Monday, March 30, 2009

Dana's Spring Hat

I finished Dana's spring hat today! Which is kind of funny since we are supposed to get about ten inches of snow. But that's all right because, when it finally turns into spring, we will be ready.

Dana selected this yarn after much consideration. It reminds me of an Easter egg because of the swirling pastels. She passed right over the yarn that matches her spring jacket, which is a salmon kind of hue. But that's OK, too, because life is not about matching.

She was in such a silly mood and insisted on posing in many different positions, both still and in motion.

See that cool button? I recently started a button jar, recently like two months ago or so. There are not many buttons in it. But, like most of us, I remember going through my mother's button tin as a child and admiring the many colors, textures and patterns. So I started my own and already it has come in handy! This button was just waiting for this hat.

The hat pattern is called Pi Topper and is based on a shawl pattern by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Do you see the sort of snail-like swirling on the crown? The variegated yarn enhances the swirliness, but it is visible on the solid colored hats I saw on Ravelry, too.

The yarn is Cascade Fixation, which is cotton and elastic. It is super stretchy, which is so wonderful for a growing head. Or really, for a growing anything. It is DK weight, I think, which is very nice for spring. Or, so I have heard. What is this "spring" I keep talking about?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Getting Past the Tantrum

I am sorry for my tantrum post last time. You could probably guess that I was very frustrated with the circumstances of my crafting life. Things are better now. For one thing, my sewing machine is fixed! I brought it to a local sewing machine repairman named Jim, who was incredibly friendly and oh so quick. I dropped the machine off on Friday afternoon and he called Tuesday morning to tell me it was done! I thought it was going to be a big deal. It turned out I was wrong. The whole thing was only $59-he was able to fix it by giving it a standard servicing. I am thrilled!

I also got some knitting done. I ordered yarn so I can finish my Odessa hat. While I wait for it to get here, I knit a hat for my aunt's birthday gift.

I found a pattern on Ravelry that I absolutely love, and then Dana helped me pick out yarn for it. It's Malabrigo, which has quite the fan club in the knitting world, and now I know why. It is lovely to work with and the colors are amazing. We picked a warm red called Sealing Wax and are keeping our fingers crossed that it matches something in my aunt's winter wardrobe. Nora helped select the buttons, though she was disappointed I wouldn't spring for rhinestones.

I also got a bit of mending done. Nothing too crazy, but I did get to test out my repaired sewing machine. See, for a while our dryer was acting completely nuts. It was leaving weird marks on things that I initally thought were burns but eventually realized was gunk of some sort. I did a major online search and finally figured out what was wrong: this piece of felt between the frame and the drum was worn out. This meant that pieces of clothing would get caught in the gap. Sometimes they would get stains, sometimes they would tear and, on special days, they would get stains and tears. I found a fantastic website explaining how to fix it. I ordered up the required parts and Kevin spent an hour or two taking out the old and installing the new. And now it works! No rips, no stains, no weirdness.

This skirt was a victim. I really love this skirt, as it is super soft and super simple. I am not a shorts kind of girl, so I spend the summer in skirts and dresses. This skirt was lucky enough to get the dryer double whammy of stain/rip. While Nora and I were selecting buttons for the aforementioned hat, I found a bunch of patches for sale. When I saw this owl, I knew it was meant to be.

I didn't think to take a "before" picture, but the owl covered everything but one spot. I was most concerned with covering the multitude of little holes, and I did accomplish that. It isn't a perfect match, but I think it is pretty cute.

I am also working on a spring hat for Dana, but it is not ready for photographing yet. Hopefully later this week! I am not in a huge rush to finish it since it is currently 27 degrees and is clearly not spring hat weather yet.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Projects Gone Awry

I feel like my life is one big stalled project right now. It seems like every time I get almost done with something, there is a problem. And I have to say, it is starting to get to me. Spring is a time of new beginnings, but I can't start anything because I have too many things waiting to be completed. Not to whine or anything.

A couple of weeks ago, I FINALLY cast on this hat. It is MY hat. It is the very first thing I have knit for myself. I have had the yarn for months, but I kept finding other projects to work on and I never got around to making it. I selected the yarn because it matches the lining in my parka. Sadly, I recently noticed that the fabric around the entire zipper is starting to wear through and I can see tears getting ready to emerge. I have had that parka for about five winters, so it isn't like it is brand new. But it is sad that it took me five winters to make a matching hat, and I won't even get to wear them together.

