Friday, February 29, 2008

march feature pattern

I did say the Gretel dress was a hint for this pattern, right? Well, I didn't end up calling it Hansel's shorts or something similar (because that was a bit too silly), but that is where the inspiration came from. The lederhosen are really very simple, and meant to be decorated with embroidery. If you're not so good at embroidery, you can add a belt made from felt with a button belt-buckle. The hat took me a while to figure out, but I really like the results. You need to block it to get the shape right, so you'll need to knit it from wool or something that will block really well. Altogether, I think it's a fun pattern, and I bet kids would get a kick out of playing dress-up with this outfit. Too bad there are none around here to try my patterns out on!

It seems that the kits I put together are popular! I sold 2 already, and hopefully the rest will go while there's still time for them to arrive before Easter. The Fuzzy Knits kits will be available at the end of March, but I'll let you know when I'm ready to list those. I forgot to mention yesterday that the pin cushions are on sale. I've decided to limit my inventory to patterns, toys and kits, since I've had trouble selling my other items. From now on any items I sew will be just for kits. It's too bad really, because the other things are fun to make. But I suppose I can still sew things for myself and my friends.

I think that's all the exciting news I have for today. I think I'll take the rest of the afternoon off and knit something for myself. I started a scarf yesterday from some pretty sock yarn I had lying around. It makes me think of Spring and flowers, and I can't wait for it to be warm enough for me to wear it with my pretty pink jacket.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

easter bundle kits

The Easter bundle kits are now available in my Etsy shop. I took advantage of a little spare time today to get all the materials together and take photos. They seem to have turned out quite nice, and I think they would make a excellent gifts. Some don't have bags, but I did give people the option of requesting one and paying for it separately. I dyed a lot of the yarn for the outfits, trying to match it to the bags, but also choosing pretty spring colours.

I suppose I should get back to work and finish off that March feature pattern. Good thing February has an extra day this year!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

oatmeal cake

I'm glad you like the idea of the weekly soup. Photos of the soups would be nice too, so you can see what they're like, although most soups don't look like much. The mushroom and barley soup is just dark brown with bits floating in it, so not very aesthetic :)

In a fit of restlessness last night, I made a cake from a recipe I found in the Joy of Cooking. I'd been teasing my husband by reading bits of cake recipes out-loud, and this is the one we decided to try first (my husband is a big fan of oatmeal). This turned out more photogenic than the soup, so I thought I would share the recipe. The cake is dense and moist, and tastes a lot like oatmeal cookies. When I make it again I might add some raisins and walnuts. I cut down on the sugar a little, but otherwise this is right from the book.

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13" baking pan.
Place rolled oats in a small bowl and add water. Let stand until water is absorbed (about 10 min). Meanwhile, mix together dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

In a medium bowl, at high speed beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.

On slow speed, beat in oat mixture, then dry ingredients until blended.
Scrape batter into pan and spread evenly.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool briefly on rack.

This is delicious on it's own while still hot, or have it with ice cream or vanilla yogurt. Once it cools, you can ice it with your preferred icing. I've put on some store-bought icing with nutmeg added, but I bet cream cheese icing would taste good with this cake too.

I've also been working on a little surprise for you guys, which I'll write more about this weekend.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

weekly soup feature!

I had this silly idea last night that I should share the soup I make each week. It does say in my bio that I make delicious soup, so maybe I should prove it. My husband thought this was a good idea, since I've been lacking interesting things to talk about lately.

As a bit of background, I make a big pot of soup at the beginning of each week. We eat it for supper on workdays, so I don't have to take time to make supper every night. My husband loves soup, and usually I'm too hungry to care what I'm eating, so it works well for both of us. There are a couple hitches in the plan, though. First, my husband is mostly vegetarian (he will eat some fish and humanely-raised meat) so that limits the kinds of soup I can make. Second, I'm allergic to garlic and onions, so I need to modify most recipes. In spite of these limitations, I do manage to make something pretty tasty each week, and because I dislike repeating recipes too often, I make quite a variety of soups.

I recently bought myself a copy of "The Joy of Cooking" which seems to be a very good all-round cookbook. It's possible to get recipes on various websites, but I find they often lack good basic recipes, and you can't always trust that they'll work and be tasty. "Joy" has been around for years, so I can trust the recipes and information in it. On the downside, nearly every soup recipe in it has onions, so I'll need to modify any that I want to try.

Okay, if you're still with me after that dissertation on soup, here's the one I made last night: mushroom and barley. I added carrots and parsnips, and seasoned it with thyme and bay leaf. The recipe called for beef broth, but since I can't get good broth at my grocery store, I substituted free-range chicken broth plus some red wine and tomato paste. It turned out very tasty, although I only made enough for about 3 meals. I didn't want to go overboard with a new recipe.

If you would like me to share my recipe for anything I post here, just let me know. I'll try to remember all the changes I made to the original!

Monday, February 25, 2008


I know I've been a bit lazy about blogging lately. Mostly it's because I don't have anything really interesting to say, so I thought I would save you boring posts about all the toys I've been knitting. I have been doing a few other things, like sewing, dying yarn, and visiting with friends. Did you enjoy the photos from the other day? I think I'm slowly getting better at photography, but short, dreary winter days don't give me many opportunities to practice.

I did take a bit of time in the last few days to work on the next feature pattern. It turned out so adorable, that I can hardly wait to show you. What I have so far is pretty simple, so I might try working on a hat to go with it. That depends on how much time I can scrounge in the next few days, and if my ideas for the hat work out. We'll see...

I thought I would leave you with a picture of some pretty flowers from a couple years ago. There won't be any popping out of the ground around here for at least 6 weeks, but as wintry as it continues to be, spring will come eventually :)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

when I get bored

When I get bored, and it's freezing outside, I attack the house with the camera.

