Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Favorite Greens, Wrap Up

With 13 installations of 'My Favorite Greens', I've decided it is time to wrap things up. I've really enjoyed this quarter-of-a-year spent thinking about and photographing some of my favorite possessions. While some of them were inexpensive and others priceless, the most important thing is that I love them all.

What I take away from this project is a reminder to love the things I have and to only buy things that I love. And to remember that usually, the things we love the most are the ones made with care and by hand. It's a good lesson to carry with me into the holidays and something to think about in the new year and I hope it is something that you will consider in the new year as well.

Related: All of My Favorite Greens photos.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Handmade Gift Ideas

I'm as busy as a house-elf this week trying to finish making Christmas gifts, wrap them, and send them in time for the holiday. Since I don't want to ruin the surprise of all the gifts I'm working on at the moment, I thought I would share some neat gift ideas/tutorials I've discovered in the past year. There is still plenty of time left to make any of these items and people usually appreciate the hand-made touch!

Handmade gift ideas:

* Give a batch of this amazing-sounding carmel corn.

* Customize an embroidered corner bookmark.

* Share some yummy candy buttons.

* For something fun, how about googly-eyed thumb tacks, or even magnets.

* For a female friend, you can whip up these fabric scrap hairpins.

* I'm over-the-moon about these embellished pillowcases.

* Or you could whip up a pair of Bike Helmet Earmuffs for the cyclist in your life (shameless plug).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My Favorite Greens #13

Handwoven wool blanket that my mother made for me. While not technically a green item (it is yellow with a few green accents), it is truly one of my favorite things.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Getting Crafty and Cozy

The holiday spirit is beginning to pervade the house. Husband is loving his Advent calendar and, with the addition of a Christmas tree to our apartment, we’re really starting to feel festive. It doesn’t hurt that we got snow last week (though I’m certain that it will be May before I see grass again). At least the snow made for a nice backdrop during our outing to the cut-your-own-Christmas-tree farm. That's me below, taking my turn with the saw (in a hat that may look a bit familiar).

The other holiday celebration that brought both DH and I lots of cheer was St. Nick's Day. I always wanted to do this as a child, but it wasn't until I married a Catholic that celebrating this Saint's day became a reality. Basically, you set out a pair of shoes on the evening of December 5th and wake up the next morning to find presents inside them. Husband got a new Wii game and I received this beautiful tea wallet, in addition to some candy and chocolate. To add to the cuteness of this mini-holiday, our 'shoes' were a pair of child-sized clogs that I found at an outdoor market this summer. I'm seriously debating painting them red for next year's St. Nick's Day.

And yes, that is yet another Ishbel you see in that photo. I knit it mostly over Thanksgiving out of my 'free' ball of Cashmere-Silk yarn, Filatura Di Crosa Superior. It is just as light and airy as you would expect, and incredibly soft. I just love this pattern, and in combination with this yarn, it will be the perfect thing to wear to some upcoming holiday parties.

I'd love to hear what you do to bring joy to the month of December!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

My Favorite Greens #12

My absolute favorite teapot, a 16 oz. Beehouse, surrounded by all of the tea supplies I keep at work.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

My New Favorite Cardigan

I finished my Vivian cardigan on Wednesday morning, just a few hours before my husband, my brother-in-law, and I set out for a Thanksgiving holiday with their family in Indiana. I very happily wore it on Thanksgiving day, and got many nice compliments from the family. The other benefit of finishing when I did was being able to take pictures with the lovely southern Indiana backdrop:

Not to say that it wasn't a close race to the deadline. I kept wondering if I would finish knitting in time, if the blocked sweater would dry quickly enough, and if I would finally manage to get the darned zipper to attach to my cardigan. Let me just say that there was a lot of swearing at my old sewing machine on Tuesday night before I finally gave up and stitched the rest of the zipper in by hand on Wednesday morning. I think that having a secure zipper, with its pretty ribbon detailing, was totally worth frightening my husband a little. Sorry Dear.

I should also mention the modifications I made to the pattern, which mainly consisted of changing the hood to a stand-up collar. Thankfully, I had a little help from the notes of a fellow Ravelry user, Olga. Here is what I changed:

- I added 4 short rows in the last row before starting the right saddle shoulder.
- I skipped the BO and pick-up of stitches in the last 3 rows before the hood.
- Instead of starting the hood, I bound off all stitches (save the 3 i-cord st at each side of the front) to add stability to the collar.
- On the WS, I then picked up and purled all of these bound-off stitches.
- The subsequent RS row, I worked in [sl3, *p2, k2, p2, k2tog, ssk* p2, k2, p2, sl3].
- I worked a 2x2 rib for the rest of the collar, adding 2 short rows to the back of the collar at half of the desired height.

