Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking back for future procrastinations

I found this book the other day when I was clearing out my storage room, trying (and failing) to find space for current and future procrastinatory materials:

I Remember The One-Room School, by Myrtle Fair. It's full of first-person anecdotes from students and teachers alike, plus some bonus photographs:

I just love stuff like this. Of course the book covers many decades but it has a lot of material from the 1920s and 30s, my favourites for reading about - those two blocks of time were such stark contrasts for each other, and considering it was such a terrible time, the Depression was a rich and creative one too.

In another blast from the past, last week my mum persuaded me that it is time I took home with me a mug that my aunt and uncle gave me for Christmas one year when I still lived with her and dad. I have drunk a lot of tea from this mug:

and am having more this morning as I ponder where the book and another little problem are leading me.

Yesterday I had to hit the mall to size down on something (always a happy problem for a chocoholic like moi) and looked at wool cardigans. I really, really need a wool cardi and really, really need to not knit one myself - I want to get back to some serious writing in 2010 and cardis require a serious time commitment. But I didn't like any of the ones I saw.

Then, at the grocery store, I paused at the magazine rack and picked up a sewing magazine with a pattern for making a ladies' sweater out of a man's felted one. Hello! Still swimming in felted sweaters here!

So I'm thinking... if I make my cardi, but sew it rather than knitting it, it might be as fast as a four-hour possibly fruitless shopping trip for just the right one, yes?

And I'm thinking I should have bought that magazine when I saw it. Or maybe I can just wing a pattern myself, like I ended up doing for the mittens. The hardest part is always the sleeves anyway, and I have no shortage of those:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I dare you: click here and take a look at the beautiful photographs, each of them with something to say. Your mileage may vary, but this is what I'm hearing.

The one with the wreath over the fireplace:

"Hello, and thank you. I am very beautiful! I was made by somebody with her own craft studio, plus storage space where I now live comfortably in the off-season."

The perfectly-proportioned candies-in-bowl shot:

"Why yes, I do look inviting, don't I. Guess where I am? On a horizontal surface not already occupied by sixteen other things. Maybe you'd like to leave this blog and go look at real estate listings instead, h'mmmm?"

The festive tray of Santa mugs, carrying with it the suggestion of each member of the family enjoying hot chocolate in one of his or her own (a suspicion confirmed at the very end of this entry, by the way):

"Go. Just go and clean out the storage room. You still won't have space for your own collection of Santa mugs, but it's cheaper than moving and you'll feel better."

Well, I have duly cleared out the storage room and I do not feel better. But I did purge a lot of boxes and papers and stuff for Goodwill and I found a book I'd quite like to read, and I guess that's something. Right?

Monday, December 28, 2009

How to make chocolate chip meringues

This time of year, after the presents have been opened, is all about topping up the supply of chocolate chip meringues my mum started making after she found the recipe in a magazine back in the 50s.

They aren't difficult - mum insists there's a knack, but I don't think I have any special gift and they always come out fine for me. Of course, unlike mum I don't care whether they come out properly crisp, as in winter, or chewy, as on a humid summer day. They're all delicious as far as I'm concerned. Chewy meringues taste kind of like toffee and don't crumble onto the floor either, even if they do make conversation a bit slower.

The first thing you do is whip egg whites into a froth.

The eggs really need to be room temperature before you separate them, but if you forget to take them out of the refrigerator ahead of time you can always sit them in a bowl of warm water for a bit. I guess that's really the first thing, isn't it - getting the eggs out of the 'frig.

Then you add sugar - I am lazy and just pour in a steady stream of it - and it magically turns into this very white creamy-looking stuff:

You have to fold in the vanilla with a spatula.

Ditto the chocolate chips - gently! The recipe calls for two cups but you can add more, and I usually do.

The better you mix them in, the more exciting they are to eat later.

Then you drop them onto paper on a cookie sheet.

I use parchment, but back when grocery stores sent you home with brown paper bags to hold your purchases my mother saved those for the purpose. You want the bottoms of the meringues to stay dry, is the point. No greasing the pan!

And now: the tricky part. Time constraints usually force me to bake all three pans at once, so I rotate them in the oven after the first and second eight minutes and then again after the next four, and the four after that. Otherwise the tops of the peaks burn. I often drop the meringue into low drifts to minimize this risk, whereas mum can get away with making a loftier cookie.

See? If they're low, they don't get too brown.

But you can see why a loftier cookie is an improvement:

More caverns in which the chips can hide! And finding the chocolate is really the point of a meringue. That and the heavenly scent in the house for hours after you make them.

