Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sewing: Rick Rack Dish Towels

I'm feeling like such the 1950s housewife these days. Home with the kids, shuttling to school and classes, keeping house, cooking (occasionally anyway) and sprucing up the kitchen with some new dish towels! I've wanted to do this rick rack thing since I bought some very similar to this in Christmas colors from Crate & Barrel a few years ago. Such a simple, graphic way to add a bit of color. I think it looks modern and vintage and a little kitsch all at the same time.  And it's an easy way to give a nod to Valentine's Day without adding too much clutter. I need to save room for Valentine drawings made by my two little artists: Audrey and Scarlett.

This project is pretty self-evident (to be honest, the most difficult part was finding plain white dish towels that weren't terry) but I created a little tutorial anyway. So if you'd like to see the step-by-step on making your own rick rack dish towels click to read more.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Knitting and Crochet: Four Accessories for Four Sweaters

Long ago (pre-last-pregnancy and pre-maternity wardrobe) I bought a bunch of sweaters with the idea of embellishing them. I have always leaned towards the simple and so I've worn a lot of unadorned crewneck sweaters. I still do, but I thought it would be fun to do something more with these, and the price was such that it was worth a little gamble. Mind you, I don't usually purchase four at once but don't you just hate it when you find the perfect t-shirt or sweater and regret not buying one in every color? I did leave some colors on the shelf...

It took longer than I planned, but I've finally embellished them all. I originally thought of sewing some ruffles, etc. but ended up knitting or crocheting accessories to go with each of them:

Starting in the upper right, is the Crochet Corsage embellished sweater, then below it, the Belle Scarf embellished sweater, then bottom left, the Country Cowl embellished sweater, and finally, the last in the upper left, the Looped Scarflette embellished sweater.

This Looped Scarflette is the "chic" version of the pattern. Lightweight enough to wear indoors. I love the yarn combination on this! It is Loops & Threads Country Loom in Ocean Tide and Loops & Thread Impeccable in Aqua.

Nice to have finally used this little stash of sweaters as I intended.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cooking: Black Eyed Peas (for prosperity!)

When we spend New Year's with my in-laws, my sister-in-law usually makes black eyed peas for New Year's Day, because eating them that day is supposed to bring one prosperity. (Did you know that?) It's been at least a couple years since we've had them with her. I made them for my family last year. This year I'm a wee bit late, and didn't host, but just delivered containers of black-eyed peas to my siblings. It's still January so I'm thinking it's gotta count!

This is such a great, hearty soup to make with leftover ham. (In fairness, I did host my family for the ham dinner.) It tastes great (a little sweet from the ham and carrots) and it seems good for you too. It must be. Plus, it occurred to me that this is such a frugal meal. Maybe that's part of the prosperity. Do more with beans and you'll save more!

Click to read more for the recipe.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crochet: Blessing Day Bonnet in Blush

I couldn't resist remaking the Blessing Day Bonnet. This time in a blush pink color (actually called "Whisper"). When I first made it I was in a rush to complete it for Tess' blessing day. I really wanted her to wear something made just for her and I couldn't find the pattern I had in mind. So I figured it out, all in one shot, late at night. It worked well enough and I thought she looked beautiful in it, but it didn't fit perfectly. So I just made a few little adjustments to the shaping. Of course, it's over two months later and Tess is bigger, so now it's a little on the small side, but I think the pattern is improved.

I just love this type of baby bonnet. Covers the ears, ties under the neck to stay put, nips in at the nape, and frames the baby's face so beautifully. It's so old fashioned. A theme of mine, as you've probably seen.

Everything about this bonnet makes it so wearable--the color, the cotton yarn, the light weight. Just the right thing to keep her warm but too hot. I may have to work this out in a larger size. I'll share it if I do.

For now, you can find the improved pattern for the Blessing Day Bonnet back on the original post. And you can also download a PDF of the pattern here. If you try it I'd love to see photos. Please consider sharing a link or adding some photos to my Flickr group.

I love the ringlet curls formed by the ties. A complete and happy accident. Maybe they'd lay flat if I blocked them? I haven't tried it because I like the way they curl under her chin.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Knitting: Lacy Short Sleeved Sweater for Audrey

I have had this sweater for Audrey on my mental list since last summer.  I'm so happy I finally got to it and have finished it! For the past year or so I have shied away from knitting in favor of quick crochet projects--many fun and fast things for Tess, for instance. And then I got a bit distracted by all the Looped Scarflettes, which, while very fun, kept me from more intensive projects such as knit sweaters. It felt really good to settle into this and realize knitting isn't so slow afterall. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. Especially something with a pattern such as this--straight stockinette or garter stitches become quite boring to me. In fact, I was getting a bit antsy about the long ribbed waist on this sweater. But phew! I finished!

