If you want to sing out, sing out, and if you want to be free, be free, cause there's a million ways to be, you know that there are.
--Cat Stevens

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Wingspan, a hat and tapestry crochet

I have been seeing so many great knitting projects lately that I decided it was time for me to start practicing my knitting again.   I was particular inspired by all the beautiful Wingspan's I have seen lately.  So this morning I cast on for one of my own.

I am working a lacy spring hat for a little girl--It is is nearly done I just want to add some embellishments.

Last week I posted the crochet chart I did for an afghan for my sister--This week I have tried to start crocheting it.

It seems that I need to do some more research and practice on tapestry crochet in the flat because it looks terrible and is backwards.

The chest is completely stained.  Now we only need to coat it in polyurethane and touch up the metal.
Yes this is the same pic from last week.  You'll have to trust me when I say it's completely stained.

I haven't worked on my buttons at all this week.
As for reading I have started reading L'Alchemiste: Les Secrets de l'immortel by Michael Scott and translated to french by Frederique Fraisse to help me in my quest to learn French.  It's slow going and Pat has had to help me a lot but I feel like I've learned a lot.
 What have you been working on this week?  Come and visit Tamis AmisAmbassador crochetFrontier Dreams or Ginny's Yarn Along to join in the fun.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Birthday Cake Suprise

Here is my beautiful gluten free birthday cake.  I have made this recipe a million times before.  Its a great cake. This time we also splurged and made German buttercream frosting.  It was the best frosting I've ever had.

But it seems that somewhere along the way I screwed up.  We sliced it up after dinner tonight.  I took a great big bite and it turned into a grimace.  It tastes like baking soda.  I choked down about half a slice before scraping off the frosting and leaving the cake behind.  Pat on the other hand decided to eat his whole slice and now tells me that the cake is trying to make him explode.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

WIP Wednesday: hats, buttons and more

Since last week was Knit Crochet Design Week I didn't do my WIP Wednesday post.  This week I am back to regularly scheduled programming and ready to show you what's been keeping me busy.

Chart for Mel's afghan:

The chart is pretty much done.  Now I need to test it.

A second Elephant Hat:
This elephant has a 14 inch circumference and so will fit babies with a a 15-17 inch head ( around 3-9 months)

IT will probably done for Friday so you can see it.

Hat for Me:

I am kind of free forming a beret style hat for my self.
I am probably going to have to pull back quite a ways and try again because I think the band is going to be too small.

Steamer Chest:
I was hoping that this would be done by Friday so I could reclaim my dining room but I am not sure that's going to happen.  We've had some set backs on it as well.  

Buttons are so much fun.  I have been experimenting with different finishes and painting.  If I have time to seal them some of these may be ready for Friday.  These are pretty simple but I am considering a tutorial on how to make them.  Would any of you be interested?

These little  people are super cute but I am not sure how I'll be able to attach them 
without obscuring the faces

I usually listen to  various audio books while crochet and doing other work around the house so I am always reading or listening to something.  This week it has been  Broken by Kelley Armstrong and Every Which Way but Dead by Kim Harrison.

As a huge fan of urban fantasy I would recommend both series wholeheartedly but recommend you read them in order ( unless you're like me and read them in whatever order you can get them from the library).  Reading them out of order is not too bad but has left a few strange gaps in the story line as hop around.

