Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fun with Flowers

Knitting is something I incorporate into my very way of life. It is a hobby, an expression of my personal dressing style, a solace in sad times, a source of pleasure in happy times, and at all times a creative outlet. Some knitters expand their hobby by learning to spin yarn and others foray into other ways that fiber can be used for creative expression and one such subgroup are the fiber artists who wet felt.

I'm wearing a wet felted cherry blossom flower that I bought from a fiber artist in Norway who sells her handmade creations on Etsy as Felt by Ingermaaiker. I bought one of her flowers to see what wet felted is all about and whether it would interest me to learn how to do it. It really is a beautiful artistic piece - my only concern is that it might be difficult to achieve this level of proficiency. She is really very talented and her flowers are beautiful.

I'm finding it fun playing with the various ways that this flower can be used as an accessory. I like it best attached to a purse or in my hair but found it really added to an outfit when I wore it on my slacks.

If you have interest in learning more about wet felting, the books that looked the best to me were Complete Feltmaking and Uniquely Felt.

Although neither of these books had instructions on how to make flowers, they seemed like the best resources for someone new to wet felting.

Edit Update: The artist has notified me that she has a tutorial on making this flower which can be found here.

While I may dabble a little in this aspect of fiber folly, knitting is still my primary love and, speaking of knitting, have you seen the new Kim Hargreaves collection, Amber. I'm seriously hoping one of these kits end up under my Christmas Tree! Renee of Renee Knits Too! alerted me to this new collection and my Ravelry group "Kim Hargreaves" is now abuzz with the news as this looks like one of her better collections.

I also want to slip in a quick picture of Jillian of Snitty and me earlier today having brunch at the Inn of the Seventh Ray. Jillian is the first knit blogger that I've met in person and I'm particularly fond of her as she has not only taught me a lot about blogging but was also my first regular reader when I started blogging. She is just a delight as well as an amazing knitter and I had a wonderful time meeting her in person.

Finally, we have our pumpkin! Steve chose a good one, don't you think?

I hope you all have a wonderful week. We have company arriving on Monday from Seattle, Washington so should have a fun and busy week down in San Clemente.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hanging in the OC

It's been a wonderful weekend hanging out in Orange County. We haven't been in San Clemente nearly enough lately, for my liking! This morning after our jog we headed over to the Farmer's Market for a lovely stroll amongst the stalls of fragrant fruits and vegetables. Steve, our official sampler, amuses me with how seriously he takes his role! But, we do end up with the best strawberries when he comes along! In contrast, I do not like to sample, preferring instead to purchase from those vendors that I know have good quality produce. I think it is because I'm too uncomfortable to say it's sour in front of the seller. Silly me.

This morning I'm sporting my new hat loosely based on the pattern "First Hat" in Knit 2 Together. While it's not quite cool enough for scarfs and sweaters, it is definately hat weather!

This is the first time I've used Malabrigo yarn and I loved knitting with it! It is as soft as everyone says and the colors are really beautiful.

I look very happy here because I'm about to go into Cafe Mimosa in San Clemente and buy one of their wonderful blueberry muffins for my morning cup of tea. They have the best baked goods in San Clemente and I find it delightful to sit on their patio and have lunch or coffee.

To show how versatile my new hat is, Mr Puffy has offered to model it for us. Doesn't he look cute. I could just grab and cuddle him - but have to resist that type of PDA as he's much too cool for that.

Specs: First Hat/Knit 2 Together; US 8 needles; Malabrigo yarn. I added the bobbles as an after thought, simply picking up a stitch and forming a bobble. I thought it needed a bit of texture to balance it out and I wasn't in the mood for the flower that the pattern suggested.

