take one look and toss it aside or even realize or care that they're handmade. I'm trying to relax, y'all, I swear. . .

We're leaving for my MIL's in the morning, returning the middle or end of next week. I'll be without a computer, so don't expect to hear anything from me.

I had a hard time deciding what to take with me to knit, but settled on a Clapotis in purple Koigu KPPM. This will be nice to work on in the car on the 8 hour drive each way. . .

Hope all you guys manage to find some peace and quiet moments over the holidays.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Bathrobe

First of all, let me apologize because the photo quality is poor. Seems like wherever the light was good, there was nowhere to hang the robe. The only places I could hang it had terrible light, etc. . . .

I wanted to make a red velour robe, but discovered I didn't have enough red velour. So instead I used Hanna Andersson sweatshirt fleece, which I bought a couple of years ago from Fabricline. I was going to make it solid red, but decided maybe the white sherpa would look cute as trim on the cuffs, pockets and belt.

The embroidery, well, I am a grown up and I know I look like a dork wearing clothes with cartoon characters embroidered on them.

So I CAN embroider Rudolph on an item like this that I'm not wearing out of the house. . .

The pattern is Ottobre 4/2005.

I guess I must have drafted the pockets myself, and lengthened it. I made it last year in Blue. Now, of course, it's hard for me to remember the modifications and I have no idea what size I made. I guess I should go see if I reviewed it at patternreview. . .

I haven't been making holiday-themed clothing, because of the limited time for wearing it. But I decided that because I have two or three robes already, one more won't hurt.

I loved hiding out in my sewing room and working on it. Now I am all caught up with my podcast listening.

Today is my last free day before the kids get out of school. We are going out of town on Friday. Today I'm going to drop off some Goodwill items and finish up my shopping and baking. (Umm, on second thought, forget baking, I've got to fix fruit for school parties tomorrow, ugh. . .) Have a great day.

Book Review: Sublime Stitching

I bought myself a copy of Sublime Stitching for my birthday last week.

This is a basic embroidery book for a beginner. I like that she addresses in particular detail things that most books take for granted. Things like what type of floss to use, how many strands to use, how to separate the strands, and how to tie knots. There is an illustrated primer on a dozen or so basic hand embroidery stitches.

She assumes that you will want to create and design your own patterns, once you begin learning embroidery. There is a section on how to transfer designs, although she left out the simple solution of using a light box or window and simply tracing designs through the fabric. The actual text of the book is fairly brief, the rest consists of basic embroidery patterns.

The author, Jenny Hart, also has a website where she sells individual design packs. I think the designs she sells on her website are more interesting and campy/retro/cool. The ones in the book are more basic, with a fair amount of baby and kid designs. You can see how I combined three different motifs above to create the holiday kitchen towel.

If you are trying to learn or relearn this craft on your own, this is a great starter book. Unfortunately, my mom isn't always around so I can ask *how do you make a French Knot again??* This book is a great substitute mom.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Center Square

Here's the other hat. Center Square from Knitty. I used two balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, doubled, on a size 11 Denise circular. As you can see, it fits dd very well, although it needs to be a bit deeper for me. I was VERY worried about running out of yarn, so I was a little ungenerous with it. I had a few yards of each color left over, next time I would add a couple of rows.

I just realized that I left out the first few rows of the fair isle pattern. I don't know what happened, but my printer must have left off a few rows of the chart. This is why my hat is too shallow. . . Hey, but it fits my 10-yo just fine, and I WOULD have run out of yarn if I followed it correctly. . .

The only intentional modification I made was to change the decreases. The decreases in the pattern photo looked a bit messy to me, so I added a plain knitted stitch on either side of the marker. This is how it came out.

All in all, a great, quick project. It was really fun to make, the fair isle pattern is simple, but interesting.

I was looking around yesterday and found this:

I remember working on this and looking at it and thinking it looked like crap. (This was around the time I learned to knit, so I was probably ready to jump ship on the smocking project for a knitting project. . . ) It doesn't look so bad to me now, but I can't use it in a Jon Jon for my 6-yo.

I'm trying to think of a way to turn it into a Christmas ornament. My mom has a bunch of *smocked Christmas balls* that she made in the 60s -- I'm thinking or something along those lines. I'll go research it, see what I can find. . .

Let me know if you have any ideas.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Another Hat

Here's another Candy Cane hat from Handknit Holidays. This time I used Woolease in Cranberry along with some white Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride (I think). I only had a bit of the white, and resisted the urge to go buy more yarn. I wanted this to be a stash busting hat. It's really hard to resist that urge when the perfectionist in you is saying *it would look so much cuter if you had enough yarn to do it the RIGHT way. . .*

I knitted another hat this weekend, but I'll post about it tomorrow after I get a decent pic.

