29 December 2011

The Thing Over the Window

I decided to make a nice valance to go above the kitchen sink sometime in 2010. (A quick side note: no, I'm not sure of the correct terminology. Is it a valance or a curtain or something else? I'm going with valance because my friends are currently making fun of the way I say "curtain.") I bought all the materials for it seven months ago. Then I thought about it constantly and tried to talk myself into actually making it. Two days before Thanksgiving, I finally sat down and started, and by 10 PM Thanksgiving night I was drilling holes in the wall, maniacally intent on finishing. (Yes, it pretty much took me three solid days. Be nice, I’m new to sewing!)



It was all worth it, don’t you think?! I feel like the kitchen looks more “finished” now.

In my defense (for it taking three days of sewing), there was a bit of pattern manipulation involved (my window was wider than the pattern) and also a bit of figuring out how to line up the fabric correctly and hide seams. There were so many things I could have done differently that would have made life so much easier (but since I had never done this before I didn’t know!).



I would tell you what pattern I used but as soon as I finished it I literally threw the whole thing away, swearing that I would never be making any window coverings again. I mean, until after I make blinds for my craft room. But then, never again!

04 December 2011

Mmm, Cookies

I am not ready for the holidays!

But a cookie exchange sure helps. Not only are my friends great bakers, but I was reminded of how amazingly talented and generous they are.

I made Gingerbread Trees with Lemon Icing. Pretty, tasty, and easy to make!

As soon as I emerge from my sugar coma I am going to start decorating the house!

03 December 2011

Raging Wool

A couple of my knitting pals and I went to check out Raging Wool Yarn Shop this week. What a great new shop for us in south Florida! I was especially veeery happy with the selection of Malabrigo, and I had to talk myself out of buying so much more yarn and fun accessories. (Although I couldn’t resist some Puppy Snips.)



Raging Wool’s owner, Alice, is super nice and accommodating and put up with us and our drooling/fondling and general antics. There is tons of seating and the shop is spacious with a very comfy atmosphere. The yarn/notions I am familiar with have great pricing, comparable to what I pay online. I would just warn you that if you don’t know the area, make sure to use your GPS or check directions before you go!


I got to work on my Christmas sock for a little while, and decided to take a progress photo of it with the awesome Raging Wool mascot (that still needs a name!).

I wish Alice and her new shop all the best! I know I'll be back!

29 August 2011

Pelé the Magnificent Hornshaw Swift


Last Christmas I got a Hornshaw swift. I had been lurking around the Ravelry boards that extolled the love for them, and I really wanted one. (Sometimes I like being from a family where we buy stuff we like and then have other family members 'gift' it to us.) For me, the quality and craftsmanship of it make it well worth its cost. I wanted something I would have forever, and quite frankly I see it as a functioning work of art. Tim Hornshaw was a pleasure to work with, he made me a gorgeous sapele swift, and it works perfectly.


I recently got around to making a cover for Pelé. As much as I'd enjoy leaving it out to admire, I like having homes for things. The swift folds up nicely into a long slim rectangle, and this corner of my craft room makes a perfect home for it.

24 August 2011

Trousseau


Such a conundrum. I love making shawls, but it's not really my style to wear them. So unless they are gifts (never), they live a sad life in a drawer. This still has to be better than my previous storage spot under the bed in a plastic Target bag!

But...this one...I may just wear it. I tell you, when I put it on my mood changes. I feel very girly and romantic! I want to light some candles and open a bottle of wine.

But I digress. I wanted to say that Fragrant from Madelintosh is a most beautiful color, and I am not even a pink-minded gal! I admit that I was a lemming and bought this colorway after a few of my knitting friends got it on our last trip to The Knitting Garden. This is knit up in Merino Light.

The pattern? Trousseau by Carol Feller, from the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Twist Collective. Very easy to memorize, and such great results. Here's a before shot to remind you of the magic of blocking. 