Chocolate Chip Meringues

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Beat together
4 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
until foamy.

1 cup white sugar
2 tbsp at a time, beating after every addition. Continue beating until mixture stands in firm peaks.

Using a spatula, fold in
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips.

Drop from teaspoon onto parchment paper on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes or until cookies are light brown. Turn off the oven but leave the pans inside, preferably overnight. They need to dry out.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I don't think there is any nicer gift at Christmas - given loved ones to spend time with - than books to read and chocolate to eat while you do it.

This book, In A Unicorn's Garden, is a fascinating mixture of social history and medieval garden planner all wrapped up in a beautiful binding - the perfect companion for a day stuck home with a wicked cold!

Here's hoping your own day is much more mobile and just as pleasant.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mitten wrapup

These are the last photos before I wrap these babies and declare MittenFest officially complete. This pair is for a mother and son:

And they are two of the very few I know that sort of thing about. I deliberately matched the palm of the bigger pair to the fabric of the smaller - sweet, yes? You'd almost think I hadn't run out of fabric from the Fair Isle sweater I used for the backs.

I know who these are going to as well:

This was my personal favourite outer sweater and the lining sweater, which produced a ton of mitts, was the softest. I didn't have to do anything extra to make these look special.

Didn't have to do anything extra for these, either:

What's not to love about a Laura Ashley sweater in wool and silk?

I got a little better at blanket stitch after the first few tries, and eventually I decided to risk doing some in a contrast colour that would show:

Then I got addicted, and added some to this pair that really looked fine without any trim at all:

And finally, the little birdies. I so love how these came out!

I think I made 14 pairs of these this year, with another cut out to sew together later. If I was very very smart, I'd do a few more in January to be ready for next year - it's such a fun project, and so much faster than knitting 20 hats.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A last-minute cute

Like I had time for this little embroidery project, given how behind I am on everything with about a day and a half to go, but aren't these mittens going to be adorable?

Hopefully I'll have decided who's getting them by the time I've finished stitching on the palms and blocking them...

Monday, December 21, 2009

The holiday before the holiday

An unfortunate incident with a vehicle that was moving rather too quickly has me staying out with a dear friend this week.

It's not so much fun for my friend, of course, but I'm having a fabulous time. My duties are meal preparation and cleanup, small amounts of fetching, and much maneuvering of a wheelchair. The list of perks, however, are much longer. Lots and knitting and chatting and really good sleeps, and - thanks in part to my laziness/wisdom in bringing out meals that require heating only and no pans to wash - reading.

My friend likes an interesting book, and a diverse array of friends who are happy to indulge her, so her shelves offer a large and mixed selection.

Yesterday, for example, I was attracted by the title "The Full Cupboard of Life" which has proved to be a mystery from Alexander McCall Smith and quite enjoyable as an accompaniment for late-night milk-and-chocolate consumption.

Today, I noticed some anothologies: Penguin's Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales, a collection of memoirs from 26 different writers called My Wedding Dress, and highlights from the archives of Maclean's magazine titled Canada in the Fifties.

I don't think I have ever spent the last few days before Christmas Eve sitting on a sofa and dreaming over books, but golly. I gotta make sure it doesn't take a car accident to get me doing it again next year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

wine collecting conundrum

Yesterday I read a cartoon about a '93 Pinot and thought


It's a good thing I don't drink.

As it is, I can't figure out how collectors balance the whole Cake And Eat It Too thing. Doesn't aging the wine make it taste better, while increasing its rarity (assuming that other collectors were weak and uncorked it)? So you have to hang onto the wine, training yourself not to drink it, knowing you'll have something terribly exciting in a few decades' time to reward you for the effort - BUT - you're probably so well-trained by the time it's on the brink of undrinkable, it's probably a bittersweet moment when you finally get to pour it for your friends.

There are some skeins of hand-dyed yarn I can't bear to wind into a ball to knit with, they're so beautiful and precious, and yet consuming yarn just transforms it into something useful. Wine - not so much.

Those wine collectors must have amazing self-discipline.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Can there be too much chocolate?

Normally I would say there is no such thing as Too Many Chocolate Chips in a cookie, but after looking at this year's batch of chocolate chip shortbread, I'm not so sure:

Putting the chips in is kind of a violation anyway. The women in my family have been making these cookies for over 100 years and they are supposed to be untainted by anything but the core ingredients, and then rolled out and cut with a krinkly-edged cutter. They're meant to be mixed by hand too, a fearful job in the age of carpal tunnel.

