Saturday, December 26, 2009

Post-Christmas Awesome

I love Christmas. My family and I are relaxing slopeside at the lovely Tenney Mountain - skiing, riding, and, if you're me, knitting. Best Christmas present ever: a tiny Dell netbook from which I am currently blogging. This will be super-helpful for my part-time job at the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School. My brother is my Christmas hero.

The day before Christmas, I stopped by the local knitting shop to start a new project. In the months before Christmas I was knitting now I'm ready to knit for myself. I chose this pattern from knitty. I picked out the yarn I wanted...but sadly there wasn't enough for my sweater, so I had to make a special order. In the meantime, I thought I'd get a head start on a gift for a friend who is having a baby this spring. I found some really soft and fun yarn in the bargain bin - it's actually not so much yarn as fleece cut into really thin strips. I love it, and immediately started making a stuffed elephant. I like to give stuffed animals as baby gifts because, unlike clothes, they never outgrow them! For this friend's first baby I made a stuffed panda, so I wanted to keep going with the exotic animal theme :) My camera is back home, so I'll have to wait until later to show pictures. By the time I get home, I'm sure it will be done, and maybe I'll have gotten some work done on the sweater!

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Handmade Holidays, Part 1

This year, I want to give as many handmade gifts as possible. I feel like there's something so personal about a handmade gift...but it does take up a lot of time!

First, I had to get in the holiday spirit. So I made some Christmas stockings. Since this is the first Christmas that Keith and I will be living together, I thought it was suitable to have new, matching stockings.
This project reinforced to me the importance of planning out the WHOLE project before you dive in...I think it ended up being harder than it needed to be because I didn't think it through. The stockings came out smaller than I'd hoped (I seem to keep forgetting that seams make things smaller) but I'm pleased with the final product. Keith and I went together so we could each choose fabric for our stockings...mine is the green one (of course) and Keith, also predictably, chose one with penguins. My favorite, however, is the one we chose for Rufio...
Now, on to the presents...
I had planned on making Beth a paintbrush roll for Christmas, but I finished it early and got excited so I gave it to her for her birthday, which was last week. She was really excited! Up until now, she's been keeping her paintbrushes in plastic it will be much fancier.

My grandmothers are two wonderfully crafty women who will truly appreciate a handmade gift. They are each getting one of my snowmen, and I've made tote bags to hold them. I recently acquired a copy of a great book called "Sew What! Bags" by Lexie Barnes. The projects vary from very simple to "pro" difficulty, and the best thing about it is that it gives directions on how to make various types of bags without patterns, and great instruction on how to customize projects to your needs. It also gives lots of basic sewing tips, which are great for a beginner like me, but I suppose someone more advanced could just skip them.
Anyway, I used this book to make a collection of tote bags from various Christmassy fabrics.

This gift package went today to my Aunt Helen, a master knitter and crafter extraordinaire. She is 105 this year, and can't knit anymore because of her arthritis (a fact which bothers her to no end!)Usually I hate putting faces on my creatures, but I think this one came out pretty well.
I'm going to round out my gift bags with star ornaments and hand warmers, made from a pair of (sadly) defunct jeans and some scrap fabric.These aren't stuffed yet, because I haven't decided what to put in them yet. I got the idea and directions here, and they were remarkably simple to make.

Next up: a few manly catchalls for Keith and my dad, possibly from the other leg of those jeans...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Patchwork and my first zipper!

I wanted to make a grocery bag as a Christmas gift, and I thought it might be fun to make it in patchwork. I am pleased with the result, but I have learned several things:
  • when working with patches, the final product comes out MUCH smaller than the sum of it's parts. I forgot about seam allowances!
  • it is hard to make all those little seams match up. Boo.
  • Interfacing is cool, but hard to put on the back of a patchwork piece. I think if I were to do this again I would interface the lining but not the patchwork - it came out a little wrinkled because it didn't lie completely flat.
So, although the final product is pretty, it's too small to put groceries in!
Then, I attempted to make a bag with my first zipper! It was easier than I thought it would be.

