Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Calypso Tote in Patchwork

Over the weekend, while my mouth was full of woe and I was feeling quite sorry for myself, I did manage to get in a little bit of sewing. My mama needed a new tote bag for her work stuff, as her other one was looking much worse for wear. The thing with sewing for my mom is she gets annoyed if you don't use what you have and try to buy new fabrics. This is great for using stash, and also forces me to be a little bit more creative as my stash is random stuff (I don't buy fabric collections unless I'm going to use the whole thing, usually in a quilt). The only thing I needed was a little bit of denim, which was already on major sale, so I think I spent maybe two dollars. 

I made a slightly modified version of my Calypso tote. I did a bit of patchwork instead of a solid, and changed up the lining slightly, but the principle is the same. My biggest modification was unintentional--I think I held the fabrics the wrong way so it came out wider and shorter than the original, but I do like the shape of it (and it's not a drastic change).


The texty prints I bought as a bundle some time ago, and they matched really well with the ditzy florals I bought on a day trip two summers ago to Lancaster County. 


They're placed fairly randomly (other than alternating a text with a floral), and quilted on both sides of each seam line in each direction. The thread blends so well you can barely see it, but it's there.

The original tote has the lining extend over the top of the bag and form a border of sorts on the outside, but this lining wouldn't have contrasted well, so I used a piece of denim instead. My original plan was to use jeans thread to mimic the stitching on...well...jeans, but my machine does not like weird threads (my smaller one has no issue, but the quilting one balks). So I used regular thread of the same golden color, and used some of my fun stitches.


Some spots got a little bit quirky, but my mother loves imperfect things, especially if the imperfection is due to human hands.


The straps are nice and sturdy. The denim is probably the lightest weight you can buy, but I interfaced it and used some fusible fleece. Hopefully they're nice and comfy.


I included a nice and roomy zip pocket on the inside. I didn't have any of the heavy weight plastic canvas I use for bag bottoms, so after the gap was sewn I used a super sturdy piece of cardboard and gift wrapped some fabric around it. Ain't gonna be no sag in that bag! (FYI it really hurt to write that). (FYI again--if you look in the bottom of the bag you can see it a little bit).


So that's one project done. I ordered some nifty 'fabric' for a pattern I bought recently that I can't wait to get to work on. Anybody ever work with cork fabric? Any pointers?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Skinny Gums and the Rootenist Tootenist

I am not one to wish time away by any means--it's too precious a commodity--but I would like it to be March 3rd as soon as possible, as that's when I get my stitches removed. Don't worry--no pictures of anything as I pride myself on not being evil. Over the years, my hygienist has told me I brush too hard and my gums were receding. I have consistently argued this fact as I modified my brushing technique after the first time they told me to watch it. But at my last cleaning I got the "OK, I'm going to recommend that you see a periodontist." So I did (possibly one of the sweetest medical professionals I've ever met) and he informed me I needed to have a procedure done in one area to prevent bad things from happening that might eventually lead to tooth loss. I'm not going to get into specifics as the sound of it will make the faint of heart possibly faint, and the others, at the very least, visibly cringe. But at the start of the procedure, he said "You have very thin gums. It's just in your genes, but is probably a contributing factor." Which went in my ears and to my brain as "You were exactly right, this is not your fault at all." And then he continued with his work, and I'll omit those details (you're welcome).


I have spent this weekend feeling very sorry for myself. I have never had stitches before, and I don't know that I would recommend breaking that streak by having them in your mouth for the first time. As though he knew how squeamish I am, the doctor said "I would recommend NOT looking at anything for about two weeks." But, as he didn't know me and wouldn't think otherwise, that's exactly what I did Saturday morning. And as things didn't look so hot, I almost fainted. Literally. Three times. I'm not kidding. I got the fuzzy vision, the thundering in my ears, the wiggly legs. After the third time, somehow I got over it and haven't had such a problem since. I'm sore, I'm talking funny, I'm rinsing with saline, I'm eagerly anticipating the next dose of pain meds (ibuprofen has been my best friend), I'm not smiling because it hurts, and I'm eating oddly. All I want is a big sandwich on a nice Italian roll with a side of potato chips, none of which I can have at the moment. And if you think I'm telling you all this so you'll feel sorry for me, you're absolutely right. Although--things could be a million times worse, and I'm quite fortunate this is the most major medical procedure I've ever had (and it's so minor I was awake with a local anesthetic). But here's the thing--I'm a migraine warrior, I can handle womanly concerns like a champ, but--dental pain? No, I can't. That's my Achilles heel. I would honestly rather have a baby.

