Thursday, December 29, 2011

Progress on Quilt Squares

Every time I receive a new bag of fabric scraps, I go on a cutting frenzy! Making petals for flowers, leaves for trees, and exactly one square and one triangle for my quilt project.

After my usual sewing is done for the day I often sort squares and sew them into 4.5" squares of similar colors. I try to make the corners match up, but between the differing fabric types and my wonky cutting skills (clothes patterns are easy to cut, perfect squares are not. Who knew?) many squares are a little bit crazy quilt style.

I've made 103 squares, which puts me at about one third of the way done... good thing I'm not even close to running out of scraps!
I keep this rainbow of squares around to remind me that progress is not always fast, but the tower is growing!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A-viking We Shall Go!

For Yule this year I decided to fix two problems at once. My boyfriend has no hats, and often looks rather cold. Also, there is a terrible lack of raping, raiding and pillaging around the house. Let's make some changes to that ya?!
I started with handspun gray wool, a little nubbly for that rustic look. Starting at the top I made four bands of knit on purl background. The knit bands have large bobbles evenly spaced to look like rivets.

I got to the bottom and added a band of more bobbles, then started the cast off. The front and back bands are extended to a point with an extra bobble to protect the nose... or something like that. There are ear flaps in seed stitch so that Scandinavian winds don't get in. It took a good bit of steam blocking to get the points to behave...

The horns were picked up in a circle, knit for a short while with more bobbles. I then switched to handspun BFL in a creamy white to look like bone. Short rows gave it a curl, and I did all decreases on the same side for more lean. I didn't stuff them, I wanted the hat to not get too heavy and unwieldy, but I might wire the horns to be round.

If only I knew how to read patterns, I might make a pattern for this! Everyone should be able to enjoy their Northern European heritage and go around burning villages... right?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yule Logs and Sunshine

Last night was the longest night of the year, about 14 1/2 hours of darkness here in Colorado. Which means it's time to feast, enjoy friends and family, and light candles in the darkness!
A friend in the local Grove made yule logs, and I asked for one that was unadorned so I could decorate it myself. I had plenty of evergreen boughs and holly from my yard - symbols of neverending life, vitality, and general awesomeness. Yes, I am using a staple gun, it works.
We all lit the candles and shared in a meal of winter veggies and roast. We drank late into the night and enjoyed the snow falling outside. This morning the sun returned (not that we can see it, it's dumping snow!) and we can look forward to the cold months getting a little less cold with each passing day. I hope everyone is enjoying their winter holidays and lighting candles in the darkness!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


A while back I discovered that my house was very lacking, there was nothing to wipe your face with! I was also on a embroidery binge, and had plenty of left over crewel wool from my wheel of the year project. I had bought several packs of cotton tea towels to dye for use in my kitchen, and instead I set one aside for making napkins.

I penciled in swirly designs along the hemmed edge of the towel, using a ruler to make the sides somewhat symmetrical. After using all my left-over greens to edge the entire towel I cut it into fourths.
Now we all know that white things rarely stay that way, particularly if you are encouraging people to wipe their faces and fingers with them. So I tea dyed them to a nice antiqued tan. I put water, black tea bags, and a splash of vinegar on to boil. Added the napkins and kept at a low simmer for a little while (boiling wool tends to shrink it of course). I let it soak overnight, rinsed and hung to dry.
The cotton turned a lovely pale tan color, and some of the lighter greens were also toned a bit. The best part of this, if these become stained, or if the color fades too much, I can easily dye them again.
Growing up my family had a number of napkins hand made by my grandmother, a few even had embroidery and beads on them. It's such a simple easy way to add a little color and flair to your table. Have you ever made napkins, table mats, or tablecloths?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Seasons Changing

The leaves have long since changed and fallen here. The snow is covering the piles. As we approach the solstice and prepare for the cold nights of winter and return of the sun I like to curl up inside with hot tea and knitting. On the other hand, in my family everyone enjoys some kind of winter sport - skiing, telemark, snowboarding etc. It's the time of year for rich hearty soups and baking bread all day because it's nice to hang out in a warm kitchen. The changing seasons are always hard, either leaving behind a favored time of year or entering a challenging time, it's nice to reflect on the upside that each season offers.

We greet the snow with cookies, big sweaters, and sunglasses (in Colorado cold weather does not always mean clouds!). What is your favorite part of Autumn, that you will miss as the world turns? What are you looking forward to in the dark times?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Finds - Snow Fall

We had several days of snowfall, and the city is still sitting under a blanket of white. We don't stay home just from the weather here in Colorado, but here's some snow-day picks! Delicate photo by Bomobob.

If you wanted to make your own warm fuzzy, check out this pattern from YarnBlossomBoutique. Protection from the cold rarely looks this cute, and the pattern explains making different sizes for everyone to enjoy!

Snowflake jewelry abounds, but with a hand-painted piece you know that "no two are ever alike". TuckooandMoocow has many wonderful pieces that are just right for a winter's night out.

