Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Young Mr. A-train had his fifth birthday this week. With that one starting kindergarten, and people asking if Z-man is going to get his driver's license when he turns sixteen I'm not exactly feeling youthful (until someone says to me "What are you, twelve?" and then proper order is restored unto the world). He absolutely loves his bike and his big wheel, and the pedal car he got for his birthday, and as he likes to make his imaginative play butt right up against reality, I decided to make him a few traffic signs out of foam.

I've never worked with foam before, but I rather enjoyed it. There was something sensorily pleasing about cutting into it and arranging it on the background pieces. Much more satisfying than paper-crafting, though not exactly a sophisticated craft medium.

I ended up making six signs in total--stop, yield, no parking, speed limit, and 2 hazards (because I didn't want to waste the extra yellow pieces I had cut)--

As always, don't look too closely as you'll see some oopsies in there, but overall I really like the way they turned out.

I think the speed limit sign is my favorite. I was going to make the limit a more of a realistic big-wheel speed, but A-train would tell me "I go way faster than that, Aunt Bee." To get the fonts and sizes right, I tried for about four seconds to free-hand those, and then said some adult words and printed off some templates from Google Images to trace in reverse.

The yield sign cracks me up with the crooked letters. We joke that it looks like it reads as "Yield? I guess? If you want? I'm not sure..." The stop sign I needed my sister's help with--I do not have a math brain and there are eight angles and eight sides and that's just way too much to deal with on a Saturday afternoon. Wanna know a secret? The 's' is on upside down. It's all I can see! But A-train is five, and has zero cares to give. It's really his nutty auntie who will be driven mad by this.

I used a thicker piece of foam for the base, and then bought the self-adhesive stuff for the details. I bought everything at Joann's. I bought some square sticks (where they sell the wood stuff and dowels) for them to be stuck into the ground, and simply glued them to the back and secured them with black duct tape).

I should have bought the next size up as these were not super sturdy for poking into the ground, but I didn't realize that until after they were made. However, my brother-in-law added some sturdier bits of wood to them to make them play-time ready instead of 'for display only.'

Of course now as I'm driving my brain is a constant whirr of "Ooo, I could make that one! Ooo that would be easy!" Because, again, I'm twelve.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Fill Me Up, Buttercup (with Cheddar, Indigo, and Tangerines)

Remember in the old days when I used to sew bags all the time? Like multiple bag posts a week, sometimes? I wonder when I had the time for that. Not that life is so different and so busy now, but I have no clue where I got the energy for it. I guess one of the first hints that I'm getting older is that my back now protests if I spend too long standing over a table and cutting or hunched over my sewing machine stitching.

ANYway, last week I finished up a bag, and I've been giving it its test run this week and have found it to be quite acceptable.

This bag is the 'Fill Me Up, Buttercup' tote by u-Handbag. It's quite oversized for my usual needs, but I do like carrying a bigger bag. The handles are a generously sized pair of thirty inch leather handles in tangerine. The fabric is from the new Cheddar and Indigo line. I interfaced each piece (lining and exterior) with two pieces of Pellon ShapeFlex 101. It feels quite sturdy and strong, but doesn't have the bulk to it that fleece or padding would give. I wasn't entirely sure how it would hold up, but so far so good.

Of course I didn't see any of that fuzz until I edited the photos, but let's focu on those lovely gathers instead, shall we? The pattern called for stitching some basting threads and tugging the gathers into place, but I don't find that method to be what you'd call fun so I just moved along in sections, pleating and pinning that way, until everything was in place and could be stitched down. The lining is gathered the same way--

The closure is a suspension bridge style zipper. I ended up trimming a little too much off the ends, but it's not restrictive or noticeable by anyone but me, so it's what the general public would call just fine.

The lining has my standard zip and slip pockets--

You can see how much space there is. It'll still hold an umbrella, a bottle of water, and a folded up cardigan or the like. And the handles are quite comfortable.

They are piped leather handles that I stitched on with embroidery thread. Quite easy to do, and the leather handles make the bag look store-bought (but in a good way). I tried to fuse some scraps of the lining over the stitches on the inside of the bag, but it doesn't want to behave properly, so I'm going to have to take needle and thread to it and whip-stitch them into place (they're purely aesthetic so I'm in no rush. I also just did my nails, and the way I hand-stitch will destroy them).

