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.