making things

My little studio is a disaster area right now. I have too much stuff. So I’m determined to either use what I have or get rid of it. The two quilts made a dent, but there are still four vintage quilt tops and a couple other in-progress quilts. I was happy that my batik project used materials I already had, except for a $3 box of dye that I had to buy. I’ve even done some more batiking (new word, I just made up), which I will share soon.

Then there were two boxes of tiny yogurt bottles I had been saving for years, because: cute! Also, it was delicious yogurt, which Trader Joe’s no longer carries, so sad. They are the perfect size for tea lights and I’ve had this vision of an elaborate chandelier to hang on the porch to be all romantic and stuff. I decided to just whip something up with what I could find laying around. A bit of weathered branch from one of our dead oak trees served as the hanger for all the little jars, which I just strung together with some copper wire. It took all of about fifteen minutes, and viola! I have a chandelier.

tea light chandelier

I’ll be honest, I don’t LOVE it, but it looks pretty magical when it’s all lit up. It’s just a little too rustic, but we’ll just call it Organic, and let it be for now.

lit chandelier

I was, perhaps, too impatient, because then I went and did some Pinterest research, and found some inspiration for some lights that I like better. I have some chicken wire, and lots of scrap wood, so I’m going to think on what I can do with those materials, and maybe some day I’ll disassemble the whole thing and try again.

In other news, I had the best Sunday afternoon nap ever right out there on my little cot. It was cool and breezy and birds were tweeting in the lilacs.

corner office

I like having a laptop, I can use it anywhere, and I do. Sitting in bed, on the couch, at the library, at Starbucks. But I am hoping to start doing some sort of freelance work in the near future, and it's going to take a little more discipline for me to work from home. For that, I think I need a dedicated work space. We have a tiny house, and I didn't really have a budget for this project, so this has been all about working with what I have. I'm pretty proud of myself for scrounging around and putting together a space that I think I will really enjoy using. 

image from www.flickr.com

This corner in our (very tiny) guest room was previously occupied by a large and ugly green chair that just collected piles of stuff, so it was no great sacrifice to let it go. I reclaimed my old desk from Mr. HeyLucy, who really needed a bigger surface for his desktop computer and dual monitors. World Market was having an awesome sale last month, and I managed to get another 10% off buying it online, so I guess I have to count the price of his new desk in my re-do ($160+shipping). 

image from www.flickr.com

I got this old desk ages ago, at an antique store when I lived in Virginia. It had a dark stain and a leather top that was badly damaged. I had removed that and painted it awhile ago, but it needed a touch up, so I spent this past weekend sanding and painting. 

I bought a couple shelf brackets at Anthropologie and used wood from an old fence that has been nicely weathered and was just piled up in the back corner of our yard. I cut a length, sanded it and finished it with a little paste wax. 

image from www.flickr.com

The wire rack I have had for ages, I was going to hang it in my kitchen, but it didn't look quite right, so it's just been kicking around and it's just perfect over my desk, where it will serve as an inspiration board. 

image from www.flickr.com

The rest was just gathered from around the house. I'm still not too sure about my styling abilities. I like the shelf arrangement for now, but I think I will probably be re-doing it on a regular basis. It took forever to figure out. It seems like it should be so easy to arrange things, but getting the balance just right takes more skill than I currently possess. So hats off to the stylists out there, I am impressed with your talents! Oh, and besides the shelf brackets, the only other thing I bought specially for my office project was the jasmine plant. 

image from www.flickr.com

 

image from www.flickr.com

 

image from www.flickr.com

Sources: 

Wire Rack (I found mine in a local store, but this looks like the same thing)
Calendar is from Bookhouathome (they don't have them any  more, but bookmark the shop for next year! And you can always get another tea towel in the meantime)
Blue tray and wood box are from Ikea
Thistle photograph is by AbbyTryAgain
Misc. silver vessels are thrifted 
Candle is from Target
Jasmine wreath is from Trader Joe's