Next, dh bought me this silly Tshirt at Kohl's.

I made some plaid flannel pajama pants to go with the Tshirt. It's hard to tell what they are in the photo, sorry. When I was putting these together, I sewed both the inseams wrong side out. So, rather than ripping them, I decided that the red serger thread would be a design feature on the outseams. I also turned up the hems with the serger thread showing to make it look like I did it on purpose.

There's a pattern here, of mistakes, every time I try to sew lately. On the simplest projects. . .

I want to make a red velour bathrobe to wear over these pjs. I know that I will screw up a project involving that much thinking. Maybe I'll go make some cookies instead.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Candy Cane Hat

Cute knitting images are here. Someone linked these on one of my email lists.

Wednesday morning I went to my first ever Stitch N Bitch (SNB). A friend in my book club invited me to go with her -- it's at a small LYS nearby. I have walked in on this particular gathering before, and I always feel like I'm intruding when I'm shopping in the middle of a party. . .

Everyone there was making socks, except me. I think most of them are taking a sock class there. I was working on this:

This is the Candy Cane hat from Handknit Holidays. I used Cascade 220, on size 9 needles. I made the adult size (ds's head is 20") but used the crown depth of the child size. When I tried it on him I could tell it would hang down over his eyes if I used the adult depth. . . He likes it, green is his favorite color, but he complained that it wasn't ALL green. Kids.

I am getting my money's worth from that book. I got it last Christmas as a gift (I pick them out myself mostly). I remember looking through it right after Christmas and bemoaning the fact that it was too late to make Santa Hats, etc. I just wasn't in the mood, but the book is so pretty. . . So THIS year I'm making up for lost time. There's a pair of beaded gloves I would love to make, maybe in January.

No parties this weekend. Our local high school football team is in the state championships, so I hope dh will take the kids and leave me home. I want to make a pair of PJ pants before we leave for the holiday.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Today's Project: Paper Doll's Lab Coat

I never imagined I would be making that.

The assignment was to research an inventor, and then outfit the paper doll as that person, attaching an item that they invented. Ours was Barbara Askins, a NASA chemist who invented processes for developing photographs. (We later stapled a photograph of dd to her hand.) Of course, now I'm thinking dd might get in trouble for not doing the actual work on it, but she did all the research and writing herself, so we'll see what happens. I typically don't help with these things very much.

I started with an American Girl doll pattern for a *school blouse*. It had princess seams and a curved hem. Basically, you don't need to accomodate curves on a flat, 2-dimensional paperdoll, so I traced the basic shape and made a pattern from that. The AG pattern gave me the idea to double the front pieces, eliminating the need for a facing or placket. I used the AG collar pattern too.

I always have fun making these things on the fly.

I got a Bernina IS60 iron (Scroll down) for my birthday. Can't wait to try it out. I typically buy the cheapest, no shut-off iron I can find, which promptly breaks and then I throw it out. It will be very different having a *nice* iron. I'll have to make sure not to drop it, yikes. . .

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Birthday Intarsia

My mom made this vest for me eight or ten years ago. I wore it yesterday (ds's birthday -- today is mine) to his school and people were looking. It has a lot of crochet and embroidery embellishments on top of the intarsia designs.

I wish I knew where the pattern came from. She made herself a cardigan version. All I know is that the yarn is Tahki Cotton Classic and it has worn well.

Look at the little smiley face buttons. Happy, happy!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Gingerbread and Birthday Cake

It's going to be a baking blog this week, sorry.

We baked cookies this weekend. I used a recipe from the King Arthur Flour Cookie book. They came out hard as a rock, but the kids will probably play with them rather than eat them. Ds ate a few while they were hot and still soft.

I have a grocery store gingerbread house kit to put together and ds wants the gingerbread men to live in it.

Today is his birthday. We had a big party with his classmates yesterday.

I didn't bake the Star Wars cake. I like to let the kids go to the grocery store and browse the big cake book for their parties.

I baked some chocolate volcano cupcakes yesterday to deliver to his class today. My favorite cupcake cookbook is Cupcakes from the Cake Doctor. This book has wonderfully creative ideas for children's parties. The volcano cupcakes have vinegar and baking soda in them and are baked at a high temperature to make the centers rise up like a volcano. You are supposed to use a white chocolate glaze, but mine came out runny and clear because I didn't follow instructions. They taste great though.

