Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's Christmas All Over

Happy belated Thanksgiving! And belated good-luck-on-Black-Friday! And belated any other salutations I may have missed over the past week. Time really got away from me. Between meal prep, the holiday, clean-up, shopping, and decorating, this may be the quickest perceived four-day weekend in history (and I'm only assisting and not the ringleader in any of these adventures). I feel like I want to go to work tomorrow just so I can sit down. But December starts tomorrow (to which I say yippee!!! and also--did you print your Christmas countdown calendar I posted last week?) and I. Am. Ready. Bring it.

After a democratic vote took place, it was decided not to put up the fiber optic village this year. While it is adorable, it is the biggest pain-in-the-rear to set up. And with A-train being eye level with it there'd be no way it would escape unscathed. My mother bought that buck and baby deer figure to the right, so we created a more woodsy scene with burlap, branches and bells. I spent a good twenty minutes gazing at it earlier this evening. I couldn't get the lighting just right in the photo, but it has the warmest golden glow about it.

Just because.

Sugarplum Forest got more sugarplummy this year as my mother bought a box of baubly ornaments in the most satisfying array of colors. My sister asked why we didn't put those ornaments on the snow in the trees and I had to explain to her that they were sugarplums that grow up through the snow due to the magic of Christmas. I then had to explain that the forest elves complained about the bare trees, and so we decorated them.

This is where the forest elves live, in case you were wondering. And no, I haven't lost the plot. I just get ridiculously giddy and silly and child-like at Christmas time. The best part is when I explain Forest politics to my sister, she just says "Oh, OK" in a tone of voice that implies that she gets it while in reality she's thinking "Please let one of us be adopted."

I wish I could tell you this entire shelf is full of all the Santa figurines we own, but that might be a lie. It's just full of all the ones that will fit on there. 
And those stars? They're German paper stars that I made a few years ago. They're one of my favorite things as they seem to add just the right touch without being overly Christmassy. You can find a tutorial for them here.

My mom and I do a lot of the inside work, but my sister pitches in before she starts to go crazy. The exact phrasing this year was "Use me now while I feel like helping, because once you guys start getting annoying I'm done." I guess I do get pretty annoying, what with constantly reminding her how I'm head elf in these here parts.

Isn't that just a ridiculously adorable face?

I took this photo for the sole reason that the boy caroler looks like he's giving the camera a bit of a side-eye from this angle.

When my sister came over with A-train I tried to get a cute picture of him, but he was too easily distracted by the light. Not in an "Oooo, lights" kind of way. But in a "I wonder if these are LEDs or incandescent bulbs" sort of way. Not kidding. The cutest thing is to ask him how electricity works. "You put the plug in the hole. The electricity comes out, and goes through the floor. Then it goes into the light, and the light comes on." Or "You put that in the wall and the electricity comes out and goes into the battery. Then your phone works." I'm not even kidding a little bit. I've been blessed with two nephews with the ability to make me feel like a right idiot sometimes.

So that's what I've been up to. I knitted a few dishcloths and made a scarf for myself to go with my new coat. I've got a tutorial in the works that will hopefully be shared soon. I've got no sewing to do. And I've got a bag of yarn that is begging to be knit up into another sweater (I really might be a teensy bit obsessed--I don't think I've knit this much since I first learned and was truly obsessed with it). Oh, isn't this just the most wonderful time of the year?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Countdown to Christmas (A Printable)

This week officially starts my favorite time of year. Not Thanksgiving, but that anticipation that seems to start right about this time and carries through until Christmas. If I close my eyes I can still conjure up that feeling from when I was a wee schoolgirl in our cozy old school building. The floors and walls were all dark wood, there was the ever-present aroma of crayons and pencil shavings, and the heater was coal-fed. I always found a reason to sharpen my pencil on coal-delivery days so I could steal a glance out of the window (coal was something my grandparents talked about, and not something seen often in the eighties). There were Christmas decorations on the classroom doors, and the teacher devoted some time each week to an arts and crafts project to surprise your parents with (my mom still has some of those. Or all of those, actually). There was that quiet hum of excitement that started right before Thanksgiving, and lasted until we kids left the classroom with our candy canes in hand with at least a whole week off from school.

