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

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 invitations  to make book plates, which we also used as gift tags.

This yellow and white striped and polka dot  ribbon I purchased at Michael's was such an easy and great way to pull the color theme throughout the rooms. We used it to wrap presents and decorate my sister's glass serving pieces, 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 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, 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!  If you are interested in using some of the printables click to read more and you'll find links to the free downloads.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Invites: Golden Books Baby Shower Invitation

My sister hosted a baby shower--a double shower--for a couple good friends of ours, both having their firsts, and both having boys! And she asked me to help with it. It was one of those things that I didn't really have time to do but as soon as she mentioned it I couldn't stop thinking about it! I don't have much opportunity to do boy things...

She wanted to do a book shower. I love book showers! A great friend of mine threw one for me when I was expecting and it was so much fun. I believe there is no such thing as too many books, and my mother always reminded us that we should read to our children every single day. Plus there is something so nice about a gathering focused on memories and suggestions and treasured texts the anticipation of many happy hours reading to little ones.

So I came up with this invitation for the event. I took my inspiration from Golden Books, though the shower concept is bit broader than that--vintage children's books. I love the motif on the spine of Golden Books--those drawings of animals and plants and storybook characters. I love the simple stories. I love the idyllic era they suggest. So I went with the colors gold, white and turquoise and developed my own motif of line drawings on a gold background.

I found a beautiful nursery rhyme illustration in the public domain and came up with a little derivation of "Hey diddle diddle..."

I created a generic version of this invite, with "boy," "girl"  and "neutral" wording. If you would like the PDF you can download it here , edit it in Adobe Acrobat Reader, and then print on card stock. It is setup to print two 5x7 cards per letter-sized sheet.

It was so much fun thinking about this vintage book shower I think I'll have to do something along these lines for Tess' first birthday party! What could be better? Don't you love book parties?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Knitting: Tess in Neapolitan

Do you know how it is when there are so many ideas and desires swirling around in your head that you are quite paralyzed, not knowing where to begin? That's my January so far. I am actually trying to stay focused on a sweater for Audrey, which has been on my list for some time, but I also feel like I need to get everything else out of my head and on paper and prioritized so I don't remain randomized. But since I haven't yet gone through that exercise completely, I thought it might help to take a little break from the creating and enjoy something I made long ago. When my to-do list is really long it is nice to remember what's already been done!

So here is sweet Tess in a sweater I knit so long ago for her older sister, Audrey. This is likely the second complete sweater I ever knitted. I made it after finishing this first sweater for Audrey. I altered the pattern a bit by skipping the hood and felt quite clever about it but at the same time felt this effort was so humble that it wasn't really worth recording. No blog post about it. 

Maybe because Audrey wore it, and Scarlett after her, I love it so much now! It is a rather humble little project and the patterning is a bit strange with the yarn I chose, but I love the Neapolitan colors and I love the timeframe it represents: when I was expecting my first (long anticipated) baby. Though I am on to more ambitious things now,  I wonder if they'll mean as much to me as this little cotton cardigan?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Knitting: Looped Scarflette Pattern Winners and Coupon

I just finished another Scarflette, this time for a good friend with a January birthday, and this time in a great earthy combination of colors: aqua, brown and taupe. The yarns I used are Loops & Threads (a new Michael's brand) Country Loom in Driftwood (appropriately named I think) and Loops & Threads Impeccable in Aqua.

While I wouldn't want to use these yarns for an heirloom sweater for my girls, they are so great for more trendy projects, such as this Scarflette. They come in great colors and I really love the loft of the acrylic. It's cozy but not too heavy around the neck.

There were so many great comments on my pattern post--great ideas for colors and fibers for this scarf. I picked three, which stood out to me, and the three winners are:

1.  Tara, who said "I think I'd start with a purple (or purple and pink mix?) for my daughter, who would then demand one in every color that might possibly match anything she owns. After that, I'd probably knit one for me, maybe in Cian by Three Irish Girls? I love the bright yellow to bring a little happiness to the grey winter. :)"

That Cian yarn is just gorgeous! And I couldn't resist someone who sounds equally compulsive about making one in every color!

2. Shelly, who said, "I just bought a bunch of yarn in green, purple and red and I'm ready to make something for myself now that the holidays are over and I'm done making gifts ;-) "

My sentiments, exactly!

