Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Lately I've been reading Wendy Knits and watching her work on Cromarty from Alice Starmore's The Celtic Collection. I remembered I had borrowed this book from my mom about a year ago, so I pulled it out to check out the pattern. Guess what I found?

It's Rosemarkie, Celtic Key Waistcoat, the pattern for this vest I posted at Project Spectrum.

Here's the photo from the book. It says "Styled in a traditional manner the rich colours used here are a perfect accompaniment for the deep hues of velvet skirts and the burnished wood of a violin." Since Mom used a cool palette for mine, what accompaniments do you think I should wear? Denim jeans and the silvery finish of a minivan, I suppose?

This book was published in 1992, showcasing Rowan yarns. It really bugs me that they tell you you need 15 balls of whatever yarn, but there's no indication of the yardage of that particular yarn, so it's really difficult to substitute. At this point, I don't know how many of those yarns are still being made.

Many of the patterns are the big oversized style, which isn't very wearable right now, but I DO like this one:

This is Aberlady, a Celtic Key Sweater. Of course the largest size is for a 39" bust and mine is 41", last time I checked. Also, it calls for sock weight yarn on size 2 needles, so I don't think I would have the patience or the resizing math skills required. And how much yarn to buy???

I guess I'll just enjoy the book for the gorgeous photography, close my eyes and pretend I'm walking the moors looking for Heathcliff.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I Got Nuthin'

Nothing very interesting at all.

A view of my diningroom table.

I'm working on a scrapbook of vacation photos from the annual trip to Hilton Head Island with dh's family. It gets pretty boring seeing the same photos of the same people in the same places, year after year. I think we started in 2001 and have made the trip every year since.

My MIL had put together a book of her photos at Christmas, so I was shamed into getting mine into a book. The problem is that I've already taken the best photos of each child and put their photos in their books, so the vacation book has the leftovers, sort of *meh* photos.

This morning I braved the post office to send off the book cover for imprinting. I'm having a little island graphic stamped in silver onto a light blue book. There were at least 15 people in line ahead of me and it took about 25 minutes to mail it. This is why I'm NEVER going to be able to sell on eBay or have an etsy shop. If I had to go to the post office more often than once a quarter I would DIE.

There was an Indian woman behind me with a toddler and a baby. She left the baby sleeping in a carrier over by the stamp displays instead of in line with her and people kept making these comments *whose baby is that?* *you have to be more careful* *tsk, tsk.* I felt so sorry for her, I don't think she realized they were chastizing her (or maybe she was pretending). . . One of the ladies was so mean.

I've been reading a lot this weekend, I updated my book list on Saturday, but another book needs to be added already. . . Hope to plant some seeds this week and I'm knitting some socks.

Friday, February 23, 2007

A REAL Sewing Room

I don't know where this week has gone. I'm sitting here in my walking clothes, waiting for 9:00 am, when the Ped's office opens, so I can call and have dd's ears checked. We just need to be well around here.

On the good side, I drove an hour north of town yesterday to meet a friend for breakfast and to trade some books. I love her, she always has good stories to tell. I tried not to freak out about being so far away in case one of the kids needed me to come get them at school (sick), not sure how successful I was.

Debbie posted a *Flash your Sewing Room* challenge at her blog, Stitches and Seams. I love Debbie's room. It's organized and efficient, a good comfortable working room. (The green on the walls is my current favorite - I just painted my basement room that color.)

Also, yesterday I saw This sewing room post at Hello My Name is Heather. I kept STARING at those pictures. Pure eye candy. Let me get this out of the way: I am jealous. That sewing room is a fantasy, a magazine spread, a pure dream.

So, let's do a comparison, shall we? Here's my cutting table:

Here is hers, the ornate, shabby chic, green table in the foreground with the lovely bundles of fat quarters, rustic old spools and a couple of quilt tops artfully arranged.

Okay, now look at her floss storage system:

Compare to mine:

Sewing machine set up -- artfully arranged tablescape with tiny toy sewing machine in the corner.

Here's my set up.

Oh, here's my toy sewing machine, over there next to the Kleenex box and the Girl Scout badges that need sewing on. Check out the American Girl dress form shoved to the back of the table. Oh oh, wait! I have a ziplock full of vintage wooden spools! Don't they give the room a retro feel?