Overall, I am very pleased with this cardigan, which may be my favorite handknit sweater to-date. The pattern was excellent, with all of the readability and beauty of design that I have come to expect from Ysolda. The sweater itself fits great, with its lovely waist shaping avoiding the tendency for bulky sweaters to obscure the figure.

If I had to say one bad thing about this sweater, it would be that the sleeves are too long; I find myself constantly rolling them up and back down whenever I wear it. But whenever I look at the pretty ribbon on the inside of the zipper, I forget about the sleeves. (All cardigans I make in the future will have ribbons in them because I just adore that detail.) Vivian certainly took a long time for me to knit, but it was worth every minute I put into it.

Relate posts: Vivian part 1, part 2, part 3, & part 4.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Favorite Greens #11

Romanesco from the farmer's market. The beauty of fractals and the taste of cauliflower--Yum!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Weaving In The Ends

I am very close to finishing my Vivian Cardigan and will have photos to share of the finished object in a week or two! I was a little worried after I joined the sleeves to the body that this sweater was not going to be finished in time, as my rows were taking 15 minutes each. But luckily, I got together to knit with some friends on Friday evening and made major progress.

Our Friday night knit-together was at our LYS, The Sow's Ear, as part of their bimonthly Late Night Knitting. The shop is the best yarn store in the Madison area due to their selection, friendly service, and tasty cafe offerings. Plus, they have a great rewards program, which I was finally able to take advantage of, having spent so much there on previous visits. My reward of choice was a ball of Filatura Di Crosa Superior cashmere-silk blend, or as I like to call it, crack. I only have 330 yards of this yarn, but it should be enough to make another Ishbel.

But back to the matter at hand: the Vivian Cardigan. I actually finished up all of the knitting over the weekend and it is currently being blocked on my apartment floor. The one major thing I still have to do is sew in the zipper. I bought a 24" zipper at my local JoAnn Fabrics along with this lovely ribbon (below), which I plan to sew over the zipper on the inside of the cardigan. After all of the work I put into this sweater, it really deserves such special little details.

I'm going to talk a little more about the mods I made to the pattern in my subsequent post (mainly making the hood into a collar), but I want to mention the pair of techniques that I learned while working on this sweater. Probably most helpful was learning to cable without a needle. I thought I understood how to do it, but this tutorial really cleared things up for me. The other technique I learned was short rows, with the help of TECHknitter. It turns out that short rows are really not that difficult. I hope you find these tutorials as helpful as I did!

I hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tutorial: Mini Page-A-Day Advent Calendar

One of the holiday traditions that I love, but can never get my act together in time to make, is the advent calendar. The calendar embodies the idea that Christmas is not just a day, but a season, and offers a little treat to celebrate every day of it. Even if the treat is only a terribly waxy piece of chocolate, I still get a kick out of opening the little doors and discovering what is inside.

This year, I'm planning ahead and actually making an advent calendar for the husband. Since I don't have time to make something big and intricate (such as this gorgeous creation), I opted for a simpler design: a small scale, page-a-day-type calendar. With the help of a craft punch and some padding compound, this calendar came together quickly and has customized treats for the husband (because he, unfortunately, does not appreciate waxy chocolate). I'm looking forward to seeing his response each day as he rips off the top square to get a new little surprise!

Whether you add surprises to the calendar or not, the mini page-a-day design is an easy and small way to count down to Christmas. And I hope my tutorial shows you that it's not too difficult for you to put together yourself!


A sheet of red cardstock
A piece of cardboard
1 inch square craft punch
1/3 inch numeral stamps
An inkpad
A pen
Padding compound
A brush
Adhesive magnet
A rubber band

-Cut 26 squares out of the cardstock using the craft punch. Set one aside for later.

-Cut one square out of the cardboard. Set aside.

-On one side of the red squares, stamp the numbers 1 through 25.

-On the other side of each square, write that day's surprise. It can be anything from treating the recipient to a mug of french press coffee (or hot cocoa) to renting their favorite Christmas movie. Small presents always go over well, but there are plenty of ideas that won't cost you anything extra: making a special dinner, free reign with the TV remote for an evening, doing their daily household chores for them, etc.

