Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday crafting

I can finally see my desk again!  The last few weeks have been filled with making holiday gifts for friends and family.  By the time December 25th came around, my desk was piled a couple feet high with skeins of yarn, needles, books and patterns.  (I'm not posting a picture of it out of sheer embarrassment.)

Here are some of things I was working on...

A jellyfish from the book Amigurumi Knits by Hansi Singh.



Stuffed cat


And then when it was time to clean up the desk, I decided I needed to organize my knitting needles.  So, I put together this case with some leftover Eames fabric I have been holding on to for years.  I'm so glad I was able to put it to good use.  All this case is is a long rectangle with a 6 1/2" lower pocket and 1 1/2" upper pocket to keep the long needles in check.  The individual pockets for the needles are 1 1/2" to 3" in width (for circulars) with one 6" width pocket for embroidery needles and other notions.

I used a hook and eye closure, but want to change it.  Maybe later...I'm still finishing up some holiday crafts.  Bleargh.

Stuffed cat pattern

While packing up the gifts to send to my folks for Christmas, it occurred to me that I had forgotten to get something for my brother's new daughter, Ella.

So, I decided to throw together a toy.  I knew I didn't have enough time to knit something, so I drew out a cat on some graph paper, knit eyes, nose, tail and collar and attached them with needle and thread.  If you're interested in making the cat, the pattern is below.

What you will need:
Felt in brown (2 pieces about the size of a standard sheet of paper)
Worsted weight yarn in white, black, pink, brown and blue.  (Of course, you can use whatever assortment of colors you like.)
Size 6 dpns
Embroidery floss in black (for whiskers)
Needle and thread
Polyester fiberfill for stuffing

Download and print pattern.

Cut two of pattern from felt.

Eyes: (work in round)
CO 12 stitches on to 3 dpns using white yarn and join in round
Rounds 1 and 2: k12
Switch to black yarn
Round 3: (k2, k2tog) 3 times - for a total of 9 stitches
Round 4: k9
Break yarn, thread through remaining stitches and pull tight.  Weave in loose yarns.

Nose: (work back and forth in rows)
CO 6 stitches on to 1 needle
Row 1: p6
Row 2: k2tog, k2,ssk - for a total of 4 stitches
Row 3: p2tog, p2tog-tbl - for a total of 2 stitches
Row 4: k2tog
Break yarn, slip through remaining loop and pull tight.  Weave in loose ends.

Knit a six stitch I-cord until approximately 4" long (or as long as you like).

*When attaching face/tail, be aware that you will need to leave room for a seam if you use a sewing machine to sew up the sides.
1) On outside front cat piece, attach eyes and nose using needle and thread.
2) Embroider whiskers with black embroidery floss using backstitch.  ( I put three whiskers on each side below the nose with the middle whisker on each side slightly shorter than the other two.)
3) On outside back cat piece, attach tail either curving (as in picture) or straight with needle and thread.
4) With outsides facing in (face and tail should face each other), pin the two felt cat pieces together.
5) With a sewing machine, sew front and back together with a 3/8" -1/2" seam, leaving a small hole at bottom for turning inside out and stuffing.
6) Trim corners to make shaping easier.
7) Turn inside out so face and tail are on the outside.
8) Stuff cat
9) Close up hole in bottom with whip stitch.
10) Knit a 4-stitch I-cord, long enough to fit around stuffed cat's neck.  Tie the two ends in a bow to attach to cat (as pictured) or use tails to sew the two ends together for a seamless look.

** If you don't have a sewing machine, you can use whip stitch to sew the front and back of cat together.

Birthday party in a snowstorm

Steve and I flew to Chicago for my grandpa's 90th birthday party a couple weeks ago.  It happened to be on the weekend of a major snowstorm, think Metrodome roof collapse.  Luckily for us, we flew in while the precipitation was still rain and flew out after it was all over - no cancellations and no major delays.  What luck!

After arriving in Chicago, we did a bit of a bakery crawl, stopping at Hoosier Mama Pie Company for a slice of chocolate chess pie and a whole ginger custard pie.

Next, it was off to Vanille Patisserie for Macarons.