Now I need to decide whether to make him a birthday cake for the family celebration tonight. I really want to make This cake (scroll down). The dry ice intimidates me. We'll see.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bah Humbug Bags

I love making these. My favorite part is quilting them. One of these days, I should get brave and try some free-motion quilting instead of a grid pattern, but there is something satisfying about the back and forth across a small area. It's so easy to change directions on a small piece. I used red pearl crown rayon thread from YLI in the bobbin. I always feel so smart when I use decorative thread in the bobbin. It's like *wow, look at me, finally using and justifying the features on this fancy machine.*

And then I messed up. (Hence the Bah!!)

I sewed the first seam the wrong way and didn't notice until I had serged and and sewn all three bags.

They're still usable, but aren't as cute as they're supposed to be. Actually, this shape would make a great pocket tissue dispenser in a smaller size. . . The recipients of these won't know the difference of course.

I finished reading Dicken's A Christmas Carol, the December book selection for Knit the Classics. I think these bags might be my entry for that knit/craft along. . .

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Already?

Dd went to her last sewing class yesterday and made this drawstring backpack.

I found a link to some instructions and a pattern Here. These bags seem pretty popular -- dd has one for her girl scout books, and another she got as a birthday party favor. My MIL was here a couple of weeks ago and said that our cousin had a Nike bag for her basketball clothes and another girl stole it. . . So we bought the cousin another bag.

You know, Aboutdotcom has a lot of good projects and info, but I cannot stand the popups and the ads. It's a shame.

I'm still knitting little holiday things. I've moved on to tiny mittens, I'll get the pair finished today and post a pic later. The elves at my house need some handknit accessories -- it's cold here today.

I got the latest Burda WOF and drooled over a few items. I love this jacket:

But I think it's the fabric and the color rather than the pattern working it's magic on me.

But good lord, they put the Plus clothes on a matchstick girl. They are gigantic on her -- I hate that. By the way, I never look at the early preview on the website, I like to have a first look on paper, so excuse me if others have similarly registered their shock on the message boards.

There is a Bread Followup Article which specifically states not to heat your LeCreuset lid above 400 degrees. Ahem. Next time I will unscrew it. I used the pot last night to make a slow cooked chicken with mushroom gravy and it's still usable, but looks chipped.

I plan to get my Christmas cards finished up, make some gingerbread dough so the kids and I can make cookies this afternoon, and maybe start on some humbug bags for teacher's gifts. I found the pattern yesterday and I have a bunch of red/green quilting cottons pulled from the stocking sewing session. Just need to thread up the machines with red. . .

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Book Review: A Gift from the Sea

My book club read A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh over the summer, but I couldn't find a copy. I saw this new 50th anniversary edition this week and picked one up.

The book is a discussion of modern (1950) women's lives and roles in society, but it's not stuffy at all. She writes it while on a seaside vacation and in each chapter she compares the stages of her life with a different type of seashell.

The basic premise is that women (particularly those in the midst of the child-raising years) need some quiet time alone. Time to think, create, write, etc. Women need time alone to center themselves in order to keep themselves in balance.

My favorite part: *Nothing feeds the center so much as creative work, even humble kinds like cooking and sewing. Baking bread, weaving cloth, putting up preserves, teaching and singing to children, must have been far more nourishing than being the family chauffeur or shopping at supermarkets, or doing housework with mechanical aids.*

The 70s feminist movement took away our desire to craft. I grew up wanting to be like Mary Tyler Moore--have an apartment, a job, and go on dates. No man, no kids, no sewing, cooking, ironing. . . It's the ultimate irony that my life has turned out just the opposite, stay-at-home mom who sews, knits, etc. I've turned into my mother, but now I've learned it's not such a bad thing.

The book would make a great gift for a busy woman. It's short, I read it in an evening (about an hour and a half). It was written a long time ago, but still rings true. This is one of those books that people say they reread once a year.

It's not often that you pick up a book and it seems to be telling you exactly what you need to hear. Even just now, when I picked up to quote the passage above, it opened right to that page. . . Eerie.

Monday, December 04, 2006


When I moved back to GA two years ago, I discovered the *Elf Thing.* Dd came home from school telling me that if you leave out milk and cookies overnight, elves will come. She wanted to try it, so I looked around for a couple of days until I found an elf at a Hallmark shop.

Here he is in his room that she made for him.

Note the tiny stocking on the wall (Last Minute Knitted Gifts).

