Friday, January 30, 2009

Yoga mat vs. Jazzercize mat

Here's the third item from the pre-Christmas flurry. I made it for my Mom for Christmas. It is a carrying bag for her exercise mat (she goes to a class 3x/week). I was so excited to give it to her. Then the harsh reality of handmade holidays set in...silly me thought there was one kind of generic yoga/exercise/jazzercize mat. I had a one-size fits all theory. I was wrong. The bag, which I sized according to my own yoga mat, is too small for her larger-size jazzercize mat. Darn.

The inspriation came from the yoga mat pattern in Pretty Little Patchwork, however I deviated from the actual pattern quite a bit: there isn't any patchwork to be found on this bag and there isn't a zipper either. I decided to go with a tie on the top instead. It was fun to take the basic dimensions from the book, and then really puzzle through my own design and construction methods. I learned how to do botton holes, and sew in piping too, so the project was a bonus for the learning-to-sew factor alone. I will happily adopt this bag back.

Maybe when I start the re-make I'll give the zipper a try. I can't imagine that rolling and slipping a mat any larger then this one into a tube-shaped bag would be easy to do. It reminds me of being at overnight camp with my polyester sleeping bag - those really slippery ones that wouldn't stay rolled up in their elastic ties and would then spill onto the parking lot, or into a muddy puddle.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Julie over at knitsational tagged me. are eight more items about myself. For seven others check here.

1) My favorite podcast is This American Life. It makes me laugh out loud.

2) I have a big family. My Dad is the oldest of 11, my Mom is one of 4 and my husband is one of 6. I have 12 uncles, 12 aunts, 32 cousins, and 3 cousins once-removed. I also have 4 brothers-in-law, 5 sisters-in-law, 3 nieces and 3 nephews. Whew.

3) I often fall asleep listening to the whir and whine of a circular saw. You can see why here.

4) I am a Law & Order addict.

5) I love the feeling of walking inside after shoveling snow - especially when DH has a fire going and a hot cocoa (preferably with Bailey's in it) waiting for me.

6) I try to read everyday. Currently I am working my way through The Devil in the White City.

7) We are trying to decide whether we want to raise chickens.

8) My husband and I have a standing date every Sunday night after the kids are in bed. Cheap frozen pizza and Masterpiece Theatre. It's heavenly.

The picture is of a cool sculpture that hangs in the atrium at the V&A museum in London. Pretty incredible, huh?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Quilt for Mimi

Here is another gift that was started before the holidays, but wasn't complete until last week. We recently said goodbye to a sitter who was with our family for over two years. She began with us in October 2006 when the twins were 14 months old. She was with us through a move to a new home and the birth of our third daughter. She helped all of them learn to walk. She helped them learn to use silverware. She took them to see Santa Claus at the mall. She took them to Chuck E. Cheese. She taught them about fingernail polish and lip gloss and indulged every dress-up fantasy known to three year olds.

She is moving on. It is bittersweet, but necessary. She graduated and is pursuing a dream. She is moving to California and will eventually look for a nursing job at a hospital in a pediatrics or neonatal intensive care unit. She will be a wonderful nurse.

Here is a photo of the quilt that I made for her. I hope that she takes it with her to California and curls up under it after a hard day at the hospital - or looks at it and fondly remembers the girls.

The design is based on the BTRS lap quilt. She likes muted colors so I went with an aqua/blue/tan floral theme for the front. The back is done in a wave print. Something that reminded me of the California coast. Can't you just hear the waves rolling up on the beach right now?

In case you are wondering, her name isn't Mimi. But her name does start with an "M." When the twins were first learning to talk that is what they called her - failing to pronounce her full name with their mouths full of food and drool. The nickname stuck.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shout out to the cowl

It has been slow going getting back into the knitting thing with my semester going, so instead I have decided to take some time to talk about a few projects that I had going for the holidays. First up is the cowl. I have rave about this project! For beginning knitters this is a great first project when learning how to use circular needles, or double-pointed needles. It is sort of like a really big hat, without worrying about making a point at the top - you are basically knitting a long tube. I've provided some basic directions below, along with a list of reasons why I just love, love, love this project.

