Fall finishing frenzy.

So we established (a month ago, now!) that things have been a little bit busy around these parts. That hasn’t changed.

ImageWhat has changed a bit is the view in Massachusetts. As the leaves have begun turning over to their cozier, warmer shades, so has the urge to be cozier and to nest. After months of avoiding my knitting needles and continuing to acquire fabric despite not having time to sew, I suddenly have the urge to play with all of those stashed goodies. Chalk it up to all the time spent sitting around waiting while pots of soup simmer. It’s that season!

ImageI spent a bit of time this summer cutting and piecing together a half-square triangle quilt into a herringbone pattern, using some neon coral and greige. The motivation finally came to me to quilt the whole thing so I could get it on our bed in time for cooler weather. As I sat at my machine, I wondered about all of the knitting projects that sat in wait for me in the yarn storage bins. And then came a new mission: the fall finishing frenzy.

ImageThese are just a few of the projects that have either been started long ago or are really close to being finished. (Clockwise from top left: Daffodil in Rhinebeck 2011 yarn; White Pine in Berroco Ultra Alpaca; Anja in Quince & Co. Chickadee; toe-up socks in Koigu KPPPM; Karen Templer’s ‘how to improv a sweater’ in Berroco Ultra Alpaca; and Herringbone mittens in Cascade 220) The Anja hat just needs to be blocked and pom-pommed! Both sweaters only need sleeves! 

I’m hoping that by giving myself a mission – to complete as many of these projects as possible before starting anything new, and doing so within the framework of my favorite season! – that I can actually do this. So, the fall finishing frenzy begins. Off to get things done!

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Breaking the silence.

quilt assembly

I’m sensing a pattern here.

Last year my madness centered on getting married and all of the chaos surrounding my wedding day. My husband and I toiled through school and multiple jobs and weekend work. Time flew by, a theme around these parts.

Things tapered off in the new year. We were lucky to cut back some of our extra work hours and simplified life to match. I still had to give up most of my weekends, and missed many opportunities to spend time with family and friends, but we had each other so it was OK.

Instead of working shifts at the yarn and fabric shop where I was part-time, I switched over to teaching. What started with knitting and crochet on a private lesson basis quickly morphed into a monthly introductory sewing class and a bias towards quilting. Having completely lost my knitting and all-things-yarn-related mojo, it was a blessing: I could throw together projects quickly with the hum of the machine before me. And there I was, stitching up small projects and quilt tops with abandon.

But something stirred in me. There was a restlessness, a need for a big, all-consuming project into which I could pour all of my energy. Perhaps I was still coming down from the high of wedding planning. I’ll never forget, though, how our next wave of madness began: with a simple email positing a loaded question; do you think it’s crazy to think that we could buy a house?

S and I had rented apartments together for six years. We sat on a bit of money from our wedding, given by people who love us and had surely worked hard for it. We wanted to make that gift count, and so in May, a few months before our lease ran out, we looked for houses. We scouted neighborhoods based on school districts and a desire to be far from the noise of the city. All of our free nights and weekends were given over to driving to new-to-us towns with quaint New England names and making sure that houses with large acreage came with towns with good pizza shops.

We had a month of mayhem, and at the end of June after a short but intense search, we found our home.  It’s simple and bare-boned but it sits on more than an acre and is more than we ever dreamed we could give our future children as a place to learn and grow.

sky over home

Our summer has been full of cleaning and unpacking and painting and spending every spare cent on making the place ours. We have been handsomely rewarded with quiet, beautiful sunsets, and a few good yarn and fabric shops nearby.

fog over home

My sewing machine sits in front of a window overlooking this, our back yard. We’ve tamed it a bit, cut back the trees and grass to open up the space. There have been so many projects, each improving our life there little by little (and every bit counts, as my commute is now at least an hour each way). I thought it time to share all that we’ve been working on. And, once again, apologize for my long absence!

Sewing for organization.

moleskine case

I have a complex relationship with stuff. I tend to accumulate lots of it, and simultaneously get rid of bags of it at a time. I think a lot about how and why we collect things, and how to simplify our relationship to our things. All of this thinking led me to my craft area, which is my most poorly organized, but most used, space; supplies overflow from boxes, topple over on desks, and live in duplicate in different storage containers. As I sorted through everything, I realized that my knitting needles and crochet hooks were in complete disarray.

case closed

I spent some time one evening after work rounding up as many of my double-pointed needles as I could. I pulled them from project bags, from the basket in which some live on my desk, and from the plastic and paper cases in which they were sold. This messy craft space is very well-stocked, so I was able to quickly stitch up a solution to consolidate all of my needles into one easy-to-locate container. I pulled some mid-weight canvas and a half-yard of fabric from the shelf and got to work.

open sesame

Less than an hour later, I had a finished (mistakes and all! don’t inspect my quick and dirty stitching) holder for my DPNs. I made sure to leave pockets on the outside to hold printed patterns and a small notebook, for taking notes on my stitching or jotting down ideas. The whole things closes up into a neat and tidy little case, and I’m pondering whether or not I want to add a closure of some sort. As it is, nothing falls out of the case, but I think the structure of a little button tab or suede strap would be a nice aesthetic touch.

