Monday, August 29, 2011

A few Random Thoughts

-  The next time I go to a party, someone remind me that I can't drink like I did when I was 22.  Wait -- when I was 22, I would throw up and wake up with a headache, too, so maybe I can.

- When dealing with a difficult person in your knitting group, always remember the immortal words of Donny Osmond:  One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl.

 - Why do I feel so guilty when I run out of birdseed?

- When you walk through a restaurant with your skirt hem tucked into your panties, the best thing to do is laugh.

- Is "wearing a stupid little phone in his ear" grounds for divorce?

And just a couple pinterest-generated thoughts:
1)  Before you have a fantastic quote tattooed on your body, think really hard about it.  Sayings I thought were really deep when I was 20 seem pretty contrived and/or stupid now.  I'm pretty happy I just wrote those in my journal, and not on  my arm.

2)  Just because Home Depot doesn't charge for paint chips doesn't mean you should take as many as you want for your next craft project.  Someone, somewhere is paying for those chips.  Probably me.  

3) I believe the "Keep Calm and . . . ." trend should be coming to an end soon.  Fingers crossed.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Summer Reading

Now that school has started, I realized I didn't plow through as many books this summer as I usually do.  The wedding, convention and re-decorating all played a part, but  the biggest part of that problem was probably my book choices.  No easy, beachy reads for me this summer; here are some of the intense books I read and loved:

The 19th Wife by  David Ebershoff
If I were to go back to school, I think I would major in Religious Studies, because books like this drive me to the Bible and the research stacks.  When my cousin, Tom, was in the seminary, he told me that the Church of LDS was a cult; I know he believed that they earned this label by professing the Book of Mormon to be the inspired word of God, but  I have never been comfortable with that.  I have never met a Mormon who was not the proverbial "salt of the earth" -- good and kind and loving.  So, this book, and it's fictionalized account of Brigham Young's ministry, was a difficult read for me.  Interestingly, the fictional modern-day polygamous community in  this book (First Church of Latter Day Saints) was a lot like that of the Warren Jeffs community (Fundamental Church of Latter Day Saints); he just so happened to be sentenced to life in prison (plus 20 years) just last week.  Timely, no?

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
If I didn't know better, I would swear this was non-fiction.  It is fantastic, complicated and complex.  It is the story of an ancient illuminated codex (Jewish family prayer book) and the scholarly detective work that goes in to proving its authenticity and trying to trace its historical journey.  While reading this one, I had to study up on Yugoslavian history, the reign of the Habsburgs and the Inquisition (yikes!  Brigham Young doesn't look so bad compared to some of those Spanish priests!) three areas I didn't know much about, I'm sorry to say.
    This is a book for people who love books.  Just read it -- I promise, you will love it.    Once again, huge love to my friend, Pam, who recommended this one.

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
Beautiful and heartbreaking story of a young girl who knots carpets in 17th century Iran.  Another historical era/area I know little about -- the reigns of the Shahs are fascinating.
As a person who spends a lot of time working with her hands and messing about with artsy crafty stuff, this book amazed me.  The descriptions of preparing dyes -- from finding the plants and minerals to dry, grind  and mix with acids, to the charting of designs to the intricate knotting of the rugs -- were incredible.  And I thought following a latch-hook rug pattern and working with Rit dye was tricky!  I have so much to learn.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Crazy, tangled story about love, ancient tribes and pharmaceutical morality set in the South American rain forest.  Ann Patchett has been a favorite of mine since Pam gave me a copy of Patron Saint of Liars.  She is an amazing writer, and I have such admiration for how she (and all these authors) takes important social questions, sets them into interesting historical times and far away places and creates a novel that I couldn't hardly put down.  Read this one, too!

So now, I'm looking for another great book.  Thanks to the nook, I've got samples of several highly-recommended novels to try.  Maybe I should crack open the first Lord John book, as next weekend, Clay and I are headed to Atlanta to meet Diana Gabaldon! (I KNOW!  How exciting!)


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hooty Hoo -- Grandmother's Favorite Knitted Owl

Some of the best little knitting patterns are those that are passed on from knitter to knitter, handwritten on an index card or scrap of paper.  Favorites like the potato chip scarf, the feather and fan baby afghan, and of course, the famous dishcloth knit on the bias, aka Grandmother's Favorite.  Since the early days of Knit Night, I have taught this dishcloth as an introduction to easy increases and decreases -- I couldn't even guess at how many GF dishcloths have been made by our knitters.  A few years ago, I worked up a pattern for a triangle shawl and a rectangular shawl using the basic GF formula; one of our knitters won a blue ribbon at the fair for her purple GF afghan!  I was so proud.

