Monday, December 29, 2008

Front Page!

SplishySplashCraft was kind enough to include me in her current treasury as an alternate. It just made the front page and one of the items sold, so I'm in the lower right hand corner. Yay!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Why Did I Learn to Knit?

Blogging topic #1 for the "Warm Ewe Up" swap is "Why did you learn to knit?"

That's a pretty difficult question to answer because it was long, long (long, long) ago and I was quite young -- probably 8 or 9. I pretty much taught myself to knit with a little help from my aunt.

I can't remember what was in my mind at the time. I do remember very clearly that I wanted to earn all the Girl Scout badges (I did get all the Junior badges, but not all the Cadette ones) and that might have had something to do with it. Perhaps I needed to learn to knit (or learn a new skill like that) for a badge? It's quite possible.

I knit a few scarves as a girl and then didn't get back to knitting until I was an adult. My next big project was a sweater and stocking hat for Tommy when he was a baby. And I've been knitting ever since, especially for the last 8 years or so, since the knitting world has exploded with gorgeous yarns, patterns, and supplies.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Knitted Holiday

Now that Christmas is over, and my last-minute crafting craziness is almost* finished, I can look back on the gifts I made.

As usual, many of the gifts were knitted. Warm knitted things just seem like a natural gift in December... However, I did make some necklaces for the 5 nieces and earrings for some of the women in my family.

On to the knitting...

Ribbed Hat and Scarf Set - "Vogue Knitting: Accessorize"
I decided to use the skeins of Manos of Uruguay wool I had on hand. It was a blend of brown, red, yellow, and certainly manly enough for my dad. I went with a simple pattern that would knit up quickly and show off the beauty of the yarn.

Felted Tote Bag - Two Old Bags
The nicest thing about this project was that I used yarn I bought last summer at Belle Valee' Woolen Mill in northern Ontario (near our family cabin). That made it pretty special. I was not completely happy with the pattern -- it ended up deeper than I thought a tote bag should be, and the straps didn't felt quite as well as I hoped so they were a little long. But it's still a nice, useful tote bag for my aunt.

Felted iPod Cozy - Bonnie Sennott
When I found out that my sister was getting a pink iPod for Christmas, I knew I needed to make her a cozy to keep it safe in her purse. This knitted up really quickly -- it took much longer for it to dry after felting than it did to make it. I used two vintage buttons to pick up the colors in the yarn.

*Weasley Sweater - "Charmed Knits" by Alison Hansel
This one is still in progress. Yes, it was completely unreasonable for me to think I could knit a sweater for a 6'3" teenager in one weekend. Sheesh! So I'm currently working on it. The boy has been wanting a Weasley sweater for a while now -- I hope to get it done soon.

The yarn is Andean Silk from KnitPicks. Lovely stuff: 55% superfine alpaca, 23% silk, and 22% Merino wool. Soft, silky, and strong. I'm really enjoying working with it. I promise to let you know when it's finally finished and off to its new home....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Creating Clouds with Words

Playing with Wordle.... when I should be wrapping Christmas gifts.

You create word clouds by plugging in text or sending it to a URL. This word cloud was a result of wordle visiting this blog. Fun, yes? It's a snapshot of my blog today... just a very different sort of snapshot.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In the Depth of Winter....

....I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer...

I used this Camus quotation as the springboard for an Etsy treasury celebrating the Winter Solstice. Glimmers of light and color on the darkest, frostiest day of the year....

ETA: It made the front page Sunday evening. Yay!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Questionnaire: Warm Ewe Up Winter Yarn Swap

I held off joining any knitting swaps during the autumn to focus on making Christmas gifts and items for the Etsy shop along with trying to keep within my budget (for once...). But I've been itching to join another. This one is perfect -- it doesn't start until after the holidays and it's run by Amy, a terrific hostess.

Here are my answers to the swap questionnaire. I hope this helps my swap partner get to know me better!

Do you knit or crochet, or both? How long have you been at the craft?

Knit. I pretty much taught myself to knit as a child, but have really only been knitting consistently since Tommy was a baby. I only crochet enough to finish garments...

Do you spin?

I used to. I'd like to get back to it sometime.

What yarns/fibers are your favorites?

Natural fibers, especially soft ones: alpaca, wool, silk, cashmere, and I like linen (even thought it's not especially soft)

What yarns/fibers do you not like?

Please, no synthetics, even just as part of a blend. No novelty yarns... eeek!

What yarns/fibers would you like to try but haven’t?

A swap partner sent me a skein of Handmaiden Big Sea Silk but I haven't had a chance to knit with it yet. It feels heavenly.

What are your favorite colors?

Greens (but not kelly green), reds, most blues. I like most colors.

Colors that you don’t like?

Kelly green, mustard yellows, wimpy pastels.

What are your favorite types of projects to knit/crochet?

I don't really have enough time to work on really complicated stuff. I tend to like bags, hats, some sweaters, that sort of thing. I love felting.

What are you currently working on?

