Love at First Stitch

Last month, P and I went on a trip to England. We did all sorts of fun things that maybe I’ll get around to talking about here some time, but one of my goals while I was there was to pick up Love at First Stitch, by Tilly Walnes.

I’d watched the first series of The Great British Sewing Bee on YouTube last year or whenever it came out, and thought she was just great. Then I heard she had a blog, so I added that to my Feedly list. Since I was following the blog now, I knew there was a book coming, and I was looking jealously at finished objects all over the web because it hasn’t been released in North America yet! That won’t happen until mid-October. But, as I was out there on a trip in June…. We stopped by the new Foyle’s flagship (which is a wonder unto itself) and I picked up a copy a few days before we left (hey, I wasn’t going to cart more books around than I needed to for 3 weeks!).

Now, I have sewn before. Most of the time, it ended in tears. The sewing machine I use was a Christmas gift when I was about 9. Mum was a big sewist, but I never really got into it – I wanted every other craft but. I even did some sewing in university – in class! Theatre degree, remember? You have to take at least some basic costume classes (the semester after that we nailed bits of wood together and practiced not cutting fingers off on the table saw in carpentry class).

I decided that maybe this summer was the summer I’d really do it, really sew things that I would actually wear. The book is so well laid out, that it walks you through from easy-peasy firstie projects to a hand-drafted skirt and a lined dress. I felt way too impatient, so I jumped in on the simpler dress in the book, Megan.

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I have fabric that I actually want this dress in, and some other fabric that I had earmarked ages ago for another project. I decided to use the leaf/frog print as my muslin, not only to test the fit, but to dust off the few rusty skills I have. The embarrassing thing about about the frog fabric? When I was writing this post, I flicked through the ‘Sewing’ archives on the blog and found I bought it in 2007. Jeez. The Irises are from last summer, so they’re almost new comparatively!

Anyway, blah blah blah I MADE A DRESS. IT FITS. IT HAS AN INVISIBLE ZIP. (DON’T LOOK TOO CLOSELY AT THE BUM. That end of the zip is hard to do).

Explorer Dress!

Explorer Dress!

Although I bought the fabric (7 years ago…) to make into a project to wear outside the house… I’m not sure I’ll wear this outside. It was a great practice piece, it made me so confident! I installed a zip! Setting in the sleeves was pretty easy! The more I worked with the fabric though, the more I kept thinking of hospital gown/scrubs. I think the slight texture, which is almost seersucker-y, reminded of of textured paper gowns or something? Or maybe that was the fact I kept trying it on before I put the zip on, so it was like one of those backless gowns.

I did the size 3, but traced out to the size 4 for my rear (my hips aren’t the problem, it’s all the butt!) and it fits mostly quite well.

My only issues are that the back neckline stands out a bit from my body, which I think I know how to fix. (I may make that adjustment in a bodice in this fabric again, just to test.) The cap sleeves are a little tight when I try to move my arms up, I can feel them starting to bind a bit even to type this (yes, I’m wearing it while writing. No, I’m not sitting in an ergonomically correct position. Yes, that might be contributing). That’s a problem I have with most non-stretchy ready-to-wear garments though – apparently I have giant muscle-y biceps?

The next dress will be neater because I’ve done it once before already (OMG), and the fabric is more conducive to ironing. The texture on this fabric flattens out when you iron it, so for the first little while I wasn’t pressing as much as I should’ve. When I made the choice partway through that I wouldn’t be wearing this outside the house, I got more liberal with the iron, not caring so much if I flattened bits of it out.

I am so excited to do version #2, and then so many more projects! I want to sew a whole wardrobe for myself! Do you sew? Have you ever considered it? It is so much faster than knitting – even taking it sloooow, this dress only took a week. I couldn’t knit this much fabric in a week!

Take a Craftsy Class this summer!

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Want to learn a new skill or brush up on an old one? Now is your chance! You can save up to 50% off on ALL online classes at Craftsy’s BIG Summer Sale! Cooking, cake decorating, sewing, gardening and so much more… all up to 50% off, with some classes starting at just $9.99! This is a sale not to be missed, so make sure you hurry because it ends at 11:59pm MT on Monday, June 9th.

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Oven Fajitas – cool for summer

The husband is back in town, so I am suddenly much more interested in cooking (having survived on a diet consisting of oatmeal, cheese, and fried eggs for a lot of the time he was away). Yesterday I was the first home from work, so it was my turn to make dinner. I’d already decided I wanted to make fajitas, because they seem like such a warm-weather meal to me, and it seems like summer has finally (maybe, hopefully) arrived here. I searched Pinterest for ‘fajita’ because I wasn’t quite sure what spices to use – I thought I’d just find the right spicing combination, then stir-fry everything. Instead, I found the Easy Oven Fajitas recipe from Budget Bytes, and immediately thought that was a better idea.
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I like cooking (for more than just me alone), but standing over a frying pan can get tedious, especially when the house is already warm, so I immediately decided to give this ‘throw everything in a casserole dish’ idea a go.

I have to admit, I really don’t like raw meat. I’m terrified of not cooking meat enough, terrified of it touching anything. So mixing the raw chicken in with the peppers and onions was a little skeevy for me, but I figured that the person who wrote the recipe hadn’t died, and neither had any of the commenters, so I’d give it a go. (I also hate the idea of chicken in the crock pot, but I’ve done that and not died. I realize most of these fears are silly.)

