Sunday, December 30, 2007

Messy Fun at the Potter's Guild

I have always wanted to try pottery throwing. It is one of those things that look so fascinatingly simple when you see artists do it, but that you know involves huge amounts of skill and precision (and actually, a lot of chemistry and physics). Lucky for us, this year D's parents became members of the Deep River Potter's Guild, which meant that family members were all allowed to play in the clay studio over the holidays and make all sorts of wonky wares.

The studio is used by potters with all levels of experience - there were some really beautiful pieces lining the shelves, glazed and unglazed:

I love the glaze on these bowls - D's mom knows the artist and explained that they were dipped in two glazes, and where they overlapped, created another colour effect.

Basic clay prep and throwing starts with wedging the clay, which involves pressing the clay down in repeated motions to remove trapped air bubbles inside, which stops it from doing crazy things like exploding in the kiln and such (always a good thing).

Wedging the clay

Next up, a quick lesson on centreing our clay on the bat and wheel, forcing it into a cone and the flattening it (called coning) before you start to shape it:

Then, attempting some throwing on our own. We made an indent and pulled it outward to shape the insides of our bowls (after which my hands got too dirty to take more pictures, so no other progress pics)

Another interesting point: almost all the clay can be used over and over again - very little is ever wasted, because you can immerse dried clay in water and it can be reclaimed!)

Not bad! Three bowls survived - mine is the bottom right. At this point we left the bowls to dry for a few days to reach leather-hard stage, when you can shape the base of the bowl. Below are mugs that D's mom made us for Christmas:

Recognize the coasters?

A few days later, we carved lip-thingies into our bowls and readied them for glazing:

We left the bowls behind in Deep River to be glazed and fired - hopefully they'll turn out. I must say I really enjoyed myself, as did D. In fact, we might just sign up for some classes in Columbus - the to-do list keeps growing!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Deep River Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone! We're visiting D's family in Deep River, Ontario this week, and it's been beautifully snowy and festive. And cold. Just wanted to share a few photos for the snow-less folks:

So far, our holiday has consisted of eating, sleeping, and more eating. And some crafts too, including a visit to the Deep River Potter's Guild, which I will blog about very soon. We are returning to Toronto soon, where I suspect there will be more celebrating, eating, and festivities to be had! I love the holidays. Hope you are enjoying yourselves too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ene's Scarf

Or perhaps more like Gatsby's scarf.

Back in November, I was suddenly inspired to start knitting lace when I saw Ms. A's lovely bridesmaid wrap. Up until now I have only knitted a little lace here and there (Orangina, Rusted Root) but never a fine-lace pattern. Of course, these thoughts then actualized into excessive yarn-buying (total acquisition of 3600 yards of laceweight wool), and then the realization, what if I hate knitting lace?

I really, really hope I like knitting lace.

I went Ravelry to see what kind of lace scarves and wraps people are knitting, and settled on a few patterns: Ene's Scarf, Shetland Triangle, and Flowerbasket Shawl. Lucky for me, the library had a copy of Scarf Style so I went with Ene, a pretty triangular shawl that didn't look too complicated...

Good grief. Casting on has so far been the worst part. 375 stitches!! It took me the better part of an evening to do this without messing up. And then I had to recount it twice, just to make sure I was ready to start knitting. I didn't even bother with checking gauge at this point. So, when I was finally ready to begin knitting, I opened up the page to the first chart and...sigh. More bafflement. What are all these grey blocks that say "no stitch here"?. Not knowing if it was literally no stitch, or it you slip a stitch, or what, I patiently waited another day to start so that I could get some help on the Ravelry forums (again, I love LOVE this site - I just realized there is a huge queue to get an account, but sign up! It's so worth it!). Those delightful Ravelers responded to my post in 20 mintues and then I was set (turns out the grey blocks literally mean no stitch; the pattern is decreasing at that point and they are just representing a clear chart)

Anyhow, it has been going smoothly for the last 22 rows, with the occasional lost YO, but nothing I wasn't able to fix. And it's looking appropriately lacey with holes and things in all the right spots. This is getting ahead of things, but I'm totally excited to block this thing once it's done, as lace is supposed to undergo this amazing transformation from lumpy frumpiness to delicate gloriousness.

