Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How the Storm Stole My Mojo.

When it became clear that Hurricane Irene was really on her way (...we always hope that storms will just...shuffle out to sea before they get up here to New York), I envisioned all kinds of crafting-by-candlelight time.

And then, in a fit of bureaucratic ass-covering, I got evacuated, which was scary and stressful and a pain in the ass---thankfully---unnecessary, but also shut down the crafting part of my brain for the weekend. 

So in the end, I spent the storm (which was slowed waaaaay down by the time she got here, and I won the Power Line Lottery and never even lost electricity, let alone had anything sustain any damage besides "lots of annoying fallen leaves and branches") napping and cooking vegetable gumbo and watching Winter's Bone and reading Kelly Link's amazing collection of short stories Pretty Monsters (about which there will possibly be more to say later).  So all of the "here are my hurricane goodies!" items that I wanted to present to you...don't exactly exist. 

I do, of course, have an owl (...or three) on the skeins, but over the past two days I've been Distracted by Dishcloths.  (Or washcloths, in this case, but I couldn't resist the alliteration.)

I ended up making these in the most roundabout way possible---thanks to Ness of Bunnies and Bettas, I remembered the existence of the Harry Potter Knitting and Crochet House Cup on Ravelry, and got there just in time to sign up to be sorted for this upcoming term.  So uh, this is just fair warning that I guess WIP Wednesdays and FO Fridays for the next three months are going to be filled with projects prompted by said group.  The class assignments go live tomorrow and I'm so excited.  Especially since the group has already led me to make stuff I wouldn't have otherwise.

Through a bunch of random link-clicking in the House Cup forums, I discovered the For the Children of Pine Ridge group (also on Ravelry), which coordinates efforts to send knitted and crocheted items to the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and one of their August/September projects is making cotton washcloths for the elderly people on the reservation.

I love the idea of handmade dish/washcloths, but I don't live in a climate where they're practical.  It's really humid here, so anything as heavyweight as a cloth crocheted from worsted-weight cotton is going to turn into a mildew ball.  So I'm thrilled to have a good cause to make them for and a place to send them.  The lame, teasy photo above is because both of these are actually finished, just not off the skeins with woven ends yet.  But oh, more are on the way.  If any of you have a favourite crocheted dishcloth pattern, please share it with me!

Now go, and roll around in the yarny coolness that is WIP Wednesday!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Some Squee Items for Today:

Beginning my day (well, after breakfast and email checking) with a bike ride to chill at the beach for a while and start reading a fun, fluffy, southern-set YA novel.  Summer always makes me want to read novels set in the (American) south.  Last summer I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird, closely followed by The Help, and went on a little southern cooking kick that included sage cornbread and homemade BBQ sauce.

Ridiculous photoshoots for inanimate objects.  As part of my "get ass in gear, list things in online store" campaign, here's Sunset the owl, last seen on FO Friday a few weeks ago.  I like to give my crocheted toys weird little personalities when I list them, and I decided Sunset is a movie buff and took him outside to photograph accordingly.  I was so gleeful when I remembered I had a glass bowl this small for his popcorn!

New towels!! I really love towels, for some reason, so I was happy to find that Target had an uber-sale on them last week and picked some up.  I'm really excited about the orange one.  The more I craft, the more I realize that I like colours I always thought I didn't like.  I mean, I still wouldn't wear orange, necessarily, but it definitely has its applications and its own beauty.

Sadly, it's so humid that the towels aren't going to dry all the way on the line, so I'm off to pop them in the drier for a bit.

Go share your own squee over at Rip It Good!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Owls, Owls Everywhere...

...And not a tutorial in sight. :|  Yet.  I've been having a week where I've (fortunately!) had time to craft, but (unfortunately!) had no time to sit around writing about crafting.  But thanks so much to all of you who volunteered to read/test the tutorial when it exists.  I really appreciate it and will be in touch. 

Anyway, on to the owls!

Harry had only just started his porridge when, sure enough, there was a rushing sound overhead and a hundred or so owls streamed in, circling the hall and dropping letters and packages into the chattering crowd.  A big, lumpy package bounced off Neville's head and, a second later, something large and grey fell into Hermione's jug, spraying them all with milk and feathers.

"Errol!" said Ron, pulling the bedraggled owl out by the feet.  Errol slumped, unconscious, onto the table, his legs in the air and a damp red envelope in his beak.

(from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)

Poor Ron.  What's worse than getting a Howler? Getting a Howler delivered by your family's embarrassing old owl who lands in people's beverages!  (In the movie adaptation of Chamber of Secrets, Errol lands in a bowl of chips crisps instead, hence my photoshoot.  The crisps I could do [these are actually hummus chips, and Errol only got a couple crumbs on his fluff], but popping my crocheting into a jug of milk was obviously not happening.)

