Wednesday, November 9, 2011

'Tis the Season...

I dug out my widget from last year and popped it back up on the side of the blog there. I found it a useful tool last year to help me keep track of my time (or ramp up my anxiety towards the end...) as I tried to manage all my projects. 

True to my word, I actually did start working on Christmas presents last January. A little bit here, a little bit there. But mostly I decided that to preserve my sanity and to keep my focus on the spirit of the holiday season I would be more realistic in what I tried to accomplish this year. So here we are with 44 days left and I have a grand total of 33 projects on my list. (See? Much more realistic.) The even better part is that I have 13 of those finished! And many more are in the partial to mostly finished category. 

I decided last year, after too many late nights and literally days spent locked in the basement by myself in the evenings, that a crazy, sleep-deprived, ready-to-snap mama is not the memories I want my children to have of their childhood Christmases. I don't want to be so busy making the magic that I don't have time to stop and savor it with them. So I have a plan.

  Step one: Be more realistic in what projects I take on.


Step two: Get my children excited and involved in preparing for Christmas.

I am afraid that all too often I am in such a rush or overly concerned with turning out a "perfect" final product, that I have rebuffed little hands that want so badly to help. This year I am determined to change my focus by choosing simpler projects that are more on their skill level, and letting go of my perfectionism when it comes to gifts. The cookies we give out may not be decorated the prettiest, but by dang they will have an overdose of love as a secret ingredient!

As part of step two, this project is one of my first orders of business. It's an advent calendar, based on my knock off of the PB Halloween Countdown knock-off. My kids love the Halloween one I made and I had such fun making it, I thought a Christmas one would be great for us!

Last year I attempted a countdown of sorts with having a present that they could open each day, little treats and activities directed at spending time together. But with all my crazy crafting I was horrible at following through and actually doing the activities with them. This year will be different. I have been stock piling up little treats and toys that will fit in the pockets. It can be a simple as three chocolate kisses (so they each get one) and a note telling them why they are loved, to a snowman rubber ducky and the promise of a bubble bath where they can play in the tub as long as they want. It really takes so very little to make a child happy. 

Step three: Realize that unfinished projects are not the end of the world.
(and have a backup plan)

I love to give handmade gifts. It's one of my love languages. It says that I care enough about you to spend time making you something. Because while I am working on your present I am thinking about you, and what makes you tick, your likes and dislikes, and trying to find a way to show you that I care about you. And you just don't spend all that time and thought on someone you don't like. However, I also know that the people I love enough to spend my time on them that way, will still love me even if the gift I give them wasn't crafted by my own two hands. So I have a stash of small items (still thoughtfully selected) that are ready to deploy should I end up having more intentions than time. Then I can not stress about presents that are unfinished. Fortunately wool doesn't go bad, that hat or pair of socks can be ready for next year...

Step four: Choose to enjoy this time.

Christmas is magical when seen through the eyes of a child. And you only have so many of those Christmases before they are a little older, a little more skeptical, a little more consumer driven. I want to be able to look back and know that I didn't waste or miss another moment of child-like wonder or the absolute belief in magic they have right now. I have to make it a priority, and choose to spend my time wisely so that I can work on projects when they are busy elsewhere and then we can come together and enjoy doing Christmas things as a family.

I think I'm ready... now I have to go knit some things.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween knits...

A couple of projects inspired by the latest holiday.

My first attempt at fair isle knitting. I've had this pattern for years but was always afraid to attempt it. I decided to try it with the leftover yarn from Jake's sweater, but it came out a little too big for Jake so Brian gets my first attempt. Jake was quick to put in a request for a matching hat.

Baby pants.... wait for it....

That's just ridiculously cute! 
Now if only I knew someone with a... say, two week old baby boy... any takers?
I'll hopefully have a picture or two with them on a cute baby in a couple of weeks. :)

And to wrap up the Halloween creativity I'd like to share a poem my son wrote for me:

Zombie Sheep Attack!
By Jake
age 8

Zombie sheep are coming, so run away!
Zombie sheep are coming, today!
All they really want is their wool back,
But I don't like them.
They're big and merry,
Definitely not hairy, 
And that's why they're so scary,
At least to me!
Zombie sheep attack!!!

I love this kid. He just makes me smile.

Friday, October 21, 2011


So first things first, I am going to ignore the fact that it's been over 6 months since I've posted over here. I have been working on projects, but with everything else going on in my life (the big one is my husband getting put in a wheelchair), my renewed passion for reading, and the whole post everyday for a year on my family blog... well obviously something had to give and keeping up my craft journal was it.

