Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fishy, fishy, fishy!

Made three of these fishy pouches for a swap I organized -- the theme was "water." I loved the challenge of it -- trying to think of all sorts of little goodies that fit the theme. I made a few water-colored things, but everything else said some form of water or something you find in water... ice, rain, mermaids... and fish.

I've never made a pouch like this before and had to figure out how to fit the lining and the zipper and keep everything precise and crisp. I love this sort of modern patchwork -- gorgeous fabrics pieced together in a casual (rather than precise and quilt-like) fashion. And I'm a huge fan of natural linen mixed with clean vibrant color.

The fourth pouch is now in the Etsy shop.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ugly Zelda

I finished my first stuffie last week. A stuffie is a homemade stuffed thing (not necessarily a stuffed animal, it really could be a stuffed anything. A stuffed tree. A stuff lemon wedge. It just needs to be anthropomorphic.)

That being said, my stuffie is actually a stuffed animal.

But not your standard stuffed animal. Zelda is an Ugly Stuffie. I made her for a swap. Yep, we're swapping uglies.

Of course, I had a difficult time making her truly ugly. I'm a wimp. I admit it. But I think she's moderately ugly (in a cute way).

Zelda is a zombie kitty/kitteh. She started with some ugly acrylic fleece in a camo print. Then I added another print that didn't quite go with the first. She has a zombie face and stitched black fabric where her heart used to be. And that scarf -- bordering on "novelty yarn," I'd say.

"Cool. Love zombies," said the teenagers in the house.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Topic #4: My Most Memorable Vacation

Topic #4 for the Hot Cocoa Swap is "My Most Memorable Vacation."

I've got a recent one and one from my distant past...

....From the past:
The year after I graduated from college I worked two jobs (teaching and waitressing). I saved and saved and then spent more than a summer in England, Wales, and Scotland. The trip was based at the Scottish College of Textile for a few weeks for their summer semester. But I also lived in London for about a month and had two different rail passes that allowed me to travel all around the U.K. It was amazing.

....Pretty recently:
Last year we spent several weeks driving the entire length of Route 66. We drove from Michigan to the Art Institute of Chicago, where the Mother Road begins. We had all sorts of guidebooks spread around the car, and followed every piece of the Old Road we could find. The average speed limit was about 30 mph... for over 3,000 miles.

It was a wonderful trip, but we did it in two weeks (there along Route 66, then back home via Interstate highways) which is pretty much the minimum for over 6,000 miles. Someday I'd like to do it again and take 4 to 6 weeks.

Images: Road sign at beginning of Route 66 (across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago), Wigwam Motel (the 2nd one... in CA), end of the road (Santa Monica Pier).

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Roses in January

I love all kinds of felt, but my favorites are felted knits and felt made with recycled materials.

My newest felt projects are roses made with recycled felt. At this time of the year it's pretty easy to find 100% wool coats and sweaters at thrift shops. A tired winter coat is transformed into fun felt treasures.

You start with a long strip of nice felt. Edge it with machine satin stitch (I do about 3 layers of stitching) in machine embroidery thread. Do the same thing for the leaf, then straight stitch veins on the leaf.

Roll up the strip of felt starting with a wider end. Double it back upon itself and gather bits along the way. Hand sew it all together, sew on the leaf, and then end up by sewing on a pin on the back.

Ta-da, roses in winter! Aren't they fun? They'd be great pinned on a winter hat, coat, or to soften a suit or to individualize a little black dress....

Look for them in my Etsy shop.

Learning to knit

The current blogging topic for the Hot Cocoa Swap is this:

"What is the most 'random' memory you have from your childhood? I know it's not knitting content, but I love learning about the little quirks and interesting things about people!"

Honestly, I have a hard time thinking of random memories on demand -- it seems a bit contrary to the idea of random. However, when I think of knitting as a child, I have quite a few random memories.

My mother is left handed. Back when she was a child, that meant she wasn't taught to knit or crochet -- it was thought to be too difficult for her to adapt (too bad her mother didn't know Continental knitting -- it seems like it would be perfect for a left-hander). So she taught me how to sew and cook and other wonderful skills, but I had to teach myself to knit.

I can't remember exactly how old I was when I decided to learn. And I can't even remember how I obtained needles and yarn. It probably all started with a Girl Scout badge (I was on a mission to earn all of them).

I think I was about 8 or 9. And, of course, my first project was a scarf.