The yarn dye bled like crazy! I succumbed to adding vinegar to the wash after I soaked it twice with color pouring out each time. Once I added it to a vinegar bath (about 2 tablespoons of vinegar to my bathroom sinkful of water) it magically didn't let out another drop of color. As much as the smell of vinegar makes me gag, I am a convert! I added some Eucalan to the wash, but really there is no vinegar smell whatsoever. I wish I had done it on the first soak because I wonder if the dye darkened some of the lighter areas of yarn.

And here's a shot of it blocking. Blocking this was a breeze! Success all around! 



22 August 2011

Ahhhh, summertime

Breakfast on the beach two times in less than a week?! Life is pretty good!

25 July 2011

Rainbow Brite Socks



I have been stalking this yarn for awhile, and decided a couple of weeks ago to finally just buy it. I'm glad I did, because from the minute I got it, to when I was winding it, to when I was knitting it, I was smiling! It's so vibrant and bold. So I knit a plain vanilla sock that would let the yarn shine.

The yarn is the Trifolium colorway from String Theory Colorworks. It is obviously bright and fun, but it also feels awesome and knit up with no issues. I will admit that I haven't washed them yet and I am terrified of the dye running...but I'll worry about that later. I will either include some vinegar in the wash or use a Color Catcher.


Once I got the yarn I was so eager to knit with it. I cast on as soon as I finished my Inlay socks (I get stressed out if I have more than one active project on the needles!) and finished them in less than a week. More practice for Tour-de-Sock!

20 July 2011

Inlay


At our Saturday morning knit group, nakedk9 challenged me to knit my second Inlay sock in 2 days. She might not have been too serious, but I took it seriously. Except for some errands around the house (that I didn't really want to do anyway) I had nothing going on for the weekend, so it gave me something to work towards. She also immediately threw the first obstacle my way by forcing me to go to lunch (taking me away from valuable knitting time)! :P

On my way home I went to the library and got some dvd's to keep me company on my knitting weekend (Big Bang Theory and Sherlock). I also made a couple of stops that confirmed my being doomed to ever do laundry again (more on that in another post perhaps). So I was completely prepared!

Anyway, I didn't knit the sock in 2 days. It took me 3. I do know now that I could have done it in 2, but I wasn't completely committed on Sunday. But, I think this was fabulous training for Tour-de-Sock and Sock Sniper coming up in September.

I love my Inlays! I wasn't sure if the variegated yarn would wash out the pattern, but in person I think it looks great. (This was a tough one for me to photograph.) I used Happy Feet yarn, and it feels really great on my feet after washing it, but it bled a LOT in the wash.

I have issues with knitting too tight, so I really had to focus on loosening up because of all the twisted stitches in the pattern. I couldn't memorize it, so I had to check the pattern on nearly every row, so I would say that makes this pattern a little more challenging than others. But, I really love it and I am looking forward to checking out other patterns by the designer, Hunter Hammersen, and her book, Silk Road Socks.

15 July 2011

Finally, an Update! Nutkins & the Wall o' Knits


I love these socks because the pattern was super easy and required hardly any effort by my brain. I also loved the Pac-Man (aka short row) heel and toe, especially the heel because you don't have to pick up any stitches along the gusset, and especially the toe because you end up with a nifty ridge across the top of your sock!


The huge cast on edge (top of the cuff) isn't really that huge, but it's also not snug, so these might end up slouching a little. A few people have recommended to thread a piece of elastic through the cuff, which I think is a great idea.

I actually finished these weeks ago, but I've been really bad about updating my Ravelry project page and my blog (obviously!). The Nutkins were claimed by my cousin, so they won't be added to my drawer of handknit socks. But they might grace the wall of knitted gifts; how cool is this?


My cousin hung my handknit gifts along the wall. She says that this way she can see them more often and she doesn't feel bad about hiding them away in the closet. The hangers are hung on those removable hooks, so it's not a permanent installation. I love it!

13 June 2011

Colossal Nutkins

Yesterday I cast on for Nutkin with some Shibui sock yarn. I was inspired after I peeked in my drawer of hand-knit socks and fell in love with them all over again. And I remembered my goal to knit 12 pairs of socks this year (this is only number 3!).