I made the recipe pretty much as is, but with 2 chicken breasts (one was pretty small, the other was average). I also mixed the spices up as directed, then mixed the oil into the spice combination before pouring it all over the casserole dish and tossing, so I was just trying to spread out one mixture, rather than two.

We LOVED this meal. This is absolutely going into the regular dinner rotation around here. I loved that it didn’t heat up the house (or me) as much as cooking it all in a frying pan would’ve. It was also nice to have those 40 minutes to myself, rather than stirring the whole time.

We added sour cream, cheese, avocado, and a wee bit of cilantro to our fajitas, and it was perfect. Next time though, I’d love to find corn tortillas, to try that out. Our Safeway only had flour ones.

Trollbead Tuesday – Kimono Set

Once I re-discovered my 3 original Trollbeads, I wanted a collection. Now. But of course, there’s finances to think of, university tuition for the husband… so I turned to eBay. I had seen the odd very interesting matte Trollbead in all my blog searching (where do you go with a new obsession? I always go straight to the internet and find blogs of people even more dedicated than me!) and I soon realized that they were part of a glass set, and were actually discontinued. ‘Discontinued’ is a magic word that makes me want things more, so that’s what I searched eBay for.

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The neat thing about this set is that it was released before the big earthquake, but after that happened, Trollbeads donated some of the proceeds from this set to earthquake relief. Obviously, as I bought on eBay, my money went to the seller.

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I love the delicate colours, the varied patterns, and the unique matte finish. The only thing is that now I’ve amassed a few more glass beads (all shiny, as all but these 6 are) is that it is a bit of a challenge to put them together and have it all look nice. But when you do hit that sweet spot, it is great! You can see 3 of them on the bracelet photo in my first Trollbead Tuesday post.

I’m glad I bought these all together, I like the idea of having a ‘set’, even if I don’t always wear them together, but I am looking forward to getting some more shiny glass beads. I think my favourite two of the set are the two blue ones. I’m not sure that I’ve used the red and white one yet – although I think it is beautiful, I doesn’t go with anything else!

Butter is Better

While I write (sometimes) about baking, canning, and other kitchen-y things here, it isn’t the focus of the blog. And it definitely isn’t my intention to push my way of eating on you either, but a wee bit of explanation might make this kitchen-decorating-post make a bit more sense.

Butter Wouldn’t Melt by Andreakett

In short, I believe that food I buy at the store should have as few ingredients as possible. (I reserve the right to combine as many ingredients as I want into a meal). Take a look at the list of ingredients on the package of regular sour cream. Now look at the list on the 0% fat sour cream. Has the doubled in size? Apart from not knowing what half those ingredients are… the fatty stuff tastes better. It is rich enough that I only want a little bit, so the fact that it has more fat doesn’t bother me. Now you may understand why I love butter, and refuse to buy margarine for baking (and everything else, but husband likes marg because it is easier to spread on bread).

Butter is Better by KendyllHillegas

I had pinned a couple of these posters, thinking that one would be a great bit of art for a kitchen. But then I searched the Art section of Etsy for ‘butter’ and found so many that now I’m picturing a kitchen with a gallery wall of butter-related prints. Crazy, because what kitchen would give up cupboard space for a gallery wall? I almost would, for a perfectly-arranged grouping of these prints. Unless y’all think it’s a little too Paula Deen?

from KitchenBathPrints

(click any of the photos to be taken to the Etsy page)

Ideally, because I’m a collector at heart, this is the type of thing you’d collect slowly on your travels through life, rejoicing each time you found something butter-related to add to the wall. I’m not a fan of buying a collection ready-made. That said, this is a bit of a niche market, and I love Etsy, so I’m being a bit more relaxed about it.

By LittleLow

By David Olenick via Society6

Butter is also a  good subject for a kitchen owned by a couple… so many bread and butter prints out there!

By UUPP

By Bishopart

 

By TheDreamyGiraffe

By Buckandlibby

By Tartella (this one is letterpress!)

There is always an appropriate ‘Keep Calm’ print for any occasion:

By KeepCalmShop

There’s inspirational butter:

By Freshline

And I think that finally, this gallery wall needs some art-ier, wordless butter prints.

By CruzArt

By WhimsicalPaintworks

By OneKeeneKat

By Hrachouhi

Trollbead Tuesday – Runes

Another reason I was in the mood to resurrect my Trollbead bracelet was Vintage Rose/Vanessa on Instagram (vntg_rose). Just as I was thinking about mine again, she was posting pictures of how she’d been wearing hers. She had one (ok, a lot, but this one first) bead that I was really coveting. She called it her ‘hobbity’ bead!

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Again, I went straight to Suzie Q’s, and they had a couple of them! This bead is amber, with runes carved into it, and I suppose there must be some sort of oxidating agent or paint or something to make the runes dark like that. It is called Trollbeads Runes, and it spells Denmark, which is where Trollbeads started.

I love the warm colour of the amber, and the ‘hobbity’ runes. It always feels warmer than the glass beads on the bracelet, and that coupled with the runes gives it a bit of an otherwordly feel. This one gets a place on my wrist most of the time, and I almost wish I’d bought two, so I could have one on each side of a focal point. I find I’m saying that about a lot of my favourite beads, but so far I have made the decision to buy singles, as I’ve only so much money to spend on stuff like this, and new and different always seems to win.

You can sell patterns on Craftsy!