Eeeek! How many hours are left before Christmas? Eeeek! I'm in the early stages of a Hogwarts (Weasley) sweater for Tommy. I must get it done by Christmas! And I was hoping to do more, but fear I'm pretty much out of time.

What is your favorite FO? (Please post a picture if you have one.)

I did a big felted tote in lots of stripes for my sister about 4 years ago (pre-Ravelry, so I don't have photos). I liked how it turned out. And I made an Albert Jacket to donate to Warm Woolies this fall. I used lots of bits and pieces of Mission Falls 1824 wool. It's fun and very colorful.

Are there any techniques that you want to learn?

Nothing that I can think of right at the moment.

Do you have a yarn winder and/or swift? Yes.

How do you store your needles/hooks?

Various ways. Needle holders, a big Tupperware container.

Do you collect anything?

Yes. Cookbooks. Depression era kitchen stuff. Old linens (especially Depression era). Yarn! Fabric.

Do you like sweets?

Yes, but I'm trying to eat them in moderation. Dark chocolate and maple are my favorites.

What are your favorite scents?

Green tea, lemon, Lily of the Valley.

Are you having a birthday during this swap? Nope (September).

Do you have any online wish lists? (Amazon, Loopy Ewe, etc.) Please include a link for your pal.

There's a link to my amazon wish list on the right side of the blog. I don't know about Loopy Ewe -- will have to investigate.

What is your living situation (Are you married? Do you have kids, pets, or both?)

I'm married. My son is going to college and has his own apartment about 45 minutes away. We have one dog (Winston - Golden Retriever) and 6 cats.

Are you allergic to anything?

Nothing that has to do with the swap.

Is there anything else that you would like your pal to know?

Here's my Swap-bot profile -- it'll tell you more about me (if you're curious). Also there are lots of other questionnaires listed on the lower right side of this blog. Feel free to ask any questions you'd like!

Friday, December 19, 2008


I recently ordered some PLARN (recycled plastic yarn) from JesSpins. You send her the raw materials -- I sent plastic grocery bags; plastic mesh from clementines, avocados, and onions; an old cassette tape; etc -- and she spins them up. You pay by the yard -- mine worked out to be 99 yards.

I should receive it next week sometime. I'm looking forward to playing with it... and I promise to have Show & Tell once I've got something completed.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

EtsyBloggers Blog Carnival: Christmas Spotlight

The current Blog Carnival topic for the EtsyBloggers street team is "Christmas Spotlight - Show & tell of a Christmas item in your shop or your favorite gift idea in someone else's shop."

Somehow it seems more fun to highlight items in other shops.... so here's a little glimpse into Heather's Gift Showcase:

My friend Kelli just opened her own Etsy shop (Willowdale) and is featuring "Tasmanian Monsters." (She lives in Tasmania, Australia.) Her monsters are brightly colored, happy, creative beasts. This little guy's name is Abacus. The perfect antidote to the winter blahs, don't you think?

I'm completely fascinated by this shop filled with handmade caramels (Caramel Jubilee). Pomegranate. Chocolate. Licorice. Pumpkin pie. What a lovely little decadent gift!

I love the photographs of Val Cox. Each just glows with color and light. She takes her photographs using a vintage Ansco Rediflex twin reflex camera and her digital Nikon. I have no idea as to how she creates the effects she gets, but I am haunted by this photo of figs in a bowl.

I've gotten to know mercyming through Ravelry and Etsy Sneak Attacks. Her photograph of eggs in a bowl is very different from the photograph above, and just as beautiful. It's the essence of spring.

LizzyClara is another Sneak Attack buddy. Her graphic illustrations are friendly, colorful, and just plain fun! They feature tuxedo'ed cats, spotty dogs, loving birds, and sweet little villages. She offers tags, cards, and prints.

Of course, we've pretty much gone past the time to order gifts to get here by Christmas, but these are great ideas for the future!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I just signed up for a shop on ArtFire. It's a new site like Etsy -- with shops for handmade items -- but much, much smaller.

Now before you rush over there to shop :) I haven't set up my store yet. Not much time right now with work, Etsy orders, and trying to make pretty much all my Christmas gifts. However, I plan to do it soon, and will let you know as soon as I get it up and running.

In the meantime, I'd like to let everyone know about a special offer. Set up a shop right now, get 10 others to set up shops, and you get free shop fees for life!

So if you've been thinking about trying an ArtFire shop, this might be the right time. The deal only runs through the end of the year.

Follow this link and you'll be on my referral list. And thanks!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Calligraphy Meets Craft

I'm a calligraphy snob. I've seen a lot of bad calligraphy in my life and don't care to see any more. 'Nuff said.

However, I adore Katy's calligraphy! Her Etsy shop, KisforCalligraphy is filled with wonderful little bits of gorgeous calligraphy... tags, envelopes, ornaments, envelope seals, some very funny zipper pulls... Her shop changes every time I visit -- and I love to see all the new things she's created. She has a very distinctive style that's casual, easy, fun, and graceful.

