Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Sock challenge Update

2010 draws to a close, and with it my self-imposed sock knitting challenge. Remember my goal? It was to knit 20 socks, or 10 pairs, in 2010. Let's see how I did:

Hmm, didn't quite get the full 10 pairs in! Honestly, I burned out on knitting socks somewhere around September or October. By the end of November, I didn't even want to think about socks, so all WIPs were retired to the basket. I have one full sock of pair #8 finished, and a good 75% of a sock (knee sock with beads, no less!) of pair #9. Pair #10 never materialized.

I realized that I have a drawer stuffed full of handknit socks, enough for a good number of winters. It's probably a good thing I didn't knit all 10 pairs! Two of the pairs I made this year were given as gifts. I'll work on finishing the last 3 pairs this winter and maybe give some of those as gifts as well.

So....what did I learn through all this? I don't like knitting patterns with large row repeats in a motif (like the red pair). The asymmetrical concept (black socks) is unique, but not very practical for socks as the sock wants to twist around on your foot all the time. Sport weight yarn (red pair) is my favorite for socks - nice and squishy but still fits in your shoes. Finer yarns are beautiful, but I find that I'm mending those types of socks and not the thicker ones. I'll keep my fine yarns for shawls and spring scarves.

There are still 4 days of 2010 left...perhaps I'll finish pair #8.....or do a quick sock pattern for #10! Can I really do a pair of socks in 4 days??? My record so far is 9 days.... *dashing off to dig up needles and yarn*

Christmas Knitting

I did a few last-minute handknits for Christmas gift this year. I was excited to try out Kristin Nichols's book "Color". There are so many eye-popping designs in here! I raided my stash and came up with some yarn to make these mittens for my daughter, to match the hat I knit earlier this year.
Mother-Daughter mittens
Even stitched her name on one palm!
Mother-Daughter mittens

My son has invented an imaginary land called Boyland (genius name, eh?). It's ruled by the high emperor, Elishar, and his semi-tamed polar bear Turfa. Like most polar bears, this one is extremely mischevious and snobby about his food. He'll only eat Honeycrisp apples! It's been well over a year that my son (and the rest of the family, by implication) has created Turfa. I wanted to remember this stage in my boy's life before he outgrows it, so I knit up a Turfa hat for him. The fair isle knitting bug has bitten me hard!! It came out pretty big; it fits me just fine but drowns the boy. I guess he'll never outgrow it, right?
polar bear hat

polar bear hat
Hmm, maybe a bit of blocking would even out those stitches. I'm still perfecting my Fair Isle knitting!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Upcycled Tshirts

I have long arms. My dryer shrinks my most-loved shirts to just-that-irritating length. Rather than throw out the shirts, I've been modifying them to give them a new lease on life, at least for another season.

Shirt #1: sleeves were just a bit too short, so I cut them to 3/4 length and reused the scraps to create some girly ruffles at the neck.

upcycled tshirt

Shirt #2: body and sleeves were short. I cut the long sleeves off and added sleeves from a too-see-through white tshirt. Also added a bit of length by attaching a contrast hem. (sorry for the blurred picture-I think my 6 yr old took this!)

upcycled tshirt

Mother Daughter crafting

I bought a little embroidery kit for my daughter in February - it had patterns to stitch 6 mini Christmas stockings. I figured little projects would be more attainable for her than something substantial. She's done a great job so far! She helped me press and sew a few of them this afternoon. That proved to be some great teaching time for lining up seams, how to pin fabric, and even how to press seams (daddy's shirts are next!) She's excited to fill them with treats for Christmas morning!

mini embroidered stockings

mini embroidered stockings

Monday, December 13, 2010

Paper Snowflakes

We got our first "snow" in the south today! We're so excited - and it's barely a dusting still with green patches of grass poking through! Not enough to do any fun stuff outside, so we made our own flurry of paper snowflakes indoors.

What winter would be complete without kids snipping paper & coffee filters into lace creations? I was irresitably drawn in....and got a bit carried away, hee hee!

And then I had an "ah-ha!" moment: why not make snowflakes from clear contact paper - instant frosted fun on the windows! Peeling the paper backing off was a bit tricky.
My 4 yr old eagerly took up paper and scissors - and made a paper chainsaw. Huh???

