Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas Time is Here!

Now that we've celebrated Thanksgiving, I'm getting pretty excited about Christmas.  And while putting together the swap packages that I FINALLY got in the mail today, I decided to make some stitch markers.  I'm not going to share pictures of the stitch marker sets I sent to my swap partners.  But I WILL share pictures of the 2 sets I just listed in my Etsy shop! :) 

I told you last week that I was planning to get some listed, and I just finished posting them.  I'm really in love with how they turned out.  Beaded markers can be really great, but there's something so fun about hand sculpted shapes - you can literally make them anything you want them to be. 

So what did I create?  

Candy canes, 
a snowman, complete with stocking cap & scarf,
and a Christmas tree adorned with lights. 
The snowman might just be my favorite, but I'm really having a hard time choosing.  The penguins are really  adorable.  And the candy canes are nice and shiny, especially once the glaze was brushed on and dried. :) 

Go check them out!  I'd love to make custom orders, too.  I think these would make for a fun and unique gift for that knitter in your life! :) 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Favorites 11/26: Giveaways & Good Causes

Hello Friends!

I hope you don't mind how I chose to post today's Friday Favorites.  I was hoping to post today about Thanksgiving yesterday and how X loved playing with his aunt and uncle and grandmas and grandpas.  But I'll save that for another post. :) (Also, I didn't get as many pictures as I wanted.)

Today's Friday Favorites is actually something I read about today as I was perusing through my favorite blogs.  My friend, Sarah, over at In Light of the Truth, is hosting a giveaway and I thought I'd share it with you all. :)

Sarah's friend, Katie, and her husband, are planning and saving to be able to adopt a child from Ethiopia.  Katie and her mother have an Etsy shop, Already Love You, where they sell items such as changing pads, burp cloths, cloth bibs and nursing covers.  I've been looking at all their stuff this morning and it's beautiful!  It makes me want one of each at least!  All the proceeds earned from her Etsy sales are going directly to their adoption fund.  I think this is such a great thing.  Not only is Katie able to use her crafty talent and share that with others, but she's also getting closer to adding another member to their family, one step at a time.

So today I'd just like to share a couple of my favorite items from her shop.  (And encourage you to stop by Sarah's blog and enter the giveaway.  She's got a great blog and I read it all the time!)

These little owls are SO adorable!!  What a fun fabric.  This is one of my very favorites in Katie's shop.

I've told you before how much I like paisley.  This set is sweet and sophisticated.  Great for that mom that loves to be stylish!

I love the design of these nursing covers.  Light enough to keep baby cool, boning in the top to allow mamma to see her sweet baby.  They have even included a little piece of terrycloth in the corner on the inside to allow for clean up or storing nursing pads.  LOVE THIS!

I hope you've enjoyed this Friday Favorites.  I know I have!  Giveaways are awesome, not only because you have the chance to win something, but mostly because it allows you the chance to hear about new products, whether it be needles, yarn, a new pattern or mamma/baby items!

Come back soon! :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Susan's Blanket Squares

Wow, looking back I can't believe how long we've worked on this next project.  Yep, you heard right, I said WE!  :)  Back in March, my friend Suzanne (knittingknirvana on Ravelry) approached the Itty Bitty Knits group asking who would like to help her plan and scheme a surprise for Susan (meaning the knitting designer, Susan B. Anderson - you've all heard me talk about her before!).  It only took me about 2.5 seconds to say yes! :)

At the time, I had a lot in the works.  I was participating in 2 swaps, preparing for my sister's birthday present, etc. etc.  A more logical person may have stood back and said, look at what you have going on, and then choose whether or not to dedicate your time.  But in the same breath I have to say that what Suzanne was proposing didn't really require any thinking. :)   Suzanne asked if we'd be willing, as a group, to knit individual squares from the Dream Catcher Baby Blanket pattern on Spud Says, and then send them to her to seam up into a blanket for Susan.  Susan designed this beautiful blanket as a free pattern on the Spud and Chloe website. 

Anyone familiar with Susan knows that she spends a lot of "face time" with her fans and admirers.  Not only does she always have a new design in the works, but she also blogs, responds to Rav posts, helps with pattern issues, spreads her love and adoration of people's patterns and FOs, hosts giveaways, and is just a genuinely kind and generous person.  There is so much we could all say about Susan.  And to have her own family and life to attend to in-between all that - she is such a busy lady!   What better way to show her how much she means to us than to gift her this project, with squares from all over the world, from so many different knitters.  In the end, the blanket was 9x12 squares big.  That's 108 squares!