But something about fall gets me excited to clean out and organize. And with the enforced move into a "sewing cubical" the organizing has also entailed a much needed paring down of my various stashes, especially the downstairs yarn one. After I did the downstairs stash, I tackled the upstairs stash which typically means figuring out just how much yarn can be shoved into one of the squares without spilling over the top. It also means assessing which projects need to be moved from the WIP classification into a UFO and sent downstairs. Once I got the upstairs stash organized and functional again, I had two large bags of yarn and UFOs to head downstairs. New problem: I've got considerably less space for all my stuff now and the yarn storage I do have is already full. Hmmm, new solution: finish some UFOs and clear out space in the yarn storage. Also, make a new resolution to buy no new yarn until I've decreased the stash considerably. (If you're not a knitter you are thinking I am very practical, if you are a knitter you are probably laughing pretty hard by now...) 

So I have been focused for the last 4-5 days on getting through some of the larger UFO's that have been taking up a lot of real estate in my knitting cabinet. 

1st up- The Grey Sweater Vests of Doom

These are for my cousin's two little boys. They aren't a terrible difficult project. So why has it taken me almost a year (or more? I've seriously lost track...) to finish them. I've made stupid mistakes, and screwed up the first attempt so badly that I simply started over rather than try to untangle the mess I had made. (So technically I made 2 and 3/4 grey sweater vests.) I kept doubting my measurements, and finally they've spent the last 5 1/2 months haunting both my knitting cabinet and my subconscious. I repeatedly pulled them out and then couldn't work on them so would put them away again. When my cousin called me earlier this week to see if they were finished I took a deep breath, hauled them into the light and determined that come hell or high water I would finish them as fast I as I could. I was surprised to find that I was much further than I had remembered. They were both done, except for the ribbing around the neck and arm holes. 36 rounds of knitting? That's nothing! Why hadn't I just finished them? Oh yeah, I didn't have the right size of needles, that's what my big hold up was. That's just ridiculous, I know. I got the needed needles and had them done in a day! I sent them off with my husband to deliver on his way home from work today, along with the 2 and 1/2 leftover skeins of yarn, and a huge sigh of relief to have that particular monkey off my back! 

Also I just want to apologize again to Sarah for taking such a ridiculously long time on them. But they sure came out nice. :)

And once that was done I was eager to dive in and see what else was sitting around half or mostly finished.
2nd up- The Black Sweater of Doom
(Do you sense a theme among my UFOs)

Started well over a year ago, motivated mostly by guilt that I knit way more for my girls than I do for my son.
And boy does that boy know how to work his Mama. Mention while at the yarn store in a wistful voice that it's been a long time since you got a sweater and the girls have both gotten 3-4, and it's a sure bet that said Mama will let you pick out yarn for a sweater. 

I'm still kicking myself for not setting any limits when it came to color selection. The reason this sweater lingered in knitting purgatory so long? Black is a total witch with a capital B to work with. I about went blind knitting this thing. Having complained about that, and now that it's done, it sure does look sharp on my cute boy! He designed the stripe placement himself and I have to admit to being pretty proud of the both of us. 

All this sweater needed was a cuff, one sleeve and the neck ribbing. One day, one finished sweater, one happy kid, and a whole lot of space opened up in the knitting storage. Win, win, win!

On a roll I grabbed the next project that came to hand.
3rd- Sweet sweater for Evie out of the Vintage yarn I over-dyed with food coloring!

No doom here. This yarn just makes me happy every time I look at it. 
And all it needed was a round of attached I-cord in the keyhole at the neck. 20 minutes tops! 

I was thrilled thinking that I may even finish a third sweater today... until I had Evie try it on.

A titch too tight and definitely not long enough. I don't know if that is because I fiddled around with the pattern to accommodate using a heavier yarn or because I waited too long to finish it and Evie had a growth spurt in the mean time. Either way I had to rip it back to the arm holes. It's all good though. It just means I get to knit some more with my happy yarn...

And hopefully the finish-itis lingers at least through November! I've got lots more to do.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Easter Tea Towel to Smock

This is one of the craft ideas I came up with for if I made it into this season of SYTYC, which I didn't. But that's okay, I am going to play along at home! All the fun and none of the pressure, right? :)

I found these holiday tea towels at my local dollar store and thought, "I can do something fun with that..."