Last weekend I went down to Providence to spend the afternoon crafting with Carole Ann (you can see her cool stuff here). I am working on making a braided rug, and after several false starts, I think I've figured out how to work it so that it's really reversible. I'll write more about the process and post pictures soon...but I haven't had too much time to work on it since I've been thinking about/making Christmas presents! (Yes, I know...Thanksgiving was yesterday...but if I want to be done on time, I have to get started soon!)
I have been making several snowmen as gifts for my grandparents, and I'm going to make a paintbrush holder for my brother's girlfriend, who is a painting major at RISD. In my immediate family, we pick names from a hat and buy presents for just one person...and this year I got my dad, which means I have some serious thinking to do. I'd like to make him something, but he's a hard guy to give things to...any suggestions for brilliant gifts for the man who has everything? I think I will make him a set of microwaveable handwarmers...he teaches skiing in the winter, so that should be handly for the ski lift.

Happy crafting!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

I love winter. I love snow, and I can't WAIT to go skiing.

So, in order to occupy myself before there's snow...I have been knitting snowmen :)

And here's how I did it. I've made these snowmen in two sizes: large (pictured above) and small (about half that size). They are exceptionally easy to make.

I used a bulky yarn (it's nice and fluffy, like snow) and size 10.5 needles. It could be done with any kind of yarn as long as it knits up tight enough so the stuffing doesn't show.

Cast on 6 (12) stitches.
1. K1, Inc1 all the way across. (9/18 stitches)
2. Divide the stitches onto three needles.
3. Knit 1 round.
4. K1, Inc 1 all the way around. (13/27 stitches)
5. Knit 1 round.
6. K1, Inc 1 all the way around. (19/40 stitches)

At this point, if you want to make your snowman fatter, repeat rows 5 and 6 again.

Knit even in the round until the snowman measures about 5 (11) inches.

Begin decrease:
7. K1, K2tog around.
8. Knit 1 round.
9. K1, K2tog around.
10. Knit 1 round.
11. K1, K2tog around.
12. Knit 1 round.

Cut off the end and pull it through each of the remaining stitches. Stuff.

Once the snowman is stuffed, thread a yarn needle with a bit of white yarn. Tie it around the snowman's "neck" and pull it tight.

The scarf can be made in any variety of ways. For the large snowman, I make it ten stitches across, for the small snowman, five stitches. You can add stripes or ribs or whatever makes you smile.

For the hat: The number of stitches you use will depend on the kind of yarn you want to use. Since I am using up scraps, every one comes out a little different :)

Cast on 45 (60) stitches.
Work in K1, P1 rib for 5 rows in the round.
Work even in the round for another 5 rounds (more if you want to make the hat a bit floppier).
Decrease rounds - alternate the following two rows until 6 stitches remain.
K1, K2tog across
K across.

Cut the end and pull it through the remaining stitches. Voila!
For his cute little nose I used an orange pipe cleaner. Embroider on some eyes and he's done!

Think snow!

Any comments on my pattern would be appreciated - I don't usually write things down, but I'm trying to start. Was it clear?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Belated Halloween...

Keith and I were Halloween-inspired to make these excellent Jack Skellington cupcakes. We found that drawing with frosting was more difficult than we'd thought...but it was fun anyway :)

I made two bags from leftover fabric a few months ago using this tutorial. I wasn't completely satisfied because I thought they were a little boring. So, I spruced them up using embellishments inspired by these. I made circles instead of butterflies, but the idea is the same - I was amazed what a difference such a simple change made!

I also made a whole bunch of ornaments using this tutorial. Some of them are Christmassy, some not. So cute and so easy to make! I think I'll make more to give as Christmas gifts.

Adventures in Craftland...

The church fair was yesterday, so for the last few weeks I've been doing lots of knitting and sewing so I'd have things to donate. Here's what I've been up to...
Two sets of mittens and scarves (child sized, mostly because I didn't have much of this yarn left)

This next one is my personal favorite. Last winter, Keith's mom made a snowman using some sort of kit she got at work. I thought it was really cute, but it would be easier to knit one instead. So I sort of made it up as I went along. I think it came out really well. Now that I have a general idea, I'm going to work up a pattern. It was really simple to make, so I'll see if I can explain it on paper.

