We are a people in the pursuit of making things with our hands & analog tools. Many of us enjoy it as a respite from our virtual worlds and digital displays. We shall share updates on our projects, craft resources, inspiration, & other news.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The American Dream Pillow

My friend, Carlos, saw the patriotic boy-toy print I had and asked where he could get some for himself, but it appears to no longer be at Joann Fabrics. Luckily for him, I hadn't done anything yet with my beefcake fabric and was happy to make something for him as a housewarming gift, as he just moved into a new studio.

For the back side of this pillow cover, I used a stars and stripes motif:

Sewing something for a friend. U-S-A! U-S-A!

The two fabrics overlap in the back where it opens to put the pillow in. This is called an "Envelope-backed Pillow Cover", which I roughly based on Martha Stewart's instructions.

When I measured out the 18x18" size onto the fabric, I made sure to include as many pretty boy faces as I could within the square. I'm glad I didn't pick a smaller pillow for this print; it would have been sad to have to limit and choose which boys to include.

Huggy Pillow for Carlos

And voila! A very huggable pillow for Carlos to lay his head down on and dream the American dream of starry, shirtless, muscly drummer boys knocking on his door. This may not actually be too far from his reality, now that I think of it.

I briefly considered adding a border but that would have made the print area smaller. I also considered adding a pom-pom trim, but I don't think one this needs it. There's plenty of pomp & circumstance within the print already! Anyway, here's a side view of the pillow:

Side view of pillow

It's an easy project and now I want one for myself too. But I would have to figure out which existing pillow I'd have to replace to allow for it, otherwise there won't be any room left on my couch for anyone to actually sit. Or... I might make another apron with the remaining fabric, which would be another nice way to snuggle with some cute American beefcake while I'm baking my weekly mochi cake.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Knit for the GOLD!

If you're into the Olympics and looking for a new knitting project, I found a couple of books for you:

Or if you're just a Brit-lover, there's also this:

If you're on Instagram, I'd also suggest following @deadlyknitshade -who's doing a Olympic-themed knitted Pigeon series lately:

I hope whatever you knit or make is better than the opening ceremonies were. Poor Danny Boyle. It's a curse to follow up the spectacular & beautiful Beijing Olympics by Zhang Yimou & Cai Guo-Qiang. Ooh, that reminds me that I need to see Cai Guo-Qiang's "Sky Ladder" at at the Los Angeles MOCA before it leaves in September!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Baby Blanket Success!

Finally, here are some additional pics of that knitted chevron baby blanket I had started in May for my friend's baby.  I finished it just in time, too!  I was on the plane to California, squished in the window seat, frantically knitting the last two color swatches.  And when we landed, I turned on my phone and found out that my friend just had her baby, on Father's Day!  What a sweet coincidence :)

Here are some pics of the blanket in progress - I tried to take a picture after each color swatch, but obviously couldn't take pics while I was on the plane.  The good thing about doing this kind of project on the plane was that I was using circular needles, so I never lost my needles.  During my return trip home I was using double-pointed needles on another project, and I dropped a needle at least three times.

Three colors!

Four colors!  Here you may be able to see how there is a border where the color swatch changes - in this photo there is one between the 1st and 2nd swatch, and the 3rd and 4th swatch.  If you follow the pattern exactly, normally all of these borders would appear on the same side of the blanket, but because I could not cast-on the same number of stitches the pattern called for, I didn't have the same number of rows of stitches for each color.   So I ended up changing the color on opposite sides of the blanket, resulting in borders on alternating sides. Which looked fine!

Five colors!

Six colors!

And... ta-da!  The finished blanket!  It turned out to be bigger than I thought it would be.  Partially because I added one more color.  If I did just a few more colors, this blanket would be big enough for me to snuggle under!  It's really soft and squishy - I'm definitely thinking about making some adult-sized versions in the future.  It wasn't hard to make, either, just takes time!

I do recommend Blue Sky Alpaca yarns for the project.  They're a little pricey, but they are so soft and come in a range of beautiful colors.

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Friday, July 06, 2012

Making friends with magical Mochi Cake!

Last year, I had the pleasure of discovering a simple dessert called "mochi cake," at the end of a meal at the New York restaurant, Fatty Crab. I mentioned this to a friend, and she said she could make it! So at my next house party, she brought her version and everyone loved it.

If you've had regular Japanese mochi, it's got that same squishy, stretchy, chewiness in the middle, but "mochi cake" has a crumbly, cookie-like outer texture that adds a nice contrast. The sweet taste is subtle, but the consistency is very dense, so it's served in little squares, like brownies, rather than traditional cake slices. Plus this dessert doesn't require any pounding in preparation!

