Saturday, December 15, 2012

A very Midwestern thing.

Sometimes I think that I'm actually a 70-year-old woman. My favorite thing to do it knit, I have a kitty, staying home to sew usually sounds better than going to parties, and... I started a crafting circle with my mom, sister, and sister-in-law. The premise is that we have a theme and a time constraint, and each of us makes three copies of whatever we've come up with to fit into the theme, and mail them to each other. Example: the theme is stuff that is found in the kitchen, and we've got one month. My mom uses her embroidery machine to make some tea towels, my sister cross-stitches a little wall hanging with a fork and a spoon, my sister-in-law knits some washcloths, and I made oven mitts. Because I can't stop making oven mitts. Then we each mail them to each other on the agreed upon date, and yay! New kitchen stuff. 

I just mailed off my first round of boxes. We did Christmas ornaments for the first exchange. Figured it was seasonally appropriate. It was way, way harder than I thought it would be. I tried out four different ideas before I finally made something I liked. I guess I was worried that the others would put in more time than me, or make something that was technically more well-made, or that my ornaments would be ugly... I did a lot of fretting. If this is going to work I realize I need to let go of the fret, but it was the first time. I wanted to make something good! Here's what I finally landed on.

I used someone else's pattern. It kind of felt like cheating, but I knew that I wanted to make little birds, and that figuring it out myself was possible, but time consuming. So I just sucked it up and bought the pattern. I like to support independent artists like myself.

Cute, right? They have little hanging loops on top for the tree. I think the pattern's intent is that you make them as decorative things for your sideboard or something, but I think they will work as ornaments. 

Can't wait to see what everyone else made! I think this will double the number of ornaments we own. Still working on that aspect of grown-up-hood: not having a bare Christmas tree. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


My fox stole. Made from this pattern a few months ago- maybe October? September? I have forgotten. Right now he lives on the bottom shelf of my credenza, but some day I will have the courage to wear him in public. After I move his eyes back, because they're kind of awkwardly close together now. I made him in a couple of evenings from stash yarn- I think it was super cheapo Vanna's Choice, left over from my early knitting days. I had a tough Monday, and nothing makes a bad day better like allowing yourself to knit whatever the heck you want. Hence, a fox stole.

Speaking of stash yarn, I find myself with a large amount of acrylic that I don't think I will do much, if anything, with. What do you do with it? Donate it? Go on a toy-knitting spree? It's taking up a large amount of storage space in my craft room. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas gifts!

I decided that this is the year that I won't be frantically knitting on Christmas Eve, trying to get it all done. Nope. Not doing that stress again. So I started making gifts in October. It seemed so silly at the time, but now that we're already more than a week into December, I really love my past self. I am so on top of gifts this year, it's ridiculous. I'm hoping that I actually AM on top of things, and not just thinking that I am, because I spent the last 4 nights knitting myself a hat, and I was definitely thinking of trying to whip up another sweater before we journey to the motherland of North Dakota for Christmas. A sweater might be pushing it. I don't know. I feel like there's time. Ask me again when I'm blearily knitting a sleeve the night before we fly out.

I have a friend who knows a lot about and really enjoys drinking wine. I mean, I also enjoy drinking wine, but my knowledge goes about as far as, "I like it." This friend often brings a bottle of wine over to my house, and by "often," I mean, "a couple times a week," and by "a bottle," I mean "several." So I made her this wine tote. I found the tutorial from Needle and Spatula on the interwebs when I was just randomly searching for things that I could quilt that aren't actual quilts. I love the way it turned out. I used some tan-ish material I had in my stash- no idea what it's made of, but it's definitely flammable, that I much I know... don't ask me how I know that. Ahem. I quilted it with my free-motion foot in a manner I like to think of as "viney." The green binding is some Micheal Miller I ordered on Etsy when I was having a bad day a few weeks ago, and that little leaf charm is made from a silk shirt I rescued from the thrift store a few years ago and have been using inch by inch for random crafting projects. In fact, I liked this tote so much that I made a little bag just like it.

