Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Owlidays!

I hope everyone is having or has had a lovely holiday! I am calling mine an owliday, as I saw one of these fly over the window and land on the roof of my mom's home as we were opening gifts yesterday. It was absolutely beautiful. My mother has been telling me that she has owls, and from her description of the call and from the one I saw yesterday, I can tell you definitely that it is a Great Horned Owl. My absolute favorite!

Which makes the animals that I made for my kids even more fortuitous!

Here is the Snowy Owl I made for Badger. It has barred feather marking on it's head and back. I will be publishing this pattern on Ravelry next week.

Here is the sweet little Horned Owl I made for Rose. The pattern is Owlets from the Roman Sock Blog. Mine came out a little shorter and fatter than I intended, but it is so sweet and soft.

So happy owlidays, everyone! Hoo!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Gift for You!

For all of you who have commented, and for all of you who have lurked, I have a gift!

From now until midnight on December 31st, get 15% off everything in my Etsy shop (see sidebar.) Enter the coupon code SWEETS4THESWEET when you checkout.

Thank you for reading my random musings!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The end (of December) is nigh!

Oh, holy cow, the clock, the clock is ticking...

That is the way it sounds in my brain anyway. With all of the craft show making and all of the sample knitting and crocheting, and all of the pattern writing I am WAY, WAY, WAY behind in the gift making. It would not feel so bad if had actually made more sales at the craft shows or if more than one person had signed up for the ornament classes (which were subsequently canceled.) I know that the economy is still crummy, but oh, this is not fun at all. I did schedule some last-minute knitting classes, and got a little bit of swatch knitting done for a knitwear company. These are both good, as it means that we can buy food.

However, of all the gifts that I had to make, I have gotten 3 done. And I can't count two, as my kids needed their fingerless mittens today, so I gave them to them early. I will be able to get a few done - but no sweaters for either. Luckily, I was going to knit them quite a bit larger than I needed to, so I can get them done during the summer, and they can wear them next winter. Still, I am bummed. I will get most of their other toys done, but my mom might have to wait 2 weeks for her cowl, and my brother will be waiting on his box at the end of January to the beginning of February. Luckily, it will still be cold in Minnesota. When did I ever expect to use that phrase?

So wish me luck, and forgive me not posting much in the last month. I have been working my fingers to the bone - and have little to show for it. I will not be posting much this month either, as I spend about 5 minutes a day checking my email and then get right back to the making. I miss looking in on everyone, and if I don't say it before the end of the month,

My Very Best Wishes on the Holiday that you Choose to Celebrate (I think that covers all my bases.)


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Make your own ornaments!

Two knitted stars, an elf hat, a short-row pickle, a mini sock stocking, and a double-knit Norwegian Star snowflake.

An African Flower motif stocking, 2 crocheted stars, a curved crocheted pickle, a lace snowflake, a lace heart, and a little elf hat.

Starting November 26th and 27th, I will be teaching 10 different ornament classes. There will be 5 each of knitting and crochet (being fair to the various needle arts.) Above are the samples I created for each class. Call or visit The Knitting Nest in Austin Texas to sign up. Different ornaments will be offered on different days - knitted ones on Friday the 26th, and on Wednesdays thereafter; crocheted ones on Saturdays starting November 27th.

Escape the house, make your own ornaments (or gift toppers.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Where am I?

Where am I? In the middle of stitch marker land, apparently. These are sets of knitting stitch markers that I just finished for sale at the Ravelry event at The Knitting Nest tomorrow, November 13. They are all made from 22 gauge sterling silver (so heavy duty, won't bend easily), Swarovski crystal beads (so, sparkly) and clear glass beads (also sparkly) and are all handmade and carefully finished (so not to snag the knitting.) There are 18 sets of 5 markers - and will be for sale from 10-11:30 am and 1-6pm during the Ravelry event. Any leftovers will go up for sale on my Etsy shop on Sunday. I will also have more project needle cases and sock needle envelopes for sale. I have also donated a special set of all 3 of these (stitch markers, project needle case, sock needle envelope) to the silent auction to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. This auction will be taking place all day tomorrow during the Ravelry event. The stitch markers are very special - sterling silver, freshwater pearl, and deep red, silver-lined vintage glass beads. The sock needle envelope is finished with a vintage glass button as well - the only one I've made in the true red wool felt. I made these in remembrance of all of my family members who have had cancer. That would be ALL of them, by the way. Only my siblings and kids and I have gone cancer-free so far. Spooky - the odds aren't good.

