hung by the chimney with care: mini-stockings!

With a little toddler running around this Christmas, I had grand plans of going handmade for the Christmas ornaments this year (they wouldn't break if she pulled them off the tree, no little parts to choke on ... all that good stuff). My mind went immediately to these adorable mini-stocking ornaments I'd seen on Ravelry, and there were plans for some needlework reindeer and santas stitched into ornaments with some cute Christmas fabric borders. As you can see from the picture above, my dream didn't quite materialize as I'd envisioned! I made around 9 different mini-stockings and then realized that, one, I was running out of time, and two, a tree comprised almost entirely of mini-stockings would look a little odd! So instead, I purchased cheap-o (but still pretty!) ornaments at Wal-Mart (that shouldn't shatter, and that I wouldn't be devastated if they were broken) and we strategically positioned them out of little one's reach. Which means that the lower half of the tree is bare. :-D But that's okay. I'd rather have that than to deal with constantly monitoring the little one!

While I did churn out quite of few of these mini-stockings, I can't say that I'm sick of them. They're such instant gratification projects! For links and my commentary on the patterns I used, see my post over at the Golden Triangle Knitting Guild blog. Be warned: they are addictive!

These guys have all the elements of real socks, minus the kitchener at the toe!

Mini fair isle? Soooo adorable.

Now that all my presents are knit and packaged and have long reached their destinations, I've been indulging in a little knitting for me. I just stumbled across this amazing indie sock yarn dyer, String Theory Colorworks. Her stuff is so neat! And apparently, these wide stripes you see below are actually a rare thing to find in sock yarn world. I had no clue. All I can say is, I'm in love! It doesn't hurt that her yarn base has a tiny amount of cashmere in it. Yum.

fabulous feza scarf formula: free knitting pattern!

Oooo. Pretty colors. Yup, that's what suckered me into buying the Feza "Polo" yarn. That and it is sooooo soft. Double threat. If you're like me, and can't resist this yarn in your local yarn shop, here's a quick and easy pattern that puts it to good use. And best of all, you only need two skeins! ***This is a pattern for a length-wise garter stitch scarf, which I make no claims of being the originator of this idea. But if you're in love with this yarn like I was, I thought other people might find this pattern useful.

Fabulous Feza Scarf Formula

Yarn: 2 skeins of Feza Polo (yarn content: 55% acrylic, 30% mohair, 15% polyamid)
Needles: Size 11

CO 183 stitches
Cut your yarn, leaving a 5 inch or so tail at the end of your cast-on. Re-attach your yarn to your work by tying it to your last stitch (again, leaving a 5 inch tail) and then knit across the stitches for your first row. Repeat this procedure at the beginning and end of each row to create your "tassle."

Continue to knit garter stitch for a total of 28 rows.

Cast off on your 29th row (you should have 14 garter stitch ridges on each side).

Weave in ends, and secure your tassles. You'll notice that the tassles are naturally paired. To secure your tassles, tie each pair in a double knot. If you end up with an uneven number of tassles, tie three together by holding two in one hand. Trim tassles as desired. Wear your fuzzy, soft warm scarf with pride!

My finished scarves were approximately five inches in width. You can easily get a width of six inches if you use a full two skeins. I failed to measure their length before gifting them all, but it was generous enough to wear double-wrapped with plenty of scarf leftover to artfully wrap.

NOTE: I know it would be easier to create the tassles by continuously knitting and then attaching the tassles at the end of the project, but this yarn has gradual color changes, and I wanted the tassles to match these shifts in color. Feel free to create your tassles in whatever manner you prefer (or have none if that suits you best!).

I found that with this formula, each color change happened every three rows or so in this yarn.

2010 in review, fall catch-up

When this arrived in my mailbox, I just had to make it. Such a simple, but awesome design. So I set out to gather my supplies, and just barely scrounged up enough candy corn. By the time I hit the Halloween candy aisle, the majority of what was left was called "harvest corn" and instead of being white, orange, and yellow, it was white, orange and brown. Not nearly as aesthetically pleasing! Someone told me the brown was supposed be chocolate flavor? Dunno. All in all, it only took me about two hours to hot-glue-gun each candy corn to the wreath form (first you cover the wreath form with black duct tape to create your "background").

I loved the finished wreath! But, yes, I am speaking in the past tense. A couple of problems with candy corn ... first, it's sugar, which meant that it softened up from the heat of the glue gun and from being exposed to the elements outside. I only had one candy corn actually detach itself and fall off the wreath, but you could feel them kind of disintegrating when I took the wreath down after Halloween. So ultimately this one ended up in the trash. (I also had visions of the bugs having a field day eating this in the attic/garage ... no need to give them any more reason to be attracted to my house!) If I make another one next year, I might try spraying it with some sort of sealer or gloss spray. We'll see.

summer follow-up, numero uno

After reviewing this year's posts (and my embarrassing lack of activity), I just realized that I never posted the king-sized quilt that grew from the quilting bug that was inspired by my baby quilt successes!

