Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Some Good Things

  1. Finished listening to my first book at Librivox, "Northanger Abbey" by Jane Austen. Very funny and sweet. I highly recommend Librivox. It is such a wonderful site!
  2. Made vomacka for dinner last night. I believe it is pronounced voh-MACH-ka. Ate this soup at a restaurant in Minnesota that we always go to when we visit Harv's best friend and his wife. I think it is the only restaurant in their very small farm town. A lot of the people there are of Czech descent and this is a Czech recipe. I have been thinking about this soup ever since I first tried it over a year ago and finally made it last night. It is a creamy vegetable soup, flavored with dill. SO GOOD!
  3. Rediscovered this Denyse Schmidt quilt along group on flickr that I joined a while ago but forgot about. *sigh* I just love Denyse Schmidt, a lot.
  4. Finished the Empire Strikes Back quilt! Happy Valentine's Day Harv! Tomorrow being March, I finished just in time. It's handy not working. Putting the quilt in the washing machine right now. I will put a picture up soon!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

You Too Can Make Any Beer Taste Cold!

Quilting away...finishing up the "Empire" quilt and catching up on "Ugly Betty" and "Desperate Housewives" on Have you tried watching the shows that they have up there? It is quite enjoyable. I only started watching "Ugly Betty" because I needed some more sewing entertainment and it was just sitting there for free. I have seen every episode but never watched it on tv. Very fun.
In lieu of a finished quilt I thought that I would share the pattern for the Coors Light cozy. It's not so much a pattern as a rough tutorial with the chart that I made.

Cold Tasting Beer Cozy
Use worsted weight yarn, different kinds if necessary, to get the right colors. You need red, black, white, gray(for the silver can) and blue(for the frost brewed liner). Gauge is roughly 18st and 24 rows =4 in, but it doesn't need to be exact.
Using US size 8 needles, cast on 35 stitches with the gray yarn. Don't worry about your cast-on row being a little tighter, it's good if it wraps under the bottom of the can. Knit rows in stockinette stitch. Knit 10 stitches, place a marker, knit first row of chart, place marker and then finish out the row. Follow the chart, working inbetween your markers, to the end and then bind off. Sew the two short ends of the rectangle together to make a tube. Insert cold beer can of your choice. Open beer, drink beer, enjoy how cold your beer tastes and how not cold your hand is.
*Notes on chart: Purple = gray, all other colors = themselves. Disregard all of the pen marks...they mean nothing!
**Note on knitting color work: If you have never knit more than one color like this before do not fret! Here is a great little article the explains the basics!

Monday, February 26, 2007


We don't have cable. Which means we don't have Tivo and we don't get HBO and we've never seen an episode of "Project Runway". These are all things that I know I would enjoy if I had access to them but I don't. It is my personal belief that, although I love it, tv sucks my life away. I simply cannpt resist things like "30 Minute Meals" and crappy MTV documentaries like "Made" (is that still on?). There is just too much I want to be doing with my time to waste it channel surfing all day. Watching too much tv makes me sick to my stomach and a little depressed.
So we decided a couple of years ago that we weren't going to pay to hae our lives sucked and we went off the cable. We're a rabbit ears family now. Rather than slobbing on the couch flipping through 100 channels for an hour, switching between three different shows that we are only aguely interested in, we have a handful of shows that we make a point to watch each week, things that we really want to see. Other than that there are some throw away shows that are entertaining while I'm crafting but don't take my attention away from the task at hand. The great thing about only having 7 or 8 channels (in English, there are about 12 more in Spanish and I think Japanese) is your done channel surfing in about 30 seconds. Then you're either watching something you like or the tv's off.
Now, all of this being said, I really do like to be entertained while I am crafting. While we're working and I only have the weekends to make stuff I listen to NPR non-stop. But now we're on hiatus and I have a lot of time to be entertained while I'm sewing. So, we've put our pinky toes into the pool of 21st century entertainment and joined Netflix! I spent a wonderful Sunday watching "Anne of Green Gables" (sigh) and working on this:
Harv's very very belated Valentine's gift. It's an Empire Strikes Back quilt, made out of a vintage sheet that we bought at the Rose Bowl flea market a couple of weeks ago.
So along with this discovery I made at this lovely blog, I am going to be up to my eyeballs in craft inducive entertainment. Perhaps this quilt could even be finished before March!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Lillian Stuck