Some of you may have seen that California suffered through some wildfires last week. I awoke at 5:30 a.m. on Monday to the smell of smoke filling the house. I can't tell you how scary it is to be in the mountains during a wildfire. We live in the Santa Monica mountain range above Malibu and are constantly aware of the potential for fire during the late summer months. We are fortuante in Los Angeles to have some of the best firefighters in the country and they do a tremendous job at protecting us. But when the Santa Ana winds blow there simply isn't anything they, or anyone, can do. We were fortuante that the 70 mph winds that were forecast did not materialize. It was a long week in Southern California watching and holding our breath that the winds did not come. The above photo is a picture I took of the Malibu fire last year heading toward us. It was stopped roughly a mile or so from our home.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My Retro-Fitted Skirt

It came out a little more "night on the town" than PTA but it's my Bell Curve Skirt and I love it!

It was almost not to be, though, because of some dastardly star stitches..... which actually were the reason that this skirt went from being merely a "nice" skirt to an eye-catching "wow" skirt that I'm thrilled with!

Those of you who have been following along on my knitting adventures know that I struggled with the Swallowtail Shawl because of the "nubb" stitch (P5Tog). Based on that experience you would think that I would avoid patterns with a similar stitch. Think again. I'm apparently a slow learner.

A major design feature of this skirt is the textured effect of the 4 columns of "star" stitches running the length of the skirt. The "star" stitch requires that you K3Tog wrap and reknit the same 3 stitches together. Not surprisingly it was miserable to execute.

There are many beautiful examples of this skirt on Ravelry and tons of great suggestions on how to make executing the "star" stitch easier, but none of them worked for me. I began to consider other options including blocking it heavily and wearing it draped over my head as a monk's cowl or, I pondered briefly, was the mini-skirt really such a bad fashion statement? That would be yes, at my age.

Fortunately I have friends. Better yet, I have knitting friends! I've mentioned them; I've hinted about them; but I've yet to name any of them.... until now! The first member of my Topanga Knitting Group to be unveiled is the very special Murielle who is a knitwear designer, a newly opened Etsy shop owner, and my own personal creative muse. She adorable, to boot.

She looked at the skirt, listened to my tearful story, and with a shrug of her shoulders pronounced that the skirt would look much cuter with a flouncy ruffle edging anyway. Really?

And she was absolutely right! And that's why she's a knitwear designer. The ruffle was made by casting on 12 stitches (using 1 needle size larger than used to knit the body of the skirt) and worked in seed stitch for the desired length (roughly 1.5 times the circumference of the skirt bottom) and then sewn on by machine.

Particulars: Bell Curve Skirt, free pattern on Knitty; Zoe yarn manufactured by Artfiber Designer Yarns; US 8 and 9 needles; modified by adding a seed stitch ruffle edging as described above. To get the best possible fit with this skirt make sure you have a tapestry needle handy so that you can take the skirt off the needles several times for fittings and adjust your increases as needed.

Lastly, I would like to say how much I appreciate it when someone takes the time to leave a comment on the blog. I try and respond to each of them unless it is designated as "no reply" or "anonymous" in which case I don't, for obvious reasons. But I would like to say thanks to the anonymous person who left a comment on the last post suggesting that I hang the quilt on the front door ~ I love that idea!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Very Vintage Halloween Swap!

It's finally time to share my Very Vintage Halloween Swap goodies! My swap partner was the very talented Miriam, Crafter by Night, who really outdid herself as you will agree when you see everything she made and sent.

I'll begin with the main gift and that is the hanging art quilt that she made. She describes the process of making a quilt as painting with fabric and her quilt really is like looking at a painting.

I love the design Miriam chose. Her family comes from Iowa farmland so the Fall harvest time has always been an important part of her life and she has beautifully captured her love of the harvest in this piece.

There is so much that went into making this quilt that you really need to read her description of the process in her own words which you can find here. Even though quilting is the quintessential American art form, it's something I know very little about.

But I do know that I love looking at this picture. I haven't quite settled on it's permanent home. Right now I'm just enjoying trying it in different places.

This was a very loosely structured swap and the only guidance that I gave to Miriam is that I love Fall and for me Halloween is a whimsical time. As you can see she incorporated both of these themes into her gift with the quilt representing our mutual love of Fall and these little fellows representing the more whimsical side to Halloween.....