(This post contains affiliate links which means I will be compensated if you purchase after clicking these links.)

In addition to wonderful online courses and craft supplies, Craftsy also has an independent online pattern store that lets anyone upload and sell downloadable e-patterns with no fee!

How do you add a pattern to Craftsy and start your pattern store? It’s easy!

1. Make sure you have a Paypal account. All pattern transactions happen through Paypal, and Craftsy requires that you have a Student, Premier, or Business account in order to sell patterns.
2. Put your pattern in .pdf format. You can’t upload any patterns to the online pattern store unless they’re a .pdf file format, so if they’re currently saved as a Word doc, .jpg, or other file format, you must convert it to a .pdf before you upload it to Craftsy.
3. Include a photo. All patterns must have at least one photo to accompany them, but you can add up to five photos.
4. Fill out the pattern description. You’ll answer some basic questions about your pattern making it easier for Craftsy folk to find your pattern and know what your pattern is for. Make sure you have info about your pattern handy for this step.

For more information on how to sell a pattern through Craftsy, or to get started, visit Craftsy!

Shop Indie Patterns

Book Challenge #21-25

Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood

Definitely Roald Dahl, but which one? The BFG and Matilda are classics in my mind, and ones I read again and again. There are also a couple (slightly) lesser known ones I love: Danny, Champion of the World and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.

Day 22 – Favorite book you own

We’re book buyers. Me, my parents, my husband. I’m pretty sure I own every book I’ve mentioned here, and many many more. My favourite specific copy of something would have to be my copy of The Hobbit. It was my dad’s when he was a kid, and is suitably well-loved. The cover picture is Tolkien’s own sketch of Smaug over Laketown.

Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

I want to read the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series, but at 13 fat volumes, that’s quite a reading commitment. I feel like this year may be the year though. At least the year I start it!

Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read

I wish more people who watched the LotR movies had read the book first.

I wish more people would read, digest, and implement In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré into their lives.

Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most

Hermione Granger. Even including the hair, the teeth, and the school uniform!

Link to the prompts.
Link to my other posts in this series.

Trollbead Tuesday – The Beginning

Quick disclaimer: I really do want to keep this blog going, but after talking about my knitting on my podcast every couple weeks, I wonder if it is worth re-posting here too? I think I may do finished object posts here still, but (as you’ve probably noticed) I thought I’d try sharing other things I’m interested in, as well as knitting and crafting.

You may have heard of Trollbeads before, and if you’ve been to a major mall recently, you’ve probably heard of Pandora. These types of bracelets are sometimes referred to as European charm bracelets. The charms aren’t dangly, they’re large beads that you string onto a chain (or sometimes leather) bracelet. Here’s the one I’m currently wearing as an example:

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Mine is all Trollbeads, I only mentioned Pandora above because it is something more people have heard of, as they have their own chain of stores.

There is an amazing community of Trollbeads fans on the web, and tons of blogs dedicated to them specifically, and the whole style of beaded charm bracelets.

I’ve only really started wearing mine in the past 5 or so months. I had the chain and a few beads, and I guess I ‘rediscovered’ them just before Christmas, when I was sorting/cleaning out my bedside table area. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t wearing them! Actually, that’s a lie… I only had 3 beads, and wanted more. :)

Those three beads are what introduced me to Trollbeads in the first place – years ago (maybe 5?) I was browsing the Ravelry forums, and someone had posted pictures of two cute little silver beads, one that looked like a ball of yarn, and one that looked like the knit stitch. I immediately went into hunter-mode and tracked down what they were and where I could get them here. I went to the store (Suzie Q Beads), and not only did they have the amazing knitterly beads, they also had a cute little button one that was more of a disc shape. I bought the 3 beads then and there, as well as the bracelet to put them on. (Be aware if you’re just starting out that you need to buy both the chain and the lock/clasp separately!)

trollbeadyarn

The 3 beads that started it all. Ball of Yarn, Buttons, and Sweater (retired in 2013). I love how oxidized Trollbeads are – I find the Pandora ones all too shiny. I love the yarn and the sweater, they’re on just about every look I put together. The buttons are cute, but I don’t use it often because the shape is so different. It fits nicely between these two round silvers, and it also fits between the glass ones, but I always feel like it needs to go in the centre because I don’t have another disc-shaped one to balance it. Most of my looks are pretty symmetrical so far.

With only 3 beads on it, they always swung down under my wrist when I wore it, and it felt a little large on me, which I think contributed to why I didn’t wear it too often.

Now that I’ve picked up more beads, and have been wearing it regularly, I’m a convert! I love things you can collect (ahem, yarn). All the beads have names. And I love being able to almost design my own look each day. ‘Almost’ because of course you’re limited to other people’s bead designs, but I can put them together however I want, to match (or match) my outfit for the day. The chain and beads are all sterling (.925) silver, although there are a few bead designs that come in 18K gold ($$!) You can add colour with the glass or stone beads.

I don’t have too many at the moment, and they’re so fun to take pictures of, that I’ve decided to declare Trollbead Tuesday on this blog, and I’ll feature a bead or two each week.

Book Challenge #17-20

Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book

You might think I’d put something from Lord of the Rings in here… and I do have (multiple) favourite quotes from there, but for capturing true feeling, and giving us just that tiniest glimpse into an enigmatic character, this is my favourite:

3garridebsquote

That story is The Three Garridebs. I’m not crying. Swearsies.

