Saturday, December 30

Mateo socks are done

Our little family trip to PA gave me the time I needed to cast on, and finish, the second sock of the pair. They're done. and you know what? I like sock knitting. they go pretty fast, even on tiny needles. it doesn't take a lot of room and I will definitely wear my finished project. these are going to look great in my beat up red Dansko clogs. and as soon as I pick up some more sock yarn i'll start another pair.

Yarn: Giddy Feet sock yarn from Cinnamon Stitches
Needles: Size 2
Pattern: can't remember where I got it from now. but it's a simple slip stitch pattern.

Next on the needles is a little hat for a friends 1 year old baby. He finally outgrew the hat that I knit when he was just born. Then there are a couple of little girl babies on the way and I think that I'll knit some baby boleros from the One Skein book out of the Blue Sky organic cotton that I have kicking around. They're due in April, so it'll be a perfect layer for those still chilly times.

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 23

Thursday, December 21

christmas meme

From here and here. I've been reading everyone's responses and thought it be a good blog post. I've been meaning to post pictures of our muddy christmas tree hunt, but just can't get excited about a mud christmas.
1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? hot chocolate. but not the Swiss Miss stuff, it would have to be good, quality cocoa.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? definitely wrap. recycled wrappings are best though.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? all white this year. though there aren't any hard and fast rules.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Nope.

5. When do you put your decorations up? about a week before the weekend before christmas. we don't have a lot of decorations, or a lot of room to decorate so it's best to wait.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? cookies probably.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? waking up early on christmas morning and going downstairs to put on Christmas music (we had quite a collection of Mormon Tabernacle Choir albums) in an attempt to rouse my mother and brother.

8 . When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? can't recall, but i stayed up to listen one night when my dad was still living with us, and that must have been 6 years old. and i think i figured it out around then.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? sometimes. although now with K. I think we'll stop that until he doesn't believe in Santa anymore.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? a mish-mash of ornaments. lots of homemade.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? love it. where is it? we're waiting. VT is supposed to have snow at this time of year.

12. Can you ice skate? sure can.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? the boombox cassette player that I got in jr. high probably.

14. What's your favorite thing about the holidays? lights and decorations.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? cookies probably.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? watching Christmas Vacation on thanksgiving night. and getting the tree.

17. What tops your tree? Usually nothing. this year we made the Moravian Star work.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? giving. i wish i had more time to do it right.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? i can't pick just one.

20. Candy canes yuck or yum? yum. in moderation.

21. What's number one on your Christmas list this year? hah. really, all i want this year is for the bike biz to be a success.

Sunday, December 10

After much stress, anxiety, preparation, angst and late nights - my first craft show is done. le fin. over with. it was a really long day. the fair was on the second floor of the city hall in Montpelier which has only one tiny, and very slow elevator. so up and down the stairs i went with my heavy boxes for set-up and take down. below you can see my humble table. traffic was good and i did a fair amount of business. People were interested in the soaps, Mojito was the hands down favorite, Lavender & Chocolate was another favorite and the Morning Inspiration. I sold out of all the Grapefruit & Eucalyptus Shower Gel - it smelled really good.

After running a business strictly on the internet for three years, it was very different to get up in front of people and have to verbally tell them about the products and what makes them special. and then to have to watch them as they inhaled each soap and touched everything on the table. kind of eerie. quickly i figured out that my value proposition, at least for soaps, is that my flavor combinations are a bit different. Sure, everyone does handmade soap and who cares about essential oils, but nobody makes a Mojito flavored soap. Figuring that out really helped me come out of my shell a bit.
I brought one of my soakers to hopefully catch the eye of any other cloth diaper using mamas who might need wool care. it was a great conversation piece, everyone loved it as it's a beautiful cover from Curly Purly in hand dyed BFL wool. Due to freaky timing, it's never been worn, so it's still in mint condition and very attractive. I sold a little bit of baby care, a bunch of Wonder Lanolin to expecting mamas - but mostly soap.
Here you see the 'may-i-take-your-money-please' apron that i made last week. I used the tutorial posted at Creative Little Daisy . Which was super easy to follow. My patchwork is a bit more simple and i made it almost 2" shorter in length - but it's a great tutorial and I'm stoked to have the apron to wear for crafting, or maybe, possibly, more craft shows in the future.

my current WIP is a pair fo socks. this gorgeous colored yarn is Giddy Feet Sock Yarn from Cinnamon Stitches. The colorway is called Mateo, which is my God Son's name, so how could I pass it up. it's slow going so far. tiny needles do not make for a project which flies by.

