Thursday, December 28, 2006

retro ornaments and plants!

One last Christmas post, since I can't resist. While visiting my family in Michigan we went to the Chrysler museum to visit the cars. An added bonus at the museum was a temporary exhibit of Christmas trees from the 20's through the 90's. They must have had a lot of fun finding all of the vintage ornaments. Here are a few pictures of my favorites:

1930's ornament

1950's bubbling ornament

1950's ornament

1950's starbursts

And we even got to go to the Conservatory on Belle Isle - which is a tiny island in the Detroit River. The whole place is a public park for all of Detroit, but my favorite place on the island is the where they keep the exotic plants. While it does have a fabulous orchid collection, I'm always drawn to the succulents. They have a small but nice collection and I managed to get a few good shots:


bear claws

spiral succulents

Plus they have some other nice plants...

red tipped flower

red flower

red berries


Hopefully photos of knitting tomorrow...

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 24, 2006

chicken dinners

zehnder's chicken dinner neon sign

While it's been overcast and rainy the whole time I've been in Michigan, I've still managed to have a bit of fun and visit some old haunts. The other day my parents and I ended up in Frankenmuth after a day of travels. Frankenmuth proudly describes itself as "MIchigan's little Bavaria", but my childhood memories of the place center around having an all you can eat family style chicken dinner served by a guy in lederhosen, and going to the candy store afterwards and getting a giant jawbreaker to lick on the way home. True to course we had the all you can eat chicken and the jawbreaker as well. Merry Christmas!



Tuesday, December 19, 2006

plain vanilla

accordian neckwarmer

I think after finishing all that holiday giftmaking and knitting I'm ready for what I call plain vanilla knitting. You know, something you can finish in an evening and wear the next day, or something that doesn't require any concentration and perhaps you can actually read some subtitles. You know stuff like that.

My friend Rachel sent me a nice ball of the softest chunky alpaca yarn in an excellent orange color and I've been debating what to make out of it. I think I have enough hats, so I thought I was make a little neckwarmer. There are some wonderful neckwarmers on Flickr, I really like some by Cosymakes and Minibee, so I thought I would make my own version.

pattern: made it up as I went along
yarn: plymouth yarn baby brush alpaca (maybe 1/2 skein?)
gauge: 3 1/2 stitches = 1"
needles: 9's - 5.5mm
buttonholes: single crochet loops

neckwarmer detail

I like the randomish different sized vintage buttons - so cute!

neckwarmer in action

In this awful bathroom mirror shot you can see how it looks on. The accordian ribbing lets me squish it down or put it over my chin when I'm really cold.

I'm also working on some very plain toe-up socks. I'm sure sure what kind of sock yarn this is - I had almost a full skein left over from a pair of socks I knit for Elliott, so I tried dying it more blue - less guy colored - for me. It's not the most exciting, but I'm guessing I'll actually wear them a lot. Hopefully I can finish it's mate before I get bored.

basic toe up sock

I'm off to Michigan for the holidays with probably infrequent blogging, but who knows you might get lucky. Happy Holidays!


Saturday, December 16, 2006

meet priscilla tennenbaum

Here she is in all her glory - our lovely christmas tree. For some reason I always name my christmas trees first name Priscilla, last name Tennenbaum. I think this comes from my gramma who had a long string of goldfish always named George. While Mr. E and I like to get a few new ornaments each year - usually sometime a bit ethnic or handmade, I was excited this year to put up some ornaments that were my childhood favorites. My parents gave us these last year and they look even better than I remember, especially on miss priscilla.

Flocky goodness and vintage fun!

