Sunday, December 20, 2009

Signs of Christmas

Change for the good?

Thank goodness we are doing well this year despite the economic down turn, but it wasn't long ago that things weren't all that great but as in this story, I found a new sense of strength, creativity and purpose when times were financially tough. Maybe if more people had to do this, we wouldn't be in a jam because they wouldn't be trying to fill the void in there lives with things.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dress up time

I finished my Halloween costume this weekend but you don't get to see a picture of it until after the party. But rest assured, it does involve a FABULOUS pair of shoes.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

It's been awhile

I have been trying to fill in the holes in my wardrobe and one of the things I have been lacking is a neutral, all purpose (winter) sweater. So I knitted this one out of Lion Brand's Wool-Ease, which is a middle of the road kind of yarn, mostly acrylic with a touch of wool. I orginally made a cardigan out of it but was disappointed with the fit so I unraveled it. This sweater, however, turned out PERFECT. It is exactly what I wanted, a drapey, yet shapely knit that I can wear with jeans or belted with my black beaded skirt.

I did something you are "never" suppose to do with yarn. I ironed it. I stuck the iron right on the sweater (those of you who are "by the rules" - not that we know who actually made up these "rules"- might want to stop reading now) and steamed it till it the yarn gave out it's last dying breath (otherwise referred to as "killing" the yarn).

For those of you who don't knit, generally you don't put the weight of an iron on the knit for the very reason that I did it. It takes all the elasticity out of the yarn. The steam and weight of the iron gets rid of all the stretch, generally something you want to keep in, especially for those body hugging curves.

But I did it on purpose for several reasons. First of all, (and I am kicking myself for not getting a "before" picture), the yarn was a little kinky from the previous sweater I had knit with it. Ironing it evened out all of the stitching. Second, less expensive acrylic yarn tends to be a little bit on the scratchy side. Killing the yarn can create a soft fabric (now if you have a REALLY cheap acrylic, sometimes no amount of steam ironing will get rid of the scratch. It's just best to use that yarn for something else). Finally, I didn't want to create a second skin, I wanted it to be on the drapey side so that it would have a more elegant look and killing the fabric created a beautiful drape in this yarn.

When I tried this sweater on before I ironed it, it fit just fine but it wasn't exactly flattering. The ribbing pulled in (especially on the sleeves at the cuff) and the kinky stitches looked sloppy. It looked like a ho-hum, "homemade" sweater. After I ironed it, the cuffs flared out nicely (doesn't it look like I have monkey arms?) and the sweater skims my body, giving me some definition in the waist (I did build in darts) but not squeezing me like a stuffed sausage.

Overall, very pleased with my effort.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The September Issue

If you have any interest in fashion, I suggest you go see "The September Issue", a documentary about putting together the September 2008 issue of Vogue (the BIG fashion issue). You think the movie is going to be more about Anna Wintour, Vogue's famous editor but Wintour, while a fashion genius in her own right, really doesn't have the personality for film. She remains guarded and elusive throughout the whole movie (and while the Vogue offices look very much like the offices in "The Devil Wears Prada", the vibe of the actual Vogue office and it's staff seems more laid back - well as laid back as you can get under constant publishing deadlines.)
The real star of this movie is Vogue's creative director Grace Coddington. The woman is a wonderful storyteller. Her photo shoots and styling are phenomenal. She's one of those people I want at my fantasy dinner party.
Also, Andre Leon Talley is hoot playing tennis with more diamonds around his wrist and Louis Vuitton luggage than you can shake a stick at!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Obsession

I found this book titled "Stella" in the fashion section at Half Price Books. I originally thought it would be about Stella McCartney but found out it was about a model named Stella Maret who did a lot of work for Jacques Fath. Now, I had heard of Fath, but after looking at this book, which is primarily photos of his clothes, I was obsessed.

The book has some amazing examples of his designs as well as other well-known designers from that era (the suit with the bow is a Lanvin)

I have a whole new appreciation for 50's fashion and for Fath, who was obviously underrated in his day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What I did on my vacation

I finished up piddly details on several projects: the olive dress got a zipper (it looks awesome on, can't wait for some fall weather and a dinner date) and hem and the pink sweater got faux pockets and buttons. Then I made this shirt and a black trumpet skirt. I tried to take a picture of the skirt but the camera couldn't handle the contrast. You can see a smidge of it under the shirt.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Look Familiar?

I'm not one to make the same thing twice, but I had the yarn in white and decided to make another one of these tops. I made it a little shorter this time around.

The dress is the one I was debating whether to go navy or use this deep olive green. I thought navy would win but I had way more yardage of the navy so I decided to save it for another pattern.

This dress is actually from the same pattern as the blue dress I made last month. I still have to put in the zipper and hem the sleeves and bottom.

Friday, July 31, 2009


Necklace that I made today out of old jewelry. Pendant was originally an earring, blue pearl beads were from a necklace and the clear beads I bought. I love repurposing old jewelry into something new. Makes me sad that I never got a hold of my grandmother's costume jewelry. I bet I could have had lots of fun with that.

Compliments the sweater nicely, if I do say so myself.