I could go on and on about this project, but really, if you want to hear about the whole story, please check out Suzanne's website and watch her podcast HERE.  It's a four-part podcast fully describing all the behind the scenes work that was done for this.  It's amazing that we could 1) keep this a secret from Susan and 2) all come together to create something so neat.  

Susan's sister was kind enough to video tape Susan opening her gift.  You can find the video HERE.  It's really neat to see her reaction, since she wasn't expecting this blanket, at all!

So many  people have said it so much more eloquently than I can...but this is just a huge hug and thank you to Susan for all she does for us to inspire and teach us to grow as knitters and fiber lovers! 

Here are just a few pictures of the squares I sent off.  Originally I only knit 2 because I didn't know how much time I'd have.  Then Suzanne put in a request for more and I just happened to have the perfect amount of leftovers from Gerald the Giraffe to knit 2 blue squares and additional pollen square.  My squares are made of Spud and Chloe Sweater in Pollen, Lake and Splash.  

It's so fun to be able to share this project with the rest of the world.  You should have all seen how impatient we knitters were for Susan to open her gift and see her reaction.  Like little kids on Christmas morning! :) 

And a HUGE thank you to Suzanne for all your hard work!!  The planning and scheming and seaming (Oh My!) was so much work.  We're so glad that Bookboxer was available to help you as it was such a huge task.  :)  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I DO Still Sew!

Over the summer I spent almost every day trying to dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to sewing.  Some days were more successful than others, but I wasn't too concerned about missing a day.  More importantly, it got me back to sewing.  I really like sewing and being able to create things myself.  My first quilt is still sitting next to my machine waiting for me to finish the quilting and complete the binding.  Perhaps after Christmas?

I also have some fun patterns I'd love to get finished for X, and in truth, they'd be very quick to complete.  

But most of the sewing I have been doing hasn't been for myself.  Instead, it's been for my Etsy shop, which is just fine with me! :)  Within the last month or so I've complete 3 more interchangeable needle cases and I'm working on perfecting a crochet hook case.  I'm still working on the hook case, but hopefully soon...

Pictures you say?  You'd like to see pictures?  Oh....okay. :) 

These first two cases were custom orders I had.  The first was fabric I chose for the woman after a few discussions about what she liked. 

The second case was fabric that was sent to me by the buyer.  I certainly don't mind if someone has a favorite fabric they want to use!

The last case is one that's currently posted in my shop.  Being from Iowa, and having been around a lot of farms, I have an affinity for John Deere.  A lot of my family worked for John Deere, as did/does my husband's family.  They're a huge employer in our area.  So when I go shopping for fabric, I always love looking at the John Deere fabric.  I can't help it. And this time I decided to actually buy some (along with a lovely coordinating green) and make it into a needle case.  I figure, someone, somewhere along the lines, will feel the same way about this case as I do.  And if not, I'll just use it. :) 

I've also been planning some other changes for the shop.   I would love to have some sock yarn listed, but I just don't have the means to do that right now.  I do plan to have stitch markers soon, though!  Christmas ones, even! :)   So stay tuned, please check in periodically to see what you think.  :)  

Monday, November 22, 2010

One Year!

Can you believe that I've had this blog for just over a year now?  I guess I should have remarked on this on November 11, since that was my first official post.  Ahh, oh well.  Live and learn. :)

Looking back at those first few posts, I can appreciate how much I've grown in my knitting in the last year.  I was so very proud of my first project, Pengu.  He's sort of quirky, but still cute. And reminds me that everyone has to start somewhere.

The biggest difference in my blogging has been that my initial writing style has changed from almost talking to myself (because no one knew about the blog) to now talking to a small group of followers. :) Thank you to everyone who stops by to have a read and journey with me through my knitting, sewing and crafting escapades.   I notice how rambly those first posts are (and you're thinking, they're not rambly now?) and believe me, I've improved! :)

I love that I have my blog to capture all that's I've done and want to remember.  So much of what I make (in any medium), leaves my hands and goes to another home, so I can't sit and admire the completed project.

Last year this time I was gearing up for Thanksgiving and the holidays, the first we'd celebrate without my grandmother.  Holidays over the past year have been rough for us because we feel that hole that's not filled by her presence.  But we celebrate by knowing she's looking down on us and watching us remember her and spend time together as a family.

In other news, I've started the Christmas knitting.  Hoping this first project will go quickly.  I'd like to have it off the needles and blocking by the weekend.   We'll see how this week plays out, especially with Thanksgiving, seeing as how I can't knit Christmas presents in front of the recipients! :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Favorites 11/19: Monsters

I've only got about 30 minutes so I'm going to try and be quick and get right down to business.