This week we head out to Toronto for the holidays - I can't wait! Wishing you all a happy Christmas and New year, and lots of relaxation (and crafting) in between. I'll write again soon. Have a great week!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rusted Root

I spotted this pattern on Craftster a year or two ago, and pretty soon after I was seeing this on nearly ever knitting blog in blogland. It was everywhere, in every colour imaginable. And they all looked good! Which was a great sign that it was a good, flattering pattern.

So I finally jumped on the band wagon - I finished sometime in January, I think. Here is my finished Rusted Root by Zephyr Style:

Pattern: Rusted Root by Zephyr Style
Yarn: Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, 3 skeins Provincial Rose
Needles: US6 circulars, US4 dpns

I loved knitting this, and wore it a lot over the summer (unlike a lot of my other projects) and probably one of the knits I have received the most compliments on as well. This was such a well written pattern, knit in one piece from the top down, which means no seaming up whatsoever. And the lace panel kept it interesting amidst rounds and rounds of stockinette stitch. It's held up well, too - the cotton fleece is comfy to wear, and washes well.

A quick Sunday post (still tired from last night's get together, and spending this morning cleaning up crumbs and spills) for today before I go to the library (one of my new favourite places) and do a little more holiday crafting/shopping. Are you done your crafting yet? The days are counting down! Have a great weekend, and happy crafting.

P.S. Thanks everyone for clicking on my site - it's my first blog experience and I'm having a lot of fun with it. It is lovely to see all the comments, and exciting to see that more and more people are beginning to visit!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fondant 101

Wednesday was Cake Day for my hospice volunteer job, and I worked with fondant for the first time - it's a lot of fun! Fondant is a strange substance, a thick and elasticky sugar dough. Kind of reminded me of play dough. I liked that it didn't crumble or crack, or streak. It's much easier to apply an even layer of this stuff compared to butter cream frosting, and comes out looking pretty and smooth, and looks quite elegant. Which is why I suppose it's used so much for wedding cakes and such. I don't think it tastes as good as plain old buttercream, but I guess that's what you sacrifice for appearance. I didn't get to taste this one though, so maybe it would have convinced me otherwise.

Here's how to:

First, fill and cover your cake with buttercream frosting, or whatever you usually use. The fondant just needs a sticky surface to adhere to.

Two: Weigh out your pre-made fondant (this one is by Wilton) - about 18 oz for an 8" cake:

Three: Warm up the fondant by kneading it in your hands, and add flavouring or colour as required, and roll out on a icing sugar-dusted surface. Drape it over the cake:

Four: Using your hands (or special fondant tools if you have them), smooth the fondant over the cake, pressing top to bottom for the sides, and trim the excess.

Five: Decorate with scraps of fondant and buttercream icing as you please.

That's it! You're done. Have a good weekend everyone! We've got lots to do before our little get together tomorrow, and we're going to the Columbus Zoo again tonight for Wildlights and skating!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Crocus Spindle Socks

The weather in Columbus is still warm, so warm in fact, that the big planters you see on city streets are still full with thriving flowers. The pansies are looking prettier than ever. But this weekend will probably be the end of them...everyone says the temperature is going to drop like crazy by Friday. Which suits me fine, because I'd like it to start feeling more like December with Holiday Cheer. Plus, I want to get some good wear out of my new, wintery Spindle socks. That's two pairs in a month, which is a record for me. Usually, I knit one sock, and it sits in the corner looking all sad and mateless for another few months. Not this time!

Pattern: Spindle Socks by Anna Bell of My Fashionable Life
Yarn: Knit Picks Merino Style in Crocus, 2 skeins
Needles: US4 dpns

You wouldn't believe how fast a knit this was. I finished the pair over 2 days. And I very nearly ran out of wool in trying to squeeze out an entire sock with one skein, but given that the Vanilla Cable Socks used only a tiny bit of the 3rd skein, I thought I could make it work. I think the weight on each skein must refer to how much it weighs including the label, because when I put it on my kitchen scale it usually ranged between 47-48 g when it claimed to be 50 g. Which means it must be a littler less in yardage than indicated, right? Anyhow, I still have a whole skein left which I can now use for some other socks!

We're going to a birthday party tonight, another birthday party on Friday, and then we're having a little holiday shindig at our place on the weekend - let the celebrating begin! was also a cake day, which there will be some cake pictures coming soon.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Whew, I'm pooped! Today was full of errands - shoe repairs, dry cleaning, Christmas shopping, photo developing and Targeting. And I haven't even gotten around to my baking yet. Plus Gatsby's whining for his supper.

