Friday, August 30, 2013

Gifts fit for a Princess

There may be a new royal baby, but he has nothing on our own little family princess who turned one recently. With some adorable Disney Princess fabric on hand for just such an occasion, several princess-y gifts were sewn.

First came a sweet little pillowcase dress made from a tutorial by Sew Like My Mom. For the ties, I made bias tape from some dark purple cotton fabric that went well with the Disney print ...

I've also had a tutu or ballerina bag on my To Make list for this little sweetie. I embroidered her name on the outside pocket and used the same fabrics, adding in a deep rose cotton to line the inside of the tote bag.

The bow on the front is attached with a pin backing so it may be removed to wear on something else or to wash the tote bag. While I used the instructions from the tutu tote project on the Embroidery Library website, I reduced the size of the bag to make it more manageable for a 1-year-old.

The inside pocket is made featuring one of the Disney princesses ...

And, last but not least, I wanted to make a mini purse just the right size for Miss Melody to carry. I printed the handbag pattern from Ellen March's Sew It All TV episode 403 at 50% size to make it tiny and embroidered the flap to personalize it ...

This mini bag finished at about 4-1/2" wide by 4-3/4" tall.

It's lined with the Disney Princess fabric ...

Check out our very own Princess Melody rockin' her purse at Buckingham Palace ...

Okay, I will admit that I had a lot of fun photoshopping her into this picture, but isn't she stylin'? Happy Birthday, sweet girl!

So many projects, never enough time ...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Feelin' the Fringe

Woke up at 3 am and Could Not Go Back To Sleep! I even tried the surgery trick of counting backwards from 100. Unfortunately, it doesn't work without the anesthesia. Note to self: Pick up anesthesiologist for home use!

So let's count blessings instead. Whether you call them prayer shawls or friendship shawls, one of my favorite knitting projects for friends and family equates to being wrapped in a hug. I've made quite a few over the last five years. Some are rectangular in shape ...

Some in variegated yarn ...

Some without fringe ...

Lately I'm into making tricolor shawls with fringe. This one was donated to a charitable organization for their silent auction ...

This one is going out to a dear friend who could use a good hug this week ...

The special trick is counting your blessings as you knit, putting a little love (and prayer, if you're so inclined) into each of the thousands of stitches that make up one of these yarn-y hugs. Super simple to make, comprised of garter stitch and an increase on each row, I nearly always have one in the works. They're so easy to pick up and work a few rows whenever you have a moment and great during TV watching.

Here's the basic pattern ...

Triangular Shawl

Size 15 cable needle (mine is 31" long from tip to tip which handles all the stitches well)
Worsted weight yarn, total of about 700 yards (the one pound skeins are great)
Yarn needle for weaving in ends

Cast on 3 stitches
Knit the first row
Then on all subsequent rows ...
Slip the first stitch as if to knit, increase in second stitch by knitting in front and back of the stitch, knit to end of row

That's it. Your shawl grows by one stitch each row and you can make it as large as you'd like. I usually stop when I have about 155-160 stitches on the needle or when it measures at least 36" to the center point. The brown shawl above is made with Red Heart acrylic yarn in coffee brown, buff and soft white and measures 62" wide by 38-1/2" long without the fringe. The fringe is single strands, wrapped and cut on a piece of cardboard 10" long.

One final touch that I like is to crochet along the top edge in either a double crochet or half double crochet stitch. Although not necessary, this gives the edge a little more stability.

I also like to include a note with each shawl pertinent to the occasion, whether it be a birthday, holiday, sympathy on the loss of a loved one, illness, etc. I have some pretty gold-edged Crane note cards that I write a little poem on. Here's one given to a friend who, sadly, lost her battle with cancer (miss you so much, Debbie).

In case you can't read my handwriting ...

Dear Debbie,

This is a prayer shawl
but it's also a hug
Thousands of stitches
Each made with love

So wrap it around you
and let yourself feel
Good health and good spirits
to help you heal!