Anyway, that's my new bag. For once it's in fabrics that just came out, instead of having been used by everyone while I hemmed and hawed over if I wanted to ride that particular bandwagon, and then hunted like the dickens (and paid too much money) for exactly what I wanted instead of just buying it already.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Destash Giveaway Winner!

'Allo! Just popping in to announce the winner of my fabric destashing giveaway. So let's get right on down to it, shall we?

Here's what was up for grabs:

And here is the winning comment--

Janarama, you're the big winner!! I'm going to shoot you an email, but if you read this before you read that--congratulations!! As soon as I get your address I'll get your goodies shipped to you.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fabric Destash Giveaway!

Hello, kids! I know, it's been a very long time. Three weeks. One and a half fortnights without a howdy-doo, a hey-pal-how-are-ya, a how's-tricks?? So I thought I'd pop back in with a wee giveaway!

I decided to destash a decent amount of fabrics last week--things that are decent scraps from previous projects, or things that I've had for a while that I haven't used (and, if I'm being honest, probably won't use). It's enough that I feel bad buying new fabric, but I don't know what to do with this stack, so I just sit in a state of creative ennui, frozen by my own self-imposed buying restrictions.

So here's the lot--I don't hang onto wee scraps, so there is a decent amount of fabric here. A few things are less than a fat quarter, but there are plenty of full fat quarters, and some larger than that. There is definitely plenty here to keep you busy for a long time. Would you like to see?

Some are novelty bits, some are Christmassy, some are your basic blenders.

There's a mix of designer prints and things from Joann's or other shops of that sort.

I forgot to photograph it, but I also have a bag of Halloween scraps and fabrics that will be included.

So would you like to help a girl out and take these off my hands? Here are the rules:
  1. I am so sorry, but due to the weight of this package I can open this only to those in the US.
  2. Giveaway is open until May 31, 2017 at 11:59 P.M. I will then draw a winner over the next day or so.
  3. To enter, please leave a comment on this post about what you're most looking forward to this summer. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you win (you can write it this way to hopefully avoid spammers: youremailnameATdomainDOTcom). I'll also announce the winner in a separate post.
Good luck!!

Monday, May 1, 2017

What's Gonna Come Shootin' Out?!?

Soooo the only reason I'm telling you that today is (was?) my birthday is so I can show you this cake my sisters and A-train made for me. As your classic introvert, birthdays are a conflict between "please don't make me the center of attention" and "don't forget about me either." As I'm inching closer to the door of forty years old, I had a rough time confronting this one. I have always abhorred this growing up business--nobody asked me if I ever wanted to do it, and I don't, and it's not really fair.

OK, so cake. In the interest of trying to watch my caloric intake, I told my mother a fruit tart would serve well as a birthday cake. The female siblings had other pinterest-inspired ideas. Apparently the making of this cake was quite chaotic, and I was warned like so:
"So, Alicia and I [Rachel is doing the talking] made you something. It's a cake. Aaaaand we think it's ok. I mean...the inside should be cute...we think it's was'll have to wait until you see it. But we just wanted you to know it's not perfect. But our intentions were really good. So it might not look just right....but we meant well and we really tried hard. But we just want you to know it might look a little homemade. But it's going to taste good. But it was hot yesterday, and we didn't realize how much harder that would make's not perfect. That's all."
With an intro like that, my brain was swirling with what exactly they were talking about. I thought maybe they went for a rainbow cake and everything mixed on the inside and would be some strange shade of brown. When we went into the kitchen, there was some concern that the cake had shifted in the container on the drive over and that things would be a smooshy mess, and that layers would upend themselves when the lid came off. BUT--the lid came off, and this cake was probably one of the most "me" cakes you could make--

Polka dots, and red icing and the little heart!!! That heart apparently was a point of contention. One sister thought it was verging on "too much" and the other knows that when it comes to certain things I'm quite Victorian in my "more still isn't enough" approach. Rachel told A-train "Don't bump Aunt Leesh while she's writing on the cake." And he didn't. He stepped on her foot instead. Those little fruity gigantic non-pareils were a labor of love, apparently, in getting them to stick to the sides of the cake (and were a fiasco in and of themselves when A-train went to shake the container and the lid was off and they went everywhere). I declared the cake perfect, and that was that.