Mmm, sparkly and pastel.

Getting brighter.

Brighter still.

Ah, brightest yet.

I am very thankful that I have quite a few years of jewelry making under my belt. It made the process neater and faster. I will admit that wrapping the wire was a little difficult. The headpins that I used are heavier in gauge than I usually use for jewelry - but I wanted them to stand up to a lot of hard use. My fingers are sore - but they turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'll Be Teaching Next Week!

Starting next Tuesday, November 2, I will be teaching a Knitting 101 class! Tuesdays, November 2, 9, 16, and 30 from 7 - 8:30 pm at The Knitting Nest in Austin, TX. That is 6 hours of class time, in which students will learn how to cast on, knit, cast off, purl, knit in the round on circulars and double-pointed needles, increase, and decrease. A solid beginning course. The cost is $80 for six hours, plus materials. As I get the course fee, the store policy is that materials must be purchased at The Knitting Nest, so that classes may continue to be held there. Please come learn, if you are nearby; and support The Knitting Nest for giving me such a good venue at which to teach. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The next big thing...

I coulda been a contender!

I just wanted to say thank you to the many people who sent me cheering messages in the last few weeks. It was a huge help - and probably the very thing I needed. I was tempted to throw my hands up and quit the teaching thing, but I would have been quitting one of the things that I love the best. I really love teaching knitting, crochet, and jewelry making. I love seeing the spark of understanding and the frisson of inspiration spread to those I teach. I love to share what I do, and make more of us out there. I love passing the gifts of the incredible teachers I have had to the next person. Thank you for encouraging me. I want to say a special thank you to Stacy, the owner of The Knitting Nest (Austin, TX) for supporting my efforts and encouraging me to teach. I will, in fact, be teaching holiday ornament classes there starting in November - both knitted ones and crocheted ones!

I have been busy the whole time I was preparing for classes. The above mitts are for my brother Martin's birthday (I can say that - only my brother Nick actually reads my blog.)

I just finished some for Badger - leftover Malabrigo from his hat last year. Buttons to match.

Rose has some, also made from leftover Malabrigo, to match her hat from last year - which I will admit is probably still a bit big. I am starting on more presents for the holidays. I also have to make Rose a gnome costume for Halloween this week. I am making her a red, dotted skirt, a blue, flowered shirt, and a little white pinafore. This will all be combined with her gnome hat to make her the sweetest gnome baby. I might even embroider flowers on her pinafore - let's see how the week goes.

I recently got a care package from my dear friend Laura. It was chock full of lovely, but here is one thing that she sent - recycled yarn from Washington State! Yay! I even like the name - Smart Monkey. They are on Etsy if you want some yourself. There is a local group that does the same thing, and I will be checking them out soon.

Here is something else I have been up to - more jewelry making. This is a 1.5 inch wide wool felt rose, with glass beads, a silk and wool leaf with pearl cotton embroidery. I made it as a gift for my Chiropractor. She is a very nice woman, but she has really been an immeasurable help to me. I actually leave my house because of her. My back had gotten so bad, that I mostly did not leave the house. Now look at me - going out and teaching.

I made a wool felt, scrap silk, vintage button, and embroidered bracelet.

Lined in a scrap piece of linen.

And a pair of chandelier earring to wear when I feel special. These were actually class samples I made for the classes that I was to be teaching. I bought the supplies, and made them to my tastes. They are definitely mine. They are Bali silver findings and sterling silver wire, beads, and Swarovski crystal beads.

The crystal beads are my favorite color name ever - padparadscha. These are a sort of an orangish, brownish, reddish pink.