Broken is book 6 in Kelly Armstrong's  Women of the Otherworld Series.  I have read most of the other books and of the two series this is by far the easier to read out of order.  Broken opens with Elena Michaels, the world's only female werewolf about 6 weeks pregnant.  The reader gets to follow along her crazy pregnancy as she deals with the pressure of changing into a wolf bi-weekly, terrifying nightmares, overprotective pack-mates and many more pregnancy issues.  As the story progresses a Elena accidentally opens a dimensional portal near downtown Toronto and has to deal with a rogue, sorcerer, dimensional zombies, and figuring out how to close the portal.  What I especially love about these books is that Kelley's female characters are neither so buff and independent that they seem like Superman, neither are they wimpy, ditzy, silly girls that either excell by pure luck  ( think Stephanie Plum) nor do they constantly need rescuing ( like Cassandra Palmer).  I love the way Armstrong portrays all of the character's as strong individual made better by teamwork.
Every Which Way But Dead is book 3 in Kim Harrison's  Hallows Series.  The Hallows series features Rachel Mariana Morgan, smart, sexy, powerful witch who always seems to get herself into a ton of trouble just trying to survive and protect her friends.  Book 3 opens just after Rachel has made a deal with a demon to help put Cincinnati's master vampire behind bars for murder.  Rachel manages to become the demon's familiar, break the familiar bond, get pulled in the demon ream The Everafter, and escape, with each twist of the plot simultaneously getting her out of immediate trouble and causing even more long-term damage to both her reputation and her ability to live a normal life.
 What have you been working on this week?  Come and visit Tamis Amis, Ambassador crochet, Frontier Dreams or Ginny's Yarn Along to join in the fun.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Breakfast Rolls

My husband Pat,  works 12 hour shifts and has to leave at o'dark thirty in the morning.  Neither of us are morning people so that means that he leaves before I get out of bed and often doesn't get out of bed until a few minutes until he has to leave.  This means that despite having, cereal, oatmeal, eggs, etc in the house he doesn't usually eat breakfast.
I am wheat intolerant and follow a gluten free diet but, Pat is a carbovore and would never be able to survive without bread, so every two to three weeks I bake him about four loaves of bread.  This is cheaper and probably healthier than the alternative of buying bread.  Last time I was making bread I had an epiphany.  I could simply make an extra batch of bread and make rolls stuffed with various fillings for him to microwave in the morning and eat in the car on his way to work.
Now like all great ideas this was not quite as simple as it sounded in my head. I spent a majority of my day making these , but I think I have a much better idea of how to streamline the process and make faster and less labour intesive.  Most importantly I would suggest making up all your fillings first--preferably on the previous day.

 It was a lot of work, and I don't particularly like cooking all day for something I can't even taste.  I worry about whether it will turn out great, plus the scent of fresh baking bread is a tempting reminder of something I can't have.  But it was all worth it to me when I saw the smile on Pat's face after I had him taste test my first batch.  He doesn't smile much so a smile is a ringing endorsement of yumminess.

This is a pretty simple bread recipe that rises quickly, it makes 4 loaves of bread. I usually make bread that is about 3/4 whole wheat flour but in this case I wanted the rolls to be soft yummy and easy to roll out so there is only enough whole wheat flour to add a bit of flavor and color to the dough.  You can fill these with just about anything you want but I wanted to use whatever I had on had so I did Sauted veggies, Sauted Veggies w/ a bit of ground pork, Apple Pie filling ( with fresh apples),  Cinnamon and sugar, and cinnamon sugar + peanut butter.
How to make Breakfast Rolls:
Bread Dough:
  • 4 cups warm water (95-105 degrees Fahrenheit)  I test the warmth by running tap water over my wrist until it feels just barely warmer than my skin
  • 3 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 8 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons dough enhancer ( optional)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 5-7 cups all purpose flour

Veggie and Meat Fillings:
  • 2 medium carrots grated
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3 mushrooms ( would have used more but that what I had)
  • 2 stalks of celery finely sliced
  • 1/4 head of cabbage diced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • your favorite herbs and seasonings:  I used Garlic powder, basil, rosemary, thyme, and celery salt
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
Apple pie filling
  • 3 apples cored and chopped
  • dash of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
Cinnamon Sugar/Peanut Butter cinnamon sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Peanut butter ( optional)

Make the Fillings
Veggie/meat filling:   This amount of veggies makes enough for more than one loaf of bread but not quite 2 loaves so after filling  and shaping the dough from the first loaf,  I browned half a pound of ground prok and added to the remaining veggies and used it to fill the rolls shaped from the second loaf. Put oil in a large skillet or sauce pan and heat  on low heat until oil is warmed. Add veggies and seasonings and cook stirring occasionally until veggies are al dente.  Remove veggies from pan and set aside.  Brown ground pork.  Set aside.