Sunday, December 3

cable socks and soap stories

Two cabled footies from One Skein

As I said when I posted about the first one, these were my first cables and my first sock-like things. The second went really fast. Two days I think. One for the cuff and heel and the second marathon session finished the inseam and toes and so forth. I'm thinking about doing a pair for my mom for christmas in some sort of superwash wool. I have some in the stash, not in any good colors. But not like my mom would really know that the colors weren't that good...
So what is this mess? It's a mid-stage of handmade liquid soap. Not too many soap makers bother with liquid soap. Unlike making bar soap, which is sort of a 'fix-it-and-forget-it' operation, liquid soap requires several steps and none of which are particularly fast.

First you have to source the Potassium Hydroxide, normal soap is made with Sodium Hydroxide (lye) but to get a liquid you need a different form of lye. Once you've finally found that, you make soap like normal but instead of pouring into molds you cook and stir for an hour until you have the crazy paste as seen above.

Instructions that you find will tell you all sorts of things about what you see during this process. I can tell you that it never happened exactly like the instructions, and can be completely different each time you make it. One time I through out a batch that I thought had been botched, but later I discovered that I just hadn't kept up with the stiring long enough.

After you have paste, you make liquid by adding water. This part takes forever until you get it all liquified and smooth. Usually 2-3 days. This is why most folks don't bother. But really, it's so much nicer than detergents.
Here's a quick peak at the paperwhites. Coming right along.

And my other soap story? This week I found a dead mouse in the middle of the basement floor. No biggie. We live in the country, we have mice. We have a cat to catch the mice and sometimes we have to pick them up. The odd things was that this fellow didn't look like he'd had much of a struggle, and the cat wasn't strutting around proud. But I didn't think much of it.

Until today when I was packing some soap orders. I moved aside two bars of the Tea Tree & Sweet Orange Soap that I had used for photos - and there were teeth marks all along the edge! The stupid mouse had eaten the soap. And died! So I guess the lesson is, buy my Tea Tree & Sweet Orange soap if you're tired of baiting a mouse with cheese...

Monday, November 27


First off, some pictures for a particular Grammy in the UK. She picked up this beautiful sweater for him when he was just a wee thing and it sat in the cedar chest, protected and happy until this fall when I spied it during a sweater clean-out. What luck! It's time to wear it. Any longer in the cedar chest and it would have missed the window of appropriate size-ness. Thanksgiving weekend was the perfect weather for it - not too cold, a little sunny and not too breezy.

Saturday was an extra special day. I couldn't bear going without movies any longer. Actually going to a movie theater is out of the question between cost and babysitters and so forth. And besides, I'd much rather have our comfy couch and all the snacks in the kitchen and our very own bathroom than a stinky old movie theater. So, even though it's not in the household budget, we're back with Netflix:
Add one napping little boy and a pile of this:

And you get a very happy mama who got to watch an entire movie in one nap and finished the second cabled footie (pics to come next post).

Though we won't decorate the house for the holidays for a couple of weeks, I spied these paperwhite bulbs while I was at the nursery getting the decorations for the bike shop. I've always wanted to force bulbs, but being as I don't go shopping much and when I do it's unlikely to be a stores that carry such a thing - it almost never happens. So when I saw them, I got them. And here they are started:

It's another week of transitions here. George is starting a full-time job to keep him busy over the winter and hopefully help to relieve some of the strain on our coffers. But this means that K. has to start preschool a couple of mornings a week. Luckily my work is flexible, so I moved some of my hours around and instead of a three day weekend, I'll have two afternoons a week with my boy. Hopefully we'll survive the changes - but if i don't surface for a week, you know why.

Wednesday, November 22

thanksgiving traditions

it's not even thanksgiving yet, and crafty blogland has erupted into the nightmare before christmas. everywhere you look people are decorating and scheming and planning and remembering and on the mark, ready, set -- CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!


Not me. i absolutely refuse to even consider christmas until thanksgiving (except for attempting to put together a holiday plan for the soap biz - but this is for my own survival and an attempt to not run out of everything by December 4).

