Monday, December 31, 2007

new year's eve

I hope you all have fun plans for tonight, whether it's getting fancied up and heading out on the town, or having a fun time with your family at home. This year I'm sticking with the latter plan. I seem to have come down with a cold, probably caught on the flight home from Vancouver. Nothing like breathing in 200 people's germs for 5 hours!

I rarely get sick, so I'm holding up better than my hubby. We have some Star Trek TNG to watch tonight, a bunch of junk food, champagne, and kitties to cuddle up with. I'm not sure if we will make it to midnight, but we'll have fun anyway :)

The January feature pattern is all ready to go for tomorrow. Hopefully some of you have tried twisted stitches before, and will enjoy this pattern. I think I have my own way of making them, so feel free to use whichever method you prefer. I love making patterns with twisted stitches, and knit a gorgeous tuque for my brother's Christmas present (which I forgot to take photos of, doh!) But I have at least one request for another, so I might try writing up the pattern. Maybe it's time I put out a people sized pattern :)

I also want to thank all of you who have bought my patterns and toys, left me lovely comments, or found some other way to support me. It's been an incredible year, and I feel tremendously lucky to find something I love doing, and can be successful at. I couldn't have done it without all of you, and I wish I could give everyone a big bear hug! Have a fabulous evening, and I'll see you in the new year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

new year plans

First things first, the feature pattern for January will be a cardigan with tiny cables. I had lots of people ask about the cardi this wee cutie is wearing, so hopefully you will all enjoy knitting this for your little toys.

handsome Pete

Second, I plan on putting out a cow pattern. I'm still not quite sure how I'm making the spots, or what it will wear, but I should have it ready by mid-January. Any ideas on appropriate clothing for a cow? Too bad I already have overalls with the monkey... I'm contemplating giving it an udder, but that might be just a little too goofy ;)

There will also be a unicorn pattern to replace the reindeer. I need to order yarn to knit up the new pattern, so this might not be ready until the end of January. I really want to use some fun, sparkly eyelash yarn! So if you have a ball hanging around your stash, or see something pretty in a bargain bin, think unicorns! When this pattern comes out, I may also try putting together a tutorial. I know this pattern is complicated, with lots of seaming, but the finished toy is so awesome I would love for more people to try it out.

My wonderful hubby has also put together a new, non-holiday version of our pattern book. This should be available from my Lulu shop within a few days. I also hope to order some so I can offer them in my Etsy shop, and even put together a few more kits. I had so much fun with the first few, I want to try them again! Besides, it gives me an excuse to buy more vintage buttons from the local thrift store :)

I have a few more totally awesome pattern ideas for later in the year, but I think I will save the surprise until closer to when they will be ready.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

holidays

Well, I'm home from visiting my family. What can I say about the trip? It was noisy and fun, hectic but relaxing, snowy and beautiful. There were babies to play with, relatives to chat with, and old friends to catch up with. I will share a few photos when they're ready.

My luggage was lost on the way there, and returned soggy from sitting on the tarmac in Vancouver for a day. Nothing was ruined, although some books were badly damaged. I tried not to let it bother me, and just be happy that all my family's Christmas presents weren't lost. I think everybody liked what I gave them :)

I feel like the trip should have been longer, although I'm happy to be home. I don't get to go to BC very often, and I love it there. My husband and I walked all over my home town (it's not very big!), and it still looks mostly as I remember, and the changes aren't bad ones. I wish there was more work there, because I would love to raise my family there too.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

away for the holidays

In case I forgot to mention it already, I will be away visiting my family for the holidays. It's going to be a wee bit crazy, since there are a lot more relatives coming than I originally thought. Seems that everyone wants to meet my husband, and my niece and nephew who were both born this year. My husband is petrified, having never participated in a big family Christmas celebration. I promised we would go walking, snowshoeing, or skiing whenever he was feeling overwhelmed. Now I just hope they have as much snow as here!

I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone, since it's been at least two and a half years since I saw most of them. A lot has changed since then, including meeting my husband. I hope I don't lose my voice, having to tell everything to each person! Both sets of my grandparents will be there, and I hope to spend lots of time with them. They are all getting quite old, and are not in very good health. I'm so glad I have lots of good things to tell them.