How about a child's smock? Perfect for when you are dying those easter eggs. Or how about if you have a family dinner and egg hunt planned and want to keep those cute easter outfits clean for a photo op later?

I folded the towel in half "hamburger way." (Anyone else have elementary school flashbacks just now?) I cut a narrow half circle, well, half oval really, for the neck and then cut the back open down the center.

You could do a narrow turned hem, or serge and then hem, I opted to use bias tape for a bit of contrasting color. Anything that will finish off those raw edges will work. 

I sewed on some ribbon ties for side closures, which makes the fit adjustable. 

A big fun button and a loop of narrow elastic at the neck back makes an easy and sturdy closure.

Fun, practical and not expensive!

Plus she likes it! Always an important factor in my crafting endeavors.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Month of Me...

I was a selfish knitter this month. 
(It's okay. It was my birthday month.)
After all the deadline knitting and gifts I worked on for the last 4 1/2 months I just didn't want to work on any of my already started projects. I wanted something new. And I wanted it for me. 
So I did...

This is my Shedir hat. 
I love cables and the yarn is a luxurious blend of merino, alpaca and silk that was a treat to work with. 

I know Lila is wearing it, but only because I could not get a decent picture of the top of my own head. It is my hat. 

The other project I finished is this great scarf. I call it my "scarf of shame" because it is cheap cotton yarn that I bought somewhere other than my LYS. I couldn't resist the colors though. I loved watching them change through the rainbow as I knit it. Simple minds are easily amused I suppose. 

I also have a lovely butter yellow yarn that is halfway to being another hat for me. And some wonderful lace socks, also for me, also in progress. I don't know when I'll be able to finish them though as today is the last day of the Month of Me and I need to get going on some other knitting projects I've been putting off. I think having those socks calling to me from my work basket with be a good incentive for me to finish the have-to's and get back to the want-to's!

Also I have taken a chance and enter a project into this crafting contest. I can't tell you which one is mine, but I'd love it if you took a minute to check them out and vote!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A lazy Monday sewing...

We were very lucky in that the kids' had today off of school and Daddy had today off of work.  So we got to enjoy an extra long weekend, which means we stayed up late last night and let everyone sleep in this morning. Well, everyone that would anyways.... which means I was up around 9:30 with Lila.  But since we didn't have anywhere to be or anything we had to do today I thought I would take advantage of the quiet morning and do some sewing. 

I have recently noticed that Jake must be going through a growth spurt, as all of his pajama pants are now a couple of inches short.  So I cut out three new pairs.

He's so pleased not to have cold ankles...

I also noticed that lately Evie is going through a dress phase. All she wants to wear are dresses. And most of her everyday or play dresses are light cottons meant for warmer weather. So I am making her a dress out of flannel. It will be so soft and warm. Plus I just love the colors in the fabric; it will look great layered over teal, or brown, or orange, or white, or cream! Yay for options!

Today I also screwed up my courage and set about dealing with "THE GREEN SWEATER"

Why such a menacing title for such a little dainty piece? 

I started this sweater almost two years ago. It was originally intended for Evie. I had knit a couple of more challenging pieces for her by this point and they were almost all pink or purple. I had had enough of pink and purple so I choose the lovely and soothing shade of dark sage.  Once it was knitted I tried to try it on her only to have her flat out declare that she would NOT wear a green sweater.  After a wrestling match in which I was eventually the winner and I could determine that it did indeed fit her, I found out that she meant she would not wear the green sweater without sobbing and screaming the entire time it was on her body.  I was so mad I threw it to the bottom of my knitting basket and there it sat, only needing to be blocked, for about a year until Lila got big enough to fit into it. Then I pulled it out and tried it on Lila, who was all smiles and hugs for the new sweater.  Evie came into the room while Lila had it on and said, "Oh! That is so cute! Will you knit me one?"  

No. No I won't.

Today I finally got around to blocking the lace on the bottom and cuffs and was pleasantly surprised and how quick and painless it was. And thank heavens it still fits Lila perfectly, with room to grow.  Which is good, because I love this color and this just may be the only green sweater I ever get to knit...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Delicate Lace and Button Cuff

I got the idea for this cuff when I was sewing my girls' Christmas nightgowns.  I was playing around with my box of lace trying to pick something to embellish the nightgown and ended up overlapping some pre-gathered lace to make a double sided ruffle.

Then I had a light bulb moment; I could make a pretty cuff or choker with the same technique!