I cast on and did the funky fold-over cuff, loving the ingenuity of it but feeling very wary of the size of it. I have been consciously trying to loosen up my knitting lately, but this was crazy. The cuff of this sock is enormous! I'm already a large enough person so I don't need to feel extra self-consciousness of having such big socks.

I had to talk myself into it the whole time, but I kept going. There is no ribbing, I said, so it's bound to look larger than normal. I cast on 64 stitches on size 2 needles in sock yarn; this is my standard. I've knit the exact same yarn with the same needles and 64 stitches on some Monkey socks. I counted my stitches like 10 times to make sure I really only had 64.


On Ravelry there are thousands of people who have knit this sock...so I searched and searched for references to the colossal cuff. (I got really creative with my search terms!) Mostly I found people talking about the Nutkin Evil Twins or how amazingly well their socks fit (and they all looked like they have normal feet), but nothing too helpful for me except hints that they will pull in once you get going on the legs.

I hemmed and hawed about it for a little while and decided to soldier on. They have definitely pulled in as I have knit, pretty much to a normal size, but that top is just really big. The worst part is that I put them on and they look fine, which makes me think I have cankles!!!

09 June 2011

Sweet Project Bags

Typically I feel bad about buying fabric because I don't sew very much. I usually change my mind, especially when I make something awesome - like lined/reversible drawstring bags.



Yes, I think drawstring bags are awesome. They are so handy (mine mostly get used for knitting projects and traveling). You can use beautiful fabric with fun prints that you might not know what else to do with. They are great projects for new sewers (even if you are self-taught like moi). And they are practically instant gratification. There are lots of other good reasons, but these top my list.

I found a drawstring bag tutorial online and then played around with the concept to work with the amount of fabric I had and size bags I wanted. Most of the fabric I used is older, but last weekend I stopped by Three Crafty Quilters and couldn't resist picking up the orange and green fabric. It's part of the Central Park line by Kate Spain. I love love love it! Also, I love love love the shop! Super friendly gals working there and they carry so many designers/fabrics that I like.

29 May 2011

I Palindrome I, Done!

I finished this a few weeks ago, but wanted to post my final pictures after I had a chance to wash and block it. I wanted to see if it changed drastically after that process. (It didn't!)

I ended up doing 28 repeats of the pattern. After blocking it came out 4 inches wide by 83 inches long.

I love this scarf. The brioche stitch just makes it so lofty and cozy...so much so that I can't ever see myself wearing it in south Florida. I guess I need to plan some good cold weather destinations this year! To be honest, when I cast on I was hoping my sister would see me working on it and hint how much she liked it and how it would make a great birthday gift for her. But she never said a word about it. Hmph.

I soaked the scarf in Eucalan, expecting it to look like a bloodbath after a few minutes. I was pleasantly surprised; the yarn color bled a little bit, but not nearly what I was expecting. I decided to just pull the scarf a bit by hand and not pin it to block it, so the 'blocked' size is just a few inches longer than what I first knit. The yarn opened up and of course, Malabrigo is just so darned soft and pretty!



26 May 2011

Jay Campbell's Great American Aran Afghan Square

I decided to make the Jay Campbell square from the Great American Aran Afghan for my mum to give to her on Mother's Day this year. She got the pattern booklet a year or two ago but has never made anything from it. I'm not committing to making a whole afghan, but this is one of her favorite squares and I figured I could make it into a pillow cover or a small wall-hanging. I used super soft Blue Sky Alpacas organic cotton and size 7 needles.


This particular block of the afghan is interesting because of the construction of it - knit in the round, from the outside in. Mine ended up being 13 inches square. It's a great example of how blocking can really transform a project.




No decision yet on what it will become (I think a pillow would be best and the pattern booklet includes instructions for doing a cover with some cables along the edges). But for now it looks good just gracing the top of a small cabinet!

30 April 2011

Waylaid

This afternoon I had plans to sew a cover for my swift, but I got waylaid:

There is a new puppy in my brother's family! He's just 8 weeks old, was rescued today, and still needs a name. He's already fast friends with his new brother (Shiloh), who welcomed him by standing over him and drooling all over him.

