Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Wrap-up


When I started blogging back in February of this year, Rachel at Not-So-Plain Jane was one of the first people I met. Around that time she wrote an interesting post about an article she'd read that described social networking sites and blogs as narcissistic and self-centered, and invited her readers to leave their thoughts on the matter in the comments. We all decided that blogging is not egotistical, it is a way of connecting and sharing our passions. (The post is here if you'd like to read it.) After eleven months of blogging, I still believe that, but ... this post is completely, unashamedly self-absorbed.

One of things I have learned from blogging is how much I love taking pictures with my digital camera. So to end 2009 I want to share my favorite photos from my blog over the last year. (I guess this is the modern day equivalent of inviting you over for dinner and then boring you with home movies from my vacation. I'll try to make it fast and painless :o)

Weekend in Mendocino.



My little sister, the bride.




The day I had glitteritis.


My superhero cat.


Baby owls. (I didn't actually take this picture, but it's still one of my favorites.)






Nature boat tour. (Love the baby sea lion in the front!)




Last but not least, blue and white art.




The year 2009 has been one of surprises. When the year began I didn't know I'd start a blog, share my knitting patterns, learn so many new crafts, and meet all of you. It's been a pleasure! I'm looking forward to finding out what 2010 will bring.

Happy new year, my friends!

Stacy

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday birding

It's been cloudy and drizzly all week, creating lots of bird activity at my favorite haunts. Yesterday I felt like a little kid stomping through puddles and mud in my rain jacket to check out the pond birds. The ducks were out in force, and so were the cormorants.

There are certain birds I'm slightly obsessed with, and eagles are one of them. This evening while heading home from my birding I caught site of a large raptor high in a tree and thought maybe, just maybe, it was a bald eagle. I've read about rare sightings in the winter around our local reservoirs. I pulled over and spent a half-hour looking at it through my binoculars from every possible angle in order to identify it. When you want badly to see a certain bird, it's easy to convince yourself that's what you are seeing. I finally had to admit it wasn't an eagle but an
osprey.

I went to see It's Complicated with a friend this morning and oh. my. goodness. I laughed SO hard. After the movie we stopped by Macy's for what was supposed to be just a couple minutes, and I walked out with two pairs of pants, a sweater, and three blouses. They were having a really good sale. I desperately need new clothes and have trouble finding stuff that I can wear due to being short and plump, as well as hyper-sensitive to fabric (even cotton can feel too scratchy). So it was quite wonderful to have found so many soft pieces of clothing that actually fit.

Isn't this guy a cutie? He's Tiger, a neighborhood stray. One of my neighbors feeds him and I provide a warm bed on the patio. I'd adopt him if I didn't have two cats all ready. He's sweet and affectionate, and never chases the neighborhood squirrels, which is pretty amazing.

Did you notice I gave my blog a makeover? I've been giving lots of thought to the changes I want to make next year. Mainly I'd like to focus more on knitting, which was the original intent for this blog. I guess I've been thinking about it a little too much because I've had a couple dreams about blogging, and last night as I drifted off to sleep an image of Woodstock sort of floated in to my head. It had never occurred to me that he's the most iconic golden bird of all. I think I see a new profile picture in my future ...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Easy washcloth knitting patterns

I'm on a big washcloth kick right now-- they can be finished in one or two evenings and are simple enough to knit while watching a movie. My goal is to have a supply on hand for birthdays and special occasions throughout the year. They make nice gifts when you fold one or two in to a small basket and include a bar of scented soap.

Supplies:

-Fantasy Naturale 100% Cotton Mercerized (you can knit both patterns with one skein of yarn)

-Size US 8/5 mm straight needles




To knit the ridged washcloth shown above:

Cast on 34 stitches.

Begin the pattern:


Knit 5 rows in garter stitch.

Knit 4 rows in stockinette, beginning with a knit row.

Repeat the pattern until the cloth is 7 inches long or desired length, ending with the four rows of stockinette. Knit two more rows and bind off.



To knit the feather and fan wash cloth shown above:

(This cloth also makes a great dishcloth by making it a couple inches longer than the pattern calls for.)


Cast on 40 stitches.
Knit two rows in garter stitch.

Begin the feather and fan pattern:

Row 1: Knit.

Row 2: K2, P36, K2

R
ow 3: K2, * K2TOG twice; YO, K1 four times; K2TOG twice.* Repeat from *, knitting the last two stitches.

Row 4: Knit.

Repeat the four pattern rows until the cloth is 7 inches long or desired length, ending with row 4. Knit two more rows and bind off.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Freedom

One of the things I love about time off from work is forgetting what day it is. All day today I kept thinking it's Friday ... then I would remember it's Saturday, and then I would remember it doesn't matter because I don't have to go to work on Monday. Yippee!