Here's more about her (from her profile):
I have a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and a minor in French from the University of Montana. I never expected to be a self-employed professional calligrapher. However, my mom had a sneaking suspicion that I would love calligraphy. She nagged me to take a class as soon as I learned how to write. A couple of decades later I followed her hunch and enrolled myself into a calligraphy class, I am proud to say that I have created a career for myself as a professional calligrapher. Handmade is my creative choice. Whether it is a handmade birthday card or an original place card, it is my belief that giving is best when you are giving handmade. I cannot imagine a day without doing calligraphy or creating something new. And my props to Etsy for making it possible for artists and artisans around the world to share and sell their creations!

Katy and I are EtsyPaper pals this month, and I'm so pleased to be paired up with her. I heartily encourage you to visit her shop -- I guarantee you'll find some goodies you must have in your life!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

EtsyBlogger of the Month: Spotted Cow Soaps

I first met Ms. Moo of Spotted Cow Soaps a month or so ago while participating in a Sneak Attack. She's always so positive and energetic -- perfect for Sneak Attacks! ...and now she's the EtsyBloggers Team Blogger of the Month. A terrific choice.

She was one of the reasons I decided to join EtsyBloggers. I was incredibly impressed by how active and encouraging she (and other team members) were.

Spotted Cow Soaps is located deep in the heart of Vermont amongst the mountain views and dairy farms. Ms. Moo has been formulating and selling homemade natural soaps for over 8 years. She started by making soaps for herself, to cure some personal skin issues and ended up with a business that has "grown into an obsession and love for handcrafting great smelling soaps."

Her Etsy shop is filled with lovely handmade soaps, including the gorgeous [limited edition] Christmas Candy Cane soap (pictured), super-fatted with coconut oil, palm oil, shea butter, olive oil, sunflower oil AND soybean oil! In addition to the soaps, she also sells body lotion, bubble bath, bath salts, hand-crocheted organic cotton bath accessories, and soy candles.

I'm sure you know of someone who deserves a little pampering. Yourself, perhaps?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Favorite Brownies!

To help you prepare for National Brownie Day on December 8, here is my favorite recipe for Triple Chocolate Brownies:

4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
3/4 cup sifted flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square pan.

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler over moderate heat. Set aside to cool.

Beat eggs in an electric mixer until foamy and increased in volume. On low speed, gradually add the sugar, vanilla, salt, and chocolate mixture. Beat until just barely mixed. Add flour and beat just to blend. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Bake approximately 35 minutes -- until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out barely clean. Cool.

Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup whipping cream
5 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

Place the cream in a small saucepan over moderate heat and cook, uncovered, until there is a skin on top and small bubbles around the edge. Add the chocolate and stir lightly until melted.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl (must be cool) of an electric mixer. Beat at medium speed until mixture becomes smooth, shiny, and thick. Spread on cooled brownies. Cut into small squares. And enjoy!

Flowers in the Snow

Frances of Homemade Originals is the host of the current EtsyBloggers Blog Carnival topics. The topics? December 8 is "National Brownie Day" and "Winter Flowers Day." I love both topics -- so I'll blog about both of them (look for the 2nd one soon).

There's something particularly magical about flowers that bloom when winter is raging outside.

Years ago I worked at a wonderful old general store in Ann Arbor. We carried amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs and taught lots and lots of folks how to pot them up for indoor blooms.

Those are the easy blooms -- the ones that normally grow outdoors (like hyacinths and tulips) are the difficult ones. You must force them, basically make them believe they've gone through a winter.

Paperwhites, a type of daffodil/jonquil are beautiful but quite aromatic. Their scent is heavy and not always pleasant -- especially when enclosed in a small room. My preference is for the amaryllis, a strikingly beautiful flower.

What do you do with an amaryllis bulb? I remember it all quite clearly. Use a pot about 1 inch larger than the bulb. We used 6" pots because the bulbs we sold were very large. The size of the bulb will relate to the size of the bloom.

Pot them up with about 1/4 to 1/3 of the bulb showing above the soil. Water them sparingly. And wait... simple as that. Very soon a shoot of bud and leaves will emerge and grow quite quickly. You may have to support the stem if it gets too tall. ...and enjoy your beautiful, bloom as the snow falls outdoors!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Manic Monday #144

It's "Cyber Monday" today, the ceremonial kick-off of the holiday online shopping season in the United States. Do you do much online shopping, holiday or otherwise?

I'm completely addicted to online shopping. I'm such a fan of creature comforts -- I'd much rather do my shopping in my slippers (my favorites are pictured) with a cup of tea. And, honestly, I'm not a fan of crowds... or that nasty lighting you find in many stores. The exception, of course, is local and/or fresh stuff.

Are you a Mac or a PC user? Why?

PC. I really haven't had a choice. I've always had PCs at work (mostly not my decision) and needed to move work back and forth. And years ago, there wasn't an easy way to do it between a Mac and a PC.

What website do you spend more time on than you care to admit?

Etsy. Flickr. Ravelry. Between those three I've spent waaaay too many hours of my life!