Another Snowy Tuesday

Winter seems to have set in with some regularity now up here in the mountains.  The last several Tuesdays have been snowy and gray.  No real accumulation, just messy enough to not want to leave the house.  It has been snowing all day and has accumulated to just about nothing. 

Tuesdays are my regular day off, so this is just fine with me.  They have become a crafting day.  Please don’t confuse the lack of posts about finished projects with the idea that I haven’t been finishing anything.  I have actually been quite productive lately.  But since some of the things I have been working on are gifts, I really can’t show them yet. 

What I can show is something that I worked on today.  I found this pretty ugly shirt in the lost and found at the laundromat.  I really like the color, but I have never liked the whole golf shirt collar thing.  I don’t find them flattering on me.  I feel like they make my neck look short and stocky.  I don’t need any help with that from an ugly shirt.  When I picked this up I originally thought it would make good t-shirt yarn (yet another topic for another day).  But the more I looked at it, the more I liked the way the orange and brown mixed together.

Isn’t it ugly?  So I have made a few alterations, and it is now something that I will wear.

First I cut off the offending collar.  I threw it away, but then thought better of it and fished it out of the trash.  I wanted the buttons from it.  Not the collar itself.  I have had a few t-shirts like this before where I just cut the neck part off (sometimes the neckband is really high or too tight compared to the rest of the shirt).  But what I find is that the neck tends to stretch out throughout the day.  By the end of the day it is sliding off your shoulder.  This is fine if you intend it as a pj top, but not great if you are at work.  So some sort of binding is needed.

Up there in the crap craft room I have bunches of odds and ends of fabric.  I looked at several pieces before settling on this satiny hem binding.  The color works okay and there was no need of hemming a piece of fabric to work with (I don’t like unfinished edges when sewing).

The icky collar before I cut the buttons off.  Now it is in the trash.

I think the orange buttons look nice against the pink-ish/cream-ish binding.

I folded over the binding and pressed it with the iron.  I think this is a good time to talk about ironing in sewing.  I think the most important tool when sewing is–not the sewing machine even–but the iron.  You can sew by hand if you don’t have a machine.  It is slow and tedious, but can be done.  But without the iron and carefully pressing all of your pieces before and after sewing, it all just looks like junk.  If the edges are pressed, then it looks professional and finished.  I’ve tried doing it without the iron, ironing takes as long as the sewing does after all, but it just doesn’t come out right.  Do it.  You won’t regret it.

And voila……a shirt that I will wear.

I like the button detail too.  Happy snow day everyone!

Now that is swift

A yarn swift is a very handy tool for the knitter or spinner.  It is not an essential tool, but it makes things much easier.  A yarn swift is for turning skeins or hanks of yarn into balls of yarn.   It can be used is several different ways.  When a knitter has a skein of yarn that looks like this:

in order to be knit from, it wants to be wound into a ball.  Ideally, you do not need yet another piece of crafting equipment hanging around the house.  Probably you already have a man/husband type thing hanging around the house that would work just as well as a yarn swift.  Thereby not needing another thing to trip over/walk around/move from place to place, since he is already right there and not really doing anything.  But what I have found is that a man can sit almost entirely motionless watching tv or a movie or whatever for hours at a time.  But the minute you ask him to hold his hands “like this” so you can drape the skein of yarn around his hands, he suddenly has all manner of other things he should be doing right at that second.  He will try to be cooperative and helpful, but almost against his own will after about a minute and a half of this yarn/ball winding, he will start to fidget, moan and groan, and sigh and complain.  It is useless to remind him that he just sat through 2 hours of a movie with no problem whatsoever and that this will “only take a few more minutes”.  It’s useless.  Not even worth asking.  You can’t even offer to attentively listen to him talk about football while he is doing this.  He will think about that as a fair trade for about ten seconds, but then reverts to heavy sighs of discontent. 

I bet this was the same 200 years ago as today (without the football or the Lord of the Rings movies though).  So some ingenious woman (I’m sure it was a woman) invented a yarn swift to replace the husband hands and the complaining.  Or maybe it was a man who invented it, so as to spend a couple of hours in the wood shop to never have to hold his hands “like this” ever again.  Yeah, that was probably more like it acutally.

So, now we have yarn swifts to wind skeins into balls.  There are very professionally made, beautifully finished yarn swifts that cost lots of money:

There are beautifully HOME made yarn swifts that cost a bit less, but still need to be purchased from the craftsman that made it:

There are do-it-yourself models, still with purchased supplies, but for a lot less money—this one is a lazy susan and parts of a pot rack from IKEA that someone on the web very cleverly put together.  And is still very stylish:

Do I have one of these lovely models?  No, I most certainly do not.  This is mine:

It is ugly as sin.  Very clunky and awkward and kind of heavy.  But I made it.  And it was free.  And works like a dream.  And is totally adjustable.  Though not portable and does not have a cute little bag that it can fold up into.  **sigh**

Can you guess what it used to be?   The bottom of a computer desk chair.  From the dump.  It used to have wheels on each of the arms and a seat.  Those are gone.  He had to unbolt the seat for me as I had a really hard time with that.  But the wheels popped right out.  Flipped it over and voila!  Useful spinny thing.

