30 January 2011

dishcloths and home love

Here is the product of a couple weeks of (admittedly quite intermittent) knitting. Three dishcloths. I think this will more than sate the vague, once-yearly yarn cravings that descend on me each winter. I'm glad I picked such a small project this year, as it is one of the few I have actually finished. I have a whole basket of in-progress projects that have been "in-progress" for about five years. For some reason, knitting and crocheting doesn't seem to hold my attention for very long, though that may well be because I have never concentrated on it for more than about three weeks every January.

For these dishcloths, I used this pattern by Deb of Homespun Living. It was a fun pattern to knit, nothing complicated. I love the texture created by the knits and purls, and I am very proud of my stripes.

Around the same time I was knitting, I was re-reading Little Women. (Beth died. Again! sigh.) One passage in particular struck me this time as I read it. It's just before Meg's wedding, and all the sisters are working to get Meg's new house ready for the married couple. Amy drapes the curtains, Jo stocks the pantry, and Beth makes a stack of dishcloths, among other things.

"People who hire all these things done for them never know what they lose, for the homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them, and Meg found so many proofs of this that everything in her small nest, from the kitchen roller to the silver vase on her parlor table, was eloquent of home love and tender forethought."

I like that very much. That's why I make things. These dishcloths, humble and wonky though they may be, are indeed eloquent of home love.

24 January 2011

another happy window

The new kitchen curtains get a cheerful embroidered gingham. These are done with a chicken-scratch pattern that is in Alicia's new book. I'd never done this type of cross-stitch before, but it is way fun, and so easy. Especially when you use a giant gingham like I did.

And here they are in place. The curtains are simple panels on a suspension rod. I gave them a deep hem, then embroidered the pattern along the hem. (Confession: I've only actually embroidered one of the panels so far...I ran out of white embroidery thread. But this is such a fun project that I know I will come back to it for some highly-satisfying tv-watching/embroidering time.)

We are painting the kitchen AQUA. Here's our sample painted on the left. What do you think? It is AQUA. It's a tiny kitchen, so there is not really much wall space. We're adding a white subway tile backsplash behind the counters, so we'll really only have two short walls that are painted AQUA. All the men in my life are telling me to GO BOLD AND FEAR NOT, so we're going with AQUA. I think it's going to be way cool. I'll need some more red accents, methinks.

20 January 2011

happy window

We have a long wish list for our bathroom. And though I dream of hexagon tile and retro light fixtures and claw-foot tubs, renovations are likely many years away. But one small cosmetic update is making me very happy right now: a fabric-covered window.

One of the best features of our house is the windows. They're all original to the house, so they're nearing 100 years old. They're beautiful. A few years ago, the previous owner of the house installed wooden blinds on the interior of every single window. I have a love/hate relationship with these blinds. They look nice. They're easy to use. I'm sure they weren't cheap. BUT, they cover up the windows! Especially the top, which is the best part. The blinds get dusty and they just seem so heavy visually.

So I am slowly liberating my windows. For the bathroom window, I applied starched fabric directly to the glass. I've seen this method floating around the blogs, and Melissa has a nice explanation of how she did it. It's surprisingly easy. I just used a can of heavy spray starch and cut the fabric carefully to fit.

The fabric is a very cheap swiss dot cotton that I bought for about $4 at Joann's. The dot pattern is subtle but provides just enough interest.

And the best part is that the window lets in so much more light now! Our bathroom is no longer dark and gloomy, it's filled with the most lovely diffused sunlight.

Matt laughed because I insisted on cutting tiny pieces of fabric to fit in the triangular spaces at the top of the window. But how could I resist?

17 January 2011

and a girl shirt for me

I'm trying to channel spring. I think it's working because we've got drizzle rather than snow on this gloomy afternoon. Huzzah! We've had milder temperatures all weekend so today I actually went outside and planted some bulbs. I got a whiff of earth and my brain said "SPRING." Not yet, but it did feel good to dig in the ground for a few minutes.