When I think back to those cozy days, one little thing stands out in my mind--the mimeographed Santa Claus worksheet with numbers one through twenty-four that we received every year right around this time. We colored these in school, and took them home to hang up, excitedly counting down the days until Christmas. For some reason this one little thing stands out in my mind quite vividly.

So I made one. For you, for me, for anyone you know who misses being a kid and the silly little things we used to look forward to at this time of the year. Or hey, maybe even for a kid.

(I got the Santa image here).

It's not mimeographed in cold purple ink, but you get the idea. I'd think printing on card stock would give the sturdiest results, but back in the day our plain old copy paper held up just fine :) You can use cotton balls, fluffy bits of quilt batting, pom-poms, you get the idea. Simply start by covering number one on the first day of December and work your way through the month. Or, y'know, have your kids do it (although I don't know why they get to have all the fun). You can click here or on the image above to download the file.


Linking up here:
Sundays: Submarine Sunday
Tuesday: Homework
Wednesdays: Your Whims Wednesday

Thursday, November 20, 2014


A few weeks ago I was contacted by some folks to see if I'd like to try out some Sugru. My first question was "What the heck is Sugru?" except I used another word instead of heck, teehee. I had never heard of it; have you? Well, it's a moldable adhesive that has oodles of uses. You take it out of the package, work it and mold it to fit your fix, and then let it set to air cure, where it turns into a rubber that is permanently adhered to whatever you stuck it on. It can be used to fix wires, put bumpers on electronics as a shock absorber if they get dropped, and even for crafts. It has a LOT of uses (click here to take a gander).

So here's the package I received in the mail--

I received two packets of each color, including red (but I used both and didn't take a picture beforehand). I couldn't think of anything I needed to fix, so I thought I would try and make a stamp as I'm thinking of Christmas crafts and stuff. I used the red, and stuck it to the end of an empty thread spool. I smoothed it out and all that jazz, and let it set for a day. I will not be showing you that adventure. I did create a stamp in the academic sense--I drew a design and chiseled away the excess, and it did indeed leave a stamp when ink was applied. The issue was that I'm the one who drew the image, and I am so lacking in drawing skills that what I ended up with was not good (but hey--it did work as a stamp, so if you're good at that sort of thing it could be an idea).

I wanted to do something I could show you, though, and was having no ideas. Until I hemmed a pair of pants. I have previously proclaimed to you the virtues of my tailor's awl and recommended that you get one. Here is what the business end looks like--

If you extended that photo you'd see a rounded red handle. Very plain, very basic. Very rolly. Like...don't expect it to be where you put it down because it will roll away and laugh at you as you grope for it. It's almost always on the floor, and I live in fear that it will land at an odd angle and I'll step right on it. I haven't been able to find a solution. Until now. Enter Sugru.

I don't have any photos of this part, but I opened a packet of Sugru, which looks and feels like Play-Doh, rolled it around a little bit, and then molded it around the handle, smoothing it out as evenly as I could by rolling it around in some wax paper. I then used a ruler to flatten the sides a bit. I stuck the tip of the awl into the end of a spool so it would stay standing up and not cure to my sewing table (which would be the total opposite of the current problem, haha). The next night I checked it, and it was all set up. There was no tackiness to it, and it didn't dry rigidly but as a hard rubber, just as described. And now my favorite tool will stay put, and my toes will be safe.

I'm quite pleased with my little fix. The Sugru was easy to work with as far as the molding goes, and I liked that I didn't have to cure it in the oven (I've tried that with things before and have had nothing but utter disaster). My crochet hooks all have bamboo handles on them, but if they didn't I would totally wrap them in this stuff. It feels nice in your hand, doesn't smell funny, and really seems to be stuck on there.