I painted a painting! I had some acrylic paints out to paint some figures for another one of these and I was inspired to paint something a little more fun and interesting (for me, no offense Harv).This is based on an idea that I had a while ago. I love cats (obviously) and I love images of stylized cats that are more like big blobs than really animals. Cats really are very good at contorting themselves into tiny little legless balls or big fat blobs with paws and eyes. This painting is Lilly, stuck in some sort of tube, maybe a chimney. I like to think of cats as big masses of fluff that can change shape and be stuffed into different containers. I really like how this painting turned out. I don't know if I'll paint cats stuck in other things or more like this. I like how she's just on display but doesn't really care. Very much like the real Lilly.

Birthday Wrap-Up

Some handmade birthday gifts I recieved last week:
First, this lovely afghan knit by my mom. I suggested the color and she chose the pattern because there was a cat laying on the afghan in the picture. That works for me!
She's been on a big knitting kick lately. By big knitting I mean super chunky yarn on huge needles. This is her third afghan in about two months! I love the look of cables and other patterns worked in a big gauge like this.Next, these personallized nesting dolls painted by my friend Melissa! I was so excited to get these. It was so much fun opening them up for the first time. She really did a great job of picking out different themes that I would like. The first three even look like me! The first one is sewing, the second singing, the third holding a bunch of flowers, the fourth is a cute little owl (there are so many adorable, stylized owls and birds out there that I have developed a little obsession) and the last is a little Lillian! This one is by far my favorite. She's wearing a tiny babushka with fish bones all over it! So cute. The good news for those of you who I'm sure are very jealous of these dolls is that you can order your very own personalized set! Here at Melissa's Etsy shop you can order a set and give her all of the information she needs to paint them up for you or someone you think is in need of such a sweet gift.
Mine are great. We had a small game night to celebrate my birthday with a few close friends and the various dolls were employed as mascots and good luck charms. The Lillian was by far the most coveted. I insisted that she stay by me and help my team but Harv kept swiping her when I wasn't looking.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Coldest Tasting Beer

We are a Miller family. Harv has decreed that Miller Lite is our beer of choice and I'm pretty okay with that. There are other beers that I may prefer but they're not light beers and you know, every little bit helps. If I'm going to settle into bed with a six pack there may as well be a lower number of carbs in that six pack than in any other six pack that I could be drinking.
While you can usually find at least a few cans of Miller Lite in our fridge, more often than not there is also some Coors Light. I know, the horror! This is not for us but for our friends, siblings Eric and Jenny Towner, who hail from the land of the Rockies and come over often to play Nintendo, sing karaoke and drink beer. What kind of hosts would we be if we tried to force our light beer onto people who were raised on a different light beer?
You may know that Coors Light is the self-proclaimed "coldest tasting beer". I know, this makes no sense. Nonetheless, one needs something to protect one's hands from that cold, cold aluminum can. And heaven-forbid that "frost-brew liner" should fail, you need a failsafe to keep your precious beer cold! Enter the Coors Light Cozy, Eric's secret Santa gift, made by me. It has the added bonus of disguising a non-cold tasting beer if no Coors is available.
To make the can, figured out my gauge and using this handy tool I printed out some knitter's graph paper. I then taped the graph paper to a Coors Light can and used colored pencils to color in the predominant color of each square. I measured the height and circumference of the can to calculate how many stitches to cast on and how many rows it would be and I was off! I knit it as a rectangle and then sewed the two short sides together. I had planned on putting a bottom on the cozy but because I started at the bottom and I cast on somewhat tightly, it naturally curved around the bottom of the can, making a nice little lip for the can to sit on.

