Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Here come the holidays....

I've had the itch to blog for days now, but I left my camera in Wisconsin over Thanksgiving! What to do? I can't show off pictures of my recent projects, and it's driving me crazy. Grandpa is sending it in the mail though, so hopefully I will have those photos soon. And to satisfy the blogging itch, let me regale you with my sewing schemes for the holidays.

First up, Secret Santa giftee! Ah shoot. I can't post that here, since my family makes up most of my readership. All I'm gonna say is

I  hope that's cryptic enough to leave everyone guessing. And here's a link to another gift idea, but if you're family DON'T CLICK ON THAT! Oh the temptation. As the person who organizes Secret Santa in my family, I have an email in my inbox which contains the master list (sent to me by the helpful website, boogspace.com). So far I have resisted opening the message. We'll see if I get all the way to Christmas.

I'm also hoping to knit a few things as presents this Christmas. Remember this stupid freakin project?

That's the Honey Cowl which I've been working on since last January. Okay, it's not stupid. It's really beautiful. It's just that I progress at the rate of about 0.5 cm/month, and I've had to unravel it about four times due to mistakes. I think after the last time I unraveled it, I read this post from Tasia over at Sewaholic.net. What does she have to say about this pattern? "Simple." "Easy." "For knitting in front of the tv." I just about reached through the internet and throttled her. Okay, maybe that's hyperbole. She's very nice and talented and her cowl is very pretty:

Thankfully, after picking up the project once more, I finally found my rhythm and I've made steady progress since. Once I was able to decipher the pattern in the stitches, it went quite smoothly. That's the trickiest part of knitting I think. If you don't know what a knit or purl stitch looks like when it's on your needles or in the row below, how are you supposed to know what to do next? And in a pattern which depends on you staggering your stitches, like this one, just one stitch out of place will ruin the whole thing. Despite all my frustration, I think I would definitely use this pattern again. Especially since I've realized that after all this hard work, I'm not that fond of the color and I think it would look better on my roommate. She'lll probably receive it as a Christmas gift, and she better be thankful! It's only a year in the making, after all.

And since I'm a glutton for punishment, I would also like to knit something for my mother-in-law. But what can I finish in three weeks instead of 12 months? Any recommendations? Ooh! Isn't this neat?

Bandana Cowl by Purl Soho on Ravelry
But that's probably more my style than hers. How about this?

Noble Cowl by Emily Kausalik on Ravelry
So pretty. I think a cowl is best because it will be quicker (hopefully) and also because the headband option is out - someone else knit her one recently. Your ideas are welcome.

Okay, enough of that selfless stuff. Let's talk about stuff for me! As Christmas draws closer I'm drawn to all the lovely dresses out there that I probably would only wear once. Oh well! It's the holidays! Here's my inspiration...

Emma Watson from Teen Vogue photo shoot
same shoot, more photos at Diary of a Fashion Junkie
 Are you all gasping in admiration? It's okay to be jealous of someone younger than you, in the case of Emma Watson, since she's classy and all. I don't spend too much time pouring over pictures of celebrities and finding things to covet, but when the top picture was featured on Coletterie  I fell in love. It was from their fabric series, this particular one being about brocade. How hard do you think it would be to recreate that skirt in the top photo? Anyone know a good pattern to work off of? I'm loving the idea of a full skirt and a separate top. Maybe... this one from my vintage pattern collection?

I really like the top view. Maybe as separates I might get more wear out of a holiday top and skirt. I'm hooked on brocade lately, as you can tell from my other inspiration photo:

Sadly, I don't know where I found this photo. I think it must have been ModCloth, but I couldn't find it there  just now. There are other pretty examples though.

Well, that's enough from me. Anyone else want to share their holiday inspiration?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Christmas comes early!

Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy!

I really am a spoiled child. Look what my mom sent me! I can't say what I did to deserve this... okay, well I guess I did pass my qualifying exams (!) but this is still a lot of presents - enough that I am tempted to roll around in them like Scrooge in his piles of money. I better be sending some goodies to my mom soon because this is just too generous. Let's look at what she sent, shall we?

