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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pardon Me While I Digress

My husband has been trying to get me to read the George R. R. Martin "Game of Thrones" books for years. Fantasy is not my thing, so I resisted for a long time. Years.

Then they had to go and make a series on HBO. And they had to cast my very favoritest actor ever, Sean Bean, as Ned Stark. All of a sudden, I had a great desire to read the books. I received the first three as a Valentine's present. Bonus gift, the re-issue of the first book has Ned Stark on the cover -- be still my heart.

For those who haven't read these books, one thing to know is that Martin names each chapter after the character whose story is being told. So a chapter about Ned Stark is titled "Ned." A chapter about Jon Snow is titled "Jon." You get the idea. If you've read the books, or watched the series, you also know that Martin likes to kill off characters. As my husband so wisely told me when I started reading the books: "Don't get too attached to a character. George Martin likes to kill off your favorites." Excellent advice. Advice I wish I had taken to heart. I've sworn off these books more times than I can count. Always after I disregarded my husband's advice.

Anyway, between Martin killing off characters and naming the chapters after characters, I've been very careful not to read ahead. This includes trying very hard not to read chapter headings, so I'm shocked or excited to find out that someone has lived to fight another day. It really wasn't that hard, as I'm not one to read ahead anyway. 

So, I've carefully read the first three books. Then I start the 4th book and my hubby spilled the beans and told me one character that will be in the 4th book. No biggie, nothing ruined and I'm happy b/c it's one of my favorite characters. I read the prologue and thought to myself -- "I'll just flip to one chapter and see which character will be in the book." The exact opposite of the careful reading of the first 3 books. So I randomly flip open the book to find a chapter heading. The character for this chapter? The only character I knew for sure was in the book. Yup. The one my husband told me about. Too funny! I figured this is karma's way of telling me to stop cheating, put the book down and be patient.

I can't recommend these books enough. They're a wonderful read and a terrific story. Like the Wars of the Roses, but with dragons! (Stole that synopsis from the hubby as well -- he's so smart!) Even if you've watched the series, do yourself a favor and read the books. It will fill in some of the blanks and give you a more complete picture.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mothers of Invention

There's a reason clothes are made the way they are. The waistband should be at your waist. Not above it, Fred Mertz. Definitely not below. I do not wish to see your underwear be they boxers or thong. Just gross. Do you know what happens when you buy a skirt that is too big in the waist? It sits at your hips, falls past your knees and just generally looks bad.

Unfortunately, all my skirts are too big. It's the way it is. I guess I could take them apart and take in the waist. Or I could return them and get a smaller size. Realistically, I'm not going to do either. I bought them and I'll wear them as they are. It's how I am.

So, what do you do when your clothes generally fit fine, but are too big in the waist? You wear a belt. But, what do you do when you don't have a belt? (We won't even discuss why I don't have a belt. I just don't. I have no idea why that is and I admit it's odd.)

You make one!

I made this last night. Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. Thank you, Plato! 

I made the belt with left-over yarn from the basket weave purse in the previous post. It's a very simple pattern. I just created half double-crochets (hdc) in every other chain. Between each hdc I chained once. This yarn is really bulky and chaining between the hdc helps the belt to lay nice & flat.

To make your own belt just chain the length you want and make sure it's an even number. Add two extra chains for the turn (these will be your first stitch.) After the turn, hdc (half double crochet) in the third chain from the end and chain one. Skip the next chain and repeat hdc, chain, skip all the way to last chain. Depending on how wide you want your belt, you can chain two and turn and then repeat the previous row until you have a wide enough belt.

I wanted a belt that was only two rows wide and I wanted it to look "finished" on both sides. If you've crocheted before, you probably know what I mean. IMHO, my work always looks better if I crochet around the unfinished edges. So, instead of turning the work and creating a second row -- I made three hdc in the last chain to create a corner. I then worked the same pattern (hdc, chain, skip) up the other side of the chain. I then crocheted 3 hdc in the last chain and joined the piece by slip stitching (sl) into the top of the chain. Done!