Thanksgiving has a particular set of traditions that must be maintained.
  1. Watch Macy's Parade. The coverage is awful. They wreck everything that's fun about the parade. But it must be on the tv for part of the morning.
  2. Attend a minimum of two thanksgiving dinners. Minimum. Children of divorce get accustomed to this and learn to feed appropriately at the various family gatherings. Any less than two dinners and we feel lonely and hungry because we maintained the same eating traditions from the multi-dinner days
  3. Watch National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. We always watch this on Thanksgiving. Always. It's always funny and serves to mark the official start of the Christmas season which cannot begin until this movie has been viewed.

Saturday, November 18

cabled footie

Cabled footie from One Skein in lettuce Malabrigio. I finished this around halloween, but was hoping to have it's friend done before posting. Alas. So this is a process/progress post. This is one of those little milestone projects - first cables and first sock-like project. The cables were a piece of cake and pretty fun and interesting, I can see why knitters like them. It's so satisfying to see the twisting pattern come alive. The sock thing was fun too, very portable and the rows go round real quick. not sure i'm ready to pull out the size 1 needles though.

Here's the other process in progress. Lots of piles. The holiday season was pretty busy for the soap business last year, and I'm hoping that this year is similar. Though my intentions were to make piles and piles of soap - it didn't quite happen that way. It's likely that I'll run out of most of the varieties before the madness is over. I don't just sell soap, but lotions and salts and things. So, I'm trying to make them up a head of time so that i'm not killing myself trying to get all the orders out. And on top of the regular preparations I wanted to try some new things like tissue covers and sample sets and new recipes and and and and...

On December 9th I do my first craft show, so I'm trying hard to have enough things on hand and think of a way to set it up and make everything look good. I can't wait to get this one under my belt and see if it was successful or fun and something to continue to do in the future.

Tuesday, November 14

let's catch up...

it's been over two weeks since my last post, though my blog has been quiet my life has been rather busy. the good news is that the major outside work projects have been realized and are done for this year. the bad news is that now i'm going to need to ramp up the soap biz and get ready for my first craft shows. there's lots to do for the bike shop as well. so, although i've successfully come through in one way, there still won't be any rest until the holidays.

the conference that i've just returned from features several costume parties. after having endured endless teasing when a board member blindly stumbled onto this post and then finding the pattern for this - my costume became clear. It had to include an awesome knitted component. Princess Leia's hair knit up quickly in Lamb's Pride Bulky - double stranded. In fact, the buns were finished in my hotel room and are stuffed with tissue from the room. When I get a chance I'll add some more pictures, it's a fabulous pattern.

Saturday, October 28

knitting break

First - it's halloween time and last night there was a party for the preschool kiddies which meant that K needed a costume. He was going to go as Kurt Cobain, but I had trimmed his hair a bit last week and it just didn't seem like it was going to work anymore. So, I asked the three year old what he wanted to be for halloween and he said 'a ghost'. So yesterday I cut up our only white sheet into a ghost costume and there you have it. There were a lot of kids at this party. Nearly every boy was a dinosaur in the same fuzzy costume. Or a superhero or a pirate. Nearly every girl was a princess or a fairy. The coolest costumes were a little girl dressed as a lego and a little baby all wrapped up in gauze as a mummy.

my right wrist has been giving me some carpel tunnel type pain lately, especially when knitting or using the scroll wheel on the mouse. so this past week i've been taking a bit of a knitting break and trying my hardest not to use that darn wheel. life has been wicked busy, so in a way it's been nice to kick back at the end of the day and do nothing.

well, nothing is a bit of an overstatement. i've been collecting fabric and trying to pick up sewing again. my mom taught me when i was in my teens and at that time i hated the meticulous nature of sewing. i hated the constant ironing of the seams - especially since the sewing machine lived in the basement and the iron was on the second floor. that's a lot of up and down. so anyway, i didn't sew again until the past year when i started to make the wool sachets for Hug-a-dub-dub. lately i've been watching all the cool projects in blog world as well as project runway - and just getting the itch to do a little sewing myself. i bought the book Sew-U to help me get started as well as tackling some little projects.

Today I finished up this cute little zippered pouch inspired from this tutorial. it's actually my second try - the first i sewed so close to the zipper that it didn't work, i'm still trying to rip that one apart.
Here's a little peak into my workspace. it's in our basement, but we do have a walkout basement with some lovely windows. It's a constant battle to keep this space organized - as you can see, mostly a losing battle. I'd like to add one more window and more shelves and cubbies and things to use the space more efficiently. Behind this table is a big piece of carpet with a monster train set up so my son can crash Thomas while I fiddle with craftly things.