I can't remember all the details surrounding how I learned, but I can picture the progress of that scarf. It was an off-white (not a good choice!) so it was stained from my hands. The stitches were horribly uneven, but mostly very, very tight. The edge rambled back and forth -- the scarf ranged widely in width as I knitted more and more tightly. But I got it finished and was very proud of my accomplishment.

The strongest memory I have from that time is consciously forcing myself to learn to knit loosely. I had a devil of a time with that first scarf trying to fit the needle into the was just so tight! On the second project, I forced myself to loosen each stitch as I made it, and realized how much easier it was to work with! Now, of course, I knit a little too loosely, and sometimes have had to go down 4 or 5 needle sizes to get my gauge (normally it's about 1-1/2 or 2 sizes...)!

The interesting thing about all this remembering, is that I taught my two nieces (ages 8 and 11) to knit this week. The 8-year-old is really the one who is most interested. She went through a little bit of instruction and has been knitting all week! Her older sister didn't want to miss out on it, but was less interested and paid less attention to the instruction. Next time I see her, I want to give her a refresher course so she can continue if she's interested.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Another swap, another questionnaire

I just joined another swap. I know, I'm obsessed, I admit it. This is a fiber-friendly Scavenger Hunt swap.

Here are the answers to the questionnaire:

1) Do you knit, crochet or both? How long have you been doing it?
I knit. I can crochet just enough to do some finishing stuff.

2) What is on your needles/hook right now?
A. An adult version of the Harry Potter baby hat from Weekend Knitting (with a much simpler colorway) that I've been promising to my son forever. B. Some very quick dishcloths for a different swap. ....and let's not talk about the old UFOs.

3) What is the most frequently used tool in your knitting bag?
I have one of the kits with interchangeable circular needles. I use them constantly.

4) What are your 3 favorite yarns (fiber type or brand)?
A. 100% wool (or mostly wool with a little of another felt-able fiber like "Lamb's Pride") - I enjoy working with it in general and love felting
B-C. Any other natural fiber: alpaca, silk, cashmere, cotton, linen...

What are your 3 least favorite?
Eyelash, acrylic, other synthetics, even blends with synthetics (except funky stuff like this), lace and sock weight. I like natural fibers in DK weight or heavier.

5) What is your favorite color?
I guess dark red. I also like lots of greens (but not kelly green).

6) If you had a 5 minute shopping spree in your LYS, how would you plan your attack?
Interesting question. I'd plan for some specific projects, make a floor plan, and then add some other fun stuff at the last minute.

7) What is your favorite FO and why? (post a pic if you have it!)
Hmmmmm, I'm not sure. I like the big version of Maggie's Tote Bag that I made for my sister a year or two ago. It was pre-Flickr... sorry.

8) What are your favorite things to knit/crochet?
Felted stuff. Bags and containers of all sorts. Hats. Things that are interesting to knit but not too detailed so I can be sort of mindless...

9) Do you collect anything?
Depression-era kitchen stuff (Fiestaware, bakelite, etc.), cookbooks. And yarn (and fabric), of course.

10) What are your five favorite things (not necessarily knitting related)?
Making art/crafting, my family, my home, gardening, cooking.

11) Are you on Ravelry? What is your ID?
Yes, but I haven't gotten very involved yet. Need to do it soon, eh? My ID everywhere is winemakerssister.

12) Do you drink tea/coffee/cocoa?
Yes. I like 'em all (although I can't take much coffee with caffeine). My basic drink is tea.

13) Favorite Sweets?
Dark chocolate. Maple.

14) Any allergies?
Smoke. Nothing else that affects the swap.

15) Do you have pets? kids?
Yes. Yes. We have a Golden Retriever and four cats. One teenaged son (Tommy).

And the winner is....

Thanks to everyone who responded to my posting on Universal Letter Writing Week. We've drawn the winner and it's......

drum roll......





.......Wabbit (Marilyn)

Congratulations, Wabbit/Marilyn! The "Art of Writing Letters" ATCs will go out in the mail on Tuesday.

And congratulations to everyone who took a few minutes and wrote a letter (or more) to celebrate. One of the posters has committed to writing at least one letter per month during 2008. A terrific goal, I'd say. And very do-able. How about it, everyone?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Knitting in Winter

Here's the topic for week #2 of the Hot Cocoa Swap:

Now that we're in the thick of 'Winter'... has your knitting changed to match the season? Are you moving on from dishcloths, and tank tops to afghans, hats and mittens? Has your yarn changed from silk or cotton to wool, superwash or heavier cottons?

My knitting always tends to be a bit seasonal. It's not particularly comfortable to knit with hot wooly things in the middle of the summer, and I tend to want to do that in the winter...