Next, let's compare dress forms. Hers is fresh from grandma's attic, cute as a button, look at that sweet scarf around its neck.

And, my dress form. An eviscerated yet bloated shell, hanging from the heat vent like something from your worst nightmare.

And finally, the chandelier, which her husband lovingly restored for her.

Mine. Okay, I kind of like it, y'all.

I really don't feel that bad about my sewing room. This person, Heather Bailey, is a fabric designer trying to grow a business and become a brand (like Mary Engelbreit or Martha Stewart or whoever). Of course she wants us to fantasize about having a lovely room like she does. Then we will buy more of her beautiful fabric.

Sometimes you have to put it in perspective. Honestly, I cannot subscribe to Martha Stewart any more because I feel so INADEQUATE when I read that magazine. However, it is an INSPIRING magazine with gorgeous staging and photography. I occasionally pick it up when I am the mood for some eye candy. Just like Heather's blog. . .

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I know, nothing is more boring that looking at someone else's scrapbooks. So I'll provide one peek, nothing more.

I'm going to my neighbor's tomorrow for a *Power Layout* workshop. I love these things, because I'm speed scrapbooker. I like choosing a color, going with that as my theme, slapping down the photos, and moving on.

There are so many ways of approaching this hobby. I have a friend who takes 3 hours to do a page. She whipstitches leather strips onto her mats, etc.

If you look through my books, there's a long evolution. Paper, stickers, rubber stamps, paper piecing, etc. Right now I'm feeling so behind that I'm just getting photos into books, trying to release the perfectionism. Ds's book is two years behind, dd's is four. . .

I got a surprise package in the mail today from my dh:

He's been out of town for a trial and surprised me with some yarn and felting patterns. Isn't that sweet? He knows I've been on a felted softie kick lately.

Monday, February 19, 2007

More Toddler Dresses

Humor me, okay? Dd had to take a baby picture to school for the yearbook, so I was going through a few things and found some photos of little dresses and scanned them in.

This is one of the first things I made when I started sewing again. I made her several outfits from this pattern. I remember sewing this one first (It has a zipper, which was scary, scary). I did not know what it meant to ease a sleeve, so I couldn't figure out why the pattern piece for the sleeve didn't fit at all, it was way too big. I ended up sewing the sleeve piece in where it would fit, effectively lowering the height of the sleeve cap. It made the sleeves stick straight out from the garment when it was on the hanger, but I didn't care, I got those suckers in somehow. . . She has on matching bloomers underneath, she's about 18mos. old here (1998).

The next two dresses are made from the same pattern (a big 3, but I don't know the number or brand). The lesson I learned from these was about the quality of the fabric. The blue dress is from high quality quilting cotton that I got from Hancock's of Paducah. The red dress is craft quality fabric I got at JoAnn's. The red dress is a pain to iron, it's thin and scratchy -- it just doesn't compare to the softness of the blue dress.

It's big on her here, but she wore it for at least another year.

She always loved baby animals. It's three coordinating prints, baby animals, cherries and shamrocks. The pinafore is separate and it ties under the arms.

We lived in Houston then and this was her *Go Texan Day* dress. Everyone wears western clothes on the day the rodeo opens in February.

The fabric has cowboys riding on tornados on it. The cowboy fabric isn't too bad, it's the red fabric with stars that is poor quality.

It's fun going back and looking at these. I always tried to get photos of her in things that I made. In the photo she choose for the yearbook, she's wearing KS 2596, the toddlers' swing top and leggings.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

More Project Spectrum

Another Project Spectrum entry. I love blue/gray/white. I wasn't planning on doing any photography per se, but the color of the sky was so intense yesterday, I had to take some pictures.

My south-facing sewing room window. See the cardboard box? It's still full of serger thread. I took measurements of my cabinets this week, so I can start looking for some racks. Baby steps. . .

I was trying to think of what knitwear I have in the blue/gray/white colorway. My mother made this vest for me at least 10 years ago.

I think the colors are exquisite. Can you see the green in there? You have to look at a closeup view.

