Monday, September 28, 2009

Yarn Thief!

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law..."

I admit it. I'm guilty. This poor blanket was just minding his own business when I began stalking him from around the corner. He was the perfect prey: vulnerable, rich, and oblivious to the danger lurking nearby. I waited patiently for my chance to ambush. Before he even knew what was happening, I had already mugged my victim, robbing him of the precious yarns that were rightfully his.
Ha, ha, I laughed maniacally as I ran away from the scene of the crime, leaving him in a heap on the floor. I clutched my stolen treasures in my arms: 7 skeins of yarn in the blanket's vibrant colors! I knew I would be easy to trace, but I didn't care. I already had visions of sweaters, hats, and gloves dancing in my head.
Before the yarn police caught up with me I had already spent most of what I had stolen. The yarn was used on 4 hats, 1 sweater, and various accents on other pieces. Too bad, blanket. You may have caught me, but you'll never get your yarn back!
This will eventually be Baby C.'s "big boy blanket" so I have some time yet before I make restitution by buying more of these yarns and actually finishing it. I'm only a quarter of the way through. I like to have a number of projects going on simultaneously, and I've been very distracted lately by them. I'm even playing around with knitting again. I'm pretty determined to get the hang of it this time, but it's slow going for me. Again, I have plenty of time to learn. Now especially, since I'm looking at a life sentence in the slammer.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Presto Pesto

I waited until almost the last possible moment, but I finally "harvested" my basil plant. It was the best plant I had in the past 4 years and I'm sorry to see it go--sniff, sniff. But I couldn't wait to make pesto!

This recipe comes my way from my mom who in turn received it from her boss. It is so good--buttery, garlicky, basil-ly...everything I want in a pesto.
I had enough basil leaves to make a few batches to throw in the freezer. I can not wait until the cold, wintry weather; I'll pull out this pesto and instantly smell the brightness and warmth of summer!


1/2 cup pine nuts (roast them in a pan until fragrant)

handful of spinach leaves

1/4 cup fresh basil

2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (can use a mixture of Parmesan and Romano)

6 tablespoons softened butter

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

pinch of pepper

1. Throw everything in a food processor and blend. (I use a handheld emulsion blender)

2. Smell the pesto goodness in your kitchen .

3. Enjoy on pasta of your choice with family or friends!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sweater Weather

Sept. has already had its cold moments, which makes crocheting sweaters, hats, and gloves feel even more appropriate. There's nothing stranger than crocheting a wool blanket in sweltering July heat. You get a lot of weird looks from people too.

Here are two finished sweaters for Baby C. This cream one fits now at 6 months and the navy will fit 9-12 months.

This is from a pattern from, but I wound up changing so much about it that there's very little resemblance to the original. It was supposed to have a hood, no collar, and the single crochets along all the seams were not there (I had to do that last minute because it was too small for the baby.) Mostly everything about this sweater was a happy mistake. I love the look of it; it reminds me of a classic irish wool sweater, but it's made with my new favorite yarn, a soft merino wool blend from Naturally Caron "Country".

The twist over stitch was also fun and a new one for me to learn.

The navy sweater is a little ho hum. Just single crochets throughout. I used some old yarn from my stash. It's a soft yarn, but the single crochets make the sweater somewhat stiff. I would probably not remake this pattern as is. The pattern was also found on Coats and Clark, but I did change it slightly. The original was made with two colors and was supposed to be striped.

Buttons Part 2: "A Rich Jewel in an Ethiop's Ear"

Or on an Ethiop's finger.
I love buttons so much they deserve another post... Much Ado About Nothing was on TV the other day and that got me started thinking about Shakespeare and some of his plays. I randomly thought of this quote from Romeo & Juliet and because I have buttons on the brain I started thinking of how buttons are a lot like jewelry on clothing.

Just like a necklace or pair of earrings can change a look, so too can the buttons you choose to accessorize a handmade item. Here are some of the different choices I looked at for Baby C.'s navy sweater.