Thursday, December 9, 2010


handknit smocked sweater

Ever make a baby gift and wonder its fate will be? Loved and cherished? Or lost in the back of the closet? When I knit this sweater over a year ago I had no doubts about that. This pattern is a perfect match for this sweet little girl, who was kind enough to let the crazy lady with the camera take her picture. "Stand by the blue wall, honey. Stop wiggling, there's not much light. No, sister can't hold you. Yes, she will stay close by. Of course you can hold your baby. Don't move. Ok, I don't care if you don't smile, just wanna see the handknits, k?" Really, her face says it all, don't you think? She wasn't going to let big sister wander too far away, though!

I knew when I knit this that it would be awhile before the little 'un could wear it. I think she needs to stop growing now. Or I'm gonna have to get my knitting needles out again (well, I think I'll teach the big sisters to knit instead!). It is so satisfying to see my hours of knitting loved by another!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Snowglobe Soaps

We're busy as elves in Santa's shop over here. It's a challenge to come up with handmade gifts that the kids can help with that don't look like, well, the kids made them. You know what I mean. Popscicle sticks and glitter and all that. I'm not the kind of sentimental mom that saves THOSE kinds of crafts for long.

snowglobe soap

I saw this post on how to make snowglobe soap and thought we'd try it. What fun! It was easy, not dangerous for little hands to help with, and relatively quick to make. It uses melt and pour glycerin soap, mini figurines, a bar of white soap and some glitter. We used an ice cube tray as our mold.

snowglobe soap

It only took about 15 min for the soap to set up in the freezer, which was just enough time to clean up the MESS!! Big downside to this project - soap bits everywhere! But hey, it's soap, so it's an inherently clean mess, right? Of course, my 7 yr old son decided to take up soap whittling in the process which didn't help our situation any. (He has two friends who've taken off bits of their fingers with knives, so rest assured he got "the lecture.")

whittling soap

We're excited to give these cute little treats to our friends!

A New Coat for Anna - Sort of

wool coat
I finally finished the wool coat for my daughter! Hooray! We are both quite happy with it! My son just happened to be reading "A New Coat for Anna" this week for school, and we all thought the new wool coat in the book could very well look like this one!

The pattern is Simplicity 2584 (I think - going off my rusty memory here). I changed the "skirt" part a bit. I did pleats instead of gathering it, which I'm mostly happy with. I wish that I had done the front side pleats facing to the back instead of the front now that I see it on her. Oh well. She's likely to grow so fast that this won't fit her next year. *sigh* I had to lengthen the sleeves a good 3 inches to accomodate her condor-like arms. I think the pattern was off on that.

Wool Coat

She got inspired to strike a pose everytime I held up the camera. I have no idea where she gets her spunk! Hmmm, maybe her mother??

wool coat

Monday, November 29, 2010

Feeling Merry!

The Christmas season is upon us!! How about spreading that merry spirit to all you meet by wearing a bow yourself! As a kid, the gift-opening protocol was to pull off the bow then stick it on top of your head (I guess mom and dad thought that made for cuter photos!).

felt gift bow hair ditty

Here's a (slightly) more grown-up way of doing that. A bow bobby pin! I followed the tutorial here. You could easily apply this to ponytail rubberbands, pin backs for brooches, or a very reuseable bow for your gifts, decor, etc!

felt gift bow hair ditty FO

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back in the swing of things

The blog has been quiet, but my hands haven't! All this pre-holiday crafting and preparation is keeping me very busy. I try to plan ahead and get as much done as possible so our family can enjoy the weeks before Christmas, but I've discovered that it makes for a busy November! Here's a visual collage of what's been in the works lately (of course I can't say what these are for...just in case they're meant for gifts!):

braided cowl Nov2010
Hunting Balaclava WIP Nov2010
Silver triangle shawl WIP Nov2010
wool coat WIP Nov 2010
This wool coat for my daughter has been the big project lately. It finally has the lining inside, and just needs to be hemmed and a few buttons added. I'm really surprised at how well everything came together. Not a difficult pattern as long as you go slow and follow the directions. Our weather has turned warmer again (72 today!) so perhaps I can procrastinate a few more days on finishing it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Growing up

My littlest man read his first words yesterday: AT, MEN.

