Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Big Bang and a Blueberry

Apparently all I really needed to do to amp up my productivity and creativity was to quit working and get obsessed with craft swaps! :) Okay, maybe it's the time of year, or the fact that I'm not stressed out and exhausted all the time, or maybe I'm just enjoying it more, I don't know, but I've been doing a lot of knit and crochet projects lately. Not least of which is the awesome Big Bang Theory crocheted dolls for the awesome rubylynns, who you may remember I did a craft swap with earlier this year.

She found this awesome pattern for making all the characters of the show out of crochet (Amigurimi for those of you up with the lingo!) but she is not yet a crocheter, and yes, the patterns were a little bit complicated with the color changes and crocheting in the round, etc. So she asked if I could make them for a friend of hers who loves the show. Enter some experimenting and a lot of scrap cotton yarn, and you have.....

... totally awesome crocheted dolls of Leonard and Sheldon. I'm really pleased with how they turned out, especially considering that this was my first "real" Amigurimi project (I had made the bats for my halloween craft swap, but that was basically just a stuffed ball with stuff sewn on it.) I also had do do some adjustments to the pattern... I'm not sure what was up, but the pattern for Leonard's torso was totally weird, so that it looked like his body was twisted. Weird.

On to the Blueberry part of this post.

I found this GORGEOUS blue chunky yarn when I was in Sioux Falls, SD over Thanksgiving:

I've used the Wool-Ease Thick and Quick before, but I have NEVER seen this beautiful blue before, so I snatched up 3 skeins. It was a little bit expensive, but totally worth it for the results of the project I made with it.

I envisioned a gorgeous chunky mesh scarf kind of like the Vesta scarf from Paula Purls. I started with her pattern, but quickly diverted and changed the whole thing. Oh well, I feel like patterns are there to inspire more than to be followed, anyway! :)

Here is the scarf in progress. Aren't my knitting needles gorgeous. I found them on sale for $3 marked down from $20. Love the Rosewood!

Because the yarn is so bulky and the pattern so simple to repeat, this scarf knitted up really quickly. And because it only took 2 skeins for the scarf, I used the third skein to make a matching hat.

And here they are on:

I really need some models who are not ME. I hate trying to take good pictures of myself wearing my stuff. Meh.

If you like this hat and scarf set, check out my etsy site for this and many other lovely knitted concoctions! :) Nothing beats shameless self promotion!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cozy on up to the Jar

Okay, so my title is a little bit lame, but "Jar Cozy" just doesn't say all it needs to for this awesome project! I've seen "patterns" for jar cozies all over the web, and a few, even, that I put in my queue to try. However, I got a wild hare last night, and decided to just wing it and see how difficult it was.

Difficulty level: EASY PEASY for a semi-decent crocheter. :)

What you need:
  • Scrap yarn (I chose this yellow bamboo because it looked like mustard and I thought I was being funny)
  • Empty, clean jar (I just recycled an old mustard jar... that's why it's funny... get it?)
  • Any size crochet hook (I used a G hook)
  • Tapestry needle for weaving in ends.
I used the magic loop method, which is my method of choice when working in a circle. I cast on 7 double crochet stitches and joined.
I worked in a standard circle until it fit the bottom. It was one row of double crochets (2 stitches in every stitch of the row before for a total of 14) and one row of half double crochets (2 in first stitch, 1 in second stitch, repeated around for a total of 21). Then it was just a matter of working those 21 stitches in some sort of a pattern until reaching the top.

I kept trying it on to make sure it was going to fit on the jar. I did one row of HDCs all around, and one row of chain 1, skip one, DC repeated around.

I, again, kept trying it on as I went to make sure it wasn't too big or too small. It's a very forgiving project, so it doesn't matter too much if your crochets are perfect. I think it sort of looks like those Chianti bottles with the basketry on the bottom.

Continue in the pattern until you reach the top. Then, skip one in between HDCs around, to tighten it at the top.

Weave in ends, and place with another cozied friend made the night before!