26 April 2011

I Palindrome I

I'm still trying to figure out why I had the urge to cast on for a super squishy, extra warm scarf in 90 degree weather. Once again my head appears to reside in a different part of the world than my body.



This is the Reversible Cabled Brioche Stitch Scarf. (You can find the original pattern here.) I love cables, but I don't like that they only look good from one side, so this reversible stitch pattern is perfect. I have been thinking about this scarf for a long time, and even though it's the wrong season, I wanted something that I could mindlessly work on that is on needles larger than US 2's.

I had a few false starts on this one. After some trial and error, and reading lots of project notes in Ravelry, I  ended up slipping the first stitch of every row (slipped knitwise with the yarn in front) and I using lifelines. What everyone said is true - if you drop a stitch on this pattern it is really hard to pick it back up (or impossible in my case)!

22 April 2011

Brain Farts

The other day I was telling my brother that at the gift shop at the zoo in Richmond, VA, you could buy yarn made from animals that live there. His reaction? “Yarn made out of animals? That is so DISGUSTING!”

I asked him what he thought wool was and then our conversation was over.

It made me feel better about last Christmas when I asked him what was written on the M&M I was eating. I was wondering why there would be a capital “B” on it. “The edge is rubbing off of the B, but I don’t understand what it's for,” I said.

He asked me if I’ve ever had M&M’s before and then our conversation was over.

21 April 2011

Sunset

I would like to attribute a small part of my blog laziness to the fact that I had a guest - a dear friend who I haven’t seen since I left Scotland almost a year and a half ago. (It was her first time in the USA and she says she loves it - yay!) Part of her trip included coming to Florida to see me, and so I decided we needed to do something extra special. So I booked a room in Key West!

I love going to Key West. I love the drive through the Keys. I love the atmosphere. I love the history.  I love the characters.  I love all the drinks and key lime pie and conch fritters.  Pretty much I’m a very happy person when I’m there.

Most important, I love the reminder I get to celebrate the everyday miracles that are often taken for granted. I am literally awed when I think about how many people gather every single evening to celebrate the sunset in Key West. The sunset! Happens every day. It often passes me by without a thought. But in Key West, I join thousands of people and we have a party for the sunset and it reminds me to slow down for a little while and pay attention. To make new friends. To celebrate.

20 April 2011

Rosebud

Roses are my least favorite flower. I would rather get a single orange Gerbera daisy, or practically anything else, than a dozen roses. I’m sure you can imagine this has caused some misery in the past when I’ve gotten them from well-meaning givers. Anyway, my mother acted like she knew nothing about this and ordered me a fancy schmancy bicolor rose bush that came in the mail. It was just a stick in a big plastic bag. It came in an enormous 5 foot tall box that was so light the UPS man told me he hoped there really was something in it.

My thinking went something like (edited for language) - You spent money on a freaking stick that I have to plant and take care of so that for years and years I can try to grow something I don’t even like??? I can’t even keep the plants that I want alive!

But now that the stick is planted, my joy and amazement at nature is winning out over my annoyance because within just a couple of weeks the stick sprouted leaves and THORNS(!). (Picture me being amazed at thorns like the double rainbow dude.)

There are also ROSEBUDS! I look at them and I find myself whispering “rosebud” like in Citizen Kane. And then I giggle at myself and say it again.

So...actually I guess the rose bush is working out just fine. I might have to eat my words.

Unless the flowers bloom in stupid colors.


19 April 2011

Oh gosh! Time flies.

I’ve been getting a little grief from the people that read this (yes, all three of you) that I’m totally slacking on my updates. Yes, I know! And now I have all this pressure…and I don’t have anything awesome enough to even meet the built-up expectations… so I’m hoping to deflate that pressure a little right now with this completely news-less and picture-less post.

I had written a really long post to make up for my absence. But then I thought that you wouldn’t have the patience or attention to get through it in one go, so I broke it up and it will come out in installments over the next few days. I’m saving them ahead of time and setting them to auto-publish from Blogger.