And so begins my fourth time through this adventure of teaching a child to read. I've learned a few things myself along the way. When a kid starts asking "what does c-h-e-e-r-i-o-s spell?" at the breakfast table, or with any other word they set their eyes on, it's a signal to me that they're read to dive in! Patience, and taking things in little bits is important, too. I've also learned that once they start, they will sound out any word they see, like when you're sitting at the stoplight and you hear your 5 yr old sounding out "h-ooooo-t-rrrr-s".

Which brings me to another part of this reading adventure - teaching kids that not everything in the world is really edifying to read.

For now we're taking big steps in conquering little words.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reformation Day, Day of the Dead, All Saint's Day

There are a lot of different traditions and events wrapped up in October 31. All Hallow's Eve, the 31st, is more commonly called "Halloween" and has been turned into a pursuit of candy and costumes. But it wasn't always that way!

All Hallow's Eve - All Saint's Eve, the day before All Saint's Day (Nov 1) - is a church holiday. Many Latin cultures still celebrate it under the name "Day of the Dead" or Dia de los Muertos. It's a day to remember the saints who have gone before us, and also Christ conquering death on the cross. It is at the end of the church's liturgical calendar and is a picture of the end of time. It's a day to laugh at death - that mere pause in our eternal lives.

Instead of the beautifully ornate sugar skulls associated with Dia de los Muertos, we created our own sugar-y skulls: cupcakes! I forget where I originally saw this idea....Martha? BHG?? One of you will remember and tell me, right?

Day of the Dead, All Saint's Day cupcakes

And dinner wouldn't be complete without some "mummies" - I'm not normally into the ghosts and ghouls, but this idea was too fun and easy to pass up. OK, you might have to use your imagination to see the little guys peeking out between their crescent roll wrappings. YOu get the idea.
You could tie this in with a study on Ancient Egypt or King Tut if the connection with Halloween isn't your thing.

mummy hotdogs!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Adventures with wool

No, I'm not knitting wool. I'm sewing with it! This is completely new to me, and I'm loving it! I thought it would be stiff and clunky to work with, but this wool has a lovely drape and just the right amount of body. The best part is it doesn't fray!

I'm working on a knee-length dress coat for my daughter, Simplicity 2534. Of course, I had to modify the pattern right away - I did away with the gathered skirt and opted for some flatter pleats instead.

wool dress coat
The collar took an hour to sew. It really wasn't complicated; I just went slowly to make sure I wouldn't have to take it apart and redo it. The lining fabric is lying next to the coat up there.
wool coat, back detail
I'm really pleased with how the pleats turned out in the back. I'll have to make the same change in the lining to make sure it lays flat underneath. I'll add a button-on tab detail to the back, too. And that atrocious center crease will get steamed out....eventually.

After another good 2 hrs today, I've got one sleeve attached and the other ready to go. I had DD try this on with one sleeve - she either has gorilla arms or this pattern is whacked. There's a contrast band on the cuff that is supposed to fold back over the sleeve, but it almost almost too short on her not folded back. So my BFF seam ripper undid those cuffs in a jiffy! They're reattached now backwards so they won't have to fold back - and thus the life of the coat just got extended by a year. I guess she's not allowed to grow after that! :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Camping and Knitting

The annual church campout was this past weekend. It involves lots of kickball games, dusty kids, tons of food, dirty children, a talent show, filthy boys, teaching sessions, and really grubby little people. Catching on yet? Fun and Dirt are the usual theme. :)

A break from routine was great - it offered lots of time with my family and lots of time to knit! Along with working on my Leyburn socks, I whipped up this easy hat for my daughter. The pattern is called Felicity (ravelry link). Sorry for the dreary at-night photo!

felicity hat

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sock love

OK, I admit I was burning out on the knitted socks. As in a total loss of love for the art form. They're just socks, right? Nobody ever sees them except me. Why bother? It's all the same cables or lace or ribs just repackaged. Blah. Variegated yarns were becoming my bane - just a mottled mishmash of colors with no meaning or direction. Apparently that's all I ever buy! Where are my solid yarns?!?

