A random smattering.

lace bowl

It’s Wednesday, which means that I have the first half of the day wide open, allowing me ample time to peruse the internet, listen to Feist’s Metals on repeat, sip endless cups of tea, and walk around the house taking silly pictures. This blog post is the fruit of those activities, so I apologize for the randomness.

That little trinket bowl up there currently resides on my dresser, and is never quite so empty. It’s a bit of Pinterest come to life; I pinned this ‘easy’ DIY months ago and finally got to try my hand at it recently. Things to note: if you’re not familiar with polymer clay, it’s a bit difficult to work! You have to soften it up in your hands, roll it out with a special acrylic tool, and be careful not to cover it with bits of lint or fingerprints before you bake it. Mine is all sorts of wonky, and I haven’t quite figured out how to sand the edges, but it’s special to me, as the lace imprint comes from a doily made by a great-aunt. Subsequent attempts at this craft proved more successful, and the ladies in my family will each be receiving one in their stockings this year.

lavender and lace

I just put some dried lavender, procured from an awesome local farm, on my dresser. I love that every night, as I walk by on my way to bed, I catch a subtle whiff. It’s been very calm-making.

canyon mittsHalfway done with my Canyon Mitts (perhaps more aptly named Forest Mitts?), minus the weaving in of ends, naturally. I love this pattern, am still second guessing my color choices, but planning many sport-weight stripey mitts using this pattern. Also, it marks the first time that I’ve bought a knitting magazine and immediately cast on for a project inside. I know, I know–my life, so exciting, so unpredictable. You must come here for the sense of adventure!

stockingsTrying to surprise the family with stockings for the holidays this year. I figured that super cheery fabrics and twee little birds would help me actually get them done. Crossing my fingers!

The whole working two jobs thing is really cutting into my crafting time. I feel like I can never see any big projects through! (I’m talking to you, Rhinebeck sweater from last year) I do, however, drive by lots of yarn and fabric shops in my travels and seem to have plenty of time to check out what’s inside. As I was strolling through one of my local favorites last night, I kept gravitating towards these beautiful fabrics that were just not my style at all. Some were too sophisticated, some too cute, but I just wanted to use them. It led me to thinking about swaps. I see them all over the internet,  but I’m not in any sort of magical blog circle and I don’t actively engage in any Ravelry groups that would actually allow me to participate in one. So I’m throwing it out there from my blog, to my readers: does anyone want to do a swap? I haven’t fleshed out any rules yet, as I’d like to gauge interest first. But it would be so cool! I have blog friends in Canada! In other, more exciting states! Anyone in?

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“The deer froze like a Steph caught in a yarn store.”

We drove up to Maine this past weekend in pursuit of two things: some cozy winter clothes (from the wonderful outlets up north) and Flo’s hot dogs. We succeeded on both counts. But, truth be told, we would have definitely driven the two hours just for the hot dogs. They are truly a culinary gem of New England.

There was some cliff walking around Perkins Cove on the Marginal Walk, one of my favorite outdoor activities (especially when it cools down and you can bundle up with hats and scarves and sweet potato pastries).

The views were pretty spectacular. And the sounds and the smells, but I don’t have any evidence of that beyond my words.

And, lucky girl I am, we popped into a yarn store (The Yarn Sellar, to be exact, a charming little house brimming with yarn, roving, spinning wheels, and even fresh eggs on certain days of the week). Scott snapped this picture on his phone and promptly coined the title of this post. When not completely taken aback by his photographic interruptions, I managed to find a couple skeins of sport-weight yarn to knit up into these lovely mitts. Progress is slow going, and I’m questioning my color choices, but they have my attention right now and I’m enjoying the process. Maybe we’ll even have some FO shots this month!

Breakfasting.

Since the last time I posted, many months ago, lots of things have happened, changed. I won’t go into all of that right now. Much of it is very, very positive, and I am happier now than I have been in a long time. All of these changes have restricted my crafting time, but I have channeled my creative energies into putting together a new apartment. It’s not done, but it’s cozy, so in lieu of lots of knitting and sewing content, you may see some of that crop up here.

 

Time has been on warp speed around these parts, and I’ve been savoring the few quiet, uninterrupted moments that I come across. These typically occur at breakfast, and mostly on the weekends when I can lazily stumble out of the bedroom into the dining room and sit in the sunshine, sipping my tea, while Scott brings me elaborate meals. I steal a few knit stitches away while I wait for my omelets.

 

I’ve been missing this space, and the ability to share–my life, my crafts, the things that inspire me. So I’m not making any promises, to anyone. I probably won’t post very often. But I would like to approach blogging (ugh, that word) in the same way that I approach those morning meals: carefully, with intention, and brimming with things I love. Crumbs and all.