Monday, October 23

the sampler

perhaps you've heard ofThe Sampler? It's a nifty subscription service that sends out a monthly package of little sample goodies. I'd seen it, and wanted to get it - but finances being what they are I had to wait until I could get my act together to be a contributor. Last month 100 little soap samples and little postcards went over to The Sampler. As a bonus, contributors actually get a package and mine came today.

Here are some of the cool things:
Remnant - sent a pony tail elastic with cool recycled sweater flower detail.
Starchild Crafts - included a cool fabric cuff
SBS Teas - sell tea ( a favorite thing of mine) and sent an emergency tea kit that I can't wait to try.
Papered Together - sent a super cute letterpress card with a giraffe. Check out the holiday cards on their website - I want them!

So, the question on mine and other crafty business owners - is this worth the time, effort and money to send stuff into the sampler. Will I buy anything? Hard to say as right now is not a good money time for us. But I'd like to buy this ID holder from Remnant Clothing and the holiday cards mentioned above. Copacetique included a little zipper pull, I've bought from them in the past and this reinforces my happy experience with them. Their promo piece was a cute postcard suitable for mailing. So, I think that there is some value. I will definitely revisit these items and business cards if I get the freedom to spend.

The second question, how did my samples compare to the other bath and body? I've figured it out - everybody (and I mean everybody) makes soaps and things and it's very challenging to stand out. There were two bath and body samples in my package. Prairieland Herbs packaged theirs very similar to mine - in a little ziplock style baggie with label. Kristine's Shower sent a sample of lotion, a promo card and a little bar of soap that was nicely wrapped (though the flavor was not noted). I think that my soaps were nicely packaged - the label is large and centered and colorful. However, I should have indicated on the actual sample packaging that there is a special discount for Sampler recipients. It also would have been nice to attach a header card with more info and other things available.

The samples that I received are all scented with fragrance oils, and personally I can't stand fragrance oils. They just smell fake, and being cooped up in an evelope with other fragrance oils, now they smell muddy and confused on top of fake. This is probably where my soaps stand out - they'll never smell fake because I can't bear to use fake fragrance. But I'll also be limited to the more affordable essential oils and natural ingredients.

Thanks Sampler! I think I'll contribute again and see if my realizations about sample preparedness can improve the chances of getting some orders from all of this.

Friday, October 13

Tea Swap has Arrived!

so, it turns out that the Knitters Tea Swap is the best swap going. I came home last night to find a large box had arrived in the mail. Now, I was expecting a large box from UPS filled with birthday presents for the boy, but the second box was a mystery and it was addressed to me - not the birthday boy. then i saw the address label and saw that it was from my swap partner and I couldn't hardly believe that I would get something in that large of a box.

things were really going my way, and i had 15 minutes of time all alone in the house in which to open this up. all alone. no sharing or explaining to do. and look at what was inside that box:
I'll break it down for you:
  • Yarn treat - two skeins of lovely Patons SWS - soy wool stripe in my favorite colors. It feels a bit similar to the bamboo that i just used for Clapotis and i think it might make a lovely scarf for winter.
  • Tea Treat - all sorts of teas from Sip for the Cure, to samples from her favorite shop, a box of lady grey (perfect for my office stash!) and a bag of loose Rosebud tea. which i'm testing out as i type...
  • The treat for eating was a lovely box of cookies with jam in the center.
  • then there was still more! Two yummy candles
  • a coloring book and crayons for the boy
  • very thoughtful breast self-exam information as September is Breast Cancer Awareness month
  • and best of all -- a holder for my circular needles, which i was in desperate need of

A big thank you to my pal who really made an extra-super-special effort. Thank you!

Sunday, October 8

Whiplash - Knitted Faux Bead Necklace

My entry for this month's Whiplash competition is a simple knitted bead necklace. Anyone with basic knitting skills and a set of double-pointed needles can craft this. Be irreverent and knit one for your next formal occaision. Make a few for a child's dress-up box. Can you say 'Mardi Gras Party'?

Most people don't know that I collect vintage costume jewelry. The color and style of this necklace were inspired by my alternate wedding necklace which was given to me by my Stepmother-inlaw. I ended up wearing white faux pearls, but it was a tough decision.