We had dinner, a bunch of us went for a walk, and then we came back for cake and tea. A-train insisted on putting the candles in the cake--

My mom and sisters were telling him "You have to put the candles in a certain way!" which is code for "symmetrically." He did it the same way he decorates Christmas trees--everything in one spot. It was a bit tricksy lighting the candles and keeping your fingertips fire-free.

The song was sung, a wish fervently made (I even closed my eyes and crossed my fingers, so you know it's legit--I take wish-making very seriously), and candles blown out. I went to cut the cake and was told "Make the first piece a nice big one." As I cut down, something felt funny, and I thought "OH my goodness, this must be what they messed up! I actually feel it!" So I made my two cuts, and was told "OK, take it out." I said "What's gonna come shooting out of this thing?" As I removed the gigantic slice, I heard a bit of a clatter. And this! This was the center of the cake--

Four layers, two partial, stuffed with M&M's, iced all around, with jimmies (you probably know them as sprinkles) everywhere, and red icing with a heart on top. They even picked out the brown candy so that it would be nothing but color.

As they told the tale of how this cake came to be, I could sense the tension that must have been in the room with two perfectionists (but in different ways) and a "helpful" little boy trying to pull off a layer cake in a hot kitchen. I'm surprised they all made it out alive.

And in case you're wondering--it tasted just as perfect as it looked. It certainly made this year's trip around the sun a little easier to swallow.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Outside of the Box

Soooo there's a chance I might be a bit of an impulse shopper. Liiiiiike if something is in a really cute package but I'll never use the actual product? I'll probably buy it. If I get really excited about the idea of something but don't get much further than that? I'll throw money at it. Cute shoes that might not be comfortable? They're actually in my 'donate' bag right now. It's never anything overly extravagant as far as price is concerned, but as someone who feels angsty and overwhelmed amid too much stuff, having the stuff unused is worse than losing the money I spent on it (which, again, usually isn't much).

Case in point. Last year I signed up for a yarn subscription service (which didn't last long once I realized the error of my ways). They sent me a nice 'hello' gift, and then my first box.

The gift was a small skein of yarn, a measuring tape that hooks onto itself that you can use to take your own measurements, a few patterns, and a fun little zippy pouch.

My first box was a couple of patterns and some yarn and beads. I actually gave this away a few months ago as the yarn is beautiful, but I knew I'd never get to it.

As time is wont to do, it flew by, and even though I signed up for every other month that time came too quickly, as did my second box.

Along with some patterns and cute yarn-themed goodies, the project was for a produce bag in a nice cotton-alpaca blend. I used the cord for something else, the notebook is used for grocery lists, and the yarn is...somewhere. I didn't care for it as it has no memory, and I'll never use it as a produce bag. So I'm doing really good, right? Gave one away, and dispersed the contents of the other to 'somewhere.'

So I cancelled that subscription once I took hold of my senses. But then I got a tug on the heartstrings. Many of you may have heard of Amanda Bloom's Little Box of Crochet. It's a monthly subscription service that Amanda started with her teenage daughter Jenny. Way unfortunately, her daughter Jenny has been battling cancer for several years and is nearing the end of her fight. I didn't come across this until January, when Lucy of Attic24 announced she was the designer for February's box. So of course I signed up because if Lucy chose it you know it'll be full of color, and because from far away from the UK it felt like helping somehow. The box did not disappoint.

In addition to an adorable box and pattern booklet, there was a crochet hook, buttons, stickers, a stitch marker, a Russian doll pin, and a rainbow of yarn.

The suggested project was a mug cozy. I don't know that that's something I'd use. I have a fabulous knack for dripping coffee down the side of my mug before I've even taken a sip, and I didn't want to make something so cute just to gross it up. I had no ideas on what to make, so I asked A-train. He's so imaginative I thought he'd see something I couldn't right away. He told me I should make a blanket for "baby Henry" (my cousins' son). When I explained there wasn't enough yarn for a blanket he said "Just make a small one, then." So I am still undecided on this, although all I see is something to do with flowers.