I, having no time for such fripperies, just throw everything into my mixer and let it do the work. I shape the dough into a kind of long tube with four flat sides, wrap it in waxed paper to chill, then slice and bake it. I figured if I was going that far, I might as well add a little something.

Last Christmas, my mother tentatively asked me whether I thought the cookies could be mixed in the mixer and I had to bite my lips before I told her I've been doing it that way for years. So now she's doing it too and hers still taste better than mine.

I'm getting some bonus time with mum next week; maybe I'll ask her to help me mix a batch so I can see where our paths diverge.

Meanwhile, I am just happy that the entire house smells like butter and chocolate. What's not to love? Unless I really did put in too many chocolate chips.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First deliveries

I saw the first two mitten recipients yesterday and the mitts I gave them were a great success:

If you click on this one, you might be able to make out 'Mary's First Blanket Stitch' running along the contrast palm (it was the only way to squeeze out one more pair from this perfect Fair Isle sweater):

I so loved making them both - the grey ones look sort of plain by comparison with the Fair Isle, but the lining, my friends, is supersoft Italian merino in a nice heavy weight. Pure luxury.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wool under pressure (more mittens)

I had to salvage a disaster mitten yesterday and I was so amazed by the results I decided to use the same trick on all the others.

The trick? Putting a wet piece of cotton muslin over a mitten and then pressing the heck out of it with a hot iron. I didn't even bother getting out the ironing board because a thick towel on the top of the washing machine, while unglamourous, does a fine job.

The amazing thing is that the fabric changes so completely when you do this. Unlike when you use heat, moisture, and bonus agitation (and it felts), when it just has the heat and moisture the wool relaxes and eases out. The mittens actually get bigger, as shown in this Before (left) and After (right) shot:

thereby resolving the too-tight thumb issue I had with some pairs.

And the wonky seams I couldn't seem to get right on the three-piece mittens?

They look normal now.

And I am immensely pleased.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nothing if not organized

I got my weekend all set up on Friday night:

That stack on the left is, I think, ten pairs of mittens, cut and matched and ready to sew.

Plus some leftover sweater bits ready to be cut into something interesting for the back of another pair that had to be cut from a decidedly dull fabric.

Naturally, the weekend went sideways immediately thereafter, but thanks to

not sleeping and

not watching Turner Classic Movies

I still managed to put together all but one pair (which are destined for me, and can wait.) Some of the others still need some trimming and pressing, and one pair were a complete disaster whose only hope is really excellent blocking, and I'm getting closer to being able to put up my Christmas tree in spite of all that.

Because did I mention the only place the tree can go is the only place the sewing machine can go when it's in use?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cutting corners

I'm trying something new and fun this year for Christmas:

not being ready.

Usually by December 1 I've finished everything but the wrapping, and the baking of cookies and delivery of same (it's tradition for me to drop by neighbours' with a lunch bag of samples from my mum's best family recipes). I don't even have to put up decorations, because I'll have reorganized the furniture in November to make room for them and then gotten them all finished.

This year, however, has been Very Difficult, putting Christmas 2009 on a tight time budget. Instead of getting all frolicky, I've been finding ways to cut corners. For example:

The house will be decorated for two weeks only.

The cookies will be baked and delivered in the last 4 days before Christmas Eve.

A lot of gifts will take the form of donations to homeless shelters and hot-meal suppliers; the rest will be bought online or home-made on a crafty assembly line.

I won't be cooking a turkey dinner on Boxing Day: I'm buying something ready made that reheats in one pan from the posh butcher shop and freezing it until then.

And thanks to all that - I think it will be the best Christmas ever! I'll have more time with friends and family, make decorating part of the experience instead of just an advance stage setting, and get enough sleep to enjoy the festivities.

(once I have all the mittens done, that is.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The weather outside is frightful

Seriously - we got our first snow in the night, not just a little dusting but the real thing, and it changed to rain around 7am while still retaining a 'feels like' rating of -6 C. So I'm looking out the window at about an inch of pristine slushy goo and looking even less forward than usual to my mandatory trip for exercise and groceries.

Fortunately, I have exactly the right boots for the occasion: Bogs.

The are not pretty, but they are insanely warm and comfy, and on a day like this, whew! that's all that matters.