If I missed anything you want to know about, just ask!

spring cleaning

I am finally getting over my stupid bout of strep throat. When I arrived home Saturday night after a very fun and relaxing week visiting family (despite the aforementioned strep), I found that the daffodils had gone crazy, and our normally wild, weedy yard was blanketed with scattered patches of yellow. I hope to get pictures this week, and pick bunches and bunches to share with friends. Anyway, the point of the daffodils was to say that I may be developing a minor case of spring fever, and have started doing a little spring cleaning. I kicked it off by washing the curtains in our little guest bedroom, which is also currently my sick room. I decided to perk things up a bit with this sweet little crocheted garland from Yvonne of Yvestown. When you are a not so good crocheter, like myself, it’s really necessary to have friends who are masters of the craft, don’t you think?

spring cleaning

finish-itis

A while back, the Yarn Harlot wrote about a serious condition she called finishitupitis, wherein she felt a need to finish everything in her unfinished object (UFO) basket. I'm not sure how that virus traveled from Canada to California, but travel it did. To the detriment of almost all other activities, I am determined to Get Stuff Done and get rid of projects I have no interest in finishing and clean out the yarn that I will never use. So yes, I finished yet another project. Yay!

image from www.flickr.com

Juneberry is a surprisingly fast knit, and it was interesting the whole way through. I loved this pattern, and I want to make it again in something soft and silky and drape-y. Shelter is none of those things. That's not at all a criticism, however, it's just a very different yarn for me. Had I come across it in a yarn store, I don't know that I would have been eager to buy it. I think that most of the yarn I have worked with has been worsted-spun yarn, rather than woolen-spun, as this is. Briefly, worsted-spun means that the fibers are long, and the yarn is spun with the fibers parallel along the length of the yarn. Woolen-spun, on the other hand, is made with shorter fibers, which are more perpendicular or in all different directions. The result is a much lighter yarn because there is more air trapped between the fibers. This also means that it's warmer, as I could tell as soon as I flung this shawl around my shoulders. 

image from www.flickr.com

Shelter feels very dry, and not at all soft when it comes off the skein. It has almost a crunchy texture, I kept wanting to compare it to styrofoam when I was working with it. I didn't have any problems with breakage while I was knitting, but when I did want to break the yarn, it did so very easily. Part of the dryness, for want of a better word, makes it really show off the stitches, which I think you can see, are very clearly defined. It blocked up beautifully, and softened a bit. It's still a bit too scratchy to wear right up against bare neck skin, so this will be better worn as a true shawl, around my shoulders, rather than bunched up around my neck like a scarf. 

image from www.flickr.com

So, if you'll be knitting something with lots of cables or other interesting surface textures, I highly recommend trying out Shelter. I think it's the perfect yarn for many patterns from Brooklyn Tweed, so kudos to Jared Flood for creating this yarn! 

So now that I'm down to just one project in my knitting bag, I've decided to go through the abandoned project bags and either finish something that's been hibernating, or ripping it out and using the yarn for something else. I'm just going to try to keep alternating between new and old. Last night I had a look at one of the first lace projects I attempted (in 2007! sheesh!). I knew there was a mistake in it somewhere, and I had been so frustrated that I stopped knitting right in the middle of a row, threw it in a bag and never looked at it again. Fast-forward to last night, when I un-knit several rows, but still didn't seem to be able to discover exactly where I went wrong.  I tried knitting a row, but I soon realized the my little size 3 bamboo needles were nowhere near pointy enough to deal with this extremely fine lace yarn. So I ripped the whole thing out and I think I'm going to use it for a very simple, lacy, beaded shawl, and I'll be using bigger needles with nice sharp points. I still love the yarn, and I love the pattern, just not together in the same project. 