I chose a piece of flat black lace and laid it out so the pattern was offset.  I stitched it down the middle with a small zig-zag and fairly short stitch length.  Then I measured my wrist, cut the lace to size, including enough to fold over a 1/4" seam on each end and stitch down.

Now for the fun, pulling out the grab-bag of buttons my sister bought at Hobby Lobby and finding the perfect embellishments. (P.S. Caite- I owe you three buttons and a jewel sticker...)

My choices: A large white button to which I added a three dimensional scrapbook sticker to cover the thread, a small metal button with an antique silver finish, and a tiny mother of pearl button that was probably originally from a man's shirt collar. 

I sewed on two medium snaps for a closure. 
(I would have preferred to use black snaps, but silver was what I had on hand, and you can't see them once the cuff is on.)

This was a fun and quick project that would be easy for even beginning sewers to accomplish. You could whip up a fast accessory to match any outfit or make one to give as a unique gift for Valentine's Day! 

I am entering this idea into this contest! Check it out for some other fun sewing and craft ideas.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Just when you thought knitting couldn't get any cooler...

I asked my brother to design me a new cover for my pattern binder. 

It's really cool when talented people love you... I'm just saying.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas 2010 Revealed!

I have finally given all of my handmade gifts and gotten pictures for most of them. I was really bad at remembering to photograph my projects this year. So, in no particular order, here is a show and tell of what had me holed up in my sewing room for the better part of December...

Apron #1 for my sister. "tis the season to eat chocolate..."  Totally her.

Apron #2 for my MIL. Plus a matching set of oven mitts. She wore it all Christmas day, and that made me happy. 

The oven mitts.
 I will admit that I now have a love/hate relationship with this particular project. I found this tutorial last year, but not in enough time to make some in time for Christmas. So I had it in the back of my mind all year that these would be my go-to gift for 2010. I couldn't get the pattern provided with the tutorial to print out correctly, so I just read through it and drafted up my own copy making a few minor adjustments.

The love part is how great they turned out. I packaged up each set with a cookie mix and everyone who received it seemed very pleased with the gift. It was also a lot of fun picking out all the fun Christmas fabrics and mixing and matching them. The hate part stems from the fact that I ended up making 14 sets of oven mitts. That is 28 oven mitts. That is a lot of oven mitts. And they just seemed to take much longer to sew up then I thought they should. I don't know that I will be making these again in the near future. I am kind of oven mitt-ed out! (And seriously bummed that I didn't make a set for myself before that happened...)

Three sets of Maine Morning Mitts and matching head-wraps with flower embellishments for my cousins.

Aw. Aren't they cute?

A matching neck pillow and fleece throw for my hubby.  

But not just your average blanket.  This one has pockets lined in minky for his feet.  He has nerve damage in  his legs and feet that have led to neuropathy, which basically means his feet are always cold.  He also doesn't have a lot of strength in his legs so if someone bumped into his feet it would knock his legs out from under the blanket. A common phrase around our house in the evening was, "Would someone please cover my feet."  Now even if his feet are knocked off the foot rest they stay warm and covered while he picks his leg up and puts it back. It's a stroke of genius if I do say so myself!

This is the girls Christmas outfits. (This is Lila's as Evie's is in the laundry after the first wearing...) The skirts are slightly different styles, so matching with out being exact. They also have white tights with red snowflakes on them. I will have to get a picture of these outfits in action soon.

The one project I haven't finished! Jake's vest.  It's made out of the same yarn as the girls' tops. I am so close. Just have to bind off the shoulders and knit the ribbing around the neck and armholes.  I also made him a tie to match the girls' skirts.  They look pretty darn cute all together. 

One of my favorite projects! A Harry Potter sweater for my nephew Huck.  I couldn't resist, I mean he even has the right initial and everything!  Plus my brother and sis-in-law are big movie buffs so I knew it would be appreciated. 

This is the best shot I could find of the kids in their Christmas Eve jammies. The girls nightgowns were pictured in the previous post, but here you can mostly see Jake's. The shirt says Reindeer Games on it so I picked a great soft flannel in heathery green and grey for his pants. I'll be sad when the day comes that I can buy a pair of pants cheaper then I can make them for that kid. 

Some of the other projects that missed the camera were a pair of grey striped socks for my husband, a pair of purple lace work socks for my SIL Elena, a pair of fingerless mitts in lovely dark green and blues for my brother (I thought they would be good for doing photography).  I don't know, it's doesn't seem like that much now that it's all listed up there... or maybe that's like forgetting the labor pains once the baby is born.