When I started a more neutral/natural coloured owl, I decided to name him after the Weasleys' tired old Errol.  And then discovered just yesterday that Errol is supposed to be a great grey owl and uh, looks nothing like this.  But the name is sticking, and now I want to make a grey owl...

Errol has a different face than the other owls, instead of making two separate eye roundies, I worked into both sides of a chain to form an oval and made some shells for the widow's peak shape.  I'd initially planned on giving him sleepy eyelids, but I liked him too much as-is once I popped the safety eyes in.

I'm trying to get my ass in gear and list some of my stuff at my Zibbet shop, so I've started with Errol.  I'm always iffy about whether the photos I take for this blog translate well as product photos, but I was pretty pleased with his photoshoot, so I went ahead.

I also finished Gus-from-Psych in owl form the other day (and, as you can see, owl-Shawn didn't want to let owl-Gus have his moment in the spotlight...).  When I think of Gus, I think of the very classy pastel-and-grey tones that he's often dressed in on the show, so that inspired my colour choices here.

Here's a closeup of Gus's pattern rows, which are just alternating stitches in grey and green, but I don't do a lot of (...or any, really) colourwork, so it was kind of new and interesting to me to get into the rhythm of holding two yarns and switching between them. 

Gus and Errol both have rounded heads instead of pointed feather-ears, and I have to flail a little about the awesomeness of June Gilbank's ultimate finish for amigurumi, which I used to finish said rounded heads.  Seriously, awesome.  So much neater than my usual haphazard tugging and sewing. 

I couldn't resist this little skein of random yarn from a $1 yarn kiosk at the craft store.  "Mix fiber"!  How...specific!  I thought it might be nice for owl wings/details, but when I started working with it...

It made itself into dusties.  Currently in Original and Dust Bunny varieties!  This photo is pretty terrible, but this yarn seriously works up like it's made of dust and drier lint, which I could see being off-putting, but if you just go with it, it's kind of awesome.  I want to turn these guys into keychains, I think, but I'm not sure of the best way to do that without having whatever I'm attaching them with start to pull the crochet out of shape.  Suggestions are welcome!  

Check out other people's less dusty (and hummus-chip-crumby) projects at FO Friday and Fibers on Friday.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Owl Waffles, Friday Edition.

Everyone say hi to Shawn, a craaaazy owl who freelances for the Santa Barbara police department.  (Anyone else a Psych fan?  I'm not caught up with the show because I don't have cable, but I love it.)  Anyway, if you're not familiar with the show, Shawn Spencer is its central character, and he's hilarious and super-zany and inspired this owl.

Pineapples are also a running gag on the show, so that inspired the yellow/hint of brown coloration for Shawn's body, and this pineapple-based photoshoot.  (That pineapple is getting cut up and grilled tonight, yum.)  I won't say too much about Shawn just now, since he'll be your Owl Along Guide next week.  I hope.

Actually, speaking of the Owl Guide---would any of you awesome people like to volunteer to be a test audience for it (uh, when it exists...)?  I wouldn't be asking you to actually make an owl (unless you want to!), just let me know if it makes sense, etc.

I finally got around to finishing the Dotee Doll I showed you all weeks ago, too.  There's really no comprehensive tutorial around about how to make these, it seems, but the basic components seem to be that they're limbless blobs with sweet little faces (generally embroidered, but my embroidery sucks so I painted mine on felt with a teeny brush), hanging loops on top, and beaded "tails" on the bottom.

Since mine is going to someone as part of a books-and-tea themed swap, I gave her a little felt book which you can actually open (and hold closed by wrapping thread around the button), and teacup fabric on the back.  My sewing is still awful, but there are aspects of this that I'm pleased with (the book, mostly) and it was a cool learning experience, so I'm considering it a success.

I also used this tutorial/template to make a giant felt flower hair clip.  I think it speaks well of the template's simplicity and A+ design that I made this with giant, blunt scissors (too lazy to go dig up smaller, sharper ones, it was late at night...) while I was half-asleep and it still turned out this well!  I need some felt in magentas/purples to do another one, I'm dying to layer them with the heathery grey.

I love that you guys were excited about the banana oatmeal waffles, which turned out really tasty.  Here, have a bite---if you look really closely, you can see the rolled oats in there, being toothsome and delicious.  The recipe I used is from the Vegan With a Vengeance cookbook, and I found it reproduced online here.  I did mine sans raisins, because I wanted to top them with sliced strawberries instead.

