Friday, November 19, 2010

Gifts Project #3

Knitting. I've finally taught myself to knit! I've been trying to teach myself for a few years, which really means I'd try, be frustrated, quit for months, and repeat.

Anyway, about a year ago I watched a program, where this woman said it doesn't matter how you knit as long as you accomplish the stitches. Then she proceeded to demonstrate her knitting style, which was unlike anything I'd ever seen. It was like an epiphany for me.

Turns out, the 'throwing' style of knitting was my problem. Not knitting, the style. You see, I'm a crochet-er first. In crochet your two hands work together to create the piece and the fabric you make is strong and won't unravel if your hook falls out. In knitting, or rather in English knitting, one hand does all the work and the other hand holds stuff. Knitted fabric is fragile, if the needle falls out it will most likely unravel or drop stitches. In the throwing process, I'd lose stitches, or my left hand would try to help and a needle would fall out. Very frustrating.

Since seeing that program, I discovered continental knitting and it's been transformative. I'm a knitter! I use both hands to create the fabric and because I'm not releasing a needle to throw the yarn, no more lost threads or needles. It's very exciting.

I love crochet. Crocheted items have more body and the fabric is thicker than knit. You can make virtually any shape with crochet and it makes the best afghans. What's great about knit is the flexibility of the finished fabric. Knit items are thinner and more fluid, which makes for a great scarf. If, like me, you need help learning to knit, check out the plethora of YouTube videos on the subject. They helped me and perhaps will help you, too.

So, I've been knitting scarves all year. It improves my skill, the projects are portable and use very little yarn. You can make a scarf while practicing knit stitches and by the time you've finished the scarf, you will have mastered the stitch. And, it's the perfect use for all the novelty yarns I've bought on clearance or super sales or just because I couldn't resist. A local store was clearing out their yarn department of all the onsie, twosie skeins left and I bought several interesting yarns for 39 to 59 cents a skein. Perfect for these scarves!

Lion Brand Yarns has so many patterns and it is my first choice when looking for inspiration. One scarf I particularly like is a keyhole scarf done in garter stitch. Four of the scarves in the picture are in this pattern. What I like best is that the scarf isn't super long, so it just tucks right into your coat.

Scarves! :)

Thankfully... 3

Here's what I know for sure... If you take the time to look around, there is always something for which to be thankful. Even if it's the ability to notice what's all around.

Since I started writing my thankful thoughts on fb and then here, I find myself being thankful during the day for things that, in the past, I've not always been thankful for: the cat wanting to scooch up way too close or folding laundry or challenges at work.

Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware of my many blessings. This is not the first time I've ever noticed them, but committing to this public display... This is different.

It has seeped into my being in a way that I never expected.

First of all, how do you sum up something as wonderful as the complexity that is another person in a few sentences? So, I spent time thinking about each person I intended to put into a note, which was pretty awesome in itself. The quirks, the gifts, the talent, the annoying behavior, all the amazing components of a human being.

The first few days, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the posts, because the biggest things in your life are the hardest to distill down to a few words. Then each time I visited fb or someone commented on it, I felt thankful all over again. It's amazing how good it feels to be thankful. It's addicting, actually.

I found I liked how it made me feel so much that I tried to find things to be thankful for when everything wasn't going smoothly. The cranky cashier, the aggressive driver, the computer crash... In every challenge, I found something to appreciate no matter what. "I'm thankful for good brakes and the reminder to drive safe."

Corny, maybe. Life altering definitely.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gifts Project #2

Purses! I love to make purses. They are a chance to really let your creativity go. Even the most conservative dresser will carry a purse with pizzazz, so they make great gifts!

This purse has been featured several places, but what I like about the pattern I used the Grab Bag pattern from is the addition of pockets and batting. You can get the pattern here.

I used bandanas for the outside and a crazy checked cotton for the inside. I love hot pink and black! It's very Good-n-Plenty, if you know what I mean ;)

This purse is very comfortable to use. I made a test one, out of some really old scraps of white denim with blue & brown flowers and liked it so much I'm still using it for my everyday purse. Because the handles interlock, the contents of your purse are secure. Cotton fabric is very cool and comfortable and the batting keeps your goodies safe from harm.

btw-The AllPeopleQuilt site is one of my favorites. Whether you Quilt or not, take a look. Very fun!

Thankfully... 2

Today I'm remembering my Mom. I miss her still. She was funny and corny and sentimental and loving. Things she loved: reading, crosswords, singing, dancing, jigsaw puzzles, mysteries, action movies, kiss cookies, cards and games.