Fill your alter with light and your home with the scents of the season! ArtisanWitchcrafts has these pure white sparkly gems, and many other fabulous seasonal offerings.

These elegant curls are just twirls of paper, like the delicate ephemeral snowflake it represents (but a little more stable at room temperature). QuillyNilly can outfit a tree, wreath, log, garland etc. with paper snowflakes to bring the winter goodness inside!

How about an elegant handknit shawl to protect you from the cold and snow? DagnyKnit makes these lovely pieces to order, a great combination of delicate beauty and fuzzy functionality.

I hope that everyone is enjoying a little snow to remind us that Winter is almost here!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dying to Get Some of This!

While digging thru some papers from the 1880s in my mothers storage I came across this little goodie, a cheaply printed and obviously poorly cut booklet from the Diamond Dye company! This was the early days of aniline (coal tar) dyes, synthasized from chemicals instead of extracted from plants. The dyes were much more reliable and light fast than natural dyes, but were (and to some extent still are!) extremely toxic.
This booklet told the tale of a black cat whose kittens were all pure white - totally unfashionable in the Victorian era. So she buys some dye and plunges them all into a boiling toxic dye bath... and they are magically brilliant black for the rest of their lives!
The booklet suggested using dyes to keep up with the latest fashions by recoloring clothing, to dye rags for carpets, to color ostrich feather tips (sure, I have a closet full of those..) and to keep children's clothing looking new(er). While the glowing reviews seem a little forced, the idea that one could keep altering ones clothing instead of getting new things all the time is refreshing. Would you change the colors of your clothes to keep up with the styles?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Craft Fairs

I had the best craft fair this weekend. Not because I sold a lot (tho I did sell plenty), and not because of a magical venue. This was a fair with a central money table. They took %20, which is well worth it when one can leave early to go out to dinner, and not worry about being there in the early morning on a day with a foot of new snow fall. So my friend and I sauntered in a little late, and spent the day doing needlepoint while chatting with customers. I didn't have to do any of the paperwork involved with taking money! Has anyone else done a fair like this? Not the biggest money maker but a very low stress weekend!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Colorado Craft Calendar is Out!

The Colorado Craft Calendar is off the presses and one is hanging on my wall... This is a neat idea, why not have some cool locally made stuff decorating your kitchen wall? There's also the dates for lots of local craft fairs printed, so you can plan your weekends accordingly! As for me? I'm Miss October, modeling a fine piece in Downtown Denver.
It's a thrilling idea that some of my work will be hanging up, and I'm side by side with many truly talented artisans as well. Oddest promotion I've ever done? Yes. Most fun? Probably!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Harvest Time Cookies

As part of my lovely Thanksgiving week, I naturally worked hard to move thru the pounds of pumpkin puree in the freezer. There was pies naturally, and a bread or two, but one of the most fun to make was Pumpkin Hazelnut Cookies.
Butter, sugar and honey creamed, then an equal measure of pumpkin. Don't forget all the spices - cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.
Leavening and whole wheat pastry flour, I then sifted the fine bits out of my roasted hazelnuts. Whenever I use my food processor to chop nuts I end up with both nearly whole pieces, and very fine flour. Putting it in the cookies gave a subtle nutty flavor, but kept them from getting lumpy.
I rolled it out pretty thick, I like squishy cookies not burnt ones. And I'm not afraid of big cookie cutters either! I made both oak leaves and these odd turkey (?) shaped ones. No matter how fast I roll I rarely can keep up with the oven...
Have you been making seasonal yummies? Try something new, and it may become a common occurrence...
UPDATE - These cookies were brought to craft night at the local coffee house, and shared with the barista a few weeks ago. Last week he had a special request "it's my birthday next week, will you make me some of those cookies?" This "recipe" is officially part of the repertoire!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Etsy Finds - Shop Local in Denver for the Holidays

Now we begin the Yule-time season. Don't let winter take all your color tho, no need to hide the brights until spring! Here's a selection of some great items made right here in my hometown. Use the "local items" feature on Etsy search to find amazing things from amazing people in your backyard. JanuaryJonesPrints mapped out my hometown...

A perfect gift for any little one, robots in red! Made by CounterCoutureDesign

A dot of brilliant color for a winter's day, this lovely wreath from KiyaBee

Cheerful and cute card for the Winter Holiday season, by MyJuly

Brighten up the kitchen, or gift to your favorite host! From UrbanBirdandCo

A splash of rich ox-blood red for your ears, from VerreEncore

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Small Business Saturday

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? In my family we have always taken great pains to be sure that the Yule-time holidays don't overshadow the greatest holiday of all. I mean, really... It's a holiday that every American can celebrate. There's no religious undertones, no ethnic history, celebrating questionable history. (Ok yes, the Europeans and the Natives didn't get on all that well ultimately, but it's a celebration of survival and plenty, not conquest.)