In other FO Food this week, this thing doesn't really look like much, but I'm ridiculously proud of it.  It's a miniature lime ice cream pie that I made for my mom for her anniversary, and I made the ice cream myself by bastardizing several different recipes and keeping my fingers crossed, and it worked.  It even popped out of the heart-shaped mold I froze it in with minimal trouble!  I have about a billion photos of the process of making it and may give it its own post at some point in the future.

Check out other people's weeks in projects at FO Friday and Fibers on Friday

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Waffles and Owls. (Possibly the next big craft trend?)

You can tell it's a WIP kind of day because I'm wearing my F hook in my hair.  I was hoping to get my owl tutorial done for FO Friday, but I think it'll have to wait until next week, since there's a lot of photo editing and writing to be done and there's only the one day between now and FO Friday, so...

But I have at least one finished owl who will be ready to say hello to you all, whether or not directions about making him are also ready.  Here's a sneak peak:

And I seem to have started two more owls, hence the hook-in-hair...

It's probably bad form to name the owls while they're just cups and/or discs, but these are Errol and Gus. 

In the non-yarn, unceasing WIP that is me trying to stay in motion every day, I've been trying to regain my long-lost bicycle riding muscles.  Before June, I basically hadn't ridden a bicycle since the late 1990s, and my legs were all ...and we'd be happy to let it stay that way, please stop! But I've been telling them to STFU and doing it anyway, and it's finally starting to get to the point where sometimes, it just feels good to be riding along, which has me in a stupid-happy mood this morning.

...Contributing to this mood is my food WIP, oatmeal banana waffles.

Go check out other people's WIP Wednesday posts while I turn them from raw materials into (hopefully) waffle magic. :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Squee: It's Serious Business.

First, the Obligatory Food Squee.  I love a good weirdly shaped vegetable, e.g. cutting into a red pepper this morning and discovering that it had (mostly) absorbed its own twin like some kind of horror story.  I think that's Stephen King's The Dark Half, actually.  So this is like that, but with peppers.  And pretty colours.

And this piece of ginger, which I had to buy because (a) it looked like good ginger, and (b) I use a lot of ginger, but mostly (c) because I thought it looked like a lobster!  I have plans for this ginger which involve lentils, cauliflower with curried tomato sauce, and my ice cream maker.  Not all at the same time.  I'm going to be sad to cut off its claw-bits and mince them, though.  At least it's been photographed for posterity.

It rained on and off this morning, and I thought I wouldn't be able to use the grill, but it cleared up, and now I have two plates of delicious grilled stuff.  On the other plate and thus not pictured:  sweet potato slices, cherry tomatoes, green beans, red pepper (evil, absorbed its own twin red pepper), slices of jicama. (Which is a vegetable I've only discovered recently, and only discovered grilled like, two days ago, and Best. Thing. Ever.)

I'm also working (very slowly) on my owlmaking tutorial, which is fun and an interesting experience, although I sort of forgot to take enough photos as I owled along the other day, so we'll see how it starts to come together when I feel like editing said photos and writing the captions...

The idea of revealing exactly how simple and haphazard my owl-creating process is sort of makes me laugh.  But there's something almost...cathartic, maybe, about revealing trivial but potentially sort of embarrassing things to a friendly audience.

I remember when I was in high school, a boy I had a crush on and I would sometimes hang out in the same classroom before the school day began.  One morning I was there with some other friends, and he wasn't.  I was perched on a desk talking to people, and through a combination of distraction and a badly-balanced desk, ended up getting tipped onto the floor.  I landed on my feet (like a cat), but it was still loud and ridiculous and I thought to myself I'm glad the boy I like wasn't here for that one!

So imagine my surprise when, while I was talking to him later on in the day, I found myself saying "You missed it this morning, I fell off a desk!"

I don't know, I guess (for me, anyway) it's just that we live in a world where we're supposed to present ourselves as perfect a lot of the time, and it's special to find a person or group of people with whom it feels comfortable to admit that we're not, and even be specific about how.  And the wonderful people from the community of WIP Wednesdays/FO Fridays who are nice enough to read this blog are definitely that kind of group of people, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to think about that.

Go share your own warm fuzzies over at Squee Sunday. :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sheep Inna Hat.

...Similar to Discworld's sausage inna bun, only not.

A bit of a cheat today, since I finished this last week, but Sharon hadn't received it yet, so it had to stay a secret.  Anyway, I can now introduce Witchy Ewe, a 3-D version of Sharon's adorable business mascot, a knitting sheep in a very elegant witch hat.