However, a major dose of sunshine showed up this weekend in two forms--some absolutely stunning spring-like weather, and A-train for a Saturday sleepover. A-train, like a lot of little boys, loves toy guns and rooting out zombies. As an adult, being a zombie is one of the most boring things ever. So this weekend I gave him some props from an old Halloween costume where I was an Old West sheriff. So he spent the entire weekend being a cowboy. It's as though zombies never existed (well...you get what I mean). He took his rig off to change into his pajamas and when he went to bed. Other than that...


It took me forever to figure out what that blob of lime green is, but it's a water pistol tucked in the front of his belt. He sat and ate his cookies and milk, watching out for varmints and bad guys. He built a bunkhouse wall out of his blocks, and then set up a blanket and pillows behind it because "that's where cowboys sleep." I took him to Joann's with me today when I went to buy thread, and he found a foam gun in that kids' crafts section they have with some other dress up stuff. He didn't want to go to Party City to buy a costume (he loves dressing up and pretending), he didn't want to stop for milkshakes and fries--he wanted to go straight home to play.


I'm actually wearing the cowboy hat in that photo. A long time ago, my uncle gave my brother a wooden rocking horse. We rescued it from the attic, cleaned it up, and the littlest cowboy had his horse. He kept saying the sun was in his eyes, but as it was behind him I have no idea how that was happening (he also told my mom he was suffering from short-term memory loss the night before when he couldn't remember something, so who knows).


The horse must have been a little slow, so he switched to a faster mode of transport for the modern-day cowboy.


He even collected a bundle of sticks so that he could have a campfire. He took them home in a plastic bag, much to my sister's chagrin.


He walked around whistling The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (that I think my uncle taught him last weekend), and provided lessons in gun safety to everyone. His other Pop-Pop is a gun collector, and so my sister, brother-in-law, and so on are making sure he's aware of the seriousness of actual guns while allowing him to play and be creative.


This little guy excels at using his imagination, whether it's playing doctor's office, post office, anything to do with cars, or anything really. But as I used to be oddly obsessed with cowboys and gunfighters and the Old West in general, it was quite fun to hear him playing this weekend. Especially since my brother and I used to have eerily similar get-ups--


Now, I shall drink my tea, which will hopefully soothe my aching skinny gums, knit a little (I've got a sock gusset to increase), and head to bed so I can go to work tomorrow and hopefully not have to talk too much.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

Last week, after a long wait, we finally got some snow. Not much, not even bad to drive in, but enough to make me happier, as I'm one of those odd ducks who feels that seasons need to be seasonal. I don't know that I could live in a place without four seasons. Fittingly, we had a family weekend in the mountains planned, and the snow had covered everything up there as well.

It was quite a noisy weekend, but we had fifteen people in a range of ages. There were nerf gun fights, noisy games, and endless chatter. But there was tea, and knitting, and reading, and the newest baby in the family to snuggle and coo. My introverted self got to feeling quite overwhelmed by Saturday afternoon, so I went for a walk before dinner, just to see what I could see. It was at that time known as the golden hour, right before sunset when the shadows are long and the light is golden (this happens in the morning, too, just after sunrise).


I only like footprints breaking up the snowscape when they're animal feet. Otherwise, it feels invasive.


My legs are only this long in shadow--I'm fairly tall but my legs aren't long. I get to have the fun of finding shirts to fit my long torso.

It was a warmish sort of day, so I was accompanied by the drip-drip-drip of snow melting from the trees. The areas in shadow were noticeably colder, so I was quite pleased I had packed some hand-knit socks. Although I was only walking through the housing development, it was so very quiet. Other than the occasional passing car, the only sounds were that of two crows cawing back and forth at each other as though they were having some sort of argument. I kept trying to get photos of them, but one would fly away, and the other would follow, all the while 'yelling' at each other.


So I guess that way > is north, huh? The landscape was bare--it was brown and white, and even though the sun was peeking through, the sky was pretty gray. So I got silly giddy when I spotted this on my way home.


I will always-always-always love red against the white snow. I used to have a nail polish named 'Cherries in the Snow' and it was the most perfect shade of red ever. I think it was made by Revlon, but I have no idea if it still exists. When I got back to the house, I sat with some tea and knitting. I felt so much better--the perfect kind of cold that isn't uncomfortable but that hot tea is made to remedy quickly, both proving so very refreshing.

I was quite surprised to wake up this morning (it was supposed to be in the forties) to hear something pinging off of the glass--oh, yes, sleet and freezing rain.


Ice on the trees is so pretty, almost fairy like, with a plinky-plunky sound when the breeze blows, but is oh so dangerous. I hope the ice melted off before any of the branches broke.