 

In other news, how is it November? And why am I not inspired by holiday knitting?

Cutting and cutting.

I can’t believe that it has been nearly two months since I first pulled out these fabrics to press them. I’ve been cutting them intermittently over the course of that time, a few triangles here and there while watching movies or listening to music*. Today I finished the printed fabrics, and will move on to cutting a whole lot of white cotton.

I really love the prints—their subtlety, their simplicity. My one major concern is that the center triangle in the second row from the top is actually navy, not black like the other fabrics. The difference is only apparent on camera, and hopefully will be less prominent once all of the fabrics are spread out in their Flying Geese pattern. What do you think, does it completely clash with the rest of the fabrics?

I’m off to do more cutting. So much white fabric!

*Today I had some free time, so I listened to a lot of Mirah, and watched the film One Week (because Netflix just added it today). I wouldn’t call it a great movie by any stretch of the word, but it had its merits on two counts: firstly, it starred Joshua Jackson, a deep-rooted crush since the days of Mighty Ducks, and then later, Dawson’s Creek; secondly, it featured a cross-country trip across Canada. The travel element made the movie seem like it was created as a giant tourism advertisement for Canada (which rendered much of the plot kind of superfluous), which was totally fine and effective because I am now convinced it is the most beautiful country in the world and want to live there.

The quiet comfort of crochet.

This past month has been a doozy.

 

I: landed a great new job at a local yarn and fabric shop, have been hunting for a second job related to my studies, survived the final round of midterms of my undergraduate career, immersed myself in several great books, and got rid of a lot of stuff. Life has been moving at a rapid clip lately, and I can barely keep up with the turning of the calendar pages. Luckily, I stumbled upon a new (to me) craft that has made me feel as if life has slowed down a bit, as if I’ve managed productivity amidst the chaos: crochet.

 

Last fall, Scott took a trip to Prince Edward Island with a friend, and my only request, as usual, was to please scout the yarn shops and see if there’s anything  local and wonderful that I can’t find in Boston. He brought back several skeins of MacAusland’s Woolen Mills sport-weight yarns, in three of my favorite colors—acidic, mustardy yellow, deep cranberry, and gingersnap brown. I’ve dragged my feet for months about what to do about it; I felt like I had to make something really special. But I was constrained by the yardage–I only have about 1200 yards–and felt stumped as to what to knit. I caught a side-glance at the crochet hook that I keep in a jar with pens on my desk, and a light bulb went off.

I’ve been loving the process so far: completely mindless hooking that I can work on intermittently without a pattern, while in front of the television, any time. It isn’t a big deal to just pick it up and add a few double crochets while I wait for Scott to finish brushing his teeth, or while my soup comes to a boil, whereas I can sometimes be intimidated by picking up my knitting and feeling like I ‘have to’ finish a row. I feel liberated, and comforted by the sense of productivity it gives me during these busy times, when very little of my day is spent sitting at home.

 

I’m also thoroughly obsessed. I can’t stop thinking about crochet, have ‘faved’ a million crochet projects on Ravelry, and am plotting what’s next. I fear that my knitting needles are going to be lonely for a bit, at least until I’m done with the semester. And I expect that my pile of crocheted goods will grow!

Otherwise engaged, with quilts.

Well, that was a much longer break from my blog than I had intended. Where did the time go?

 

In this case, it went to an engagement, finishing up my penultimate semester of school, and an extended holiday break. My blog became a distant memory, something I did when I was a different person, in a different station in life. I was ready to send Crafting a Better Life to the online cemetery, just another abandoned blog floating through the internet. But then there was a  pick-up in my crafting, and suddenly I had all of these finished projects with no proper documentation, and I felt like I had a lot to say. For me, there’s always been the self-imposed pressure of constantly generating new, fun content here, and I realized that to fully enjoy blogging, I need to abandon that standard and just post whenever I feel compelled. I’m aiming, for now, for one post a week. And I promise that they will not be wedding-related.

 

For now, I bring you quilts. Or rather, quilts in the making.

I’ve been knitting like a fiend since the beginning of the year, and, sadly, have little to show for it because I am so lazy about blocking and photographing things (will work on this!). Over the holidays I picked up some beautiful little fabric bundles from Purl and have been staring at them, wondering how best to use them. I realized that fabric is very much like yarn, in that if you deign it too beautiful, or special, or wait forever to find the perfect project for it, it will sit, unused, for a very long time. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to tear into it with my grubby little hands, and turn piles of fabric into something useful.

