Monday, December 29, 2008

Reindeer Cookies for Young Kids

I had some fun with the young nieces and nephews for about 20 minutes (and that's about all I can count on with any one activity) making these "reindeer" cookies. This is the reindeer you get when you can't find the specific cookies or pretzels that the instructions call for. But all that doesn't matter when the kids are having fun.

They're so proud of their creations.

My favourite part has to be the fact that their parents have to take at least one and either eat it or pretend to...(hee hee)
If you want to make these cookies with your little ones (or the little ones of those around you), just gather some candies for the eyes and nose, an appropriate cookie for the face, and some type of pretzel for the antlers. Use icing gel to put everything together. Assemble. Display. And enjoy.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hawaiian Quilt Update

Lest you think I've been ignoring my quilting with all the knitting I've been writing about, let me post some progress. Last time I posted I was working on all those border units. There were four copies of four different (but similar) units. After doing the first single one just to make sure I knew what I was doing, I did the rest two by two. It seemed like a manageable amount on my little desk and still a little faster and more efficient than doing them one by one. In a larger block of time I could get both done, or if I only had part of an evening I could get two done over two evenings. I didn't take note of the date but I think I got the border pieces done shortly before Thanksgiving. It was such a good feeling. The rest will be fun going...

I found a small [but crucial] printing error on one pattern piece and was able to pass that along to the other club members through the LQS by email.

The next section I did was the lonestar. I have never done a lonestar before and perhaps that worked in my favour since this paper piecing method is different than the traditional method (so I hear). The basic unit is split into five strips which are paper pieced separately and then sewn together. So you make all eight copies of strip 1, and then all eight of strip 2, etc., until all 5 strips are ready to be pieced into the eight lonestar units.

I ran into trouble on the first strip because I didn't put the pattern pieces close enough together and ran out of room on my strip of fabric. So I only got 7 copies instead of eight. I figured out the problem for strips 2 through 5 and got them done relatively quickly. Whenever I worked on it I could get one set of strips done, and then last Friday (on my first vacation day) I got a whole bunch of work done. I started to think I might actually get some of these units done so I could take them home with me.

Since I will be seeing my sister who helped me pick out the fabric when I go home for Christmas, I'll be bringing the pieces home to show her. She actually asked me to, but hey! like she has to twist my arm! Plus I have some decisions to make about which colours to use in the remaining pieces and would love it if she could help me with that. With this motivation and my vacation time I got six of the lonestar units pieced! I was very please with that. I can piece one more, but then I will have to cut some new fabric to make up the copy of strip 1 that I am missing.

Here is a quarter of the quilt laid out:
The blank spots will be filled with "melon spike" and "curving geese" units. These are the ones I have to still pick the fabrics. The pattern calls for a selection of the "dark" fabrics. So I have the option of my 3 blacks, 3 blues, or 2 greens, or some combination of them, of course. I wanted to take a look at the layout before I chose the final colours.

I still think I will change the black used in the center compass star to one of the greens. I think it will play off the use of those colours in the bigger corner spikes (with the red and pink above) and there's too much black in the middle with the first ring of the lonestar being black. But I'll do that at the very end...there's no hurry while I still have other things to do.

The next club meeting isn't until the third week of January so if I get the last two lonestar units done I will be happy. That would give me until the February meeting to get the melon spike and curving geese units done, and then by the March meeting I could have it all pieced together.

That would just leave the assembly and quilting...hmmm..."just"

All for now. I won't get more quilting done this week because of the travelling but getting some colours picked will keep things moving along.

Thanks for reading,
christina

Travelling Slippers Done!

I've been working on them steadily for the last few days and they are finally done!

I had to make a point of working on them at home after the easy "take-along" knitting was done. I got the edging around the opening done and then knit the strap. This is where it was getting dicey about whether I had enough yarn left. To give myself a heads up, I marked the half-way point of what I did have left with a knot and then rolled the yarn back into a ball. This way if I got to the knot before I had finished the edging and strap for one slipper, I would know I didn't have enough for the other. But it all worked out fine and I had enough with just a little left over.

The first strap, however, didn't turn out very well but I learned enough to know what to do the next time. The main problem was the kniton cast on which looked terrible. Switching to the cable cast on fixed that and then I did a little shaping around the buttonhole so it would have a rounded end instead of being so square and blocky. So I ripped the strap out and then went to sleep (it was very late) with thoughts of being able to lick it next time I got to it.

Well, the next time I got to it was at the airport waiting for someone to arrive. I got there very early and then his flight was 45 minutes late so I had time to make two straps and do the edging on the second slipper. [An airport turns out to be a very good place to knit without being bothered or interupted, and I had nothing else to do!] Today I sat down and stitched the second one up while watching football--my team wasn't playing so I didn't really have to watch closely--and found some buttons, and voila, done!

What was also pushing this along was the fact that I'm going "home" for Christmas this week and I wanted to be able to show my mom the finished project. She was interested and liked them very much when she visited in November so I like to reward that with a finished object to look at! (Let's be honest, not just to look at, but also to admire!) Plus her house will be much cleaner than mine so I can wear the slippers without fearing too much about how dirty they're going to get. (My half-constructed, half-destructed house is definitely not the place to wear them.)

It feels so good to get projects finished! My Ravelry record says I started them on Oct 24 so they took just about 2 months in all, with other projects in between, of course.