3. Courtney, who said, " I'm all about blending colors...I would love to make one in a deep red & a lighter red. One for myself and my 2 little girls!! How fun would that be. I love your site, you are such a inspiration to me. Thank you... Courtney

I hope you do make some to wear with your girls--I have had fun doing that. 

Tara and Shelly, please contact me and let me know your emails... AestheticNest [at] Yahoo [dot] com.

It was more difficult than I thought to pick just three. If you would like a pattern for yourself please click to this post about the Child's Looped Scarflette and use the coupon code in my Etsy shop for 25% off the Women's or Child's patterns, or both! I'm leaving it active through the month of January. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Personal: New Banner, New Title for a New Year

Since it's the start of a new year I thought I'd update my blog banner. It was fun to grab some of my more recent, favorite images, and you may notice I went with the "Tess palette," which is lavendar, linen/taupe, cream and coral. I love those colors together! It's a new era with her in the family so why not wear the colors?

It's a bit hard to say goodbye to the old banner, which was the image under which I made this blog public last spring, so I'll post it here in memoriam.

The 2010 banner included a shot of Scarlett's crib and Audrey's portrait. The 2011 version includes Scarlett's portrait, Tess's blanket, and the painting I did of the three little birds in a nest. It's fun to think of the next banner...maybe it will include a portrait of Tess and a picture of her nursery, assuming we finally create a room to house her crib. Hopefully there will be many new paintings and handmade things to choose from.

While I'm revealing the new banner I also want to review the new title. Not blog title (though there might be a few good arguments for that, including ease of spelling, but "Aesthetic Nest" still seems to encompass the wide ranging creative interests about which I post...!), but rather, personal title.

My maternity leave expired at the end of last year and I gave up my business title for the title of SAHM. It may not carry the same weight in the world that my hard-earned executive title did, and I'll miss a lot of things about the marketing position I held at McCann Erickson, but I am thrilled to have the opportunity to stay home full time. My three daughters are my absolute best creative work and I am so looking forward to being with them every day for the ordinary and the extraordinary. Much like job transitions of the past I am a bit anxious about my new gig, not about regretting it, but about doing it really well. I hope I can meet my, and my girls', expectations! Most of you would probably laugh if you heard my internal monologue about goals, standards and the balance of time! I just know I would regret it if I didn't give it a try, so please wish me luck!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Knitting: Looped Scarflette for Me (Pattern Giveaway--Closed)

Is it just me or is everyone filling his or her lungs with a giant breath in anticipation of stepping forward this January? I love love love January. Contrary to the prevalent let down after the holidays I feel more energetic than ever. My Christmas list is finished, or I gave up on it, and I am ready to create a new project list! Feels like a clean slate and there aren't big calendared deadlines for a few months out. So here I go! I've got lots of ideas I'm anxious to get to but I have to start somewhere...

January also seems to be a more likely time for creating something for myself. It's typically too difficult to work it in when there are so many things I want to make and gift. Feels a little bit now or never this month. And so we have the "now" project: Looped Scarflettes for grownups. To be fair, I actually started this next phase of the Looped Scarflette right before Christmas and finished up a chartreuse version on Christmas Eve in time to wear to our family dinner.

I am calling the chartreuse version "Looped Scarflette: Chic."  It is a bit more narrow and lighter weight than the red version, which I'm calling "Looped Scarflette: Cozy," because it is cozier--wider and heavier. I love wearing the Chic version all day long while the Cozy really adds warmth when worn with a coat. Both versions are included in the pattern, which I am giving away, and also selling in my shop.

I am really having so much fun with these! I have loved making them kid-sized and love them for grown-ups too. I already gave one away to my sister-in-law and have a few more I want to make for January birthdays. They work up so quickly and the yarn combinations and re-combinations are a bit addictive if you are into color and texture.

This red, Cozy Looped Scarflette, was knit using two yarns held together: Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick in Cranberry and Patons Classic Wool Roving in Cherry.  The chartreuse, Chic Looped Scarflette was knit using Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick in Lemongrass and Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice in Kelly Green.

The only thing I don't find completely fun about these is serving as my own model! I'd much rather be taking the pictures. 

If you are interested in a Looped Scarflette for yourself you can find the pattern here in my Etsy shop.  I am also going to give away the pattern to three people--just leave me a comment below between now and Wednesday at midnight, and let me know what colors you would use to knit this. Thursday I'll pick three winners!

Happy new year!  
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