It's a good size for a knitting project travel bag, and it will go live with my future sister-in-law at Christmas. I also made a hot pad with the same fabric and quilting pattern, but I'm a little hesitant to use it, because flammable. Which is too bad. Pretty sure I'm going to make at least a little bag like this for myself, but I might also make a bigger bag, and several wine totes. I am in love with the tan-viney-green binding combo. So cute. Anyway. So that's two gifts down in one delightful afternoon. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another quilt, and trying some new techniques

Lately I've got it in my head that I should learn more quilting techniques. Don't know why, I just felt like I should. So I learned English paper piecing, and cathedral quilting. I also discovered that pillows are ideal forms for quilting practice, because 1) they're small, 2) I love them, and 3) if you think about it and plan ahead only a tiny bit, they are easily changeable among your pillow forms.

Here's my English paper pieced pillow. I used PowerPoint to make a bunch of hexagons, then printed them and cut them out. I picked out some fabrics from my stash that would match my dining room decor, which is gray, white, and coral. I think that polka dot is Micheal Miller, and the other coral one is Salt Air by Cosmo Cricket (which incidentally, the pillow cover that used to live on this pillow form is made of). The other prints I've either forgotten or they came from Joann, and the solids are Kona.

The paper piecing took me an evening, and by the time I was done, I was really sick of it. I can't imagine doing a whole quilt. Then I hand-appliqued the hexagons to the gray fabric, made a little quilt sandwich, and did some echo quilting. The back (here's the interchangeable part) is an envelope closure so it's easily switched out. Good for short attention spans and spills. I really love the way this pillow turned out- it's very graphic and modern, which is a style I find myself drawn to more and more recently.

I also wanted to learn to do cathedral quilting. I kind of suck at it. It requires much more precision than I have. It will also end up as a pillow cover, but probably not soon, because I don't want to do it anymore. At least not right now. It's just SO MUCH hand sewing work, and if I'm going to beat up my hands, I'd rather it was from using double-pointed needles than from hand sewing. Also, I put the needle through both my thumb and index finger- not at the same time, but in the same hour. That just made me mad.

Aaaannd... I made another baby quilt and Etsy-ed it. When I started this quilt, the point was to use what I had already and see what happened. I like what happened. The piecing took a while, but it looks neat.

I quilted it with a random chevron pattern. And I made very, very sure to quilt it LIGHTLY, unlike the forest friends quilt. See, I can learn! It's much softer and more supple. I like it a lot.

Orange chevron flannel on the back, because it goes with the quilting, and well, it's trendy, and I'm a sucker for trends. Despite being "baby" sized, it's actually the perfect size for my lap whilst doing computery things. I may or may not have it on my lap now.

 I also knitted a scarf. The colors are eye-searing. It's my own pattern- the Yacht Club scarf. Just for fun.

I also started a, ahem, purple cheetah print sweater. Yup. Purple. Cheetah print. Sweater. I thought I was being super fashion forward and clever, but then  when I was at Forever 21 today, I saw a purple cheetah print sweater. I was moderately devastated, but what do you do. Keep on trucking.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I love foxes.

Recently, I've had a moderate obsession with foxes. I enjoy forest creatures in general, but there's just something about foxes that is extra good. I even knitted this fox stole, which I'm unsure I'll be brave enough to actually wear in public, but that's another post entirely. So when I saw the Ed Emberley "Happy Drawing" forest friends fabric on Etsy a while back, I knew that I had to own some of it. Then we got invited to a baby shower, so now there is a forest friends baby quilt. 

I did wonky log cabin squares (which I wish were either wonkier or more perfect, because they are just wonky enough to look unintentional. oops.) with the forest fabric, that orange squiggly fabric that is also from the Happy Drawing line, and some Kona solids- light gray, charcoal, bright green, dark green, and a macaroni and cheese color. I think this is the most piecing I've done for a quilt so far- getting all those squares to fit together in a manner I found pleasing required SO MANY little white rectangles and squares. After making this quilt, I understand the need for a design wall. I had the blocks taped to my closet doors as I was arranging, which is just not a good solution, because then I couldn't open the closet.

I did a nature-inspired quilting pattern that is something I frequently doodle when I'm in meetings and such. Unfortunately, it got totally obscured when I washed the quilt. That made me upset, because it took FOREVER, and I was working on it literally up to the minute we left for the shower. It's sort of visible on the back:

But sort of not really.