Anyhoo, this is my first practice muslin for the shirt that will be Liberty. My Mom got me a length of Liberty for Christmas and I've decided it will be a light summer shirt with a ruffle collar. I say this is my "first" practice muslin because I'm not quite happy with it yet. For this one, I used the shirt pattern from the Built by Wendy book, which is a great pattern and comes together easily. I've made this shirt before, here and here.

One of Wendy's many suggestions for variations is the ruffle collar, which I love. LOVE.

I wanted a cap sleeve, so I used the sleeve from another pattern (this one) and stuck it on. I used a bias binding to finish the sleeve, which made for a crisp edge and nice shape.

So the collar and the sleeve are a go. It's the bodice that I am not happy with yet. I want to do something a little more like a tunic, with buttons that only go down halfway. Like this, maybe. Though that placket looks tricky and I can't really get my brain around that. I also want to nix all the darts so I'll have a more modern, straight cut.

Oh, as I was wandering around for inspiration I saw this on Anthropologie. (click on the blue color...see? oooooooh.)

I'll keep thinking. If anyone has half-placket/no-dart/tunic advice, please chime in!

13 January 2011

man shirt

I made a man shirt! It's really not all that different from a woman shirt, is it? Except bigger and with the buttons on the wrong side. I can do that. I used McCall's 6044 which is a nice, straightforward pattern. The fabric is a soft cotton flannel that is very cozy.

I put all the doodads on, including flap pockets and front and back yokes. I cut the back yoke on the bias but forgot to do it in the front. I don't think anyone will notice.

Sadly, I hemmed the shirt a little too short. It seemed worst on the sides where the shirttail hem rises up, so I put little denim bits on the sides. It was actually Matt's idea to use the contrasting denim. You see why I married him? I know.

Handstand approved. I have already picked out a nice soft baby corduroy for the next version of this shirt. I guess "fine-wale corduroy" is a preferable term for a man shirt. As it is a most manly man shirt.

11 January 2011

more snow.

It's been one of the snowiest, coldest winters on record here. Frankly, I am not digging it so much. I didn't move to the south to delight in moody gray skies, make charming snow angels, or wear three layers of wool at one time. I moved here to broil under the sun and sweat through long still evenings with humidity so thick you feel you are swimming. Oh, August, no one appreciates you as I do.

Winter can be pretty. I guess. eh.

There have, of course, been some highlights. Sledding with my entire family the day after Christmas is one. I don't think I'd been sledding in about 15 years. I'd forgotten how fun it is. Hmm. I feel like there have been other highlights. None are coming to mind right now though.

I've taken up knitting as that feels appropriate. I'm not very good at knitting. (How in God's name are you supposed to NOT use your index finger to lift your source needle over your working needle? I don't understand. My index finger hurts like heck though.) I got a Penguin Classics edition of Little Women for Christmas--one of the beautiful ones with the cover by Coralie Bickford-Smith--and I have been reading that to comfort myself. Marmee would not have approved of my self-indulgent complaining, would she? She would lovingly remind me that cold weather is fortifying to the constitution and that hardship strengthens our characters. Marmees are always right.

Stay warm, friends.

09 January 2011

lucky me

I got a cuckoo clock for Christmas! It has a very satisfying tick-tocking sound and the little bird pops out on the hour and half-hour to sing his cuckoos. He cuckoos in this charmingly manic, breathless kind of way, as if he can't wait to get all his cuckoos out.

A little St. Bernard guards the house.

We hung it up in the living room right next to the front door. He sits up high on the wall to accommodate his long chains. I'm still trying to get in the habit of winding the clock every day, but I do notice now when the ticking sound is missing. It's a very companionable kind of clock. Some women dream of diamonds, I dream of cuckoo clocks. And I am awfully lucky to have a husband who understands me so well.

My mom got us this beautiful tapas set made by Jo Lydia and Ian Craven, friends of hers who work in the mountains of Virginia. Their studio is called Craven Studio, and they make beautiful handbuilt porcelain, everything from vases to dinnerware.