Tortoise swirl:



Wooden hearts:

White plastic:

Maybe they should invent pop off buttons so you can change the look of an outfit whenever you want.
It was a tough choice, but I went with the first picture, tortoise swirl.
Footnote: I said before that "Happiness is a bag of buttons." Let me end here with a little story that happened last week. As I considered which buttons to use for the sweater, I dumped the contents of the Big Ol' Bag of Buttons on my table and started running my hands over the contents. It was then that I realized a large, shiny, black, misshapen button started moving under my hand. My surprise turned to complete disgust as I realized it was a giant cricket mixed in with the buttons I had been sorting. How the cricket became trapped in this bag, I do not want to know. All I know is what followed was some screaming and my husband engaging in cricket hunting as the evil insect hopped behind the couch. I loathe all insects (except for lady bugs and butterflies). All I can say is "Happiness was a bag of buttons."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Buttons Part 1: Big Ol' Bag o' Buttons.

Happiness is a bag of buttons. The other day I thought of an old memory: watching my mother sewing with her sewing kit next to her. It was an old faux tortoise shell box with all sorts of interesting things in it. As a little kid I remember being fascinated by the straight pins that were decorated with yellow enamel tops almost like little candies. Or the strange silver thimble that I loved putting on my own fingers. Then there was the tape measure which I tried measuring my height with. These things could provide much joy on their own, but by far the greatest treasure of all was the assortment of random buttons found at the bottom of the box. Each one was unique and had a little history that went with it. Maybe it belonged to a wedding dress, or an ordinary frock. Maybe it belonged to a sixties style coat or a responsible tailored blazer. I liked the buttons for their randomness, for what they were, and what they could become.

Recently I asked my mother if I could look at her saved buttons, and she told me I could have them (Thanks, Mom!). She handed over a fun glass container packed with them. My mother is a firm believer that " keeping a button is a guarantee that you will never lose one." (Mom, if you ever lose one, you know where to find me.) I found some favorites and even got inspired from them to make some crochet items in the future.

That very week I was in a local craft store and stumbled upon the Bargain Button bag. The childhood excitement hit me again as I inspected the bag and let my eyes scan over the random buttons inside. These would be perfect for the two sweaters I'm making for Baby C.

I can't wait to try out the different combinations. I'm also going to make sure to hold onto my spare buttons from now on. Of course this is mostly for myself since I doubt Baby C. will be interested in sewing. I have a feeling he'll be a little more interested in football instead.

Friday, September 11, 2009

For My Sister

Circles in the Square for my sister's lovely daughter.

Twister anyone?

I liked this pattern. Hope my neice likes it too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Top of Spaghetti

Being a new mom I am carrying around more than just an adorable little monkey on my body all day. I'm also carrying around those pesky pregnancy pounds. Aside from the regular exercise regime of baby lifting, laundry lunges, and stroller power walks I have found another sure-fire way to lose weight whether it's from pregnancy or not. Move over, Atkins, South Beach, and Flat Belly. Say hello to The Crochet Diet!

Most moms will attest to the fact that when baby is awake there is time for very little else but baby. This can be good if you are trying to lose weight because there is very little time to eat anything. However, I have found that once Baby C. goes to bed at night with the sound of "On Top of Spaghetti" (one of his favorite songs) resonating in his ears, dangerous snacking can occur. Many people find themselves to be night snackers. What usually happens after dinner is over and the dishes are put away? You and millions of other Americans find themselves on the couch in front of the TV. It's time to relax and enjoy yourself. And somehow the urge to snack is overwhelming.

Some popular diets stress the importance of not eating after 7 pm. Have you ever really tried to do this? I have. I sat there. On the couch. Watching TV. My hands motionless on my lap. Something felt really strange. The universe was off-kilter. I felt so restless. That was it. I couldn't take it anymore. My head was pounding---I needed something to snack on!!! Seconds later the feeding frenzy began.

After numerous attempts to subscribe to the "no food after 7" philosophy I finally realized that what was really bugging me was not that I couldn't eat (because I actually wasn't even hungry) but that my hands were completely idle. And you know what they say about idle hands being the Devil's playthings. (Apparently the Devil can not rest unless I eat a chocolate peanut butter sundae every night).