Final (?) Thoughts

I finished the pink cardigan, all it needs is buttons - I'm thinking of going with silver. I am still debating if I will put the pockets on. This sweater has languished for about a year in a drawer, almost finished. I spent a lot of money on this yarn as it is a fine merino wool, which is why I picked a classic shape so that I could wear it for a long time. I just had to put on the front bands and collar. It actually took a little bit of engineering on the right way to do it so that it didn't cheapen the overall look of the garment. I managed to figure it out, though I ripped out the button band once because the first buttonholes were horrible. I tried a different technique and added more buttons, and then with a little bit of blocking, ending up with a very nice looking buttonhole band.

Overall this month has been pretty interesting. Did I actually succeed in buying only those things I needed? No, but I don't feel bad about it. What I realized was this wasn't an exercise in deprivation. I've already done that (out of necessity, not out of choice) and it's no fun (and why diets don't work). It was about becoming a more conscious consumer. Do I need to spend $5 on a magazine that I will read once? Probably not. Do I need 15 different shades of pink nail polish? Once again, I decided no (but I did have to think about that for a minute). If something is on sale for $10 do you buy it because it is on sale or because you really love it or need it?

I have started to reframe how I look at my life and my purchases. It's about quality over quantity. For instance, I did go and see two movies this month. They are obviously not a necessity, but I enjoyed seeing them and spending the time with my friend, who I treated for her birthday. To me that was a quality purchase - it enhanced my life and our friendship. It's about figuring out what really matters and then going with that.

Also, since I didn't have the distraction of shopping, I spent a lot of time making things. I think I accomplished quite a bit this month. It reminded me how much I really enjoy sewing and knitting. This is my thing - creating fashion. It's what makes me happy. I get a little thrill every time I figure out how to do something I didn't do before. Sewing and knitting are like puzzles, you have to figure out the best way to put the pieces together. I enjoy that. Others may enjoy playing sports, cooking, gardening or making music, but for me it's creating fashion.

The point is this: we all have something that we like doing, our own creative spirit (creativity isn't just about art, it's about personal expression) and when you give your time to it, you fill that void inside yourself that you think that money, food or things can fill.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 27

I am wearing the pink blouse from Saturday's post today with a cute black/white/pink/green print skirt. I think it looks cute but the males in my household don't notice these things.

I also finished knitting the armbands on this tank top. It fits well, the ribbing is very flattering. It will be very versatile - I can wear it alone in the summer or under a jacket in the winter.

I did a major reorganizing of my fabrics. Well, it wasn't so much a reorganizing as it was digging up the piles of fabric to see what I actually have. I started matching up fabric to actual patterns I could sew with them. I have some wonderful black wool that I am going to make a gored skirt with and then I have a very cute dress but can't decide if I want to make it in this very dark olive green or navy. I think the navy is going to win.

I also have two knitting projects that I haven't finished and decided before I start anything new I have to finish them. One is a pink cardigan (I spent a lot of money on the wool for it - it is soft and luxurious and beautiful). It's practically done, all I have to do is knit the bands, collar and pocket and sew in one sleeve (the other is already sewn). The other project is a blue cardigan that has wonderful texture to it with cable and bobble stitches. I need to finsh the back and sleeves on that one.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 25

This blouse was interesting to work on. The fabric shifts alot so it was hard to get a handle on it but it didn't turn out too bad - a cute little summer top with some nice embellishments.
I also have another knit tank top in progress so hope to be able to post that soon. It's a lot simpler than the other one but still cute.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day 18

Sweater to match skirt is finished. I was a little concerned that it wouldn't fit but it's pretty stretchy and it's fine. Not only does it go with the skirt I made but I have another skirt that I can wear it with and didn't even realize it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Day 11

I won't bore you with day by day details, instead I'll focus on the finished products. Here is a dress that I completed. Luckily I had a zipper to match.
Picking the correct size in a sewing pattern can be tricky. They aren't sized like ready-to-wear. You have to go by your measurements and even then you have to check how much ease they put into the pattern. I went down a size for this dress because it had way to much ease in it and I am glad I did. It fits perfectly.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Days 6 & 7

I continue working on my knitting so nothing new to show there.
On Tuesdays, I have volunteered to teach a sewing class to teens at a local non-profit. The experience has been eye-opening. First of all, I was WAY too ambitious with my project, but in my defense, I was under the impression that the teens would SIGN-UP for the class, as in make a commitment to be at the class each week. That apparently is not the way things work at this place. Unfortunately, I have not had much direction from the director of the facility (in her defense, this was thrown at her at the last minute) so I pretty much dug myself a hole with this one. I don't mind working with the teens but if I had known that each week I would be getting a totally different group of girls (there is one girl who is very dedicated and has been there every week. I will make sure she gets her project done) I would have structured the class differently. I would have had a small little project they could conceivably complete in 2 hours, rather than an ongoing project where each class builds on the last.
I have learned a lot from this experience, it hasn't turned me off to teaching teens, but I am wondering if I should switch gears next class so that I can bring some closure to it because at the rate I'm going we are not making a lot of progress. Of course, I also decided that I am not taking any more new students until we finish this round. It may mean that next week I only have 2 students, but that's fine with me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Day 5