It was a good lesson to learn. Won't do such a complicated quilting pattern on this type of quilt again. As my mom says, my 478th quilt is just practice for my 479th. Although with me it's more like my 6th is just practice for my 7th. I started making some more of the log cabin blocks to make another of these quilts (to be put in my Etsy store), and I think I will do something way simpler with the quilting, like concentric squares, or even straight lines. Overall, I like.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Haunted Mansion Dessert Table

I'm all for a big Halloween blowout with lots of dancing and a keg, but this year, all I wanted was a smaller, classy, fancy-food-and-drinks cocktail party. The piece de resistance was my haunted mansion dessert table, resplendent with dripping blood candles, ravens, and a big skull. I went entirely overboard with, well, everything, like I do. I started cooking literally a month before the party because I was so excited. My awesome friend Sean (SeaFog Photo) took these amazing pictures after a moderate amount of dessert devastation had already taken place.

I made those silhouettes several years ago and just get them out every year. Easy, effective decor that totally goes with the haunted mansion theme. The bones in the jar on the right I made 2 years ago when Martha Stewart's Halloween theme was something like "Cabinet of Curiosities". They're made of that plaster stuff doctors use for casts. The sticks are from my yarn, the skull is from Walmart, and I made the table runners for a wedding several years ago.

I've made lollipops before, but they always looked like a 5-year-old made them because I had no mold. Now I have a mold, and my lollipops rock. Next time I'll make non-"bloody" ones so that people acually eat them.

My cake pops improved dramtically after I bought a meatballer maker to make nice little balls. Seeing a theme here? Proper equipment makes nicer baked goods. Wish I knew this years ago.

These, though... without thinking, I put the hot candy-coated apples down onto wax paper. So each apple had a wax paper bottom. Oops.

Made these skulls with a mold I got for my awesome and un-blogged Zombie birthday party. I think it was an ice-cube tray originally.

First time making French macarons. They're tricky.

And of course, cupcakes. It's a compulsion by this point.

Overall, great success. But really, dessert tables are a TON of work. I'm really happy with how this one turned out- I think it's my best yet. Maybe another one for New Year's? Could be fun!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I made some pretty mittens.

And put them on Etsy.

Super simple mittens- I think I cast on 36, then increased to 40 after the ribbing, and did a usual thumb gusset, and grafted the tops. I used Full O' Sheep by Debbie Stroller- that 100% wool yarn that showed up in Michael's awhile ago, but apparently is there no more, which doesn't surprise me. When it first showed up in Michael's I got excited and bought a bunch of it before realizing that I hate knitting with it. It's terribly splitty, and it's too loosely spun, and I just don't like it. It was perfect for these mittens, though, because the yarn is a single ply and very conducive to being needle felted, which is precisely what I did, all over the fronts. For variety I also made some french knot flowers and did some back stitch vines with leftover sock yarn.

I kind of don't want to give them up, but that's what I think about everything I sew or knit. Closet space is a real motivator for me, and right now I have none. Maybe I'll make myself a pair when it actually gets cold here, right around January. No need until then.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

And another quilt.

Last week, a friend of mine was over, and we were hanging out in the living room, where I have a ladder-style quilt rack for my growing collection. He was like, "Where'd you get those quilts, your grandma?" Oh.... sadface. Whatever, quilting is cool. Especially when it's giant houndstooths. Houndsteeth? 

This one is lap-sized, and it was an accident. I was making new pillows for my living room, and I thought, wouldn't it be cool if one of them was quilty? So I decided on houndstooth, cut out the pieces, got them all sewn together, and realized that just one houndstooth was about 20" square. This was too big for a pillow.

So I thought, eh, what the heck, let's make a quilt. I had exactly enough of the brown patterned fabric to make 9 houndstooths, so I put them in the middle and made it really punchy and graphic. Found this perfect fabric for the back: it's tiny houndstooths!

This was only the second free-motion quilt I've made. I did a paisley pattern. It's a little hard to see because I did white thread on white fabric. I think it hides mistakes better. 