I am so excited at these sewing tools! I've been wanting a french curve for quite a while, and I can't wait to use it. And the vintage hem marker? Too cool! I've often sighed wistfully at other people's (like Sunni's). Now I have my very own, and I didn't even tell anyone about it! How lucky. My mom also sent a package of hand needles, which I can always use because - like all good seamstresses - I regularly lose my needles in the carpet so that later on some poor soul gets one in the foot. But that's not all! She also sent some serger tweezers. I don't know what these are used for, but I'm sure I will figure it out one day and be very glad I own them. What else? I'm sure you didn't fail to notice that box of vintage patterns at the top. Some of them are truly treasures, like the Givenchy dress peeking out in the photo. Then there's the wool she found at Goodwill. It's a lighter weight... maybe for a jacket or a skirt? And the colors are very pretty - browns and grays and blues. And here's another treasure:

This may be my favorite, for sentimental reasons. It's my mom's mom's Christmas cookie recipe and a bag full of cookie cutters. I am pretty attached to my holiday traditions, and I think it's really sweet that my mom thought to send me this so that I can make our holiday cookies here in Indiana, even though I can't go home this year.

Oh geez, that's not even everything. I just got off the phone with my mom, and she told me to unroll the wool because there was another gift hidden in the middle...

My own little embroidery scissors. I know this might sound silly, but I see these as a badge of a real seamstress. I feel like I just joined a special club. A very special, very dorky club.

Well, that's enough gloating over presents. I'm sorry you all had to witness that. Let's change the subject. Check out these!

Oh yeah. Those are homemade soft pretzels, and they are freakin delicious. I made on Halloween, but we gobbled them down before I thought of taking any photos. So I made them again. They aren't necessarily hard to make, but it does take a little time and tinkering. I guess what makes these so awesomely tasty is that you have to boil them a little and bake them and paint them with egg yolk, but I would say it's definitely worth it. Here's the recipe. And while you could eat these plain or dip them in some mustard from the fridge, wouldn't you rather have them with some beer cheese sauce?

I thought so. This is not hard to make at all. You just get your double boiler going, and then throw in some finely-shredded cheddar, some goat cheese (or cream cheese), a little beer, some red pepper flakes, maybe some chopped chives and a little garlic pepper, and you have yourself a delicious dipping sauce for your amazing homemade pretzels. I am not much of a cook, but I'm proud enough of these that I will definitely be making them for some party or other in the future. Like a beer garden party in the summer? That would be amazing. Or for a Christmas party with lots of different sauce options? Oh my lucky, lucky guests.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Holiday Planning, and Etsy Shop Open!

Money is tight these days! Anyone else feeling that strain? It's putting some restraints on my spending, but I'm not going to let it get me down. Since we can't afford to fly home for Christmas (tickets to Montana are expensive), Josh and I are already psyching ourselves up for the most relaxing Christmas ever, spent right here where we already are. Last time we couldn't afford to go anywhere (the first year we were married) we spent all Christmas break lazing about, playing video games all day, eating Christmas cookies nonstop and sipping on delicious cordials sent by my family. I read about a dozen Agatha Christie novels and was totally relaxed. So while I'm really bummed that I won't be seeing my family this Christmas, I know I have many things to look forward to.

We didn't get plane tickets home, but we did score free tickets to the Nutcracker!

Another exciting part about tight budgets is Secret Santa! Our family is getting bigger and bigger, and the only thing nicer than not having to buy gifts for 13+ people is the anticipation of not knowing who drew your name. And then there's always the sneaky smug feeling I get from keeping secrets, which I also enjoy. If you are doing Secret Santa, I highly recommend using this website to organize it for you: Boogspace. Yes, it's a weird name, but it's very convenient. It will send everything out anonymously, it lets you make rules about who can select who (for example, spouses can't select each other), and it lets you post wish lists for everyone to view - with links!

And another great thing about Christmas on a budget is the Crafty Christmas Club. I've gotten a lot of inspiration for homemade gifts here. The edible suggestions are particularly appealing. Who doesn't want candied pecans? Delicious. Thanks Tilly for organizing this again!

So money is tight, yes, but things aren't bleak and I know I'm not alone. My little sis is writing a column for GoodFood World about eating well on a budget, so it seems to be a common theme around here. Anyway, the whole reason I brought up money - even though it's an impolite topic - is that I just opened up an Etsy shop to sell my vintage patterns. Since I can't really justify accumulating more and more patterns and fabric when money is tight, I figure I better sell a few things before I indulge in anything new. So please, check out my shop! There's not a lot in it now - opening up each pattern, verifying the pieces, taking photos, and creating a listing takes time - but there will be more before too long.