I did get the second box, and then cancelled my subscription as I could sense that feeling of "Why do I keep buying these things when I already have too much yarn and too many projects?" 

This one had some beautiful mercerized cotton and some other goodies.

The pattern for this box was supposed to be a crocheted lace scarf. I tried. I really did. I don't think I started fewer than ten times, but this just did not want to work. I do love the colors together, so I will definitely have to find a project for these.

So, that's that. Yep. Not another thing to report.....OK, I'm lying, one more. I KNOW! What is WRONG with me? This one was not a subscription, but for a crochet-along for a beautiful Scandinavian-inspired shawl. The Scheepjes yarn company hosts a CAL every year (I've used their yarns a few times now, and they are beautiful!), and while my primary instinct was to not take part, they introduced a new colorway that I gasped over, and bought right away. I don't have a picture of it in the box as I've pulled it all apart already, but here's an image from the info page:

OK? Tell me that's not gorgeous! 

Again, I tried. I gauge swatched and finally got going. Then I realized...I kind of wasn't liking it for me. It's beautiful in pictures, and I can immerse myself for a while in the Instagram photos, but guys? I have a lot of shawls that I don't wear as much as I should considering the time invested, and if I wasn't loving the feel of this one it didn't make sense to continue. So the small colored skeins (that make up the heart above) have been squirreled away for a floral project simmering in my brain. And the pink of the background is currently on my knitting needles as a warm-weather cardigan (it's cotton yarn). I had to very carefully search for a pattern, and I think I'll be able to squeak this one out. Eventually. Because the section I'm working on now feels like it will never end. It honestly feels like there's a gremlin unravelling as I stitch like the dickens because how can I not be further along yet?

However, I do not lack for shows to binge watch so I think I'll survive it. OH! Speaking of shows. First--I don't know how you all have waited for an entire week to pass by to watch Call the Midwife. I've only recently caught up to what's airing now, and it's torture to wait for Sunday night! BUT if you like shows with strong, smart women you might like The Bletchley Circle on Netflix. It seems to have only had a brief run, but the premise is interesting--a group of WWII code-breakers decide to put their skills to use to solve murders. I've enjoyed what little there is of it, so if you're not wanting something that lasts too long you might enjoy this.

OK, must trot. Because in addition to too much yarn, and always too much fabric (which I swear I'll be cutting and stitching again soon), I also have too many books, so I'm going to go make a dent in that pile. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hello! And Happy Easter!

I cannot believe it's been two whole weeks since I last visited with you here. It's been a...varied two weeks. Every early spring, I get hit by a few weeks of feeling low (a little sad, a little anxious, a little lethargic, all rolled into a bundle of fun for those around me). And just as I was feeling on the uptick, we received word of the untimely passing of my uncle. That, and a few other personal things, have caused the past two weeks to be a bit of a blur. And when I logged on today, I thought "Two weeks!!! Oh dear!!"

The weather has been varied--we've had cold days with rain, gray days with some unseasonable humidity, and a good healthy dose of blue skies and sunshine. Today was warm, and windy, and sunny. And Easter. The flowers are popping their heads out of the earth to see what's new, a certain little boy was searching for eggs (and called the Easter Bunny 'a clever guy'), and more carbohydrate-laden calories were ingested today than for the whole year thus far.

I don't remember what these are called, but they must have sprung up overnight as they were certainly not there yesterday. They look like mini pansies.

We hid some plastic eggs in the yard because Little Schmoo loves a good seek and find. Sometimes he would be practically nose-to-nose with it (if eggs had noses) and would say "Tell me if I'm hot or cold!" Of course, a few were easier than others.

I caught this picture of that herald of spring, Mr. Robin Redbreast.

He responded as one of my sisters does when she sees a camera--he posed and seemed to say "Hey, take one of me!"

I've actually got several similar shots, but I won't bore you.

