Thursday, January 31, 2008

go ahead, make my day

So it seems I've been tagged for the "(go ahead) make my day" meme. (sorry, couldn't resist)

It's not easy for me to list 10 blogs that make my day. See, I don't actually read that many (not many, as in about two dozen, not two hundred like a friend of mine). The reason for this is that I often have trouble staying on task and motivated, so having oodles of fun and interesting stuff to read every day would seriously cut into my time for doing productive work. It's just common sense for me to only choose the ones that inspire me the most, will always read from top to bottom, and will miss on the days they don't post. As for all the other wonderful blogs out there, I try to only stop by when someone mentions a particularly lovely post, so I don't spend all day on the internet. I do hope you understand.

So, I think I will just list my top five, and hope whoever I miss doesn't jinx me (I'm not superstitious anyway, so it won't work)

1. Soule Mama: she is such a wonderful, creative, loving, inspiring person. And she takes adorable photos of her kids. What more can I say?

2. the Yarn Harlot: funny, silly, wise, outrageous, talented, and so down to earth. She makes me smile, and sometimes laugh out loud.

3. Soto Softies: I love how creative Martiza is with shapes and styles and colours. I fall in love with all the toys she makes, and wish for the day when I can be as stylish as her.

4. Tania: reading her blog is like sitting in a best friend's cozy kitchen, drinking tea from pretty china, eating something sweet and yummy, and chatting about the best things that happened the day before.

5. Irish Sally Garden: this family makes me believe it's possible to live sustainably, eating delicious food grown in your own backyard, raising animals in a humane and wholesome way, and teaching your children everything they should know about how the natural world works and our responsibility to maintain a healthy and resilient environment.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

positive thinking

View from the hilltops
Originally uploaded by mricon
It's pouring rain here today, not normal weather for Montreal in January, and not appreciated in the least. I'm trying to conjure up warm memories of more pleasant seasons, and feeling grateful I don't have to go out today.

The lack of blogging this week results from a whirlwind of knitting, although I'm keeping my sanity with small breaks for visiting friends, making birthday presents, and cooking chicken noodle soup. Oh, and reading way too much. I've gone through 3 novels in the last 2 weeks, and I think I need to slow down, or try something more challenging.

Today I'm dying more yarn! And knitting, of course :) The toy I'll be working on today is actually for another pattern booklet. We need better pictures, so I'm going to finish off a puppy I started a couple months ago. The Easter pattern booklets didn't go over as well as I hoped, but maybe this new one will do better. It will have the Siamese kitty, Boyish monkey, and Puppy. I try not to worry too much about these booklets, though. The Fuzzy Knits book is doing very well, and I'm selling a few other things here and there. So far, my gamble to do this full-time is working out.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hint #4

bunny buddies
Originally uploaded by baprime
I've been hearing from a bunch of people that this little apron dress always turns out too large for the bunny (or siamese kitty, since the pattern is nearly the same). I'm not sure why, because I never have any trouble with the pattern, and I don't think I knit all that tightly. However, if you knit a bit looser than average, try going down a needle size or two (to 2.25 - 2.5mm), and adding 3-5 rows to the skirt.

By the way, here's the instructions for the little pocket:

Cast on 10 sts. Starting with a purl row, work 6 rows in st st.
Next row: k across.
Next row: k5, yo, k5.
Next row: k across.
Cast off all sts.
Sew pocket to dress front, and add button.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

espresso cupcakes

This recipe originally came from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. I've changed the recipe a little, and used a different icing, but they are still delicious. Because this came from a British recipe book, most things are measured in grams, but you can find the conversions here. I used good-quality chocolate bars, not baking chocolate, although you could probably use semi-sweet baking chocolate. This will make 12 medium cupcakes, or about 20 mini ones.

Espresso Cupcakes

125g softened unsalted butter
125g dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
125g all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
75g dark chocolate with ground coffee beans, melted (or plain dark chocolate plus 1 tbsp instant espresso powder or finely ground espresso beans)
2-3 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Line cupcake tins with paper liners, or butter and flour them.
Blend butter and sugar well, then add eggs and blend until smooth. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder (and espresso powder or ground coffee, if using). Stir in dry ingredients a bit, then blend until smooth. Add chocolate and 2 tbsp milk, blending well. Add 1 more tbsp milk if batter seems too thick.
Fill tins about half to 2/3 full. Bake for 12-15 min - toothpick inserted in middle should come out clean.