This project is so easy and yields a nice product. Perfect for this time of year with last minute gifts, gifts for those you're not sure what to get, or just for yourself if you need something new to store pens in on your desk, or a new vase for some flowers (or something to put your longer knitting needles in!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Iris Mittens-- Christmas sneak peek

So, for Christmas this year, I'm attempting to make as many gifts as I can. I've got 4 done and 3 mostly done. Woo hoo! I'm giving a sneak peek at one, hoping that the recipient doesn't read this or guess that they are for her! This is the only one I have process pics for, so far. Maybe I'll remember to take photos of everything I made this year... maybe.

Anyway, one gift this year is this great pair of mittens:

Okay, so the photo is totally dorky, but you can actually see the mittens semi-okay in this one. I was having a battle with the light outside today. If I did regular flash, you couldn't see a thing. If I did night flash, everything was sort of washed out like this. Stupid crappy camera and no light box for photos (um... hint, hint... that's what I want for Christmas!)

So, here is the pattern I used (pulled up on my favorite knitting tool, my iPad... saves me so much paper) and the yarn. It's Berocco X-Press, which is sadly discontinued, but I got just enough for these mittens on sale at my LYS! The color way is "Purple to Green," Boring name, but, that's the name; I think it's the color of irises in spring, so I've called them Iris Mittens. The pattern is Shelburne from Knitty, Winter 2011, but I made some changes to the thumb, because it was too small, and I put a cable ridge on the side of mine that was not in the original pattern.
They knit up really quickly, due to the super chunky yarn. Here they are with the hand part finished, waiting for the fingers and thumb to be covered. They would be quite cute as fingerless, too, I think.

The completed fingers. I couldn't find my stitch holder, so I had to use some scrap yarn.
The finished mittens. They turned out so cute, and I LOVE the purple and green variegated color scheme of them.

It was cold out when I took this pic. And the stupid light problems continued, but they were totally warm and kept my fingers nice and toasty while I fought with the poor lighting in my back yard! Yay for completed Christmas gifts!

Hopefully I'll have some new blogs up soon which feature projects I'm doing for other people's Christmases. I have a pair of slippers on the sticks and will be trying my hand at some more complicated Amigurimi for my former swap partners!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Craft Swap Goodies!

My awesome craft swap partner, Robin, has officially received her package of goodies from the Trick or Treat bag swap. That means I can post the crafty goodness on here! First off:

The most important part of the swap was to craft a really awesome bag. I happen to be well versed in the bag making, so that was pretty easy. I did have some major fabric-choosing anxiety, though, and walked around JoAnn Fabric with a completely different scheme that I didn't even like, before I went back for the plaid fabric and found the cute little vintage print hidden among the thanksgiving fabrics. This is the first time I've done a trim with a bag, and I think the little pom pom trim turned out really well. I also reinforced the handle with batting, which is my new favorite idea to keep the handle comfy and also to keep it from getting all scrunched up at the top.

Robin has two boys, Jakob and Bailey, so I couldn't leave them out of the craftiness! I made each of them a little bag with their name on it with the left over lining fabric. I free-handed their names with a bleach pen and added a little spookiness to each one.

The boys also got their own candy loot, which was a little more their speed. Skittles, Starburst, and Chocolate eyeballs. Awesome. I think much like a 7-year-old boy, so it was fun to do this for them. :)

Here is all the goodies that went inside Robin's bag all packaged up. I made four napkins out of the plaid linen fabric and used that to package everything. Below is the goodies (sans candy) all laid out:

I made that awesome potholder out of some sparkley cotton yarn I found at Hancock Fabric in Sioux Falls, SD. It was on super sale for 93 cents a skein! I had made it a while ago, not really knowing where it would end up, but it was the perfect addition to Robin's bag loot. Also, you can kind of see the rosette pin I made out of that same plaid fabric I'm obsessed with. I've tried to make rosettes out of fabric before, but haven't had much success. I threw out the rule book and tutorials I had found on-line and just made it the way I thought that it should be made, and it worked perfectly! I get a little obsessed with rules sometimes and forget the instinct part of crafting.

Finally, the piece-de-resistance was the crafted items for Robin and the boys. I purchased a candy-corn hat pattern, as she had listed one on her wist and I was dying to make one. It knit up really quickly, as it's a super thick yarn, and it's totally adorable with the little point on the head. She said she wore it out and got some great responses from people, so that's nice to hear. Also, I found a cute little batty pattern, which I love, and made one for each boy out of the remainder of the sparkley black cotton yarn from SD. I think they turned out great!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Give a Hoot.