When I threw this together, I couldn’t find a desirable tutorial or pattern, so I drafted one using a calculator and piece of graph paper. It’s the first time I’ve taken the design of something into my own hands and it was very satisfying. I need to make an additional case for crochet hooks, so I’m hoping to put up the tutorials for both in this space soon – adding my voice to the choir of effective ways to store your needles and organize the abundance of stuff we all seem to have.

If only I could find such a simple solution to storing my yarn and fabric. Any ideas?

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The beginning of a new craze.

open wide

There are a few things about which I am fanatical: donning pajamas the moment I get home from work; making lots of tea throughout the day; reading each new issue of Martha Stewart Living from cover to cover when it arrives in the mail; and harping on a pattern once I’ve made it up successfully.  I become smitten once it works out, whether it’s knit, crocheted, or sewn, and make it a million times (like the Christmas when I made nine Lined Drawstring Bags). This is that pattern right now — the open wide zippered pouch from Noodlehead.

open wide unzipped

As soon as I saw the pattern, I couldn’t help but see the infinite possibilities: a single-fabric version, the contrast bottom, the opportunity for a pieced pouch. It’s a perfect scrap- or stash-buster, and if you have a well-stocked craft supply, you should have everything you need on hand. I made the medium size, using less than a fat quarter of this lovely tonal batik and a light chambray weave. It took no time to sew, and the pattern makes for a very impressive, clean-lined finished product.

knitting bag

It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the bag is large enough to hold a knitting project in progress. I just started Norie in some stashed Rowan Felted Tweed, and am loving the ability to tote it around in such a chic project pouch.

I’ve cut the fabric for another six or so of these. I don’t know when I’ll get around to sewing them all, but you’ll be seeing a lot of them in this space!

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Fancies – Valentine’s Edition {His}

Scott is very averse to shopping. He’s notoriously hard to buy for because he wants so little – and when he does want something, he saves up and buys it on his own. He’s also very specific about what kinds of things he buys, and has two mottos: Buy local. And have a few good things, well maintained. So in this spirit, a few good things to care for – all made in the U.S.A.

scottvday
Clockwise, from upper left corner: Pendleton Tribute #3 Blanket; Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap; a subscription to a magazine full of wonder: National Geographic; cozy Ragg Socks; and sachets to guard his handknits.

Scott and I are very similar, in that we prefer being bundled up and cozy over most things. We like pulling on thick socks and huddling beneath a blanket together reading. We like to dream about travel together. We share a love of the fragrance of cedar and want to build chests with it, line our wardrobes with the woodsy smell. We washed with the sea salt soap the evening after our wedding, and I love the power of scent memories, how you can evoke a moment in a whiff.

This year, I’ll be getting a root canal on our anniversary; he’ll be visiting his dentist two days later on Valentine’s Day. We won’t eat sweet treats this year, but will enjoy the comfort of our home, sitting together beneath a blanket, likely watching movies and falling asleep on the couch. I can’t imagine it any other way.

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Fancies – Valentine’s edition

I know that Valentine’s Day is a week away. And I’ve never celebrated it before. But two days prior to the commercial holiday, Scott and I will celebrate our seven year anniversary. We’ve never bought each other gifts to mark either occasion, typically opting to splurge on decadent ingredients at the grocery store to make a big, fancy meal. This year, however, things feel more worth celebrating. We’re married now! We’re saving for a house! We’ve earned a little bit of indulgence to commemorate our bond, our goals, and our shared life together.

Image

Clockwise from upper left corner: a flower CSA from new local Wild Folk Studio, in the ‘Humble’ offering; enough Quince & Co. Chickadee in Peacock to knit a Sebella; some Mast Brothers chocolate, locally procured from the Formaggio; a subscription to Wilder Quarterly; handmade Crescent moon hoops from Laurel Hill; and White Sage and Wild Mint tea from Juniper Ridge.

As we tighten our purse strings this year, I can’t imagine anything more extravagant than the constant presence of fresh flowers beside my bed. Sipping on fragrant tea while knitting a cozy sweater out of a favorite yarn. Dangling something shiny from my ears. Savoring little bits of chocolate while curled up with a good read.

These are the things that I fancy right now, during tight times, with love and coziness on the brain. While we’re imagining with pretend money, maybe I’ll round up a list of what I would get for Scott. It would definitely be a fun little list!