One last thing, I have a thrifty knitting tip to share. With the last few lace projects I've been making, I thought it would be really nice to have some blocking wires. One of my local yarn stores had some that you could buy individually for a couple dollars a piece. Another local yarn store had a set for over thirty dollars! I didn't notice how many there were in a set, but still, it was a lot of money. I went to my local Ace Hardware, which is one of my favorite stores ever, because you can ask them anything and they'll help you find an answer. I told them what I was looking for and they sent me to look at some steel rods they had. They were great, but a little heavy, and covered with gunk from the manufacturing process that I would have had to clean off. Then they guy remembered something from the welding section. I had a look, and thought they would be perfect, and they were less than $6 for a set of six 36" copper colored rods. They're packaged in this handy tube, required no cleaning, and were nice and sturdy without being too thick. 

image from www.flickr.com

I have no idea what they are supposed to be used for, but I've used them to block three shawls so far, and they worked great!

Wait, I lied, one more last thing: 

image from www.flickr.com

Winston says Hi!

it’s the little things

I've had a couple three-day weekends in a row, so this measly little two-day weekend felt far too short. I had all sorts of grand ideas for Projects-with-a-capital-P, but ultimately I only ended up doing a couple very small things (besides laundry, grocery shopping and other miscellaneous errands). So this is probably the most exciting blog post you will read all week, I'm sure. 

image from www.flickr.com

First of all, I am overwhelmed with the state of our cupboards and closets. So I'm tackling them one at a time and doing some thorough cleaning out, scrubbing down and tossing of junk. I started with the spice/tea & warm drinks/sweeteners and small baking items cupboard. I like all my mis-matched, hand-labeled spice jars, but I also have a spice addiction, and am regularly bringing home new spices. I had organized them pretty well last summer, but the addition of two-tiered lazy susan makes it much easier to find what I'm looking for and fit them neatly into a fairly small space. I actually found a box of chamomile tea with a best before date of 1995. How is that even possible? I don't know, but yuck! Now that I thinned our tea collection down to just a half dozen or so, it's much nicer to make a cup or pot and know that it's relatively fresh and it's a flavor we like. 1995! Yeesh! 

I like this shelf a lot:

image from www.flickr.com

Second of all, I don't know if I should even admit this, but I've never made oatmeal from scratch, and had no idea how to do it. I guess I must have known that there were directions on the can, but for some reason I thought it was really complicated and time-consuming. I don't know why, but I guess because I think of oatmeal as weekday breakfast, I was fine with a little packet of gummy, instant oatmeal, dressed up with some brown sugar and dried fruit. In the cleaning of the aforementioned cupboard, I unearthed no less than three containers of oatmeal, two steel-cut and one regular old-fashioned oats. I'll save the old-fashioned for cookies, but decided to try my hand at cooking the steel-cut. Just in case there are other oatmeal novices out there, the ratio is 4:1, boiling water to oatmeal. Just sprinkle in the oats when the water is at a rolling boil and heat to a simmer. Let it cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I added a dash of salt to the water to get it boiling faster and for flavor. And now, I don't think I can eat those little packets of instant oatmeal ever again. I had a nice warm bowl with a little golden syrup and dried cranberries and almonds and cashews. I never thought I'd get cravings for oatmeal, but I think I might have some for dinner tonight, it was so delicious.

image from www.flickr.com
Does anyone else not know how to make something that everyone else probably knows how to make? Am I ridiculous for writing about cleaning a cupboard and making oatmeal? I think I might be, but darn it, opening that cupboard door makes me pretty happy right now. 

And my Shelter yarn from Brooklyn Tweed arrived today, so I will be spending the rest of the evening winding it into balls and starting a new project! 

Oh, and the book of the week (on audio) is Leviathan , which I am really enjoying. It's imaginative and original and a rollicking adventure. 

organizing

I am pleased to report that I have organized all my knitting. I've cleaned out the stash yarn, made plans to use most of what I have left, cleaned up my Ravelry queue, and am working away on a few things that I want to finish asap, so I can cast on some other things that are ready and waiting-yarns and patterns together in bags, hanging from the hooks in my little studio, just hoping to be cast on soon. Whew, that feels so good! 