Once I opened up the bundles and looked at the small, delicate prints, I decided that the quilt needed to be something very simple. It had to really showcase these fabrics, and work within a very restrained color palette.

The colors are all off-white, black, and tan, with that lovely burst of orange. I think that against a very stark white, they’ll pop… though I am imagining how they’ll look against a darker background.

Once I stacked them all together, I realized that they should probably become a simple Flying Geese quilt. I’m going to iron and cut into the fabrics today, and bring some triangles along to the fabric store to decide which background they’ll fly against. I’m imagining lines of orange quilting down the length of the quilt. Perhaps a scrappy binding. Lots to think about, and lots to be inspired by.

 

I’m very happy to be back in this space, and hope to parade some fresh knits here soon!

Back in Boston.

I just got back from an amazing week spent on a lake in Maine with my family—canoeing, swimming, and nightly  fires—and have successfully beat the post-vacation blues. I usually spend a couple of days, after coming back home, wallowing in the banality of my daily routines, lamenting the fact that I’m no longer carefree or adventurous. This time around, though I missed waking up early with my parents to work on puzzles or jump into the lake and paddle a canoe, I was excited to get the house ready for the fall semester. I immediately began tidying, packing things away, and baking and cooking up a storm. Time for proper meals becomes sparse once classes begin, so it was imperative that I look ahead and do some batch cooking and ensure that we had food in the house to get us through busy days and long evenings. It also meant that, while pots of soup simmered and cookies chilled in the freezer, I had plenty of time to knit.

I started the pumpkin-hued socks while in Maine, using up a skein of my hand-dyed. The cuff is a sturdy broken rib stitch, and flows into plain and simple stockinette: the perfect vacation stitch. That lump of gray tweed beside the sock yarn is some lovely Berroco Blackstone Tweed, slated for a Wordsworth. I swatched on several different needles, as I am a perennially loose knitter, and have finally settled on my preferred fabric. The yarn was sort of odd to work with—it felt smooth in the ball with occasional nubs of tweed, but as I knit with it, it felt increasingly lumpy, which made it difficult to manipulate. The fabric looked good before blocking, with great drape and stitch definition, and became exponentially better looking after a good wash. We’ll see how I make out with the actual knitting, and hope that I get over the feel of the wool. In any case, I’m excited to be working on sweaters again, and fully blame the desire to do so on the 45 degree nights we had in Maine. Of course, the moment we got back to Boston, the temperature was back in the 90s. Alas, such is life in New England.

And finally, part of my cooking-marathon: curried zucchini soup. If you have zucchini to use up (as I’m sure many CSA subscribers do right now!), and like a bit of a kick to your soup, MAKE THIS. It’s quick and easy, is relatively healthy, and, most importantly, simmers long enough to make a swatch for a sweater. I think it would be incredible with some raita on top, or perhaps spiced or candied walnuts. I look forward to exploring the possibilities for experimentation with this soup base.

I’ll be back soon to share some more knitting and some cookies that are perfect with afternoon (or morning!) tea. Happy Monday!

The finally FO: Gentle(wo)man’s Fancy Socks.

They’re finally all finished and clean! It has been far too long since I’ve had something finished to show around here, so I’m very happy to present these. It goes without saying that on the one day when I actually need the ribbons of sunlight that typically pour into our apartment, there are none to be found. Boston is overcast, and so are my photos—so it goes.

This is Nancy Bush’s Gentleman’s Fancy Sock pattern, worked up on a 2.5 mm needle with my hand-dyed yarn. The pattern was dead simple, the socks worked up quickly, and the resulting fabric is as lofty and springy as it is soft. Needless to say, I am a contented knitter.

I would share more words, but I leave for a family vacation tomorrow and have lots of cleaning and packing to do. I’ve got one more finished knit to discuss before I leave, but I’ll save it for tomorrow. I have to spend some time soaking up the satisfaction of finally finishing up some knits. 🙂

The almost-FO.

One pair of socks, complete! I’m enamored of the little yarn ball left over, and can’t wait to add it to my scrap blanket stockpile. A proper FO shoot is forthcoming.

In the meantime, this moves me closer to completing my August knitting goals—there’s one more pair of socks to finish, I’m halfway through my Selbu Modern, and will tackle the mittens next week. I’m so glad to have this recent burst of knitting mojo, as fall is rapidly approaching and I need to update my knit-wardrobe! Though it reached over 90 degrees in Boston today, there was a definite crisp in the air this past weekend, and the presence of fall has become palpable in New England. This usually sends me flying to needles and yarn, carefully planning my ‘big’ knits of the season. Does this happen to anyone else after a long, hot summer? And, more importantly…what are you making?