I was going to add buttons so I could have a very neat belt. In fact, I created a loop as a button hole by chaining 3 stitches before slip stitching to the chain. I even sewed on two buttons. The problem is, I couldn't get the belt tight enough. Instead, I ended up removing the buttons and am now pretending the button hole at one end doesn't exist. I've decided to tie the belt which helps me getting a better cinch. I think it looks cute. Nautical, even, with my denim skirt.

Okay, it's a step away from using rope as a belt. But it's a fashionable step!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Basketweave Purse

A few weeks ago my sister asked me to make her a new purse for the summer. I was already making watermelon totes, but she wanted something different. I started searching around and found a pattern for a basket weave purse:
Hibiscus Purse pattern by Kristina's Krochet.

I knew it would be perfect for my sister because it was unlike anything else I was making and it is big enough to carry all her stuff. I could tell it would be beautiful, but I was a little concerned it would hot or look heavy because it's make with #6 super-bulky weight yarn.  Boy was I wrong!

Back of the purse. Isn't it pretty?!
This is a beautiful pattern. The basketweave is very summery. It reminds me of those sailor bracelets we used to buy each summer down the shore (that's the beach for those of you not from NJ.) Unfortunately, I couldn't find the darker coconut shell button in the right size, so I had to use a lighter colored button. I think I would prefer the darker button, but I'm not going to stress about it. My sister likes it as it is, and that's really the most important thing.

Naturally, I lined the purse. I wish I had a more funky fabric to use, but this was the only thing I had that was big enough.
I'm working on a lining tutorial for a future post.
The lining has pockets on both sides. The pocket on the back of the purse was sewn into three pockets -- a standard sized pocket, one sized to hold a phone and one for the all important lip gloss or chap stick. The pocket on the front of the purse is your standard large pocket. This thing can hold anything!

While I would like my sister to have her own, unique, purse. I may have to make another one of these, but in a different color.

Maybe I'll make one for me!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sweet Treat Time!

My niece's birthday is at the end of May and the family always gets together over Memorial weekend to celebrate. She's a tween now and has a definite aversion to "little kid stuff." However, like most kids, she can really get her sweet tooth on. A few days before her party, I saw a post for a Party Hat Snack Mix on another blog I follow, cookies and cups. It was so cute, I just had to make it:

While there are lots of ingredients, and a few steps to follow before mixing, this is actually very simple to make. Basically, you make candy covered party hats out of Bugles, candy melts (you can find pretty much any color at your local craft store), non-pareils and gumdrops. The week leading up to the party was a bit on the hot & humid side so I made the hats the night before the party so I wouldn't have to wait for them to dry the next day. I mixed the rest of the mix the morning of the party. Right before I left, I combined the mixture and the hats.

The kids loved it! They thought the hats were the best thing they've ever eaten. This mix is a good balance of salty & sweet --which makes it very attractive to me. On the blog you'll also find instructions on making this for Christmas -- which I plan to do for my annual Christmas party this year. I also have plans on making witch hats for Halloween and making up baggies of the mix for a classroom Halloween party.

This mix is very forgiving and I'm sure you could add or subtract almost anything and it would be terrific. For instance, the next time I make this I think I'll double the peanuts and omit the popcorn. Maybe it's because it was warm that day, but the popcorn went a bit stale on us and we ended up picking around it. I would also like to try this recipe with the small, square pretzels. I'm thinking that would give a higher pretzel to chocolate ratio. Mmmmm...more chocolate on pretzels. Of course, when I make this for a classroom party I will leave the nuts out completely. I am confident the mix will be just as good.

You can find a link to the party mix post and recipe here along with some really terrific photos that serve to remind me to stop taking pics with my phone and to start using a real camera.