This is a tank top that I started knitting to go with the brown skirt that is in yesterday's post. The flowers on the skirt are actually an aqua color and this yarn just happened to match perfectly.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Day 4

Today's focus - skirts. Both of these skirts are actually remakes. I found skirts at a thrift store. Both were too big for me but I loved the fabric. The grey was a frumpy, long, old lady skirt but I loved the embroidery on the bottom and I figured worse case scenario, I could make a pillow with it. But I managed to actually get a skirt out of it. Unfortunately it is going to remain incomplete until the end of this month.
First of all, I like the length but still need to hem it, so I am going to create a bias binding hem - there will be a nice ribbon of black satin. I think it will look fab. Secondly, even though the original skirt had a lining AND I was able to cut out a skirt from the main fabric, I was NOT able to get a complete pattern cut from the lining fabric. Go figure. So I need more fabric for the lining (trust me, I scoured my stash and no suitable fabric for the lining was found.)

The brown skirt was a similar story except that I had already sewn it up except for the hem, so I just finished it.

By the way, the blouse is done.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Day 3 - Almost blew it

Blouse is sewn. Looks much better in white (and will be more versatile) than the print I used for the first one. Just have to do buttonholes and buttons. Did find buttons that will work.
Had a close call today. I've been eyeing a pair of boots on Zappos but they didn't have my size and wouldn't you know they emailed me today saying they came in. But when I went to check it out, they really didn't have my size ( I didn't think they were available in 8 so I tried to order an 8.5 but they DO come in an 8). I probably would have blown it for those boots. Hopefully it will take another month for my size to come in!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Be Very Afraid

For those of you who think I am crazy for doing this challenge this month, here are some pictures of my stash (although I admit these pictures are not good evidence that I am NOT crazy...) Note that this isn't ALL of my fabric and yarn (but it is a majority of it.)

Day 2

(Note, these posts will actually be a day behind) So far, so good. Here is a blouse pattern that I cut out. I've made this pattern before so I know the fit is good, but last time I made it I did it in a print and realized that was a mistake, so I am doing it in white this time. The hardest part about this month is going to be finding zippers, buttons, trim, etc, to match the fabric I have. I have a pretty big stash of those too, but by the end of this month I may have several half finished projects because I need to buy buttons or zippers.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day 1

One necklace completed. Of course, the shopping gods are conspiring against me as I got a whole bunch of coupons (Half Price Books, no less) in the mail today.



We have been doing a lot of little fix-ups around the house the past month - new tile, light fixtures, paint, etc and I have been incredibly busy shopping for said fixtures, coordinating trades people and painting. As much as I love decorating, I am a little burnt out and the wallet is smoking a bit too.
So I decided that in July I would institute a self-imposed ban on buying anything that wasn't necessary. My spending would be limited to the essentials like food/toiletries, gas and medication. Period. Nothing else. No, no Half-Price Books, no craft stores, thrift shops, garage sales, shoe stores, etc. NOTHING.
It's only day one and I am starting to get heart palpitations. But the whole reason that I decided to do this was because of my stash. My yarn/fabric/jewelry making stash. I have enough to make several wardrobes and decided that if I eliminate the shopping for the stuff (which, I'll admit, is half the fun) that I would actually have time to make the stuff.
Of course I did do some pre-July stocking up (sewing patterns, jewelry parts and of course, the Victoria Secret jeans which were on sale and are the first to actually fit me AND they had a 36" inseam so I can wear them with heels). The goal is that by the end of July I will have made a significant contribution to my wardrobe - clothes and accessories.
Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Taming the Acrylic Beast

Inevitably, whenever I am knitting in a group, the discussion of acrylic yarns comes up. Now there are some decent acrylics and acrylic blends out there but this discussion is usually about the "cheap" acrylics (I will not mention brands but you know what I am talking about).
Don't get me wrong, I love and would prefer knitting with good yarn. I recently made a baby blanket out of a bamboo yarn. It was wonderful to knit with and was so soft and pretty. I have splurged on merino wool, again it was great to knit with and feels wonderful.
But here's the thing, I happen to have a fair amount of that "cheap" acrylic. I have an "in" with a thrift store. They save all their yarn for me. And since I want them to continue to do so, I tend to buy whatever they have, I take the "cheap" acrylic so that when the mother load comes in, (some wonderful knitter who has gone to the big yarn store in the sky, who's clueless family would just be happy to unload her stash, choosing to fight over who's going to get the jewelry, not the yarn) they'll call me.
Now, there are many uses for this yarn - afghans (it makes very warm blankets), toys, handbags, flowers - but you wouldn't normally think to actually make a garment from it. It's kind of scratchy and has no drape. It is a little bit harder on your hands but I find working with recycled sari yarn more taxing on my joints, personally. I have had some that I just couldn't knit with so I have donated that to schools and senior centers. But for the most part, I really can't bear to part with most yarns. There is always something I can do with it - make pom-poms to decorate gifts, etc.

