Saturday, September 1, 2012



For Shame, A Really Long Blog Post

July and August disappeared.  I don't know what happened, but they are gone.  Many things happened though, so at least I have lots to talk about!

Starting off slow, I covered some canisters with wrapping paper (it will have its own post soon!) and set them around my house.  They're decorative and practical. Afterwards I hung shelves in my bedroom to throw everything onto expand my "dresser" space.

After that I spent most of July knitting a sweater.  Well, only about two weeks really- its for my year old nephew!  It's acrylic, soft, and washable, a definite must for any kid in my family!

(And no, of course I didn't take pictures of it with the sleeves and my sister lives 9 hours away!  Sigh- I'll post them as soon as its cold enough to stuff him in it!)
Why did I knit it in two weeks?  Because my sister, nephew, and aunt came to visit me for four days!  Had a great time hanging out, going to the zoo and shopping.  That's them at the zoo!  A note to everyone- don't leave the zoo at 4:30 on a weekday, Houston traffic is AWFUL at 5!

In the beginning of August I found some awesome yarn on clearance- its beautiful, and impossible to make anything but socks with it!  This is one of the lacy swatches I tried.  Sigh- finding the perfect pattern for varigated yarns is a challenge.  I'm determined to make something with it- probably stockings, but maybe cushions.  Ideas are welcome!

Didn't have all that much time to play with it since we went to GenCon!  Months ago the Man decided I was going with him and his friend so I braced myself for four days of doing nothing but playing board games.  Finally I demanded we look at all the events- I figured it was a con, there would at least be costume contests and vendors.  I'm so glad we looked- there are a whole series of events for spouses and the guest speaker for spouse events was Toni Carr, author of Knits for Nerds!  She is an amazing friendly person and not at all what I imagined- her book has made me fall in love with knitting all over again!

(There are so many projects in this book- check it out on Ravelry to see them! Best purchase ever.)

Another lucky break- I didn't have to spend all my time gaming, GenCon had an open crafting room where crafters of all ilk could use donated supplies and spend time with people who shared their passions.  I got to meet so many different ladies, in an amazing arrange of ages and skills, that I am determined to not dislike any craft- I even picked up a class in tatting while there!  I think I'll go after spinning next- the fiber arts call to me.

Of course, it was a con.  There were lots of people dressed up in every genre imaginable, an enormous dealer's room with artists and authors as well as celebrities and craftspeople.  There really was no available space in there, including the walkways.  So many people were in that room the first day that I fled to the craft room- buying new dice first.  A girl has to have her priorities, after all!  Plus, it gave me a great excuse to knit my first dice bag!  Well, the first one I have made.  I gave it a ruffle and an icord string.  Amusingly enough, I knit the icord while attending a lecture discussing the first crusade.  Gotta love portable crafts!

(Awful picture, need more dice to fill out the bag! And the dice are all teal and purple shades . . . shame on me!)

We had to come home eventually and I'm onto more and more things- the projects this week are a circle skirt (sewn) for myself and some Who-mitts.  What are Who-mitts?  Check back later for the full story and (hopefully) a pattern to make your own!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blocking Mats

Blocking mats are important, but don't have to break the bank.  Just a few materials and you're ready to go.

You'll need:
Floor exercise mats:  You can get these at WalMart (or Target, Academy, etc.)
Checkered cotton:  I could only find 1" squares, but 1/2" would be better for smaller projects and lace.
Spray Adhesive:  Got mine at Hobby Lobby, but I'll bet other craft stores carry similar products.
Lint Roller:  These are priceless.  Mine is enormous and I use it constantly.
Scissors:  I used ones I wasn't afraid of getting messy, just in case.

If you haven't prewashed and ironed your fabric, stop and go do that.  Trust me.  Always prewash, unless you are using a fabric that is dryclean only.  You aren't for this, we're using cotton.  On purpose. I'm sure this adhesive would melt some of the synthetics and, as this will be something you want to stick pins in, you probably don't want to use anything expensive.

