Monday, April 30, 2012

swallowtail shawl

Yay, I finished something!

I don't know what it is about these silly lace shawls...I have no plans to actually wear one, but I can't stop making them. I guess it's the magic of going from a lump of crazy-looking knitting to a thing of beauty.

This is my swallowtail shawl, an Evelyn Clark design. Everyone has made one. (Well, nearly 10000 knitters have, anyway.)

Senorita Grumpypants was not in the mood to model today - can you tell by the hunched shoulders? She's pouting, too. Oh well, you want me to take you to that bounce-house birthday party later today, kid? That's what I thought. Now, show us how it looks when you hold it out to the sides:

It seems there are certain shawls that just about everyone makes (if they make shawls, that is). There's this one, and the flower basket shawl, the shetland triangle, ishbel, and ene's scarf, among many others. I guess because these designs are so accessible for knitters of every level, maybe? The knitting is really not difficult at all, other than those tricksy nupps. Lots of knitters substitute beads there, and I can see would definitely be faster and less fussy. But I'm glad to have tried it as written. 

I'm disappointed I didn't use up more of the yarn, though. I had two skeins of Naturespun fingering weight in nordic blue, approximately 310 yards each. I got most of the way through the shawl with one skein, and only used maybe 1/10 of the second. Oh well, it's better than running out, and it came from stash so that's definitely good. This was knit on my favorite vintage nylon size 6 circular needle. 

I have lots of shawls in my ravelry queue, what shall I knit next? I also have two more skeins of Naturespun in a purple colorway to use up as well...I have to admit, I didn't "get" ravelry at first, but holy moly, it's an amazing tool. If you need me, I'll be over there trying to select my next project...

Friday, April 27, 2012


First things first, could someone answer this for me? I got an email from Blogger telling me I need to be sure and update my "legacy" blog (whoa, I've been blogging so long I'm a legacy), but it already says "Google" on my dashboard, so didn't I already do it? I don't want to lose access to my own blog!

Moving on, I have a bit of birthday sewing to share. Daughter turned 7 last week (7!) and I managed to just squeak this gift in under the wire. Seriously, just before dinnertime the night before her party I parked both kids in front of a video and sewed like a crazy person in the dining room. I managed to snap a couple photos too. Somehow, she did not see anything!

I will tell you this - it's no secret that I am generally a lazy seamstress. I choose simple patterns with clean lines and I don't care for projects that take days on end to finish. Patience is in short supply! But I think this nightgown was worth the time and effort.

The pattern is McCall's M4505, which is actually for undergarments (slips, camisoles, bloomers). I chose to use some pink rose print lawn I got from last year (majorly on sale, like maybe $3/yard?) and whatever lace I could find in my stash. Consequently, the lace at the collar and armholes does not match the lace at the hemline, but they are awfully far apart and similar enough that no one has noticed so far!

The buttons were a gift from a dear friend, and they look absolutely perfect on this fancy nightie.

By the time I did most of the gathering and lace application, I had used one entire bobbin of thread. I had to spin another just to complete the gown. The ruffle was easily the length of my living room before gathering, and each ruffle panel took 4 passes of the sewing machine to complete - lace placement line, lace stitching line, ziz-zagging the raw edges down, and topstitching to finish. Only then do you assemble the ruffle into one long piece and gather it to fit the gown!

A new skill for me on this project was stitching a continuous lap. Not too hard, but requires some patience. It came out pretty good for my first try.

The nightgown hasn't seen any use yet because it is 40 degrees here. It has snowed 3 times this week. Boo.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

yarn along


Oh Blogger. What is up with this new interface? I sure hope it ends up being awesome because I currently have no patience for learning it.

Anyway, just a quick one today because I want to use naptime for knitting time. I'm yarning along with Ginny at Small Things, working on my Swallowtail shawl.

As for reading, I'm in between books. Just finished the Hunger Games trilogy yesterday so I'm still digesting that. (Anyone else find the last book to be a poorly written total bummer? The first two were so good!)