Apple pie filling:  This was enough to fill only 6 rolls.   I also would recommend waiting to add the sugar until just before ready to assemble, as the apples will make water once you add the sugar Mix all the ingredients together and set aside.

Cinnamon Sugar/Peanut Butter Cinnamon Sugar:  I made 4 without peanut butter then added the peanut butter and a little more cinnamon sugar to the mix and made 3 or 4 more.  I had 3 unfilled rolls leftover.  Mix all the ingredients except peanut butter together in a small bowl.   It should be a thick paste and just a little bit crumbly.  Add the peanut butter, if you want.  it will look similar but hold together a little better.

Mix up Bread Dough:
Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the warm water.  Let sit for a up to 5 minute or until the water is foamy.  Stir in Sugar, salt, oil, dough enhancer and wheat flour.  Add the rest of water and stir in the all purpose flour 1-2 cups at a time until it forms a smooth soft dough that is not too sticky.  I usually use my hands to mix in the last cup of flour or so.  Cover the dough and let rise for 20-30 mins or until dough is doubled.

Knead the dough until smooth  and pliable.  Divide into four section and put 3 of the pieces into ziplock bags.  Put the bags in the fridge to retard the rising.

Assemble the  Rolls:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Divide the dough into eight pieces.  Roll a piece into a flat round circle about 1/8th of an inch thick.  Place 1/3-1/2 cup of filling on one half of the circle. Use a pastry brush to brush a bit of water over the edge of the dough to help it seal, and fold the other half up and over the filling.  Press the seal down with your fingers and then crimp it closed. Place on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Repeat until all the pieces are filled.  Bake for 25-30 minute or until golden brown and the dough is completely cooked through.  Cool on a rack.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Design Week Day 6: Destined for my shop

It's Day 6 of crochet design week and I have one sample hat done.
Newborn size elephant hat
  I have a goal of opening an etsy shop by end of May and these Elephant hats are destined to be one of my first patterns.  Eventually I would like to release it as a pdf pattern but it will probably be a few months before I am ready to do that.

To get this hat ready for my shop I need to:
Figure out how to fix the jogging stripe in the trunk
Make up samples in the other sizes
Try some different eye styles
Get outside and take a bunch of good pics  ( preferably with models)

I have really enjoyed this week.  It has been challenging, interesting, fun.  I have met a bunch of great people who love the same things  I do, and I have learned a lot.  Working on this elephant from start to ( not quite) finish in just one week has been a crazy process but I think it's been really good learning process for me.
Come and visit FreshStitches to see what all the other designers are done.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Design Week Day 4: Progress!

I am excited about today.  Today we get to see how everyone is progressing on their patterns which at least for me means Pictures!!!  Though I have to apologize these are not super pics because I live in a basement and it is raining this morning so I have crappy light.  Plus when I turned my camera on this morning and realized it was dying.    I will probably take some more pictures when I have more battery and more sun.
The ears were the hardest part for me, and I knew proportions were going to be a possible issue so I started 
by making a 3-6 month size hat( one the right The light blue one) and figuring out how to shape the ear.  I had to pull out that first ear a number of times because I didn't like it( more on that tomorrow).  After coming up with an ear shape I liked I measured and tweaked and prodded and laid it out and decided that it was a bit too small for the hat.   I also discovered that I probably don't have enough light blue scrap yarn to make two ears and a trunk so I am not sure if I'll finish that sample.

I also made a newborn size hat in what little Knit One Crochet Too Cotonade I have.  I made the overall hat smaller ( 12 inch circumference and 4 1/2 inches high) and made the ear larger.  I was going to make at least one sample with the inner ears colored and I knew that I probably didn't hat quite enough yarn.  I also made the ear slightly larger than the previous ear I had made.  I think that coloring is perfect.  And I am pretty sure I like the size of the ear.

The next photo shows the relationship in length and width of the ear to the size of the hat.  You can see that the round portion of the ear matches up almost exact with the beginning of the crown and the overall length is about 1/4 inch longer than the hat.   This picture and these measurements will be invaluable as I am making the other sizes of hats.