Days like this always remind me of the Christina Rossetti poem--

"In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, 
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago."


There was a winter (I think it was 1994) where almost every day in January we had ice storms. School was closed more often than not. Midterms were supposed to be finished in early January, but didn't finish until mid-February due to the constant cancellations. Tree branches were encased in ice, and we had to chop at the sidewalks with shovels to break the ice enough to shovel it aside. I remember it breaking apart like less-fragile panes of glass. The weatherman would get excited to report that the temperature had gone above freezing so things would be melting. Just in time for another storm to come through and refreeze. It was endless.

This was nowhere near like that, but added a little element of fun to the weekend, complete with a caravan of cars sticking together to the main roads in case anyone got stuck. I'm sure others wouldn't say fun, but I will because it's now in the past and all ended well.


Back home in Philly everything was simply wet. I finished knitting the socks I had been working on, polished my nails, had my tea, and resigned myself to the fact that tomorrow is Monday again.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Maple Pecan Rings

Before I say anything else I'm going to apologize for these photos--we've had nothing but the gray gloomies here for weeks, so I only had indoor lighting to work with. OK, disclaimer out of the way.

For Christmas, I received several delightful books, one of them being 'Scandinavian Gatherings' by Melissa Bahen.


This book is a beautiful collection of recipes and crafts made in the Scandinavian tradition. A few days after Christmas I made the heritage feast (Swedish meatballs, Finnish potatoes, and Danish cucumber salad--the rice pudding was nixed based on the fact that we had been overindulging all week and didn't need any more calories). I didn't have the chance to make anything else since then, until this past weekend. When perusing the book on Christmas, we all agreed on a single recipe that would be an absolute must to make at some point, and that 'some point' was my nephew's birthday (which fell on Superbowl Sunday). And that recipe was "Mom's Maple Pecan Rings."


I've never made much beyond cookies and boxed mix cakes, so I was a bit apprehensive. It starts off well enough with butter, milk, and sugar being melted together--and if I'm being honest, it could have stopped right there and I'd have been happy, because that's a fabulous combination.


Then you have to proof the yeast (which is interesting to watch). And then you practically snap your wrist off trying to mix it all with flour because you don't have a fancy mixer with a paddle attachment. Then you make the dough sit in a warm spot all by itself. Do you know how hard it is to let a bowl of dough sit quietly for an hour so it can rise? I made the filling while I was waiting--


So butter, maple flavoring, pecans, cinnamon, and sugar make a delicious concoction that I'd be happy to make a meal out of. When the dough is done rising, you knead it (which is fun--no idea why my dad uses a bread machine to make bread), separate it, and roll it out, layering the dough with the filling until you end up with three layers.


You cut a circle in the center, and snip some wedges until the whole thing looks like a dresden plate quilt block.


Then you grab the wedge edges, give them some twists, let it rise again (this recipe makes two trays of this and I forgot to do this to the first one but it didn't make much difference to my eye), pop them in the oven, and let them fill your house with a delicious aroma.


While this bakes, you make up a simple icing that gets drizzled all over the warm maple ring.


Including the time it took for the dough to rise, these took about three hours to make, but were not difficult at all (my nerves were for naught). The hardest part was not being able to sneak a taste.

Almost every last wedge went at the party. They've just the right amount of sweetness, but they are very filling. They're definitely more of a breakfast treat than a dessert, BUT I can't imagine what time you'd have to wake up to have these ready for breakfast.

So far, I am in lurve with this book. There are buns and breads and pancakes and beverages galore, as well as some really doable crafts. I've never had a book before where I want to make every single thing in it. Every. Single. Thing. I didn't get this book for free (well, I sort of did because it was a gift, but that's a technicality), this isn't a review of it, it's just something I really love and wanted to share. I don't think you'd be disappointed if you added this to your 'want' list.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Corner to Corner Baby Blanket

A few months ago I bought a butt ton of yarn for a special project. It was mostly shades of gray, a little bit of black, and then a ton of white. I had a wacky project planned for someone. Did you ever do that? Have the idea, the materials, and the motivation for something really difficult and unique and special, and then the person for whom the project was intended disappoints you so deeply that they not only don't deserve something with such spirit behind it, but don't even deserve further thought from you at all?

So I was left with a lot of beautiful yarn (I didn't spend a ton on it, but as I'm endeavoring to use my stash this certainly put a fly in that particular ointment), much of it white. While the larger afghan I have envisioned will make excellent use of this yarn, there was no way I was incorporating that much white into it. I did, however, have enough to make a baby blanket (and still have plenty of white left over).