My father spent a significant amount of time this week giving the yard its first makeover of the season--edging, trimming, mowing, raking, and so on. It sits in stark contrast with our neighbor's yard (as it does most of the year), which is generally covered in weeds and overgrowth and a general atmosphere of Amazonia. However, if you look at just the right moment (and possibly tilt your head and squint), you see that it looks like a field of sunshine.

I wholeheartedly agree with Sister Monica Joan (of Call the Midwife) when she says "Weeds are flowers that are simply growing in the wrong place" (and then promptly transplants the pulled weeds into her garden). Which, speaking of that show, my mom and I are completely caught up (except for tonight's episode, which I recorded). I am so madly in love with this show. But if you've made it this far in this post I do have a question--seasons two through five opened with a Christmas special. I know there is one for this season wherein they all go to South Africa, but from what I can tell that episode has not aired here in the States. Does anyone have any insight to this? It's driving me bonkers to be missing this episode (and will drive me further so waiting for it to pop up on Netflix).

I haven't got much else for you, just a bit of a personal whirlwind for the last two weeks. Speaking to that, when my mind is...occupied, I find that I need to busy myself. I've cleaned and dusted and gone through my closet and drawers to bag up donations. I spent yesterday making Finnish pulla bread (yummy, though I might leave out the cardamom next time), and started a summer cardigan today. I went shopping, had lunch with my mom, polished my nails, went to church, and did the Easter thing with the family. This may very well be the three most productive days of my entire life.

Work is going to be a welcome relief tomorrow (for about fifteen minutes).

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Trowbridge Sweater

Just in time for spring and warmer weather I finished the sweater I was working on. A better planner would have laid off knitting socks through the winter and made the sweater then, as they would have realized they already had plenty of socks. But I am not that better planner, so here we are.

I do so love to knit a top-down raglan. I have a long torso, so knitting from the top to the hem lets me make the sweater as long as I like. The pattern I used for this one was the 'Trowbridge' pattern by Alicia Plummer. I liked the fit, and the simple details that kicked it up just the right size notch.

It's quite a simple pullover, but it does have some lovely waist and hip shaping.

I'm not entirely in love with the fact that the increases and decreases aren't really invisible, but at least everything is neat and symmetrical, and runs down the sides of the sweater, instead of somewhere more noticeable like the front.

There are a couple simple details that elevate the design of the Trowbridge. Each sleeve has a sewn-on band at the wrist, accented with buttons.

The ribbed collar has a garter stitch section that adds a fun little detail to an otherwise pretty vanilla design.

The yarn I used is GGH Maxima in the color ozeanblau. It looked a little more vibrant on my computer than in real life, but it's still a nice, deep, almost military blue. The yarn is nice and soft, but sturdy. It doesn't split when being knit, and washed up very nice (it's a superwash wool). 

I did the math oh so carefully, but ended up with a lot of extra yarn. Even if I had made the next size up I still would have had a lot extra. So here I am wearing it--it's a little bit snugger than I thought it would be, but the next size up would have been too big.

I'm definitely looking in this, but the body and the sleeves are nice and long. I'm standing in that classic pregnancy pose (I'm not, by the way) just so you can see the wrist detail. 

While the pattern was well-written and easy to follow, I don't know that I'd make it again, but mostly because I don't like making the same things again and again when they take weeks to do. I'd like to redo it in the next size up and compare, but I feel like I could drop a few pounds in the same time frame and just wear the one I already made. I'm also going to try and steam it out just a touch wider in the body and see if that helps as the fabric has a decent amount of give to it.

This, however, is generally why I enjoy cardigans much more. Not so many fit worries, and I love feeling like I'm wrapping myself in a cozy blanket when I pull it close around me.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Little Things

When I leave work, there is a gentleman who sits along my route out of the building who makes it a point to say "Good night! Have a pleasant evening!" every single day. I'm not sure if his intent was Pavlovian in nature, but I find myself turning to the left when I get off the elevator (before I turn right) to make sure I wish him a nice night as well. Today, he said "Have a good one!" And I said "You too!" Then he waved me over, and said "No, have a good one. I'm retiring tomorrow, and I'll be gone before you come by. I'm going to spoil my brand new granddaughter!" While excited for him (and jealous--baby snuggles???!!!) I felt a little sad. I've come to look forward to that little interaction, those few seconds, every afternoon.