Day 18 – A book that disappointed you

Finally, I can talk about a recent read! I picked up A Discovery of Witches on the Kobo husband bought me for Christmas, because I’d heard good things about it. The thing is, now I can’t remember where I heard those good things! I was in the mood for a book about witches, and this one turned much too vampire-centric for me. Plus, the author repeats herself. A lot. It wasn’t bad enough that I didn’t finish, but I feel like I finished more out of bloody-mindedness than actually enjoyment. And I read the second one, because you know, it might get better, right? And now I’ve committed so much time that I’ll have to read the third when it comes out eventually, because I want to know the solution to the puzzle, even though I feel that I won’t like it.

Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie

Fill in the blank. ;) That one, and I also enjoyed Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, starring Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent, and Stephen Fry as Marvin the Paranoid Android. Plus, it gave us the classic song ‘So Long And Thanks For All The Fish’, even if I have some problems with the movie too.

Edited to add: I was just reminded by this article of another book I love, which has been turned into a movie I truly love: The Great Escape. I went through a phase when I was about 11-14 where I read all the WWII POW books I could, all because of dad’s battered red copy of The Great Escape. I still have a big shelf of those books, including that little red hardcover.

Day 20 – Favorite romance book

I’m going to need to think of this as ‘Favourite book usually shelved in the Romance section’. I really enjoy the first two books of Jean M Auel’s Children of Earth series, Clan of the Cave Bear, and Valley of Horses. The funny thing about that is that (spoiler!) the romance part doesn’t come along until the very end of Valley. I love the detail Auel put in to Ayla’s growing up with the Clan. She is also genuinely different than those people, and not in the unbelieveable invents-everything-but-nuclear-fusion-in-the-Ice-Age way she is later in the books. Well, I suppose she’s still a bit like that, but without other humans to be talking about it all the time… As you can tell, I’m conflicted. I’ve read the whole series for the sake of completeness, but only actually like those first two books.

Link to the prompts.
Link to my other posts in this series.

Book Challenge #13-16

Day 13 – Your favorite writer

I think this quiz must have been written by someone with much more diverse taste in books than me, because I feel like I’ve mentioned this 12 times already. Tolkien. I LIKE HOBBITS, ok?

Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer

As much as I love The Hobbit, I think I have to say that The Lord of the Rings is my favourite entire book. That said, there is a short story called “The Faithful Stone” in Unfinished Tales that I think may be my very favourite piece of Tolkien’s writing.

Day 15 – Favorite male character

I love the sidekicks – I love Samwise Gamgee, I love John/James Watson. I love the out-of-place – I love Arthur Dent, I love Bilbo Baggins. Is it any wonder that I like the actor Martin Freeman? In movies he’s played 3 of the characters on that list, and played them all just like I saw them in my head. Or like I think to think I saw them.

I never wanted to be the hero in a book, I always wanted to be the steadfast friend. Frodo was great, but I picked Sam 100% of the time when by 11-year-old BFF and I played Lord of the Rings in the trees around our respective homes. The section in The Case of the Three Garridebs where Holmes reacts to Watson being shot brought tears to my eyes even at that age, and made me want a friend who would care that deeply.

Day 16 – Favorite female character

Is it bad that I, a female, think that most female characters are boring? Or that I tend to like books that have little-to-no female characters? (see: LotR, Holmes, Delderfield) I guess the answer to this question has to be Hermione from Harry Potter, as when I read it, I kept thinking that JK Rowling must have been spying on me. I didn’t have two guy best friends, one being the saviour of the known world, but I did have buck teeth, bushy hair, and a drive to be top in everything I could.

Link to the prompts.
Link to my other posts in this series.

Book Challenge #9-12

Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

This is going to sound crazy if you know me, but Sherlock Holmes. I had this problem as a kid, where if my parents told me I’d enjoy a book and I should read it, I’d read everything else in the world before I’d touch whatever particular book that was. I think my parents started suggesting their omnibus edition of the Sherlock Holmes short stories to me when I was around 10. A year or two later I was supremely bored and lacking new reading material, so I picked it up. I then devoured the whole thing and took Holmes’ talk about “seeing but not observing” to heart. These stories are a big part of me now, and cringe to think how I almost didn’t read them. (I have also now stolen that exact omnibus edition of the stories for my own home.)

Day 10 – Favorite classic book

I remember browsing bookstores around the age of 14 or 15 and being incensed that no one filed Lord of the Rings in the classics section. It’s a classic to me!

Day 11 – A book you hated

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is the one book I remember being assigned in all of high school English that I barely read. I can’t honestly remember if I finished it or not (knowing the student I was, I probably did) I just remember it being like pulling teeth. I can’t even remember what my problem was with it, I just remember despising the fact I had to read it. Maybe I should give it another go now?

Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore

I really don’t know about this one… the only thing that comes to mind is Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. I love the first few, but found they got denser and more and more convoluted as the series went on. I haven’t read the latest one. I may go back to the start and reread from there to see if I “get” the later ones better now.

Link to the prompts.
Link to my other posts in this series.

Cross Stitch WIPocalypse Intro

2013 was the year that I re-added cross stitching to my craft arsenal. Like any good crafter, I’ve managed to accumulate a stash, and a pile of works in progress. My cross stich WIP pile is much smaller than my knitting one, but still! When I stumbled across the 2014 WIPocalypse, I thought I’d join in for some motivation!