Anyway, this does mean that my Etsy shop will be closed from the 18th to the 28th of December. You can still buy patterns and books from my Lulu shop, though. I am hoping to have a couple new patterns for early January, and other stuff to update my shop, so don't forget about me! I may blog one or two posts while I'm away, if I have anything really fun and exciting to share.

I wish you all a lovely and fun holiday, wherever you are! *hugs*

Friday, December 14, 2007

pattern update

For those of you who were having a little trouble with the sweater for the big teddy, I have updated the pattern. I guess I was just feeling lazy that day, and didn't want to write out all those lines of increases. It should be much simpler to follow now. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

wee tree pattern

I thought I would share the pattern I made up for my little trees, because I'm sure all of you are caught up with your Christmas knitting and have time for one more project ;) These are a little tricky, but if you're comfortable with dpn's they're quite fun!

This project is great for using up little bits of yarn, especially that cheap acrylic stuff you wouldn't want to use for anything really nice. I used worsted yarn, but I'm sure the pattern would work fine with a different weight, and appropriate needles. Once the tree is done, you can decorate it with beads, buttons or sequins.


Materials
Approx. 10g worsted weight yarn, set of 4mm dpns, darning needle, stuffing

Cast on 10 sts. Distribute between needles.
Knit 1 row.
Next row: [k1, m1] 10 times. (20 sts)
Knit 1 row.
Next row: [k2, m1] 10 times. (30 sts)
Knit 2 rows. Purl 1 row. This makes the base of the tree.
Knit 3 rows.*
Next row: [k4, k2tog] 5 times. (25 sts)
Knit 3 rows.
Next row: [k3, k2tog] 5 times. (20 sts)
Knit 3 rows.
Next row: [k2, k2tog] 5 times. (15 sts)
Knit 3 rows.
At this point, you will want to stuff what you have knit already. Don't stuff it too tightly, or the stuffing will show through the fabric and you will have trouble knitting the top of the tree.
Next row: [k1, k2tog] 5 times. (10 sts)
Knit 3 rows.
Add a bit of stuffing to the top of the tree. Break off yarn, thread end through remaining sts, pull tight and secure. Use the yarn end from where you cast on to thread though the loops of the cast on stitches, snug these together, then secure the yarn end.

Ta da! A sweet little Christmas tree!

Abbreviations

k = knit
k2tog = knit 2 stitches together
m1 = make one stitch by picking up the loop between the stitch you just knit and the next one, and knitting into the back of this loop.

If you feel creative, you can add stripes in different colours. The bobbles were a lot more complicated, but I can give you a basic idea of how I added them. There are 5 in each row, knit in the second of the 3 knit rows, like here*. The row at the bottom are 5 st bobbles, 5 sts apart. The next row are 3 st bobbles, 4 sts apart. The next row are 3 st bobbles, 3 sts apart. The last row are like little knots made by knitting into one st 3 times, then k3tog. These are 2 sts apart. You can stagger the rows of bobbles if you want, or just have lines running up the tree.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

don't look if you're related to me!

I might not be knitting toys for my shop right now, but that doesn't mean I'm not busy. Not everyone in my family is getting knitted gifts this year, but I am working on a few nice ones. I wanted to share what I have done, so if you're a member of my family, you should stop looking now or you might spoil the surprise :)

The last couple days I've been working on little knitted Christmas trees. These will be stocking stuffers for my my family. I'm particularly pleased with the white one covered in bobbles.


When I offered to make a toy for my niece for Christmas, my brother-in-law asked for an Eeyore, saying he was the most neglected Winnie-the-Pooh character. I happened to have a pattern that was close, and I finally finished his face today. I knit him from Swish Superwash merino, so he's easily washed when my niece decides to get food, dirt, or other nasty stuff on him. I know he doesn't look exactly like Eeyore, but he's still cute!