That and finding a can of my hot chocolate of choice, which none of my local retailers seem to be carrying any more...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Unintentional procrastination

MAN. I just did a bus/subway trip to get some holiday shopping done and it was a complete bust! I have a tube of toothpaste to show for a 90 minute investment. (do you think anybody would enjoy a nicely wrapped tube of toothpaste?)

And I forgot to bring my knitting with me. The knitting that is meant to be gifts I am running out of time to finish.

Well, now I remember why I make most of my presents and shop online for the rest...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Midway through the mitten frenzy

No pictures today - I realized there is just a slim chance that somebody due to receive a pair might actually read this.

However, you will be thrilled to know that I managed to come up with a girl-sized pattern in the better-fitting style I discovered last weekend, which involved much ripping and resewing and trimming and ripping again, so as to make a paper pattern of the result.

Plus, I:

bought a ton more sweaters to felt (ton = 7.)

cut out all the remaining outer mittens and liner mittens needed for the entire Frenzy.

cleaned up all the wool dust from the washer and dryer where I did said cutting.

managed to cram all the sweater remains - enough to make any number of little bags and slippers and so forth if I could only decide how - into a giant green plastic garbage bag to do something with later.

put the remaining 5 uncut sweaters into my crafty cupboard as a start for next year's festive frenzy, whatever that might prove to be.

resisted ice cream.

Man. Do I ever need a holiday.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday lights on wheels

The trip to see the CP Holiday Train was great (as was my haircut). The music, furnished live by Odds, was fabulous and the lights breathtaking. Tons of people were walking (or rolling along in strollers) alongside this big long train and about 90% of them had either cameras or tripods in hand, and sometimes both.

I hope they had better cameras than I do, though, because the only other picture I took that worked out was this one:

But that's okay. The real thrill is seeing it in person, and I get to do that again next year. Think I'll have written any fiction at all between now and then?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Midnight snack

I've always been intrigued by those fancy cake things you see in the grocery stores around this time of the year. They have big ribbons on them and they're wrapped up (or boxed prettily) and they say things in Italian on the side.

But I never thought of buying one until last year when my friend Bob said are you KIDDING? they are FANTASTIC, you have to get the TRE MARIE brand!

So this year I kinda hunted around different chain grocers until I found one that sold Tre Marie. And I bought one.

Around 11 o'clock that night I got hungry.

I decided that this is a very big cake. Except that it looks more like bread than cake. And 1/12th of it is 300 calories, except do I really want to eat 1/12th of a chocolate-free breadlike cake in one sitting? Having discovered a nutritional breakdown in English on the underside of the wrapping, I am thinking no. I am also thinking it's good that I don't hate sultanas.

A very thin slice is enough.

The next day, various friends of Italian descent or Italian-by-marriageness informed me that panettone keeps forever, and is in fact meant as a bread thing to eat with coffee or tea or something otherwise breakfasty. So I tried it again in the afternoon and thought of tea (which I was not in a position to drink at the time) and I liked it better...

... though not as much as I think I'd like the smaller Tre Marie panettone I saw in the store - the one with the custard-looking filling.


(Nah. It still wouldn't have any chocolate in it.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fire alarm

Yesterday I came in from an exciting trip to the garage to find the house was filled with the smell of burning plastic.


In these situations, I always panic about the source of the problem. Did I leave a giant plastic storage tub on the stove again? (don't ask.) Is it wafting over from somebody else's house under construction? Might there be a sudden problem with the wiring?

No smoke, no fire, no clue.

I raced around the house opening the windows, sniffing carefully in every room, unsure where the smell was worst. But pretty soon I'd narrowed it down to the ceiling fixture in my office, huzzah. A minor evacuation (hard drive, camera, knitting in progress) ensued, and then I tried to figure out which breaker sends power to that particular light.

It was while I was racing up and downstairs from the fuse box to see whether the secondary light in that room had gone out yet that I thought to turn on the ceiling light again and hope that the power had been cut.

It hadn't. And that is how I discovered one of the high-efficiency bulbs in it had burned out.

These bulbs have a peculiar habit if they burn out and get left in the fixture, even for a few seconds.

You may not be able to make out the little grey oval patch of melted plastic on the left there, but you can probably see the blackened bottoms of the tubes. Smells like the dickens and can't be very wholesome for your lungs, to say nothing of the hours (14 and counting) it takes to get the smell out of the house - if, like me, you forget what the problem is from the last time and take an extra fifteen minutes to get it out.

Yep, this has happened to me before. Just once, but it should have been enough!