I finished one mitt to go with my much loved shawl, and the other should be done shortly. These will be worn regularly this winter. I just love these patterns, the stripey-ness and the lacy-ness of them. 

French chiffon mitts

And because I have been making progress on my Tea Leaves cardigan (button bands are done! sleeves are underway!), I just thought I'd go ahead and cast on a big, lacy shawl. It's just that the yarn, it was sitting there so prettily, I couldn't help myself.

Malabrigo lace

It's Malabrigo Lace (the color is Bobby Blue), and oh my goodness, it knits up like a soft, soft cloud. Those two skeins should become a big shawl that will weigh nearly nothing. This is my first time knitting with Malabrigo, but I really think I need to try every yarn they make. I should, right?

And mostly unrelated, I just thought I would jump on the "what's in your bag?" bandwagon, and take a picture of the contents of my purse. This is one of very few places that I have complete control, and I like to keep it super tidy and organized. Doing this I realized that I really need a much cuter case for my sunglasses, and a much cuter cover for my check book. Why have I been carrying it around in the navy vinyl monstrosity that came with the checks? What is wrong with me? I'll take another picture when I remedy these things, don't you worry. 

In my bag

What is the state of your bag? What all do you carry around with you? 

creativity

This summer I seem to have lost my creative mojo. Is it too dorky to say mojo? Is there a better word for it? Anyway, whatever you call it, beyond cooking on the weekends and living on the leftovers and peanut butter and jam sandwiches during the week, I haven't done much of anything lately. In an attempt to remedy that, I decided to spend a little time in my little house studio this weekend. First of all, it needed a good tidying up. I cleaned up all around my sewing machine and ironing board, although I didn't quite have it in me to tackle the work table and closet just yet. Still, that little bit made all the difference.

Garland3

I made a little garland from vintage book pages. There was nothing too it, I just used a big circle punch and sewed a long chain. I stacked three circles at a time and by folding the top and bottom circles, ended up with these flower-like shapes. I thought of doing something like this for Christmas cards last year but realized that there was no way I would have time to make enough. I think I'll do it this year and just start now, it's easy enough to make two or three at a time. I think they'll be fun wrapped flat around a postcard, and then the recipients can fold them open. See, already I have another creative project to think about. 

Garland2

Another thing about this project that makes me happy is that I don't have to buy a thing. I have way too much junk, and I need to start using it or getting rid of it. I worked on two more projects this weekend that I started long ago. I think this will be the focus of my autumn cleaning-using stuff up and finishing what I started. So hopefully, I'll have lots to show in the coming weeks as I do this. The more I think about it, the more motivated I'm getting. Yay! 

As I was cleaning, I remembered that I had my grandma's thimble collection stashed away in a box, and decided to pull them out so I could enjoy them. As I was tidying up in the little house studio, I realized that many of them were tiny enough to fit on the ledge above the window. 

 

Thimbles2

I love  being able to see them. She collected them when she traveled, and I know I gave her a couple as gifts when I was little, and I also have a bunch of just plain, utilitarian ones that she used when she quilted. 

Thimbles1

 

three random things

Number one: I'm pretty sure rhubarb season is just about over, but I've made this rhubarb compote twice, swapping vanilla for the orange liquer, and it was delicious and super easy.

 
Rhubarb
 
Compote 

My favorite way to enjoy it is like this: 

 
Yogurt 

With a some Greek yogurt and granola. I was eating for breakfast, but it was such a treat, I've started having it for dessert.

Number two: I've been trying to drink more water and less diet coke. But plain water is boring, so I've been making lots of iced herbal teas. I funnel it into this pretty bottle, and take it to work. In no time at all I can drink the whole 750 ml. I had a little Monin raspberry syrup in the cupboard, and added a tiny bit to some ginger tea. Another nice combination was ginger tea with lemon and mint. 