Maybe it was the recent 10 inches of rain sogging my brain, but the sun came out and I've fallen back in love with little sticks and strings. This great yarn that's been waiting patiently in my stash helped. (Koigu - *sigh* Thank you, Canada for Koigu!)

Leyburn socks WIP

These pastel Easter-egg colors drew me in on a dark November day in Philly, PA. I'm normally NOT a pastel person. So when would I use this? But then I saw this pattern and how those floats danced around and played up all those colors, I knew I had a winner! No cables, no lace, no ribs. I even changed to a girly picot cuff to go with these foo-foo colors. And you know what? It's making me very happy.

(to the knitters out there who are wondering what on earth I did to my picot cuff - yes, I know it's not right. That big lumpyness is a result of just winging it and not following any directions. Socks as artform, yes - but they're still SOCKS. The second one will be better, that's part of the charm, right?)

For Baby

Another baby shower coming up, and this little will be getting another rendition of the handknit Autumn Leaves Cardi with the Tie Top Dress (pattern by Made by Rae).
Autumn Leaves baby cardi with vintage sheet dress FO

baby tie top dress vintage sheet FO
A lovely vintage sheet was used to make this dress! I love those peach bouquets!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sock Pair #7 for 2010

Here's my 7th pair of handknit socks for the year. Three more to go!

I kind of feel like I cheated with these since they're made with worsted weight yarn and #5 needles. But a pair of socks is a pair of socks, right? They'll be perfect as slipper socks around the house!

Pattern: Quickies from "Joy of Sox"
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted Multi in "Rockefeller", .75 skein
Needles: US 5 dpns
Start: Sept 14, 2010
Finish: Oct. 1, 2010
size: yeti sized

Friday, October 1, 2010

KCWC - days 4, 5, and beyond

I haven't stopped sewing! Here's the latest children's clothing item I finished: a corduroy "cowgirl" skirt. I used up leftover fine-whale corduroy and decided to spunk it up with a faux petticoat underneath. I know, the picture is pretty rotten, but we've had four solid days of rain and my daughter is pretty loathe to model while mom is being fussy with the camera. There's an elastic waist plus one more tier of gathered fabric. The "petticoat" is pleated to reduce bulk and attached to the top of the gathered tier. And whenever I sew clothes for the kids, I finish all my seams either with french seams or flat felled seams. Fraying fabric is a pet peeve of mine.
It's knee length, which means she won't be able to wear it next year, but for now it's just right with her western boots and the warm Southern Autumn weather.
Next up (Lord willing) will be a wool coat. This one is a bit more to tackle!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

KCWC - day 3 - Freezer paper patterns

Got my sewing mojo back on yesterday - wahoo! I discovered some leftover floral corduroy fabric in my stash and thought it'd make a great skirt for my 9 yr old daughter. She's really into her new western style boots, so I thought a "cowgirl" skirt would be fun. It'll be a gathered skirt with a bit of an attatched underskirt or petticoat peeking out the bottom. I'll show you the finished photos tomorrow - after I run out and get some lace to finish it off! ;)

For now, let me share with you some major work I did on kids' clothes today: pattern tracing. Not exciting in the sewing sense, but necessary and crucial prepwork. A multi-sized pattern is great, but you can't just cut into it if you'd ever want to sew it again as your child grows. Want to know my secret for getting just the size I want on some sturdy paper? Freezer paper! OK, maybe not a new invention in the sewing world, but it's rather new to me, and I love the outcome. Taping the pattern to a window and tracing it that way would work - if I had windows large enough, and if I could find uninterrupted daylight hours to do this! This works well after the sun - and kids - goes down.

First I cut around the pattern pieces just to get them to a manageable state. Those huge pieces of tissue paper are so unwieldy!

Next I lay them out on a piece of freezer paper, shiny side down. Using a Sharpie, I mark the outlines with dots right on the tissue pattern. The Sharpie bleeds through the tissue onto the freezer paper, leaving me a nice connect-the-dots pattern. I use a ruler to put in the straight lines, and a steady, decaffeinated hand to draw the curves (I could use a french curve, but the kids misplaced mine). Remember to mark all dots, notches, and other details! When I know all the info I need is transferred, I can fold those tissue paper pieces back up and store them in their envelope, safe and secure for next time.