So, this will be a brief little post, but hopefully something that will amuse you. It's the first (and only) sweater I knit for D, about 2-3 years ago. It's Skully, from Stitch and Bitch, a simple rectangular sweater with sleeves knit straight out of the sides.

Pattern: Skully from Stitch and Bitch
Yarn: 8 skeins of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky, Charcoal, 1 skein in Cream
Needles: US10.5

The intarsia's not bad, eh? Let's not think about the mess on the inside. I was rather pleased with myself when I finished this bad boy, thinking that sweater knitting was sooo easy - that is, until I saw D model the finished product. It looked so...home-made. In an ugly-cute kind of way. As any sensitive and responsible husband should, he claimed to love the sweater and actually wore it out in public 2 times.

There are several things drastically wrong (but charming, as D likes to say) with this sweater:

  • The gauge was too tight, hence using up a whole extra skein (that's 200 yards!) of wool
  • The too-tight gauge resulted in a dense and overly warm rug-like sweater, which meant the wearer could only keep it on for an hour or so
  • The arm holes were too small due to the gauge miscalculation, but I still squeezed in the pattern's pick-up stitches, which created this wide wide sleeve.
  • The sleeve has some funny shaping at the bottom, where I decreased a few times in order to try to reduce the width of the sleeve - this was before I learned about calculating sleeve decreases evenly.
  • The collar is super wide and gives this boat neck kind of look that is both feminine and just plain weird looking.

Now that I've reviewed the problems, I'm even more touched that D actually wore this beast out. Overall though, a fun beginner's project. I may rip this out one day and re-knit it, now that I've photographed it.

That's it for now, bye!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My First Sweater

This Saturday D and I went to the CCAD student art show, which was really something - 3 floors with works by 150 students! We didn't buy anything, but it was still worth going. It was a bit like the One of a Kind Show in Toronto. Not much else to tell about the weekend, we've been doing holiday preparations and assembling Christmas presents. I've been making some shortbread too, but I haven't found a great recipe just yet, so that means more baking tomorrow.

Today I think I'll show you one of my older knits, given that it's the holidays which means many of my crafts will no longer be a surprise to their recipients if I keep posting them all. In 2004, after many hats and scarves, I decided to knit my first sweater after seeing D's sister churning out lovely sweaters like it was no big deal. She claimed it was easy. And really, it was.

Pattern: Cowl Sweater from Stitch and Bitch
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted, about 4 skeins
Needles: US11 straights and dpns

Back in the day, when I didn't know any better, I bought yarn at full price and needles that the pattern called for. I excitedly trekked to Lettuce Knit on my lunch break and bought myself an armful of bright, apple green wool. Increases, decreases, I was making stuff up and fudging bits of the pattern that I wasn't sure about (hmm, decrease both ends? Does that mean you turn first? How do you count a row? What's that gaping hole??

I'm glad to say that in 3 years I have learned a thing or two, most helpfully that I usually have to go up least 1-2 needle sizes to get the correct gauge. Anyhow, I still really like this sweater, even though I haven't worn it in a while. I made a few modifications to the pattern too - stockinette instead of garter stitch, ribbing along the bottom, and a wider, floppier cowl.

That's about it. I was so super excited to wear this thing and too impatient to wait for it to dry from blocking that I wore it out still slightly damp. I didn't even notice the damp woolly smell in my excitement. I was now officially capable of sweater-making. Next post: D's first sweater.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Basic Cabled Socks

Pattern: Basic Cabled Socks from Vogue Knitting: Accessorize
Yarn: Knit Picks Merino in Vanilla, just over 2 skeins
Needles: US4 dpns

Winter snuggly socks! This was my go-to project whenever I was tired of making coasters. I used Knit Picks merino style for the first time, and I must say, I really liked it. It has a soft, smooth feel without being too shiny or excessively sproingy, but doesn't split and shows off cables nicely. Plus it's really affordable. I probably could have done this in two skeins, but I knit them from the cuff down, so I wasn't sure if there was a way to judge yardage that way.

The cable pattern was easy to memorize which made for good mindless TV knitting (although this week's Grey's had me gasping and verging on heart attack status so many times I only managed to squeeze in a few rounds) and I was able to finish them in about two days.