So this got me thinking of other little things that make me happy, those fleeting moments that make up our days.

 One of my co-workers just returned from Thailand. He met a woman there who sews for wealthy clients around the world, and sources materials from all over. He told her "I know someone who loves to sew and I always want to get her something but have no idea. What would you recommend?" She took him to (I think it was) her studio, and told him a sure thing was this beautiful silk blend. He chose red because my "nails are always some shade of red." I have two yards of this, and am carefully pondering what it might want to be when it grows up.

My sister was over her friend's parents' home last week. I don't know how it came to be a topic of discussion, but her friend's father LOVES candy. Her mother said "Do you like candy hearts? We have bags of them!" To which my sister responded "I don't. But they're my sister's favorite." I am still working my way through these. I'm certainly surprised they're still around--I find them quite addictive. Every time I eat one I mentally yell at myself something along the lines of "Stop! What are you doing?"

As long as I can remember, I have always loved the patterns the sunshine will make when coming through the windows.

With the clocks jumping forward and spring truly here, I'm glad that the golden hour happens when I'm not sitting at my desk at work, missing it.

I bought one of those yarn subscription boxes recently, and in it was a sheet of yarny stickers. I didn't know what I was going to do with that, but they make great labels for the tabs in the recipe book I'm making. They don't really make sense in there, but they look cute.

And finally, the start of a wee doodle. I haven't drawn a single thing in a very long time, and I miss the repetitiveness of  drawing patterns. I thought I might get a little bored with a full circle mandala, so I'm doing a quarter circle.

So that's that. Just a smattering of little things that have been bringing me pleasure. I am going to miss that guy, though. Funny thing is--I speak to him every day, and we don't even know each other's names. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring, Socks, Sweaters, and a Show

Well, it's official. It's spring. Allegedly. Today was quite warm, tomorrow will be cold. Then it will get warm again. Then probably cold. I don't see how this is any different from the winter we've had, but I'm eager for flowers so I'll take it (as though I have a choice).

I have one pair of socks that I have yet to show you, so I'll squeeze that in now, because wouldn't it be silly to show you wool socks when it's hot outside?

Again, fraternal twinsies because that's how I like them. The same, but different, just like people. This is Knit Picks Felici yarn in the Time Traveler colorway.

I still haven't ventured away from a very vanilla sock pattern yet--toe up, heel flap and gusset, no special stitches. But that's because I don't want the stitches hidden in the stripes. I still have a few skeins of striped sock yarn to use, but then I think I'll take a plunge on solids (very brave, I know) so that I can try something fancier where the stitches shine and the yarn recedes a little bit.

My only concern is that now that I've perfected my needle size/stitch count I'll throw all that research out the window by mixing it up with cables or eyelets and they won't fit.

I took myself off of my yarn-buying ban and bought some yarn for a sweater. I got stuck in a time-suck on Ravelry for reasons I don't remember, but when I emerged I felt a desperate need to make a sweater. I did think it would be coming along more quickly, but really I have one and a half sleeves left and a neckband so I guess it's not too bad. I thought I might not get to wear it until months and months from now, but with the way our weather has been I could be wearing it comfortably in July.

However, this has been a delightful Netflix-bingeing project with it's rows upon rows of stockinette. I've recently started watching Call the Midwife. Have you seen this show? OH! I think it's one of my all-time favorite shows, and I've only watched the first two seasons. In case you haven't heard of it--it's about several young nurse/midwives who live and work with the religious sisters of Nonnatus House in the East End of London in the 1950s. It depicts their day-to-day lives and those of the people in their neighborhood (called Poplar), along with socially and medically relevant (for the era) issues (such as new medical procedures, the post-war baby boom, contraception, and so on). It's all dealt with so tastefully it's almost classic in its scope (which, as an English professor once told me, means "appeals to all people in all times"--which might be spot on since women have been having babies since the beginning of time). There are funny moments, sad ones, and bits that will simply charm you to pieces. I hope whomever coordinated the soundtrack to this show is able to retire comfortably on the bonuses alone. It's served very well to cement in my mind the notion that I was born entirely in the wrong decade.


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