Saturday, December 31, 2011

Warm Room Curtain

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This doorway separates the living room from my work room.  During the cold weather months, we light the fire in the living room every day and hole up in there, watching television all squashed together on the couch, or I sit in the chair in the corner and play with yarn.  Sometimes they turn off the TV and just watch me knit.  I know!  It is that fascinating.  Awhile back, I was sitting there, starring in The Yarn Show and shivering, and it occurred to somebody to hang a blanket over the doorway, to trap in the heat.  Dean found a curtain rod in the attic and hammered it up there, and we threw an old coverlet over the bar, and it quickly became obvious that this is the thing to do in a New York winter.  It was so cozy.  (You mean I don’t have to wear long underwear in the house?)  The living room turned tropical.  We never wanted to leave it.  We ran to the kitchen for snacks and then hurried back to the warm room, and everyone else yelled, “Shut the curtain!”  The warm room became home base for the months between Christmas and Easter, and we lay on the rug in front of the fire, playing board games and watching all the Lord of the Rings movies in a row.  We napped together in a big pile, like hamsters.  The teenagers hung out with us in there, because it was the nicest, warmest, coziest place in the house.  That curtain brought us together as a family.  I cannot overstate this.  It did, a blanket hanging over a curtain rod made my teenage children spend time with me.   I just realized that, just now. 

So it stayed there all winter.  That coverlet was pretty ugly, though, so this year I got around to making a real curtain.

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I pieced 4” fabric squares into 15 columns x 22 rows, and backed it with a thrifted bed sheet.  This had to look good on both sides, and I loved the soft tiny roses on white for the flip side, the warm room side.  I didn’t use any batting, since I wanted the light to filter through it a little, and I also didn’t want the weight of it to bend the curtain rod.  I laid the top and backing out on the floor with the right sides together, tucked some folded lengths of grosgrain ribbon along the top edge and pinned it. Then I stitched all the way around, leaving an opening at the bottom for turning.   That’s it, there’s no quilting. 

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When spring comes, I’ll take it down, fold it up and lay it on the shelf, and I’ll be so glad because the house will feel huge again, and lighter, and the kids will retreat again to their lairs.  Or maybe they won’t. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Living Room

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I love christmastime so much.  The twinkling lights in the snow and bright packages and eggnog and cocoa and having as many as possible of my favorite people around my table all just make me so happy.  But apparently, I have a pretty specific tolerance for my holiday decorations.  On the third Saturday in November, we drag the boxes out and deck the halls, and on the morning of December 26th, I just have to take them all down.   That seems a little rigid, now that I’m thinking about it, but what can I say?  I come in the room and look at that beautiful tree, and all our happy little Saint Nick ornaments and stockings and crocheted baubles, and I just want it out of there.  Moving on!  Not that I’m not still enjoying all the outdoor lights; you can leave those up all year long and I won’t complain for a second.  Is there anything more lovely than a tree full of fairy lights?  And when next November rolls around, I’ll unpack it all and it will be so lovely all over again. 

So the tree was gone and the room was empty and echoing and scrubbed clean, and I made a quick decision to paint the living room.  When is there a better time, right?  My husband did it all in one day, bless him forever, and after dinner, we dragged all the furniture back in.   

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Except the old sofa, which we threw out into the yard where it was almost immediately collected by someone who needed an old sofa, I guess.  Now the cat has been wandering sadly around, looking for his favorite napping spot, and I have told him it’s gone forever, but still he pines. I brought my antique couch into the house and layered it up with pillows, and hammered a whole mess of nails into the not-quite-dry paint, and it all just looked so fantastic.  I experimented with the ISO settings on my camera to see if I could capture how amazingly cozy it all looked.  I couldn’t, not really, but maybe you can imagine it a little bit?

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Here it is in the daytime.  My mother is going to be appalled at all the stuff on the walls, but I love a little cozy clutter, don’t you?   It’s a new dawn, and a new day, and I’m feeling good.  Have a happy New Year, friends. 