I now have four pairs of slippers that I can think of off the top of my head. I don't think that's too many...is it?
-christina



ETA: 2nd place ribbon at the 2009 County Fair (misc knited item)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More Christmas: Ornaments

A dear friend wanted to do an ornament exchange at a Christmas party and this got the balls rolling, so to speak. The idea didn't actually pan out for that party, but it did get me inspired to make a few ornaments from a Vogue Knitting pattern I had seen...somewhere...hmmm... Yes, I found the pattern in the Holiday 2007 issue.

The balls are pretty quick knits, but still about 2 hours each. And that's plain and simple; no beading, special patterns or striping. I had some 3" styrofoam balls sitting around so I adapted the number of stitches and went to town. Ok, I did make a few changes. If you follow the link to the pattern, you'll notice that the knitting is not very smooth; it's all bunched up where it gathers at the top and bottom: this will never do! So 1. I used a crochet cast on so I could have live stitches and gather each stitch up (instead of every 4 stitches like the pattern called for); and 2. I ribbed for the first and last 5 rows so it would more naturally pull together. It makes the balls slightly bulkier there, but much smoother. A worthwhile trade off in my mind.

The first ball was done straight and simple with a red sparkly yarn I had left over from an aunt's "Red Hat Society" Hat I made her a few years ago. Observant readers will notice it's the same yarn I used for the Joy Pompom Hairband. Whatever you might say about its rather hideous appearance as a yarn, it performs beautifully as a Christmas ball.

With that success under my belt, I went a little fancier on the next one. You see, my friend had been rapsodizing about some chocolate brown Christmas balls she had seen in the store, and I happen to have some chocolate brown yarn interwoven with gold sparkles. (Left over from a beautiful Vogue pattern for a sleeveless sweater which turned out to flatter me not in the least.) And I also happen to have some leftover gold lame (yes the said same from the Christmas postcard). So I knit the pattern up but added a few rows of YOs [yarn overs] to make some peak-a-boo holes. Then I covered the styrofoam ball with strips of the lame pinned into place before covering the whole thing with the knitting. It all worked out great:

Next up was an attempt with some beads for sparkle. I needed some sock yarn which was all the excuse I needed to visit my favourite Red Purl. Amy had some sock yarn on sale so I chose 2 colours: the closest to red (really a taupe) and a variegated green. So far I got the beads strung on the taupe and a ball knitted up. The bead stripes aren't quite centered but I can pretend that was a design feature.

And this still leaves the green yarn to play with. Haven't quite gotten to it yet though. Too many Christmas parties and other activities!

Have fun decorating your place for the holidays!



Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quilts as Postcards

Have you heard of the craze of making mini quilts and sending them as postcards? People love them because they can finish them in an afternoon and they make a very fun surprise to send to someone in the mail.

I made my first one last year shortly before Christmas and was inspired by some fabric triangles my sister sent me to show me the fabrics she was using in a quilt. Her bright scrappy and white quilt turned out wonderful and the little fabric bits she sent me were irresistible. That inspiration turned into the following postcard:

Lessons learned from that postcard were 1. shortcuts can be fun (I would normally want to piece a pinwheel, but just slapping down some half-square triangles worked and was much easier); 2. you really do need to stick down applique pieces or they will slide around; and 3. more stabilizer is better, especially with the heavy sewing I needed for the lettering.

Then I struggled with what to do with it; I mean, obviously I couldn't make one for everyone on my Christmas card list! So I settled on this plan: I would send the postcard to my sister, for indeed she had inspired me to make it, and then I would take a picture of it to use in the general Christmas card I sent out to the rest of the list.


I "borrowed" a friend's Christmas tree and got this picture of my postcard sitting in it:

and I then used the picture in a Christmas postcard:
I was happy with the solution. I really didn't want to send a postcard with just my mug on it because what does that say about Christmas? Not much. So this way I got a Christmas message, and could also pass along a personal picture which does say something about my life. (Like in this case, "I cut a lot of wood this year!")

So this year, the same question: what to do for a Christmas card? A friend had given me some gold lame scraps and I had some nice leftover fabric from my Hawaiian Star quilt sitting on my desk. This was the leftover pieces from the fabric I'm only using the dark parts of. And it grew on me that I wanted to do a star. There are so many quilt options for stars and I settled on a simple Sawtooth Star:
I had some gold thread already as well, so it was perfect for the quilting. I started in the center and just sewed outward in a gentle arcs. I wanted to imitate the general shape of a galaxy (as seen from very far away, obviously).

The main thing learned from this postcard was that you really do need to have a very stiff layer in the middle (this one isn't stiff enough to mail on its own). And gold lame is very hard to photograph.

And then I took a picture of the postcard sitting in the evergreen bush in my front yard and made that the front of the card.
The inside of the card has a small family pic printed on the upper half and the quote,
"We saw his star in the east
and have come to worship him."
printed in the usual place. I had it all printed up at WalMart.com and they turned out pretty good. I hope to have them all out by tomorrow. (Phew!) I had Troy write up this year's letter which was a load off my mind.

So who's getting the "real" card this year? Sorry...I'm keeping that secret so it won't spoil the surprise when they get it!

Good luck with your Christmas/Holiday/Seasonal cards this year...give them some thought and I'm sure the recipients will appreciate it.

All for now,
christina

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