Wikipedia states that "Padparadscha is a pink-orange corundum, with a low to medium saturation and light tone, originally being mined in Sri Lanka, but also found in deposits in Vietnam and Africa; Padparadscha sapphires are very rare and highly valued. The name derives from the Sinhalese word for lotus blossom.[8] Along with rubies, they are the only type of corundum to be given their own name instead of being called a particular colored sapphire. Padparadscha used to be a subvariety of ruby.[9] "

So, I am on to the next big thing, which is good for me, and I hope for the good of all.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I wish I were joking.

No photos today. Just venting a little bit of frustration and disappointment.

I was going to be starting a new job teaching knitting, crochet, and maybe a bit of jewelry at the local Y. Well, apparently not. It might happen in January, or it might not. I was told that it was a bit "aggressive" of me to try to get classes going in the 3 week of time since I met with the organizer. Um - not my timeline. However, I was fully prepared - materials lists, class schedules. lesson plans, handout materials, cost spreadsheets, etc. I went to the Y the day before yesterday to put up a big demo/display for 5 hours, and had lots of interest. I felt like I was on display, but I always do. Now I am getting, in my opinion, weird half-hearted responses, and almost feel blamed for doing so much work to get things ready in time. I spent almost 40 hours so far preparing for class. Now, nothing.

Where do I go from here? I have no idea. I am going to try to get some teaching work at some of the local yarn stores, but I am afraid that they will have filled their schedules already. I cleared out 10 weeks of time for this - changed my schedule and everything. It couldn't come at a worse time for us. My husband was laid off almost 2 years ago, from a field he had been in for almost 16 years. He is still looking, but nothing so far. My family has been helping, immeasurably, but can no longer afford to.

We are going ahead with our printing press - but are concerned that we are going to be able to afford paper to print on. As you see, I've already put some of our handmade things up for sale on Etsy. (See Etsy widget to your right.) I don't need your pity or charity, but I could use some loving thought right now. And if you believe in some higher power, or the beneficence of the universe, please pray for us.

(Update - they asked me to send them a time sheet for all the time I spent preparing for 8 classes, and balked that it was nearly 40. They also questioned my experience and professionalism, and then said that I would not serve their needs. So I will not be working for them, obviously. I had hoped that we could come to some sort of understanding, but apparently they do not understand the time and cost of materials needed for 8 craft classes.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

I have been BUSY!

This little pile of fabric, felt and interfacing became...

I have been busy sewing my little fingers off. This weekend was that of the Best Little Yarn Crawl in Texas. I was busy making project needle cases that hold a few sets of double pointed needles, and up 3 circular needles. Just enough for a project, hence the name. They can hold dpns up to 7.5 inches long, or 8 inches, if you don't cover the tops with the flap. Any length circulars will fit.

Lovely, delicious scissor fabric...

Dress pattern fabric (tee, hee.)

Here is the lovely tree, flower, and fruit fabrics. From the scrap felt, I made...

Sock needles are tiny. They are thin and short. Perfect for losing and snapping in half. I thought that giving them a little padding and protection was a noble idea. Besides, I have lots of buttons and like to make things out of extra material.

Fern green and a deep, strawberry smoothie-colored pink. They will hold needles up to 5.5 inches long.

This is the inside of my project needle case. You can see needles already looking comfy inside. The button on the circular needle pocket keeps the circular needle cable from shifting when it is closed. It provides just enough pressure to keep things tidy.

Aren't they cute!

Here are the insides of the other project needle cases - red, strawberry, and fern green. I have four more of the brown ones to finish. There are also pink and yellow felt pockets.

Sales were a bit slow, but as it was day 3 of the yarn crawl, people were tired. I have been invited back to The Knitting Nest (Austin, TX) in November for their Ravelry party. November 13, some of the ladies from Ravelry will be in town for a visit. I will be there, cases (and beaded stitch markers) in hand.

I am also going to be teaching classes this Fall at the Southwest Family Y, in Oak Hill (Austin, TX.) Two levels each of knitting and crochet, and some quick, fun jewelry classes. If you are local - come sign up. We are going to be learning a lot!

Things are busy, but it looks like the next few months will be full of fun.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rose's Birthday #2.

Cupcake gnome. Would you like some of my lovely cupcakes?