However, I try to look ahead a little in my knitting. I'll probably slow down on the winter-related items soon. I don't want to get started on winter stuff if it starts getting too late to use it this year...

What am I currently knitting? I just finished this adorable felted bag for a swap partner (you make a bag and fill it with goodies for your partner), it's from the Vogue "On The Go" Felting book I received from my SP11 partner (thanks!). It's meant to be done in four different colors. But my partner really likes green so I thought I'd do it with two greens. I may make this again -- it's very cute and easy. And what's on the needles? [Not including old UFOs*].... the grown-up version of the Harry Potter baby hat I keep promising to Tommy (better get it done while the weather is still cold) and some quick wristlets/fingerless gloves for another swap package.

*UFO - unfinished object

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy Anniversary Morsbags!

Today is the 1st anniversary of the morsbag. is a wonderful little grassroots organization that advocates the construction, distribution, and use of "morsbags" -- reusable fabric shopping bags.

The original idea was for groups of people to get together and sew the bags. I got involved through a swap on Swap-bot. The swappers worked together to produce the bags, but unlike most of the other morsbags pods (groups), they were spread around the world.

To celebrate the anniversary and help morsbags get to their 10,000 bag goal by today (they're currently at 10,482), I made over a dozen morsbags this week!

Instead of handing them out at the supermarket, I am promising to send one with any order from my Etsy shop. The offer runs from today through January 31, subject to quantities on hand. If you decide to purchase something and would like to pick out your favorite morsbag from the group, go to the photo on my Flickr site. Each of the bags is numbered. Just mention the number when you order. And then promise you'll use it whenever you visit the market!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hot Cocoa Stitch Markers

I've been making stitch markers for a few months now for various swaps. They're fun to make -- very much like making earrings.

One of the requirements for the Hot Cocoa Swap is to include stitch markers with your swap package. So last week I decided to make some cocoa-themed ones and post them to my Etsy shop. I'm hoping that some of the other swap participants will purchase some to include in their packages.

Lately it seems like I need five markers for projects I've been making. Tote bags (one of my favorite projects) often need one for each corner plus a different one for the beginning of the row. So there are four tea (or cocoa) cups and one teaspoon. I included a warm brown (coffee colored?) bead.

FREE SHIPPING: If you're in the swap (or are reading this) and decide to purchase some, let me know in advance and I can set up a reserved listing for you with free shipping.

*ps. I love the linen fabric in the top photo! It's from Vaide's Etsy shop. Isn't it yummy?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Universal Letter Writing Week (& Contest!)

When is the last time you wrote a letter to a friend? Not an email, not a note tucked into a package, but a real letter. How many people have never seen your handwriting?

I have to admit, my answers to these questions are pretty sad. Like most people, my life moves quickly and letter writing is one of those things that gets left behind. How about you?

But now it's January. The holiday rush is behind you. Slow your life down a bit and take time to write a few letters. Grab a cup of coffee or tea or cocoa and sit down with a pen and some nice stationery or a card or two. Make it special. Take a few minutes to find your favorite pen. For me, using the right pen makes all the difference. Now, who would really appreciate a letter from you? An old friend? A family member? Maybe someone who has never even seen your handwriting? If you can't do it now, in the bleak days of January, when will you be able to do it? Sip your tea, think about the recipient, and take a few minutes to write to them. Fight the electronic age and multi-tasking for 30 minutes.

My dear friend Mary was a strong advocate for letter writing. She used to take a box of her homemade cards to work. She'd park the box in the employee lounge with a note that said "FREE CARDS." All she asked was that they use the card to write to someone. Help me honor Mary's memory by writing a letter to someone you care about this week.

Ok, and beyond helping you slow your life down for a few minutes this week, I have another motive. I do happen to sell some very nice cards in my Etsy shop :) If you're looking for inspiration, perhaps purchasing a few pretty cards will help!

And now for the contest....
To celebrate Universal Letter Writing Week I will be giving away a set of my "The Art of Writing Letters" artist trading cards. The set of four cards feature artistamps from my issuing authority, Craneland, a fictional island in Lake Erie. The four cards would be great framed separately (in tiny frames) or as a set. As you may know, artist trading cards (ATCs) are little works of art that are meant to be traded, never sold. You can't purchase them, but you can win them!

To enter, just add a comment to this post. ULW week runs from January 8 through January 15. You have until midnight (EST) on January 15 to enter. Shortly after that, I will hold a drawing for the winner. I will contact the winner for their address. Good luck!