I made a basic corner-to-corner blanket. I stitched until it was going to be about one yard square, and then decreased.


I love the simplicity and ease of this stitch. Once you get going you can pretty much fly through it without looking, but it did take me a bit to get the hang of it again (I made one several years ago).


As I don't have anybody in mind to give this to right now, I didn't want to do a border that was too frilly in case it doesn't go to a girl, so I went with a basic half-double crochet border, just one round. 


The yarn is one I've never used before, but am now in love with. It is Scheepjes Colour Crafter in Weert (which, I assume is Dutch for white, because I have a marvelous grasp of what seems to be the obvious). It's a DK weight acrylic, but is oh so soft, with no splitting or pilling or anything annoying like that. Just straight frothy deliciousness.


So that's that. A gift in store if I need one, and a dent in my stash.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Having a Hyggeligt Weekend Because I'm Cold Even Though It's Not That Cold Outside

While we have had a significant lack of snow or cold weather in general, it has been very gray and wet and gloomy. Sunshine is rare and fleeting, and most days are cloudy with that damp feeling in the air that goes right through you and makes you cold, even though the air itself is not actually cold (and, in my opinion, is a much worse way to be cold). The bright side is that it's quite conducive to cozy indoor doings (here comes that over-hyped hygge word again!).

These cookies? Amazing! I used this recipe for these oatmeal cranberry white chocolate cookies. Easy to make, delicious to eat. I got top approval on these from all ranks (which is rare around here). 

I've found that I really like making soup. This is a Tuscan 7-Vegetable (they serve it in my cafeteria at work). I tried to find a recipe online, and this seems to be the one. I minced more than I diced so it looks less chunky, but it's so full of flavor for not many calories at all.

I haven't got any projects in the works, and this makes me fidgety, so I cast on some socks. I'm digging this colorway (for those of you curious the yarn is Knit Picks Felici sock yarn (that green bit of yarn is a lifeline).

 Our paper includes the NYT crossword on Sundays. I do it with my morning coffee. Or as much as I can--today's was a bit of a bugger and I lost patience.

And no weekend hygge-fying is complete without candles. I bought unscented votives as I seem to be getting more sensitive to certain candles. And that holder on the right is from Target's dollar spot--which turned into the several-dollar-spot for me this afternoon.

Throw in my dad's birthday, homemade jambalaya (which, though yummy, was a touch over my spicy threshold), cake, and the whole family over at once and it was a delightful weekend. Even though I've struggled to stay warm though most of it...("Sounds like a personal problem....don't touch the thermostat," as my dad would say).

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Faux Leather Double Zip Wristlet

You've probably noticed I haven't been sewing much lately. I don't have an aversion to it, as once I'm going I'm wondering why I've slowed down with it as I love every last tactile bit of it. It's just one of those weird things, or a lack of inspiration, or a case of "how many more of those do I need?"

But anyway, my mom's little wristlet I had made her a couple years ago was looking a little worse for wear, so I made her a new one. She dug through my wee stash, made her choices, and I spent the afternoon sewing and not touching my seam ripper even once. I made a cutting miscalculation (which should surprise no one) so it ended up a touch smaller than I would have liked, but not by much.


I have had that fabric for such a long time. It's kind of like a faux leather, but soft like fabric and backed with a thin woven layer. It feels soft and supple and doesn't smell like plastic. When I started to sew about ten years ago I used to buy all of my fabric at Walmart because Joann's was such a hike. This was a remnant they had. I used a chunk of it to make a purse for my (now) sister-in-law Ashley, and a bit for this (I have a small amount left still). I would definitely use this for a handbag (if I could find it again)--it has a really nice feel to it.


I had a really long zipper, so I cut it in half and attached two silver pulls. It ended up being just the right length. I had sold off all of my hardware stock (I thought I had saved some but I guess not) but I managed to find a silver clip (my natural instinct would have been bronze). I'm glad I only had silver--I really like the way it looks. I think it gives it a western vibe--saddles and leather and bolo ties and whatnot.


I used the ruler fabric as the lining on this purse, too. I remember being little and at my grandma's house, and she had rulers and yard sticks with business names on them. I thought that was such a nifty idea. I don't recall seeing those things at home, and as she lived in a tiny western Pennsylvania town I must have thought it was something only small businesses in small towns did. You definitely don't see anything like this anymore. Except as fabric, obviously.


My mom is pleased as punch with her new purse, and I'm pleased with how it turned out. If you'd like to make one I've got a tutorial for it here. It only took maybe two hours to put together, so it's a nice afternoon project.

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