These little farm animals are for my nephew. I've been working on them for a while, whenever I found a little time between other projects. I love the pigs and sheep, and check out the horns on the ram! They still crack me up :)


The calf was supposed to be a cow, but I changed the pattern a lot, and he is much to small compared to the other toys to be a cow. I like the idea of knitting more animals for his birthday, and maybe some other farm-type things.

I'm also half-way through a pair of mittens, and I have a tuque to knit this weekend. I will try to take photos when they're done, although I haven't much time left before I leave. I am so looking forward to seeing my family again, and maybe dreading it a little too. They are all rather a lot louder than me, and it can be overwhelming.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

ginger cookies

I have an old family recipe for ginger cookies that I love, and which everyone else seems to love too. I suppose some people might keep such things a secret, but I believe that good things are better when they are shared. So here is the recipe for all my friends to enjoy.

Ginger Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses (I prefer black-strap, because it makes them darker and complements the ginger nicely)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground ginger (3 tsp if you like extra ginger flavour)

water
extra white sugar

Cream butter and sugar in one bowl. Beat in egg and molasses. Combine dry ingredients in another bowl, then blend gradually into wet ingredients. If dough is very soft, cover and place in fridge for 10 minutes or so. Shape into 1" balls, dip in water, then into extra white sugar (water helps the sugar stick). Place 2" apart on greased baking sheet. Bake in 350 F oven for 8-10 minutes. Cool for about 5 minutes (because they are too soft to remove from the pan) then place on cooling racks to finish cooling.

This makes about 6 dozen cookies, less if you make them bigger. Try not to eat them all in one week.

Handcrafters' Holidays Blog Meme

I saw this on Sew, Mama, Sew! and thought it would be fun to answer a few of the questions, even if my blog is a lot more about knitting than sewing. Hope you enjoy reading my answers!

Do you have a favorite gift that you love to give?


I love giving my family hand-made gifts because I know they will appreciate the time and creativity I put into them, whether it's just a hand-painted card or something I spent hours knitting.

If you’re making gifts this year, what are you making? (Post photos if you have some!)

I've made several aprons, knitted a bunch of toys, and plan to make a pair of mittens and a hat. Sorry, no photos yet. I don't want to spoil the surprise!

Name one thing on your personal wish list.

I do have several knitting books on my wish list, but lately I've been thinking it would be awfully nice to have a rotary cutter and board. I have this itch to do some quilting. A scissor sharpener would be great too! My poor old scissors :(

Do you make and sell things that would make fantastic gifts?

This is where I say how adorable and lovable my toys are, and what a great gift idea one of my pattern books would be. My pin cushions would make lovely gifts too, if I ever had time to sew any!

What is your favorite family holiday tradition?

My favourite family holiday tradition would have to be the big supper on Christmas day. It's not just the food, which is always great, it's the whole day spent together getting everything ready. When I was a kid, it was always at my grandparents' house. I have wonderful memories of arriving just after lunch to their warm, cozy house. Visiting and playing games with whichever aunts, uncles, and cousins were there that year. My grandpa watching 3 different sports games on the T.V. Delicious food smells coming from the kitchen. Making the gravy as all the food was being put on the table. The steamed pudding my grandma would always make, with two kinds of sauce. Sleepily walking home through the snow.

What do you love most about the holiday season?

What I've always loved most is finding (or making) the perfect gift for someone, and watching their face as they open the package. It warms my heart to be able to show how much my friends and family mean to me, in even such a small way.

What do you like least about the holiday season?

What I like least is how some people can be so cynical and try their hardest to not enjoy this time of year because these holidays are so commercialized in so many ways. It's not difficult to just turn away from all the shiny artificiality, and delight in whatever is special to you - family and friends, hoping for better things in the new year, practicing kindness to strangers, or even just enjoying the change in season.

Anyone close to your heart that you’ll be missing this year?

I won't be missing anyone, because for the first time in years I will be going home for Christmas!

What is your favorite holiday food?

My favourite holiday food must be my grandma's steamed pudding. It's full of raisins and spices, and is so rich and yummy. Then you get to put rum and butter sauce on it, or tart lemon sauce. It makes my mouth water to think of it.

Do you have a great recipe to share?

