Monday, December 22, 2008

Wooly Wonderfuls

For free entertainment Saturday nights, we sometimes go to the bookstore and get a big pile of books to page through or read (yes, we're those people, who read and do not, usually, buy). DH and I split up, collect some books we want to look at, and meet at the cafe. I have to say, I don't expect much from the craft selection, as I've pretty much exhausted it at most stores. But Saturday, I found this little jewel of a book, Wooly Embroidery; it is worth all of $14.95. There are great instructions for all kinds of embroidery, including crewel, using wool thread, and some sweet little projects. These buttons are from the book, done on scrap linen, and the larger embroidery is destined to be a needle case. I'm proud of myself, I've actually used a craft book that I bought, instead of just look and drool!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Baking Day

Yesterday, I joined my baker-extraordinaire aunt, grandma and cousin for some Christmas cookie baking. A good time was had by all, with much sampling and taste-testing. You know how it is so very hard to cleanly frost sugar cookies? Well, my aunt taught me a great technique which completely avoids messiness; it's called Flooding.

Here's what you do: make your white royal icing-like frosting, and decide which colors you want. Divide the frosting and mix your colors; then, for each color, divide it in half. Now, add a little water to one half of the mix to make it a little thinner, so that it's easily pourable. Put it into a squirt bottle. Put the thicker frosting into a pastry tube for piping. You're ready to frost: pipe around the edges of the cookie with the thicker colored frosting, then, using the thinner mix, pour some into the center of the cookie. In other words, "flood" the middle of the cookie, and, using a toothpick, spread it out to your piped barrier. It is really so cool.

If you want to add more piped decorations on top, wait for the frosting to dry. You can tell it's dry when the surface turns from shiny to matte-looking. Have fun!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I decided to add some flowers to the ends of the green tendrils, and I'm pleased with how it turned out. Overall, a very enjoyable first crewel experience; I was anxious to do more.

So I did. Just a little sweet bud on some fingerless gloves destined to be a Christmas present.

Now, I must make other things worthy of embellishment.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


The Not-so-Plain Jane sweater; now I'm pondering how to proceed from here. Maybe some geometric flowers extending from the vines?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thinking and planning

My beautiful crewel wool came today from Renaissance Dyeing in France, so I've begun planning my design. In some respects, I want to get the design drawn perfectly on my paper first, but in another way, I kind of want to just start the design and work spontaneously. You can see my doodles so far. I'll probably make a compromise between the two and just start with my design in mind and see where it goes. The "starting" always seems to be the hardest part of a project for me, at least in my art work. In my knitting, I have a tendency to start rashly, and never finish. What helps motivate you to finish pieces you've started?

Monday, December 8, 2008

My new go-to dessert

This pumpkin pound cake was made for the calligraphy guild I am a part of; and boy, was it good! I've made it before, but never got to eat any, so I wasn't sure how it would turn out. It has become my standard dessert for taking to parties, it is SO good. You can eat it plain (it is very nice for breakfast:), or with the delicious praline-esque sauce. Definitely not a healthful dessert, but, c'mon, what is?

Pumpkin Pound Cake with Walnut Sauce

2 3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. butter, softened
1 t. vanilla
6 eggs (!)
3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground cloves
1 c. canned pumpkin


1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. dark corn syrup
1/2 c. whipping cream
2 T. butter
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 Farenheit. Grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan. In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter. Ad the vanilla and eggs, beating well until blended. Add the remaining ingredients and blend well. Pour into prepared pan, and bakc for 60-70 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes, then invert onto plate.

For the sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, cream, 2 T. butter, and a dash of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the vanilla and walnuts and stir to combine. Serve walnut sauce with the cake.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Aprony Goodness

Look what I got from Shannon in the Sassy Apron Swap! This very perfect, pink and green apron. I requested something that was kind of Christmasy, but that I could wear all year too, and this is just fantastic! The bib apron is a great vintage shape, and the fabrics are kind of retro, with the green polka dots and rickrack trim. What are some of your favorite vintage-like apron patterns?