This is one of several Christmas gifts I made and never blogged about...very stinky of me. I think that I may catch up someday. I really want to be a vigilant blogger. I think sharing crafts is always good, regardless when the crafts were completed.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Beginnings of Romance

Our bedroom has always been the most awful room in any house we've lived in. I have a feeling that we're not alone in this. No one ever sees your bedroom so it's easy to put all of your efforts and moolah into the rest of your house. Ours has always been a dumping ground...not only for messes that we need to quickly hide before company arrives but also for furniture that has no other home. In Connecticut we had a fairly large bedroom with room for a large couch, an arm chair and an entertainment center with no TV, in addition to our regular bedroom furniture. We called it "the place that furniture goes to die."
I've wanted for some time now to whip our bedroom into shape but I had no really plan to motivate me into action. Then I stumbled upon the blog of Alicia Paulson, Posie Gets Cozy. She has so many wonderful pictures of her house, all so sweet and colorful with a feeling of romance throughout. As I was browsing through her archives, it dawned on me: "This should be our bedroom!"
I am very excited about this idea. I don't have a fully formed vision of the room but I think that the nature of this style allows for a sort of piecemeal gathering of items. I'm in no hurry, I'm just excited to be on the right path to a beautiful new room. I also really believe that it's better to slowly fill your home with things that you really love rather than rushing out to fill every possible space with coordinating, soulless knick-knacks.
So with romance in mind we found a few small items at the Rose Bowl flea market last Sunday.
Number one: this amazing vintage hand sewn quilt! I love love love it. I'm not always crazy about traditional quilt patterns but whoever chose these fabrics was some kind of old timey genius! I just love the colors in this quilt. The deeper pinks and reds give it so much vibrancy and life. Very gutsy choices, I think. Plus there are so many great fabrics in there. I wish that I had them to work with. I don't quite know what we'll do with this quilt. It won't be on the bed, don't worry. We need some sort of open quilt storage for this and for the quilts Harv's mom made us (also in perfect romantic colors).
Number two: This sweet pink glass lamp. It doesn't have a shade. I'm thinking of embellishing one with Victorian images of birds or something. I bought two cds of Victorian ephemera on EBay awhile ago that have hundreds of great images.
And last, not from the flea market, two flowered sheets that I bought at an estate sale. From an idea in "Mason-Dixon Knitting" I ripped each sheet into one loooong 1 inch strip and wound them into balls. I am knitting two striped rugs to go on either side of our bed. The book suggests using size 15 needles but I'm using size 19. It's very satisfying. The rugs are all stockinette stitch and they are very squashy. I can't wait to sink my tootsies into one every morning.
I wanted to do a random stripe pattern but I have learned through experience that it is often better to plan out a pattern that looks random than to just wing it and actually be random. I don't think that the human brain can ever be totally random. At least mine can't. It's very difficult to shake all of that logic out. So what I am using randomly generated stripes from this little gadget. If you've never used this try it! It's amazing how fun it is! You can make as many random stripe patterns as you want until you see something that you like! It seems so simple but making different color combinations can be truly mesmerizing.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

...and boy are my arms tired!