The one pictured here was made for my SIL for Christmas. It is knit up with Misti International 100% Alpaca, hand dyed worsted weight yarn. Details are on ravelry.

Here's the basic formula:

1) Cast on 100 stitches, more or less depending on gauge and how big you want the final diameter to be**.

2) Knit in stockinette for 5 rounds.

3) Purl one round.

4) Continue in stockinette for 9 inches, more or less depending on how 'scrunchy' or 'drapey' you want the cowl to be.

5) Purl one round more.

6) Continue in stockinette for another 5 rounds.

7) Bind off all stitches and weave in yarn ends.

How to I love thee cowl? Let me count the ways...

1) The yarn - you are free to pick anything that feels good against your skin. You can pick something bulky if you are looking for warmth, or something lace weight of you want something pretty.

2) The ease - you can practically knit this in your sleep if you like. It is stockinette all the way (with two purl rows). Or, if you are up for a challenge, you can plan something more complex. There are some gorgeous patterns out there like this, or this. Or you can design your own with practically any pattern from a book.

3) The color - the combinations are endless. You can go with a self-striping or variegated pattern. You can go with a solid to show off a stitch pattern. You could make one in every color of the rainbow.

4) The quickness - these knit up fast too. The two that I've made have took less than 4 hours each. Of course, the more intricate you get, the more time they take, but they are well worth the effort.

5) The "wow" factor - you can wear them around and I guarantee that people will comment on them. You can casually drop in that you made it yourself, or you can be shy about it and just say "thanks." Whatever you prefer, I guarantee it will be noticed.

6) The low cost - this can easily be a one skein project. Perfect for showcasing some stash yarns or it can be an excuse for picking up that one skein you can't live without.

7) One word of caution - many yarns can stretch over time and won't necessarily return to their original shape with a hand washing. Keep this in mind when picking yarn, and be sure to knit up a quick swatch!

** You can take your gauge swatch and your tape measure and determine the perfect fit for you. Just multiply your gauge by the number of inches you want the cowl to be in circumference. Or, take your tape measure and lay it around your neck to determine the circumference you'd like. Then multiply by your gauge and you have the right number of stitches to cast on. For example, if you want the cowl to be 20 inches in circumference and your gauge is 5 sts per inch, cast on 5 x 20 = 100 sts.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

London, England

Our trip was wonderful in so many ways. Here are a few pictures. See me sporting my mitts at Tower Bridge? I'm not trying to hide my face, it's just the only picture we have of me wearing them.

But, as it relates to my knitting the trip wasn't so eventful. I didn't make any progress on any projects at all, even though I managed to take along my needles and some sock yarn. This trip wasn't about my craft, and it wasn't about passing the time. It was about taking in all that another city had to offer, and spending some quality child-free time with my husband. In fact, I didn't even have the urge to knit; not even on the airplane.

While we were in London we did manage to squeeze in a trip to Liberty - a true delight. My sister-in-law gave me a surprise early birthday present, a lovely canvas tote from the store (the picture is a detail of the bag). I also picked up two skeins of Rowan yarn. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the wall of Rowan yarns. If I'm lucky my LYS will have a few different Rowan yarns in a few different colors at any given time, but I had never seen anything like this: an entire wall dedicated to Rowan yarn, in every color imaginable. I also experienced a few of the lovely liberty fabrics, but I held back on those.

I would also be a fool not to mention the INCREDIBLE textile and tapestry exhibits at the V&A. My mind was completely blown away. If you ever have the chance to spend a moment (or a year) there I highly recommend it.
All in all it was a lovely trip. I'm glad to be home, but I'm so much the better for having gotten away for awhile. School starts up again this week (my last class, ever) and I am planning to defend my dissertation proposal by March. It is going to be a busy spring.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What is it about a trip that inspires the need for new things?