So I decided to do a little experimenting. I knit up 2 exact samples. One sample I just washed (in warm water with fabric softener) and dried (on the delicate cycle of my dryer). The other I killed. You heard me right, I killed it. Killing is basically ironing the fabric with steam. I put the entire weight of the iron onto the sample and steamed the bejesus out of it until it had no life left in it. Then I washed and dried it as I had done the first one.

Washing with fabric softener and drying only on the first sample did get rid of some of the stiffness and scratch. It was good to know for taking care of afghans. But it did little for the drape and it was still rough. (I wish I had feel-a-vision).

This shows the killed sample on the left and the washed only sample on the right. And in the pictures below, the killed sample (left) actually has a nice drape to it while the washed only sample (right) is still fairly stiff and unwielding.
So maybe there is some hope for this "cheap" acrylic. The key would be to make a big enough gauge swatch, kill it, wash and dry it and THEN get your gauge. The killed swatch has 7 sts X 10 rows =2" and the other swatch has 8 st X 12 rows = 2" so it makes a difference.

I can definitely see the application for some casual winter sweaters.

Now excuse me while I hunt up some acrylic.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I have been hard at work and here is a teaser: my inspiration board.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Etsy Update

For those of you following my etsy store (, first of all, thanks. Second, the "shop" is undergoing some major revisions right now. The "new and improved" stitchplay will be up by summer with some exciting new designs.

Until then, thank you for your patience and patronage.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sewing Lessons I am destined to NEVER learn

I would call myself an experienced sewer, I have been doing it a long time and have done a variety of projects. However, it seems that there are some lessons that I am destined to repeat. Chalk it up to stubborness, everlasting optimism or just plain stupidity (I fear it is the latter) but here is my list:

1. Pattern sizing is wonky (it's not my body, I swear it is the pattern). Make a mockup before you cut into that expensive/favorite fabric to get the proper fit.

2. Pattern directions don't always give you the most professional look. Patterns are geared toward the lowest common denomenator, meaning a beginner. Read through them and adjust your methods accordingly to get the best results.

3. Take time to look where you are cutting before you actually cut. Pick up the whole garment and look because once you cut that perfectly done french seam that was lying under that seam you were trying to trim, there is no fixing it (well you can fix it...)

4. Irons are hot. Irons produce steam which is hot. Pressing the steam button when your hand is an inch away from the iron will burn.

5. It IS possible to sew fingers on the sewing machine. A sewing needle can penetrate a nail and come out the other side of your finger. And when you are looking stupidly at your finger (or thumb as the case may be) which you just harpooned, and carefully extract it from its position, thankful that the stupid needle (yes, now it is the needle's fault) didn't break off IN your finger, remember that it is going to hurt. A lot. Keep Neosporin and band-aids handy.

And the most important lesson of all that eludes me:

6. Being in a hurry is mutally exclusive from doing a job well. Most of the above mistakes come from being in a hurry. You have a picture in your head of you wearing the finished project, it is going to be gorgeous and everyone asks you about it. They are awed by your skills and creativity. But to get from that picture in your head to the fabulous finished project, you need to slow down. Take your time and do it right.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Book Review - Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti

First - a disclaimer. I do not have the "updated" version of this book. But after briefly looking through one my guess is the only thing that is updated is the typesetting/font and they probably took out references to her other book "The Universal Yarn Finder" which would be obsolete by now and her videos.

This is not a book to learn to knit from. There are many other "how-to" knit books/leaflets/online tutorial/videos that do a better job of actually teaching you the mechanics of knitting. Use those sources.

Having said that, I did like this book despite reading a poor review of it years ago. I wish I had this book when I first started knitting, back in the stone ages when there was no internet, yarn stores had 3 types of yarns in a very limited color palette and the big book stores had, at best, 5 titles on the subject. Thank goodness we have come a long way since then!

What I like about this book is that it helps the knitter THINK about their knitting, from looking at the way the model is posed (can you see the whole sweater?) to questioning the written instruction. She gives a new knitter the tools to really take control of his/her knitting. She explains what happens with different cast-on's and bind-offs, decreases and increases, short-rows, duplicate stitches, color work, fixing mistakes and finishing. She has directions for a few stitch patterns and a couple of practice patterns. I like her attitude that it's your knitting and you can do whatever you want and these are the tools that will help you achieve it.

There were some things I didn't like about this book. I thought the chapter on knitting needles was a little excessive but when this was first written there wasn't as many choices as we have today. She doesn't like set-in sleeves and calls them unflattering (even more so than drop shoulder!) which I disagree with. I make set-in sleeves all the time and find them flattering. Drop shoulder sleeves just look sloppy and they have their place (in children's sweaters would be a good example) but not in my wardrobe. She does have a bias toward circular needles and knitting from the top down but is up front about it. I also found it a little OCD the way she wanted to put notes or "idiot" tags all over her knitting and to measure all the time. A pad of paper and pencil have served me just as well for keeping track of inc/dec, rows, etc. But to each their own.

Overall, I think this is a good book for a new knitter to have to understand the "whys" of knitting and not just the "how-to" so that the knitter can be in the driver seat.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thoughts on food

Mmmmm. Right now my house smells of fresh baked blueberry muffins.