I want to say thank you to lovely K at Aurora Blythe for the sweet award, and to encourage you all to hop on over there for a visit.  Her holiday decor is giving me deep pangs of jealousy. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grannies, blocking

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Yesterday, while the family was huddled around Season One of Ice Road Truckers, I decided to block the first half of the grannies.  I thought I had done two hundred so far, but a rummage in the bag revealed I have actually done 210—that was a nice surprise.  In the end, they’ll have another round all done in the same color as I join them, and I don’t know what color yet.  Originally the plan was to use white, but now I’m leaning toward very light pink; what do you all think?  Too girly?  Or just girly enough?  It might end up coming down to how many skeins of the same pink I can put my hands on when I’m ready to start.  That’s just my way, I like to spend six months painstakingly stitching something and then make a hasty decision at some uncritical moment that I will likely later regret.  

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They almost totally covered up the table.  This is half of them.  Yikes.  So many scraps.  So, so, so many.  And still, my love for the grannies is undiminished. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wishing you

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Dear blog friends, I wish you all the happiest, yarny-est, hooky-est, and brightest of holidays!   Thank you so much for stopping in here to visit with me, it means so much, and I have had so much fun getting to know you all.  I can’t wait to see what we all make in the new year!  Blessings to you and yours. 

Love,
Kristen

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A whole bunch of patchwork

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Even though the workroom is freezing and I really wanted to be knitting beside the fire, I spent a little quality time with the sewing machine the other day. I got this far on a long overdue project, but the scraps pile was so pretty and so tempting that I got sidetracked:

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and there went the morning, just like that. 

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No reason, just felt like it. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Knitted Radishes

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I’m going to file these under Cutest Things I Ever Made.  Or maybe Pointless but  Adorable Things I Have Made.  I am madly in love with them.  I literally sat here all day yesterday, watching holiday specials and knitting radishes, and kept having to stop after each one and cuddle it a little.   Look at the leaves!  The i-cord stems!  The little yarn roots! 

What to do with a complete set of handknit radishes?  I am taking suggestions.  I’ve thought of putting them on the Christmas tree, but that’s about as far as I got.  If there were a way to wear them, I would do it.  (This line of thinking led me here, and I am so going to do that.  Luna, you are such a hero.)

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My friend Leda brought me the pattern, and I totally abandoned the boring sweater I was working on to rummage through the sock leftovers for radish-colored yarn.  Of course I had all the right colors, although reflection on real radishes makes me think they might be more pink than red, but that is beside the point.  The search through the stash revealed that I had some perfect radish-colored yarn (which means I have socks in all those colors.  I don’t remember the green ones?)  It also revealed that I have far too many sock yarn leftovers, and it is time for a de-stash project.  Luckily, I have found one.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Posy Ring

 

Much inspired by the lovely Tamar, I have been making sweet little frilly, flowery things that would look so wonderful on somebody else, somebody who didn’t wear black turtlenecks, a teensy gamine haircut and statement glasses (me.) This little rosy crocheted ring should be worn by someone in a floaty white dress and loosely braided golden hair, with a daisy behind one ear.  Or, since it’s a bit on the small side, a little girl.

I guess this is one of those times I make something just for the fun of doing it.  Do you all do that, too?

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The darling pattern is here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Acrylic Pendants

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These might be the most rewarding thing I’ve made in a long time.  These look so real, so great, that nobody said, “Did you make that?”  Because they in no way look like something a person could just whip up at home. But that’s exactly what I did!  Leah made something similar a couple weeks ago, and I thought it was so beautiful, so I took myself to Hobby Lobby and bought the gear.  You need the bezel findings (is that what they’re called?  Bezel?  I know nothing about this and obviously the packaging is long gone.)  They’re the metal part of the jewelry, and they’re kind of shaped like a dish with a flat bottom.  Also, you need two-part acrylic, which you have to mix in equal parts like epoxy (I used this one.)

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I cut out some circles from a piece of scrapbooking paper, popped them into the metal findings, and stuck the pieces in this dish of rice to keep them level.  Then I poured the mixed acrylic into the bezels.  It automatically formed a dome shape and there are only a few tiny bubbles.  (Maybe I didn’t wait long enough after mixing?)  Then the hard part—waiting three days for it to dry and cure, without touching it!  Wow, that was hard.  I must be about six years old. 