Visit katydiddy's blog for more info on ULW week and links to other blogs that are celebrating!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Getting to know my fellow swappers

A little scavenger hunt to learn more about the other folks in the Hot Cocoa swap:

  1. Who's favorite animal is an Otter? - Criquette
  2. Name someone who prefers whipped cream with their hot cocoa - Bianca
  3. Find 3 people who live outside of the United States – Alex E, Bianca, Jenn S
  4. Name a fan of Harry Potter – Heather V
  5. Name someone who crochets – Nicole D
  6. Name someone who DOES NOT have a healthy supply of notions – Ashley R
  7. Name someone who has NOT put up their questionnaire yet (just put a date with your answer in case they put it up after seeing their name listed somewhere ;-) ) – Heather A/Jan 5, 6 pm
  8. Who likes to have Kahlua, Baileys, or Peppermint Schnapps in their cocoa? – Sarah P
  9. Name someone who knits fingerless gloves as a 'quick knit' – Tanya M
  10. Name someone who's looking forward to gardening this spring. – Rachel S
  11. Who's favorite way to drink cocoa is with a gorgeous Frenchman, while overlooking the eiffel tower from a French Cafe? (I'm right there with you... well at the table next to yours!) – Kris L
  12. Name someone who's favorite animal is NOT a dog or house cat – Beth S
  13. Name someone who's favorite treat is NOT chocolate. – Carla S
  14. Who plays Candyland - Well, Criquette is burnt out on Candyland. Does that count?
  15. Name someone who DOESN'T get the winter blahs - Patti R

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Hot Cocoa Swap Questionnaire

It's the perfect time of year for knitting and hot cocoa, so of course I joined the Hot Cocoa swap.

Here are my answers to the questionnaire:

1. What is your favorite way to drink cocoa? Prepared with milk? Water? from home made recipe or store bought?, In a tea cup, or big mug?
I like any kind of good hot cocoa (surprise me!), served in a sturdy mug.

After reading other folks' answers, I now need to try cocoa with a dash of peppermint schnapps, butterscotch schnapps, or Bailey's! Yum

2. Marshmallows or whipped cream?
Homemade marshmallows are a great treat. Otherwise I tend to drink it plain (if you can call fabulous hot cocoa "plain").

1. What is your favorite type of yarn? In what colors?
Nothing lighter than DK weight. I'm just not a lace/sock sort of knitter. I've tried it -- it doesn't make me particularly happy. Natural fibers: wool, alpaca, llama, cashmere, bamboo, linen, silk, cotton. I like pretty much any colors, especially if they're treated in a sophisticated way. My favorite colors are dark red, almost all greens (except kelly, which I dislike), aqua, teal, nice browns... and I'm not really a pink sort of person.

2. Do you knit or crochet (or both)?
Knit only. I know basic crochet to do finishing on knitting.

3. What are your favorite type of needles, would you like to try something new?
I am very happy to try something new! My favorites are circulars (I have a set). In terms of materials, my favorites are bamboo, old faux tortoiseshell (casein) needles, bakelite, wood.

4. Do you have a healthy supply of notions?

5. What one thing do you keep thinking you need to buy for your knitting habit (outside of yarn)?
Hard question. I just got a yarn winder for Christmas. That was my big "need." I'll have to think about that...

6. What is your favorite 'quick knit/crochet' pattern (quick gratification)
There's a cute hat with pompoms in "Hot Knit Hats" -- I made 6 of them this fall/winter for gifts. I also like to do cotton dishcloths for a quicky project. I also love to do felted projects, but that takes more time.

1. What is your favorite thing to do in the Winter?
Sit in a comfy chair with a cup of tea, my knitting, and a good movie.

2. What is your favorite animal?
Hmmmmm, wooly mammoth, I guess.

3. Do you get the 'winter blahs'?
Not badly. I think most folks get them a bit. I love winter but do get tired of it around March or April.

4. What is your favorite way to beat the blahs?
Making art, knitting, reading, my computer.

5. What is the thing you are most looking forward to this spring?
My favorite day of the year is the first warm rain. I love to see everything go from brown to green in the matter of a few hours.

6. What are your favorite treats?
Dark chocolate.

7. What is your favorite board game?
Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit.

8. Do you have any children (furry or human)?
I have a teenaged son who is somewhat furry (Tommy), a Golden Retriever (Winston), and five cats (Little Bit, Violet, Charli, Henry, and Alex).

9. Do you have any allergies or special considerations you partner should know about?
Smoke. Nothing else related to this swap.