Another thing I love about being home is having time to cook. Between my job and the commute, I rarely feel like cooking and often end up eating frozen dinners or picking up something on the way home. But I've been cookin' and bakin' up a storm the last few days and enjoying it sooooo much. So far I've made a potato casserole with mushrooms and brie, tilapia, salmon cakes, quesadilla, corn bread, chocolate chip cookies, and several bowls of guacamole. I kept thinking I should take pictures, but never got around it, so I stole the one above from the Internets.

Also watched 500 Days of Summer on DVD, and it was very, very cute. I wanted to see it when it came out last summer but never got around to it. It's a quirky independent movie, funny and lighthearted.

I've been binge knitting, which I think is far better than binge eating. I'm on my fourth wash cloth using one of my favorite types of yarn, mercerized cotton. It's so smooth and shiny. The wash cloths are made with Fantasy Naturale, a little holiday gift to myself. I will post the patterns soon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy holidays to you


From home to home, and heart to heart
From one place to another
The warmth and joy of Christmas brings us
Closer to each other.
- Emily Matthews

Wishing you a wonderful holiday filled with joy and peace.
I'm going to take a break until after Christmas.
See you then!

Stacy

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mish mashy hodge podge

Yesterday I watched the last episode of the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now I can have a life again. I watched the entire series from start to finish on DVD over the course of about five weeks and became addicted. I know that vampires are trendy right now, and usually I avoid trends like the plague, but I've gotten totally sucked in (pun semi-intended). Now I'm moving on to the spin-off series, Angel.

* * *

Aren't my little boys cute? Sweet? Not so much. Yesterday they got in a squabble over the heating pad. Apollo was snoozing on it, and Charlie approached him pretending to be friendly and kissy, and then started biting and bullying him until Apollo got mad and abandoned it. There was hissing and scary faces involved. Time to buy a second heating pad, I think.

* * *

Lately I've been finding new books to read by browsing the new fiction section at my local library. It's a good way to discover authors that I probably wouldn't stumble across otherwise. The last book I read, Moonlight in Odessa, is about a young woman who lives in Odessa, Ukraine. She's educated as an engineer but can only find work as a secretary, and longs to move to San Francisco. Halfway through the book she is faced with the choice of a romance with a handsome mobster or becoming a mail order bride to fulfill her dream of moving to the States. It was interesting reading a novel set in the Ukraine, a place I know little about, and the story is quirky in an appealing way. It kept me up late many nights (when I wasn't watching Buffy).

* * *

I can't believe Christmas is next week! Mostly I'm excited because I'm taking time off work between Christmas Eve and New Year's day. No big plans, but it will be nice to be home.

* * *

One of my favorite artists, DJ Pettitt, is offering a digital editing online class called Memories & Manipulations. For more information, check out the class page on her website.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Time is Here

When the holiday season rolls around, one thing I look forward to is the airing of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. More specifically, I love hearing the Peanuts gang sing "Christmas Time is Here," and Linus's speech about the true meaning of Christmas. Yesterday I bought the original soundtrack and got a big kick out of listening to it in the background while working from home.

This is the scarf I made with the popcorn yarn I bought last month. It was going to be a gift for my sister, but there were a few problems. One, I tweaked the pattern and made the scarf too short, and two, I didn't notice I dropped a stitch until after I did the bind off. Plus ... well, it didn't turn out as pretty as the one in the pattern. But the popcorn does have a soft, teddy bear quality that I like. It was fun to knit with.

Sparkly joy arrived in the mail recently, a surprise from Deb at Garage Sale Gal. Thanks, Deb!

If you're looking for a gift for a knitty friend, there's still time to make a miniature knitting bag. It makes a great ornament.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Starting your own ATC swap group

Six months ago I was fortunate to connect with a group of friends who agreed to participate in a monthly artist trading card swap. I want to share how our group is organized and the themes we came up with in case you are interested in starting your own group, or are simply looking for ideas for your ATC's.

We decided from the beginning to limit the group to six people so it doesn't become overwhelming. Each month a different person selects a theme, and we mail the ATCs by the same date each month. If anyone is feeling overwhelmed with their life and can't get it done by the due date, they send it when they are ready. No pressure.

The themes are open for individual interpretation and we use whatever materials we want ... stickers, stamps, words, paint, buttons, fabric, photos, etc. Anything goes. Each person decides if they want to make identical cards for everyone in the group or make each one different.