 
Bottle2
 

Number three: I tend to have insomnia, and now that the sun is coming up even earlier, it's a struggle to sleep past 5 or 6 o'clock. I have never, ever been a morning person, but I've decided to let my insomnia work for me. Instead of tossing and turning I've just been getting up and puttering around the house. Of course this means I have to work on going to bed earlier. I've managed to be in bed before 11, but I need to work up to 10 0'clock. I'm slowly getting some serious spring cleaning done in these early morning hours.

 
Herbs
 So far I've managed to transplant some herbs one morning, cleaned and organized my shelf of spices (more on that later) and my shelf of baking items, and made a dent in a pile of ironing. All before work!  

 
  

this and that

It might be time for a numbered list, as I have several unrelated items to post.

  1. I'm still slowly going through my fabric. Here is some helpful information if you need to de-clutter your fabric stash (I imagine it would work well for yarn or other craft supplies, too). The only thing I don't agree with totally is the part about doing it all at once. It can be an overwhelming task, and I tend to subscribe to the FlyLady philosophy-you can do anything for 15 minutes at a time.
  2. Miep Gies turned 100 this month. I love her story, and all those stories of people like her who helped so many people during World War II. Also, Miep is the cutest name ever.
    This is a good opportunity to once again recommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It's not a true story, but still, it's so good, and just joyful, and it has to do with World War II. I think it's my favorite read of the past year.
  3. I've been sick all week, so the only studio project I've managed to complete is the hanging of this sweet little clock from Decoylab.Teaclock
  4. I completely forgot to mention that the U.S. version of Softies is out (it was originally published in Australia). The new version is called Softies Only a Mother Could Love: Lovable Friends for You to Sew, Knit, or Crochet.
    It's such a great little book, I'm so glad even more people will get a chance to buy it.
    Softies

    To see more of what's inside visit the Penguin Australia site, you can visit the sites of all the contributors and even upload your own creations to a gallery. I've also amended the Flickr group to include both versions of the book, so please join and show off your softies!
  5. Sally came for a visit today while I was puttering in the little house. Please do not notice the dirty floor and scratched up door (you probably wouldn't have if I hadn't pointed those things out). I can't be bothered to vacuum or paint at the moment (see #3, above, for my excuse).
    Sallyvisits

another check mark

Saturday I devoted my whole day to thrift shopping/antique mall-ing in search of a dresser for the studio. Mission accomplished!

Dresser

If you'll recall, it was on my Complete the Studio to-do list. Also on the list is Paint the dresser. I'm tired of painting at the moment, and it's been raining for four days, so painting is not going to be a high priority for awhile. I can live with it like this for a good, long while, actually. It would be better if it was a brighter white, to match the walls, but I can deal for now. The shape is just what I wanted, and the size is perfect. I love the handles, and, while I didn't really want anything too shabby chic or distressed, the little painted swags on the drawers are kind of sweet.I also didn't think I needed a side table, but when I saw that little white one for $45 I kind of had to get it, and it turns out that it's really coming in handy.

I managed to thin out my yarn stash, and fit nearly everything in the bottom drawer. There are a few balls of sock yarn in one of the top drawers, and it's so nice that it's all safe from those pesky cats. I decided to display part of my creamer collection on a tray on top.

Creamers 

I need to find some small projects for the odd balls of yarn. What do you do when you have leftover yarn or orphan skeins?

Once the dresser was organized I was so inspired by my pretty new space, I worked on some treats for the shop. There's a couple peepers in there right now, and I hope to have some pincushion/needlebook sets by the end of the week. It's so nice to work out there now. It's a small room (barely 10'x14'), but I've got so much of my junk organized and cleaned out that it's just so easy to work. 

Peeper2b 

And, since you haven't seen this fuzzy face for awhile, I leave you with the one and only Winston:

Winston2 

I can't take it when he looks at me like that. I had the day off today, and spent it in the studio with the rain and then snow blowing and blustering outside, and I had to let this muddy thing in because I felt sorry for him. I hope my carpet will come clean.