If you're interested in trying it out, you can take a gander at the Sugru website. I'll be honest--it's not terribly cheap, but it's a really nice product and comes in a nice variety of colors. Plus I like that someone had an idea for this thing years ago, and just kept at it until they were happy with the product and what it could do, and have been working hard to get this into the marketplace (as opposed to some huge corporation coming out with yet another idea--the small biz aspect is inspiring). In the near future the Christmas decorations will be coming out, and I'm pretty confident I'll find a few more uses for this stuff.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

This Is My Office and My Beat Laboratory

Extra points if you know what that's from. Points aren't worth anything. You just get them. Kind of like Paddy's Bucks. More worthless points if you know what that's from.

A few weeks ago my aerobics and yoga instructor asked if I could make her a bag of some sort to hold her CDs. She doesn't have a fixed location per se--she makes arrangements with churches or gyms or other locales to teach her classes according to a set schedule. So while her students have a fixed location to go to, she's traveling all over to teach. She needed something to hold her music so the CDs wouldn't end up all over her car, or get battered and broken in her handbag.

I immediately thought of the cassette tape fabric from this sew-along. How perfect would that be? But no. She has more of a refined taste that doesn't exactly fit with neon cassettes. I found a black tone-on-tone music note fabric that looked basic, but was a bit of fun the closer you got to it. I immediately knew I was sketching up a boxy pouch with handles because what could be more perfect to hold a bunch of CDs? I took a page from Jane's book to do my handles (see her pattern here, and my bag I made from it here), so I had to do a little extra thinking regarding construction, but not too much...because Jane already did it, hahaha.

Just so you know--I do see all that lint in the photos. And yes, I did give it a good brush-off and a final press before I handed it over. I know you folks worry about these things, and I don't want the reason you can't sleep to be my lint.

I will confess to you that I made this bag twice. On a lunch break one day I sketched out my pattern and tried to be savvy by eliminating the cut-outs and just boxing the corners. It's not easy to get the sides even and straight and the right height when you're working rectangular and pretty narrow. It may be geometrically impossible but I'm not sure, because math. The result wasn't the best looking but could have been doable, if I didn't lose inches somewhere along the way and end up with a teeny bag. So I redrew properly this time (tutorial here), and flew right through the thing without a glance at my seam ripper. Note to self: a few extra minutes now can save a lot of time later.

This ended up holding a half dozen CDs perfectly. Like snug as a bug in a rug (which, I've mentioned before, is quite creepy sounding, but certainly conveys the fit here) kind of perfect. I'm losing my unwavering love for fusible fleece, though. I've found lately that it's just not giving a smooth look anymore, so I don't know if something changed in the manufacturing process or what, so it's something I'll be having to think about in other bags. Thankfully it pressed smooth after this lint-filled photo shoot.

The lining is a swirly, sparkly gray and white print that reminds of two things--those red and white peppermints, and also a blizzard. I'm glad I have some left over because if I ever get around to half the ideas that exist in my head I'll need those scraps for the winter sky of a quilt block.

And because I need color I tied a pretty turquoise ribbon to the zipper pull.

Oof, the lint. It's all I can see. 

I haven't been sewing much lately as I've developed a bit of a sweater obsession. On Sunday I started another sweater, and I've already got the front and back finished. Granted, it's a bulky yarn in stockinette stitch on bigger needles, so that definitely helps. But I'm already thinking of making yet another one. I have a complicated cabled cardigan that I'm holding off on until after the holidays, but I've been perusing patterns and yarns. I'm kind of jealous of people who only do one craft, as one keeps you busy enough. But having three? I'm surprised I'm not right loopy yet. Maybe I am, I have no idea.

Wanna hear something fun? We've got a bit of snow coming down outside right now. More of a snow shower than anything that will accumulate, but still. What, that's not fun to you? See? I guess I am loopy.

Monday, November 10, 2014

What Two Months Look Like

Fun fact: you can't schedule a post to publish if you forget to write the post. True story.