Looking back, I was clearly under the influence of extreme pregnancy nesting when I started this quilt. Who starts a king-sized quilt when they are in their third trimester? A crazy pregnant lady, that's who! Despite the obstacles posed by my massively distended belly, I managed to do all my cutting and pieced together the top of the quilt. It actually looked like I might finish the quilt pre-baby arrival until I hit a snag basting the backing to the top + quilt batting to create the "sandwhich." To be economical, I usually use a flat sheet as my backing. Before attaching the binding, I use a loose basting stitch on all four sides of the quilt to make a nice, clean edge for attaching my binding. Well, somehow I managed to not square things up properly (it would have helped if I had properly basted the entire quilt, like you're supposed to ... but all that time on my hands and knees, with 8-month pregancy belly? yeah, right! that wasn't going to happen) and it got all wonky, and I decided not to deal with it. So this massive, so close to being finished, quilt got shoved in the closet and didn't re-emerge until last summer and the then baby-to-come was almost one!

I'm glad I got as far as I did on finishing the quilt though, because it really drove me to finish it last summer. If I hadn't finished the top, I know it would have languished much longer in unfinished-project-limbo. I love the finished quilt! But once I finished the quilt, I realized I had created a new project: pillow sham covers. The old pillow sham covers now just didn't quite fit with the new, cheerful quilt (see below).

The first decision I had to make was color and pattern. Should I make another patchwork design, but using a different pattern? What color? After much debate, I decided I wanted to avoid blues and greens, since I figured it would make the pillows basically blend in with the quilt--and I wanted them to complement the quilt, but stand on their own. Secondly, I opted to stay away from a patchwork pattern--partly for ease (wanting to keep things simple so the project actually got finished!) and to not distract from the pattern in the quilt. In the end, I went for my first mono-chromatic patchwork piece in shades of yellow. I purposefully staggered the seams so I could be lazy and not worry about cutting everything perfectly and matching everything perfectly.

I'm really happy with the end result! I love it so much, it had me dreaming of mono-chromatic future quilts ... e.g. shades of red and green for a winter "Christmas" quilt I could pull out for the holidays, etc. But the awkward fumbling of dealing with such a massive amount of fabric to create a king-sized quilt has staved off the quilting bug for now. That and actively avoiding the awesome quilting books that are slowly but surely joining my library ... we'll see how long I can last out!

Great Knitting Resources

Throughout this month I've been writing a series of posts about great knitting resources for the Golden Triangle Knitting Guild. I'd thought I'd share these here as well ... these days it's hard to keep up with all the amazing online magazines, newsletters, and other sources of fabulous (and sometimes free!) knitting patterns that can be found online. So this series is my attempt at profiling the best of those resources. You can access all the posts in this series through the "Great Resources & Great Patterns" button on my sidebar!

Coming soon ... more adventures in knitting. I'm experimenting with some colorwork in my felting (a first for me!) and will attempt my first ever steek ... I'm nervous to say the least! Oh, and the cupcakes? Total success! I thought the marshmallows would harden after a few days, but if anything, they got soggy. So definitely eat them up within a day or two!

What's New, Cupcake?

What's new? Well, a lot, in a year! But mostly just the excitement of preparing for Baby-J's (wow, this time last year she was known only as impending-July-baby) first birthday! Which has inspired some manic (as usual) birthday crafting, of course. And nothing better than a birthday to warrant some fabulously decorated cupcakes! I love eating cupcakes, but honestly hadn't put much effort into decorating them until my sister introduced me to the book, Hello, Cupcake!, by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Their awesome cupcakes inspired me to track down their sequel, What's New, Cupcake? and actually put a little more effort into one of my favorite tasty treats.

Soooo many cupcakes caught my eye in this book (more on that later), but this adorable chrysanthemum-imitating decorations just screamed "perfect for little girl's first birthday party" to me. I knew that I wanted to simplify the design though--no pistils, and since these cupcakes will be traveling across the state of Mississippi, no need for the fancy-schmancy presentation on a platter with the pseudo-stems. So here you can see the perfectly styled book presentation, my inspiration ...

And here's row one of my first cupcake. Although the design of the cupcake is pretty simple, and simple enough in concept (the petals are simply mini-marshmallows cut on the diagonal and the revealed sticky part dipped in colored sprinkles--easy, right?), I found working with the mini-marshmallows a little cumbersome at first. Originally, I thought I'd be able to actually use both halves of each mini-marshmallow. Ha! What was I thinking? I found that you basically need one half to hold onto as an anchor while you cut the marshmallow in half. This process invariably mushes the "anchor" half beyond any recognition--certainly not a petal shape! I also quickly learned that it is important to use a sharp knife, specifically one with a sharp tip. And frequently cleaning off the marshmallow "gunk" also helps make sharper cuts and better looking "petals." As I got going, I got into the groove of it though. But I would definitely say that this cupcake design is a little tedious to construct. I would cut enough marshmallows to construct one cupcake before going back to cutting marshmallows. Looking at the pretty finished cupcakes then helped motivate me through cutting some more petals.

And here's a cupcake with row #2 of petals on ... I could totally see a sunflower version of this cupcake with chocolate frosting and yellow petals, but omitting row #2, don't you?

I want to say it took me about two hours for completing the decorating of 14 cupcakes. Like I said, tedious. Can you imagine making enough for a large party? But despite my whining, I LOVE the results. They are sooo neat looking! I would make these again in a heartbeat, and think they would be stunning for a baby or bridal shower. I'm excited to see the reaction they'll create among the party guests tomorrow...

Of course, this minor success already has me thinking ahead to the next holiday/celebration I'd consider making cupcakes for. These snowmen look adorable, and sooo much easier than the flowers I made today!

And these "skeins" would be perfect for my knitting buddies!

2021 year in review

  Who would have thought that the second year of a pandemic would be worst than the first, in terms of crafting mojo? Not I. But this chart ...