I also made another reversible purse. I like this fabric a lot. Think I'll make a few more to give as Christmas gifts.

Monday, October 19, 2009

And I almost forgot...

I almost forgot the cutest pictures of all! Rufio in his Halloween costume!

I love Halloween!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays ever because it's so silly. I love the decorations - ghosts and pumpkins and we've been getting into the holiday spirit lately. I found this excellent little guy to hold our Halloween treats, and some cute little ghostie candles.

And then, inspired by a fabulous pattern by Marie-Jolie at Permission to Unwind, I made myself a pumpkin patch!

I love this pattern!!! It felt a little empty at the top, however, so I made a tiny leaf to go on my pumpkins. Here's how I did it:

1. CO 2.
2. Inc in each stitch (4)
3. Divide stitches evenly on 2 needles (from here, the leaf will be knit in the round on two needles).
4. K 1 round
5. Inc in each stitch (4/needle)
6. K1, inc1, inc1, k1 (6)
7. K2, inc1, inc1, K2 (8)
8. K3, inc1, inc1, K3 (10)
9. K4, inc1, inc1, K4 (12)
10. Knit 2 rounds.
11. Ssk, ssk, K1, inc1, inc1, K1, K2tog, K2tog
12. Ssk, ssk, inc1, inc1, K2tog, K2tog
13. Ssk, ssk, k2tog, k2tog
14. Ssk, k2tog
15. Knit 1 round
16. K2tog
Knit remaining two stitches together and draw the end through to finish. Voila!

And a tiny mouse, pattern here :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

More tiny projects...

I'm in full craft mode for the church fair, so I've been making lots of little projects. I found this cute pattern for hearts at Ravelry ( and I think I'll make them into Christmas ornaments.

Each one takes only a few minutes to knit, and it's a great way to use up odds and ends of yarn. However, looking at those pictures makes me realize that cushion is really dirty. Eew.

I also knitted this cute little guy (pattern here: I can't decide if he's really ugly, really cute, or so ugly it's cute. You decide.

Finally, today is my grandmother's birthday, and I wanted to make a little gift bag for her present. I got the idea here. However, my first attempt came out way too small, so I tried again, slightly larger. Here are my two attempts, plus the gift for Nana. She loves that color blue (her whole kitchen is that shade) so I picked up that ornament while I was in the Netherlands this summer.

I was pleased with the result - it gives a nice homemade touch to the present.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

Ok, not really. But I made a Christmas stocking anyway. A woman my grandmother knows was collecting handmade Christmas stockings in red, white, and blue to send to soldiers in Iraq, and since that seemed like a good cause, I made one too.
Here it is.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Being Sick Stinks.

I've been sick in bed for the past two days, and pretty much going out of my mind with boredom. I haven't gotten much done in the way of knitting, but I thought I'd post this old project anyway. Mrs. Pollard gave me this pattern for a cute mouse mat for Rufio (for more info, look here). The idea is that if he sits on it instead of on my furniture, it will keep the cat hair contained... although Rufio only seems to like to sleep on hard surfaces, so that hasn't really been a problem. But in any case, it's cute.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I've been busy lately.

By which I mean I've been finishing a lot of half-done projects! Like these cute sea animals. I wanted to make more turtles so I'd have sets of animals that go together...

I'm debating about frogging the sock part of the baby booties in the last post. I'm just not satisfied with them...but of course I can't change the fact they seem to be made for a baby with two left feet. However, maybe if I just repositioned the buttons, you wouldn't notice unless you looked really hard. I'm going to have to be making lots more baby gifts soon - lots of people at work are having babies this year! Last year I made a panda bear (which turned out HUGE) and a turtle (another design - here), and before that a monkey and a bear. So I'd like to try something a bit different...I'll have to give it some thought.