With Love and Prayers,
March 2011

So many projects, never enough time ...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcake Obsession

Our house is full of obsessions ... books, fabric, yarn, cooking gadgets, milk glass and two of our always and forever favorites: peanut butter and chocolate. We've really tried to back off of wheat and processed products in the last year-and-a-half to feel healthier and *sigh* lose a few pounds. Sometimes, though, only the good old bad stuff will do.

For Hubby's birthday yesterday, I went old school and baked him chocolate cupcakes with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I adapted a recipe I found on Taste of Home, using canned frosting to accommodate my laziness lack of time, and adding some of my own touches.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

Devil's Food cake mix
3 oz. package of instant chocolate pudding
3 eggs
1-1/4 cups water or dark cola like Coke
1/3 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
8 oz. package of mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
16 oz. Chocolate Fudge Frosting
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
Cupcake papers

Prepare the cake mix as directed on the package, adding in the instant pudding, eggs, water or cola, and oil. I used my Pampered Chef Large Scoop (3 Tablespoons) to fill the cupcake papers approximately half full.

Poke one mini peanut butter cup into the center of each cupcake.

Used my Pampered Chef Medium Scoop (2 Tablespoons) to add more cake batter to each cupcake. Bake as directed.

I only wanted a dozen cupcakes so I greased and floured a couple of 4" springform pans to make two little cakes with the extra batter. These I wrapped and froze for dessert another day after baking and cooling.

While the cupcakes are cooling, chop a few dozen peanut butter cups to sprinkle on top.

Put the prepared frosting in a bowl and add the creamy peanut butter. Mix well, frost your cupcakes and sprinkle with the chopped peanut butter cups.

Put on a pretty cake plate, fluff your hair, straighten your Donna Reed pearls and wait for the compliments and adoration.

Oh by the way, they are ridiculously good. Hubby actually called them decadent. Now that's a happy birthday!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Furry Crocheted Christmas Ornaments

It's beginning to look a lot like ... Christmas Ornaments! I know, crazy to be thinking about Christmas when the high today in Phoenix is 111 degrees, but I'm on to another destashing project. Glanced at a shelf in my craft studio this morning, saw these yarn scraps ...

and thought Furry Crocheted Christmas Ornaments would be just the thing to think cool!

I still consider myself a novice crocheter, not too confident with any pattern that has stitches to be counted but, I promise you, this is so easy -- seriously, if I can do it, I believe you can too!

The white yarn with a metallic strand shot through it is a #2 Fine/Baby on the Standard Yarn Weight Chart and must be left over from a baby item made years ago (I no longer have the identifying ball band). The fancy yarns are both Lion Brand: Martha Stewart Glitter Eyelash in Brownstone #526 and Fun Fur in Sapphire Blue #109.

Furry Crocheted Christmas Ornament

This ornament can be very organic with whatever yarns you like or have on hand but for the blue ornament, I used:

White #2 Fine/Baby Weight Yarn for the main color
Lion Brand Fun Fur in Sapphire Blue
H/8 Crochet Hook
Yarn Needle for weaving in ends

- - - - - - - - - -

With main color, chain 5 and join

Single crochet 12 times in circle and join end of round with a slip stitch

{I like to crochet over the tail of the yarn to omit weaving in the end later}

Chain 2 (which counts as first Half Double Crochet {HDC}

HDC in each stitch with 1 chain stitch between each HDC

Join end of round with a slip stitch

Chain 2

In each space, make 2 HDCs and chain 1 between each space

Pick up the strand of fun fur and, together with the main yarn, chain 3

Because the 2 strands of yarn together can be a little difficult, keep your stitches slightly loose to make it easier on yourself

{You will weave in the fun fur tail later}

Between every HDC, do a Double Crochet, chain 2

Here is the round half done ...

Slip stitch to join end of round

Bring both yarns through last stitch to knot them, but do not cut yet

Drop the main color yarn and chain 22 with the fun fur to make the ornament hanger

Connect the last stitch to the ornament at the beginning of the chain with a slip stitch to make a loop

Cut both yarns leaving a 3" tail, draw them through the working stitch and tighten to knot them

Then weave in all loose ends with yarn needle

Now wait patiently for the holidays to hang it on your tree or use as a present topper. The granddaughter asked if I could make her a black one with red fur. Hmmmmmm ... off to check my stash.