Eventually, we made it downtown to our hotel and caught a bite to eat at an Irish Pub amongst a group of Santa's on a pub crawl with a purpose.

This nice Santa let me get a photo of him with his baby.

The next morning, we woke up to this.  Our drive to Riccardo's for the party was fine, but my parents in WI didn't end up making the trip due to the weather (or, maybe, it was the passengers).

The party was very nice.  We were glad to have made the trip  Here is a photo of Steve, Grandpa and me.

For more photos from the party, click here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Godfrey gets ready to go

My grandpa turned 90 on December 9.  What do you give someone who is turning 90?


Ready to go...

Yet another Mochimochi pattern.
Knit with acrylic worsted weight yarn on size 6 dpns.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cashew milk

It's the day after Thanksgiving and, as usual, I feel like I overdid it yesterday with too many rich foods.  So, it's time to cleanse.  No, I'm not talking about a juice diet or getting a colonic.  I just mean that the foods I eat for the next couple days are going to be lighter, less salty and I'll be avoiding dairy in everything other than my morning coffee.  The problem is that I like milk in my oatmeal.  The solution is homemade nut milk following instructions from the book Vegan Vittles by Joanne Stepaniak.

Here's what you need:
coffee grinder
fine mesh sieve
3 cups almost boiling water
1/3 cup raw nuts (I used cashews)
2-3 tbsp sweetener, depending on the nut you choose (I used 2 tbsp brown rice syrup.  Maple syrup works great too.)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

1. Grind the nuts to a fine powder/paste using the coffee grinder.

2. Blend the ground nuts, sweetener and flavoring extract with 1/2 cup of the water.

3. Add the rest of the water 1/2 cup at a time and continue to blend.  Take care when blending very hot water.  Don't use a blender that is too small and fill it no more than halfway.  Be careful of the steam when removing the lid.  Use a low speed.

4.  Pour contents of the blender through the sieve, stirring the milk to help it get through.

My sieve isn't very fine, so I add cheesecloth to the straining procedure.

5. Place the contents in a storage container and keep in refrigerator.  It will keep for about a week.  Shake the milk before using.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Felting first, but not the last

It seems every project I attempt, introduces me to something new.  This time it was felting.  Essentially, you knit up a very large piece, with a loose gauge using wool.

Then, you stick it in the washing machine using a hot water setting and low water level and wait.  The product that comes out is shrunken and formed into a thick fabric where the fibers are all interlocked.  I actually had to add some boiling water to the tub, because our machine doesn't get much more than warm.  I also found it useful to throw old jeans into the mix to help with friction. 

Finally, you have to let your project dry.  For this project, it took nearly a week for the slippers to dry, before I could finish them off with a pearly button and some beading elastic.

These cute ballerina slippers are on their way to my mom for her birthday.

For a good article on felting with advice for how to fix your washing machine if it gets clogged from a lot of felting projects, click here.

The only downfall of felting is the amount of yarn you have to use, making a project like this rather expensive by comparison.  But, the item is probably cheaper than a similar item purchased in a store.  Oh, and then there's the issue with clogging your washing machine, but that can be avoided by felting inside a pillow cover.   

Project details:
Pastaza yarn on size 10 circular needles purchased at The Yarn Mart in Little Rock
Felt Ballerina Slippers Pattern by Bev Galeskas

For more specifics, you can go to my notebook.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Racing in Memphis

Steve and I got up VERY early on Sunday morning to race the Outdoors Inc Cyclocross Championship race in Memphis along with the rest of the Little Rock CX crew. Steve built me a set a of wheels for this season and I really wanted to see how they worked.  (The same week he finished them, he broke his collar bone and I haven't had a chance to give them a proper workout, until yesterday.)  The wheels worked great, by the way! 

The course, located at Greenbelt Park along the Mississippi River, had some really cool features including some tricky off-camber turns, stairs, a barrier run-up and plenty of ups and downs.  Not to mention, the competition was tough. 

Ryan working a steep hill with Noah, in the background, on an off-camber section.

Noah on the stairs.

Noah shows his skills over the barriers.

Ryan looked smooth over the cottonwood logs.