I've also been doing a bit of sewing lately. I made this market bag from a tutorial here from some leftover bits of fabric scavenged (like most of my fabric, and my yarn for that matter) from my Grandmother's closet. She's a bit of a pack rat, and a lifelong crafter, so she lets me steal her leftovers. I think this fabric was probably used to make pajamas at some point. It's very soft. Why would someone want a market bag made of pastel flannels? That I don't know. I was thinking it might make a cute overnight bag for a kid's sleepover. Too bad I don't have kids. Like most of the things I make and can't use, it'll get donated to the annual fair at my church, and hopefully someone will find a use for it.

The church fair is also the destination for this next bit, a really cute little handbag made from a tutorial at Carole Ann gave one as a birthday gift to a friend earlier this year and I've wanted to try it ever since, so she pointed me in the direction of the pattern and I gave it a try. Again, note the interesting fabrics... I wanted to try a sample on some leftovers before I tried it on anything new (I'm fairly new to machine sewing and I often make mistakes...). It took me a few tries to get the last step done, but eventually I figured it out. It was actually a pretty quick project, so I made another one out of some cute green fabric I picked up earlier this week. That one I'm going to keep for myself :)

Rufio, apparently, liked the bunnies.

I've got a few more small projects in the works... (The fact that it's football season doesn't hurt because Keith is often gone or distracted for long stretches of time). Of course, I've also picked up some light reading: 汉语可以这样教。It's required reading for my courses next summer, and I'm thinking maybe if I get it done ahead of summer won't seem so overwhelming.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Consider this post as a warning against starting a project, abandoning it for about a year, and then trying to finish it.

I got this pattern for super-cute baby shoes from Bekah Knits. I like it a lot, but I'm not terribly satisfied with the results.
One of them came out slightly larger than the other (the difference isn't as pronounced as in the photo, one of them is slightly in front). I think it's because I knit one of them almost a year ago, and maybe my knitting is looser now? I don't know. Also, once I had finished putting them together, I realized that instead of making two different shoes for two different feet, mine are both the same. Unfortunately, I'm out of this yarn, so I can't make another set to match them with.

I also think if I were to do this again, I would pick up the stitches to start the sock (the lighter green part) lower down inside the shoe part. I think this would make it lie flatter, and mine needed some creative finishing to lie flat.

Also, the socks were supposed to be ribbed. I have no explanation as to why I did not rib them, but for some reason I did not, and I had already finished the first one before I noticed the mistake, so I just knit the second one to match.

Ah well. Live and learn :)Rufio says hi!

Monday, September 14, 2009

And a sweater :)

And now, for something completely different: a child's sweater. I got the pattern here from The Complete Fabrication. I loved knitting this. It's seamless, so when you finish the actual knitting, you just have to fix on the cute little flowers and it's DONE. It knit up fast and looks ADORABLE. I liked it so much that I have almost finished another one (a habit of mine: I find a pattern I like, and knit it repeatedly).

Rufio wanted to get in on my blogging action too. Here he is, being all adorable:

Trying to figure out this blogging thing...

Ok, user error. Here are my whales and one lonely crab:

General Craftiness and the beginning of a blog

Following in the footsteps of a particularly crafty friend, I've decided to start a record of my own craftiness. (Her blog is here, check it out!) If nothing else, I'll have a record of all the (often silly) things I try to create and I can keep track of what works and what doesn't.

So here's what I've been up to lately. I just finished up a bunch of these (I am terrible at finishing things I start...) The pattern comes from AmyGaines at (here) and I think they're just adorable. I made a set last winter as a baby gift, but I don't have any sea turtles at the moment - I'll have to make more because I'd like to have a full set to donate to the church fair in November. The octopus is the most fun to make, so I have lots of those - many still almost finished...

There's a white one...

And a red one...

And a blue one!

I think they're great. Silly and cute and fun to knit. Also they don't take too long so that's another plus in my short-attention-span book.

There are also whales. Easier to put together because there are fewer pieces, but somehow less satisfying.