This swift is not at all attached to the stool.  The metal part is heavy enought that it just stays put even when I’m using it.  The handle that is sticking out there is completely useless to it’s new life as a swift.  As I’m sure it was when it was a chair too.  Those things never works.  But it doesn’t come off either.  It’s not in the way so I don’t really worry about it.

The pegs are just dowels that have been fitted into those wooden thingys.  I just seemed to have the wooden thingys hanging around, but they worked perfectly.  So those pegs can be stuck into the triangles on the chair part where ever they need to be.  Flipped over they fit in the holes that used to hold the wheels.

The skein of yarn that wants to be a ball is just loosely draped around the pegs.

Then ball can be wound from that.  This thing is so sturdy that I can set it up over there, and sit over here at the computer (with it behind me) and wind away.  It doesn’t even move a little on the stool.

Just to be clear, as with most stuff I do, this was not my idea.  I saw it somewhere on the web.  But not exactly like this.  The one that I saw was still attached to its seat and was flipped upside down on a table.  The wheels had been replaced by Crayola markers–the fatty ones.  I like mine better.  If done that way, you would have to keep taking the wheels out and putting them back when you wanted to use the chair. 

So we have no more grumping about holding your hands “like this”.  It’s much easier to just bring the swift upstairs to the crap craft room when I’m not using it.

Oh my (oh meyer!)

One other purchase yesterday (not from the Spice of Life, but sadly from Walmart–I just hate it when something good comes from Walmart) was this little sack of gems:

If there is one bright spot in the winter produce aisle, it is definitely the citrus fruits.  This one pound bag of Meyer lemons was $1.65.  How could I resist? 

The back of the bag says that Meyer lemons are actually a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.  I never knew that. 

Lemon has to be one of my all time favorite flavors.  Lemon tea, desserts, candies, whatever.  Lemon, lemon, lemon.  And Meyer lemons are just about the best lemons ever.  They are so sweet and smell so lemon-y.  They smell almost too lemony or something.  Fake almost.  They are smaller than regular lemons, not as small as Key limes, but maybe about half the size of a regular lemon.  And they are sweet.  SWEET.  And like the bag says, Sweet and Tart.  Like a Lemonhead candy.  

Most mornings for breakfast I eat yogurt and granola.  Lately I’ve been alternating oatmeal one day and yogurt the next.  This morning I made the most amazing lemon yogurt with one of these guys.  No granola.  That would have ruined it.  I cut the rind off the outside to save for drying (more about that another time) and squeezed the juice and pulp into my plain yogurt (Stoneyfield Farms Whole Milk Plain yogurt.  Yum).  Then I ate most of the left over pulp.  Really, they are that sweet that you can eat them like an orange.  Almost.  I added a little bit of that agave nectar to the yogurt.  It was sooooooo good.  A bright sunny spot on a(nother) gray winter morning.

My mother discovered the best lemon tea.  Meyer Lemon from Stash.  They sell this amazing item at Reny’s.  $2.39 a box.  That’s a steal.  And those folks at Stash really got the lemon flavor right too.  So if you can’t find a bag of these at Walmart, Reny’s has the next best thing.  And people don’t look at you so funny if you are drinking lemon tea as they do if you are wallowing in a lemon.

The Spice of Life

We made a big trip to Skowhegan today.  Reny’s, The Spice of Life, Walmart, and the Dollar Tree.  That is a big outing for us and will be the extent of our shopping for a while now.  Exciting, eh?  Nothing purchased at Reny’s, although we tried really hard, and only some essentials at Wm and Dollar Store.  My fun stuff was from the Spice of Life, our other health food store (the other one is in Farmington).  http://www.spiceoflifemaine.com/retailer/store_templates/ret_about_us.asp?storeID=RAP3M7KDKCKW9LDC39G5TCGH9ARPDR5B

Santa Claus gave me a gift certificate for Christmas.  Boy, that seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?  So I’ve been trying to decide if there was anything I just couldn’t live without from there.  I was thinking that I would get some honey–a big jar–as a special treat.  But that special treat, a quart sized jar of local honey was $19!  Good Lord. Way too much money.  I know that the value of it is probably reasonable, but I just couldn’t spend that kind of money on honey. 

So I wandered around for a while and decided on a few smaller things instead.  This store has a really great wall of jars of herbs and spices that you scoop out and pay a per pound price.  The last time I was there I discovered Vietnamese Cinnamon.  Sweeter than regular cinnamon.  Not so much of a bite to it, but really nice.  Spices are a much better deal when you buy them like than instead of in those little plastic jars.  You’re paying for a cheap plastic bag, not a bottle and label and advertising.  This is a great way to buy pickling spices too when that time rolls around again.  This time I found that they had a few loose leaf teas along with the herbs and spices.  I don’t think they had that last time.