-Make a list of each day's surprise, so you don't forget and can prepare anything special ahead of time.

-Assemble the calendar, stacking from bottom to top: the cardboard square, the red squares from #25 to #1, and the extra red square. Wrap the pile with a rubber band.

-Paint the padding compound onto the top edge of the stack, making sure to apply it all of the way to the edges. (I inevitably get compound on the front of the top red square, which is why I suggest adding the blank square.)

-Prop the stack upright and let dry for at least 30 minutes.

-Apply a second coat of padding compound. Again, let dry for at least 30 minutes.

-Tear off the top blank square.

-Stick the magnet to the bottom of the calendar, adhering it to the cardboard square.

-Give it to the recipient on December 1st and watch their face light up each day as you give them a special gift.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Favorite Greens #9

My collection of green sweaters. Some store-bought, some handmade (three of which I blogged about here, here, and here).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Neville Longbottom is a BAMF

I've been featuring a lot of non-knitting content on my blog recently as I work up my Vivian cardigan. The good news is that it is coming along nicely--I am almost done with the second sleeve and looking forward to working on the yoke. The bad news is that I again have no knitting to share with you today. But I do have a cute Harry Potter-related cross stitch to show off:

And by Neville, I of course mean Neville Longbottom (who is one of my favorite characters from the series). He goes from being a complete bumbler in the first book to a bad @$$ who kills big snakes and whoops your butt in Herbology by book 7. Apparently this transformation entitles him to his own Chuck Norris-type facts. I'm partial to the one I stitched, but there are some other really brilliant ones on Neville's fact list.

Picking the quote was half of the battle; the other challenge was to convert it to a stitch-able font. Luckily, I ran across this list of free fonts and was really taken with the StitchCross. After that, it was simply a matter of printing out my phrase in the StitchCross font and adjusting the math to ensure that everything was centered correctly. And doing the actual stitching, of course. This quote now lives on my craft desk, where it makes me smile and aspire to be as bad @$$ as Neville some day.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

My Favorite Greens #8

Oolong Tea from Lupicia, my favorite tea purveyor.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Warning: Craft Books Ahead

It's as dangerous to send me into a bookstore as it is to send me into a craft store. I especially cannot help myself when I enter the craft section; books that both teach and inspire exert a strange lure over me and I'll suddenly find myself walking toward the register with a stack of them in my hands. I always try to enter a bookstore prepared, with a list and a plan. But as I found out this weekend, even that does not always get me through unscathed.

I went into the store specifically looking for Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits, which is a book of top-down sweater designs that was published last year. I'm really selective when it comes to sweater books and strongly favor top-down designs for their ease of construction and lovely style (if I only could have one sweater book for the rest of my life, it would be Knitting from the Top, Barbara Walker be praised). Between Wendy's simple and elegant sweater patterns--such as Ingenue [below], Backward Cabled Pullover, and Cameo--and all of her information on customizing your sweaters, this one is definitely worth having on my bookshelf.

But since I was already in the knitting section of the store, I had to look around a bit. I had absolutely no intention of buying anything until I flipped to this page [below] of Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting. The comparison between photos and the multi-color fair isle patterns they inspired just blew me away! There is so much other information in this book about the history of these sweaters, sample motifs, and actual sweater patterns that I am really excited to read it.

Once my will was broken, I could not resist throwing Stick, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids onto the pile. Its sister book, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey, is worth buying if only for the upside-down pear walnut gingerbread recipe. The new book promises to be as mouth watering as the previous so I had no scruples about buying it, even though I do not have kids.

And now I'm off to make a cup of tea, grab a knitted blanket, and cozy up to one of my new books!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Favorite Greens #7

Blanket pin that I use to hold my keys. I cut and inlaid the stone in 2005, during a silversmithing course at Ghost Ranch.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vivian: Status Report

I'm happy to say that my Vivian cardigan is progressing nicely since I frogged it and restarted it last month. I finished the body section the other day and am currently half way up the left arm.