Chocolate Icing

100g dark chocolate
100ml whipping cream

Put cream in a small saucepan, heat until almost boiling (but don't boil). Add chocolate in small pieces, stirring until it's all melted. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth. Let cool until thick enough to spread.

Thanks to Amanda and Allison for taking photos of our fun, and listening as I talked way too much about knitting. Taylor was a hoot, as usual, and it's been too long since we all hung out together. I hope Sara gets better soon, and enjoys her cupcakes. Also, thanks to Minou for keeping me warm during my sleep-over. She may be a little crazy, and eat yarn, but she's a cute kitty.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

february feature

I had a great idea yesterday, so I put off making the toy I was working on to knit up the February feature pattern. It's very sweet, but I'm going to keep it as a surprise. The only thing Valentine-ish about the outfit is that I knitted it in white, pink, and red, but you could make it in whatever colours you want.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

cupcake bakers

Last spring we moved to the far west end of the island of Montreal, from where I used to live in the heart of things. We moved for lots of reasons - to be closer to my job, to have cheaper rent, to live somewhere quieter and prettier. While I now live much closer to my sister, I'm an 1.5 hour bus ride from all my other friends.

When I lived downtown, my friends and I had weekly get-togethers for such things as cooking, baking, knitting, chatting (and maybe just a bit of drinking). I've really missed these (probably more than my friends know), since it's much too far for me to go on a wednesday evening, especially when I was working a regular job.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of our first cupcake baking party, and I'm super excited! I'm planning to stay over at my friend's place, so I don't need to worry about the murderous bus-ride at 11 pm or something. Who says I'm too old for a pyjama party? I spent yesterday evening reading through a Nigella Lawson recipe book, making myself hungry even after I'd eaten supper. I suggested we make either her espresso cupcakes (which also include chocolate), or the fairy cakes, those being an excuse to buy candy cake decorations. I'll be sure to get pictures of whatever we make, and maybe I'll post one of the recipes we use. Cupcakes once a year can't be bad for you :)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

technicolour yarn

Originally uploaded by baprime
Here are the fruits of yesterday's labour! Dying the yarn was lots of fun, although my hands didn't get stained like I thought. I started by weighing out skeins in amounts to make one outfit - 20g for the sport weight, and 25g for the worsted weight. I then soaked it for a couple hours before dying. I have food colouring in yellow, red, and blue (concentrated paste form, not the liquid drop stuff you get in the grocery store) and found citric acid at the drug store. I was kind of surprised to actually find it, albeit in a small bottle, although they have even stranger stuff on the same shelf.

Anyway, I mixed up the colours I wanted in microwaveable plastic tubs. It took about 1/4 tsp of dye and 1/2 tsp of citric acid per 3 cups water, although I was just guessing at the amount of citric acid and probably used more than I needed. I had to dissolve the dye in a couple tbsp of water first, which made it difficult to see what colour it actually was. I painted a bit on some paper to get a better idea, and wrote down how much of each colour I used.

Then I added a skein of yarn, and microwaved it until the yarn had absorbed all the dye. I did this 3 min at a time, stirring in between. The lighter colours only took about 6 min, the darker ones more like 15 min. Then I placed the tub in a sink of cold water to cool the yarn, before rinsing it and hanging it to dry.

I'm really pleased with the colours I got. My first try turned out a little more green than I intended (this is the turquoise skein) because I forgot to compensate for the yarn being natural cream instead of bleached white. You can't tell from the photo, but the yarn turned out slightly heathered, which I really like. I have no idea why this happened, but I think it will give the toys' clothes a more rustic, old-fashioned look, which is totally appropriate for where they will be sold.

This isn't really meant as a tutorial on dying yarn, since there are plenty out there written by people much more experienced than me. This is more like a way to encourage you to try it yourself, just because it's fun, doesn't cost much, and involves yarn!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

technicolour hands

I've been selling plenty of books lately, which feels so good! I hope you're enjoying them, or will, when they arrive. I really like the new version, especially the pictures. The Festive Knits photos were a bit desaturated, but fortunately we figured out the problem.