I learned to love books from her. I learned resilience, perseverance and loyalty. I learned how to cook and to make "8 makes it Great" salsa and about a zillion other things. She was amazing.

This day and every day I'm thankful to be one of Bev's kids.

The is a climbing rose bush that Mom would have loved.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Well, I don't always blog with regularity, okay I never do. However, the bug is with me today, so I'm posting another.

We are approaching Thanksgiving. I've been posting Thankful Thoughts on my fb page for the past 10 days or so and I'm enjoying it so much that I want to post one here, too:

I am thankful for husband. He's great! Seriously. Great. He's handy, smart, funny, loving, hard working, handsome, silly, quirky. He gave me a sense of belonging and safety I'd never known before. With him, we created two amazing children who've grown into young men that I both like and respect. He came three older children, who are now adults with children of their own, that add depth and texture to our lives. It's amazing to be part of a blended family! Sure, he gets under my skin from time to time, but if I'm being honest - that has as much to do with me as it does with him. Yes, he's handy and smart and all those other things, however, I'm eternally thankful for this man who gave me the greatest gift... love.

The picture is of a hummingbird who visited with us most of the summer. Two years ago I planted a honeysuckle vine that flowered like mad and attracted the hummers.

Gift Projects #1

I'm always searching the internet for great homemade projects. Whether I know what I'm going to make or am looking for inspiration, I like to see what others have to offer. Because even when I know what I'm going to make, if someone else has made it before, I can learn from their adventures! It's fun and interesting and quite often surprising the variety of things you can find.

In some small way, this year I'm sharing my projects so perhaps someone else will find inspiration here.

My first entry is... drum roll please... Eye pillows.

I have a friend who leads guided relaxation sessions and asked me to make some eye pillows to use in her classes. I'd never heard of them before this. Well, one ten minute session with a pillow on my eyes and I was sold! They are fairly amazing. If you haven't tried one, do.

For my friend, who wanted to be able to wash between uses, I made pillows and covers from cotton. So each pillow cover can be removed and washed.

For my gifts, I used silk. Yes, can be pricey, but after weighing all the options I settled on silk. Why? The feel. This really was the deciding factor. Silk has a natural coolness to the touch. The fabric takes longer to warm from touching your skin, and if you pull it away it cools almost instantly. This coolness really aids in the relaxation properties of the pillow. For me, it made all the difference.

You can repurpose fabric for this. I used a dress and I washed the fabric! I know, this may sound shocking, but lots of silks can be washed and they come out of the washer in fine shape. Warning: Silk shrinks! And sometimes not in an even manner So don't wash a garment you plan to wear again unless the label recommends it. But for repurposing, I did and you might just want to wash it. Some silks lose their 'luster' in the wash. Does that make it ugly, not to me. It's up to you.

Also, not all silks are suitable for this project. Dupioni, shantung or other heavy weaves, not the best for this project. "China silk" is a great choice and one that many think of as silk, in terms of texture, vibrancy, drape. Luckily, lots of clothing is made out of this and it washes great.

Onto the making of the project... As you can see I embroidered words on the pillows, and the variegated thread and stitching design created this wonderful striped effect. If you don't have an embroidery machine, plain pillows are just as wonderful and are reversible, or you could hand embroider or add ribbon as an accent. The possibilities are endless, really.

I made a pattern by tracing around the sample from my friend (but there are patterns on the net). BTW~I used a clear plastic to create the pattern so I could be sure to align the lettering level with the top of the pillow pattern. Anyway, trace around the pattern, but don't cut on the line. Instead, cut out a rectangular shape leaving an inch or so around the line. It's easier to sew just inside the drawn line if the fabric is larger. Leave a small one inch opening. I always back stitch on either side of the opening to ensure the stitches don't come loose in the turning process. You want to leave as small an opening as possible because you will be hand sewing the opening closed and the filling does like to slip out.

Done sewing? Trim close to the line with pinking shears. Pinked edges are perfect for curves as they eliminate the need to snip the seam allowance. Fill the pillow with 3/4 cup of flax seeds and sew closed. Be sure to use small stitches to keep the flax seed in. I personally like flax seed the best. It has a faint earthy smell I find soothing and the weight of the seeds vs. the size is really good. Also, flax seeds are very smooth, they don't stick to the fabric or each other. If you use another type of filler, test the measurement before sewing closed.

Happy gifting!