Owls are very popular on the crafty blogs lately (plus, they are my high school mascot!); I really want to sew some up, maybe even from some of my felted sweater collection.  But in looking at some of the patterns, I noticed that many of them start with a square of fabric, and this got me thinking that maybe I could make an owl from a square of knitted fabric.  And what's easier than a GF square?  So here are my two versions of the owl; both are knit on the bias, but the smaller one is done just like a GF dishcloth in garter stitch, while the larger owl is done in stockinette.

Grandmother's Favorite Knitted Owl
For the smaller owl
Materials: Kitchen cotton in three colors (I used off white and yellow I had on hand, and Peaches and Cream in the Good Earth color); Size 7 needles, polyfill for stuffing, buttons for eyes (or felt for applique eyes), yarn needle.
Notes: kfb = knit into the front and back of the stitch (this is an increase used instead of the yarn over increase usually found in this dishcloth, which makes an eyelet hole – we want to avoid that!)  Also, if you are making the owl as a toy for a baby or young child, don't use buttons, which could come off and be a choking hazard -- circles of felt applied with a buttonhole embroidery stitch are great!)
Pattern: Starting at the beak, with yellow, cast on 2. Knit 1, kfb. (3 stitches).
Row 2: K1, kfb, k1 (4 stitches)
Row 3: k1, kfb, k2 (5 stitches). Cut yellow and pick up second color.
Row 4: K1, kfb, knit to end. Repeat row 4 until there are 22 stitches on your needle.
Pick up color 3 and repeat row 4 until there are 41 stitches on your needle.
Knit one row.
Decrease rows: k1, k2tog, knit to end. Repeat this row until there are 23 stitches on your needle.
Pick up color 2 and repeat decrease row until there are 3 stitches on your needle. Bind off.   See, you get a dishcloth!
Finishing: Fold all four corners of the square toward the center; secure with pins, if you need.

Using any seaming method, sew up three seams; leave the 4th open for stuffing.

 Stuff the owl as firmly as you like with polyfill, then sew up the last seam. Pinch ½ inch at each corner of the head for ears; using a yarn needle threaded with a length of kitchen cotton, weave needle in and out around the pinch and secure to form ears. Add buttons or felt eyes. Using yarn needle, gather center of the owl and draw up; tie a secure knot and hide it inside the owl.

For larger owl, knit in stockinette:
Materials:  worsted weight yarn in 3 or 4 colors (I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes from my stash -- the colors have changed, but when I looked at the KP color chart, I think that Caution, Maple Syrup, Almond and Hollyberry are the closest to what I used.  Of course, use your favorite colors!); Size 7 needles; yarn needle; buttons and/or felt appliques; polyfill.

Notes:  1) KFB = knit in the front and back of the stitch.  2) Since this is knit in stockinette, I increased on both ends of each knit row.  3) Slip the first stitch of each row after the 3rd row or so -- this will make it much easier to seam up at the end.  And 4), as I mentioned above, if you are making this owl as a toy for a baby or small child, use felt appliques for the eyes instead of buttons, to avoid a choking hazard.

Pattern:  (Starting with the beak) with yellow, cast on 3
Row 1:  Purl one row
Row 2:  Knit 1, make one, knit one, make one, knit 1 (5 stitches)
Row 3:  Purl
Row 4:  Slip one, kfb, knit 1, kfb, knit one (7 stitches)
Row 5:  Purl
Row 6:  Slip one, kfb, knit to two stitches before end, kfb, knit one. (9 stitches)
Row 7:  Purl
Repeat rows 6 and 7 once more, until there are 11 stitches on needles. Change to color 2
Repeat rows 6 and 7 with color 2 until there are 41 stitches on needles. Change to color 3
Repeat rows 6 and 7 until there are 72 stitches on needles.
Begin decrease rows:  On each knit row, slip one, k2tog, knit to 3 stitches before end of row, k2tog, k1.
Next row:  Purl.
Repeat these two rows until there are 39 stitches on needles; change to color 4 (or back to color 2, if you want.)
Repeat decrease rows until there are 3 stitches on needles; bind off.
Finishing:  Fold all four corners in to the center.  I stitched the point of the beak together with the opposite point, just to keep things in line.