Not the kind that are under your bed or in your closet, but the kind that you can snuggle and hug and love! Specifically, those designed by Rebecca Danger!  These little monsters have been popping up all over Raverly, and people's blogs.  I imagine these creatures hiding around the house, waiting to be found and loved.  In your slippers, under the covers, in the pantry...I don't know why but that's what comes to mind.

Check out all these great patterns because I'm only going to highlight a few, although I love them all!

Christmas Hooligans, how fun is that?  I love the stripes and Christmas colors, but truly they'd be fun any time of the year.  A friend of mine of Ravelry, ljaecocker,  just recently posted a picture of her monster, check him out HERE.
He's SO cute in his matching hat and scarf.  (He's accompanying a hat and set of fingerless mitts to a new home.)

I love her quirky ears and long limber legs & arms.  She's my very favorite of them all, and probably the first I'd knit, if I ever got any patterns!

These monsters look like they're just having a cozy day, hanging around at home.  And aren't those belly buttons just the greatest? :) X loves pointing out belly buttons.  He'd love these. :)

Penelope makes me think of a loveable pup.  Perhaps because of the spotted eye and perky ears.  She makes me smile, and she looks like she'd love a hug!

My goodness it was hard to just pick a few!  My other favorites of Rebecca's aren't monsters, but just fun stuffies including Zeke the Aloof Alpaca, Napoleon the Nervous Narwhal and Mortimer the Dog Toy.

These creations are fun and full of imagination.  They're outside the box of your traditional toy, one more reason I like them so much!

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend.  Next week is Thanksgiving for those of us in the States.  I'm hoping to have the chance to hop on next Friday to share some Thanksgiving favorites, but I won't promise anything since I plan on spending a lot of time with family!

Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I got me some business cards!
They're pretty simple, just some basic information.

But every time I mail something out, I feel like having a card to slip in the package would be so much more professional!  And there's even enough room on the cards for a quick handwritten, Thank You! :)
Yes, it's the little things that keep me excited. :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christmas Already?

I have a hard time with facing Christmas too early in the year.  Most times, I feel that once Halloween is past, society practically shoves Thanksgiving in a closet in a race to get to Christmas.  I blame the Retail World for this.  Anxious to make their Christmas sales, where people spend LOADS of money on all sorts of things.  Mostly it just bothers me that Thanksgiving is overlooked, because let's face it, it's not the same money maker as some of the other holidays.

Thanksgiving isn't my favorite holiday, but I enjoy the time spent with my family, the time off from work, and just getting into the holiday groove.  So before Thanksgiving hits, I avoid listening to (if I can help it) or playing Christmas music, I don't watch any Christmas programming, and I try to focus on the time before Christmas so it doesn't all slip away too quickly.

One thing that's unavoidable, though, is thinking about Christmas gifts.  I know I just said that Christmas has become too commercialized.  I like to think about Christmas as time with family and time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  But I do like giving gifts.  More than I like receiving them!  The planning that goes into that perfect present, the delight you see when someone opens what you have given them.  It's even more special with it's a handmade gift that you put a lot of time and effort into.  Last year, I surprised my family with hand-knit gifts. They had no clue I'd learned to knit.

So I guess what I'm sort of trying to say, in a round-about way, is that you will probably be hearing much less about knitting projects, and certainly few and far between FOs from now until after Christmas because I don't want to spoil any surprises.  I've got plenty of things to tell you about until then...probably...  I've left some of my holiday knitting to late in the year and some may think I'll never finish in time, but I'm dedicated.  And much faster than I was last year at this time.  :)

So now I wait until Black Friday.  Most people look forward to it for the deals at all the stores, the early morning shopping, dreading the crowds.  I'm anxious for it for other reasons, but mostly because that's when my Christmas spirit really kicks in.  Then the Christmas tree will go up, Christmas songs are set on the piano, and holiday programming on ABC Family goes into hyperdrive! :) (I'm a sucker for holiday made-for-tv-movies.)