So, at work about a week ago, I was working on one project or another, and one of my co-workers asked me if I have ever made an "animal head hat." While this seemed like a bit of a weird question, I assumed that she was getting at something, so I said that I hadn't but had seen plenty of patterns out there that I was looking to try out. One thing led to another, and she finally got to the point-- her two-year-old is going as an Owl for Halloween this year, and she was wondering if I could make him an owl head hat. She'd pay me. Well, I'll do just about anything for cash, so I hunted through patterns, piecing together what I liked from each of them and came up with this:

Turns out that Charlie is going to be a green and blue owl, so those were the colors I went with. Here is the process-- I made the chin strap and then cast on the rest of the hat in the round.

The main part of the hat was in two colors, one variegated blue and green and one light blue. Then I made a flap at the top in green and the variegated. I didn't want to finish it off in the round, because I needed some "ears" for the owl, so I left the top square and just sewed it together.

Then, after everything was sewed up, I made little tassels for the ends of the ears.

After the main part of the hat was constructed, I wove in the ends and attached a button. I found a little blue button that worked perfectly with the color of the hat.

Then I finished it off with the felt eyes and beak you saw above. It turned out so cute. I'm really happy with it, and I think little Charlie will look adorable in it. I'll see if I can get some pictures of the little guy wearing the hat to get the full affect.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Favorite Things.

I received my swap box today from my awesome swap partner, and by far my favorite thing in the whole box were these cute little scavenger stuffies!

Meet NightShade. He's kind of the wild man of the bunch. I'm pretty sure he may spend a little too much time down at the other end of the bookshelf with the owl candle.

This is Digitalis. He's a little on the "flamboyant" side. Digitalis loves his new digs and is particularly happy Anias Nin lives on the same shelf, and hopes Henry Miller comes to visit!

And this is Calendula. She's the prim and proper one of the bunch. She's spending all her time right now making sure their new home on the bookshelf is just right. And cleaning up after NightShade's nest making catastrophes!

Okay, either I have too much time on my hands, or the pain meds still haven't worn off from my trip to the ER yesterday! Either way, I find myself HILARIOUS! Thanks, Ruby for the fun I've had already with my new friends!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Craft Swap Goodies!

So, rubylynns received my package yesterday! Pictures have been posted on Craftster, so I can now post it here! Her verb was "stitch" and I took the quote "I'd rather be stitchin' than in the kitchen" as my inspiration.

Here is the "in the kitchen" set:

These are the potholders and dish scrubbies that I sent to her. She loves pink and all things girly, so I went with the pink and purple with a dash of yellow to mix it up a bit. The African Violet granny potholder turned out so well that I'm making one for myself. (that's the one with the yellow in it):

And the apron. rubylynns told me she's decorating her kitchen in vintage owl prints, and I had this awesome fabric that has been waiting for the right pattern. I also made her a little flower pin with a vintage button on it, since there was a necklace with one on her wist:

Now for the "I'd rather be stitchin'" portion... mug cosy and bracelet:

It's hard to tell in the pictures, but the yarn is covered it sequins, making it totally girly, despite it's neutral color.

You can see it a little bit better in this close up of the bracelet:

The bracelet actually was the starting point for the whole box. rubylynns had a similar item on her wist and I thought it was so cool, but wanted to make it my own, so I used this funky sparkley yarn (which was very strange to knit with and a total departure for me!) and some awesome vintage buttons that I had taken off an old peacoat i found at the thrift store. I thought the idea of a bow bracelet was really cool, but I couldn't really find a pattern that I loved, so made it up as I went along, button holes and all!