I realized I never shared a photo of this wee cutie, like I promised. I made a similar one a while ago, for the same person. If you're curious, I used fingering weight alpaca on 2.25 mm needles, but otherwise followed the pattern exactly. The toy turned out about 13 cm (5") tall. The problem is that the dress certainly won't fit a kitty that small. I sort of divided all the instructions in half - half as many stitches for the skirt, a little over half as many rows, I think. It takes a little fiddling to get it right. I love how tiny and adorable she is, so maybe I'll make more in the future.

Right now I have bunnies and lambs to knit. I bought some suri dream for the lambs, because I thought it would be similar to the acrylic yarn I had been using (but natural fibres, of course). It is so lovely, fluffy, and soft! I think it will be perfect. But this morning I will be dying some of the plain yarn I bought, to be used for the toys outfits. So off I go, to have fun and get me some technicolour hands!

P.S. My husband is holding the kitty for maximum effect - he has large hands, so the kitty looks even smaller :)

Friday, January 18, 2008


Originally uploaded by baprime
This is just a quick note to let you know the Etsy shop has been updated with lots of pretty and cute things. This little gal is one of the new toys. The yarn I used for her was a lucky find at my local thrift shop, called Beehive Loopella. I'm pretty sure this has been discontinued, which is too bad! Once washed, it is soft with a great curly, nubbly texture.

On another note, I love Ravelry! I asked in the forums if anyone knew how I could contact yarn stores, and I already have a couple of good ideas. Now I just need to overcome my modesty, and admit that most won't think I'm an annoying brat trying to sell them something useless. I'm truly no salesman, and I feel so awkward approaching strangers and convincing them to buy something from me. Doesn't help that I'm shy, neither.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

shop update

My shop update will be tomorrow afternoon, so if you're in the market for some cuteness, please drop by! There will be magnetic pin cushions, knitting bags, kits, and toys. It doesn't sound like much, but I've spent the last few weeks working on everything. Today was spent taking photos for the listings, so here is a sneak peek at everything. I don't have any more books to add the to update, but if anyone really wants one, you can get them here.

My husband has also been super busy working on a booklet of Easter patterns. It is available for sale in my Lulu shop, although this is really meant for yarn shops. I'm hoping to get enough wholesale orders to be able to make more booklets in the future. We got one printed to see what they're like, and I really love how it turned out! It's such a nice size, and seems like it will last for many uses. I wish we could have colour pictures inside too, but it was really too expensive. So now you know where most of my knitting time has gone lately! I'm planning to make a new toy for every pattern and keep them this time, in case we need more pictures in the future.

I am still thinking about the cow pattern, and how to get it to look the way I want. It's much harder than I thought, I suppose because cows really don't look like teddy bears. I also have a bunch of toys to make for Mahar Dry Goods, so I won't have much extra knitting time in the next 4 weeks. I hope you all can be patient. I really want to do the best job I can, and sometimes this takes more time than I expected.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

hint #3

If you're making a knitted toy for a baby, you probably don't want to use safety eyes. But embroidering eyes on a knitted surface with yarn often doesn't look as good as you would like. I rarely embroider eyes because I dislike how they look, and it takes too many tries to get them to even look half-decent. I prefer to use felt.

You can just use a simple circle of black felt, maybe with a white dot added, stitched on around the edge. You could even add eyelids or eyebrows with felt or crochet. For a cat, you can use a coloured oval with a pupil of black felt stitched on. Or if you like embroidery, you can embroider eyes onto felt, and then stitch the eye onto the knitted face. I particularly like this last method.

Friday, January 11, 2008

stuff for the shop

I've had a busy day over here, and it's not because I'm avoiding going out in the nasty weather (rain in January is just wrong here). I'm feeling the pressure of the shop update deadline, and deadlines always help me get stuff done.

I finished one little toy that was commissioned ages ago, and I might share photos when I get some, because she is just too sweet. I finished another pin cushion, and made 4 little cloth bags for the book kits. Unfortunately, I haven't had much time to get any toys made for the shop update. If I bust my butt, I might get two or three done in time. We'll see how much knitting I can get done over the next 7 days. I also want to sew some more bags just to sell on their own, but I'm thinking of making patchwork ones so they'll be a little different from what's in the kits.

All this means that the cow pattern might come out a little later than what I was thinking. I'm not very happy with my first attempt, and am feeling quite uninspired about the whole thing right now. I'm taking a little break from it, and hoping I will feel more like working on it once the shop update is done.