128 days until Christmas!

So many projects, never enough time ...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Great Tip for Flawlessly, Easily Connecting New Yarn in the Middle of a Row

My Mom sent me a link to this YouTube video recently that blew my hand-knitted socks off -- go take a peek, I'll wait ...

No kidding! You can connect new working yarn in the middle of a row and the result is fabulous. I have been working on a crocheted red and black afghan and this weird nubby chunk of yarn about 3" long appeared in the middle of a row.

I crocheted on with it and, believe me, it was super ugly. About 6" later *sigh, why do I do these idiotic things*, I realized I could not live with the bumpy blob and then, as if by magic, Mom's email appeared in my inbox. So I frogged back to just before the blob and tried the magic double knot join.

Here is the knot made after cutting out the blob and rejoining the yarn ...

The tip of the scissors points to the stitch where the knot is buried. It does not show on either side. If I squeeze the stitch between my fingertips I can feel it, but you would never know it's there to look at it.

Just had to share this amazing tip and give thanks to the clever Jane Richmond for providing it!

So many projects, never enough time ...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Patchwork Afghan

As I write this, it is 10:00 pm and over 100 degrees out. Still, I find myself imagining how cozy it would be to curl up under this handmade afghan with a book and a cup of coffee.

I started this patchwork afghan over 2 years ago with 7 blocks -- 6 knitted and 1 crocheted -- quickly got tired of it and shoved it in a bag. Then about a month ago, I found it again, started pulling all of my bits and pieces of leftover yarn off the shelves, picked up a crochet hook and can finally call it done. From this ...

to this ...

Just laid out without blocking, it measures about 50" wide by 61" long. Each individual square took between 1-1/2 to 2 hours to make and there are 49 total. Made of worsted weight acrylic yarn, most squares are done in half double crochet with an H/8 crochet hook. I single crocheted each row together, then each column. Last, I went around the whole thing 3 times, in single crochet, then half double crochet and, finally, in double crochet. The outer black border is an inch wide and really brings the whole thing together. I love the way the black yarn borders make it look like stained glass.

I have to say, it has been a wonderful, satisfying project to work on. Making the squares was just plain fun, switching colors with each new block, and destashing my yarn-filled shelves. This afghan took me over 120 hours to complete, but every stitch was joyful and I would highly recommend making one if you have your own destashing to do.

Just for fun, I took pictures of my progress along the way and made a slide show so in 34 seconds, here is How to Build a Patchwork Afghan ...

I used the free ProShow app on my iPhone to create the slide show.

So many projects, never enough time ...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Coco Bag Love

Found a wonderful {free} sewing pattern online last week for a gorgeous handbag that is surprisingly simple to make. The directions are so clear, well-written and easy to follow. I am completely in love with the Coco Bag by Chris W. Designs!

Let me preface this by sharing that I am in total destashing mode. The shelves in my studio are crammed full of fabric and yarn and scrapbooking supplies and I have vowed to use what I have, only buying necessities for a while.

The fabrics I chose to use for my first Coco are a woven green home decor with brown dots along with a couple of quilting cottons -- the question mark swirly pattern is the accent fabric and the tiny white on brown polka dots is the lining fabric:

Christine's pattern is a downloadable PDF, very easy to follow ...

I adore the way the tiny darts shape the beautiful bag bottom ...

This is the first time I've used a magnetic snap. Had some on hand from a store that closed a while back ...

I did make a few changes to the original instructions and materials. I interfaced all pieces with heavy-weight 809 Decor Bond and omitted the fleece interlining. The bag is sturdy and stands up on its own.

Rather than the hollow piping called for in the handles, I used cording and attached the handles to the bag flat since I did not have the hardware Christine used.

It's a beautiful bag, a brilliant pattern and I can't wait to make another one!

So many projects, never enough time ...