And I'm happy to be part of 2 Christmas swaps on Ravelry this month.  One is a regular Christmas swap and the other is a Secret Santa swap.  On a sad note, I purchased some goodies recently for one swap partner, and just received news it wouldn't be available until Thanksgiving.  Yikes!  That's cutting it close to the mailing date.  So my partner may get her package in stages.  :)

If you made it to the end of this post, thanks for sticking with me!  I know it was sort of long and rambly and somewhat chaotic, and not even a picture to share.  But I appreciate you reading!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spiral Cowl

It's taken me awhile to warm up to the idea of knitted cowls.  There's a woman in town who has knit some cowls, but the ones I see her wear always look a little...funky...  And I know I've heard people say as she walks by "What is she wearing?"  And not in that good, I-want-one-too, kind of way.  So I think that's where my prejudice first started (keep in mind, I'd seen this woman's knits before I knew how to knit).  But as time goes on, there are so many neat cowl patterns out there, I started having a hard time resisting the urge to mark one as a favorite, or take a closer look.  I was afraid that if I knit a cowl, people would think the same about me, and although I generally hold to the belief that my own self-esteem is more important than what others think, I didn't want to look silly as this aforementioned woman did.  
So I will then admit that when I started knitting this next pattern, I was a little, not scared....hesitant.  But I'd seen all these lovely FOs on Ravelry, and they looks so chic and soft and lovely, and a quick knit to boot, I couldn't resist.  I cast-on fairly quickly.  And since finishing my first ever cowl, I'm happy to say that I've even worn it in public, where there are other people, and I liked it!  

The pattern is Spiral Cowl by Keri McKiernan, my version knit in Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca Silk, colorway 139 Peacock.  Funny thing to note about this yarn, as I was knitting, my hands started to turn a blue-green color where the yarn sat, especially around my pinky and forefinger where I wrapped the yarn.  I was concerned because I didn't want the dye that was leaking onto my hands to also transfer to my neck or other clothing while I wear it.  If that were to happen, this cowl (which already had a difficult start) would be much less wearable.  I posted a question to the Blue Sky Alpacas group on Ravelry and the response I got said this.  This particular color (only 139 Peacock) reacts with some people's body chemistry in a way in which turns your hands the color of the yarn.  Not everyone has this issue.  She advised that when I go to wet-block my cowl, I let it soak in water to release the excess dye and if that didn't work, to soak it with a little vinegar to set the dye.  I didn't need the vinegar. :)  
I really like the stitch pattern on this cowl, it's why I feel this pattern is so sleek.  If you want, you can fold over the edge and pin or button it down for a different style.  Kind of like a fancier kerchief.  

I have found the Alpaca Silk to be amazingly soft to the touch, but a bit scratchy on my neck.  Not enough to deter me from wearing it, though.  
And I found the perfect pin when I was going through my jewelry that was once my grandmother's.  The pin is light enough not to drag down the knitting, but sturdy enough to hold the cowl in place.  Perfect. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Favorites 11/12: Knit & Crochet Toys

Hello, Readers!
I'm going to try and make this as quick as possible because I have a lot to get done today (but as some of you already know, I'm not good at keeping things short...).  

I could go on and on and on about all the wonderful knit and crochet toys that are available on Ravelry.  SO MANY!  I've picked out a few of my recent favorites, all which have potential to make great Christmas gifts for X this year. :) So on with the show!!

Photo by Jean Woods

What's not to love about this set?  Kids love to put toys in and take them out, making this an awesome gift for any little one!  

Photo by janeward

A lot of you can probably recognize Alan Dart's style of knit toys.  I love them all.  He's a favorite designer of mine.  I have a couple of his patterns and one of these days...I will actually knit them!  This toy is purely keeping in the spirit of the upcoming holidays.   Rudolph, with his red nose, would make a great companion while reading Rudolph's story. :) 

Photos by Melissa Shepard

I love knit and crocheted food.  It's awesome.  And this pattern is no exception.  I mean, it's interactive for goodness sake!!  Kids would LOVE to take this apart and put it back together again.  I highly recommend checking out Melissa's patterns because they are SO neat.  This is not the only "peelable" amigurumi pattern she has available.  LOVE 1000!

Photos by Amalia Samios

Again, another interactive toy!  My little man LOVES to help Daddy when fixing stuff or putting stuff together.  Now he can feel really important with his very own tool set (this may require me to find a pattern for a tool  So very, very cute! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Logo Knits

Okay, apparently I went a short hiatus...wasn't planning to be gone for almost a week!  That's what happens when things get busy.  :)  I've been doing lots and although I'd love to share it ALL right now, that would be an insanely long post (and sometimes mine are too long already) with far too many pictures and by the time I got to the end, none of you would be reading any longer!

You may remember me mentioning way-back-when a logo that my friend, Tonya, designed (check out her blog HERE). You may also recall that instead of paying her, we arranged a trade of sorts.  She designed my logo, I knit her something. Now that she's finally in receipt of those items, I can finally share them with you all!