Food has been on my mind a lot lately. People think I am a picky eater. In one respect I agree. There are very few restaurants I like, I eat no beef, pork and very little seafood.

In another respect I would disagree. I am not a picky eater. I just like good food and I just don't think that the generic selection at most restaurants is appetizing. Most places think a bunch of lettuce, some carrot shavings and a tomato doused with half a bottle of dressing is a salad.

Now that I am older and realize that I am not immortal, I have been trying to take care of my body. I am hoping to use it for another 50 years and I want it to be in good working condition for that entire time. After seeing friends go through some health conditions, I was not surprised to find that most of the diseases and ills of our country are preventable. They are the direct result of lifestyle choices (overeating, smoking, drinking, lack of exercise, etc). Look how many contestants go on The Biggest Loser taking tons of medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. and by the end of the show most of them are off of all medications.

Slowly over the past 5 years I have been changing my habits. The first was to adopt a regular exercise program. After 5 years, I still don't like exercising, but I don't hate it either. I like how I feel after I exercise and that keeps me going. Then I gave up soft drinks. After a trip to a nutritionist I started balance my meals and portions (it's ELMO- eat less more often) based on my age, gender and activity level. It was an eye-opener to see just how big (or should I say little)a portion is suppose to be. After several months of eating this way, I found my energy level to be good and I was never hungry. And, I no longer have that bloating feel after meals.

I always loved to bake, but in the past I hadn't cooked much. I've started doing that and have been trying to use mostly organic/fresh foods. I am enjoying the process of trying new recipes too. My grocery bill is probably higher because I buy organic, which is usually more expensive than non-organics (organic milk is $6 a gallon!) I am still trying to gauge portions, etc so as not to have too much, if any waste (i.e. leftovers which usually end up getting thrown out since my husband would never pack his lunch and my son gets lunch at school). But I think once I get the hang of things, even though I am buying more expensive foods, I think my food bill will decrease. Even if it doesn't, I don't care. I will cut corners or do without something else rather than give my family crappy food. Food is what fuels our bodies. The right food can keep you healthy and the wrong food can make you sick. Sure, those prepackaged foods that are packed with preservatives and chemicals may make for a cheap lunch now, but will you be paying for it later in medical expenses?

And a side effect of all this fresh cooking and baking is that the food actually tastes good!

Monday, March 30, 2009

True Happiness Starts Here

After knitting with friends in Dallas yesterday, I headed for Half Price Books (where a large percentage of my money goes...) because I had my 50% off coupon good for Sunday only. I hit my favorite sections, crafts, fashion, art and business and found nothing. So on my way to the cookbooks (if all else failed, I knew I could find a cookbook) I hit the creativity section. (Bless Half Price Books for having a section on creativity.) I found a book titled Living Artfully - Create the Life you Imagine by Sandra Magsamen. I was drawn to the book.

On the inside flap is this quote:
"Many people today are looking outside themselves for well-being and happiness when what they're searching for has been inside them all along" - Sandra Magsamen.

I think this book speaks to one of the problems in our society today. Too many people believe that they need bigger houses, newer cars, designer labels to make them happy. In other words, they think their stuff will buy them happiness. (Another great book on happiness is What Happy People Know by Dan Baker, PhD. & Cameron Stauth who list "Trying to buy happiness" as one of the 5 happiness traps). I thought stuff would make me happy too. But after a particularly difficult 2 year period not too long ago (which I wouldn't trade for anything) I realized that stuff meant nothing. I could do without the stuff and I did.

I can afford stuff again and will splurge once in awhile but those 2 years gave me a new appreciation for the people in my life and Magsamen's book echos that sentiment. She wants us to embrace the relationships and connections that we make and the way that we make them (like putting a note in your kid's lunch with a funny joke, preparing a homemade batch of cookies for the new neighbors or making a gift instead of buying it).

Our country's current economic condition has a lot of people rethinking their lives and choices. Many are discovering or rediscovering hobbies and interests that allow them to express their creativity and connect with others. Instead of going out for dinner, they are cooking together or instead of going to the movies, they are staying in and having game night. Or instead of shopping for stuff they really don't need, they are learning a new skill while being able to express themselves.

When you think about it, most consumerism is really a passive activity. Which story is going to be laughed about for years to come - the one where you went to the chain restaurant and had the generic meal or the one where you and your friends cooked your first Thanksgiving but forget to pull the gizzard package out of the neck (think Bridget Jone's Diary blue soup fiasco)? Are your really going to connect with your kids at the movie theater as much as you would spending the same 2 hours actually interacting over a game? And what shows a person more that you care than spending your own time and talent in creating a one-of-a-kind gift for them.

Hard times suck, I know. But living is about growing and you don't grow unless you are challenged. The question is - will you accept the challenge?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Current Project

Funny how my knitting seems to follow the weather. When we had that cold spell, I was content to knit mittens and now that spring has appeared (but this is Texas, so there could still be a freeze...) I am drawn to summer sweaters and bathing suits. Not that these bathing suits will ever see water (except when they are being washed) but I am really digging some of the knit and crochet designs that are out now.