Rose turned 2 yesterday. My goodness, she seems so grown up. Well, as you may know, I planned a food theme for her birthday this year. As you may also know, my husband, son and I made gifts for her ourselves. Well, in addition to the whole market bag full of wool veggies, she got a few other things.

The cupcakes here are from my mom, and are HABA toys from Germany. My mom also found her a kid's apron with cupcakes from Williams-Sonoma. A half-hour of hemming and it was short enough for Rose. My dad got her a wood sandwich playset, also some other lovely wood toys. Her Grammie and Grandpa Bob are 1440 or so miles away and had us get some toys for her - wood trains, a LEGO, and some stuffed animals (characters from favorite story books.) Her great-grandparents sent a cute cat card and some birthday money - she picked out more LEGOs. She is a very happy kid to have so many people who love her.

Her brother Badger made her some lovely rice-filled bean bags and a bag to keep them in. I found some fruit fabric and some coordinating leafy fabric. Badger helped design the bag and bean bags, Mama sewed, Badger filled them. Badger also picked out the really bright ribbons and threaded them through for drawstrings.

One last minute gift was a green gnome hat. I figured that she might also like something special to wear for her birthday, seeing as her brother got a full suit of chain mail and some armor. I adapted the pattern from an adult size witch's hat pattern I found on sale for less than a dollar. Like the helmet, I sandwiched a layer of heavy interfacing between two layers of wool felt (only one layer, not two like the helmet.)

I thought she might like some flowers on it, but might want to change flowers or add other decorations; so I made the flowers removeable. I found the pattern for wool felt rose hair clips at the Purl Soho blog: purlbee. I made Rose one at the same time I made two rose buttons for her hat. The leaf is my pattern, though.

A nice simple button on the back - securely stitched on.

Buttonholes cut and stitched in matching pearl cotton embroidery thread. Now she can put on whatever she wants. Her comment was "It's so nice." Balm to my sleepy heart.

Her dad and I conferred on his gift. He was originally going to carve her a bowl and spoon out of wood. However, Rose as a tendency (being 2) of hurling her toys around the house with glee. For her brother's sake especially we decided to make her a bowl and spoon out of wool felt. Dad did some of the design work, Mama made the pattern and did the stitching. I think I will put this up as a tutorial in the next few days.

Here is my next project this morning. Rose currently really likes pink. She had her own piece of the pink fabric on the right and she likes it so much that she takes it to bed, and wears it folded around her wrist as a bracelet. I got some more yesterday to make her a skirt that she can twirl in. The fabric on the left will be gathered pockets. I will be sewing a lot in the next 2 weeks. I designed some knitting needle cases, and a local store will display them during a yarn crawl. I will show off the fabric next week (It is full of birds and trees.) I am also thinking of doing more with some lovely dressmaker themed fabric I saw the other day - hmm.

And because 11 veggies seemed like an odd number (literally and figuratively), I made Rose a chili pepper. Also, because it was funny. Again, I am easily amused.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oh, I forgot:

While I was busy making all of Badger's things, I made Rose a little shrug for the fall. It is the Whirligig Shrug by Stephanie Japel. I made it out of Knit One Crochet Two's 2nd Time Cotton - yay, recycled cotton. It is very splitty yarn, and the small acrylic content (25%) still kills my hands. But I had made Rose a halter top last year that still fits and this was the leftover yarn.

I made only two changes. Instead of lifted bar increases at the shoulders (it is knit top-down), I made yarn over increases. They were visible in this marled yarn, where the originals were not. Also it is really hot here most of the year and I thought eyelets looked cooler. The second change occurs in the front where the lapels meet the body. From what I could gather, you are supposed to just let them hang. I stitched the ends onto the top of the back ruffle - and it curves nicely around her body this way. I made the largest size in a size larger yarn, so she will be able to wear this for a while.

Look at that cute sleepy baby hair.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

If Vikings had lived in Austin or Nashville

If Vikings had lived in Austin or Nashville, maybe they'd have had armor made of wool felt (like cowboy hats) riveted with pearl snaps (like western-style shirts.)