 I wrote down my basic pattern in pencil in my sketchbook as I was working, along with a basic diagram on how the ear goes together.

Come and join us at FreshStitches to see what everyone else is up to.

Design Week day 5: Problems

Today for Design Week we are talking about problems we have had while designing our projects.

The hardest part of this project has been by far the ears.  I wanted my ears to actually look like elephant ears.   I have seen plushies with round ears, oval ears or even rectangular ears. Early this week I sat down with my sketches, a crochet hook and some scarp yarn and started trying to figure out to shape elephant ears.  I initially thought that I would start with an oval and add the shaping form there.  After several attempts and I had a pile of oddly shaped curly bits sitting next to me on the couch.  That's when I knew I was going about it wrong.  I tried making two circles, sewing them together and the crocheting around them.  I ended up with a an ear far too peanut shaped for my liking.  All of a sudden it occurred to me that I already knew exactly how to make the ears, it was a technique I used for several of the animals on Noah's Ark.  I needed to start a circle and after it got the the appropriate size turn and begin working flat.  As soon as I realized that I quickly hat ears worked up, that looked great.

As I mentioned on Wednesday,  I am having minor  yarn issues.   I did more research and discovered Bernat Cottontots is very similar to the Cottonade I had wanted but that they only do "baby colors".  Which means no grey or black or brights--Silly manufacturers who says babies have to wear pink and blue and only measly pastels. I decide to order the Knitpicks Brava and try it out for this pattern.  I have heard some really good things about it, its easy to find, washable and it fits in my budget.  I'll lose the lovely texture of the Cottonade, though.

To see what  the other designers are doing today visit FreshStiches.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Design Week Day 3: Yarn Troubles

I have a very specific set of things I was looking for in a yarn for this project:

  • A medium-heavy worsted weight--  for working up quickly and ease of substitution
  • Color-- I would like to use a yarn that's available in a variety of colors so I can easily do custom orders--but I especially want the yarn to have a great shade of light grey
  • Availability and cost--I want a yarn that I can find easily either online or in my LYS and that is relatively inexpensive
  • Wahsability--Here I am not sure and might need some input.  I know hats don't need super frequent washing and are pretty easy to hand wash.  But I am planning to make sizes baby-child eventually.  I know that many parents are overwhelmed and will probably prefer to be able to just throw the hat in the washing machine.

I have had a yarn in mind for my elephant since I came up with the idea,  Knit One, Crochet Too Cotonade in Stone. I had some my stash and it has a lovely texture that I thought would be nice for the elephant.
I have run into a major snag. It's been discontinued, and I have less in my stash that I originally thought.  I also realized that while it's machine washable it has to be laid flat to dry.

I am thinking of switching to using Knitpicks Brava, mostly because it's inexpensive and easily available.  I don't love acrylic though, and  I would need  to order me which means I won't be able to finish up a sample this week :(.  I don't know, I have spent a lot of time and thought thinking about this and I am not sure what yarn to use.   I guess I need some input.  What yarn would you use?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Design Week Day 2: Techniques

My Elephant Hat will probably be appropriate for an advanced beginner or early intermediate level crocheter.

The pattern will require knowledge of several stitches and techniques. There are so many great resources on how to do all of these stitches already available.  I have decided to focus on just one techniques and give you some of my favorite links for the others.

Almost everything in this hat will be worked in the round. One of my favorite ways to start a round is the magic loop.  I learned about it about two years ago and I found it really difficult for a long time and often didn't use it because of that.  Somewhere along the line I all of a sudden realized how to do the magic loop and since then it has become one of my favorite ways to start a round. The magic loop is ideal for when you don't want a hole in the center of your crochet;  I find, though that it doesn't work as well for single crochet,  so if I am planning to work a round in single crochet I simply use Stacey's Sloppy Slip Knot.  If I am working in double crochet or half-double crochet as I will be for my Elephant hat I use the magic loop.
SO Now I think I will shut up and show you how to make the magic loop yourself.