But right now I am working on this sweater, which has been fun to knit so far. It is a Lana Grossa pattern but I am using up my (discontinued) Berroco Denim Silk in this yummy blue. It will be a single button cardigan.

I've made another sweater with the Denim Silk and while when it is wet, it feels like drywall, it becomes amazingly soft after it dries.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Inspiration Arrives

I got some inspiration for my thread crochet in the mail today. This was ordered from

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Process or Product

People love to categorize. Needleworkers (like knit and crochet) seem to be divided into two camps - process and product. I never really thought much about it. Actually, I thought it was kind of silly given that if you didn't like the process, why would you even bother? But after asking for suggestions from my group of talented and creative peeps at the freeform crochet yahoo group as to what to do with my thread crochet windfall (see previous post), I had to pause. One member said to just jump in and start scrumbling and figure out what it would be later.

I don't think I can do that.

This got me thinking about process vs. product. I love to knit and crochet. I love challenging myself with new techniques, I love yarn, I love pattern books, I love knitting/crocheting with others or by myself. But that one suggestion made me realize, I am not a process knitter/crocheter. If I start a project just to have a project and I am not particularly interested in or like what I am making or have no idea of what it will be, chances are pretty good that the project will never get finished. I will eventually lose interest and unravel it. I am a product knitter, although I don't know if "product" is the right word. I am more of a goal-oriented knitter. My goal could be a sweater or it could be to try a new stitch or learn a new technique. Either way, I do not like to knit or crochet just for the sake of doing it. I like for there to be a beginning, middle and end. And when it is done, I like to bask in the glow of my creation (assuming it turned out well...)

Sometimes, it can be very frustrating to be a product knitter. There are times when I am itching to start a new project and nothing is inspiring me. I get antsy, like a smoker who's trying to quit cold turkey. I look for inspiration - a pattern, a yarn - something to fire up my creative juices. But then again, this "research" phase is also part of the fun and I can't imagine not doing it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sweet Treats and New Challenges

I love to bake, which is a good thing since I have decided to cut down on prepackaged foods. I had a bunch of bananas going bad so I made banana chocolate muffins for breakfast.

I'll admit, they are more chocolatey than banana but they are better than any of those sugar-coated cereals because they don't have nearly the sugar and they are preservative-free. Oh, who the hell am I kidding. These are probably just as bad but what's the point in living longer if you can't splurge every once in a while. I'm all about moderation. I made a second batch of plain banana muffins that I took out half the sugar the recipe called for, substituted oat flour for part of the all-purpose flour and threw in some flax for a nutritional punch. My son still loves them.

My new challenge: over 30 balls of thread crochet given to me

This will be a long-term project. Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

This one's for mother earth

Reduce, reuse and recycle is the mantra of the new millenium and I have been taking steps to do so. I reuse alot, given my love of thrift stores and garage sales. Most of my wardrobe has been either thrifted or made by me and most of my furniture has been thrifted or picked up at garage sales, Craig's List, etc. I also recycle. I can't say that I am 100% good about it but I would say I'm at 75%. But I haven't done much about reducing. So I decided to work on that area and I am starting with our food.
When you think about it, most of your waste is associated with food. Not only is there the packaging but the bags and then scraps from leftovers, etc. So my first step was to cut out the bags. So I dug in my stash and found a couple of yards of lightweight denim (cost=free) and sewn up 5 basic totes. I already had one tote so now I have a total of 6, with the one dedicated just for meat (don't want to contaminate the fruits and veggies). As soon as they were done I put them in my car so I have no excuse not to use them.
Then I thought about packaging. I try to buy fresh fruits and veggies so instead of using the plastic bag the grocery store provides, I am crocheting net bags. I hope to do at least two, one for fruits and one for veggies. I also decided that I am going to plant some container gardens. I was going to dedicate one of my beds to a veggie garden but I decided to start small. It's all about baby steps. Another thing I am going to do to reduce waste is to cook fresh - not buy so many prepackaged foods. This, of course, will have the side effect of actually making my family healthier because we will be eating better.
Finally, I am going to compost. I actually have a compost bin that I made out of a plastic storage tub but the holes that I drilled in it for venhilation are too big and have attracted some uninvited guests. So I am going to have to start over and drill smaller holes. It's amazing the amount of things you can compost outside of the obvious table scraps (no meat or fats, please) like dryer lint and toilet paper tubes.
To sum up:
  1. Bring your own bags when you go shopping.
  2. Buy or grow fresh/bulk to avoid prepackaged foods
  3. Compost

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Late to the party

I'm on Ravelry now at knit1gal.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Crochet Detective

At a recent thrift store hunt, I bought this beautiful crochet top. Not only is it very soft and drapes nicely, it fits perfectly.

But that is not the only reason why it appeals to me. This top appears to have been crochet in one piece in the round using a clever decreasing of double crochets (I am guessing) in the chevron pattern to achieve the shaping.

So now I am looking at this pattern and trying to decipher just how it was done. I am finding the process rather fascinating as I try to chart out the pattern. The bottom pictures shows the underarm patterning.