Friday, December 15, 2006

finished object: poetry in stitches sweater

Finished sweater!
pattern: Poetry in Stitches, by Solveig Hisdal - page 66
yarn: yarn kit from Sommerfuglen
needles: circular 1's and 4's
gauge: 27 sts. and 27 rows to 4"
started: mid-August 2006
finished: December 12 2006
It's done! It's done, I'm so glad and excited to wear this one. This was a really fun colorwork project to knit with the beautiful colors and huge-scale floral design. While the flowers look organic, they are also symetrical and therefore its easier to remember the row chart when knitting. The pattern calls for 25 stitches per 4", but I had a hard time matching that gauge, so I went with 27-28 stitches per 4", which made my finished sweater 40" wide instead of 44" according to the pattern. Luckily that fits me better than 44" diameter.

Instead of sewing the main body of the sweater to cut open the sleeves, I tried crocheting secure the openings before I cut them, then picking up the stitches for the sleeves and knitting them already attached to the sweater. This probably would have worked better if I had decided on this earlier and added sleeve steek stitches to the body of the sweater instead of crocheting secure the main body directly, as the design has some really long floats. But because the yarn was really tacky it worked out okay. I also had some puckering from the loooong floats which I was able to steam block out, and I did more weaving in on the sleeves.

See all entries on this project...

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

finished object: squirrel mitts

I can finally reveal some of the sneaky knitting that's been happening off to the sides here at yarnbee. Hooray! I got to give a pair of squirrel mittens to my friend Tomoko, for christmas, this weekend. They seemed perfect for her as she is very fond of small cute animals and is always taking nature walks down by the pond where she lives. And they even fit her, a good time was had by all.

Here are some specs for the technically minded out there:

Pattern: Squirrelly Swedish Mittens from Elliphantom Knits
I also incorporated variations to the design that Hello Yarn used on her lovely pair of mittens.

Yarn: various shades of Jamieson and Smith 2-ply jumper weight, a little bit of Rowanspun 4-ply (the lime green), and yarn from a giant cone of fingering-weight that a nice woman in Scotland gave me - unknown origin (the main heathered blue)

Needles: 2.25 mm dpn's

Time frame: About a week or 4 movies without subtitles

Notes: It was really fun to knit this pattern and to choose a stash-based interesting color palette. I loved making the braids and it is surprisingly easy, not speedy but easy, just overlapping (or underlapping?) the yarns around themselves as you purl. I didn't suffer from the dreaded SMS (second mitten syndrome) like I usually do with socks. I loved the fact that the design looks traditional, but upon close inspection is whimsical.

I was able to hang out with Tomoko at the Crafts with Sass and a Purpose craft fair. We had a lot of fun meeting people and watching them discover Tomoko's amazingly tiny and cute creations. Here are some photos from the sale:

Here are a few pictures of the bath salts I was selling.

Now to wrap up that christmas shopping!

Labels: ,

Monday, December 11, 2006

syd has a secret admirer

On Saturday Syd the cockatiel got this package in the mail. (Please note that the parrot got the first gift of the season in the mail, not us, the bird.) I helped him open it up and lo and behold in the box was a brand new lady-friend!

Note that matching mohawk she sports.Isn't she an attractive lady? Well, Syd certainly thought so. Here is a terrible photo of their introduction...

Syd was immediately smitten, especially with the fact that if you squeeze her bottom she chirps. An irresistable feature in girlfriends, let me tell you. Syd started wolf-whistling and flirting with her. Here is another terrible photo of their courtship.

Syd can be a bit camera shy, so it can be hard get some quality images. At any rate he has a serious crush, so thank you, thank you, secret admirer!

Friday, December 08, 2006

crafts with sass and a purpose

If you live out in western massachusetts, come on down to Northampton and join me at the Crafts with Sass and a Purpose craft fair. Imagine a craft fair full of crafty goodness and things you actually want to buy as well as delicious snacks. And 10% or more of the profits from all the crafters will be donated to Justice for Children International, a nonprofit organization working toward the abolition of child sex trafficking and exploitation around the world. How awesome is that?! We'll have funky, handmade gifts: beautiful and unique jewelry, scarves, handbags, journals, & other crafty goodness! My friend Tomoko will be there with her cute as a button "po's". Hope to see you there. Download your own flier here

This year I'll be selling blockprinted cards, paper quilt cards, handmade journals and bath salts. Come on down!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

block print cards: a tutorial

Here is a very rough tutorial for how I make block printed cards. Disclaimer: I'm not a professional print maker by any means, but I'm happy to share what works for me. Okay now that that's out of the way let's begin!