Valentine's is coming quickly too, isn't it? I'm not sure if I plan to do anything special for February. I already have a sweater pattern with a heart on it, so I doubt I will do something like that for the feature pattern. Who knows, maybe my creative juices will start flowing again, and I'll come up with a fantastic idea!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

cows again

I made my first attempt at the cow today. It's not quite done, but it already reminds me a bit of the one in the picture. Although, the eyes on mine are a little more goofy than pretty.

The Muppets was one of my favourite TV shows as a kid. I have seasons one and two on DVD, although I've only watched a few episodes of the second season. I love how wacky, silly, funny, and sweet the show is. And the puppets are always inspiring!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

oh the evilness of tidy

I grew up in a messy house. It was messy because there were always lots of kids around, because we were mostly too busy to bother cleaning, and because my parents have trouble throwing anything away.

Having grown up in a mess, I prefer a tidy house. Not pristine, spick n' span, you-can't-tell-that-anyone-lives-here cleanliness. Just a general, uncluttered, everything-has-its-place kind of tidiness. I seldom achieve this, despite my best efforts, and that drives me a little batty some days. They say cleanliness is next to godliness, but I get so grumpy about it some days I really wonder if that's true...

Today I'm trying to make some sense of our spare room. This room was always intended to be a sort of studio/office/craft room, at least until it's needed for other things. However, my niece was living in the room last summer, so nearly all my crafty stuff has been packed in the closet since last spring. We finally made a trip to Canadian Tire, armed with some gift cards from relatives, and found a few things to help organize my overflowing collection of craft stuff.

My yarn is organized into clear bins, plus an old suitcase for stash I don't look at very often. I have a set of drawers for sewing bits and pieces. I've reorganized our painting supplies in an old dresser. I'm not satisfied with how my fabric is put away, but it's sort-of manageable in a bin and a box, so I will have to work with it that way for now. I need a table and lamp for my sewing machine, but I don't know when that will happen. Now I just need to clean up the mess I made while reorganizing everything, and I can be satisfied in a job well done. And a tidy room :)

Monday, January 7, 2008


I've been thinking about the cow pattern, and what I want the finished toy to look like. I did make one previously, but the way I added the spots could not be easily explained in a pattern. I thought maybe the spots could be knit separately and then stitched on, but I don't like the way that looks. This lead me around to thinking that not all cows are white with black spots, as you might assume from the majority of cartoon drawings of them.

There are lots of different kinds of cattle, some cute, some fuzzy, some tiny, some just kind of strange looking.

Cute Jersey cows...
Fuzzy Highland cattle...
(it's like a cross between a teddy bear and a cow)
Kingshire miniature cattle...
(widdle wee cutie pie!)
and some very strange African cattle.
(umm, those look pointy and dangerous and you guys look kinda unfriendly like)

EDIT: This post originally had some lovely photos included, but some people weren't happy with me using them, even though I had linked to their site and included their name in the photo caption. What can I say? Some people just aren't as generous with their work as I like to be.

So I probably won't go with those last 2 dudes as my models, but you guessed that already, right? I'm torn between the Jesery cow and the Highland one. Both are super cute, but not everyone will want to knit with super fuzzy yarn. I guess I still need to do some more thinking...

Sunday, January 6, 2008


There are a couple of pattern mistakes I was made aware of lately, and this seemed like the best venue to correct them. I hope you all don't mind, but I never claimed to be perfect! A mistake here and there keeps me humble, right?

The first mistake I want to fix is in my pattern books, both Festive Knit and Fuzzy Knits. There is a small problem with the stitch counts in the heart pattern for the puppy's sweater. I had fixed this problem ages ago, but when we were putting together the book, an old copy of the file was used. From now on I will try keeping my file folders tidy!

The correct counts are shown in bold.

Next row: k1, k2 tog, k7, k2 tog, yo, k3, yo, skpo, k to last 3 sts, skpo, k1. P 1 row.
Next row: k1, k2 tog, k5, k2 tog, yo, k5, yo, skpo, k to last 3 sts, skpo, k1. P 1 row.
Next row: k6, k2 tog, yo, k2, k2 tog, yo, k3, yo, skpo, k to end. P 1 row.
Next row: k8, [yo, slip 1 knitwise, k2 tog, psso, yo, k1] twice, k to end.

The second problem is in the cabled cardigan pattern. This should teach me to not write patterns when I'm running a fever. The mistake in the stitch count is in the rows you make the button-holes with yo.