I don't remember how many women started the race, but they were fast.  Long story short, I was sitting in 2nd place during the second lap, when the first place rider dropped her chain.  Then I maintained 1st place until the last lap or second to last lap when a totally different rider came out of nowhere and passed me on a flat like I was standing still.  I managed a respectable 2nd place and got some cool swag including cash and a cute swiftwick hat!  (I think it was the wheels.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Visitors from California

Last month, Steve's parents came for a visit.  Steve rented a cabin at Deer Hollow Ranch near Lake Fort Smith, so they could see parts of NW AR.  (During their last visit, we stayed in Mountain View for a weekend.)  

Fido loved meeting his "grandparents" and his time at the cabin.

Fido at Lake Fort Smith.

We visited Eureka Springs one day, but it was too rainy to really enjoy our time there.  We did, however, get a good lunch at New Delhi on the Deck.  Indian buffet!  (Steve shows off his pre-surgery sling for the broken collar bone.)

Speaking of eating, we did a lot of it.  We had dinner at our favorite place, The Pantry as well as Cajun's Wharf, also a very good place.

They did some visiting on their own including a day trip to Hot Springs and a visit to the Clinton Presidential Library and the Heifer International Campus

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Make a cat happy; plant some cat grass

Our cats love fresh cat grass, not the stuff that's sold in pet stores.  (I don't know why they don't like the pet store stuff, but they don't.)  Anyway, it's so simple to plant it myself, it just makes sense. 

I start with a plastic container that would otherwise be sent off to a recyling center.  (Keep your eyes open on recycling day and grab a good sized one out of your neighbor's bin.)  Simply cut drainage holes in the bottom and fill it with potting soil.  Scatter the seeds over the top of the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil.  Finally, put the container in a sunny spot, keeping the seeds covered until they germinate.  (The top of this lettuce container worked perfect for this.)

A couple days later, you can see the sprouts taking root through the sides of the container and the shoots start to come up.  That lid now serves as the base to catch dirt and water.

The seed package suggests keeping the grass trimmed to a certain height, but I never have to bother with that since the goats, er, um, cats keep it trimmed for me.

Dogs enjoy cat grass too.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Obsession with cute knits

I SHOULD be working on a project that needed to be finished last weekend for a certain someone in my life with a birthday this coming Saturday.  Instead, I am knitting cute little buddies.  What can I say?  I'm obsessed.

It started with the hamsters and the Mochimochi book.  Then it was Mochimochi Land where I found a pattern for this snowman.  (I didn't actually buy the pattern, but used a basic toy pattern from her book to make my own version of it.

Now, it's this ladybird.  I found the pattern at Natural Suburbia, searching for Amigurumi.

Maybe I'll put together a pattern of my own...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Have an hour? Knit up some Mochimochi.

It's so much fun to knit up a quick project.  A couple weeks ago, I picked up a book called Knitting Mochimochi.  The patterns vary in length and difficulty.  The instructions, hints, and photos are very helpful.

I knit a couple mochimochi hamsters over lunch this week.  Each one took less than an hour.  They're so cute, I sent a couple to my niece in Janesville.  Then, I had to make one for Steve.  (He requested one for his office.)  I think I will fill his office with small knit toys.  

You can find more at Mochimochi Land.  (If cuteness offends you, don't visit.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WI vacation part II

My favorite part of our stay in Northern Wisconsin had to be the hikes we did.  The hiking options were numerous. We went for a walk each morning and afternoon.  I think we crossed paths with another human only once. 

This is a photo of Steve and Fido under a canopy of Aspen on an unmarked snowmobile trail.

This is a photo of me and Fido on the Northern Scenic Hiking Trail.  We encountered a lot of large birds that morning, pheasant, maybe, whose take-off shook the ground when we approached.  Fido wanted some of that action; but, alas, we don't hunt.

We also did a lot of bike riding.  When we checked in at Delta Lodge, we were given two maps: (1) the CAMBA (Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association) complete map and (2) the Delta Cluster map (a more detailed map of the CAMBA trails closest to our cabin).

Steve's favorite riding was on the rolling gravel fire roads.

But, we did venture on to some snowmobile trails.  Those were fun in their own way, but probably a lot more fun on a Ski-Doo.

For more hiking photos click here.

For more riding photos click here.