I wish I could give details on the type of yarn, the pattern, etc. I seem to remember that it might be an Alice Starmore design. . . She made a pair of matching socks that I wore quite a bit and eventually felted (oops!). This vest won a blue ribbon at mom's county fair.

Last, while I'm thinking about thread storage, I saw this art exhibit at Whip up. It's at the Brooklyn Museum.

She has made the last supper and mona lisa with spools of thread hung on the wall. When you look through the viewer, you can see the paintings. How cool is that? Anyone in Brooklyn want go and tell me how she's hanging her spools?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sock Monkeys

I spent the day in the sewing room yesterday:

Ha ha, made you look, just kidding. Really, I didn't make a dress*, but I made these.

My mom made some of these for my brother, sister and me back about 1972. I got a girly monkey, my sister - a boy monkey, and my brother got the elephant. I am a monkey fanatic, so I LOVED this toy.

I bought a kit for them at either Michael's or Hobby Lobby. It comes with two pairs of socks and instructions for making the monkey or elephant. I think I paid $9.99.

SuperSockMonkey is a great site for info on the history of sock monkeys (they have been around for 100 years - amazing!). It also has a free pattern for a knitted hat and scarf (which I will finish up today) for the monkey. Apparently, the instructions are the same ones in use from the 1920s. I can't believe I am using the same exact instructions that my mom used in the 70s.

The kids love them. They wouldn't let me finish embroidering the eyes and noses on (and I did a pretty crappy job with them standing over me saying *hurry!*). Dd took hers to a friend's house to play after school and both kids slept with them last night. Ds was swinging his by the tail, I'm crossing my fingers it doesn't pull off. Most of this project is hand sewing, and in my case that means it's not as strong as machine sewn seams.

I have some Alexander Henry quilting cotton that's printed with sock monkeys. If I can find it, ahem, I'll make some shorts or a skirt or some kind of monkeysuits with it.

I'm not really sure why I've been making so many stuffed animals lately. Speaking of animals,

Here's a picture of Batty I took yesterday. It's so hard to get a good picture of a black cat. A few minutes ago he got into dd's bag of Valentines and candy. He got his head stuck in the handle and ran around with it hanging behind him and slinging candy and cards everywhere. I was laughing so hard. . .

*Here and Here are some links to the Sock Monkey dress. Apparently you can buy one, but how hard would it be to make?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Crafting with Kids

Valentine's cookies. I ended up baking these and letting the kids decorate them.

Pinecones with peanut butter and birdseed.

I have mixed feelings about crafting with the kids. When my dd was a baby, a friend sent me a subscription to Family Fun Magazine. I found an article in it about how to make a doll quilt, so I made one, and that was what brought me back to sewing after having abandoned it in college. However, I never renewed that magazine subscription because all the *Fun Ideas* that I never had time for or could never pull off successfully (why doesn't my kid like to do crayon rubbings, etc.?) made me feel inadequate. The magazine began to feel like a to do list that I was constantly failing on.

I used to let the girls try machine embroidery at sleepovers, etc., but the girls always ended up wandering off to go play in the middle of things, so I gave up. (It's not like I wasn't prepared, I had all the materials hooped and ready to go and all they had to do was type their names into the machine's computer and hit the go button.)

This weekend I was helping ds address his valentines. This is a kid who needs extra help with writing, so the task of putting 18 names on cards is no small thing. When he was in preschool, every time I got out markers and construction paper, he would make ME draw and write and he wouldn't pick up a pen. But this time, he said *Mom I like doing our work together.* He actually did the work himself and made a couple of extra cards for his teachers. Progress y'all. . .

And it's not like I'm trying to turn them into little clones of myself or to make them like the same things I like. It's more that I want to show them how to do things for themselves. I have certain skills that are dying arts to some extent and I want to pass those things on. Of course I wasn't ready to learn how to knit until I was, oh, about 38 or so. So I think I have some time with these guys. . .

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Project Spectrum

Okay, here are the finished Totoro for Project Spectrum. I'm proud of them because they are the first items I've designed on my own with no pattern. As you can see, they got better as I made each one. The shape for the little white guy was finally right.