And based on the photo above, you can probably guess why: Once again, I ran out of yarn. Do you have any idea how frustrating this is for me? I found this pattern on Ravelry. It is called Odessa. I read through more than a hundred posts about this hat, and I can't remember reading about anyone running out of yarn. Once again, my tight knitting has me in a pinch. I ordered this yarn online. The website has $6.99 shipping, which is fine if you are ordering a bunch of yarn, but I just need this one ball. And I can't find this color in stock at any other website. I am going to attempt to have a local yarn store order it for me. Until I can get around to doing that, I decided to start a sewing project, which leads me to...

this dress. A few weeks ago, I had both girls with me at the fabric store. I can't remember why I was there, which is sort of scary, but Nora saw this fairy fabric and fell for it. It has all of her favorite colors, and the fairy wings are sparkly silver. She asked me to make her a dress out of it. I told her, "Not today." A week ago, I was at the fabric store again, this time alone. I saw the fairy fabric and was reminded of her request. A close friend of ours is getting married in April and I thought a fairy dress would be the perfect wedding outfit. The store owner and her sister helped me pick out a really lovely pattern. They actually took out the instructions and walked me through them, and assured me I was capable of making this dress. I was crazy enough to believe them. See, I had visions of a giddy happy Nora whirling and twirling in the three-tiered skirt, and those visions sidetracked me from reality.

I started this project on Friday night (I know-party time!). By Saturday afternoon, the skirt was done in all of its whirly twirliness. The bodice was tiny and seemed so easy! When I got to the yoke, the directions and diagrams looked weird. They weren't making any sense to me. I read through them about ten times and made my pieces match the diagrams again and again. Still, it seemed off. But I decided that I was too focused on the details and couldn't see the big picture. If I just followed the directions one step at a time, it would come together. So I pinned the everloving daylights out of that yoke, stitched it up, followed the remaining few steps, and held the dress up.

It did not look like the finished photos.

I resisted the urge to cry or vomit. (You have no idea how many hours I had into it at this point-I am no good at sewing and I was determined to make a beautiful dress, so I took my sweet time with every step in an effort to avoid all errors.)

I tried to reason with myself: while it didn't look like the photo, it was still cute (not exactly true). Nora would like the ruffle yoke (probably true).

So Nora got home from Grandma and Grandpa's house Sunday afternoon and promptly tried the dress on. What did my lovely daughter say?


Wow-so not the response I had envisioned! Clearly the upside down piece (yup-that was the problem. I sewed the yoke on upside down, following the instructions EXACTLY. I swear!) made the bodice tight. It squeezed her arms. Which, when you think about it, it kind of crazy. Nora, after all, is 6 1/2 and weighs about 36 pounds. Her arms are not exactly beefy.

There was absolutely no way to fix this because (hold your breath here) I had already sewed in the buttonholes. Seriously.

After much thought, I happened to glance at a dress hanging in the closet that has a really cute bodice that fits Nora well. I have decided to copy it. After I have calmed down from this horrible experience, that is. A wise woman (hi, Tracy!) once told me she has no interest in making garments. Why, oh WHY did I not listen to her?!

So while I work up the nerve to attempt a new bodice, I decided to make a tote for my good friend Erica, who saw Dana's tote on this very blog and asked me to make her one, though with some modifications. Specifically, she wanted it bigger.

So Monday night I cut out the pieces for the tote. Tuesday I stitched it together. When I got to the final stages (specifically, the handles and the topstitching), my sewing machine started to do something funky: it would only sew in reverse! Do you have any idea how hard it is to sew in reverse, when you can't see what you are doing? It was not good. And it still isn't. I finished the tote and mailed it off to Iowa without saying too many swears, but my machine needs help. I heard it making some scary noises, so who knows what else is going on. The thing is, I can't finish Nora's dress until I get this machine fixed. So if you have a suggestion for where I can get it fixed, where the people will be nice to me (trust me-the local sewing machine repair people do not have friendly reputations), please direct me there! I have other sewing to do, too, and having my machine sitting in the closet is bumming me out.

So that's where I am at with projects. I am about to start another hat, but I realized today that I don't have double pointed or circular needles in remotely the right size. So I guess I am going shopping for needles first. I am sitting here shaking my head, eyes closed. Why is everything stalling on me?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Banana Bread Banana Bread Banana Bread Banana Bread

Look what we did today!

We go through both banana-free and banana-lovin' streaks here. We just finished up banana-free and are back to lovin'. Except that in the meantime, EIGHT bananas got very, very dark in our fruit basket. So today we mixed and baked four batches of banana bread, one after another. I only have the one bread pan because I fell for the Pampered Chef stoneware bread pan and, well, they don't just give those away. Which is fine, because how often do I bake more than one loaf of something in a day?