I've always been a fan of puzzles and I can't wait to break the code on this one!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What can I say, I'm obsessed...

...with mittens. The lavendar pair in the previous post was a prototype and I used a rather cheap acrylic yarn. They are warm and cute but not very soft. So I found this yarn from Unger in my stash, which is a better acrylic and much softer, and I knit up an identical pair. I like the contrasting pom-poms. (And while we are on the subject, I used to hate making pom-poms but I got a Michael's coupon and bought the Clover pom-pom maker and now they are a breeze to make and so cute!)

Here is the pattern:

Finished Size: At palm 8", cuff 4", overall length 11" These are very roomy mittens.

Yarn: Worsted Weight, approximately 4 oz. Coordinating color for ties and pom-pom

Needles: Four double-pointed size 9 (5.5mm)

Gauge: 4 sts X 5.5 rows = 1"

With double pointed needles, cast on 64 sts. Place a marker at the beginning of the row.

Work in K2, P2 ribbing for 7 rows.

Decrease row: K2 together across row, 32 sts.

Row 1 - Purl
Row 2 - Knit
Row 3 - Purl
Row 4-8 - Knit
Row 9 - Purl
Row 10 - Knit
Row 11 - Purl
Row 12 & 13 - Knit
Row 14 - * Knit 2 together, YO; repeat from *
Row 15-16 - Knit
Row 17 - Purl
Row 18 - Knit
Row 19 - Purl

Thumb Gusset
Left mitten: Knit 17, place marker, make 1, knit 1, make 1, place marker, knit to end of round.
Right mitten: Knit 15, place marker, make 1, knit 1, make 1, place marker, knit to end of round.

Row 21 - Knit
Row 22 - Knit to first thumb marker, make 1, knit 3, make 1, knit to end of round
Row 23 - Knit
Row 24 - Knit to first thumb marker, make 1, knit 5, make 1, knit to end of round
Row 25 - Knit
Row 26 - Knit to first thumb marker, make 1, knit 7, make 1, knit to end of round
Row 27 - Knit
Row 28 - Knit to first thumb marker, remove it, slip 9 stitches onto a holder, cast on 1 stitch and knit to end of round
Continue to knit until mitten is about 1/4-1/2" from your longest finger.
Shape Top
Decrease round: Knit 2 together, knit 14, K2 together, knit to end of round
Next row: *Knit 4, knit 2 together; repeat from *
Next row: *Knit 3, knit 2 together; repeat from *
Next row: *Knit 2, knit 2 together; repeat from *
Next row: *Knit 1, knit 2 together; repeat from *

Cut yarn, thread through remaining stitches twice and pull tight.

Place the 9 stitches from a holder onto needles. Pick up 3 stitches from where you cast on the 1 stitch and place marker at beginning of round. Knit these 12 stitches until thumb is covered.

Decrease round: Knit 2, knit 2 together.

Cut yarn and pull through all stitches, making sure it is secure.

Ties and pom-pom (make 2)- Cut six 40" lengths of yarn. Using 2 strands each, braid until you have about 30". Make a pom-pom (I used a Clover pom-pom maker). Thread the braided tie through the eyelet row and then attach the pom-poms to the tie (I used a needle to thread the braided tie's ends through the pom-pom, tying them tightly and the trimming the ends so it matches the pom-pom)

Weave in yarn ends and enjoy!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

MItten Love

Dear Mittens,
I want to sincerely apologize. I didn't know what a little slice of perfection you were. I made the mistake of assuming that because you were small that you would be fussy and persnickety like your cousin, the sock. My ignorance of the simple mechanics of making a thumb gusset led me to ignore you for all these years.
I am sorry for having underestimated you so. What a little slice of heaven you are to knit. Oh, many wax poetic about the virtues of the sock but give me a sweet pair of mittens anyday.

You are so gracious and humble - you require little time and even less yarn, yet, within you lies a little microcosm of all the design possibilities - stitch, yarn and color combinations that can be tested and tweaked. You have inspired me in a way that no other knitting has inspired me and I promise never to take you for granted again.



Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Show me the (creative) love

Two items for today. First of all, I previously posted about wanting a "creative buddy". I actually posted this on Craig's List on a whim. To my surprise, I got a couple of responses and have since met some wonderful, intellegent, creative women and have several more that I hope to meet soon. Just goes to show that you never know until you try. I'm glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone and tried this one.