Step one:
Come up with your design and get yourself a linoleum block. I like using linoleum better than wood because linoleum does not have a grain and is easier (for me) to carve. I usually draw my design on tracing paper or vellum in soft pencil, turn it over, place it on the block and redraw the design on the block. This transfers the lead from the backside onto the linoleum. Then spray it with artist fixative so you don't rub the design off as you carve it. (Trust me, I learned this from experience!) Get yourself some nice sharp carving tools - (I'm not promoting this website, just the example of the tools) it will just make everything easier.

Here is a photo of this year's block in process of being carved. You can see the transferred pattern as well.

Step two:
You'll need some block printing inks and a small brayer. You really want to get specific block printing inks, if you use acrylic paint from a tube it just doesn't work as well and you'll be frustrated and sad. (Trust me, I learned this from experience, too) Here at the low-tech house I use an old plate and a plastic knife to mix up the color I'm looking for, and to roll the paint on the brayer.

Here's the action at this point

Step three:
Roll the block with ink using the brayer. You want to use the minimum amount of ink necessary to coat the block. Too much ink will cause the print to slip, but too little ink will not give you a great print. It's basically something you need to try and you'll get a sense of what works. It's a pretty intuitive process so just try it out.

Here's the block getting rolled

Step four:
Place the paper on the block and burnish it down with your hand and/or with a burnisher. I use acid-free cover weight paper, as I'm making cards, but you can use almost anything to make a print.

Step five:
Put the block with paper on the ground, put a scrap piece of paper over the card, and in your sock covered feet jump up and down on the block. This is the fun part! Try to get every area of the block and try not to fall off!

Here is an action shot (you can see I fell off the block I think). You can also get a good glimpse of my messy studio.

Step six:
Pull off your print and let it dry. If your continuing printing, keep going so the ink doesn't dry on the block. You can add extender so it dries slower. After about 10 prints you can use a scrap sheet to jump on the block with any remove any ink buildup.



Saturday, December 02, 2006

what's next, you ask?

Believe it or not the Christmas crafting season is wrapping up around here at chez busybee. I try to start early, and end a bit early, admitting that there are some people you just can't craft for as they really would like gift certificates and not homemade car air-fresheners (by the way that was a total bust of a project - it now lives in the trash...) or any other nonsense I might whip up. Plus I want to enjoy the season as well, not just hide out in the back room and make stuff for it.

So what's next? I joined the Colorwork challenge knitalong. You can check out the details and join yourself here. My plan is to use this a motivation and encouragement not only to finish that gosh darned floral sweater from Poetry in Stitches (just half a sleeve left!) and to finally knit a sweater I designed for Elliott last Christmas (merry Christmas!). Since he's made some noise about where that sweater is and why don't I make it, I think he actually likes the design and would wear it. This is an important consideration to factor in when making a sweater for a larger than you husband another person. So it's time to get cranking. Here's where it stands. I decided I wanted a fair isle construction / Norwegian-ish looking sweater. I looked through a lot of middle eastern patterns, since Elliott is a big fan of design from that region, for inspiration and settled on a few that looked good together as a main overall design and a border. Here's a photo of a sketch of the sweater and a charted sheet of the patterns.

Then I test knit a few swatches of the patterns with some 2 ply shetland fingering yarn I had on hand.

The next steps include figuring out the hems and finalizing some of the construction details, picking colors and yarns, test swatching with the chosen yarns, figuring out the actual pattern based on the gauge from the test swatch and casting on! no sweat, right?