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Lately.

ripple rocker

My semester has just started, heralding a season of hurried meals, late nights spent hunched over my laptop, and the compression of all of the various things I need to do over the course of the week into a very small slice of time. To make matters more complicated, I’ve signed up to teach some classes at my local knitting and fabric shop. With my free time visibly shrinking from the calendar pages, I thought I’d pause and reflect on a few things that have brought happiness to my home lately.

Finishing things. This crochet ripple blanket has sat nearly-finished in my WIP-basket since early summer. I pulled it out over the weekend and it only took minutes to weave in the ends. I’m always shocked by how quick finishing can be, and apalled at my propensity for letting things languish. It has started a good trend in my craft room!

beet orzo

Warm orzo salad with beets and feta. I don’t think I can sing enough praises for Food52. Whenever I’m in a food rut or wondering what to make for dinner, they bail me out with their simple, perfect recipes. We’ve eaten this salad sprinkled generously with feta; I top mine with a hit of oregano, and Scott with red onion. It’s a perfect work lunch, eaten hot or cold!

framing

Framing things. Maybe you’re familiar with this scenario: see a cool print on Etsy or Society 6. Mull over its purchase for a few days. Decide that you simply can’t live without it. Receive it, and immediately stick in a drawer, closet, or keep in its wrapper leaned up against the wall. I decided to break the cycle and start framing some of these prints, and not only does it validate the purchase – now it’s being used and enjoyed! – but makes our rented apartment feel more like a home. 3M hooks and craft store frames are the best!

Trying to celebrate the simple things. How do you juggle work, life, and/or school? And, more importantly, what do you choose to savor the moments in between the busy?

Cross-country hedgehogs.

Messy crafting

I’m very lucky to have good friends. Scott and I share a set of best friends, a couple with whom we went to college and who stayed on in Boston longer than any of our other friends had. Over the years we grew increasingly close, a friendship born out of the intimacy of living with one another and nurtured by hikes, camping trips, and many, many meals cooked and enjoyed together. Katie was my maid of honor and is a constant inspiration to me: she is an incredibly successful and motivated chemist who made a bold career change; she is dedicated to fitness and attends multi-weekly krav maga lessons; she is an amazing cook who shares my passion for desserts; and she picked up her life and moved across the country to pursue her goals.

That last bit has been tough. A friendship sustained by weekly visits and evenings shared laughing and growing together has evolved into late-night Skype sessions and rambling emails. We don’t see each other as often as we’d like, but we try and visit when we can (we just booked our trip to California for February!) and seem to pick up just where we left off each time. When Katie visited Colorado recently, she mailed me a package of fabrics from a local shop. It contained those lime stripes pictured above along with a gray and white chevron – perfectly packaging up our shared taste in clean, graphic prints. Armed with fat quarters of each, I knew I had to make something for her, so that her time milling about the store for something to send her friend wouldn’t have been in vain. I paired them with some of Lizzy House’s adorable hedgehogs from my stash, knowing that Katie, an animal lover, will find them charming.

Hedgies

I stitched lots of love into this bag, chanting “please move back, please move back” the whole time, hoping that the little hedgies would convince her of everything she misses from back east. But I know that her life is one of adventure and beauty right now, and that, more selfishly, her time across the country is temporary. The bag was the perfect small piece on which to work while watching Downton Abbey Sunday evening, a comfortable ease into the week ahead – and the promise that more crafting would happen over the course of the week (I stil have to stitch up the drawstrings, after all). And the Toast wrap? I’ve got about 50 stitches left to graft before giving it a good block.

The crafting urge is strong these days; I’m trying to squeeze as much as I can in before my semester starts in a few weeks!

Working on…

toast

I’ve been chugging away on a Toast wrap since the beginning of December. It’s part of my commitment to use what I have, digging deep into the stash for some balls of Knitpicks Stroll — unoriginally, in the exact colors used in the pattern photos (but why mess with a good thing?).  Here’s hoping I can finish this one up this weekend. It’s foggy and cool in Boston, the kind of hazy weather that encourages stretches of time spent with knitting in lap, a cup of tea by your side.

What are you working on?

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Our wedding: the handmade details.

Bouquet

As a crafter, it embarrasses me to report that I contributed very little in the way of handmade projects to my wedding. I long dreamt of the handknit shawl I would wear over my dress, or the handkerchief I would embroider for Scott, but as I’ve mentioned, it was a busy, busy year. The planning of the wedding sped by and, thankfully, resources like Etsy exist to help round out the little details (I’m also very lucky to know resourceful, crafty people who can whip things up in a pinch!). These bits helped us cut costs on decor, but also lent a special, personal touch to the atmosphere. I hope that sharing might provide some inspiration or allow someone else to benefit from what we found along the way. Pictures and details after the jump! Continue reading

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