All it requires are the right ingredients, mixing, and a longer cooling time. I don't even really bake much, maybe only once or twice a year. But now that I've discovered this recipe, I may bake more often, because people seem to love it. The versions I've made aren't so pretty but nobody seems to care, and it doesn't require frosting.

Last month, when I was in Toronto, I decided to try out the recipe at the Imaginism Workshop but  used an alternate brand of sweet rice flour that didn't come in the right portion as the "Mochiko" brand in the recipe. So I guessed on the conversion based on weight. It came out okay but it appeared to sink a little bit. Nobody seemed to mind, because we finished the cake. It does stick to the pan quite a lot, so the clean-up is a bit of a drag. I might grease the pan next time, even though the recipe says not to do so.

Anyway, in Toronto, I experimented with adding chopped fruit. The first time, I threw in some chopped pineapple & chopped strawberries, in the version pictured here:

mochi cake w/ strawberries & pineapple

You can see a big bubble emerged in the middle and it looked like it was going to overflow! But it evened out at the end and didn't spill over, thank goodness! The fruit was good but it was very subtle.

So a couple weeks later, I tried it again, but with blueberries. I read on another blog that the blueberry taste didn't come out so well for them, so I decided to crush the blueberries before mixing them in, and I used a whole box of them. And on a whim, I threw in chocolate chips that we found in the kitchen. It was SO GOOD! I will have to reprise it at some point.

Anyway, if you're afraid of baking, and you can find Mochiko sweet rice flour, I highly recommend trying this recipe. If you don't like coconut, honestly you don't taste much of the coconut, but you can search "mochi cake" to find an alternate recipe that uses evaporated milk instead. It's nice to bring to parties because you don't put frosting on it, and it can be piled in little blocks. Just make sure you have enough time for the cake to cool before you travel with it!

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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Crafts of July, including Patriotic Boy-toys.

I'm still recovering from a whole month of painting, drawing, and lost sleep (in between foosball, Insanity workouts, violent films, & large quantities of pasta) at the Imaginism Workshop in Toronto. I made some great friends and learned a lot of technique & professional advice (and foosball technique) from the talented Thierry Lafontaine & Bobby Chiu. Even though it was usually sunny outside, the house we stayed in was pretty cold, so I got a lot of use out of my Rocket Popsicle scarf!

Scarf #2 of the year completed

 As shown here, when I stepped outside to document a foosball match before a bbq dinner:

This is how dorks get outside

Hey, I match the little foosball guys! Anyway, while I was there, I did find some time to crochet some cupcake tops, out of that fluffy white Lion Brand Homespun yarn, from Twinkie Chan's book. So I should work on finishing that through the rest of this summer. I'll add red cherries later.

I even participated in Worldwide Knit/Crochet in Public Day and crocheted a cupcake top on the Toronto subway.

Now that I'm back home, I'm eager to get back to my sewing machine & stash of summer fabrics. For July 4, I ironed out this steamy print... should I make an apron, pillow, or both!?

Life, liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness

Hello, drummer boy. Bang that drum!

Hello, drummer boy

I'll also use some patriotic starry & striped fabric as an accent for this patriotic beefcake print.

AND, San Diego Comic-Con is coming up in about a week, and I'm going to attend for the first time! I already have a Wonder Woman costume I can wear, but part of me is tempted to sew an additional costume to wear... maybe something from "Adventure Time!"

But I'm afraid that may be a bit ambitious, in between more important things I should do between now and then. Well, maybe if I get revved up sewing the patriotic fabric, we'll see if I have momentum to start a costume! If not, I also have that spacegirl quilt & the tropical print dresses next on my list. TOO MANY THINGS TO MAKE –story of my life.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Mission Accomplished!

I literally hand-stitched the last 6 inches of the binding (that's what's used on the border of the quilt) in a cab on the way to dinner in New York, for my cousin Bill's birthday. I barely finished it in time for his new baby, before I flew out of New York the next morning. Bill sent me a picture of the quilt, since I didn't get to do that before I gave it to him: 

I tried to keep it gender neutral as I sewed it, because my cousin kept the baby gender secret until it was born.

Toward the end, I decided to improvise a more casual pattern on the flannel lining to make use of some cute froggy & monster fabric:

This measures about 50x50 inches. I may post more about how I made this later. I was happy to finally put my hoard of adorable fabrics to use. I'm glad that Bill & his family seem to like it.

It took a long time, so I'm not sure when I'll get around to doing another quilt, but I still want to try to make another. Hopefully it'll get faster as I do more of them ...like the drawing exercises I'm doing now at Imaginism Studios!