This is the oldest culprit:

Noak's Ark progress

I last posted about this guy in 2006. And that post claims that I started it 10 years ago. IN 2006. We’re closing in on 20 years, people. It is the most detailed and shaded colour-wise work I’ve ever attempted. Tons of colours, lots of backstitch, lots of half-crosses… I’m not sure that this year is the year this gets finished though, because I’m loving so many of the new patterns I’m finding out there!

The work that has been getting the most attention lately is my Frosted Pumpkin Woodland Sampler:

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I’m on the last couple squares, and actually hope to have this finished before the end of January!

The next one I want to work on is also a Frosted Pumpkin design, their 2013 Halloween Sampler:

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I’m not sure what gauge this linen is but it is teeny. This is a daylight-only work, and as we’re still in the depths of winter, it is going to be a month or two before I do any work on it.

I also know I’m going to start at least one Christmas design this year, hopefully in time for Christmas this year! I’ve got a few Frosted Pumpkin designs, and also a couple other more rustic ones. Not sure yet which I’ll choose.

I don’t want to count my works done until they’re done done. This means framed, or whatever other option. I think I want the Halloween one to become a pillow, which means getting over my fear of the sewing machine. The Woodland Sampler I want to get professionally framed. I really like the way it is framed in the link above, with the wide black outer mat, and the thin inner one. I think I’d like a pop of coordinating colour for the thin mat though – maybe the turquoise that’s in the stitching?

Book Challenge #5-8

Day 05 – A book that makes you happy

As I said in the last book post, I love the court scene in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, because it fills me with that I-CAN-DO-ANYTHING power feeling.

His Majesty’s Dragon, and other early books in the Temeraire series are fun and joyful too (I’m not saying the later books are bad, but they get steadily more serious). The Temeraire series is the Napoleonic wars re-imagined with an air force. But the air force isn’t planes, it’s dragons.

Notice how I’ve answered this question without mentioning Tolkien? Until now, that is…

Also, knitting books make me happy.

Day 06 – A book that makes you sad

I’m going to take this question to mean a book that I enjoy reading, but also makes me sad, and not a book that makes me sad for the human race (those Darwin award books just make me want to bash my head against something. Also see: Pippa Middleton’s entertaining book). A book that I feel like I should have mentioned somewhere under ‘favourites’ is To Serve Them All my Days by R F Delderfield. This is a wonderful, gentle, British story about an ex-soldier with ‘shellshock’ (I think we call that PTSD now) becoming a teacher at a boys’ boarding school in 1918. This book makes me happy, nostalgic, and sad. I found a very dog-eared copy in the library of the boarding school I attended, and read it when I was 15 or 16. It set 85 years prior to me being where I was but I got it. And every bad or sad thing that happened to Powlett-Jones made me sad too. But there was a very nostalgic joy for me when things went right for him.

Day 07 – Most underrated book

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Another book set during the Napoleonic wars, but this time with wizards. Where Temeraire is written in a more modern style, JS&N is written much more in the style of Austen or similar. I feel that a lot of people found it hard to get past the style, and those who might have liked the style disliked it the moment I mentioned ‘wizards!’ I remember trying to sell this to just about everyone who came in to the bookstore I worked in at the time I read it. So many people said NO! as soon as I mentioned magic or wizards. I think they thought I was trying to sell them Harry Potter, but this book is so different, definitely written for an older reader.
Day 08 – Most overrated book

I’m guessing I can’t answer with a book I’ve never actually read *coughcoughDaVinciCodecough*

Thinking of things I’ve read recently, I’d have to mention the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King. As we’ve already established, I love me some Sherlock Holmes. I read pastiches (Holmes-style stories by authors who aren’t Conan Doyle), and I like them. The MR series has had some good reviews, and enough people told me I should read them that I did. No thanks. I read the first two, and that was one too many. I love the concept, but I suppose I was expecting something more Holmes-centric, rather than new character *coughMarySuecough*-centric. I just wasn’t a fan.

Link to the prompts.
Link to my other posts in this series.

Practicing Stash Control

stashmetersJan2014

I make sure to (eventually) put all my yarn in my Ravelry stash. Some skeins will hang out in a basket for a few months before I enter them, but at this moment in time, I believe I’m entirely caught up. I also weigh balls of leftovers (my rule of thumb is to keep it in the stash if it is bigger than a small egg) so those are all counted in here too.

When you’re on your stash page in Ravelry, there is a button to download your stash info as an Excel file. For a few years now I’ve been doing that every now and then, no set schedule, I total up the ‘Meters Remaining’ column, and add the total to this graph. Today I decided to add the fibre events I’ve been to recently as captions. Rhinebeck was a terrible influence! I’m getting close to 40,000 meters (43,744 yards)! (If you click the graph, it’ll take you to the larger version on Flickr)

I’d love to set my goal for the end of 2014 to be close to 30,000m. Picking 1500m out of the air as an average sweater quantity, that’s 6.6 sweaters. Not impossible, although of course, it wouldn’t just be sweaters I knit this year! I want to fatten up my poor sock drawer, and knit a few better-fitting hats. Plus, everyone around me keeps having babies that need to be kept warm!

I need to practice some stash self-control for a few reasons:

  • A husband in university, which means school fees and only one of us working full time.
  • We’re taking an epic summer vacation that will be so worth it, but means saving even more pennies.
  • The yarn is taking over the storage room!