I have an excellent recipe for chewy ginger cookies. It's in another post, because this one is getting rather long!

Friday, December 7, 2007

photos

I just got an email from one of my customers, saying how cute her little penguin had turned out, and that she would send me photos. I was reminded how it always makes my day to see how adorable and special the toys are that people knit from my patterns. I'm glad that there is enough room for creativity in the patterns that other's toys don't all look like mine :)

I started a Flickr group (you can find the link on the right) because I hoped people would want to share photos of the toys they had made, and maybe share ideas on how to make them. Sadly, the group is still very small. Maybe most of you aren't on Flickr, or you don't have a digital camera. Ravelry has been a good place to see what people have made, and I'm always checking there to see what's new.

If you like, I think you may be able to share photos here, by including them in a comment or linking to them in a comment. That way other readers can also see what you've made, even if you're not on Flickr or Ravelry. I know there are plenty of people out there who buy my patterns, and never find the time to knit them. Maybe you can inspire them with pictures of the wee cuties you've knit :)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

limited time reindeer

I've decided to only sell the reindeer pattern until the end of December. It is a rather seasonal pattern, so in the new year I will put up a slightly different version for sale - either a horse or a unicorn. The reindeer pattern will be offered again next autumn, so don't worry that it will disappear forever!


I think I may also discontinue the owl pattern, and perhaps one more which I haven't decided on yet. The owl has never been very popular, and the number of patterns is beginning to be difficult to manage. I am open to discussion on this topic, though. If you think I should keep all the patterns, and continue to add new ones, then I will do my best to keep it all under control :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

winter is here

The snow finally decided to take a break, and the sun even came out for several hours. Not having a dog, I took the camera out for a walk. I thought I would share some of the nicest photos with you.








Tuesday, December 4, 2007

rush rush

I seem to be rushing headlong into the wholesale business! Well, it's not as bad as that sounds. Not wholesale toys this time - I'm still quite firmly against that, except in special circumstances. Wholesale patterns this time.

A friend of mine introduced my patterns to a yarn shop owners' list. Now there's all this interest in selling my patterns, and I'm not prepared! I had thought about printing patterns for shops to sell; but when I looked into it, I decided there wasn't enough demand to bother, considering the high cost per pattern.

I am now convinced the scheme might work. But it feels like there's such a rush to get everything organized... for Easter! I need to find a printer that will deliver good quality booklets for a reasonable price (which necessarily involves orders of a few hundred). I need to get enough orders to make it worthwhile. Then I need to get them printed and distributed. And this has to be done by the beginning of March, at the latest!

I am keeping my sanity by making this a trial. If I don't get enough orders to keep the cost per pattern low enough for me to make a little money, that will be it. People will just have to be content buying my patterns online.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that people love my toys and patterns. But it's just me and my husband running this (and he has a full-time, busy job). There's only so much I feel we can take on, while still making a little money to keep it going. It's a hard balance to keep.

Monday, December 3, 2007

blizzarding

I wish you could see the snow here. I want to take photos, but the camera would only get wet. We should have over a foot (or more than 30cm) by the end of the day. They're fat, fluffy flakes too - the prettiest kind. I always enjoy snow days like this, but then, I don't drive :) Good thing I bought myself some new winter boots on the weekend for my trip to the post office.

Thanks so much to everyone who bought a copy of our pattern book :) There was a lot more demand than we expected, and we ran out of printed copies this weekend. But if you still want one, you can order it directly from Lulu. Mr. Mitten is working on a non-holiday version, which will be available in January. It has all the same patterns, only the picture pages have been changed. The kits were a lot of fun to put together, and I will definitely put more in the shop once I have more books.

Today will be for working on Christmas presents. I must say, a break from knitting the toys is appreciated. I wouldn't want to get bored of them. I managed some sewing yesterday too, and someone on my gift list is getting an apron made from a vintage tablecloth. Think yellow, brown, and olive 70's goodness :) Sorry, no pics until after Christmas, since I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise any more.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

December Feature Pattern


Okay everybody, it's up on Etsy! Happy knitting :)