I've been informed that rubylynns LOVES all of her pressies, and I'm so happy that I had her as my first craft swap partner. It was so fun to craft things that I really love for someone else and know that they would love them too. I may now have gone from a Craft Swap Virgin to a Craft Swap Junkie!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I Love My Granny

I love a granny square. There is something really cathartic about the repetitive nature, but also the speed with which they grow. So, when my mom asked me to make a granny square pillow for a wooden rocking chair in their living room, I was all about it. The thing with granny's is they can be started and stopped easily, there's a definite end to the row, and you know right where to start when you pick it back up again. I love things that I don't need a pattern for, that I don't have to think too hard at. So, that being said, here is the granny pillow:

Mom basically told me she wanted a granny pillow with yellows and browns, but mostly to use up any leftover yarn I had. So, I had a bunch of half-skeins of Paton's Wool Ease (I'm obsessed with washable wool) so set to work. I had the least of the yellow, so made it the bright pop in the middle and then used a left over coordinating yellow fabric I had used on an apron and a tote bag:

I made the body of the pillow twice. The first time I measured, and it came out completely too small. The second time I just hacked into the fabric, and it was the perfect size. What's with that? I'm telling you, I am not meant for patterns. I'm a much better eye-baller. :)

And here's the finished product nestled happily on my grandpa's blue Grover chair. I'm emotionally attached to furniture. I make fun of those people on the t.v., but secretly am one of them. I love that chair, and the pillow looks so nice there. Maybe I'll have to keep it for myself. Just kidding... I definitely do NOT need another pillow in my life!

If you too would like to become obsessed with the granny square, may I suggest the tutorial over at the Purl Bee. Also, it's an amazing site with lots of free tutorials and projects for those of us craft-obsessed.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Craft Swap Virgin

I have never done a craft swap before. The idea of them always intrigued me, but every time I read through the rules and protocol, I felt like it was too much to deal with. But a month ago, I bit the bullet and signed up for my first craft swap. If you are not familiar with the concept, it is a way for people who make crafts to share their crafts with others across the country (sometimes even internationally) and to receive a fancy schmancy package of goodies in return! Frankly, I like presents and make way more crafts than I will ever need or use, so this concept is perfect for me!

My first swap was a verb swap. Each person picks a verb and when they are partnered up, the partner has to make items inspired by that verb. I picked scavenge due to my slight obsession with thrifting and re-use. My partner, rubylynns, picked stitch. Seriously the best verb for me since everything I do is "stitching." It turns out that she loves hand knitted items, but has not had a lot of luck learning to knit or crochet herself, so I loaded her up. We also apparently love all the same things-- owls, skulls, pin-ups, retro, crazy colors, vegetarian food, folk music-- we are seriously so much alike, so crafting things for her was totally fun! Pictures of everything I made for my "separated at birth" craft companion will be posted as soon as I receive word that she has received the package I'm sending today!

Long story short: I am no longer a craft swap virgin!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ross's Chair

I have a problem. I'm addicted to upholstery. Or, more aptly, re-upholstery. So, with the oh-so-awesome Ross Bay closing on his Chicago Condo, I made a spurof the moment decision at the thrift store. I bought Ross a chair. This chair:

Yes, that is pink upholstery. I should have taken a better shot. I should have zoomed in on it's "ladies suit from the 70's" tweedy-houndstoothy awesomeness. But I found the perfect suede-y cream fabric that was going to make the dark stain look amazing, and I just couldn't wait to pull off the fabric and get started!

I found a little surprise under the fabric... some gross bird's nesty fluff, which I'm assuming was once batting. Gross. Good thing I was already planning on ripping the whole seat down and had bought all the replacement parts, so could just throw all the yuck away! My other surprise was that two of the screws holding the seat in place were missing... fortunately I have long since conquered the Home Depot and found exactly what I needed and got the heck out. Measure twice, visit Home Depot once.

Anyway, the final product is amazing, and is going to look fabulous in Ross's new living room!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Bunch of Grapes

After getting in the mail the awesome "bunch of grapes" trivet that my grandma made from a pattern in a ladies magazine in 1955:

I decided to make my own. I used the same idea of making cozies for bottle caps, and sewed them together according to the layout of my grandma's trivet.

I found the purple crochet thread at the thrift store for a dollar for a giant spool. It's Uki brand Supreme. The leaves are some leftover cotton yarn from a baby hat I made a long time ago. I think it turned out amazingly well.

Here are the grape trivet twins:

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

So, when doing meal planning for the week with the nanny kids, they decided they wanted Mac and Cheese today. But not the box kind, homemade.