Tuesday, February 13 was my birthday. It was a very great birthday. Harv and I had stayed up very very late the night before playing games (my new favorite), singing karaoke and drinking wine and "Kokoszka Sunrises" with friends so we slept in verrrrry late. We then had a delicious lunch at The Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga Canyon, went home for a little gifting and then took the Metro (my first time!) to see "Wicked" in Hollywood! Harv gave me some fun treats that he got at the Bazaar Bizarre way back in December and...a Nintendo Wii! Wii is right! That is exactly what you say when you are playing it.
Does this have anything to do with crafting? Yes, of course! This system is so fun, it is life-sucking, dangerously fun. It is so fun that once you start playing you don't want to stop to do anything else, even MAKE STUFF!
However! All is not lost. For me at least, the Wii has a sort of built in mechnism that prevents me from playing my life away: you actually have to move around and exercise! I do not workout (please ignore the fact that I have a gym membership) and I think that I am pretty high on the weak and puny spectrum so I physically cannot play the Wii more than I should. For example, Harv and I spent a very romantic day yesterday playing Wii tennis and shooting rabid bunnies with plungers and I cannot ever express how sore I am today! Every inch of my arms plus my shoulders and my upper back are on fire!
So, it seems I have no choice but to work on the extra-special valentine's quilt I am making for Harv. (Late, of course...I think he's okay with it.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Apron and Mitt

Well, I've accidentally made something for myself.
I intended to make this apron and oven mitt for a friend but decided after they were finished that these colors just don't suit said friend. I was inspired by these orange pom-poms that I had. In hindsight, I don't really think my friend is such an orange person, nor a pom-pom person. So, I'm keeping them for myself and making another set in more fitting colors.
The patterns are from "Denyse Schmidt Quilts", my A-#1 favorite quilt book. I love the way they look. I cook a lot but I have never worn an apron. I must admit that I feel totally cool when I cook in this. It's like a time to cook uniform.
Unfortunately the oven mitt is not quite as functional as it should be. The pattern just calls for one layer of batting and I used two but it is still isn't quite thick enough. And it was really difficult to sew through all of the layers plus the pom-poms. Since the next one I'm making won't have pom-poms I should be able to add another layer of batting. I don't want to burn any hands!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Done and done.

Hooray! It is done:
A quilt for someone. I can't say who just yet. It has actually been done for almost a week but I didn't take pictures of it until today. Now I need to get myself to FedEx and ship this baby off.
As I mentioned before, this quilt was inspired by this design on the Denyse Schmidt website. The design takes full advantage of the two things I love most about DSQ: #1, irregularity and the appearance of randomness in shapes and placement and #2, the use of a neutral color as a background as opposed to an all over design. And now that I'm on the subject I've thought of another: #3, choosing a very high percentage of solid fabrics over patterned ones. I really love the clean, modern look that you can achieve this way. It makes the design really prominent and also makes the few patterns that you do use really stand out. For this quilt I used all solids except for one plaid for some of the stripes and a flowered vintage-looking print for the backing.
The design isn't totally random. I tried to work out how many stripes of each color I would need and in which widths and lengths to keep it somewhat balanced. I used the same number of each on either side and simply laid them out randomly on the floor along with white strips of different widths. I rearranged one or two stripes but was quite happy with my initial "random" layouts.

Yesterday was my last day of work until Robot Chicken Season 3 starts up in 2 months and I plan to be sewing like crazy! I also hope to be more diligent about blogging all of my crafty endeavors. Next up: another Denyse Schmidt something for another secret someone!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Oh My...

What an errant blogger I have been.
Well here is a recent near-flop. I attempted to make a "cat tube" loosely based on a pattern from Amy Butler's In Stitches. Actually, it is loosely based on the picture in the book, not the pattern. I don't actually own the book. Oops. I guess as punishment for not buying the book, our cats refuse to use the tube. See how they are repelled by it.I was considering taking it apart and making a cat pillow using the fur lining for one side and the outer shell as the other. But then this happened:I put it on this chair and Stabone has started laying on it every night! He sleeps on it so much that Lilly has started to lay on it just to spite him! She does that sort of thing sometimes. She likes to take things away from Stabone.
So I'm not sure if I will take it apart because they are using it afterall and I'm afraid that they might stop if it is altered. There is also the fear that Stabone will do with it what he used to do to a large pillow I made for Lillian a while ago. I won't write here what he did, but it's not pretty.