In the meantime, my crafting will be on a little hiatus, while I am focusing on my drawing and painting skills in Toronto. I'm not even taking any phone calls or texts until July 4! WILD.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Knitted Chevron Baby Blanket Prep

I'm in the middle of a bunch of knitting projects right now but my friend is about to have a baby in two weeks so I'm putting aside my stuffed bear with one arm and half-finished stuffed carrot to make this crocheted knitted baby blanket.  (I must have been suffering a brain fart - I kept referring to this as a crocheted blanket but it's knitted!)

Since I'm still pretty much a beginner at this I wanted to make something with simple stitches so I could get it done in time.  I found this pattern for a Chevron Baby Blanket at purlbee and thought it would be pretty cute and soft.

I bought my yarn at fabulousyarn.com, which has a good selection and good prices.  If you buy a certain amount you can get a pretty significant discount, too.  I went with the suggested brand, Blue Sky Alpacas,  after checking reviews on Ravelry.com.   I'm pretty impressed with the variety of resources available online now!  If you don't have an account with Ravelry yet I recommend it.  It's a great way to find patterns and recommended yarns.  I also like to look at other people's finished products on the same pattern.

This is a snapshot of the yarns I'll be using to make my blanket.  I wound these all by hand, which was kind of a pain!  Some of them were more tangled than others to begin with so they took almost 30 minutes to wind up.

Someday I may invest in a swift and yarn winder.  Someday.  By until then, I'll keep winding by hand.  I followed the steps in this video, Winding a Center-Pull Ball.

I've now finished almost two colors swatches and here's the state of things now:

This was the first time I had to cast on more than 25 stitches, so figuring out how much yarn to leave was a major pain for me.  I first cast on 10 stitches, took them off, measured the length, multiplied by 10 and then started with that length.  When I got to the 100th stitch, I had a huge tail.  The instructions warned not to leave too long a tail because we'd need all the yarn to finish the swatch, so I measured the extra amount I had left, took it all apart, and tried it again with the original length -minus- the extra amount I had left.  Again, I was left with almost 30 inches.  Took it apart again.  AGAIN, 30 inches leftover.  This happened about 4 times and finally when I *still* had an extra long tail, I just decided, screw it, I'll just cast on more stitches and make the blanket wider.  To compensate I'm going to throw in another skein of yarn into the mix.

Good thing I'm not working on clothing, because this methodology won't work.  Figuring out the correct cast-on length is something I'll have to work on.

I also miscounted while knitting one row and had to take that all apart, which was not fun at 3 in the morning.  Maybe I shouldn't have been knitting at 3 in the morning.

Side Note: I was looking for an easy way to transfer photos from my iPhone to my computer without having to connect the two devices and so far I'm enjoying success with the Wi-Fi Photo Transfer app.  Any other suggestions out there for other fast, easy methods for transferring photos?

Stay tuned to see my progress on this project!

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Crochet Artists... or... CRAZY PEOPLE?

Look at this animated portrait of a face, by Jo Hamilton. By the way, that's not paint, it's CROCHETED YARN!


Some people have amazing patience. Or... OCD? I sometimes look at art and think that they're just people who have found a good channel for their OCD and then I'm happy for them. And thank goodness for them, because even I don't have the patience for that kind of crazy crafting.

I suppose Hamilton's work is a variation on what Twinkie Chan does with her adorable food-inspired scarves & accessories. She recently made these adorable mini popsicle pins, that she will sell on her Etsy shop... where she also has a BURGER SCARF now, oh mannnn. Want! She's also done the occasional crocheted painting, so she's done the whole entrepreneur/artist crossover thing, which I think is really inspiring.

I've also been a longtime-admirer of Agata Olek, who is known for her street art, in which she crochet-covers everything. I first noticed the bikes in New York, like this...


But she's moved on to grander things, like construction vehicles, whole apartment interiors, and... the Wall Street Bull sculpture. Here she was in action:


Fun fact: The Wall Street bull itself was an act of guerrilla art, left by an artist as a surprise to the city of New York, and is NOT actually owned by New York!

But apparently Olek's got some legal troubles in the UK!? Oh my. Well, if you want to support her, you can help her out at www.olekappeal.com.

Oh btw, the quilt is allllmost done. I completed the front, and made some binding! I am gonna finish it on Memorial Day! ...I hope. Well, I might be stitching the last of it on the plane.

You can blame Joann Fabrics for putting this tiki stuff on sale for 60% off that I had to go pick up as a break from quilting.

Shiny coconuts

The thing that pushed me over is when I saw Pin-up Queen and burlesque starlet, Bettina May, wear a bedazzled set of these, and I coveted it. --Ya know, for when I lunch on my balcony on a hot day.

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