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As usual, I want to make about a hundred of these.  I think some black and white photos would be so fantastic.  And cute portraits of the kids.  And tiny paintings—wait, no, tiny pieces of crochet!  Oh dear, I might not be able to keep the lid on this one.  Maybe I’d better go watch an episode of Hoarders

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A little knitting and some dinner

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Is it a hat or is it a hairnet?  I guess, with the way I wear a hat like this, you could make a case for its being both.  There are days—every Saturday and Sunday, for instance—that I just want to cover up my hair and not have to look at it at all.  Girls with long hair can wear a pony tail, and girls with short hair can wear a cute hat.  A hat like this is how I get out the door at all.  

This is the fascinating Scallop Lace Hat by Ruby Submarine, and I used a stray ball of Classic One-Fifty.  I love that dusty blue color; it’s like mist on mountains.  This design looks all tricky, but it’s really wonderfully easy.  That’s the best kind of project, isn’t it?

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I had a day at home today with a dodgy tummy, but I’m feeling better now, so I made the easiest, trickiest-looking dinner in the world:  Chicken Pie.  This is what it is--chicken in a pie.  With gravy.  That’s it.  I know this is revolutionary, but there are no vegetables in it at all, nothing to sully the chicken and pastry goodness.  Feel free to put some veggies on the side, but leave them out of this pie.  Here’s the “recipe”:

1.  Roast two chickens.  (You already know that’s the easiest thing in the world right?)  350 F for an hour and twenty five minutes, or until the leg twists easily.  You can test this by having a teenage boy, who will be sniffing around the oven anyway with a hungry look in his eye, attempt to steal a drumstick.  If he gets away with it, you’ll know they’re done.  Shift the roasted chickens, which at this point are browned and delectable, to a cooling rack or tray.  When they’re cool enough to handle, pull all the meat off the bones. 

2.  Wait, don’t throw that pan into the sink yet!  You’ve gotta make gravy.  Come on, gravy is a cinch.  Combine about 3 Tablespoons of cornstarch with about 1/4 cup water and stir well.  Heat the pan with the drippings and cracklings and little stuck-on chicken bits (yum!) on the stove top.  When things start to bubble a little, whisk in the cornstarch mixture and keep whisking until the gravy thickens. Now is the time to add salt and pepper. 

3.  Make a double pie crust.  Line a pie pan with one crust, put all the meat that will fit into it, pour the gravy on top, and cover with the second crust.  Crimp the edges and poke some holes in the top.  Bake 45 minutes at 350 F. 

OR:

Buy two rotisserie chickens, a jar of gravy, and two ready made pie crusts.  Spend thirty seconds stripping the carcasses and then assemble the pie.  Bake one hour at 350.  Same result, and you can still make stock from the bones. 

Yum.  Try it, you’ll get raves from your family, and you hardly have to do a thing.  Thanks to my friend Michelle for showing me the way, Chicken Pie-wise.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lovely chaos

 

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I have two hundred of these now, which is halfway to the goal.  As you can see, I haven’t been pacing myself.  I just love to make these in big gulps of a dozen or more at a time, and I’m not sure its even busting the stash, either, since I keep finishing other things and then adding more yarn to the basket.  The Woodstock Blanket scraps alone almost doubled the pile.  I’ve started thinking about which color to use for the joining rounds, and although I had mostly decided on white already, seeing this sealed the deal.  Anna Maria talked about it a few days ago, which led me to Sandra Juto’s lovely blog, and then I got all fired up about this blanket.  Maybe I can’t just make a few squares here and there?  I might not be able to do that, I might be the kind of girl who just has to fling herself into things until they’re done.  It’s not really the worst problem to have.

I don’t know if this kind of thing happens to you all at Christmas:

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This is a picture of the inside of my brain.  Patterns, yarn, failed mittens (the brown tweed) and a few other half-baked ideas are just everywhere, and never have I been more grateful to have a dedicated work room, otherwise all this would be on the kitchen table and we’d be eating off our laps on paper plates. 