While you're there, check out the rest of the site for some really cute ideas and lovely photography.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Swan is Born

Sometimes it doesn't take much to make something old new again. A little polish, a little trim, a little bling and...voila! Your old item is re-made and better than ever.

Last autumn I made this bucket bag to take on a trip to Gettysburg. I knew there would be lots of walking and that I would want to carry stuff -- my wallet, an umbrella, a pashmina, suntan lotion, lip gloss. I wanted a cross-body bag that wasn't too big and didn't have pockets sticking out of it. Can't. Stand. Those. Blech.

So, I made this little number:

Pattern by KnitArtbyGrace.

It's your standard bucket bag, but with a long strap. Naturally, it's felted. It's a very pretty green. Kind of like a mossy green. This picture does not do the color justice. But, it was just that. A sack. No lining and, as it turns out, with a strap so long the bag could hang down past my knees. Oops! Not enough felting time with the strap. But, I tied up the strap and carried on. It served me so well I used it the entire autumn until I made this pretty tote for winter:
My own design inspired by a pattern from KnitArtbyGrace.
I l-o-v-e this bag! Look at the ruffle! But that's a post for a different day. Back to the green bag.

So I was getting my stuff together & remembered I have this very serviceable green bucket bag that would be perfect for this weekend trip. Again, lots of walking & stuff to carry and I don't want to carry a shoulder bag.

There's nothing really wrong with the bag as is, but I started thinking about all my new bags that have linings. And pockets! Quick trip through the stash and this nice bag now has a happy yellow lining, with bumble bees, and three pockets.

Three pockets! Including one just for lip gloss!!
Then I cut the strap down so I wouldn't have a knot on my shoulder and I added some green trim I bought from the home decor department of my local fabric store. I had dreams of turning this trim into a purse handle. I still might try that, but for now it's a pretty trim on my green bag.

The duckling is now a swan!

It's not much and it didn't take a lot of time, but it's like I have a brand-new bag. Even though it's felted, the green feels very spring-y to me. It's also very soft from all the love it got in the fall. Just perfect and I love it all over again!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Pig

When I was first learning to crochet, I quickly became bored of shawls and scarves. A quick search on the web introduced me to amigurumi. Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting and crocheting stuffed toys. There are lots of free patterns out on the web. A quick Google search will point you in the right direction and I have some links to amigurumi blogs in my blog roll.

I thought it looked interesting, but I don't have kids and my one niece is getting a little too old for stuffed toys. However, I do have dogs. Dogs who love toys.

In fact, I have one little monster who has a whole bowl full of her own toys. Her name is KittyPig. Honestly. She grunts like a pig.
A real, live, KittyPig sitting under the Christmas tree.
I knew I would have to make this for her the minute I saw it.
Pattern found on Lion Brand Yarn.

This project was my first foray into amigurumi. I found the pattern on the Lion Brand Yarn website. Most patterns on the site are free (this one is!) though you'll have to create an account to open the pattern. It is pattern number 70589AD.

Let's talk about the good first. The stitches for the body of the pig are fairly even. Not bad for the first time crocheting in the round. The ears are kind of cute and the eyes aren't too bad considering I hate to embroider.

Now the bad. The feet -- not so good. They're not quite even and they're not sewn on very well. The stitches for the nose could be a bit tighter and more even. Tension is something I still struggle with.

Something you can't see in this picture, is the weaving in of the tails. If this was a toy for a child, I would say it's fine. They can play with it and it can even be washed and it should hold its shape pretty well. What I didn't take into consideration is that I'm giving this to a dog. A dog who likes to destroy stuff. Her main goal in life is to kill a sqeaky before the toy is one hour old.