Though this isn't a top-down sweater (which are my favorite to knit, Barbara Walker be praised), the seamless design does lend itself to trying the sweater on during construction. I'm knitting one size down because my gauge is slightly off - a standard trick of mine - but it seems to be coming out just right. My Vivian is definitely going to be a fitted cardigan, but hopefully that means a bulky cardigan that is actually flattering to the figure. Who knew that was actually possible?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Favorite Greens #6

Tiny clay teapot for oolong tea. Purchased from Lupicia.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Free Pattern: bHive

I've got a sweet little pattern for you all today! Made with leftover sock yarn, this phone cozy is a quick and cute knit. The honeycomb pattern is achieved through slipped stitches, which makes it much simpler to knit than traditional fair isle. I made mine to fit my new iPhone, but the pattern can easily be adjusted to fit a different phone, a camera, or even a gift card. I had a lot of fun knitting this up and I hope you do too!


Finished Measurements: 2.75 inches wide x 4.75 inches tall.

Gauge: 32 st/44 rows = 4 inches in stockinette.

Needles: Set of 4 US#2/2.75mm dpns or comparable circular needle for magic loop.

Main Color (MC): ~35 yards of fingering weight yarn.
[I used Knit Picks Essential (Stroll) Tweed in Russet.]

Contrast Color (CC): ~25 yards of fingering weight yarn.
[I used Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino in the P616 colorway.]

Cast on 48 st in MC. Join to work in the round, being careful not to twist.

Work in *K1, P1* rib for an inch.

Round 1: Knit.
Round 2: Purl.

Join CC.
Round 3: With CC, *K6, sl2 wyib* 6 times.
Repeat this row 3 more times.

Switch to MC.
Round 7: Knit.
Round 8: Purl.

Switch to CC.
Round 9: *K2, sl2 wyib, k4* 6 times.
Repeat this row 3 more times.

Switch to MC.
Round 13: Knit.
Round 14: Purl.

Repeat rows 3-14 3 more times.

With MC, work in stockinette for an inch.
Divide stitches evenly over 2 needles. Kitchner stitch bottom of cozy closed.

Weave in ends and enjoy!

Questions or errata?
Contact me at brineydeepdesigns_at_gmail_dot_com!

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Favorite Greens #5

Happy green cardigan from Old Navy's Spring 2009 collection.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Apple-Rhubarb Sauce

Every fall since I started graduate school, I have made applesauce. Perhaps it's my way of reliving the happy days of my childhood, when we would go apple picking and grandma would make applesauce in a big pot on the stove. I always loved eating it warm, in big spoonfuls right out of the pot. Interestingly, I have no memories of eating this applesauce cold and I suspect that very little actually made it into the fridge at the end of the day.

It wasn't until this year, however, that I discovered the joy that is rhubarb sauce. Sweet and tart, it's even easier to make than applesauce and just as delicious. If I don't watch myself, I will eat an entire pint in a single sitting, it's that good.

I'm not entirely sure when I had the brilliant idea to combine the two sauces, but I suspect it corresponded to finding two Ziploc bags full of rhubarb in the back of the freezer this week. With apple season in full swing, I knew I had to try this right away. The base recipe is the one I use to make applesauce each year, swapping half of the apples for rhubarb and omitting all of the spices except cinnamon. However, the most important thing in making apple, rhubarb, or apple-rhubarb sauce is to taste and adjust as you go. That way, you are sure to get the balance right for your type of apples and your particular flavor preference. Besides, it makes me really happy to eat spoonfuls of warm sauce straight from the pot.


12 apples, peeled and cores
4 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 cup sugar, or more to taste
1/3 cup lemon juice
Cinnamon to taste

Put apples and rhubarb in a large pot and fill with water so that half of the fruit is submerged. Heat to boiling, then reduce to a simmer. Add sugar and lemon juice. Cook until apples and rhubarb become soft and fall apart. Add cinnamon. Cook until desired consistency (if sauce becomes too thick before the fruit falls apart, add a little more water). Enjoy a bowl of warm sauce and stick the rest in the fridge, where it should keep for 1-2 weeks.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

My Favorite Greens #4

Turquoise pendant I made in 1999. My sister picked out the stone and I did the setting.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Etsy Love

I'm taking a break from the knitting this week to share some handmade Etsy awesomeness with you. Enjoy!


Pin toppers from Pinks & Needles
This shop is only open on Mondays at the moment, but it's totally worth checking out for her adorable pin toppers. Mushroom-themed tea party, anyone?

Sock yarn from Wooly Booger Yarns
I bought this Merino/Bamboo/Nylon blend in the colorway Rumpelstiltskin and I have big plans for this yarn!

Mineral makeup samples from The All Natural Face
I'm giving mineral makeup a try, and thus far I really like it. This shop offers a nice variety of samples at a reasonable price so you can find the best colors for you without breaking the bank.


