Monday, February 28, 2011

Saved by walnut cookies

Last week I got food poisoning and spent about 36 hours either asleep or wishing my stomach would be transplanted into a lake approximately 487 miles due west of my then-present position.  About 20 hours in, my friend Rosa happened to delivered cookies in lieu of the ones she wanted to make me at Christmas but was too sick for, herself.

Don't they look just like walnuts?

When I got past the soda cracker stage, I gave in to the illusion that they might be mostly protein without too much fat and tried one.

It wasn't sweet. It was actually pretty much like eating a walnut but with the texture of a soft biscuit.  I imagined being well and drinking coffee at Rosa's (Rosa makes wicked coffee too, and I say that without even liking coffee under normal circumstances) and eating these cookies; they would be perfect together.

Over the next few days I ate a few more, gingerly and then less so as things started to settle down.  They totally took the sting out of not being able to face chocolate even though I was miserable and wanted comfort food.  Treated as dessert, they made plain boiled eggs seem like a sumptuous lunch.

I guessed that Rosa has a walnut-shaped cookie mold and pressed in some walnutty dough to get each shell, then pasted them together with the walnutty filling (I asked her today: I was right.)  I thought about acquiring such a mold myself.  I wondered whether she'd give me the recipe.  I decided that I want to recuperate with walnut cookies next time I get food poisoning, which I hope will be never.

Finally I thought I'd better take a picture before they were all gone.  And now that they are I'm glad I did, aren't you?

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I thrifted some new sweaters last week, including this one:

Normally I would pass on something with this sort of embellishment over the front but, um... 100% cashmere, people.  For $6. I could not say no.  Bonus: it felted beautifully.

I have removed the cowl neck for use as a cowl (it is awesome) and

I have removed the sleeves to see whether it would work as a vest and

it fits me perfectly. 

I'm going to hold out for the perfect black merino sweater, cuffed or otherwise, and then I will cut the remains of this sweater in two for an empire waist and finish the neck and arms with a discreet run of handstitching or maybe black merino as seam binding, what do you think?  Then I will turn the merino upside down and stitch it to the cut line for a floaty vesty thing.  I'd go for a minidress but I think hoping for that much perfect black merino is pushing it, don't you?

Meanwhile: waiting.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to send hugs to a sick and distant friend

What do you do for someone you love who's stuck in the hospital and you can't go visit?  Send a hug in blanket form, of course!

I can't take credit for this idea but I did do the sewing and can attest to its being a super easy project if you have the materials handy, in this case mostly leftover polar fleece though I was told a sheet would do. 

The friends with hugs to send each chose their own super soft felted wool from my embarrassingly large stash and traced one of their handprints onto scrap paper.  I cut two facing prints for each, pointed the lowest pair of hands downward - woolly fingers ready to be clasped - and turned the ones on the shoulders to the back for a hug.

And then I stitched them on and sent the blanket on its way, where I hope it's doing a whole lot of good.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How to make a hugging pillow

This Valentine's Day, I thought it would be fun to use up some of my softest felted sweaters on a pair of hugging pillows.

It would have taken maybe 4 hours tops including photography time if I hadn't gotten distracted by a pair of cats, but more on that later.

In addition to thread and a sewing machine you will need:

A set of nesting mixing bowls you are comfortable running a rotary cutter around
A rotary cutting mat and cutters
Castoff cloth dinner napkins a little larger than the largest bowl, or other lining fabric
Soft felted wool sweaters, enough to provide at least four circles cut around the largest bowl
Yarn for blanket stitching the pillow covers over the pillow

First up, use the biggest bowl to cut out circles for the front and back of your stuffed pillow, plus the front and back of your pillow cover.  I found it easiest to cut up the sides of the sweaters so I'd get the flattest possible  fabric.  If you're layering a smaller circle over one or both of the covers, cut that with the next-smallest bowl.

(I did that because the super soft sweater I wanted to use for Side B features a delicate eyelet lace pattern not entirely lost in the felting.  Bit of a visual waste of the stripey underlayer but it wasn't really soft enough for a pillow on its own, and it does provide a lot of extra squish factor.  I put the wrong side up for nicely blurred stripes, a different sort of soft.)

Then cut out any embellishments, like a heart or a pocket.

You have to be opportunistic with felted wool sweaters. When I bought this orangey red cap-sleeved mock turtleneck sweater I couldn't figure out why anybody would design such a thing in superhot alpaca, but when I noticed how nicely the cap sleeves would work for pockets on my pillows, I gave that designer mental thanks and snipped them right off.

Doesn't it all look pretty when you stack it up?