But as a business woman I have to recognize the simple fact, this starts a shopping rush. But Black Friday? Is there really anyone who looks forward to lining up in the wee hours of the morning to fight someone for the last Tickle-me-Elmo? To a rushed and harried day of desperately searching sales. To waiting in long checkout lines as miserable clerks run up your credit card debt. Is this really what the Holiday spirit is all about?

Make this year different, make Friday a "Buy Nothing" day, stay home with your family, play in the leaves, enjoy your turkey cranberry sandwiches and some hot cider. Leave the ravenous hordes to fight for scraps.

But if you have shopping to do, consider joining in Small Business Saturday. Go to the little clumps of locally owned boutiques, stroll the street with friends and family, take your time perusing the goods. Often your small local stores have items you just can't find in a Big Box retailer, so you will bring home something unique!

Need more reasons? It's estimated that $0.45 of each dollar you spend in a locally owned shop stays in your community, through the salaries of the workers and the profits of the business, and the fact that these community members often shop local as well! Building strong sustainable communities requires diverse small businesses.
Shopping Local
ensures a unique variety of goods is available, and makes every city and nieghborhood different. It makes sure you have options. Also, no local shops I know of are opening at 2 in the morning, their employees get to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families and plenty of sleep.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Crafty Update

I must apologize for the paucity of post this month, school has hit hard, Winter greeted me with a nice bout of the flu followed by walking pneumonia, and crafting takes precedence over writing about crafting. But here's the update on what's been going on in my house!

Firstly, alpaca socks in the scroll work two color pattern. Oh, wow. These are the softest socks (the inside is full of the carried strands for extra amazing-ness) and the warmest socks I have ever worn. I have been enjoying them as slippers around the house for a week now! And no, the photo isn't fuzzy, the yarn is.

I had a considerable measure of yarn left over, so I decided to make arm warmers for the wonderful professor who brought me this alpaca roving as a gift. Seems fair that she should enjoy the fuzzy bounty.

As for sewing, I've been splitting time between my usual bag making, and a new project. I've made victorian style cuffs before, making use of my copious lace bits and fancy brocade scraps. I've decided the time is ripe for a separate Etsy shop for such pursuits, so I'm building up inventory to have a grand opening!

What are you making lately? Is everyone swamped with handmade gifting projects?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Train Heist!

There is a place in Golden Colorado where relics from the steam age are not forgotten hunks of rusting iron...
The Colorado Train Museum! Trains ranging from 150 years old, to just a few decades grace the grounds with it's maze of criss-crossing tracks. One can take a ride on a train pioneered by my own Great-Grandfather : The Galloping Goose! (Narrow gauge for you rail geeks out there).
My fellow Victorian time travelers and I were there to arrange a train heist, a good steam engine is essential for steampunk shenanigans.
Naturally we considered the largest driver there, almost two stories high and at least 100ft. long this seemed perfect for hauling time exploration equipment...
There are however some problems relating to sneaking out with such a beast. In fact, the museum had built a special set of temporary tracks to get the train in place.
In the end we settled on a smaller and more manageable piece, let the shenanigans begin!

DISCLAIMER We did not, in fact, steal any trains. Please don't report me to anyone.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Warm Crafting

It's wool time. It's time for warm fuzzy socks everyday, all day long. So I've been cranking up the winter season crafting!
This striping yarn with sparklies was a cool estate sale find. I got a huge bump of tweedy wool with four different colors laid out next to each other. I ran it thru the carder with mylar sparkles to blend it a bit and make it more fun! This funky yarn in perfect dark colors will make something warm and chunky...
I've been working on my stash of handspun for personal use, so the alpaca socks are finally becoming a reality. Don't let the fancy pattern fool you, these are still a basic sock pattern, the colorwork is not challenging. In fact, it makes the knitting go faster because one is obsessively knitting so that "I can see how the pattern turns out!".
Share the love this season, and knit something warm for your friends and family, or even for a charity that provides warmth to those in need. Everyone deserves to have at least one pair of lovingly hand-knit socks!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Slipping Up

It's cold weather season. A cup of tea can warm hands and faces, but not do much for your feet. How about some fuzzy woolen slippers?
I happened to have a bag of sweaters which had met an unfortunate fate in a too-hot washing machine, and this child's sweater is a pathetic little blob of thick wool. Perfect for keeping toes cuddly!
I traced my feet a little big (these are for my boy, his feet are big!) onto faux suede then pinned that to the sweater as a template. I then cut the top front, slightly wider than the bottoms. The rest of the sweater yielded short strips to go around the back of the heel.
I cut a dart out of the top fronts, and sewed that up to make it three-dimensional. I then layered everything ("right" sides together) to start sewing! The suede is sitting in the middle because it will be the bottom. One could also use real leather, recycled denim, or any tough and not-too-slippery material for your base. I whip stitched all the way around joining the heel strips to the sides of my toe covers.
Turn them right side out and check your seams. I used quilting thread, and put a sturdy knot in every inch or so for longevity. Put them on and enjoy toasty feet!
Winter is a great time to upcycle any "oops I put that in a hot wash" wool goods. Have you made any warm things out of old sweaters?