Blue, gray and white are the colors for February and March, so I still have time to think about the Amy Butler fabric.

I might make a bag for a teacher's gift. It would be nice to have one put away before May -- I need to make 3 this year. Right now the weather is cold and raw, so I'm having a hard time thinking about making spring clothes. We are going to Orlando for spring break (the first week of April), so I might make a few things in March. There's a couple of things from the Spring Burda Plus that look worth trying.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Margie's Knitted Corn Skillet Handle Covers (Free Pattern)

My grandmother had some of these, probably dating from the 1970s, in her kitchen drawer. They were pretty old and ratty looking, but my mom took them and studied them and figured out this pattern. She says that the pastor's wife at her church used to knit these to give as bridal shower gifts back in the 1980s. So, I know it's a really old pattern, but I couldn't find a version online, so here it is.

Margie's Knitted Corn Skillet Handle Covers (Free Pattern)

Copyright 2007 Marj Barkley - All Rights Reserved

For Personal Use Only

Materials: One Skein Each of two contrasting colors Worsted Weight Yarn (the fiber is up to you, but you probably want it to be machine washable -- I used Lion Brand Woolease. I'm guessing you can make 6 or 8 of these from two balls of Woolease.), Size 7 or 8 knitting needles, scrap of green worsted weight yarn, Size H crochet hook, darning needle.

Row 1: Using Main Color (MC), cast on 8 stitches (I used long tail or double stranded cast on)
Row 2: Increase 1 for every stitch (I used KF&B -- knit in front and back), 16 stitches
Row 3: Repeat Row 2, 32 stitches
Row 4: Knit 4 with MC, knit 4 with Contrast Color (CC), continue alternating colors and stranding across the back side the entire row. Don't worry if your strands are tight, this helps the piece roll up. This will be your Right Side of the work.
Row 5: (Wrong side row) Knit 4 in MC, pulling the yarn up snugly. Bring yarn to the front of the work and pick up CC, being careful to bring both yarns between the needles rather than over them. Knit 4 in CC. Continue alternating colors every 4 stitches across the row. When you switch colors and tug on the yarn, it creates the corrogated effect on the corn rows.

Continue Rows 4 and 5 until you have 20 garter stitch ridges or to desired length.

Row 24: drop CC and break yarn. Knit 2 together across the row using MC. (16 stitches remain)
Row 25: Repeat Row 24, 8 stitches remain.

Break yarn, place tail on darning needle and pass through remaining 8 stitches. Draw up tightly to make the end resemble the corn cob. Tie off and darn in ends. Repeat with caston tail on the other end.

Finish by crocheting a chain in green yarn. Pick up loops of the knitted fabric as you work in order to attach it as you go (no sewing on after). Make 4 or 5 *leaves* and put a hanging loop on the top. Go fry some eggs and keep your hand cool and comfy.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Blue Totoro

Here's the medium sized Totoro. I made his bottom too pointy (should have made more increases at the beginning to give him a flatter bottom), so now I think I'll knit on some little feet. Two feet will balance out his tail so he can stand upright. I've got the body shape a lot better on this one.

And, last night I tried to make a soot sprite with a Lion Brand Pompom Maker I bought at Hancock's this week. Soot sprites are little black spirits that live in empty houses, that only children can see.

So, basically I had some black yarn sitting there, and the kids and I were watching the movie, so I thought I would make a black pompom and try out the new pompom maker. I couldn't even make ONE pompom without getting totally frustrated. Since you are wrapping around two rings held together, you have to let go of your yarn on every turn and pass an end through the ring. This means you have to cut a length of yarn first and how do you know how much you will need before you start wrapping? Bleah.

So I went and grabbed a wine bottle and made a pompom around its neck. It doesn't come out even that way, but you can shape it up with some scissors. Back in the fall I was making some big pompoms for Santa Hats (ha, I just typed Satan accidentally) and I used ds's Star Wars Light Saber. It had a notch that you could put your scissors into to cut it.

On Wednesday I came down with stomach flu, on top of a still lingering head cold. Like a fool, I tried to go walk that day, only to make it half way round my usual path, then to head home and go to bed. I guess that's because when I commit to something, by God, I'm gonna do it. Plus last week I missed a walk due to having a cold.