Some more DK weight projects coming up. I've developed this habit of buying single balls of yarn without any project in mind, thinking I can probably turn it into a hat or mittens, only to find out that usually you need at last two balls to do much. So, it's mix and match time and I'm trying to find a two-colour pattern for DK wool, which means endless hours of Ravelry surfing. I love that site. If you haven't gotten on it yet, sign up! It is the ultimate knitting resource. Be careful though, it's very very addictive.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Last Minute Quilted Coasters

Quilted coasters from Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts, one of the many beautiful and simple projects from this book. They are relatively easy to make, even if you've never quilted before. I ended up using just a standard presser foot on my machine because the walking foot was the wrong size (ordering it in would have taken 3 weeks - how can I wait that long?) and I think they turned out just fine.

The nice thing about this project is that as long as you are using coordinated prints, you can just cut and sew as you please and then later match the coasters together any way you want. I think I'm going to go test drive the coasters now... curl up with a cup of tea and munch on some shortbread cookies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Peter Rabbit's Misty Garden

For my birthday last year, I received a skein of wonderfully cuddly, soft angora yarn called Peter Rabbit by Fleece Artist - just enough for a luxurious little scarf. The bright yellows and blues seem to be pooling a bit, but it's also creating this crazy diagonal effect which I kind of like. I've read about people using different balls of the same yarn to prevent pooling but I haven't attempted that on any of my projects yet. The scarf is a basic lace pattern, a version of feather and fan, called Misty Garden from Scarf Style.

It started snowing this morning, finally! Downtown is covered by a blanket of snow and I'm feeling more festive already. I might have to play some Christmas music this morning while I craft. Have a good morning!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pointy Kitties

Kitties up to no good...

Pointy kitties! These guys are so cute. It's a free pattern too, by Wee Wonderfuls, so go download it! I used some leftover cotton from my apron project, as well as some thinner quilting cotton (which was easier to turn out). I know their heads are bobbing in funny directions, and looking up, but sewing on the head is harder than it looks! I'm still indecisive about the stripes, mainly because the colour selection in felt is really limited, so I just got some ivory and light blue. While I was hovering in front of the felt rack, this woman kindly advised me, "Looking for red and green? I know how you feel. They've got tons left at Walmart...". I kind of just looked at her blankly and said um, thanks. Thoughtful of her, anyway.

Our Christmas tree is up now!

These two cushions were part of last week's crafting

Monday, December 3, 2007

Odds & Ends

I'm starting the week by wrapping up a few things - a package for my friend J's baby on the way, inside is the cardigan and teeny socks...

Every once in a while I get the urge to pull out an entirely different hobby, so I started this necklace. When my fingers and eyes got tired, I switched back to knitting and sewing.

New stash! This is my first order from Knitpicks online (minus the grey in the top left) and I am pretty happy with the yarns I received. I purchased the color cards a while back and have just gotten around to ordering some this past week. The yellowy merino DK weight is soft and squishy and will probably be turned into some chunky socks. The Shadow laceweight is going to become a shawl of some sort, and the cream, black and grey Palette are going to become mitton projects. I'm planning on trying some fair-isle and lace knitting - it's just a question of how to priortize all these ongoing projects.

Not much news to share...I am still waiting for the sun to come out soon so I can take some better pictures already!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Happy Pin Cushions

Pattern from Joelle Hoverson's Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts.

Cute pin cushions to brighten up an otherwise dreary weekend - it rained all day today, and there was absolutely no good daylight to take photos in. I finally gave up waiting and snapped this dull looking photo. I don't have Photoshop either, so I really have to rely on good natural light. Anyhow, the pin cushions were a cinch to make, but it took some practice to line up the points meeting in the centre (hence the button in the top one!). I have a newfound admiration for the intricacies of quilting and the quilts that D's mom makes with all those complicated star designs and tricky seams. Wow. I guess practice makes perfect. This means many more pin cushions. Although I'm not sure how many pin cushions one person can use...they might find their way into some stockings or something this year.

So this weekend was one of those stay-in-slump-on-the-couch weekends, not involving too much activity. We did get a chance to drive up to Worthington and visit La Chatelaine bakery, where we had a delicious croissant and chocolatine. Mmm. It's crafting madness in the apartment. My kitchen table is littered with coaster pieces, batting, and bits of thread, but I've got a whole bunch of them done already. Unfortunately the walking foot didn't fit, so I am just using the standard presser foot. It's tugging a little bit, but nothing that can't be fixed with a little ironing. The couch and floor are littered with balls of yarn from the package that just arrived from Knitpicks...I love new yarn! I haven't done one of those "newly acquired goods" posts in a while, maybe I'll do that next. Good night!