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Part of me hates the chaos of this, all the jumble of stuff that isn’t put away, and part of me loves it, loves the spread-out creativity.  Being able to see it all at once is kind of nice.  It also makes me want to get cracking.  So much to doooo!

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fair Isle Wrist Warmers

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So the other day, I brought home the movie Crazy Stupid Love.  First of all, whoa, Ryan Gosling?  I did not know about him, but I do now, yessir.  This shall now be known as the Time After I Found Out About Ryan Gosling.  At also roughly the same time, I brought home the pattern for these wrist warmers, and then I tried to put the two together.  Well, all I can say is I was so fully distracted by that stunning chunk of humanity that is Ryan Gosling that I did not notice that I had knit the whole first wrist warmer backwards.  Maybe upside down?  I don’t know, but the purple part was green and the green part was purple, which seems like it wouldn’t matter, and it didn’t until I got to the chart, which of course required a tad more concentration and so was knitted correctly, as in the purple part was purple and the green part was green.   I had the whole thing done, and I kept peering at it, and the colorwork section, which was right, just looked so weird, but I could not see the problem until after the movie was over and I had sighed a deep, contented sigh because I have now found Ryan Gosling.  Then my head cleared and my vision unclouded and I saw the mistake.  I just slapped my forehead, Three Stooges-style, tore it all out and started over.  What else are you gonna do, right? 

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I had two perfect vintage buttons in my stash (I just love it when that happens) and sewed them on.  Then it rained for a week and it was as dank and cheerless as a dungeon in the house.  I really would like to learn to take lovely photographs, even when the sky is black and filled with doom.  Must find a class somewhere. 

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I’m not sure what the point of wrist warmers is, since my wrists are rarely the part of me that gets cold.  Wearing fingerless mittens always makes me feel like Jo March, huddled in a chilly attic room working hard at something artistic, suffering a little.  Cold fingers clicking away, meager fire in the grate.  Only I will be huddling at my trusty Bernina, hopefully finishing a linen pencil skirt.  Hopefully.  If I can tear myself away from the Christmas movies.  Tim Allen, you are the very best Santa Claus, the very best.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Circus Tent Pillow

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This stripy, holiday-at-the-seaside pillow is probably going to be the first of many I will make, in lots and lots of different colorways, piling them around the house with breathless abandon, little caring that (as I’ve mentioned before) what we really don’t need around here is a few more pillows.  But, as you can see, they are fantastic!  How can you stop with just one, I’d like to know? 

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The pattern is Wheel of Colour Cushion by Jane Brocket, from her book The Gentle Art of Knitting (though I think there must be a few versions of this pattern out there, even vintage ones, since this design has been around awhile.)  I cribbed the colors from Jane, too, so enchanting are the photos in the book.  I had one of those moments where I just wanted everything in that picture.  I know you know what I mean.

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It’s an easy pattern, simple to memorize, and then it’s the perfect project to work on as you find the time.  There will be a lot of ends on the back, but I was rebellious and didn’t weave any of mine in.  I know!  Lightening may strike me at any time.   Well, who’s going to see them, right? 

It’s been the best week—my extremely talented son played the role of Mr. Applegate in a local community theater production of Damn Yankees, and I am just as proud as pumpkins. Bravo! 

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The last month has been a tornado of rehearsals, and organizing programs, and publicity, and I took on the very exacting task of putting out the homemade cookies during intermission.  Tough duty, that.  Now I just have to wash the red hairspray out of all his shirts and then get back to work. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Busy!

Well, it’s been an amazingly productive week!  I hardly know where to begin.  Here, let me show you:

 

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I made this.

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Actually, I’m being modest.  I don’t want to brag, but really, here’s what I made:

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I’m just exhausted from the effort, as I’m sure you can imagine. 