That was fine with me, frankly, because I love homemade Macaroni! I've had some trouble finding the perfect recipe and last weekend I had some really delicious Mac at Stanley's Kitchen and Tap here in Chicago. It was creamy and cheesy and delicious. I was pretty sure there was ricotta in it, so I searched the interwebs for Mac with Ricotta and found a couple of recipes. I settled on one that sounded really easy, but called for pureed cottage cheese. I subbed in ricotta and doubled the amount of it, and it turned out SO good! I don't have pics, since I made it at work, but I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe and there are some fantastic food porn pictures on her site. My favorite aspect of the recipe was the fact that I didn't have to pre-cook the noodles! Fabulous!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tales of a Farmer's Market Addict

So, it's still cool enough that we neither need the Air Conditioning on nor get over-heated making food at home. Huzzah! That means I finally get to experiment with my farmer's market treasures from this week. On Tuesday I purchased fresh homemade Pierogies, asparagus, rhubarb, zucchini, strawberries and some plants. Today, Paul and I were both actually home for the same meals, so cooking commenced. First off, I pan-fried the pierogies in some butter with garlic. I decided I was too lazy to wash two pans, so I threw the asparagus into the pan and added a bit more butter.

Turns out, Pierogies and asparagus apparently take the same time to cook, so I lucked out. It looked (and tasted) delicious!

Sprinkled with some parmesan cheese and paired with a local beer, it made for a delicious, locovore lunch!

For dessert, I made my "last meal" dessert of choice: Rhubarb Crisp, just like grandma's!

I sometimes struggle with making a good crisp. I have a tendency to be impatient with the saucy sugar mixture or not make enough of the oatmeal crumble, so it's sometimes a gamble for me to make rhubarb or apple crisp. But this time, it turned out perfectly. So bubbly and delicious, with just the right amount of sweetness in the crumble and the sauce to counteract the sour rhubarb. Yum!

Can you see the bubbling filling sneaking up the sides? So good. I had a piece with vanilla ice cream after it cooled a bit, but while it was still nice and warm. Delish. If you're looking for a decent, easy recipe, this one is pretty good: Rhubarb Crisp. If you like a strawberry-rhubarb crisp (or pie, really, it's the same filling, just with a different crust) it gives instructions at the bottom for subbing in half strawberries. I'm just not a fan of the strawberry-rhubarb mixture.

Ultimately, I feel everyone should take advantage of their location and spend as much time in the farmer's market as possible. For Chicagoans, this helpful link will show you the locations and days of the city's farmer's markets. Spend this summer exploring local foods... you won't believe the delicious results!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beer Cap Trivet

Some time in college, I got it in my head that I needed to save my beer bottle caps to use for a project. I think it started when I saw a coffee table in a friend's dorm room that was covered in beer caps that the boys hammered into it every time they finished a beer. I didn't have anything I was keen on ruining by hammering spikey metal into it, but, somehow, the obsession just continued and I now have hundreds of them, with no real craft to use them for. So, when I found a pattern for a crochet-covered bottle cap trivet, I was intrigued. Mixing my favorite craft with beer and a material I have readily on hand? Yes, please! Here is the project: Crochet Beer Cap Hot Pad.

Materials: Bottle Caps (19 caps that haven't been bent from an opener)
Crochet Thread (I used some vintage size 5, Coton Perle DMC)
Tatting Crochet Hook (The pattern calls for a size 9, but I only had a size 8)
Tapestry Needle

The beer is optional, but serves as "inspiration" for this project! :)

This was a great project because I could sit and fiddle, covering one cap at a time, and could stop after one or a couple. I can do a cap in about 10 minutes, so if I wasn't really in the mood to crochet a lot, I could just cover one cap or sew one or two together and then put it down. I didn't have to think about where I was in the pattern or marking my stopping point, and it's all just single and double crochets, so it's easy to do while zoning out to the TV. And, when you're done, you have a really funky, vintage-y looking trivet! I think mine looks great with this Hardanger tea-table cloth that I took from my grandma's immense collection of linens. My next trivet will be a bunch of grapes, inspired by a trivet my dad found among more of my grandma's things. Turns out, this craziness runs in the blood!