After making my first sweater (and what I mean by that is my first sweater that fits properly and that I'd wear in public, not first numerically as I made a few a looong time ago and then swore off of them until recently) I kind of got a bit of a bug for sweaters. I found a few patterns that seemed doable and logged more time than I should have in the yarn aisles at Joann's pondering colors.

I bought this pattern and spent an overly long time one evening simply staring at skeins of yarn on the store shelves. I'm sure the store employees are used to seeing yarnists considering their options, but an ordinary person would definitely wonder if someone was having some sort of out-of-body experience (obviously confusing it with what deep thought looks like). ANYway, I decided on Lion Brand's Heartland yarn in Acadia. I had a vision of sticking as close to this pattern as possible, even to the color.

So of course the first thing I did was decide to change the pattern (which is quite gutsy on my part as the prospect of correcting knitting mistakes strikes fear into my heart). I love cables, and they're not so terrifying once you get used to them (I say this based on my expertise of having done cables once. But they looked good, soooo....yeah. Expert). But I kept looking at this sweater and thinking that this particular cable was kind of chunky, and was going to hit me at a spot on my body that was not going to be wonderful. I'm already a bit buxom, so I don't need anything extra there, and I'm trying to rid myself of my tummy, not pile things onto it. Plus, I'm weird and where the heavier bit of that single cable fell on my body was going to drive me crazy (in that you're very aware of your stomach and it feels funny against your chest sort of way because all the weight is just right there. Just me? OK then). So I decided to go for all ribbing, even dropping the cables from the sleeves. If these were smaller all-over cables I'd have probably kept them as everything would be more evenly distributed.

I thought I'd stitch this thing out in no time (even at the tunic length I opted for). And if 'in no time' means the same thing as 'two months of knitting almost every day' then I nailed it. It's not as flattering as I'd hoped, but it's soft and squishy and warm, and I can't wait to wear it with leggings and boots (though you're seeing it with jeans that are adding some bulk to my belly. Pretend that's true, m'kay?). Ready?

At first pass I thought "Oh, this is going to need a belt to break up the length of this" but I'll have to see it again. I think two months of starting at this sweater had me a little bit fuzzy brained in its final assessment. Plus I didn't make it to wear with jeans, so until I wrestle myself into leggings the jury's out on accessories. I'm thinking a longer necklace might do just as well. Any thoughts?

Disclaimer: I'm taking these photos in the spare bedroom for better afternoon lighting. That is not my stuffed duck.

The yarn is so snuggly soft, and it washed up even more so. I'm glad you can't see the inside because sweater seaming is not one of my better skills, but so long as it all looks good from the outside I'm satisfied. It's a little bit bulky under the arms due to how it's made, but there's enough room that you don't feel it against your body. It looks like it's that way in the pattern photo, too, so I don't think I did anything wrong. I'm surprised that the sleeves are as long as they are (sleeves are always my problem area in everything, made or bought).

There are a few teeny mistakes here or there, but the give of the ribbing hides them, so if I didn't know they were there...I wouldn't know they were there. The neckband looked like it was going to bother me as written--I don't care for the contrast of the garter stitching against my lovely endless miles and miles of ribbing. My idea was to knit in stockinette so you'd see the smooth knit side when it rolled down, but a few rows in (after picking up a ton of stitches) I realized it was going to roll in instead of out as I wanted, and I was not frogging all those stitches. So I switched from knitting to purling for a few rows. The natural curl gives it the look below, where it looks like I alternated every few rows, but really just stitched until it rolled down just enough to still show the other stitches. Hey, at this point I wouldn't have been surprised if I had sewn the thing shut because, did I mention, two months?

I used to love turtlenecks that looked like they were swallowing your head, but I just can't wear those anymore as I can't stand anything like that snug against my neck. The height of this collar will be just right. There were a few little holes I had to muss over to hide from picking up the stitches and transferring from the holders and so on, but I think I did an OK job (and don't tell me if I didn't, hahaha). I really overthought if I should go back and add more to the collar, but I decided I'm happier with it this way instead of with the idea of a big thick roll of yarn around my neck.