Now all you Ravelers out there know how many patterns are available on it was nice to have some guidelines of what to look for.  Mittens would work, fingerless mitts of some kind, maybe a hat.  But the hat needed to be a beanie style that fit snugly on the head.  Okay, so immediately I knew which mittens I had to put on the list.  And there were a few hats I'd admired way back when I first started knitting.  Of those hats, only a few fit the requirements.  So I knit the Phenomenon Mittens (Bella Mitts) and the Hurricane hat.  The pattern I chose was a surprise, but it wasn't hard for Tonya to figure it out.  She didn't know about the hat, so I kept that to myself. :)  The only other requirement we talked about was color.  I had the option of a turquoise-peacock type color, mustard yellow or rusty orange.

So on to the knits!  I LOVE these mittens!  There are several versions of these mittens on Ravelry, all inspired by the movie Twilight and the car crash scene.  Bella is wearing these mittens.  Some patterns are more accurate than others.  I chose to knit Phenomenon mittens.  This pattern was nice because it was free and accurate!  Giant cables run up the back of your hand, almost to the elbow.  This creates a wonderfully thick, dense fabric perfect for winter.
The palms are a criss-cross type stitch pattern that avoid any holes and like the cables, are really dense.  These puppies will be warm!  I also like that the remainder of the mitten is designed with ribbing, which lends this pattern to fitting a lot of people's hands and arms.

As I was knitting these, I kept trying them on, one to make sure things were going well, and two....well...they were just cozy!  I finished the first mitten fairly quickly.  The second mitten?  Not so fact, I must have really liked the first mitten because I started to knit 2 right-hand mittens.  Yep, got all the way to the top of the thumb gusset before I realized my mistake.  R-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-p! Back to the beginning.  I did eventually get the 2nd mitten done, but having to rip back when I'd gotten so far really affected my knitting mojo for these mittens.
(Look!  Finished thumbs!!)
All that aside, I'm definitely making these again. Everyone needs a pair of mittens like these.  I obviously voted for the rusty orange. The yarn is Knit Picks Shine Worsted held double in the colorway, Marmalade.   The yarn was a bit pilly, but I think the stitch pattern and cables will help keep that to a minimum.  I didn't notice any shedding while trying them on again...and again...and again...
I also have to mention quickly that this orange is such that my camera had a difficult time picking the right color.  To me, the photos sometimes looked intentionally altered for dramatic effect, but the color is really just that rich.  :)

Which brings me to the Hurricane hat.  I actually cast on and finished up this hat well before I even thought about the mittens.  And hats are so, so quick to knit.  I was itching to try this pattern and figured I could get it done in a day or two.  At the time I had SO many projects I was working on or needed to finish that I didn't dare touch the mittens.  But the yarn, it kept calling to me.  Yes, it was in a box, behind a chair, in another room where I wouldn't be tempted (because I was), but it was sneaky, sneaky and knew just how to get my attention.  It would say things like "Come on, it's just a little hat, it'll be finished in no time." and "If you knit with me now, it'll help your concentration on your next project, get me out of your system."  Well, it worked.  I caved in and cast on and before I knew it the hat was done, almost too quickly!

I've seen this hat knit in a lot of different ways and there are some really cool versions out there.  Some variegated yarns look awesome with this hat because the swirl pattern really does create a "hurricane effect." (Again, I used KP Shine Worsted in Marmalade.)

I knit this a little longer than the pattern directed because I wanted to make sure it fit over Tonya's ears.  Living in Iowa, it's not a good idea to leave your ears exposed in the winter.  Manny the Mannequin was a willing model and thought the hat looked nice on him.  He wanted to keep it for himself but I told him we'd make him one that's all his own.  He thought that was a fair trade.

These two projects have been off my needles since October 17th, so this post has been a long time coming.

But one last thing before you go!   You haven't seen my logo yet - the entire reason for knitting those lovely mittens and hat!  Tonya did a fantastic job coming up with a logo that was just what I was looking for.  And she's been patient enough to help me trouble-shoot when needed.  The logo is simple but perfect.  You can also see this as a button on the right-hand side of my blog.
And maybe I forgot to mention, Tonya's a graphic designer that does awesome work!  She designed X's birth announcements almost 2 years ago.  If you'd like to see more of her work, you can see it at Pink Dot Designs.

Thanks, Tonya!  I hope you enjoyed working on the logo and that your mittens and hat keep you toasty and warm through the soon-to-be-cold weather!