With our trip coming up tomorrow, I was inspired to make a few things: 1) a custom camera strap and 2) fingerless gloves. (Hey, I needed something to calm my pre-travel jitters!)

I had been eyeing some beautiful camera straps on etsy, like these and these but decided to try something else, something a little different, on my own.

I invited DH up to the sewing room to browse my fabric stash and we settled on something that he likes as much as I do (we are equal opportunity photographers, so this was essential), some fabric inspired by Ghanaian adinkra sybols. Examples of adinkra symbols can be found here.

I basically made a cover for the existing camera strap. Just a long tube, hemmed to length at each end and sewn with a seam up the middle of the back. It is a snug fit, so it won't slip around. It is removable, so I am free to choose something else entirely different next year if I like. I also just covered our existing strap, so no need to purchase any additional hardware to make this compatible with our camera. Sure you can see some of the original strap poking through at each end, but that's alright with me. You can't beat the custom look.

The pattern for the other project is from a book I received for Christmas. The Maine Morning Mitts seemed perfect - something to keep the chill off my hands and something to keep my fingers free for knitting. I used the Rowan Colourscape Chunky bu Kaffee Fassett in colorway Ghost. It's 100% lambswool. I dropped down a couple needle sizes to account for the thicker wool and now they feel cozy against my hands. I can't wait to sport these around the city.

Also, for any new or experienced fiber enthusiasts out there who want to expand their understanding of yarn and how it's made, I highly recommend The Knitter's Book of Yarn (Parkes). The level of detail was perfect for me and her writing about the origins and history of particular fibers was fascinating. I have a much greater understanding when to use which kind of yarn - and on which projects - than I had just three weeks ago. I mean, I understood that you should use sock yarn to make socks, but as for how different fiber combinations subtly work for or against each other, well, that was a different story. After reading this book I walked into my LYS with a much greater understanding of what I was looking at - where the yarns came from and why certain blends were offered over others. I can't recommend this book more highly. Besides, it's chock full of cute/beautiful/imaginative patterns and what could be more inspiring than that? Knowledge plus inspiration equals one happy momma.

A few pictures of our trip when we return. Until then, be good.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Giveaway Winner!!

We have a winner! This afternoon, in the middle of mac 'n cheese, the girls selected a winner. First we had to decide who was going to make the drawing. That was decided by ennie-meanie-minee-moe, and Abby won. Abby then took the cup and drew out Carissa's name.

Carissa, please e-mail ( with your mailing address and I'll send off those sock blockers. And the rest of you check out Carissa's website. The pictures of the cupcakes make my mouth water!

Thanks to all of you for playing along and visiting my blog. Here's to a creative, happy and healthy New Year!

Friday, January 2, 2009

My First Giveaway - Start the New Year out on the right foot!!

I didn't do a giveaway on my 100th post, and it's too early for a blogiversary giveaway. But, a great opportunity has presented itself and I couldn't resist. It's the new year - why not start out on the right foot?! (sorry, bad pun but I couldn't on.)

My husband gave me a beautiful pair of handmade solid wood sock blockers for Christmas. I loved them so much I encouraged him to immediately make more.

Can't wait to get your own pair? Well you can, with my first ever giveaway!

Want to enter? Just leave a comment on this post and then link to my blog from yours (if you have one). Tell me your best New Year's resolution, or at least one that you haven't already broken.

Also, I know that I have struck up friendships with folks that aren't knitters - so for those of you who would like to participate, but would appreciate something more sewing or craft related let me know that too - don't be shy, I've got few other gifts for those non-knitters out there!

I'll use my own personal random number generators (3 year old twin know-it-alls) to pick the winner at 12noon on Wednesday, January 7th. My apologies, due to the cost of international shipping, the giveaway is only open to folks in the United States and Canada.

In the meantime you can learn more about these sock blockers here.

The socks shown here are the embossed leaves pattern, by Mona Schmidt, which can be found in Interweave Press Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs. The yarn is essential sock yarn (color: lantana) by Knitpicks.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year. Rest, relax and enjoy.