I just wanted to warn you about that because if I die in a freak accident I think it would be totally creepy for you to keep seeing new blog posts.

Have a great day!

30 March 2011

Wanida


My second pair of socks for 2011 came off the needles yesterday. They’re Cookie A’s Wanida pattern.

This pattern didn’t stand out to me as I looked through the book; it was only in browsing finished projects in Ravelry that I decided to make it.  The pattern is interesting but not too challenging that you can’t tote it around with you to knit night. Several people who saw me working on them thought they required cables, so I would say in that respect that the finished socks look more complicated than they really are.

The first sock went swimmingly.

Then, there were all sorts of hiccups on the second sock. I kept messing up the beginning-of-round shifts. I miscalculated the starting point of the heel, and by the time I started in on the gusset I couldn’t figure out how to adjust the pattern on the top of the sock.

So, I ripped it out back to the beginning of the heel. As much as I don’t like going backwards, it made life so much easier and for the rest of the sock everything was hunky dory.

I think this yarn is so beautiful – a sock yarn from Fyberspates that I picked up at K1 a few years ago (I think this particular yarn has been discontinued). I’m not sure if my photos do the color justice; I lightened them a little so the pattern would stand out better, but the color is a rich, subtly variegated purplish/ brownish-black (the colorway is “chocolate”).

What socks shall I make next?

27 March 2011

DIY Fabric Covered Lampshades

Two lampshades did not survive my recent move from Colorado to Florida. My brilliant solution was to buy plain inexpensive shades and cover them with fabric.

I wanted something bold and fun and immediately thought of some Joel Dewberry fabric I’ve been toting around for years. The fabric is dark, which is fine because the lampshades are going in the bedroom and I prefer not to have too much bright light in there.  ;)





I used this fantastic tutorial from Isabella and Max Rooms for my lampshade project. I had limited fabric and didn’t want to mess us, so I made a template out of craft paper. After I taped the fabric to the lampshade, I used a rotary cutter to trim the top and bottom to a half inch. I’m so glad I took the time to make this part clean because you can see where the fabric is doubled along the edges when the light is on. I also taped everything down before I glued it because I am a little paranoid and I didn’t want to mess up or end up with any wrinkles!



The lampshades look great (in my humble opinion), and the way the light diffuses through the pattern on the fabric is so cool (I can’t think of any other appropriate adjectives right now).  I have a feeling I will be updating some of the older lampshades around this house with fabric soon...

21 March 2011

Sorbet

I took an ice cream class a few years back that included making sorbet. Since then I’ve never made ice cream, but I now consider sorbet to be one of my specialties. You puree fruit, add some simple syrup and throw it in your ice cream maker. Easy peasy!

My favorites are mango, strawberry, peach, and pineapple (with a splash of spiced rum). We are in the midst of strawberry season here in south Florida and I couldn't turn down a half flat of strawberries for under $8.  I made some plain strawberry sorbet last week, and yesterday I made some more, but I spiced it up by adding a can of Coco Lopez. Yum!



I don’t use any recipes for sorbet. Instead I rely on my best parlor trick – floating a whole raw egg in your sorbet mixture. (Yes, still in the shell. Clean it and use it later.) Make whatever flavor combination for your sorbet and mix in some simple syrup. When the egg floats with about a nickel-sized amount above the surface, you have a mixture that is perfectly sweetened and will freeze well (not too soft, not too many ice crystals, etc.).  If the egg sinks you need to add more simple syrup (sugar) and if the egg is more buoyant you need to add some water or more fruit. Science is so cool!



I do a few other things to my sorbets. I always add a tablespoon or two of lime juice, and a pinch of salt. I think these just really give any flavors punch. I put my sorbet mixture through a strainer so that it is smooth. This is most important with strawberry (oh, the seeds!) and pineapple (oh, the strings!).

I’ve also learned that if you are using a very watery fruit (like watermelon), it has a tendency to freeze harder than other flavors. Adding a little bit of alcohol keeps the sorbet from getting too hard.