 

Okay, so really, I tried to make some stuff, and all of it just failed miserably.  There was a project bag, made with a very cute piece of brown and white linen print and pink gingham check and—really, this is inexplicable—a piece of red and orange upholstery fabric.  There was a pink corduroy and calico print handbag that I somehow failed to measure as I cut and which ended up the size and shape of a business envelope.  There was an extremely simple pencil skirt with nothing more than a side zipper to worry about, but either I am about ten sizes larger than I thought I was, or else I managed to cut it out somehow in miniature.  Twice

So all I have to show you, apart from a lot more rows of brown and white knitting, is this pink pompom, all done, with no disasters.  I think it deserves one more look:

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Feast your eyes on that!  It’s less craft, more art, is how I feel.  Don’t you agree? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Clever Cardigan

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How clever do I feel today?  Pretty clever, indeed!  You may recall that I have a fabulous new dress that I want to wear, but alas, it is sleeveless, which, despite our freakishly warm temperatures lately doesn’t play at all in New York in November.  So I hunted through the closet, looking for a cardigan I could pair it with, but found none.  I did, however, find a cashmere (cashmere!) crewneck pullover scored from the thrift store several years ago (years!) and have never worn (not once!) because the neckline was way too high and I felt stupid in it.  It survived quite a few wardrobe purges, though, because, and did I mention this already, it is cashmere.  So I got out my scissors yesterday and made it into a cardigan.  Whaaat?  I know! 

As usual, I didn’t take any pictures of the process—it appears I usually get these brainstorms after dark and so the light was too dingy for a photo tutorial.  It was easy peasy, though, and here’s how you can do this to your own clothes:

1.  Fold the sweater in half from side to side to find the center.  (Alternatively, you could measure, but measuring is really not my style, what can I say.)  Make a small snip at the hem edge and carefully cut, following the column of knit stitches, up to the collar.  Be careful to cut only the front layer. 

2.  Turn the front edges toward the inside 1/4” and pin.  Using a matching thread, handstitch the hems down.  I used a small blanket stitch, which makes a tidy edge.  Just as with steeks, you don’t have to worry about it unraveling.  The stitches aren’t going anywhere; you just want the edge to look neat. 

3.  Choose some excellent buttons and the same number of snaps.  Decide where you want them to go, and sew them on; snaps first, then buttons on top.  They’re not functional, they’re just there to look pretty. 

That’s all there is to it.  It’s a bunch of handsewing, but you’re crafty!  You can do it.  No fine gauge pullover is safe from me now.  I’m looking at a lot of my clothes in a whole new way. 

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Deck the Halls

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I decked my halls today, which is one of those things I love/hate.  I am not a big fan of upheaval, and moving all the furniture around, thus exposing all the dust bunnies and spider webs that have lurked underneath chairs all year always triggers, along with a lot of sneezing, a big fit of cleaning.  Which takes a long time, time I’d rather be spending sitting with an eggnog, listening to Andy Williams.  (Isn’t that just the best song ever?  Andy, I love you.  And watch that one all the way to the end, too, it’s totally worth it.  If you’re doing outdoor lights, I say go big or go home.)  This is our first year with the new FAKE tree, and I can’t say it was a complete success, but it shows my collection of antique tree baubles to their absolute best advantage.  Doesn’t it look like something you might see in a fancy shop window in A Christmas Story?  Oh, love love love.  This is the tree I would never have dreamed I’d want—I have always been a Charlie Brown tree sort of girl.  I’m the girl who dragged her whole family across the giant expanses of howling tundra to the very edges of the christmas tree farms where the trees never got pruned and so looked scraggly and forlorn.  Then the kids would say, “Why can’t we get a pretty tree?”   So the love part happens when I’ve got all the dust swept away and even though this is a big white FAKE thing that only pretends to be a tree, just represents a tree, really, and I open the box with the ornaments—the antique ornaments that I scored in a yard sale a few years ago, after mice invaded our ornaments box and I had to toss most of it, don’t make me talk about it, it hurts too much—and the lovely old glass is hung, one plastic branch at a time, and the tree, yes, now it is a real Christmas Tree, don’t let anybody tell you differently, the tree just glitters.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Circus Pillow, started

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I’m knitting a pillow cover that looks like a circus tent.  These have totally captivated me.  Jane Brocket, you seductress!  I’m supposed to have been baking pies and stuffing turkeys! 