 And, to make the seaming up easier, I slipped a notebook, which was luckily just the right size!) into the owl -- a piece of cardboard under where you are stitching will help you avoid cathing the back of the owl in your seams.
Sew three sides together, leaving the 4th open for stuffing (and removing the cardboard before it gets sewn inside).  
You can seam up the owl with your favorite method; I did a weaving stitch on the outside, catching those slipped stitches on each side:

Stuff the owl with polyfill, and sew up final seam.  Pinch about an inch on each side of the head, and using a strand of yarn and yarn needle, weave around the pinch to form ears.  Add button or applique eyes; here are the felt eyes sewn on with a buttonhole stitch:
Give your owl a hug.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Hot Time at the Fair

I love our county fair.  We have the best fair in the State of Indiana, and it's always a highlight of my summer.  We take in as much of the spectacle, people and food as possible.

Most years.

This year, I worked a few shifts at our church booth and spent a very sweaty hour looking at projects in the 4-H and Family Arts buildings.  That was it.  It was just too hot.  Uncomfortably hot.  Icky hot.

I did take some projects, though.  As I've noted here before, it's always been a quiet little dream of mine to win a big purple rosette.  My mom won a few, as have my kids, but the grand champion has always eluded me.

I was very surprised; most years, I carefully plan out what I will enter, and do my very best work on my project.  This year, however, with the wedding, I didn't have much time to think about it, and just rounded up a few things I had made up during the year.  So, I took two of the three Christmas stockings I knit for the boys last fall.   Tommy's blue and green stocking won Grand Champion in the Christmas category, and Paul's orange and black stocking won for Knitted, Other.  (!)

I got a blue on a baby sweater set I finished up as a gift and haven't given yet,

and a red on this scarf (knit from the last of  the Russian/Chinese yarn Clay brought me several years ago!

I entered in this purse I made out of a felted sweater, an old purse strap, a big button (from mom's button tin, of course) and two binder rings in the "Recycled" category, and got a blue.

  The only thing I made up especially for the fair?  This crocheted purse:

The only thing I didn't get a ribbon on?  This crocheted purse!  But I'm not upset at all -- there were many entries in that category, and honestly, I'm not the best crocheter -- I just like doing it.  And I really like my purse, until I go back and look at the purse I based mine on, another great Pinterest find:

 Isn't that beautiful?  Mine is made up of leftover kitchen cotton from many, many dishcloths, in a traditional granny square -- I think I would like to try it again, using wool and colors similar to the original, in the sleeker motif shown here.

Tomorrow, I have a knitting pattern to post!

Monday, August 8, 2011


I haven't posted for such a long time, but I've been keeping busy, I promise.  I took some projects to the fair,  worked up a couple of knitting patterns and wrote a bit.

But for today, here are some pictures of what has been taking up the most of my time -- redecorating the family room and kitchen:

We stripped all the wallpaper, then painted it a nice golden yellow -- Martha Stewart's Cornbread from Home Depot, to be exact.    Picture wall:

 Phone wall in the kitchen.  I "borrowed" my chalkboard from my workroom door -- I know it will be more useful here.
 Family corner.  Here you can see two of the projects I fell in love with on Pinterest.

Neither one of these projects took too much time or money -- I already had the frames and all the supplies.  Once again, thanks to my mom's extensive button collection, I had a ton of buttons to choose from.  I just printed a big "C" from the computer, cut it out then traced it onto the blue paper.  Then, using clear tacky glue, I filled in the letter with buttons.  There are some really interesting buttons on here, which don't show up too well in this picture.  Why don't you just come on over and have a look at it?  I'll make tea.

I think that the dates project I saw on Pinterest was letter pressed -- it is gorgeous.  But I thought I could get a similar effect using my Cricut.  Not quite as gorgeous, but I like it.  And, it fulfills a great purpose, as I have a pretty rotten reputation for not remembering my children's birthdates -- I remember to check the calendar when we're near their birthdays and I never miss having a party, but if you had asked me last week to tell you the days and years they were born, I'd probably make at least one mistake.  I know, it's shameful and just plain odd (for heaven's sake, I was there all three times!), but at least it gives the kids something to make fun of me for.  Now, I'll just be able to glance over at the wall and shut them all up.
And here is a picture of my great score from an auction I went to Saturday -- 24 melamine cups, 2 melamine cream pitchers, a chipped Fiesta cream pitcher and a turquoise coffee server, 4 cups and a sugar bowl.

$4.  I know.  Now, I really didn't need 24 melamine cups, etc., but for $4, how could I resist?