The recipe is my favorite banana bread recipe and came from this book by local cookbook guru Bea Ojakangas. I now have the recipe memorized, which is kind of nice because I make it kind of a lot due to the whole banana love/hate. It freezes well, is very easy and is moist and delicious, plus there is the whole low fat thing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I made myself a pair of pajama pants today.

I so rarely make anything for myself that this is pretty big news.

When I brought Dana to the fabric store last week to get a few fat quarters for her tote bag, I saw this owl fabric. I tried my best to convince her to have an owl tote bag, but she would have none of it. She wanted something purple. But this fabric-it was killing me. I totally fell for it and I could not, for the life of me, think of a way a grown woman could use owl fabric.The store owner suggested pajamas and I decided she is either the world's best salesperson or some type of genius. Heck, maybe both. Then she even found me a couple of patterns to choose from.

I modified the chosen pattern a tiny bit by adding some contrasting fabric to the cuffs. And then, because I really do not like to hem, I made myself some homemade bias tape (I think that's what it's called) out of owl fabric scraps, and sewed that below the yellow.

I love these pants so much!

I have to say they are kind of big. I was so excited to make them that I didn't read the size chart very thoroughly. But I just don't even care. If it starts to bug me, I will figure out how to make them smaller. But for now, I heart them.

Can you believe how much sewing I have been doing lately? Me neither! And you know what? I have not one but TWO more sewing projects in line. Actually, maybe even three. Actually, now that I think about it, I might have four. Now I am a little scared.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Another Tote and Reason to Celebrate

Remember how I made a fat quarter tote for Nora to haul her water bottle and legwarmers to gymnastics in? Well, I made another one.

Dana picked out her own fabric. Her favorite color is purple, so I shouldn't have been surprised at her selections. The lining/contrast fabric actually has a shiny silver design on it. So flashy!

I made Dana a tote for three reasons. First of all, she needed something to transport her shoes, her Read to Me book and whatever toy she checked out back to ECFE each week. I feel like she is old enough to haul her own stuff instead of making me haul all of this in MY tote bag. And I feel like she will be happy to haul her own stuff in this pretty little bag made with fabric she selected. Second, I have mom guilt. I felt that if I made one for Nora, I needed to make one for Dana, too. It's only fair. Third, the first one was fast and easy and I wanted to make another. I enjoy combining fabrics, and I am still working on that straight line goal. I figure the more I practice the more likely I will actually master my 2009 goal.

My sweetie brought this home for me. He had his thesis approved tonight, and both he and his advisor are really excited about the topic. The thesis has been through many, many, many phases and it is a wonderful feeling to know that there is an end in sight at last. This is a little something to celebrate with. He knows me so well! He got himself a slab of beef to grill. And he is oh so cheerful, both about the thesis and the beef. Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Fat Quarter Tote

A couple of weeks ago, the Craft: blog had a blurb on this fat quarter tote. Because one of my goals for 2009 is to learn to sew a straight line, I thought I should make this. I mean, a fat quarter is $2.50, and I can always use a tote bag. Plus, the tutorial looked comprehensive and easy to follow, even for someone who is trying to learn to sew a straight line. (I want to insert here that not only did I take Home Ec. in seventh grade, as required, but I ALSO took an elective sewing class in tenth grade. I guess I am a slow learner.)

I picked up the fabric at Hannah Johnson Fabrics, a lovely new fabric shop near my house. She has such gorgeous fabric that it was painful to have to choose just two. I just told myself that if I can get through this one tote without using too many bad words, I can make another one (or two?) with some of the other fabric I love. I am very happy with those terms.

On Friday, Nora had her very first non-relative slumber party. A little girl from school/Brownies slept at our house. They were happy to include Dana in their play, so I took the opportunity to set up my mat on the kitchen table and cut out my pieces. I only made one mistake, which only required me to buy one more fat quarter of the lining fabric. You know how they say you should measure twice and cut once? Yeah. Now I know why.

I have been putting in 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there all week, and I finally finished it today! And you know what? The only curse words I said were because of the iron. (Don't tell Kevin, though, because he sort of forbid me from using the iron about four years ago, when I burned myself badly enough to leave a gross, 3-inch long scar on my forearm while attempting to iron his shirt.) The finished product is sort of tall and narrow, which will be perfect for Nora to tote her Klean Kanteen and leg warmers (I actually need to still knit those for her, but at least I have the yarn) to gymnastics.

Like most of my stuff, the pattern is pretty wild. But I like it. I would never wear a skirt or, well, any article of clothing, out of either of these fabrics, but they make a super fun, totally un-boring tote bag.