Once you have washed and ironed your fabric, measure your mats.  Mine were textured on one side so I used the back of the mats.  Rather than get out the ruler/measuring tape, I just threw the fabric over the top, pinned it at the corner and cut.  I did cut the selvedges off first and I followed the line of my squares.  I cut out all four pieces at once then lay the other three over the back of a chair so they wouldn't be in the way.  I didn't have enough fabric (hindsight!) to cover all four squares so I improvised and cut some skinny pieces to fill out the last one.

After the cutting comes the adhesive and the reason for lint rollers.  When you want something, say a fabric on a plastic mat, to lie flat, it is best to make sure there isn't anything on the mats.  Roll each one just before you are going to apply the adhesive, but after shaking the can.  This will minimize the dust on the mat and maximize the amount of the mat that adheres to the fabric.  Follow the adhesive's instructions, and one recommendation: put down newspaper before you spray.  I don't have a good place outside, so I sprayed on my ironing board in the living room with the windows open so the smell couldn't get me, but the adhesive got my ironing board.  And the scissors- they're both still tacky . . .

My adhesive said to wait two minutes before applying fabric.  While you are waiting, here's another tip: roll the fabric.  I lay the first one flat and rolled the rest and can really tell the difference.  The rolled mats are straighter and have less bubbles.  They were also much less trouble to put on the mats.  Line up your corners and press as you go- I used my hands, but using a flat edge ruler would work as well.  Once you have the fabric on, set the mat aside and let it cure for about a day, just to be safe.

I recommend something less precarious.
Prep for this takes about twice the time of actually making the mats, but once you are finished you can reuse them over and over.  Mine take up very little space in my craft closet and I can easily fit them around other things.  The size is great for sitting on top of a dryer too.

Here's the one I had to "improvise" on:

Not too noticeable. . .


I hope you enjoy your new blocking mats!
Thanks again to Ms. Nancy Aldredge for teaching me this great trick.  If you are ever in town, please make sure to visit her store, The Hook and Needle.

Etsy Shop is Live!

Well, I just opened my etsy store.  I'm terribly nervous, but otherwise pretty excited.  I have learned several things though:

1)  My camera hates me.  Particularly if I lose it for several days weeks.  It delighted itself by taking 300 really poor pictures, despite my cursing gentle encouragement.

2)  1:00 AM is NOT a good time for taking photos, particularly when your camera is on the warpath.

3)  Writing descriptions is hard and boring, but much easier than taking photographs.

4)  The cat does not approve of crickets under the coffee table and delights in chasing them into my lap.

After all the researching, disasters and balking, I'm finally finished!  I'd like to thank the following people for their support:

Lynnette, who keeps telling me my stuff is worthy of being sold.
The man, who crawled around my floor to find one clear crystal bead, the darling.
The cat, who at least got me off the couch to chase a cricket.
Mythbusters and Netflix, who provided amusing background chatter during the disasters.

And now I'm off to sort pictures for some crazy post about Blocking mats . . .

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Unexpected Absence

Life is full of rain barrels.  Sometimes they stay full and leave us alone.  Other times they leak and we spend a little time finding the leak and plugging it.  And yet other times the darn thing bursts and sweeps us away in a cascade of crazy.

I will post about the mats tomorrow (found my camera), I promise.  I meant to post them before but I developed a rather annoying case of bronchitis.  Coughing up a lung (or two) in June is fairly unpleasant, having to do it and work more so.  Other things happened, but I think being sick was probably the most notable.  It did make my personal trainer stop tormenting me, but now that I no longer resemble velcro I'll have to go back to the gym.  Lucky me?

Other new and exciting news: I'm going to start an Etsy shop!  I've been debating it for some time as it means a loss of time to accounting (my arch nemesis) and research but the long term benefits I think will make it worthwhile.  Any pearls of wisdom from you ladies who have shops?  I welcome your thoughts and stories- how do you handle all the legalities and the (inevitable) idiots?

The shop will concentrate on my jewelry more than the other projects but I don't want to define it so definitively at this stage.  Shame on me for not taking more pictures of the jewelry, but these are a few of the first pieces going up:

 Rose Gold with Swarovski glass pearls and opal bicone beads.  My apologies for the horrible pictures- these were taken with my phone to show a friend on my bead mat (brown felt, keeps silly beads from rolling and costs pennies).  There will be better ones this afternoon, once the sun comes around!