This set is extra special because the design on the porcelain is actually an impression of the lace from my wedding dress (which was also my mother's dress). Although the porcelain appears so delicate, Mom tells me it is actually very sturdy. I just love the colors she chose and how beautiful the lace impression is. I'll have to come up with some hors d-oeuvres recipes worthy of this set. Nachos and buffalo wings aren't going to cut it, I don't think.

handmade gift roundup: potholders

I raided my scrap box for these potholders. I made 8 of them in all for friends and coworkers.

These were very much inspired by the potholder Erin made recently. Except hers has lovely quilting and mine do not. I used two layers of cotton batting with another layer of heavy canvas in the middle, and I worried that quilting such a fat sandwich could be disastrous. So I just edge-stitched these after turning them out and left it at that.

I also did two pairs which I quilted crossways then added binding which I finished by hand.

And that's the end of my roundup. All simple projects, but fun to make. I want to show you a couple of the gifts I received too, so I'll be back with more on that this afternoon.

07 January 2011

handmade gift roundup: dog collars

The dogs got Christmas collars. Of course, the dogs aren't really interested in any gifts that aren't either a) edible or b) chase-able. But they do look so sweet--and I think they knew when I put them on that these were special collars. (don't laugh--I really do think they knew the difference! ok, you can laugh. I'll admit, I've become a little dog-crazy. They're just such sweet, loyal, and joyful companions. sigh.)

This project was much easier than I had anticipated. I bought cotton webbing from Joann's and used some of the ribbon that I bought at M&J on our trip to NYC. I attached the ribbon to the webbing with a running stitch down each side of the ribbon (folding the ribbon over the ends of the webbing to prevent fraying).

I bought two $2 collars from the grocery store instead of tracking down the collar hardware, which ended up being cheaper and easier. I cut the nylon webbing off the store-bought collars and reused the hardware with my be-ribboned cotton webbing. It was way easy.

In case you are wondering what has captured Abby's attention so strongly in the bottom picture, it's almost certainly a squirrel. She just wants to catch one so darn much. We laugh because we can just imagine if Abby could speak, her daily dialogue would run something like this, "GUYS! GUYS! THERE'S ANOTHER SQUIRREL!!!! AND HE'S RUNNING UP AND DOWN AND UP AND DOWN AND YOU GOTTA LET ME OUT RIGHT NOW! WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT THAT COMPUTER WHEN THERE IS A SQUIRREL RIGHT THERE! AGGHHHHHHHHHH! HE'S TAKING OUR ACORNS, MAN! WE GOTTA STOP HIM!! PLEASE LET ME OUT PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE. AGGGHHHHHHHH!!! SQUIRREL! ARE YOU NOT SEEING THIS?? SQUIIIRRRRREELLLLLLLLLL!"

05 January 2011

handmade gift roundup: kindle cozy

For Matt's mom, I made a little cozy for her Kindle. I found this lovely tropical bird print in my scraps bag and it just seemed perfect. A little summer-y and very cheerful. I paired it with linen and used a turquoise cotton inside.

I contemplated all kinds of complicated features for the case, but decided on a simple sleeve. This ended up being a good choice, since Joan prefers to read her Kindle in the buff (hee--I mean the Kindle is naked, not Joan). So she really just needs something to keep it protected when stowed away in her purse. One layer of cotton batting gives it a little softness and extra protection.

A simple elastic band and vintage button keeps the Kindle in its cozy. Simple is good. :)

02 January 2011

handmade gift roundup: hankies for papa

For Matt's Grandpa ("Papa"), I wanted to make monogrammed handkerchiefs. I had embroidered some similar hankies for Matt last year and I wasn't very happy with how they turned out. The fabric is so fine that I find it difficult to embroider on, and when they come out of the laundry the letters are even more wrinkly than the rest of the handkerchief (which is quite wrinkly).

So I decided to try using fusible interfacing to attach fabric letters. I printed out some letters I liked, transferred them onto the interfacing, and cut them out very very carefully. A sharp x-acto was very handy.

I'm not entirely confident that these will hold up over many washings, but I will be interested to see. I am happy with the way they look, in any event.

Hope your New Year is starting out very fine. Mine has been lovely. :)