Both the ghost and pumpkin are crocheted. So cute. Mr Puffy loves this ghost. He says it reminds him of that great Halloween classic, It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Mr Puffy would love to be a movie star just like Snoopy and has written to him asking the name of his agent. He's hoping to have a role in next year's Thanksgiving Special.

But of course it wouldn't be Halloween without out some CANDY! Which came in it's own special felt pouch! This is just too cute and may serve as my private candy stash bag all year long!

Didn't I have the best swap partner ever! It was a very eclectic group that participated in this swap. You will have fun looking at all the Halloween swapping and get some cute Halloween decorating ideas if you head on over to the blog of our lovely hostess, Heidi, at Foxgloves, Fabric and Folly who has links to all the participants in this A Very Vintage Halloween Swap!

So how will I celebrate Halloween this year. Thinking about the cooler days and looking at my cute little ghost put me in mind of how I shall enjoy the holiday. This Halloween in addition to watching a scary movie (link to Halloween Classics) I'm going to pour myself a nice glass of port wine. I will savor the sweetness of it with Stilton cheese, nuts, and maybe some pear slices while I reflect on the changing seasons and how important it is to make each day count.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Everything is Coming up Pumpkin!

Poor Mr Puffy had to have wee bit of surgery on his toe last week. Quite upsetting for all of us. But not to worry, he's doing great and his vet was very impressed with how well he handled the procedure. In fact, he seems to really like Mr Puffy.

However, I don't think it can be fairly said that Mr Puffy shares his warm opinion. I'm afraid Mr Puffy came home with all kinds of complaints. While he has no complaints of the procedure itself he complained that the room service was erratic and slow; the food was not at all what he's accustomed too; and his room was noisy and did not have a view. Oh dear. I received quite the earful on the way home in the car. Mr Puffy's advice to you all - if it says Veterinarian on the door - keep driving. It's much better to stay at the Holiday Inn!

It's Pumpkin Time

Every Fall I make lots of pumpkin goodies and this is my favorite pumpkin treat. Unlike the pumpkin bread I shared last year, this is a sweet treat and a great choice for those occasions when you need to bring a dessert.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chips Squares

It's a Martha Stewart Recipe found here (with just 1 or 2 clarifications and steps that I find helpful).


2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice (or a mixture of: 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon; 1/2 teaspoon ginger; 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon each allspice and ground cloves. I've reduced these measurements considerably from the original recipe so that they equal 1 tablespoon of spice in total)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (Note: It calls for 1 cup - not 1 can! Also use pure pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling)
1 package (12 ounce) semisweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides.

2. With electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium to high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled).

3. Remove from mixer and mix in dry ingredients with wooden spoon until just combined. Fold in Chocolate chips. This is what I would describe as a dry batter. Don't worry - it will bake up very moist because of the pumpkin.

4. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.

5. Cool completely in pan. When cool lift cake from pan (using foil as an aid). Peel off foil, and use a serrated knife to cut into 24 squares.

Needle Felting and Fairies.....

Here's a sneak peek at a needle felting kit I bought. It's a kit to make a magic pumpkin and the seller Fairie Bling ,an etsy shop dedicated to all those who still believe, included some of her signature fairie bling. Fortunately, I know a little fairy who was in need of just such a gift and is now happily ensconced in her bling. I've never tried needle felting before and I can't wait to make the magic pumpkin - it certainly looks easy enough!

Bell Curve Skirt Update

Although I have finished my Bell Curve Skirt I am not quite ready to show you pictures because I've decided it's going to need to be lined. Yes, it will definitely need to be lined before I take pictures. This is a family friendly blog after all!

Lastly, I hope you are all enjoying the start of Fall and will have a chance to enjoy some of the treats and experiences of the season such as visiting a pumpkin patch to select your Halloween Pumpkin! Be sure to write that one down on your to-do list.