This tea is organic, naturally decaffeinated mango green tea.  It smells really fruity and hints that it might be tart, but it is really just a nice green tea.  The smell kind of disappears when you taste it.  So it isn’t overpoweringly fruity, just a bit of something else in there. 

This photo isn’t a very good one.  The color of the tea in the bag is really green with yellow flower petals.  This photo is of a pint mason jar (also a Christmas gift–thanks!) and it is about 1/2 full.  So this much tea was $4.  It was $29.99 per pound.  But I find that with tea, you only need a few ounces for a real treat.  And with the beaded tea ball, it feels like a real luxury. 

I also got some Agave Nectar.  I have been wanting to try this for a some time.  I really like honey in my coffee, so I think this will be a nice way to try this product.

And this one last treat from the Spice of Life…..

Cocktail tomatoes from Back Yard Farms in Madison.  $1.99 per pound.  They are bigger than cherry tomatoes and smaller than plum tomatoes.  This health food store always has tomatoes from BYF.  And at a reasonable price too.  I ate about this many while we were driving around.  They don’t quite taste like a garden tomato, they are after all made in a factory/greenhouse, not an actual back yard, but in January they come pretty darned close.  I don’t think I will make anything with them, I think I will just leave them on the counter and eat them. 

Pretty good Sunday afternoon.

New blue mittens

Since the whole shrinking of the favorite pink wool lined mittens episode, I have been obsessing on new mittens.  It was really great to get Wood Gettin’ Gloves in the mail (thank you!), but I still find myself wanting cozy mittens.  As I have said before, I am not a quick knitter.  So, while I am working on some mittens for myself, it is bitterly cold here and I need mittens, like, now. 

So this morning I was upstairs rooting around in the sewing room–I have a whole room for that and it is upstairs so I don’t have to look at the pile o’ crap that is the sewing room—anyway…root root root…then I spied this sweater that I had previously felted to toddler size.  I do that I guess.  See aforementioned need for non-toddler sized mittens.  So I picked up said sweater, which is really soft and a pretty color.  Mittens?  Yep. 

It took a half hours, tops.  And that’s only because one of them I sewed kind of wonky.  And since my hand is not actually the shape that I sewed, I had to re-curve it into hand shape.  They are really cute and really warm and were really fast.  Good for a pinch.  Now I can take my time knitting mittens.  I will post a tutorial on how to make mittens from a sweater the next time I make some.  Probably soon, they’re ridiculously easy.

You see, it seems that I forget that I can sew.  I get so wound up in knitting and spinning (wound up, get it?), that I sometimes forget about sewing.  I think I am pretty good at it too.  I don’t quilt or anything useful like that.  But I can make clothes.  I can make clothes, but that doesn’t mean I do it very often.  Sometimes when we are able do something, we don’t do it because we don’t think of it.  It comes as second nature or something, so you forget that you can do it.

Even in high school I was perfecting my flat fell seams (yes, I can hear you….geek even then).  My mum taught me to sew.  I have very specific memories of sewing for Barbie.  My mum had unusual teaching methods.  I learned to knit by knitting socks.  Not a scarf, or a blanket for dolly, no no, socks.  How old was I Mum? 8? 9? Who teaches their kid to knit socks?  Who has the patience for that??  And get this……..she’s a lefty and I’m a righty.  P-A-T–I-E-N-C-E. But the sewing came first.  And I remember sewing long before learning how to knit.  My mum used to sew lots of our clothes.  And I got to have the scrappin’s.  So I sewed for Barbie.  Again, Barbie, mind you.  Have you ever seen the curves on a Barbie?  This meant lots of darts and gathers and fitted things and teeny tiny buttons.  And button holes. 

Thanks again, Mum, for giving me these skills so early on.  They are good friends to me now, and come in quite handy.  Without a lot of cash to rely on, it is sometimes really important to know how to do this stuff.  I’m really proud of the fact that I can take some old thing that someone else would throw out and turn it into something useful and stylish.  For free.

Poor little kitten lost her (wood gettin’) mittens

Yesterday I mentioned in passing that I wanted to start knitting mittens.  Well, now I HAVE to start knitting mittens.  My only-mittens-I-ever-made-myself went into the washer today.  That much I was aware of.  They were messy, full of twigs and lichen and wood dirt, and needed a bath.  I saw them go into the wash and said to myself “don’t put those in the dryer”.  Yep.  Into the dryer they went without even thinking about it.  They came out really beautifully clean.  And smaller.  Too much smaller.  Big Dope. 

So now I have to knit new mittens.  I have just cast on for a new pair.  And while I was doing that I realized that I have enough of that same pink yarn and more roving to re-knit and re-create the old favorite very warm now smaller mittens.  I will also try to find someone to pass on my smaller mittens to.  Homemaker’s Extension is coming up.  I bet one of those ladies has petite hands that would like some felted mittens.