The apron was not all though: she sent the cutest handmade snowman bag, a "B" ornament for our tree, cookie cutters, recipes, a cookie cookbook, and popcorn! What a treat, this package has brightened my Christmas, thanks Shannon!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Plain Jane...8 years later

This sweater has been 8 years in the making. In high school I worked at a patisserie and had a wonderful Russian lady as a co-worker. She introduced me to top-down sweater construction. I went to her house a couple of afternoons, and she taught me how to do the math to design a top-down raglan sweater, with any yarn and any gauge. Unfortunately, the math and percentages have been long forgotten, and my notes are nowhere to be found. Cleaning out my stash the other day, I found the sweater, body finished, languishing at the botton of the box. I finished it, and now am awaiting my order from Renaissance Dyeing so I can start the embellishments, because, as is, this is a plain jane sweater.

I'm going to try crewel work, and I aspire to a finished product something like this or this. Pretty ambtious, huh? Here is my practice work, with regular worsted yarn.

The crewel wool I ordered comes in all kinds of luscious shades and is dyed using all-natural dyes in the Pyrenees mountains. Wish me luck!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

And the winner is....

Sunnymommie! If you could please email your address to, I will get the book in the mail to you!

Thank you to all who entered, it was so encouraging reading all your kind remarks. And thanks for checking out the blog, I hope many of you will come back and visit often. Now I get to have fun checking out all of your great blogs!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Giveaway Day!

Today I'm participating in a many-blog wide event called Giveaway Day, sponsored by sewmamasew. So my offering for the event is this handcrafted journal from my Etsy shop, with ceramic covers, and an embossed star design. The book is coptic bound with teal Irish linen thread, and measures about 3 3/4 inches x 4 inches. To enter to win, just leave me a comment, and I will randomly draw a winner tomorrow! For all those outside the United States, I'm sorry, but I can't swing international shipping right now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Finished Object

I'd been starting to feel some anxiety lately. I needed to finish something. I needed to finish a substantial craft project that would be satisfying. And here she is: the completed Juliet sweater! I like it, although some of my enjoyment was diminished as I tried modeling it and taking pictues of myself in summer clothes, as it was snowing outside. But now I can look forward to wearing my new top in the spring, in my post-baby body. Although, with my body temperature at tropical levels right now, heck, I might just wear it for Christmas!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


After making it through 7 months of pregnancy relatively pain and discomfort free, I've been hit with a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome, which, as DH says, sounds much more serious than it really is:) But, for those of us who do handwork of any kind, sewing, knitting, bookbinding, not to mention cooking, cleaning, and typing, it can be pretty serious indeed. Mine has only manifested itself by putting my arms and hands to sleep at night, which is more disconcerting than painful. In an effort to prevent it from getting any worse, I wear this lovely brace while I sew, knit, read, and do other quiet activities, as well as at night.

My new project is this table runner, as a gift for a wedding we will be attending soon. I had great fun picking out colors and patterns for the fabric, especially as their taste is different from mine. Although this does require a lot of handsewing (appliqueing 28 squares of fabric), it is soothing work, and helps my mind and body slow down and relax. Now I just need a rocking chair for the bliss to be complete!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We got soaked generosity at our baby shower! Wow! My MIL and SIL gave us a lovely shower this past weekend, and now we have everything we could possibly need for Baby. My mom came from Minnesota, and my grandma and aunt were there, as well as DH's relatives and friends. Because we didn't find out if Baby is a boy or a girl, people couldn't buy either pink or blue, but they found some super cute clothes in neutral colors. There were lots of soft, cuddly blankets, which I must make myself save for Baby! There was also an infant car seat in a bright aqua blue, and all kinds of baby care items.

And then there were beautiful handmade goodies. The quilt above, made by my mom, of Beatrix Potter fabric to match a sentimental framed print of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle from my childhood. She even quilted little hearts in the four corners:)

This beautiful crocheted blanket from my SIL, in perfect baby colors; and it turned out to match the quilt.

And these cute vintage prints, which were painted by my grandma from a paint-by-number set for my mother's nursery. I love them, and my mom had saved them all these years.