Goes against my grain to waste energy, but I'm thinking it's time to switch back to the old style bulb for a while... or at least a different brand of this kind.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Train and a haircut

Well, I don't know what's more exciting today - my much-anticipated haircut (if you are a longtime reader, you may recall last year's disasters on that front, from which my hair has finally, officially, Grown Out)

or the CP Holiday Train.

I first noticed the train a few years ago when I was getting a lift downtown for, appropriately enough, a holiday party. This train rumbled past on the tracks alongside the road I was on - and what a train! All lit up with bells and bows, cars and cars of it. I'd never seen anything like it, and believe me, I've seen my share of trains.

The train crosses North America just above and below the Canada/US border, stopping periodically to open up a boxcar that serves as a stage for a band. The band plays, and people who've come out to hear it donate money and canned food for local food banks.

Plus, it looks really really awesome. Or did I mention that part already?

You can find out more at the Holiday Train Blog, and if you decide you just have to check it out in person, you can find the train's schedule, for both the US and Canada, here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Felted Mitten breakthrough

I've just survived an all-mitten weekend: the sewing machine emerged from its table on Friday night and didn't go back in again until Sunday afternoon (when I knew I wouldn't want to be only half paying attention to Spirited Away.)

It took almost all of Saturday for me to figure out the most back-friendly place to cut is my very own laundry room, complete with a ceiling light positioned perfectly over the washer:

I ditched the separate cuff and extended the wrist, which worked better with the liner mitten I'm putting inside each pair.

I was so pleased with myself, I sewed together both of these pairs before the thought occurred to me to try them on a guy, who pointed out that the seam across the middle of the palm was pulling in a decidedly uncomfortable way. But that's all right, because I only need one pair for a guy - everybody else on my mitten list is a girl.

I cut a wider pair from a really exciting find - an XL man's elaborate, colourful, and all-wool Fair Isle cardigan from one of my favourite posh-ish shops - and sewed them together:

But they pulled, too.

Still, not a complete disaster! I can still gift these to a girl.

(Me, for example.)

I slept on it, then decided to come up with an entirely new pattern with just a front and a back piece. I gambled on the manliest stripe in my felted sweater stash and got this:

They fit Tester Guy perfectly. Cut down a little, they'd fit me perfectly too. In fact, I'm so in love with them, I want to make all the rest of the Christmas mittens with this pattern - but I can't, because you can really only get one pair out of a whole sweater and I've ruined quite a few already with my early, sadly non-giftable, efforts.


Cutting and stitching 60 pieces of mitten from the remaining stash or

Shopping for ten more feltable sweaters


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey days

I'm Canadjin, eh? So I've already had Thanksgiving - like, a month ago. It was great and I wish the same for all my neighbours to the south! Bit late now to mention it, but there is an awesome recipe for cranberry orange chutney over at Epicurious you might want to try some time.

All the US media turkeyisms have reminded me that I need to get on to ordering my turkey for Christmas. I don't cook on Christmas Day, but I've been entrusted with the task for another nice dinner afterward based on my good luck roasting chickens. I've done two very successful brined turkeys now with the advice and support from my local butcher, who also encouraged me in matters of chicken stock, and I think I'll be doing it again this year


if I don't get this one little problem fixed, it will probably be the last time I'll be allowed.

Somehow, something on the table has given one of my guests lobster hands. By which I mean; serious allergic reaction.

Last year I changed everything atypical but the chutney and the tablecloth, and it happened again.

So this year I'm not taking any chances. The tablecloth is going to be a curtain, and the table is going to be ornamented with a runner down the middle well away from this particular guest, and I might just leave the chutney out of it entirely.

Or, um, position it between me and the only other person who likes cranberry on the turkey.

It's really, really good chutney.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cooking when lazy

Even though it was foggy and spitty out yesterday, I went to my favourite fruit and veg store to get apples.

While there, I decided I would make a nice supper to go with some frozen tortellini I bought about a month ago to make nice suppers with and haven't looked at since.

I chose:

fresh Ontario spinach (that turned out to be from the US, why?)
a fresh Ontario carrot (that was fresh from Ontario)
a shallot whose provenance I do not recall
two heirloom tomatoes that came from somewhere Really Really Expensive
and some apples.

On the way home I realized how many dishes I'd be washing after supper if I boiled pasta and minced veg and washed and spun and chopped spinach and then cooked it and made a butter sauce etc.

So I started looking up recipes for tortellini casserole in which you throw frozen tortellini right into the dish.


Backup plan: cooking the entire meal at noon, pouring it into casserole dishes, and shoving them into the 'frig to heat at suppertime. Ha! Dishes washed before supper even hungered for!