I’ve started using a tag on my Ravelry projects (well, project, only one started so far this new year!) knitfromstash14. I’ve also got a companion to that, knitfromlibrary14. In the past when I’ve stopped buying yarn, I’ve kept on buying patterns, individually or in books. I have a lot, and I need to shop my library first, before looking at the paid ones. That said, I’m not going to knit a sweater I only kinda like because I didn’t “allow” myself to buy the pattern. There’s even a few projects I’m planning on making this year that I haven’t yet bought the patterns for (Maxfield, Nine Maidens, Grey Havens, Cotyledon, I’m looking at you!). The pattern thing is less of a rule, more of a guideline. :)

I’m allowing myself to buy in person – I’m really looking forward to going to San Francisco in a few weeks! Not to mention what I might find over our summer holiday. So I’m really going to try not to order online. That said, I’m going to take full advantage of entering any contest to win yarn that I can find! Come on, podcasters! I’m also accepting gifts of yarn. ;) Hoping for gift certificates (or yarn) for my birthday!

Do you have any yarn-related resolutions (or guildelines) this year?

PS: If you want a good laugh, read this post of mine from 2008, where my goal was to get my stash under 10,00m! HA! I was at 14,000m! HAHAHAHA!

30 Prompt book challenge

Is this the year I get back into the habit with this blog, as well as my knitting podcast blog? We’ll see! Right now, I want to talk about books. I stumbled across this list of 30 book-related prompts, and as I am a life-long lover of books, and I got a Kobo for Christmas, I thought I’d try it. I think I’ll be more likely to answer a few prompts at once, rather than spam every day with a wee post.

Day 01 – Best book you read last year

Sometimes I feel like I have a bit of a memory problem, or at least an all-the-days-and-months-blur-into-one problem. Luckily, I keep my Goodreads account up to date!

Looking at the 41 (what a small number!) books I read last year, I think I’d have to say The Empire in Black and Gold, book one of the Shadows of the Apt series. I love me an epic fantasy series, and this one is so different and well-wrought that I’m up to book 6 already. This fantasy world is so interesting because there are many different races of humanoids, and each race is based on some sort of insect. Beetles, Wasps, Ants, they all seem to be fairly similar to the humans that you and I are. But then you meet Dragonflies, Scorpions, Moths, and more. They ride horses, but they also ride actual large insects. There’s elements of magic, and what I’d loosely call steampunk in the books. The series is called the Shadows of the Apt – the Apt races understand technology and can building flying machines, cars, and the like. The Inapt races believe in (and use) magic, scrying, and similar, but they can’t figure out how something as simple as a key and lock work. Some races have Art (it took me a while to sort that out from Apt-ness) as in some Wasps can fly, and most can shoot a fireball/sting from the palms of their hands.

It sounds complicated but you’re introduced to everything so well that I never had that lost feeling that some fantasy books leave you with.

Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times

I debated for a while about whether to impose a rule on myself with this challenge, and that rule was going to be ‘Tolkien is not the answer!’. Because really, one of Tolkien’s works could probably be the answer to just about all questions for me (unless they’re “what book do you hate?” questions). I’m a re-reader. I’m a re-re-re-re-reader. I visit old friends books when I’m listless, or just can’t think hard enough to decide what I want to read next. Sometimes I get into a mood, and know exactly what book will fit that mood. So, I leave you with a list of some of my top re-reads:

  1. Lord of the Rings
  2. Game of Thrones
  3. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories
  4. Harry Potter
  5. The court scene near the end of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. I have this series on the Kindle app on my phone, and if I’m having a bad day, or feel like I want to punch someone, or want to feel like I’m on top, I re-read the trial section. And usually want to yell ‘BOO-YEAH’ when I’m done.
  6. Watership Down – just to put something that isn’t a series on this list.

Day 03 – Your favourite series

Did you notice a pattern in the books I re-read in question #2? They’re all series. And this is why I thought about that rule, because I just have to say that Lord of the Rings is my favourite series ever. So I’m going to make a few of my own categories:

Favourite series that is finished: Lord of the Rings
Fav series that is unfinished, but I’m caught up on the published books: Game of Thrones, The Dresden Files
Fav series that is unfinished, and I still have published books to read: The Shadows of the Apt

Day 04 – Favourite book of your favourite series

I’ve always viewed Lord of the Rings as one giant book, that was divided into 3 bits for convenience of carrying around, so I don’t know that I can answer that question for that book. I read Game of Thrones as one giant Kindle file on my phone, so I actually have very little clue what happens in which book. So far out of Shadows of the Apt, I think I’ve enjoyed The Scarab Path (#5) the most, but at that point in the series the main characters have split up enough that different books are about different characters, rather than chapters in one book jumping back and forth, and the characters in #5 are some of my favourites. I actually found it hard to get into The Sea Watch (#6) at first because I wanted to know what was happening with the people in book 5!

Cozy Wedding Quilt

I can’t throw out craft supplies. Especially if they’re from a project I love! That meant that 2 years after I got married in June 2011, I had a box of fabric still sitting in my closet. It had spare fabric from all sorts of projects: the toppers from our jam favours, the greens from the leaves in my handmade flowers, the extra bridesmaid dress fabric from Etsy, the giant swath of photobooth backdrop fabric. I’d been saving them, because I wanted to do something with them. Last summer, I decided it was time! Time to…. send them to someone else. I knew Quilts By Emily from her blog, (and of course, her Etsy shop full of cute quilts!) so I contacted her and asked if she would do a custom order. These things take time, and the finished quilt arrived just after Christmas!