We were also given a handmade diaper bag in French country-ish blue and yellow fabrics, and the sweetest little variety of knit hats, made by my aunt. What a lucky mommy and baby, huh? We are very grateful; it is kind of overwhelming to be the subject of so much love and generosity.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Booklet Ornaments

We had a fantastic weekend with family and friends and were given a baby shower with lots of handmade lovelies and everything we might need (more later)! Last week, before we left town, I finished this little trio of Christmas ornaments. They are slightly larger than the brooches, at 2 1/2 x 3 inches. They have mulit-colored and printed paper on the inside for you to add your own Christmas memories by writing, collage, drawing, etc. These are for an ornament swap, but contact me through my shop if you'd like some for your own home!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How my life has changed...Or...Pondering the intricacies of cloth diapers

Well, last week I was overcome with a desire to make wool diaper covers. Browsing Ravelry I found lots of great knitted covers, but decided that I didn't have the attention span to knit 5 or 6 diaper covers. Reading articles on the Internet about frugal diapering (frugal is my new mindset these days), I learned that you could make diaper covers out of felted wool sweaters; makes sense right?

Just happening to have half of an L.L. Bean wool blanket on hand, I figured that would work just as well too. So, using one of my two purchased diaper covers, I make a pattern and started sewing. Overall it was pretty easy, and now I have 4 additional, almost free, diaper covers.

Pretty cute huh? Two have this brown binding and two will have a bright green with ladybugs binding. Now I just hope they work! Couple more months before they'll be put to the test! Because I was too lazy and frustrated to make my own tutorial, check out the great one here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dusty Vintage

This could refer to my house at the moment, but instead it's the name I chose for the latest handbag. My SIL's birthday is coming up and I wanted to craft her something special. Since I'm trying to use mostly materials that I have in my stash, I came up with this repurposed felted purse. My first knitted sweater ever, when I was about 14, was a really pretty teal blue/green color; the color was great, the design and my execution were not. So I felted the sweater, made up a pattern, and cut my pieces out of the thick resulting wool.

The embellishments are made from bits of scrap yarn and buttons, and I just happened to have a leather purse handle and magnetic closure left over from another project. The only new material I used was the fabric lining. I hope she likes it!

On another handcrafted gifting kind of note, I found this interesting website, Buynothingchristmas, put together by Canadian Mennonites to refocus the meaning of Christmas. Kind of interesting, and it has lots of good ideas on saving money with handcrafted gifts.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My First Foray Into Design

The summer of 2007, DH and I took a 3 week walking trip of England; we walked about 80 miles in the Cotswolds, and about 70 miles in the Lake District. Each night we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in a little village, and my favorite part of the day was waking up and enjoying the full English breakfast, plus numerous cups of French press coffee. We got spoiled!

From the start of the trip, I was determined to buy a knitting project, so I would have some crafty memory of our adventure. But...most of the villages were too small to house a knitting shop, so it wasn't until we reached Keswick in the Lake District (almost at the end of our trip), that I was able to get my treat. I bought a 10 skein bag of Jaeger ice blue mohair, and it's been languishing in my basement ever since.

Until last week. When I saw a gorgeous knitted dress on Ravelry; "Mohair Magic." It inspired me to start my own top-down knit version. So far, I'm almost finished with the bodice, working in the round, and increasing every other row for the raglan sleeve shaping. It is so pretty, and I hope to finish it soon so I can wear it for Christmas. More updates as work progresses.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Aprony Goodness

My Friday was filled with aprons of all different shapes and colors. I sewed up a cute black and white print apron (no pic, unfortunately) for a wedding shower; finished up a Christmas apron for the Sassy Apron Swap (picture coming soon); and then received in the mail my very own apron from the Hot Drinks Swap! I love it so much; Harley did a beautiful job, with extra long ties to accommodate the baby belly. The embroidery is very well crafted, and I can't wait to wear it over the holidays this year.

Friday, October 31, 2008


In my crafting these days I'm considering how I can use the materials I already own in new ways. For wrappings, I make little fabric bags to gift things in. For some free diaper covers, I'm using a felted wool blanket cast off from another project (details for another day). And this bag was made using yarn I got from ripping out an old knitted sweater that I didn't fancy anymore. And yes, this is one yarn, can you imagine it as a sweater? Not a very pretty sight.

How are you using materials in new ways to fuel your craft addiction?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Small is Beautiful

I received this beautiful pincushion (plus lots of other goodies) from PoMoGoLightly in the Ravelry pincushion swap. It is such a fun group, all the members so talented and kind; I get very inspired! The pincushions are fun because they are a miniature canvas on which to try new techniques. My first attempts at pincushions for this swap have a long way to go regarding craftsmanship, but I look forward to trying new things in the future. Check out the group on Flickr and be amazed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another One...