Second, awhile back while searching the internet I found a workshop offered in California called The Creative Entrepreneur. It looked fascinating. The workshop uses visual journals as a means for coming up with a business plan. I emailed the teacher (never got a response, thank you) and asked if there was a manual or something that I could purchase since I couldn't make it to California anytime soon. Well, wouldn't you know, there I was in the bookstore yesterday and she had written a book aptly titled The Creative Entrepreneur. I plopped down my $22 and I am very excited to get started. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Treasure Hunting

Some people turn their noses up at thrift stores. My husband is one of those people. For the most part, after getting hand-me downs as a kid, he wants his clothes new.
Second-hand clothing doesn't bother me. As a matter of fact, the hunt is part of the fun. I also like that I am being environmentally conscious (trust me, to my shame, I am not always so good), and that I am getting a lot for my money.
Now there are some things I won't buy at the thrift store (underwear, shoes and jeans are the main items. Underwear and shoes I think are self-explanatory, jeans because I am hard to fit and need a long inseam) and there are some thrift stores that I won't go to (I do have a threshold for cleanliness/grossness and some stores have pushed it). For the most part, though, I can easily kill a couple of hours and there are some great stores near my house.
This week I paid a visit to 2 stores. While I told you about some of the stuff I got, here is the run down of everything I got for $100:
1.Bohemian cardigan (pictured below)
2. Black Apostrophe shirt
3. Long sleeve (print) t-shirt
4. 2 sweaters which I will unravel for the yarn
5. Poncho which I will unravel for the yarn
6. Denim jacket
7. 3 casual blazers
8. Black dress skirt
9. Candie's capri's
10. Old Navy long sleeve tunic
11. Black/white/grey knit pullover
12. Banana Republic T-shirt
13. Knit hooded pullover
14. J.Jill cardigan
15. Black and white cropped cardigan
16. Black Ralph Lauren hooded zippered cardigan
17. Large round decorative tray
18. Brand new decorating book

I got 21 items so that is approximately $5 a piece I spent for these items. Now I shop carefully, I try things on and I am pretty aware of what looks and doesn't look good on my body type so I rarely get home and have a loser (which I either try to refashion or donate back to charity).

My shopping strategy is to try to find basics like the black skirt or denim jacket (yes, even though I already have 4) and then look for pieces that I can layer. Although the weather in Texas is mild, I find that I usually like to have a jacket or cardigan no matter what time of year it is because in the winter it can be cold and in the summer, many stores and offices run the air conditioning at arctic temps.

I would encourage everyone to hit their local thrift store, consignment store, flea market, garage sale or vintage shop because you never know what treasure you will find.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

HIp to be Square

Like almost every knitter/crocheter/sewer that I know, I have amassed insane quantities of yarn and fabric and continue to acquire more! I am not delusional, I know the stash will outlive me, but I am at least trying to keep from being completely buried by it by exercising a little stash management. What project would take up a decent amount of yarn or fabric? A blanket. So I have been working on some quilts and afghans as a way to use up some oddball skeins and fabric.

Unfortunately, quilts and afghans do NOT use up as much yarn or fabric as you think but they can be fun. I came across a block pattern for a baby blanket and started knitting squares. These squares are fun to knit and I think they are pretty. When I have enough to make a big afghan (I really hate those tiny little blankets, I want to be covered from my feet up to my neck), I will crochet the squares together. This particular one is going to be in blues, violets and greys.

On a separate note, I got a surprise day off yesterday and went to a favorite thrift store. I came home with some amazing finds - a Ralph Lauren hooded sweater, a Limited jean jacket (I seem to be collecting jean jackets as that is my 4th one) and this:
I absolutely adore this cardigan. Unfortunately, it is falling apart but I bought it just to remind me of the possibilities. It is a combination of knit and woven fabrics and I love the juxtaposition of the chunky knit with the silky and sheer fabrics. It has a very boho vibe and I adore it.
I managed to find quite a few good tops that I will refashion as well as some sweaters that I will be unravelling for yarn.
I don't know what it is, but I love the thrill of a hunt and hitting paydirt (and being economically responsible and earth friendly at the same time).

Friday, January 9, 2009

Wanted: Creative Buddy

I've always been sort of a self-help junkie, but my forties have been incredibly insightful as I have learned so much about myself. I recently read "The Truth About You" by Marcus Buckingham and he points out 3 truths.
1. As you grow, you become more and more of who you already are.
2. You grow most in your areas of strength (by the way a strength is NOT something you are good at, it is something that makes you feel strong, confident and energize you. You could be good at something but loathe it, in which case it is a weakness. A weakness is not something you are bad at, it is something that makes you feel weak or
sucks your soul dry.)
3. A good team player volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time and deliberately partners with people who have different strengths.

The most interesting to me are #1 and #2. I have wasted tons of my time focused on my weaknesses. I didn't realize I was doing it until recently. But now I know better.

All of this newfound self-knowledge has led me on a quest to live my most authentic life (sorry I sound like one of those philosophy spouting self-help gurus) but it is the best way to describe it. Since I have decided to do this, one of my goals is to redirect my career towards one of design, the etsy store is one step in that direction.

But one of the most important things I realized about myself is that I love taking classes. Not algebra or quantum physics, but classes in creativity and design, anything from cake decorating and knitting to writing and graphic design. Being around other creative people really energizes me and feeds my creativity and inspiration.

So I am on my search for a creative buddy. At least one person who has similar interests and aspirations as myself so that we can motivate, inspire, cheer each other forward and celebrate our successes with. Narrow-minded, judgmental, critical naysayers need not apply.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year

I wish everyone a wonderful 2009. Despite the lack of postings the last couple of weeks, I have been very busy. To see some of my work, visit my etsy shop