This is where the cats come in.  While I pressed everything and stitched the embellishments down (layer by layer so as not to accidentally stitch your pocket down in the middle without thinking, as has happened to me but not, thankfully, this time) I plotted what I could possibly make to tuck into the pockets.  A small stuffed animal made sense, and what can I say? I like cats.  Probably should have gone for a long skinny shape to fit into the pocket better, but hey.

Yes, I embroidered the face with the sewing machine.  With regular stitch and backstitch, because it's a 1940s Singer without a single bell or whistle.

They are too big to fit into the pockets.  If you make a hugging pillow, you can learn from my mistake.

Back to the pillows. Stitch around most of the circle about as far in as you expect to do your blanket stitching later, leaving a gap big enough to push through stuffing,

 Then turn inside out, press if compulsive, and stuff:

 After that, it's all over but the blanket stitching.  I ended up using leftover sock yarn with a gradual colour change (Noro Silk Garden, if you're a knitter) to get a good match for the stripes on the pocket side.  And I stitched a little more than half of the circle before tucking in the pillow, to make it easier to get the sides to line up well.

I think all I need to make these a perfect gift is chocolate and a good book, don't you?

Hope your Valentine's Day has hugs in it!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stealth crafting and other updates

Hello, I'm Mary!  You may remember me from such blog entries as Where Is The Nearest Chocolate? and No, I'm Still Not Writing.

I've actually been up to a lot of interesting stuff lately in addition to eating chocolate and not writing, including some successful crafty items I want to tell you about.  Unfortunately I've also been out sick or helping other sickies for a couple of weeks so none of the pictures made their way to the blog. Some teasers, while I sort through photographs for tutorial posts:

If you drop by here on any sort of regular basis you'll know where the materials for these projects came from, but I will admit I'd be entertained by guesses in comment form.

In other news...

My desk, which was beautiful and tidy on January 1, is disorganized again, the sorting baskets full of odds and ends that are cascading down.

I have a mix for chocolate brownies in the pantry, purchased after I tasted some baked from said mix at a friend's house.  It's for emergencies, and since I seem to be out of chocolate again today might be one.

I can breathe again following 4 days of a killer cold.

I have new knit socks to wear out to an Important Meeting today.

I have the kind of life where I can get away with wearing outfits involving handknit socks to Important Meetings.

There is another stealth craft underway that I'm especially excited about.

It looks like I'm going to be able to swing by my favourite gourmet shop today for my super most favourite chicken pies, of which I ran out about a month ago.

It just snowed enough to cast a clean blanket over the stuff that's been stomped over by any number of living things of all ages, and pee'd upon by what appears to be roving packs of neighbourhood dogs - seriously, there's nothing like snow to tell you when the dog population is going up in your area - and now the sun is shining, so it's pretty out.


I have the fixings for a super fabulous grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.

It's going to be a  great weekend.

How 'bout for you?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How to make felted wool pins

I've been making so many of these pins this week, I thought I'd better take some photographs and do a tutorial... even though they are so easy, really, as to not need much instruction.

You will need:

Two felted shapes (in this case hearts) that are cut exactly the same

A darning needle and length of yarn that's even longer than you think you're going to need

A backing pin.

Run the darning needle through the wrong side (which will become the inside) of the shape you'll be using for the back, at the point where you want the pin to sit.

Don't make a knot at the end or pull the yarn all the way through - if you leave a tiny tail, you'll be able to secure it and the pin at the same time.

Now start sewing on the pin on the right side (aka outside), catching the original run of yarn as you tighten each stitch so it's held in place.

Once the pin is on, bring the yarn back to the wrong side (inside) and catch just enough of the fabric to run the yarn to the edge of the shape without anything showing on the right side (outside.)

Position the front piece with its right side facing away from the back piece, perfectly placed to match every curve, and begin a border of blanket stitch (instructions here, compliments of the awesome Stitch School.)

... and that's about it.

You may find they're rather addictive.

This isn't the only thing I've been up to with my felted wool hearts, but that's a tutorial for another day!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Colour love

I had a surprising call this morning asking, would I be home for a delivery of flowers?

For flowers? Absolutely.

Aren't they gorgeous? They are from my cousin, a little celebration for making it through an uppy downy week. And such perfect timing, because they arrived while I was sitting down with a bowl of felted wool hearts and bucket of enthusiasm for blanket stitching them. In fact, just moments before I had cut a length of orange wool/silk blend to work on a navy houndstooth one.

So matchy, in that love it! kind of way.

Even better timing - we're due for a big snowfall tonight and tomorrow, so big I've heard talk of school closures.

I'm having visions of the deep snows of past winters that feature staying home to dig out the driveway and overly optimistic drivers, then coming in to thaw out over a steaming cup of hot chocolate. All in midweek - totally stolen time - with lots of blanket-stitched hearts for company and lovely flowers to scent the room and rest my eyes after acres of brilliant white snow.

hope hope hope...