It's nice having school aged kids who can fend for themselves. Dd was a good helper for me, keeping the younger one occupied and fixing lunches for the next day. Ds Lysol-ed the door knobs for me. Today I'm waiting by the phone to see if one of them comes down with it at school. Maybe we're in the clear.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Totoro, Felted

Here he is felted and with whiskers added. He's a little wall eyed, but I like it. The felting made him more short and squat and his ears lost their pointiness. The white yarn kept its stitch definition and didn't felt as well as the gray, but I think it's typical for white not to felt.

I started the medium sized blue one, but ripped it out and restarted last night because he was too big. Maybe I'll get him knitted today.

Yesterday's trip to Hancock's was heartbreaking. They are closing MY STORE. Yes, I consider it my personal store because it is 5 minutes away from me, it's clean, the people who work there are nice, and I know where to find everything. Also, I have fond memories of finding Carter's baby knits on their flatfold table back when ds was born (he's now 6).

On the plus side, everything was 20% off, and KS patterns were 30%. I was a bit overwhelmed by it all, so I forgot to buy more polyfil. I think I'll make a list and stock up on sewing machine needles and interfacings tomorrow.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Here he is, pre-felting. Stats: Patons Classic Wool doubled on size 10 needles. Stands 7" high, circumference 21.5". (Wow, he would make an awesome hat, he's just the right size!) I managed to knit on a stumpy tail. I think I might try to soft-sculpture some arms held down at his sides after I felt it. I'll have to see how pliable the felted fabric turns out.

Today I'll go buy some leather jewelry cord to make his whiskers, which I'll attach after felting.

I think I'll go to Hancocks, I want to pick up the new KS wrap dress pattern. I've also got to get some fleece for the Girl Scouts to make cat beds for the Humane Society. The girls are trying to get their bronze award, so they have to donate many hours of service to a charity to meet the requirements.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Oven Mitt, Totoro

Saturday I cleaned a few boxes of things out of the sewing room, so I rewarded myself by making an oven mitt. I cloned the black veggie print one. I traced around it with a 1/2" seam allowance. I used the InsulBright batting, plus a layer of cotton batting sandwiched between two layers of quilting cotton.

It was not easy to sew together. I kept getting skipped stitches, so I switched from a quilting needle to a metallic, which was worse (I guess metallic needles are meant for metallic thread, but I was thinking it might help get through the mylar layer in the batting.). Then I used a sharp or a microtex (?) and it was a little better.


I've got a nasty cold, and haven't been good for much, so Sunday I camped out in front of the fireplace and started knitting the Totoro while I watched Ken Burns' Civil War documentary on PBS.

I can see that I'm in for all sorts of folly on this. I have NEVER made a felted project that I liked. I decided to go ahead and stuff this guy before I felted him because I'm knitting him in the round and don't want a seam. This is probably going to be a big mistake. Of course, I didn't knit a swatch to felt, so I have no idea how full to stuff him. I'm almost out of yarn, but I think I can get ears and a tail knitted on. Can't decide whether to make legs and arms.

The cat's in the bag. I swear, one of these days I'll find him dead in a bag. I don't think he's smart enough to claw his way out if he got trapped. I've been wondering why I keep finding bits of white fluff all over the house. . .

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Soap, Project Spectrum

Here's what I managed to salvage from the soap molds. I made soap balls out of the spilled soap. Only time will tell if they'll be usable, I'm worried about lye pockets, but I'll be testing it on myself before I give any of it away.

Project Spectrum
The colors for February are blue, gray and white.

Wool for making Felted Totoros. I think the designer sells these in her etsy shop, but doesn't sell the patterns or instructions for making them, so I'm going to try to puzzle it out myself.

Aren't they adorable? My kids and I are in love with this movie.

Here's the Amy Butler fabric I bought in those colors, quite coincidentally. I think these will become summer tops or a skirt. I would like to make a bag out of what's left over.

The nice thing about Project Spectrum is that it can be any craft. It's so inspiring to think about a particular set of colors and what you can do with them, in any medium. Click on the link in my sidebar if you want to join. Also see what people are posting to the flickr group, very interesting.

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