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We had chatted via email about what pattern the quilt would be – I chose this one because it was bright and modern, and I thought it would let all the very different fabrics be showcased individually. I was a little scared of the peaches fabric being too close to the greens!

Emily kept the backing of the quilt a surprise, but I know from following her blog and shop that she always does something cool on the back.

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The back is crazy and amazing! And the peaches and green look fine together!

This is our cuddle-on-the-couch quilt, but I laid it out on our queen-sized bed so you can see how big it is. And, there was fabric left over! Emily sent it back with the quilt, so I need to find a simpler project for me to make with it. The only fabrics she bought to put into this were the white, and the blue for the binding. The blue is the same shade as the solid bridesmaid dress fabric, I didn’t have enough of it for her to do both the binding and the pluses.

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I’m so glad I paid a pro to do this – if I’d waited until I was confident enough with the sewing machine to do it myself… that day might never have come. Or I’d be 80 years old! It is such a great keepsake, and Cinnamon Buns loves it too. I kept it a surprise from him, and when he saw it he loved it. He liked that it is a really cool quilt, and that people looking at it might think only that, but we know why it is super-special.

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Have you re-used any of your wedding supplies or decor in your house?

Mrs Cinnamon Bun’s Holiday Gift Guide

As I said in my catching-up post, Cinnamon Buns has gone back to university. He started in September 2012 at the university in town. That year, we put a $100 limit on presents for each other, because hey, education ain’t free. In June of this year, we got the news that the program he was taking was basically cut, so we scrambled to get him in to a university on the coast. He’s out there now, and has a year and a half left. If university fees alone put us on a tight budget, think about paying university fees and two sets of rent + bills on what one  artist (me!) earns… it’ll be a quiet Christmas.

Financial restraints aside, I’ve always preferred to give thoughtful, handmade gifts. Handmade gifts give twice, to the recipient and the artist.

My List:

These are pipe-dream things, (A) they’re expensive, and (B) before I had a chance to produce a list this year, husband texted me to say ‘OMG found your Christmas present already!’.

Here’s something I’d like that’s from an actual store!
spitzeringrosegold

It is a (plated) rose gold ring that looks like a sewing needle! I love crafts, and I love rose gold. What else can I say? Oh, that I love Anthropologie, so I’m not surprised it is from them.

My dream gift right now would be a membership in the BareNakedKnitSpot club (or, even better, the double membership!) Anne Hanson, an amazing knitwear pattern designer and her team scour the globe for interesting and beautiful undyed (thus BareNaked) yarns. Buy a membership, and every other month for a year you get gorgeous yarn and a pattern in the mail! I’ve got so much yarn in all colours of the rainbow, but I’d like to get closer to the sheep. And what I said about handmade gifts giving twice? I’ve lost count of how many gifts this gift gives. You, the knitter, get 6 presents, there’s six yarn producers, Anne herself, and the people you give the finished objects to!

The Husband:

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I knit him this hat (the pattern is Windschief), and I’m knitting him mittens to go with it. I think I’m going to use this pattern, so he can still text! Luckily I have a huge stash of yarn from better times, so this yarn was all paid for in the past.
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I’ve got one glove done, and am working on the mitten flap/cover.

The Parents:

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My dad had mentioned earlier in the year that it would be lovely to have a handknit scarf. So, I obliged! And, I’ve actually finished it in time to mail it to him, which I think is the most impressive part. This pattern is free on Ravelry.

countessinlimbo2

My mum is getting Countess in Limbo. I was browsing a bookstore the other day, and the author was doing a signing. I chatted with her for quite a while. I got mum this, not because she’s interested in Russia, but because she has just embarked on a journey into our family’s history, a bit like the author of this book did. I’m hoping to inspire her to write our journey down too.

Husband’s mum. What do you get a woman whose husband of 25+ years just passed away two months ago? The gift of family. Hubby and I are spending the holidays in Nova Scotia with her. Before this summer, when his step-dad was diagnosed, we hadn’t been to visit them since they moved in 2012. We always said ‘Next year! Flights are expensive right now. We’ll come next year.’ (The crazy thing about this large country and its airlines is that flights to England are cheaper than flying from here to the East Coast!) Christmas will be hubby’s fourth trip out there since the summer, and my third. Family first, friends!

Friends:

I wouldn’t say we officially give friends gifts… but I love baking, so whenever we visit friends during the holidays, we bring baking! I bring it to work too.

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Those are mini flourless chocolate tortes I brought to a work potluck last week.

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OK, so I ate these mince pies (made with my mum’s homemade mincemeat!) myself, but I’ll make more for giving away. I swear.

Catching up with Mrs Cinnamon Bun

I’m Mrs Cinnamon Bun, from the start of the Brunch generation of Bees. We had a book-themed green and teal wedding, with a tapas-style dinner. We got married in a (private) heritage building in Calgary, Alberta. There was lots of DIY in our wedding, including flowers made from book pages for all the bouquets and boutonnieres, and 14 pies that I made myself instead of cake! My recaps start here.

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THEN
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NOW

Married June 25th, 2011 – 2 years, 6 months on Christmas day!