I would love advice, opinions and comments and I appreciate your time and thoughts.  Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Post for Sarah

To appease my friend Sarah, who has been asking for an update, here is a post of many things.

For the last two weeks I have been thoroughly congested- I refer to this as being full of elephants.  Tiny fat dancing elephants having tea parties in my lungs, playing tennis in my sinuses, and using my nose as a slide.  Sigh.  After the first few days of "Oh its just a little cold"  I finally gave in and went to the doctor, who discovered I had a respiratory infection and gave me tons of medication (three, which isn't tons but I hate being medicated) and suggested I rest.  Ha!  Ever tried getting a workaholic to rest?  Not possible.  I did spend all my energy at work however, and really had no brain left at the end of the day so I would pursue one of three activities that require no brainpower: reading, knitting, and playing WOW.  Yes, I admit it, I'm a big nerd.  I am now five books into the Southern Vampire Series (If you have never read it I suggest you give it a try- it isn't your typical vampire book and the heroine is hilarious!), have finished a scarf, and am most of the way through the Loremaster Achievement on my main toon.  If you aren't familiar with WOW don't worry, it just means I spend way too much time avoiding dungeons!

Still being congested and icky, I got fed up with the house today but the man vacuumed.  Before I came home from work.  Without my asking.  I nominated him for sainthood, but he declined claiming that vacuuming wasn't a qualification.  I disagree and I suspect anyone with a busy schedule would as well.

But at least I can do things while watching TV, things involving knitting.  I probably shouldn't knit, as it will irritate my silly wrist, but I can't help it, I've got to!  Some people are addicted to alcohol, drugs, online gaming- I'm addicted to knitting. My hands crave the graceful motions and my fingers itch to test the tensile strength of all the yarn in my stash.  Shame on me.

This is the big project, setting up my blocking mats.  I know, I should have done it a long time ago.  What can I say, its easier to stuff the projects in a bag.  But, I wanted to get to work on my afghan.

Last year I knit my way through the Fearless Knitting Workbook, an amazing book that I recommend to anyone who wants to pick up knitting or has knit before but wants to go back over the basics, or even people that hate knitting.  The author is hands down the best knitting coach ever and her entertaining stories helped me relax and really enjoy knitting.

I thought I would do this tonight, then realized I hadn't washed my fabric.  So into the washer it went.  While putting the soap in I was attacked.  Yes, that's right attached.  And what did the man do as I screamed in terror at the unexpected assault?  He laughed.

No, he was not behind my attack.  This was- an ordinary laundry basket.  While I was putting a tiny amount of soap in the dishwasher, setting the temperature, and daydreaming about the amazing things I would tack onto my mats, this dreadful basket slithered down the hallway silently and attached my ankles.  Twice.  After the first shout the man came running, but failed to protect me.  My indignation at his laughter continues.  Why, do you ask, did he dare laugh at my frightened countenance?

Yep, my attacker was really the cat.  He was under the basket doing penance for attempting to escape as we let the dogs out the back door.  We live right off a major intersection and flattened kitty is not my preferred style of cat.  I watched the man put the basket on the cat and then forgot.  Once I got over the scare, I could laugh about it, but sheesh!  I really didn't expect a laundry basket to creep down the hallway and poke me with its claws!

So, while I must wait until tomorrow to set up my mats (and I promise to post about it, the advice is from our local yarn shop, The Hook and Needle, from Nancy who is such a great friend!  Check them out, they've just updated their website!) tonight at least I can hide the ends.  Its a task I hate, but someone's got to do it and the man won't.  At least he vacuums!

Oh My, An Award?

Want to win an award?  Have a fantastic friend like Sarah from Engineered Crochet!  Even though I've been sick (more on that later) she gave me a Liebster Award!  My apologies for the number of exclamation points, its a great idea to honor newer blogs with few followers.  I'm grateful to be given the award and the opportunity to highlight some of my favorite blogs.

There are some rules to the Liebster Award:

1. Post about your win on your blog.  
2. Link back to the blogger who presented you with the award.
3. Copy and past the award button to your blog.
4. Present the Liebster Award to 5 blogs that have fewer than 200 followers that you think deserve to be recognized.
5. Let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

No problem. ;D

My favorite blogs (besides the ones who have already received the award!)