The Knitted Faux Bead Necklace Pattern:

Yarn: I used Lamb's Pride worsted in a demure pink
Needles: size 6 dpn
Gauge: whatever you'd like

Cast on 3 stitches. Knit I-cord for 4-5 inches.
Begin bead shaping:
Round 1: each stitch, increase one stitch (6 total). Place 2 on each needle.
Round 2: Increase each stitch again (12 stitches)
Round 3: work even
Round 4: *K, M1, K2, M1, K1* repeat around (18 stitches)
Round 5 and 6: work even
Round 7: *K1, K2tog* repeat around (12 stitches)
Round 8: work even
Round 9: K2tog all around (6 stitches)
Round 10: work even

at this point stuff the bead with yarn scraps of a similar color, or polyfil or wool roving.

Round 11: K2tog all around, move all stitches to one needle.

Work 3 rounds of I-cord.

Continue to knit beads, separate each by three rounds of I-cord. I knitted a total of nine beads.

Finish with another 4-5 inches of I-cord. For a clasp, I attached three beads along one of the I-cord ends. The other end I sewed into a small loop, to fit around the bead and allow for an ajustable length.

Finally finished

I hearby declare clapotis finished. All the dropped stitches have been individually teased out. Tons of ends were sewn in and finally the whole thing was washed and blocked. Pre-blocking I felt that it was about 6 inches too short to really do what I wanted with it. But blocking really helped stretch it out to a more appropriate length.

Everything that other knitters have said about this, is absolutely true. This is so wearable. The drape and shape of this piece is amazing. Though I didn't think I'd like it in 'striped', turns out that the heavy colored horizontal stripes nicely balance the vertical lines of dropped stitches and in the end they work well together.

If you haven't knitted this yet, go for it. Go order yourself a big pile of nice yarn. Don't worry about all the stitch markers that the pattern calls for, just purl the stitch that you'll end up dropping. It knits up fairly fast and you'll love the end result.

Friday, October 6

clapotis almost done!

The knitting on the clapotis is done. However, this bamboo and wool blend does not drop stitches very easily. Basically i have to tease out each and every stitch - which is very time consuming. slowly but surely i guess. it's soft and warm and comfy. my husband thinks it's too big to be a scarf, but isn't sure where to characterize it. does that matter? here's an unfinished photo...

The other thing i've been doing is trying to make a tissue holder for my cloth wipes. i just the tutorial over at Bella Dia and changed the measurements a bit. It took two tries to get it right, but hoo boy - is it cute. it would be great for sticking in the diaper/toy bag for excursions where messiness is bound to happen. i love cloth wipes because they do such a good job, this will be a great way to bring them around.

Monday, October 2

Roadside America

For anyone that has ever traveled Route 78 west of Allentown, PA - this sign might be familiar. It's on the marquee of a large tan building next to the PA Dutch Gift Barn and features two, larger-than-life statues of Amish folk on a buggy seat. Roadside America is billed as the World's Greatest Miniature Village. Facing an afternoon of nothing particular to do, my father and I took the train obsessed toddler to see the wonders of Roadside America.
You walk into a large room, a walkway surrounds the largest train platform that you've ever seen. Only, it's not so much about the trains as it is about the miniature world. The creater crafted all the buildings and scenes by hand - read more about the history on their official website. See the airport in the middle of the picture above, and the circus parade?

This place has been around forever. I barely remember visiting as a kid - and it's exactly the same. It even smells musty and old. See the indian encampment in the center of the photo above? The miniature power station to the left? On the mountain in the back, cable cars climb up to the resort village and a waterfall pours down.

Here we see a barn raising on the left, and horse and buggies by the old time houses.

A close-up of one of the streets in one of the 'modern' neighborhoods.
Detail on a house. Notice the quilts hanging out of the window for airing.
About every 30 minutes they send everyone (there were five people total while we were there) up to the viewing gallery for the 'Nightime Pageant.' As patriotic music begins to soar, night falls on the miniature world. Lights come on in the little houses and along the streets. Trains and streetcars zoom along the tracks with just their lights to guide them. An airplane begins to circle from the ceiling. On the wall, next to the Statue of Liberty, a projector displays slides of Jesus and Angels and Kate Smith belts out God Bless America at the top of her lungs. Finally, daybreak comes and the lights come up.

All along the display are buttons that you can press. Each button performs a different action - maybe it turns the windmill or runs a streetcar or even milks a cow.

My advice to anyone in the area is to stop and visit this gem before it should go out of business and disappear like so many other roadside treasures.