Now is when the freezer paper advantage comes in. The shiny side will lightly adhere to the fabric with just a smidge of a warm iron applied. So I can lay out the pieces, iron them down then cut them out with NO pins!! The paper easily comes off the fabric (but I always do a test first, just to check).
Tomorrow is cutting day as well as getting some of the major seams constructed. This will be a lined wool coat, which has two upsides: wool doesn't fray, so finishing seams isn't necessary. It's lined, so all those seams will be neatly covered! I'm already planning on how I'll alter this pattern; I think I'll leave out the set-in pockets (bulky!!) and put a neat pocket on the inside lining for keeping track of small things, like a pair of mittens & a handkerchief.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

KCWC - day 2

Didn't get much sewing done on day 2 of the kids clothes week challenge. Evening plans with friends diminished my sewing time, but I did manage do crank out this little muffin cap for a costume.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kids' Clothes Week Challenge - day 1

It was pretty easy to get a good hour or more of sewing in yesterday for the KCWC. I worked on sewing flannel pj pants for my 4 yr old. This must be one of the easiest sewing projects out there - elastic waistband, 2 seams, and hems. Done. I used a modified version of Butterick 4222 (modified to make a smaller size than what I had). I used 1 yd of flannel and about 20" of 1-inch wide elastic.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Christmas Hexagons

The Christmas quilt top I've been working on since Spring is finally finished! This was an exercise in scrounging together my scraps of "Glace" fabric by Three Sisters for Moda. I was literally digging through my waste bin looking for bits of leftovers in order to come up with the border of squares! Sewing hexagons was a new thing for me. It's not very difficult, but as you can see from some puckers, precision is key.

The top measures about 42" square. Now the challenging part - quilting!

Kids Clothes Week Sewing Challenge

Sept 20-26, 2010
Join in over at Elsie Marley's blog.

For one week, work on sewing clothes for your kids an hour each day. I have four kids, so this should benefit our family!

I hope to sew some fishy PJs for my 4 yr old and a wool dress coat for my 9 yr old. To do that in one week is a challenge, for sure! Some mending will be in there as well (with three boys, there is ALWAYS mending to do!) If there's time, I plan on sewing a skirt for me, too. Ok, I'm not really a kid, but perhaps a kid-at-heat counts?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Six Socks

Sock pair #6 for 2010 is finished!

On our 10th anniversary trip to Cape May, NJ, I picked up this yarn because it reminded me of the colors of the sand and sea we enjoyed so much together. I wanted to find a pattern that would be a lasting reminder of the rippling waves and sand there. It took over a year to find something that was JUST right, but I love the outcome! It's a very stretchy sock, so I'll have to keep this in mind as a good gift sock pattern.
Pattern: Koi socks (ravelry link)
Yarn: Fortissima Socka Cotton Colors (used 72g out of the 100g skein)
Needles: US 2 circular
size: fits women's US 10

Cozy and complete!

Remember this slip cover? Now it has some matching throw pillows for the neighboring sofa!
These 18" square pillow covers were a snap to sew. There's an invisible zipper opening on the bottom seam of each, just behind the piping. Now I'm kicking my feet up and enjoying my FINISHED chair project! (It's finished because I'm officially out of fabric!).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

There and Back again - Holland, MI

We went over hill and under hill to get to Holland, MI last month. I love this town! First, it's on Lake Michigan, and any beach that sports a tunnel through a sand dune is pretty cool.
Standing with "just your toes in the water" quickly turns into wave jumping. No jellyfish, sea urchins or other spiky, painful objects here!

And sunsets over the lake - a perfect way to end a day. Of course, you have to climb hundreds of stairs up over the dunes to see the sunset, then find your way back down those hundreds of stairs in the dark if you tarry too long!

Downtown sports an awesome used bookstore, complete with a resident cat!

My son settled in with a book about polar bears, his recent obsession.

Very intrigued by a shop full of cuckoo-clocks. It was like walking into the movie "Pinocchio." Very clicky-clacky, very noisy, and very expensive!
The boys were disappointed to have to leave the shop so quickly, but the fudge/candy store was two doors down, a good compromise!