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!