I think if I did it again, I'd do a colored binding to make it a little more fun. Houndstooth is kind of an old man print, but a fun colored binding would make it younger. This is not a huge problem for me, since I apparently only have old people hobbies. At least I end up with useful things, right? It's just a bonus that they're pretty.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Fixation: Quilting.

Not that I will ever not love knitting best... but I cannot get enough of modern quilts. I can't wait to get home from work most days so I can hang out in my sewing room and quilt. I think I've read every modern quilting blog out there. I am in love. Here's a modern baby quilt I made this past weekend.

It's "improvisationally pieced", which means I just made random, not-straight strips and sewed them together in a manner I found pleasing. The only patterned fabric is the orange polka dot one; the rest, including the back, is all solids. It's more modern that way, dontchathink?

Mostly, I made this quilt because a) I wanted a quick, instant-gratification project, and b) because I'm trying to get better at free-motion quilting. I did a pebble pattern for most of this one, and I love it. I did some triangles coming out of each side just to break it up a bit.

The back:

Baby quilts are so satisfyingly quick. I wish I knew a dozen babies. But I only know one, and hopefully I can get this quilt to them before they read this post. If not, surprise! There's a quilt coming your way! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Makes me giggle

I made this t-shirt because my husband the bird nerd had a good idea.

Funny, right? I totally understand why people have little at-home screen printing machines. I did all that by hand, and ohmygosh did it take a long time. But it came out perfect, don't you think? I love it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

It's been a bit

Sometimes when my husband goes out of town, I sneakily redecorate.

This is my knitting corner in the dining room. The walls used to be 1970s green, because one of the walls is wood paneled, and I liked the retro vibe. Now they're stripey, and awesome. And that chair, a hand-me-down from Kevin's grandma, was sort of an ivory. I never really liked it. So I decided that despite never having done it before, I would tackle a total reupholstering. By far the hardest part was removing the old fabric. I swear, there were 1000 staples, and they were really, really in there. I came out mostly injury-free, shockingly. I used the old pieces as a pattern, and I even did piping. It worked. I have no idea how. Beginner's luck, I'm thinking.

See? Piping. I rock. I did that pillow as a practice for doing piping, and it's, well... not that square. But I like the fabric. Coral is my accent color throughout the room, because it's totally in right now. As my husband likes to say. Makes me giggle.

Once I finish the rest of the room, I'll show you that too. Oh, and knitting:

I have a pile of finished stuff to model, but we'll wait until a day when my hair isn't still wet.

Monday, June 11, 2012

New Pattern: Duck Hat!

You know you need a duck for next winter.

Because airplaning is so much more fun in a hat that flies with you.

This slightly nonsensical hat starts at the earflaps and works its way up. The wings and head are knit separately and sewn on. The legs and feet are picked up from the provisional earflap cast on and worked down. 

You'll need tan, green, brown, blue, white, orange, and yellow worsted-weight yarn. I used Cascade 220. You'll also need size 7 circular and double-pointed needles, a tapestry needle, stitch markers, a piece of 9 x 12 tan craft felt, and some toy stuffing for the head.

Buy the pattern on Ravelry! (No account needed.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I love ombre.

And cupcakes. Case in point: 

Pretty, right?

I like to class up the usual barbeque.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Oh, you didn't know I sew, too?

Well, I do:

I made a baby quilt for my favoritest baby ever. My mom got this fantastic quilt pattern called Animal Alphabet, and it was so wonderful that I knew I had to have it, too. 

I got a new (badly needed) sewing machine for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. It can do free-motion quilting, which is something my starter machine could only dream of. Naturally, I promptly made a free-motion-quilted quilt.

With five of the cutest animals from the pattern. I enlarged them a bit to make them more awesome.

Free-motion quilting has a really steep learning curve. There may or may not be a couple of spots around the iguana that are less awesome than the rest of the quilt.

I did not point those out when I gifted the quilt.

But I don't think it matters, anyway. It's ridiculously cute. I kind of thought about keeping it for myself, but as I no longer require tummy time, it seemed silly. Next for the new machine: a swimsuit. Oooh, ambitious, I know. What is a new sewing machine for, if not epic failure? We'll see how it turns out. For now, wine and knitting. Just for a change of pace.