How to Make a Magic Loop in Crochet
( disclaimer: I am very strongly right handed and cannot crochet left handed at all.  I apologize to those of you who might need a left handed tutorial.  Maybe I will teach my left handed husband and use him to do a lefty tutorial.)

Step one:  Wrap your yarn around your left index finger twice.  To do this hold your left hand parallel to the floor with the knuckle facing up, place the yarn between you index finger and middle finger.  Wrap the yarn towards you, over the knuckle an around the back of the finger twice.  Hold the tail between your left thumb and middle finger.

Step 2: With your right hand, Insert the hook from top to bottom, catch the second loop of yarn with you hook and pull it through the first loop.  You should now have what looks like a very loose slip knot wrapped around your left index finger and one loop on your hook.

inserting the hook and grabbing the yarn

after completing step 2
Step 3:While keeping the tail of the yarn secure between your middle finger and thumb, slide your hook under the working yarn ( the yarn that comes out of the ball).  Pull it through the loop on your hook just as you would when making a chain.

Starting the chain stitch

after the first chain is completed
 Step 4: Make as many chains as you need to reach the height of the stitches you will be using in the case I want to make one more chain to equal 2 chain to match the height of half-double crochet.  If you will are working in double make 3 chains, treble 4 etc.  These chains count as your first stitch.
My Magic loop ring after making the two chain stitches
Step 5:  At this point I put the tail and loop into my right with the hook and hold them while I set up the tension on my left hand.  I then transfer the ring and tail back the my left thumb and middle finger.

This is how I hold the yarn in my left hand.  Feel free to hold it however you are most comfortable.

With the tail and ring in my left hand
Step 6:  You can now start crocheting normally as you would in any circle.  In this case I want to do a half double crochet so I will, wrap my yarn around my hook from back to front, ( yarn over or yo) put my hook through the center of the ring, and yarn over again.   Pull the hook back out of the ring.  You will have 3 loops on the hook.  Yarn over and pull all three loops off.  Repeat this 8 more times or until you have the desired number of stitches .

3 loops on the hook

After completing my first half-double crochet

Step 7:  After you make the required number of stitches in the ring,  Garb the tail and pull in a smooth motion to tighten the circle.  You don't want to yank but you don't want to be too timid about it either you will want to pull fairly hard to make the center of your circle nice and tight.

10 half double crochet ( hdc) before pulling the ring closed.

after pulling the ring closed.
To see more of the designers participating this week visit Fresh Stitches.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Knit and Crochet Design Week Day One: Sketches

I don't really consider myself a designer.  I would like to be but I don't really think that I am one yet. I have "designed" a number of crochet things, including hats, diaper covers,  a turtle shell photo prop, and a baby dress.  The problem is I never write down what I do.   I also haven't really ever thought about an item I wanted to make and deliberately designed it from start to finish.  I usually think about what I want or look at a picture and then make the item.  Sometimes I have a few false starts before I get the item I want but usually  not many.   Since I got my designated designing sketch book less than a week ago,  I have used nearly 20 of the 100 pages  (both front and back).  I have learned a lot about myself, drawing, and designing just by working in my sketchbook.
It's taken me a while to decide what I am going to be working on this week but I think I have decided.
I have seen a number of elephant hats lately and I always like the idea.  But Every single elephant I look at has something I don't like about it. On most of the the ears are shaped wrong.  Many of them have mouse ears--just simple cupped Circles.  Some I've seen have square or oval ears.  A few have peanut shaped ears but many of them look squished, out of proportion or a bit like two cinnamon buns stuck together.  Some of them have weird trunks or their trunks are either too long or too small.  Some of them have out of proportion ears and some of the just look crosseyed or maybe I am just too picky.   But I thought I'd try my hand at making an elephant hat that will satisfy picky ol' me.

Need to talk about how I wasn't really happy with this pic and did more research especially focusing on ears.  Here are some of the pics that inspired me.

After reading, looking at pictures and thinking I did some more drawing.

I am much happier with the overall shaping in this sketch.

What are you working on?  Come and join us for Crochet Knit Design Week.