And I love it! I love sweaters that can be knit in the round (I'm really impatient about the finishing process). I love the lace pattern and the little capped sleeves. I have always loved short sleeved sweaters. When I was a teenager I wore a red crewneck one my mother had knit for my father (it was the era of very oversized sweaters!) and I have a few in my closet now. This little lace sweater is just begging for a skirt to go with it so that is next, or at least soon, on my list. I hope I love the way it looks on Audrey. Sometimes I get so excited about what I'm making that dressing my girls in it is a bit of a letdown. I wonder if anyone else has the same experience? What I envision in my mind is always a bit more perfect than the reality. As I was saying to my husband not long ago, creating has its risks, but it's still worth it.

This sweater is knit in Mission Falls 1824 Wool, which is a merino superwash. It's the first time I have used their yarn--I bought a bunch of it in different colors last summer because I found it on sale (always compelling) but also because I found their color palette irresistible. And it's so soft, especially for a superwash, but sad, I just learned they're closing the business! Good thing I bought it when I could. The color of this yarn is "Stone." Isn't it gorgeous and enigmatic? When I showed it to Audrey she instantly loved it and described it as "greyish purple" though one could argue "taupey pink" or "oatmeal" or something else. I try not to use the p-word ("pink") with Audrey as it's generally a turn-off for her. The pattern specifies knitting on double-pointed needles, with which I could really use some more practice (sock knitter I am not), and it was nice to get some practice, though I did switch to circular needles part way through.

I should have taken some pictures before I blocked this sweater because it was a great "before and after." Before, the ribbed section was awfully tight and I wondered if I should have switched to larger needles in there, but after blocking it relaxed nicely and the yarn puffed up in general so it's even softer. I just need to pick a button for the back neck and it's ready to wear. Once I start and finish the skirt that is.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Party: Golden Books Baby Shower (Free Printables)

Though I was out of town and missed the fabulous food and, more importantly, a really fun gathering of our and our mother's friends, before I left I helped my sister, Sarah, set up the Golden Books baby shower. I was so sorry to miss it, and to not be able to help with food and hosting, so I instead worked on the concept and design. As often happens when an idea gets in my head, I ended up spending a lot more time on this than I intended! About forty-five minutes after Sarah called saying she wanted to do a book shower with the colors blue and white, I thought of taking inspiration from Golden Books and doing a shower in blue, white and gold. I just love the feel-good era represented by Golden Books, and other vintage children's books. It suggests that all is right with the world and we are ready to welcome another little person. In this case, we were welcoming two! It was a double shower for two moms expecting baby boys.

I personally love remembering who gave me the books in my children's library so I thought it would be nice to provide book plates for guests to fill out and provide with their gifts. (This also meant someone at the shower didn't need to take notes about who gave which books--nice!) I used the Golden Books motif I'd developed for the baby shower invitations to make book plates, which we also used as gift tags.

This yellow and white candy striped ribbon and polka dot ribbon (purchased at Michael's) was such an easy and great way to pull the color theme throughout the rooms. We used the ribbons to wrap presents and decorate my sister's apothecary glass jars, which she filled with vintage candy, also in the party colors.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about staging this party was that Sarah and I pulled out any children's books, vintage (and vintage-looking) toys, and serving pieces we had that fit the theme and then started to put together little vignettes. It was so much fun and less stressful than doing a party all on my own. I wish I could raid my sisters' (all three!) homes every time I put on a party. Maybe I should. I'm sure I'd find plenty.

We also reused some of the pom poms I made for my Fiesta Forty birthday party last summer. So nice to get another use out of those!  The only things purchased for this party were the ribbon and the food. But I also at the last minute (the night before) painted the canvas of Little Toot. The setup was just begging for something larger scale hanging on the wall and we couldn't come up with the right thing in our possession (turns out Audrey loves it and now has it in her room).


In the dining room we created a large tablescape with vintage books, apothecary glass jars filled with sandwich cookies (I hate that I love them!) and children's toys.  One of my favorite things are the embellished bows on the glass jars. I punched out pictures of vintage books floating on a scalloped square background and taped them in the middle of the bows.  

I found the vintage bookends on eBay. Ok, I guess that's another thing I purchased for the party. The red stepstool was just the thing we needed to add a bit of color and height.

I used paper with my Golden Books motif to line this white tray--such an easy way to perpetuate the theme. Those are two of Scarlett's favorite toys: a rubber ducky and little bear from her room.

Cupcakes were planned for dessert so I made cupcake toppers using the scalloped vintage book squares and scalloped cupcake wrappers with the Golden Books motif. Those are gumballs anchoring the paper flower bouquet (another reuse from the Fiesta party). And one of my favorite toys brands, Plan Toys, airplane and helicopter.

Finally, I took paper with the Golden Books motif and wrapped the drink cooler, finishing it off with another scalloped vintage book square.

Likely the only thing more fun than the staging was the party itself!  

Here's a list of vintage, and vintage-looking toys, books and candies we used for the party:

You can download the free printables used for this Golden Books baby shower here. The PDF file includes:

Golden Books paper

Cupcake Wrappers 

Book Plates

Cupcake Toppers (punch out with a 2 1/8" scalloped square punch)

Click here for information about the baby shower invitation, including printable file.
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