On opening the bag of frozen tortellini, I discovered it was actually frozen ravioli, but whatever. Less unremarkable: frozen ravioli boils for 3-5 minutes, which is about 10 minutes less than expected. The butter sauce got rushed.

Which is why I have no pictures to show you of this edifying and, considering my recent forays into cooking, surprisingly delicious experience.

I forgot to put in the expensive tomatoes, though. I think today's exciting supper will involve them, and maybe some slices of cheese, and perhaps some bread, toasted. I dare you to find something with fewer dishes to wash.

No, really! I dare you to find something and then give me the recipe for it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stress: response

I had a very upsetting week last week, and when I woke up on Sunday morning I was so consumed with negative feelings, I really didn't know how I was going to make it through the day.

Does this ever happen to you? It doesn't matter how put-upon you are, or how justified your anger, or even how correct/ fair/ well-supported-by-others your position might be - it just feels so bloomin' awful inside.

It was very pretty outside on Sunday though, quite mild for this late in November, and there were still quite a few leaves and things to clean up before the first snow, so I put on my giant pink polka-dot rubber boots and went to take care of it all.

I forgot you get adrenaline from raking and sweeping.

And that even greeny-white hydrangeas look pretty when they dry out. I didn't have any ribbon handy to tie up the bouquet I made, so I stuck it through the fence.

I got the pots all tucked away in the back corner for the winter. They look terrible now but once they're under their snow blanket they'll be quite charming.

Less charming: the discovery that I let my big armchair slip off the flagstone and onto the dirt over the summer. I've had this thing for about 12 years and feel quite attached to it. It's pine, and would have rotted long ago if I hadn't been so careful with stain and putting it somewhere safe every winter. I hope it doesn't start rotting out from the inside, now.

At least I found my garden bunny again. He hides under green leaves all summer, but those died a few weeks ago and were due for trimming, so now I get him back.

I felt much better when it was all done. Not all better, even now, but getting there.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nowhere to go but up

I did it!

I ruined the first pair of mittens!

And it took all afternoon on Sunday to do it. Fortunately, I'm pretty sure I still have enough fabric left on the back and other sleeve of this sweater to make a second, more presentable pair.

These ones will do fine for snow shoveling and, perhaps, snowman making, but they're not good enough to gift, for reasons that have nothing to do with my apparent lack of sewing finesse:

1/ the pattern calls for a single layer, which means you're touching the interior seams with your fingertips all the time and will freeze.

2/ an interior layer, with the right side touching your hands, solves both these problems.

3/ even if you cut both sets of mittens from two entirely different weights of fabric, they won't nest nicely if you cut them the same size.

4/ I'm not entirely sure that stitching ribbing onto a giant puffy two-layer mitten is the best way to get a finished look.

5/ plus, you get another annoying seam inside, rubbing against your wrist.

I think I'll ruin a second pair after adapting the pattern for a longer hand to replace the ribbing, and a slightly larger set of pieces for the outer layer. But I'm going to try not to wait until next Sunday afternoon to find time for this, because I am supposed to make 12 pairs in the next 5 weeks - plus shortbread.

Oh dear.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The inadvertent fruit of my various labours

Well, I'm glad to say that all my stealth knitting this fall has paid off with finished knitting patterny projects I can finally share, like:

A hat and handwarmers and

A really hot scarf.

And now I can relax a bit. Maybe even sew up a few felted mittens (please please please - I just need a little more scissor courage!)

Looking around the house though, I have to admit what I really need to do is Clean. Up.

I mean, honestly! I was talking to a friend yesterday who has a house so big I could fit probably four of mine into it. And she was saying that much as she knows she's lucky to have it, it is so much work to keep organized. So much space, so many places for activities to get spread out in, etc., and I felt for her, and helpfully pointed out that my solution is not to put cleaning on the schedule in the first place. Then when I got back through my door...


So I have decided that mess can be unattractive and a mark of creative productivity.

(but I'm going to put a tiny bit of cleaning on the schedule anyway.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A stripey source of lining with a bonus

I bought this great shirt when I was picking up all the half-price thrift store wool sweaters last weekend:

It's plus-sized (lots of fabric!), the stripes match the various "destined to be a lined bag" sweaters, and I was pretty sure I could put the buttons to good use as well.

Looking closer once I got home, I noticed an even nicer feature:

Long fold-back cuffs.

Or should I say, perfectly finished cell phone/lipstick/changepurse pockets?