I dyed the yarn for Witchy Ewe on a hot, sunny day when I had a bunch of long-drive errands to run, so I took the yarn along with me and set it out to finish drying under the back windshield of the car because I was too excited to leave it on the laundry line all by its lonesome!
Here's what it looked like once it was dried and unskeined...

...made into a ball...

And crocheted into a sheep-shape and then brushed with a suede brush for more authentic wooliness.  This was my first time dyeing/working with my own variegated-ish yarn, and even though it didn't turn out quite the way I'd planned, it was fun watching the colours appear as I went through the whole process.

Witchy Ewe was made from this really simple pattern, but I did the head differently as the version in the pattern, while adorable, didn't give me enough volume to put a witch hat on.  (I made the hat via needle and wet-felting, and it's kind of a wonky shape, but I hoped the beads would distract from that...)
The "foot puffs" are genius, so cute and they really do hold the sheep up nicely.  I (obviously) did mine in a contrasting colour.

Witchy Ewe's more-voluminous-than-the-pattern-specified head and hat made it necessary to give her a little help standing upright correctly, foot puffs or no, so I tucked her into the ridiculously sequin-trimmed kangaroo pocket of this shirt and we took a bicycle ride down to the beach for a satisfactory Balancing Rock.  (Cue another one of those wonderful, absurd LOL what am I even doing right now? crafty moments.  I love those when they roll around.)

 And here's my impossible-to-photograph (especially in this morning's Grey Glare Hell Light) Harry Potter project, a Chocolate Frog.  I used the basic idea of this adorable and super-popular pattern, at first with the idea of making a more realistic-looking toad.  But then I thought omg, Chocolate Frog! and decided to give it crocheted bobble eyes, so it would look more like it was all molded out of chocolate and all of a piece.  I also made it a bunch smaller, and then ended up frogging (LOL) the body to change the way the increases were done so it would be less symmetrically shaped.  I actually really like the shape I ended up with, as it has a little bit of a Marshmallow Peep thing with a broader base and a lumpy body, which makes it seem more candy-like.  (...and did I write down what I did? No.)

Hopefully I'll be able to figure it out again, because I want to make some more flavours---this guy is dark chocolate, and I'd love to have a trio in dark, milk, and white---and then hopefully photograph them better.  This one is uh...purposefully destined to become an ornament, because I was finishing him in a half-asleep haze and didn't think to weight him, so he tips forward. 

And here's Wednesday night's dinner (with a closer view available here), which I'm counting as an Official FO, since I shared it in its WIP state.  The tempeh recipe and serving suggestion of grilled portobello mushrooms and barely-cooked green beans came from 101 Cookbooks, and I can now vouch for its deliciousness.  The sweet-salty-smoky flavours of the marinade all worked really well together, and the tempeh (which is made from cultured soy and, in the case of the one I bought, other tasty grains) grilled really nicely.  I meant to serve it over quinoa, but ended up making some homemade tortillas instead.  (The recipe for those is from Homesick Texan and is amazing.  You can keep making it smaller and playing with different flour combinations and it keeps on working beautifully.)  I did up this haphazard lotus-flower-ish presentation in a hurry because I didn't want everything to get cold!

For more projects by people who probably aren't trying to pass off their dinner as fiber arts, check out FO Friday and Fibers on Friday

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Wednesday with Lots of Magic.

Today marks the year anniversary of WIP Wednesday, which is amazing.  I've only been participating since...I think late November, but the wonderful people I've talked to and stellar projects I've gotten to see and be inspired by have made me a happier crafter and person in general.  Many hugs and skeins of gorgeous yarn to Tami for organizing it and giving us all a way to connect!

I've got a million WIPs whirring around in my brain today, and regretfully none of them are particularly photogenic at the moment.

Like my Owl Tutorial, which currently looks like this:

Or my pattern test hat, which I think I'm going to have to frog, boo.  (But not because of the pattern, which was A+ and I'll definitely link you all to it when it's available.  I'm not sure if it will be for purchase or free or what...)

I decided to make the burgundy colour more fun by adding some Gryffindor gold, but the gold yarn is a sliiiightly heavier weight, which was enough to make the hat bigger than I'd like, and also added annoying increase-wobbles.  So while I love the pattern, and the way this hat looks sitting on the table, I don't think I'd love the way it looks on me.  I may just frog up past the gold and then add stripes in black instead, since I have black in the same weight as the burgundy. 
Here's another little Harry Potter inspired mystery project, which is going to require a little bit of pattern modification fun. :D

And for my next trick (as well as the only WIP I'll actually finish today, I suspect...) I will attempt to transfigure these things into this dinner.