Next: k3, p13.
Next: k7, RT, k1, RT, k2, yo, k2tog.
Next: k3, p13.
Next : k7, RT, k1, RT, k4.
Repeat these last 2 rows twice more. Mark end of first row.
Next: k3, p13.
Next: k7, RT, k1, RT, k2, yo, k2tog.
Next: k3, p13.
Next : k7, RT, k1, RT, k4.
Repeat these last 2 rows twice more.
Next: k3, p13.
Next: k7, RT, k1, RT, k2, yo, k2tog.
Next: k3, p13.
Next: k7, cast off 9 sts.

Friday, January 4, 2008

shop update

Maybe I'll kick myself later for promising a shop update so far in advance, but it could also motivate me to get everything ready on time.

I am hoping to do a shop update by the middle of January, let's say the 18th for now, to be negotiated if necessary. This update will include the cow pattern, some pin cushions, some knitting bags, maybe a toy or two, and a custom-order toy listing. I don't think I will have the new pattern books by then, so the books and kits will be listed a bit later. I was hoping to have more ready, but I am furiously working on an important project which is taking up all my knitting time.

Thanks so much for your well wishes. I am slowing beginning to get over my cold, and I appreciate you patiently reading through my whinging to get to the good stuff :) I need to get better soon, so I can meet friends for coffee, knitting, and new LYS exploring!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

fuzzy knits

The new version of my pattern book is now available at my Lulu shop. It has the same patterns as the Festive Knits book: polar bear, puppy, squirrel, lamb, easter bunny, boyish monkey, tiger, panda, siamese kitty, pocket mouse, big teddy, fluffy duckling, and super cape as a bonus. The cover and picture pages have been changed slightly, but otherwise that's it.

We had considered getting an isbn number, but they wanted us to change a bunch of things about the format, and it costs quite a bit. For now we are keeping the book the way it is (so you still get the spiral binding!) and if it gets really popular, we will consider the isbn number then.

I have ordered a few copies that will soon be available in my Etsy shop. There will be a few copies available for sale by themselves, and I will be putting together a few more kits. So if you have a friend's birthday coming in the next few months, keep me in mind :)

Do you guys mind spreading the word for me? This book is available wholesale to yarn shops, and I know of a few I can contact. But if you are 'in' with your local yarn ladies, and they like my designs, please put them in touch with me. I can hook them up with the place to order my books in larger numbers.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

year of cuteness

Some cuteness from the past year

year of cuteness

1. Charlotte, 2. Edward "Snugglecakes" Van Helgen, 3. Chloe, 4. Hunny bunny, 5. Basil, 6. Mysha, 7. Thursday, 8. Emma the lamb, 9. Iain, 10. rudyard, 11. Charlotte and Scotti, 12. Paola, 13. April the lamb, 14. Caramel Pup, 15. Mona, 16. Strudel, 17. Lewis, 18. Henery, 19. Holly the calf, 20. Hazel and Rosie, 21. cupcake, 22. Bella and Flora, 23. Clark, 24. heather, 25. Ringo

disappearing patterns

Some of you have shown concern over me discontinuing patterns. However, although I love all my patterns, some of them don't sell very well, and the number I can keep track of is getting a bit out of hand. I plan to keep the number of toy patterns in my Etsy shop to 20, so as I add new ones, other ones will be removed. But all my toy patterns will always be available in my Lulu shop, because I don't need to worry about emailing or re-listing there. So if you feel like knitting a reindeer in July, you can still get the pattern. Hopefully this will relieve your concerns :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


I hate being sick! This cold is kicking my butt all over the place, but hopefully this will be the worst day, and tomorrow I will start to get better.

I did manage to get the Cabled Cardigan listed in my Etsy shop, but not in my Lulu shop yet. My energy was at a premium today, and only the essentials got done.

We had a blustery snow storm here today, and I would have preferred to stay in, but clearly I have more fear of late fees than snow! We had a Star Trek marathon for our new year's eve fun (yes, I'm a big geek) and I needed to return the dvds this afternoon. It was so beautiful and quiet, with hardly a person or car in sight. The roads hadn't been ploughed yet and I got snow nearly to my knees! I would have stayed out to enjoy it more, but felt too sick to bother. We have a couple good months of winter left to enjoy, and hopefully this will be the only cold I get.