Here are loads of pictures of all of the projects that I have been working on for my son Badger's 7th birthday. I think that I've been working for about 2 1/2 months total. mostly mornings before he woke up and in little fits and starts while riding in the car or sitting in waiting rooms.

The first thing that I worked on was a large dragon. It is 18 inches tall and about 24 inches long. The fabric is a VIBRANT orange batik that I had in my fabric stash.

It has really lovely wings.

And a lovely smile. The crown just seemed right somehow. I cut a crown out of some red wool felt from the felt stack here at home, and embroidered it with yellow pearl cotton and red metallic embroidery thread - which was a bear to work with. Badger picked the colors for the crown and the gold mylar thread for the centers of the button eyes. He thought that I was making this dragon for his Grandpa Bob, who also likes dragons. This bit iof subterfuge was necessary as it was really hard to hide a large orange dragon. He was very generously making all sorts of design choices so that is Grandpa Bob would really like it. I fooled him.

Badger picked a button from the stash to make a center jewel for the crown. My husband, Matt, helped to remove the metal shank on the back and I glued it on with craft glue.

Badger received the dragon as well as a suit of knit chain mail (hood and hauberk) first thing in the morning. As you can see, he is still waking up. I found both patterns on Ravelry.

The new look for baby fashion this fall is apparently chain mail. With cloth diapers. This is Rose, not Badger.

Badger is not so sure about the look.

The chain mail hood (called a helmet in the pattern) is shaped with short-rows like a sock heel.

I had to make the neck of the hauberk larger because Badger has an enormous head to house his enormous brain.

I made a buckler-type shield for him - also out of wool felt.

Blanket stitched on the edge in pearl cotton. It just made it look less plain.

We used a large, heavy button from Germany for the center boss.

And it has both an arm and a hand strap. To be useful.

Next I worked on a helmet. Finding a pattern for a helmet that was even remotely realistic was impossible. So I made my own. Actually, I made two. The first one was for a 15th century helmet called a sallet. Because I was insane. The one in the Wiki image with the lobster tails was the original idea.

I made a pattern and then made a paper 3D model. It was ok, but it had buckling on the top, as well as flaring at the bottom. This was an issue. I knew that the wool version would do the same thing. Wool felt does not lend itself to a fairly round smooth look without seams - not so smooth in that case. I could have blocked and steamed it, but I knew that I was going to have an inner layer with heavy interfacing which would not be as malleable as the wool.

I asked around for help with the geometry of the thing, and was put in touch with an armorer that knits. Can you beat that for cool? He was a big help, and his suggestions let me know that there would have to be many more seams than I wanted.

So I looked for something still a little complex, but easy enough for my simple head to figure out. I took a lot of measurements of Badger's head, and added a bit for ease and room to grow. Then I sat with pencil, large eraser and a load of drafting tools and came up with a second pattern. I found some images of the Gjermundbu Viking helmet and someone else's metal version of what it could have looked like. I chose for safety to omit the top spike. My brother sent a link to a Swedish museum pattern for a Viking 6-panel hat. I adapted it using Badger's measurements for a 4-panel helmet. I had two days total to do the helmet, including Badger's birthday itself.

The back had a chain mail piece, so I knitted more mail.

We used pearl snaps instead of rivets. The backs of these are all covered in interfacing and more felt - so no metal bits touch skin.

The outside layer of the helmet by itself.

The inside layer had 2 layers of very stiff and heavy interfacing. I didn't want his helmet to crease or dent.

It looked like a small tent when it was done.

Next came all the hand stitching. The bottom rim is attached to the inside and outside separately. Then the mask part was attached on the inside and outside with invisible ladder stitches. I had whip stitched it in pearl cotton beforehand. The top straps cover the seams and reinforce the helmet . Side pieces are attached with more pearl cotton, using a figure-8 stitch that looks like a herringbone pattern.

The top of the helmet. The pieces were also attached with simple whip stitching.

Happy boy received his helmet after dinner. I also cooked special Gluten-, Dairy-, and Soy-Free cupcakes and a layer cake with homemade chocolate icing. And brown rice and sorghum pancakes for his dinner - he requested pancakes, bacon and eggs for his birthday.

Yes, I am completely out of my mind.