I'm in love with so many things from The Small Object, but especially the Nesting Doll Stamp Set and the Mustache Magnet. I'm beginning to think that all fridge photos need mustaches.

I also covet the Harry Potter-themed items at the Celeste Frittata shop, particularly this Divination Notebook. Her Owl Post Stationary Set is also pretty cool.

Finally, Kaang Accessories is really making me want a fascinator. Would I know where to wear it? No. Do I care? No.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Favorite Greens #3

Harry Potter 6, published in 2006. I can't make a list of favorites without including Mr. Potter.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hogwarts House Cup

Hello. My name is Kristin and I am a member of the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup on Ravelry.

There, I said it. The depth of my obsession with Harry Potter-related crafting has gone public. So what is the House Cup and why is it totally nerdy, you ask? Well, just like fictional Hogwarts students compete in class to win points for their houses, so does this group of real life crafters. The game consists of a 3-month term, with 6 class assignments offered every month. You have until the end of the month to knit/crochet/spin something that fits the assignment and post a photo in order to get points for your house. At the end of the term, the house with the most points wins. It's pretty simple and lots of fun!

For example, this month's Care of Magical Creatures assignment is to 'take care of a niffler'. Basically, you can create a niffler, something for it to wear, or something shiny that it found. I made this little golden heart (pattern here), as I assume that nifflers' love of shiny objects comes from the fact that their hearts are pure gold.

In addition to the monthly classes, 'students' can also take an OWL exam, which is a big project that is started and finished within the entire three-month term. My OWL this term is the Vivian cardigan, but means I had to frog my (small) progress and restart it at the beginning of the term in order to qualify. However, making the sweater for the House Cup gives me much more incentive to finish it before the cold weather arrives.

The current term of the House Cup started on September 1st. They probably won't 'sort' more students until the next term starts in January, but everyone is welcome to play along (though you won't earn any points until you are in a house). To learn more about the House Cup, check out the Ravelry group or the blog. Also, now that my Potter obsession is really out in the open, I'm adding a 'Harry Potter' tag to the blog so you can easily find all of my Potter-related posts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Favorite Greens #2

My new Privo! shoes that are a very dark olive green in color.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Two Tips For Taking Better Photos

Since I'm currently doing a photography project on my blog, I thought it would be helpful to go over how I process my photos. There is a reason that some of the most-favorited projects on Ravelry are some of the best photos, and all it takes is an extra minute to set-up and process a picture to make it really pop. I don't promise to be an expert in this area, but these are two very simple things I do to really improve my photographs:
  1. Take photographs in natural light. Otherwise, learn to use your camera's white balance feature.

  2. Use photo editing software, such as Picassa (which is free and easy to use) to post-process all photos. In Picassa, I usually use the 'I'm feeling lucky' button and almost always increase the 'fill light' to make my photos really shine. 'Crop' and 'straighten' are also nice features.

Since I don't own the world's best camera (I use a decent point-and-click with an optical zoom), I find that a couple minutes work before and after I take the photos makes a huge difference. I've taken a couple pictures to show the improvement these small steps can make:


Photo taken in fluorescent lighting with no white balance, no editing

Photo taken in fluorescent lighting with white balance adjusted, no editing

If you take photos in natural light or use white balance in fluorescent lighting, you can avoid using your camera's flash. Flash is useful at times, but can do funny things to the depth of the photo. I generally try to avoid flash, whenever possible, and opt for natural light or white balance.


Photograph taken in natural light

Same photo using Picassa's 'I'm feeling lucky' feature and a smidge increase of 'fill light'

I can't say enough about increasing the fill light. This feature livens up colors and takes away heaviness in a photo. Adding the right amount of fill light makes it appear as if the picture was taken on a beautiful sunny day, which is always a good thing.


One other thing I do when I take photos for my blog is to take lots of shots from different angles and placements. The more photos I take, the more likely it is that one will be spectacular. Plus, using a digital camera means that you can delete all of the files that aren't any good.

I hope these tips help you improve your photographs. It doesn't take that much extra time to rejuvinate a picture and the results are definitely worth it.


Etsy put together this nice video on how to take good photos. It's geared toward Etsy sellers, but the principles are the same.

Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod put together a very nice eBook on making a great blog, which has a good section on photography. It's not free, but also contains lots of valuable information on blogging.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Favorite Greens #1

My favorite ring, purchased in West Yellowstone in 2004.