Now I'm thinking of maybe reading the Game of Thrones series...supposedly it is wonderful, but complex. Can my feeble brain handle it? I'm going to start the first one and we'll find out. (See the edge of the computer in the photo? I'm using a PC reader and reading electronically so I can knit simple things at the same time...not lace shawls, but stockinette socks work out nicely!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

one project at a time

Do you ever have so many things you want to make and do staring you in the face that you become almost paralyzed into doing none of them? I'm in that boat right, so many awesome projects I've stumbled across around the web, so many little piles of supplies building up around the house, just waiting for me to find the time...there's the sewing pile, with pinned pattern pieces sticking out all willy-nilly, the knitting basket(s) with balls, skeins, patterns, and half-done projects languishing, and the cookbooks from the library stuffed with post-it notes to mark the recipes I want to try. Then of course the floors have dust bunnies, the laundry never stops, the ironing is building up and Hubs needs clothes for work, AJ is sick and needs constant nose-blowing assistance, our beloved speech therapist went and had her baby 3 weeks early so I'm scrambling to replace her, and my family somehow wants 3 meals a day (selfish!). I look at all that, and then I give up and flop in my comfy chair to browse the internet until bedtime. Pitiful!

It's just the usual stuff, the mommy stuff, the stuff we all deal with. It's challenging, it really is, and I wish we'd all acknowledge that more often. Today I was feeling pretty ace because I got the bedrooms straightened up, beds made/changed, clothes put away, rugs vacuumed...only to discover that while I was running the vacuum my son dragged furniture into a configuration that allowed him to scale the kitchen countertops and retrieve my glass pyrex measuring cups from the second highest shelf in the cupboard. Because he heard me mention making homemade granola bars today and he "just wanted to help." *sigh*

We did manage to make the granola bars. Only a little bit of the dry mixture ended up flung all over the kitchen...due to the aforementioned helper.

These are pretty good. I started with the recipe as written, subbing chocolate chips for raisins. I baked mine for only 25 minutes and could have even shortened that a bit (the recipe says 30-35). I used a dark pan and mine were not entirely even, particularly at the edges (again, I had "help") so the outside bars are a bit dark and crunchy. They do have a remarkably granola bar-like texture and they taste good.

Next time I will reduce the cinnamon (or skip it), and make some "grownup" bars with dried fruits and nuts. And probably some chocolate too, 'cause who am I kidding? Tiny chocolate chips are awesome. If I can perfect this I will switch to making my own all the time because even with the sugar and honey I bet they are better for us than the processed Quaker bars I buy by the truckload. Heck, they have wheat germ in them. Boom, healthy!

Ok, moving on, my sister asked me to take a bridesmaid dress she wore several years ago and re-make it into something for the bride's daughter. Should I admit that the daughter in question is 2 years old and my sis has been asking me to do this since the little girl was born? And that my sister has been asking me approximately every 6 months when I'm going to be able to get around to making the dress? Nah, I'm going to skip that part.

Anyway, I finally did it. The color of the dress defies description, so I was nervous about finding thread and a zipper to match. In some light it is yellowy, sometimes peach, sometimes pink. The underside of the dress fabric is actually hot pink. The lining is a pretty straight-up peach. My sister is very tall and it was a floor length dress so there was a lot of fabric to work with. The corset top was useless...I tried to pick the zipper out to re-use it but it was hopeless. So the entire toddler dress is made from the skirt of the bridesmaid dress. I chopped off the top 14" or so of both the dress fabric and lining, and made the bodice (and bodice lining) from those. I must mention that this fabric is a complete nightmare...the instant the scissors touch it the fibers disintegrate, basically. It was very difficult to work with!

I was able to then use the rest of the skirt from the original dress to make the smaller skirt you see here. The pattern pieces wouldn't fit on the remaining skirt, so I simply left it sewn together (front to back panels), gathered it, crossed my fingers, and sewed it to the bodice. The lining remained sewn in, too, so that was easy enough! Bonus: those seams were already serged.

More difficult was placing and sewing the zipper...I went with a regular zipper rather than invisible because I don't have an invisible zipper foot...oh, and I've never sewn an invisible zipper! I didn't think this was the project for trying new things, so I went with what I know. I used peach, and carefully pinned it so the dress fabric overlaps it perfectly in the back. The sewing gods were smiling on me, because it came out just right.

Then it was just a matter of hand stitching the lining down over the waist seam and hemming it (the skirt was the original length from the dress...I had to slice off about 15"). I did a pretty good trick, I think, to hem it. I measured down from the waist and marked the cutting line, then sewed a line of straight stitching on that line first. When I cut it a scant 16th of an inch away from the stitches, that stitching line prevented the fabric from unraveling while I folded and hemmed. I did the same with the lining.