The best thing that’s happened to us as a couple since we got married is: “Husband”, “Hubby”, “Husman”, “Wife”, Wifey”, and “Wifeyface” are now our most-used pet names for each other.
How blogging about my wedding shaped my wedding day: I really don’t know about this one… I’ve always been crafty, so I think I would have made all the things I made whether or not Weddingbee was in my life. Reading blogs about real weddings gave me great ideas, and made me feel that things like having pie instead of cake wasn’t quite as weird as some people thought.
Why I chose my icon and how my icon has become a part of my identity: I still love baking and eating cinnamon buns as much as I always did! I chose it because of a joke in a Demetri Martin routine that my then-fiance-now-husband loves. Basically Cinnamon Buns is both a thing, and a good nickname. Cotton Balls? No.
Your favorite post you ever published on Weddingbee, and why: I think all the ones I wrote about making 14 pies for the wedding. They’re useful (I search out my pastry post still when I’m making pies, because I haven’t printed it!) and not what “everyone” does.
Do you still blog/have you found another creative outlet for writing? I blogged for years and years before Weddingbee, mostly about my knitting – as I said above, I’ve always been crafty. I haven’t updated the knitting blog very much since then (I think I lost a lot of my knitter-readers when everything became ALL WEDDING ALL THE TIME for those 8 months) but I started a knitting podcast in April. Before you laugh, search the iTunes store for knitting podcast. There’s hundreds! And they are all fascinating, provided you’re a knitter. The podcast is satisfying the blogging bug for me at the moment.

Pop Quiz! In one sentence or less, answer the following:
•    The best thing about being married is: knowing that we’re always there for each other.
•    The worst thing about being married is: being apart for long periods of time.
•    The best thing we registered for was: the kettle with 6 buttons for different temperatures for different types of tea!
•    The worst thing we registered for was: Least-used are the salad servers…. I serve myself with my fork before I remember we’ve got other utensils.
•    When we fight, we make up by: We’re one of those sickening couples that doesn’t  fight. :)
•    The biggest challenge we’ve faced since getting married has been: not the fact that husband went back to university, but the fact that one year in, the university here in town cut his program, so now we’re long-distance while he finishes school in BC.
•    The way my SO and I reconnect when we both get busy is: at the moment, FaceTime calls!
•    When I have a disagreement with my in laws, we resolve it by: We’re all so easy-going, I can’t think of anything we’ve disagreed about!
•    If we could do our wedding all over again, the one thing we’d change is: we’ve connected with a lot of hubby’s step-family that we didn’t really know at the time we got married – I think we’d invite more family if we got a do-over. (Hubby’s step-dad was diagnosed with cancer, again, this summer, and passed away in October. Visit your family now! Don’t wait for sad circumstances to bring you together!)
•    In 5 years, I hope that we: Own a house, and a dog or two.

The 8am Club

The other evening I was at work, after everyone else had left, waiting for the laundry to finish. At times like those, I’m generally reading, or poking around the internet on my phone. This particular night I had followed some hazy internet path (a blog with a link here, a sidebar widget there…) and ended up watching this video on the “5am club”.

Now I normally don’t have much truck with motivational speakers, self-help books, and the like. But what this guy was saying was interesting, and I knew where he was coming from (part of the reason I don’t like those books… they’re all stuff I could figure out on my own if I thought about it for a few minutes). Basically, he recommends getting up at 5am and using that “magical” hour between 5am and 6am to prepare yourself for your day. Take that me time. Visualize… stuff. And stuff. I wasn’t so sure about that part, but the thought of that hour of thinking time/working on personal project time/quiet time sounded pretty cool.

Then I landed back in reality-land in the laundry room, because it was 10:30pm and I was still at work. And have you ever gotten home from work (at whatever time) and gone directly to bed and actually slept well? No? Didn’t really think so. I usually end up going to bed at 1am or later, and getting up at 9am makes me pat myself on the back. I need my 8+ hours, and I get home from work late, I’m not a slugabed. That’s just my schedule.

And yet, I can just imagine what I’d accomplish in that extra hour. It isn’t even about the “quiet time” before anyone else is up… I’m the only one here right now.

So, I’m trying something. I’m making myself my own “8am club”. It means going to bed a little earlier than normal. Not the worst thing in the world. I’m going to try to use that time for personal projects that get little attention during the day (I had that Etsy shop, remember that? Writing knitting patterns. Spreading the news about the podcast.)

It was about 5 days ago I watched that video. I definitely haven’t gotten up at 5am since then. I actually haven’t even managed 8am yet. I got out of bed at 830am this morning… because I knew a guy was coming to install my dishwasher at 9. So far, the biggest hurdle has been getting to bed before midnight (she says, typing this at 12:06am and not feeling the slightest bit tired). I think the next step might be telling myself I’m not allowed on the computer (or phone. or iPad) once I’m home from work. That’s not just a hurdle, that’s the high jump!

I’m also wondering, by doing that, am I just cutting one end off the blanket and sewing it to the other end? Giving myself “extra” “magical” computer time in the AM by taking it away in the PM? To be fair, I think I am more likely to make mistakes later at night.

Something to sleep on. Which I should do in the next few minutes if I have any hope of getting up at 8am!

Edited the next morning to add: Well, after posting this at quarter after midnight I got distracted by the internet. Then I went to bed and read my book for much too long. I went to be at almost 2am, and got up at 10:30am. So much for that idea! Maybe I can get my computer to automatically shut down at midnight?

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