With this in mind, my ends should have been tied off and glued. They wouldn't show because all the pieces had to be sewn on. Instead, I followed the directions and stuffed the ends into the body of the toy. Within a few days, KittyPig had all the ends out of the bottom of the poor pig's feet. At first I just let the ends hang out. I was afraid if I cut them off the toy would fall apart. At the same time, I wasn't going to stuff them back in. She would just get them out again. Finally I tied off each of the ends in square knots and cut them off. The pig stayed together and all is well. In fact, it's almost 2 years old and still one of her favorite toys. It's a mess from being chewed on and generally loved by a dog, but it still looks like a pig. Just an older pig.

Lessons learned: think about your audience. The finishing was fine if this was a toy to be given to a child. Now that I know better, I tie off the ends, put a drop of fabric glue (if needed), weave it in where it won't be seen, and cut off the rest of the tail.

I also learned that even dogs who can destroy almost every manufactured toy for sale cannot destroy a crocheted toy. She hasn't ripped it or pulled the stuffing out. I can't say that for the stuffed squirrel I used to buy every 6 months. I have more toy squirrel pelts than one person needs! The crochet toys, however, are still intact.

Lastly, I learned I get a lot of pleasure making these toys for my dog and the dogs in my family. It's nice to see them play with the toys and to see a whole bowl full of handmade toys. Even now, with all the toys she has, when KittyPig sees me coming home from work, she runs and grabs the HUGE felted ball I made her for Christmas. It's like she knows I made it for her and she wants to play with me, with the toy I made. Melts my heart every time!

Best of intentions

I would like this blog to be a place to share. Share projects, accomplishments, even things that don't go quite right. I hope that those who find my little corner of the interwebs feel welcome to do the same.

In the spirit of sharing, I will be posting pictures of past projects. Some came out great, some need work. I don't know if I have any pictures of my disasters (and there were some epic disasters!) because at the time I didn't want to document my failure. I feel differently now. I've learned from all my projects -- the good, the bad and the ugly. From this point on, 100% transparency. If my work is terrible, I'll post it and we can discuss what I did wrong. If it came out great, you'll get to see the finished project and hopefully be inspired.

99% of the time, I'm working other people's patterns, so I'll always give credit to the pattern designer and provide a link, when I can, to the pattern. In some cases, the pattern will be free on the web. A lot of the time the pattern will be for sale in an Etsy or Ravelry shop. In those cases, I'll link to the designer's shop. I won't go off on a tangent about copyright, but suffice it to say that I support a designer's copyright of their pattern. Copyrights, in the publishing world, is my day job so anything less would be hypocritical of me.

So, sit back and I hope you enjoy the tour of my trials and tribulations in crocheting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Felting - The Watermelon Tote

As I mentioned in my first post, I like to make felted items. I've made hats and slippers. And purses! Lots and lots of purses! I can't get enough of them. When I saw a pattern for a watermelon tote, I knew I would have to make it. And I knew who to give it to. Mom!
Pattern by Pomquat.

Before this pattern, I had never made anything with beads. I admit to being a little intimidated, but once I got the hang of it, it was very simple. Mom loves this purse and carries it everywhere.

I've made a few since this one. I gave one to my aunt and have another ready to go into my Etsy store. I also have one that's not quite finished. I made it with a deep pink that looks like very ripe watermelon. I'll post a pic when it's done.

I may keep it for myself. ;-)

Who says felt is for winter only?


Welcome to my blog and thank you for visiting!

I've been crocheting for almost 2 years now. I mainly like to use wool to create felted items like purses and slippers. While I was taught crochet by my Grandmother (who wasn't? lol) when I was a child, it didn't stick until I took a class with my aunt. Now I can't stop. I crochet almost every day and I love to make things for other people.

Here's a purse I'm working on my for my sister:

Pattern designed by Kristina's Krochet.
It's a beautiful pattern that looks complicated. A little front post & a bit of back post crochet and you have basketweave. Amazing! Soon it will have handles, a button and a lining with a pocket. The perfect summer purse. 'll post a pic when it's completed.

I would love to hear from others who enjoy crochet and other crafts. I'm always looking to share ideas and see what other people are up to. Hope you'll comment on post or drop me a line.