And you know what? I am coming along nicely on the straight line thing. I bought a 1/4" presser foot for my sewing machine a couple years ago and never took it out of the box. Dumb, I know. But I used it for most of this project, and you know what? It has a super handy edge on it to help you guide your fabric under it just right, so your seam is exactly 1/4". Genius! I wish my other presser feet had this feature. I will have to look into that.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pizza for the March Craft: Along

The other day, the projects for the March Craft: Along were posted over at Finnyknits. Both projects interest me this month. One is for quilted coasters. Now, I have no use for coasters since we do not own a coffee table and our kitchen table isn't really the type to require coasters. But I bought a walking foot for my sewing machine about two years ago now, and I have yet to use it. I am not really sure how. The coasters seem like a great opportunity to try machine quilting without investing much time or cash. So I plan to make those later this month.

The second project was pizza crust. Specifically, this recipe. I already had homemade pizza on our menu for the week, and I figured it would be easy enough to try a different crust.

Not being one to follow the rules in a recipe, I did make a couple of minor changes. First, I subbed 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour for 1/2 cup of the strong flour (also known as bread flour). I accidentally ran out of bread flour. Oops. Second, I had to add a ton of water-like half a cup, one teaspoon at a time-to get the consistency right. Third, my children do not like pizza sauce. They LOVE margherita pizza, which is sauceless, so to get some flavoring, I always add some spices right to the pizza dough. Here, I added 2 cloves of pressed garlic and 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Nothing too fancy, but it does add some flavor. Finally, I used the dough hook on my stand mixer to do the kneading. I am just no good at kneading, and the mixer minimizes the floury mess, which I appreciate.

I rolled the crust out on a pizza stone and topped it with a block of shredded mozzarella, a sliced tomato and a bunch of fresh basil. This pre-baked pizza looks so pasty. Like not very appetizing.

The finished product. There weren't any baking instructions (or, at least, I didn't SEE any baking instructions) so I set the oven for 425 and stuck this gem in the oven for 15 minutes. In retrospect, I should have checked on it sooner. It got a wee bit brown. However, it was quite delicious.

So what is my verdict on this pizza dough? It is good, but I think I will stick to my regular recipe. It isn't so much the flavor as it is the time. My normal recipe requires no rising, so I can decide to make a pizza at 5pm and we will be eating it by 5:30. Now THAT I love.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sam!

My brother's birthday is January 15. We had the typical Sunday dinner the week of his special day, and Liz made a mighty fine carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (I am drooling at the memory). I had a hat all planned for him, but had not had a chance to actually knit it yet. It was just sitting in my Ravelry queue waiting...

Trying to find the best yarn for the job offered a couple of challenges. First of all, Sam isn't really a hat guy. He is, however, a runner. And it is frighteningly cold here much of the year. So I figured a warm, cozy running hat would be useful and more stylish than the UMD hat he has been wearing while he runs. Also, Sam keeps his head shaved pretty close to his skull. So the yarn had to be warm but completely itch free. I searched for my standard soft yarn-Debbie Bliss Cashmerino-but was not happy with the colors in stock. So I searched for the counter yarn to Cashmerino: Rowan Cashsoft. And right away I found a color called Donkey and knew it was the one. Did I love the hue? It's fine. The thing here is the word play. Sam's full name is, of course, Samuel. And our dad has always, always called him Muel. And Donkey-Muel-same thing in my eyes. The fact that his favorite color is black just didn't matter. Also, I could not find black in stock in either Cashmerino or Cashsoft. But Donkey! How could I say no?

I finally cast on on February 17 and finished on Friday. Meaning two days ago. I brought it to Sunday dinner today and gave it to him, only 1.5 months late. (I should add here that my family does Sunday dinner every other week in the winter and every week in the summer. This is very convenient since my parents host and they live next door to us. Sam and Liz live directly behind our parents, right through the woods. Our cousin Jeremy and his family live right behind us, through the woods. And Alex, our sister, lives off of our little commune with her family and has to drive. We love them anyway.)

I upcycled one of Dana's paintings for the wrapping. (Yes, it is too upcycled!) She painted it using the glitter paint she got from Santa. It is lovely and shimmery, which is perfect for any grown man. Unfortunately, tape does not stick to glitter paint. Fortunately, we had some purple staples in the stapler and they were a festive addition to the package.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of Sam in his Donkey hat. Fortunately, I took photos of Kevin modeling it so I could post them on Ravelry (the knitter's version of crack). See how it folds up so it is double-layered over the ears? This makes it extra special warm.

My attempt at capturing the extra cool decreases on camera. They look curved, which is really fun. The hat makes me think of a Hershey's Kiss. The pattern is called Jacques Cousteau and can be found here.