Our past themes were:
-Hearts
-Bird Nest
-Back to School
-The Witching Hour
-Family
-Peace

I also do a one-on-one swap with a friend, and our past themes were:
-Cats

-Autumn
-California
-Home
-Holidays


To help us get to know each other better, the person who selects the month's theme also comes up with a question for the group. For example, in October when the theme was the witching hour, the question was, "What scares you the most?" In November when the theme was family, we shared one of our earliest family memories. We include the answer to the question in the envelope with our ATC, either on the back of the card or on a separate piece of paper. No one is obligated to answer the question if they don't want to.

For 2010 we are going to get more creative with our themes, opening it up to a specific color palette, materials, medium, technique, etc.

We have a Flickr pool so that we can see the progression of our ATC's. Not everyone in the group chooses to upload their cards, and that's okay. Here is the link if you'd like to take a look:
http://www.flickr.com/groups/atcswap/

I've learned so much from participating in the group. When I feel like I've created the ugliest ATCs ever made and want to throw them away and start over, I get to practice not judging my work or comparing it to others. Sometimes I surprise myself by how pleased I am with what I create. I've also learned about the creative process that works best for me, and have had my beliefs challenged about what one "should" and "shouldn't" do when creating art.

But probably the two greatest benefits of being a part of an ATC swap group is it gives you a reason to carve out time to create (it's so easy to put that off, isn't it?), and the deepening of the friendships with the women in the group. If you are thinking of starting or joining an ATC swap group, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Peace

The December theme for my ATC swap group was "Peace."


Usually I make identical cards for everyone in the group, but this time decided to make each one a little different. I painted the background with acrylic paint and used materials such as rick rack, washers, paper doilies, adhesive gems, and scraps of paper.

The images are from handmade gift tags I bought last year to benefit a children's hospital. The "peace on earth" is cut out from holiday greeting cards.


It's hard to see, but the background on this one is a piece of a dryer sheet. You can see the painted blue background right through it, but it gives the ATC a little bit more texture.

This ATC is for a "Holiday" themed swap. It has a metal Made with Love charm glued to the front.

Last night I attended a Holiday High Tea with some friends at
Lisa's Tea Treasures and had the most scrumptious food.

Sparkling cider, tiny sandwiches, savories, fresh salad, Christmas tea, and scones. Everything was presented beautifully, and the tea room was so cozy lit with candles.

A big thank you to Rachel at One Pretty Thing for featuring my knit fingerless gloves pattern, and another thank you to Katharine at Woolly Wotnots for posting a link to my slipper pattern.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Superhero necklace

While doing my holiday shopping I bought a gift for myself ... a necklace from Andrea at Superhero Designs. I LOVE it. Andrea is having a sale each week on a different piece of jewelry, and she ships your order out fast.

The pendant has a bullseye on the front ...

... and check out the back!

Andrea says, "I've always had the intention that each necklace is a talisman, reminding the wearer of their courage, their wisdom and their joy... I send out this little prayer as each one goes out the door."

I'm working on a series of miniature bird collages. This is the first one, on a 2" x 4" canvas. "Home" has been on my mind a lot lately.

There are several giveaways going on right now:


At Never Not Knitting you can win Made in Brooklyn, a book with wonderful fall and winter knitting patterns published by Classic Elite.

Over at
Frontier Dreams, you can win the most adorable miniature knit basket.

Wise Craft is giving away two art prints from Regina at Creative Kismet.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fingerless Gloves knitting pattern





These fingerless gloves are knit in a square shape and then seamed up one side, leaving a hole for the thumb. The pattern is suitable for beginners and the gloves are a medium adult size.

I discovered this stitch by accident several years ago when I cast on the wrong number of stitches for a two-by-two rib. I'm sure it has a name, but I haven't been able to find it. It's a reversible stitch that creates a stretchy fabric and looks best when knit with small needles.



Measurements:

9 inches long

3.5 - 4 inches wide (gloves are narrower around the fingers)

Supplies:

Two skeins Noro Cash Island (Aran weight, 60% wool, 30% cashmere, 10% nylon)

Size US 6 (4 mm) straight needles

Tapestry needle for seam

Abbreviations:

K2TOG: Knit two stitches together

To knit the fingerless gloves:

Cast on 42 stitches.

*K2, P2*, repeat from *. Continue this repeat until the piece is 2.5 inches long.

Decrease two stitches: K2TOG, *P2, K2* to last two stitches, K2TOG. (40 stitches)

K1*P2,K2* to last stitch, K1. Repeat until the entire piece is 9 inches long.

Bind off.

Use mattress stitch to seam the side starting with the wider edge where you cast on. Leave a 1.5 inch gap in the seam for the thumb approximately 2 inches from the top (the narrower edge where you did the bind off).

Make a second one using the same pattern.

Here is an example of the fingerless glove using the same pattern and needle size, but with alpaca yarn.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions about this pattern.