Katalina Jewelry:  Amazing tutorials as well as terrific pre-made jewelry on Etsy.  I don't know where she gets her ideas, but they're always beautiful and trendy.

Create With Mom: Full of great advice, links, tips, recipes and all things to make you smile.

Cook Love Craft: Started reading for the great earring tutorials, stayed for the practical advice and humor.  

The Hobby Room: Amazing things to do with crafty flair from products I never imagined could be used in crafts- love the great recipes too!

Me, Embroidery, and the Geek: I love to cross stitch and seeing beautiful small pieces made into jewelry always stokes my crafting fire, not to mention the fantastic tips!

Thanks again Sarah! :D  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

SxS Mini Project 4: Continuous Bias Tape

Bias tape is an evil necessity.  Well, it has been evil.  Stores only carry certain colors and there is very little choice in fabric type or pattern.  That hasn't stopped people from making their own, however, and luckily there are teachers available.

I forgot to take "in-progress" pics of this because its so involving.  You take a fat quarter, cut it a particular diagonal, sew it together, press the seam, draw lines on the bias and then (and this is the hard part) you match one off lines so you get a continual piece, pin it, sew it, press the seam (of what is now a tube) and then cut it on the lines you drew earlier, right over your seams.  I know its a useful skill, but wow was it hard to get the lines pinned right- I repined it about eight times before I got to the machine and realized I pinned it backwards!  Luckily I got it right then or I'd have a lot of gingham donuts!

Here's a YouTube video demonstrating the technique, and here is a written tutorial for people who prefer to read. I recommend both; the video was a big help for getting it to make sense.  But hey, at least I'm free from never having matching bias tape!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

SxS Mini Project 2: Thread Drawing

I do not own an embroidery capable sewing machine.

But wow!  Now I don't need one.

This is a freehand drawing of birds (I like birds) on a blue background.  You can use anything, make up any design and use any stitch to "draw" it on the fabric.  Mine is very small (around 6" x 8" but it will be a pillow, eventually) but the technique can easily be modified to make something larger.  Ooo, imagine quilts with embroidered center blocks!

Practical application of the stitch sampler- I was able to decide which stitches to use for different parts based on what I knew they looked like, picking different widths and lengths to create texture.  Once I've washed it and sewed on the back it'll look neat on my couch.  Hooray, home decor in a snap!

Monday, April 23, 2012

SxS Mini Project 1: My Stitch Sampler

People who embroider make samplers; whoever would have thought that a sewing sampler would be useful?
Pardon the glare, darn camera . . .
This is my sampler- a large piece of fabric sewed with every stitch available on my machine, in different widths so I can see how it works.  How amazing is that!  My plan is to frame it and put it on the wall above where the sewing machine lives so I can always see what it does.  Isn't practical wall art great!

Ready to get the book yet?  Its fantastic!

The Journey:

Yesterday morning I was totally going to start my sampler when the unexpected happened:

Yes, that is my sewing machine minus the back panel.  Why?  A spider.  Not a tiny one, oh no, half-inch long and yellow.  Scared the devil out of me.  I always have had trouble with spiders in this house, but usually NOT in my sewing machine, so I attacked it with a can of air.  Haven't found the spider but if it is still in there it ought to be terrified!  I did learn two really neat things about my sewing machine though: there is a lever to lower the feed dogs that is impossible to see when the machine is assembled and there is one tiny nut that will fall inside one you have put all the screws back in so you have to take it apart.  Again.
Luckily that didn't take a lot of time (practice makes perfect, grrr), so only an hour after I intended to start I actually started.

I enjoyed learning about the different stitches (which you can see across the top of the machine) and figuring out what they looked like.  I still don't know what most of the do, but some look pretty neat as they are.

Close up shots of my favorites, please ignore the glare.  Sometimes my camera gets up in a bad mood.

The curve reminds me of a banner and there are a few that look like heartbeat monitors.  The zigzags (right) look a little like leaves.  Absolutely a neat way to learn about your machine!