This is the second BSJ, because the first was pink. So I think this one will work for either a boy or girl. If it's a girl, then I'm going to make a cute little red dress to wear underneath, and if it's a boy, he's going to get some red pants. Hard to tell from the picture, but the stripes are teal and light blue (not white).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mini Book Ornaments

These (not the best picture) are some miniature book ornaments all packaged up for a swap I'm in. As you can see from my Etsy shop, books are my thing, so I thought it only appropriate to make some minis and turn them into ornaments. They are kind of like my Booklet Brooches, but larger, with blank inside pages. I am hoping that people will get creative and write Christmas memories, draw pictures, add small photographs, or collage in the pages to make them personal tp their family. At least that's what I would have wanted to do with such an ornament as a child! Maybe, if I really get motivated there will be some for sale in the shop soon.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Handmade Christmas

Almost every year for Christmas my brother receives a well-intentioned, but unfinished, knitted present from me. Two years ago it was a half-knit scarf; last year, I gave him a store-bought sleek Banana Republic scarf to make up for it. So this year, good intentions aside, I HAD to finish a project that I started for him; and not just finish, but in time for Christmas. To make up for previous years, it had to be something big and substantial, and since he would probably rather die than wear a hand-knit sweater, I decided on an afghan. My first ever. With cables. And eyelets. And lots of pattern repeats.

This does have a happy ending though, because I finished the afghan on Saturday with two yards of yarn left! I am so happy. And hopefully he will be too with a real finished present on Christmas Day.

And since he doesn't even know about my blog, I can disclose what gives me so much satisfaction about this project: it only cost $15! I consider that a triumph! The pattern was a free leaflet at Joann's, and each of the five balls of yarn cost only $3. It's value has been very much increased though with the love and prayers I've knit into it for him.

This reminds me of a wonderful blog I came across last night: Taste the Goode Life. Evidently this lady had a cooking show on the BBC for many years which was very popular. Now she writes this blog everyday, and has so many good ideas for frugal cooking and a frugal Christmas. I'm excited to be more financially mindful this Christmas, because I know it will (it already has; witness the $15 afghan) increase my enjoyment of the season as I savor what it really important. Check out her blog for yourself. She is quite an entertaining writer.

Monday, October 13, 2008

February Baby Set

This little set is for a baby girl coming in February. It is my for my partner in the Ravelry Oh My Baby! swap, who just found out she's having a girl. And...if I end up having a girl, there will be more where this came from. These two patterns are from my best-loved baby pattern book, Simple Knits for Cherished Babies, by Erika Knight. Her patterns are simple and practical, and can easily be dressed up with a few embellishments, or not, as desired. Hers are the only baby booties I knit; I don't think they can be beat!

And, on another note, I finally figured out how to insert hyperlinks into my text (I know, I know, pretty basic!)!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I was spoiled...

These are the beautiful gifts I received from The Great Knitted Purse Swap, my first swap, on Ravelry. Look at the gorgeous color and design of this purse knit by carolannb! And she so sweetly packaged everything and filled my bag with all kinds of goodies, including something for January Baby. You spoiled me, carolannb!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hot Drinks for Hot Mamas Apron Swap

This is the apron I sent to my swap partner Tammy for the favorite hot drinks swap. She loves coffee, and I found this neat coffee bean print fabric and geared my complementary fabrics to a mocha/cappicino-like color. I also sent her some coffee cup cozies, and one of my handbound books with a vintage food print on the covers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More with Less...

This is the title of a new cookbook I've been gifted, and my new focus for meal planning these days. I received it from my mom who is trying to help along my endeavor to save money on groceries and still cook wholesome meals. The book came out in the 1970's when there was a lot of attention given to fears of over-population and future scarcity of food resources. Put together my Mennonites, it tries to encourage the mindful use of food in our cooking, which sounds good to me! We have recently cut back on our meat consumption, and I can now stretch one package (what used to be one meals worth), to several meals.

This picture is of the first recipe I made from the book, Wheat Germ Balls, which turned out O.K., but they really need to be slathered with peanut butter to make them really delicious! Which is totally acceptable if you want a sweet, high-protein snack. DH is just very suspicious of anything with "wheat germ" in the name, so I had to make chocolate chip cookies the next day:)

I think you can buy this book on Amazon, it has lots of good nutritional information, and I look forward to trying some more casseroles to stock the freezer for Baby's arrival. I'll let you know how it goes.