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This was a lot more fun.  Wacky color striping, and then it’s useful at the end?  That’s everything I want in a project. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stripey Cotton Dishcloths

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Some days, especially now that I’m knitting a giant taupe blanket that seems to reach out forever--not that I’m complaining, because I adore me an endless and simple project--some days, I just take a big breath and yell, “Give me some color!  Now!!!” 

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For times like these, I keep a medicinal stash of cotton yarn nearby, so I can crochet a dishcloth at a moment’s notice.  You know, stat.  As soon as the hot pink and chartreuse combo hits my bloodstream, I just feel goooood.  You all know what I mean.

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Yeah, that’s the good stuff.  I’m laughing a little at the extreme photo angles here, which we all know is the result of a feeble attempt to disguise the fact that the dishcloths are staged on a footstool in the living room.  Which is where the light was!  It was just dingy in the kitchen, what can I say.  How about this one:

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Haha!  No, don’t look at the rug, I haven’t vacuumed yet!  *crop*

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I don’t even know how this one happened.  I must have been clinging to the wall by the suction cups in my feet like Spider-man.  Well, they’re colorful and useful, and in these pre-Thanksgiving days of prep and frenzied cleaning, that’s all that matters right now.  Whoops, you can see the rug in this one.  Sorry about that.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kiss Me Pillow

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It always surprises me how some people love a whole bunch of pillows and some people just hate them.  I live with some of those who hate them, and so I often find my pillows—which I painstakingly stitched by hand—flung disdainfully aside.  Well, okay, their backs are still young so they haven’t fully developed a need to prop themselves up with a bunch of lumbar support and all that, bless them.  Their day will come.  And when it does, I will be ready!  Me, I love a huge bunch of throw pillows.  I like to build a big pillow nest around myself and then recline there like Nefertiti, requesting peeled grapes.  I also haven’t forgotten the sage advice (source unknown) which instructed me to have at least four pillows of different colors and textures—the pressure!—on my sofa.  I’m always looking at my sofa, thinking about texture and whether there’s enough of it.  I lie awake nights, thinking about the texture levels of my pillows.  In my favor here is the fact that our sofa is roughly the size of an aircraft carrier and can therefore accommodate four pillows very easily, along with four people and a dog, too.  So I’m always making pillow covers and then begging the family not to fling them around into the dusty corners. 

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Here’s an actual transcript from a recent conversation:

Me:  Look what I made!

Him:  Nice.

Me:  Isn’t it cute?  It says “Kiss Me”! 

Him:  Mmmhmm.  Why do we have so many pillows? 

Me:  Because ever since the cat threw up on the one that said, “What’s Up, Pussycat?” there hasn’t been enough pillow texture on the sofa!

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I exaggerate.  Really, he just said, “That’s cute,” and went back to working on his dissertation.  Well, I think it’s cute, too.  I freehanded the letters out of a mix of scraps, then appliqued them to a piece of oatmeal cotton using fusible web--Wonder Under, I think?  I embroidered around the letters using a mix of stitches and colors, and added a 1” gathered ruffle around the edge.  That’s color and texture, all in one place!  Whew. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cashmere Citron Scarf

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Behold the beautiful Citron, designed by Hillary Smith Callis.  This looks so much better on the dressmaker’s dummy than it does on me that here’s where it lives for right now.  Right there.  Oooh, aahh.

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I love those beautiful bands of simple ruching.  So clever, so perfect. 

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This yarn is 100% cashmere (I know, right?) by Jojoland in an ethereal color very poetically named “C255”.  (Why do yarn companies do that?  Don’t they know how persuaded people are by the awesome color names of things?)  Well, it’s light blue.  I doubt that’s any more interesting than “C255”,  come to think of it.  Let’s do the fun work for the designers at Jojoland and rename color C255.  How about “Summer Saturday”?  “Newman’s Iris?”  I can’t think of any others…

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This scarf is so beautiful, in every way, and the yarn is softer than baby bunnies.  It’s the little things, isn’t it?