I feel there may be an obsession brewing....I started another sweater today. But it's chunky yarn and I've got half of the back done already and I can quit anytime I want. Swearsies.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ladylike Pullover in White

At some point in August I decided I wanted to make a sweater. Yes, during one of the hottest months I wanted to make a garment out of yarn. I spent some time perusing the internets and finally settled on this sweater on the Lion Brand website, and this yarn in white. After a few false starts on the size I was on my way. I did lengthen it a bit for my long torso and some tush coverage, but that was the only real adjustment I made to the pattern (other than not doing the full cowl neck). The sleeves as written were not going to suit me, so I kind of just created my own sleeve pattern of plain stitches with regular increases as I went along. I was beyond thrilled when I tried it on and it fit. I don't know why, but I'm always surprised when that happens with clothing I make.

Wanna see?

I wish the sleeves were just the teeniest bit longer as I like them overly long, but these are a perfect fit as is so it's certainly no issue. The whole thing is worked in the round for the most part, so the only seams you have to join are the underarm seams. I don't think it's possible to be easier than that.

That lacy top part goes all the way around. Now that I'm thinking of it this sweater has no front or back--each is totally the same. You'd almost be able to wear it inside out if it wasn't for the underarm seams.

I'm so pleased with the fit (though a few less pounds will make it just right). I wanted it to be snug and feminine and a tiny bit sexy, but not frilly or scarce in certain areas. I am so very pleased with how it came out. The pattern was free (you just have to join the website) and the yarn was quite economical (and washed up super soft) so I feel I really have myself a steal of a sweater for a little money and some time.

Next up I'll show you the direct opposite of this sweater. I feel it has enough switches to be a king-sized afghan, but it's a mere sweater. See you soon, kids!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Perfectly Content

I have been trying all day to wrap my head around the fact that we are into November. What have I been up to that I feel as though I have completely missed October? Granted, October was very gray and gloomy and rainy, toggling between too warm and quite chilly, so there was nothing grabbing your attention and saying "I'M HERE!!! I'M OCTOBER!!!!" But the very chilly, very windy weekend we've had makes you stand up and take notice that the penultimate month of the year is here.

On Friday I took the afternoon off of work thinking I had to get my windshield replaced, thanks to a rogue rock flung in my direction from the car in front of me a few weeks ago. The guy took one look, said "Yeah, we can fix that" and twenty minutes later told me I was finished. I was absolutely overjoyed to have my afternoon emptied on a chilly cloudy Friday. Home I drove, and claimed my corner on the sofa with the last of my sweater to finish, afternoon Jeopardy on TV, and a cup of hot chocolate nearby. Pizza for dinner, some scented candles, and a Halloween visit by a ninja turtle in training made the day perfect.

I plugged away at various this-and-thats for the rest of the weekend, and late this afternoon, while taking out a bag of trash, I noticed the light. It hasn't been clear and sunny for a while, and as we just set our clocks back last night the light was very different--usually I'm eating dinner or starting my workout when the light is just so.

This small shaft of golden light lit up just a touch of this tree. It always amazes me how some leaves confront their own mortality right away, and others fight and fight before giving up the ghost and turning brilliant colors before they float to earth, becoming a crunchy carpet for both man and animal.

I understand folks who don't want to jump in puddles, but I don't get those who don't find joy in kicking through the leaves and crunching them under your feet. The gusts of wind (and they were quite strong) made it hard to be outside too long, as it was really chilly, too (almost cold). But I absolutely had to stop and take a picture of the final act of this year's hydrangea bush.

Those flowers, those colors, are both growing on the same bush, along with some that are even bluer.

There is nothing like golden afternoon sunshine on a blustery day. It's just so very perfect.

As is evening candlelight. Especially when the flames lean in for a kiss.

There was also closet cleaning, next-project planning, pattern tracing, sweater finishing, and blanket forts. I am going to bed happy. Night-night :)


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