Finally, the dress needed something to jazz it up. It was too plain. I took it to Michael's and was lucky to find this ombre ribbon that matches almost too perfectly. It was wired so I had to carefully pull the wire out of each side, but then I was able to turn the ends and stitch them, tack it in 3 places (center front and side seams), and tie a bow in the back.

Done! I hope my sis likes it and I hope her friend does too.

Oh, it is a size 3, using the bodice from New Look 6309.

Back to the to-do list.....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

a fail and a win

I think all knitters have had a project or two where they get halfway through and start to wonder if it's going to work out. Then one has to decide if it's worth it to press on and finish, or rip the project and repurpose the supplies.

I chose to press on. I had one ball of Knitpicks Alpaca Cloud laceweight in the 'stream' colorway (discontinued), leftover from the feather and fan shawl I knit while pregnant with AJ (2008). I came across this pattern on Ravelry, and thought, why not?

Well, I'll tell you why not. This project is a total fail. The pattern is fine; well-written and easy to execute. (And as an aside, check out the designer's work, it will blow your mind.) The problem: very poor match of yarn to pattern on my part. Alpaca Cloud has absolutely ZERO body, and does not hold up well to the beads. When I tried to put it on my neck and style it nicely, it just flopped. In the pattern picture you can see the cowl actually stands up a bit and has body to it, but mine is nothing like that. And I even went down a needle size because I didn't have an 8 handy - I used a US 7.

This makes me sad because it was no small feat putting over 700 beads into my knitting. It took a long time! The color is pretty, and the silvery beads sparkle so nicely, but sadly, I just don't see myself wearing it.

Oh well, live and learn. At least that ball of laceweight is used up!

Happily, the bread dough I mixed up last night resulted in a win:

It's still hot and I can't wait for it to be cool enough to cut. It's the easiest recipe in the world to follow and it comes out great every time (I use 2 cups AP flour and 1 cup WW flour). I used my Ma Ingalls cast iron dutch oven and it worked perfectly.

Back to my etsy order and a cup of tea.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


So much to do...gotta update the header for spring (and then summer will be here before we know it and I'll be out of date again). Gotta update the blog and ravelry with a couple finished projects. Gotta finish up some Etsy orders (no orders since early February but when it rains, it pours). I totally missed the yarn-along today because it's spring break and I had to take the kids somewhere that had elevators because that's what they wanted to do and would not shut up about it. So we went to the supermarket that has an upstairs cafe, rode up, ate a snack, rode down, and they were happy.

It's 8:50 p.m. and the kids are finally quiet, the kitchen is finally cleaned up, there's no-knead dutch oven bread mixed to rise overnight, and I just made the most amazing muesli. Want some? It takes two seconds to mix up and when you eat it with yogurt...awesomesauce.


2 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
scant 1/4 cup brown sugar (or to taste)
1/4 cup currants or raisins
A tablespoon or two of:
     flax seed
     raw sesame seeds
     dates (chopped)
     dried cherries (chopped)
     walnuts (chopped)
     slivered almonds

Mix it all up in a big bowl. Store in an air-tight container. The online recipes I looked at for inspiration said this will keep for 2 months but there's no way it's going to last that long. I took a big scoop to try it on my yogurt just now and the remainder fit in a quart mason jar. And of course you can add/subtract what you happen to like or have on hand. I was able to get most of this stuff in the bulk department at the grocery store so I didn't have to buy huge quantities. Delish.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

beads! and stuff

Oh, dudes, knitting with beads is cool. Really cool.

This week has sort of swallowed me whole. Daughter had a play at school, which threw the weekly rhythm off a bit, and Spring Break starts tomorrow {blech!} so I have to quickly think of over a week's worth of activities to keep the kids from killing each other. I need to sorta-clean the house for Easter Sunday as I think my in-laws are coming over for coffee cake (though they are notorious for cancelling or, even worse, ruining holidays). There are sewing projects in various stages of completion laying all over the dining room, including a satin bridesmaid dress turned toddler frock that needs hemming and embellishment. The weather has turned chilly and gray again so I have approximately zero motivation to do anything.


I'm going to go knit with beads some more.