Question: Have you ever tried to eat a bag of chips or a gooey dessert and crochet or knit at the same time? It can not be done. Even if you are really determined you will not be able to do both. Again, I've already tried it. Here's what happens: You're hands will become oily or sticky and even with careful napkin wiping you will inevitably not be able to properly grasp your needles or hook. Who wants to contend with a slippery/sticky needle while crafting? And who wants to risk soiling the item they're painstakingly creating? Hence, the birth of The Crochet Diet.

It's certainly not a novel idea to distract yourself in this way, but it took me awhile to come to this A-Ha moment. It really does work. The best part of this diet is that you can multi-task in three distinct ways: 1.) Create a beautiful handmade item 2.) Watch your favorite TV shows 3.) Lose weight by not snacking/ burning calories. According to most activity calculators, knitting/ crocheting burns around 99 calories per hour. Not too shabby. If you did this every night and changed nothing else about your lifestyle you could potentially lose 10 pounds a year. Not bad for sitting on your butt.

Usually you can tell if your diet is working by weighing yourself or trying on your clothes. With The Crochet Diet just look at the progress you're making on that lovely afghan or sweater.

I have to practice what I preach, however b/c Baby C's navy blue sweater is still missing a sleeve, and it's going on 3 weeks now. That's no surprise since I've been hitting the ice cream in the freezer pretty hard most nights. But I resolve to be better and give The Crochet Diet the focus it deserves. Besides, birthdays, baby showers, and the holidays are coming up and I have gifts that must be made...and pounds to lose.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It All Started When...

I come from a long line of crafty women (in the artistic sense as opposed to cunning). I've always been amazed by the stories of my grandmother's sewing ability. Having the talent to make a man's suit or sketching a popular dress right in a department store and then going home, making her own pattern out of newspaper and creating the very dress is something I have no hope of ever being able to do; that type of sewing talent is why I am mesmerized by Project Runway each week. (Incidentally my own mother is quite talented when it comes to sewing, but she does not really enjoy doing it. ) I'll save the story of my own forays into sewing for another time...

Both grandmothers were crocheters as well. And though both of these beloved ladies are now gone, some of their crocheted pieces still remain. It's inspiring to see how vibrant the colors are on these decade old throws. Looking at each knot of the pattern makes me marvel at how my grandmother's hands passed over that spot so many years ago.

I remember as a very little girl being intrigued while watching my grandmother handle a little hook that was feverishly making a long comfortable blanket out of nothing but string. (Making something from nothing still leaves me awestruck whether it's me making it or someone else.) I knew that I wanted to be able to do what she did. My grandmother tried to give me some pointers. Unfortunately, the only thing I was able to learn from my grandmother at such a young age was how to cast on a knitting needle. I tinkered around with knitting off and on, and then gave it up because I never progressed beyond a knit or a purl. (I also lose stitches like the dickens whenever I attempt to actually make something).

Fast forward to the modern age. My grandmothers had passed; no one was left for me to turn to when it came to crochet questions. It seemed as though I didn't know ANYONE at all who crocheted. Crafty colleagues were knitters and couldn't answer any of my questions. I felt doomed. Was I going to be stuck making scarves and blankets using single or double crochets (the only stitches I fully grasped) for the rest of my life?

Enter the Internet. More specifically, YouTube. Despite the above nostalgic musings, what really helped me learn to crochet was some anonymous woman's video on YouTube. This video is where it all started:
It truly is for beginners and doesn't assume that the viewer knows anything (It even explains what a hook and skein of yarn is). The maker of this video patiently describes everything in the slowest of details. Confession: before watching this video I had never made a real slip knot before.

Because I'm a visual person who also learns by doing, I needed to be able to watch someone crochet to be able to do it. Static pictures in a book couldn't help. The beauty of YouTube is that you can pause the video or rewind a section anytime you need to. I paused the above video an embarrassing number of times before I actually learned how to make the slip knot.

From there I've become a YouTube devotee. Not to watch pictures of babies or animals doing humorous things or teenagers doing ridiculous things, but to learn as much as I can from all the wonderful tutorials out there.

I wish I had learned all these things from the knees of my talented grandmothers, maybe over a cup of tea and cake, sharing stories about how they learned these things as young girls, but that will never be. It's ironic that I can continue in their footsteps with an old-fashioned art through completely modern means. I am definitely grateful to learn-- even if it's in front of a computer screen.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Generic License.