Last year, she wanted to try for a new elf. I couldn't find one anywhere. I googled, I eBayed. I was getting desperate because dd kept leaving different combinations of food out and thinking that she wasn't using the right kind, and *could we go to the store and buy different cookies or make some?*, etc.

So I went into a ritzy gift shop and asked if they had any plush elves. The lady there said, *you mean a magic elf?* Yes. So, she gave me the link to the Elf Magic website. Apparently, Southern Living published an Article which launched their popularity around here. All the kids have them and bring them to school.

Maybe I am just a lazy parent. What kind of person spreads flour all over their kitchen at night after the kids are in bed to make it look like the elves were making cookies? Someone with TOO MUCH TIME ON THEIR HANDS. Get a life, ladies.

Luckily, when we started *Elving* I didn't know the rules so I let her sleep with hers. That way he doesn't get out and into any trouble at night. . .

So, here are the stockings and sweaters I've been making. I think I'll use them as ornaments. We put up the tree but can't use any breakable ornaments because of the cats. These will be perfect.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bread Bandwagon

I couldn't resist making This Bread. I first read about it in my local paper, and then when I saw it at Chocolate & Zucchini (the only food blog I read), it was all over. I followed her directions and measured the flour by weight rather than volume. It came out great.

Make sure to watch the Video. The claim is that a 6-year old can make it, although I wouldn't let my 6-yo near the hot pot it bakes in.

I used my Le Creuset dutch oven, which you heat up for 30 minutes in a very hot oven before baking. I think I might have damaged the handle on the lid, oops. Seems like it's only ovenproof up to a particular temperature, which I forgot.

The true test of the deliciousness of this bread was giving it to my 10-yo dd who does not eat bread crusts, ever. I enticed her by giving her a soft buttered piece of the middle, which she said was *just okay*. Then, she came back wanting more and I cut a big warm slice and buttered it. She ate it all. Even the crust. So it passes the test at my house. . .

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Holiday Crafting

I cannot believe the cuteness. I keep carrying this little sweater around with me so I can look at it (candy cane included for scale). This is the Sweater Mini from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I'm working on the Stocking Mini too, so I'll show a pic of that later on. The sweater is knit on size 2 Brittany Birch needles, with Koigu and Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn leftovers. It took me about two hours, with all the ends to deal with (I knotted and tied them. I'm a cheater). The next one will be a one-color, made from self-striping yarn.

I was googling around to see if I could find any other people's pics of these projects and discovered that there is also a book called Last Minute Fabric Gifts.

The reviews are Good and Bad. I think I'll take Greed's advice and give it a thumb-through at the book store. I enjoy some fiber-y eye candy, but if it's too basic I might not like it.

I am having a *Crafty Crisis of Conscience*. I like to make things. However, I am trying to reduce the number of things in my life. The obvious answer seems to be to give things away. However, many others do not appreciate or need these things either. I don't want to be making crafty crap like crocheted toilet roll covers, or embroidered toilet paper, etc. I want to make things that are useful. Maybe it's time to start making more projects for charities. . .

Any thoughts? How do you deal with your urge to create? Do you limit the type of projects, or the amount? How do you draw the line between tacky junk and lovely handcrafted?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Embroidery Fun

I dusted off the old embroidery machine, for some fun with my Rudolph card. Here is the Abominable Snowman on a sweatshirt for ds:

I love that guy. . .

I took my machine to the girls' sewing class yesterday. Everything always takes longer than you think it will. I told the girls (4 of them) to pick designs that were under 25 minutes, but still, we were there from 3:30 until 7:00 pm! . . . Yikes. The teacher also had them working on drawstring backpacks at the same time, because you know what it's like, standing around watching an embroidery machine run, and waiting for the thread changes.

Here is dd's stocking:

She is very proud of it. One of the girls used some velvet that I had and I forgot to bring any topper or solvy for it, so she was unhappy with how the pile showed through. Oh well, you try to plan for these things. . .

I have the Brother PE-150, and I really like it. It seemed so self-indulgent to buy an embroidery machine in the first place, when I had no plans of trying to earn $$ with it. But I like knowing that I bought the cheapest, most hard working machine out there. It is 5 years old now and still runs like a dream.

I should shop for a couple of new cards, too, since most of the ones I have are *baby* ones. When dh upgraded to a new computer last year, my magic box connection no longer worked. He finally bought me a new connector about a month ago, but I haven't tried to install the software and the box. Maybe I'll work on it this weekend, it's only been sitting here on my computer desk for six months or so. . . Bleagh.
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