Mila in the sun

Bookcase in my studio

Current toy I'm knitting

Yarn stash for toys

messy work space

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

sewing day

Sorry for the slight technical problems with my last post. I had uploaded a better shot of the toys to flickr, and forgot I needed to fix the link in my post.

Today will be a sewing day. I've been knitting like mad on my second order of Easter toys, and find myself with a whole extra day to do something besides knitting! My plan is to whip up some bags for the upcoming kits. I'm going to make 2 different styles of bags this time, so there will be a variety of kits and prices to choose from. At the moment I think there will be 4 Easter bundle kits: 2 with just the book and yarn and 2 with book, yarn, plus a draw-string pouch. If I can find enough yarn for 2 more kits, there might be some with tote bags too. These will come with safety eyes and necessary buttons for the outfits. I'm also planning to dye most of the yarn for the toy outfits, which I hope to get done this weekend. I know with my first set of kits I gave stuffing, but I found it made the parcels very bulky (thus more expensive to ship), and I have a hard time supplying myself. These should be ready for my shop by next Friday, but it depends on how soon my order of safety eyes arrives.

I have some Fuzzy Knits kits in the works too, but they will come later (aimed more at Mother's Day). I'm also planning to mix them up a bit, so you could buy just book and yarn, or buy a kit with a pouch or tote bag. All the supplies will be enough to make a specific toy, rather than just some random yarn and buttons, although that encourages more creativity :)

I really love sewing, but my sewn items don't sell well in my Etsy shop. From now on I might just include these things in kits, rather then on their own. I had high hopes for the magnetic pin cushions, but they might end up as gifts for friends and family, and the materials go towards other projects.

In pattern writing news, I am trying to arrange things so that towards the end of April I should have nothing to do but work on new patterns. I have some really great ideas floating around in my head, and I want to get them made! They are quite different too, so will take a bit of trial and error before they are ready for you.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


A load of fuzzy cuteness


You guys are so awesome. *big hugs*

Sometimes I get very intense ideas, and I need to write them down, articulate them, in order to make sense of what I'm thinking and feeling. I'm glad it all came out clear enough for you to understand.

Since before I could remember, I wanted to be an artist (really, that's not just a cliche in my case). I went off track for a long time, and coming back to a creative life has made me so happy. But it is as difficult as I always imagined it would be, even if the difficulties are not ones I thought of when I was younger.

I'm very blessed to have a husband, family, and friends who support what I do. And there's you :) I sometimes wonder what I'd be doing now if that first person hadn't asked me to write out the pattern for my teddy bear. Cute is what I am and what I do, and I'm super pleased you all like it so much!

Friday, February 15, 2008

more thoughts

I've been thinking that my last post might have been a bit misleading. It isn't that someone criticized my work, it's more that I sometimes critique myself. I suppose everyone feels a bit insecure once in a while, even the cool people :)

While I do want to be successful, I am trying to do it by being faithful to who I am and how I see the world. So maybe that looks a lot different from what the cool and stylish people are doing. It doesn't mean that anyone is wrong or right in what they're creating. Trends are fickle, I suppose - maybe some people just got lucky when their ideas were the ones caught up by the main-stream. But I couldn't live with myself if I copied those ideas just to be successful. Besides, trends change too quickly for a copycat to keep up.

So what I'm good at is sort of rustic and cute, and what the main-stream thinks the thing to be is retro or weird or pastel or whatever... I believe enough people like who I am and what I do, that I can keep going for a while at least.

I also believe that life changes who you are. I'm sure my life will change a lot in the next few years. Perhaps that will change how I see the world, and so what I need to create will change too. That's a promise that things will stay interesting. The goal is happiness, right? Getting lucky doesn't have much to do with that, and I think I can be happy with the level of success I've achieved by just being myself.

P.S. I'm not really much of a philosopher, so my rambling thoughts might not make much sense. Thanks for listening, anyway :)

good and bad

I've been thinking that this whole blogosphere concept has good and bad sides. The good side means it's much easier than before to connect with like-minded people in far-away places. You can share ideas, accomplishments, and thoughts about the world. You no longer have to feel alone in what you're doing, and there are always plenty of people to offer support and constructive comments.

The bad side is a little harder to define, or, what is bad for me about being connected to so many others doing what I do. I've always been a very independent person, wanting to fully be myself, and not follow in any one else's path. But it's sometimes difficult to be totally happy with myself, when I feel like I've been passed over for not being as creative, innovative, stylish, or just plain not as cool as other people out there designing toys.

In many ways, my toys are a reflection of myself: small, soft, sweet, cute, simple on the outside but stuffed full of good things (or so I'd like to believe). I don't think I could ever claim to be be beautiful, stylish, trendy, or cool, and I've learned to not really care. I like who I am, and there's some really awesome people who love me just the way I am.

I put so much of myself out there, when I decided to give this business everything I could. I guess I made myself vulnerable, because any critique on my designs feels like a critique of who I am. Perhaps with time I will learn to be tougher, and not care if people don't like what I do. I hope I will learn to take a bit of inspiration from those who are more successful and popular than me, rather than feel like I'm not good enough.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

happy love day!

Big hugs to all of my lovely readers! I hope you have a wonderful day. And if you have nobody to hug and smooch, don't feel sad, find someone you care about and make them smile! If that fails, cuddle a softie. They're always full of love :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

ready to go

The Cowboy pattern is now available in my Etsy shop and my Lulu shop. I hope you enjoy knitting him! I would recommend reading the introduction to the pattern, because there are some important instructions there. This pattern hasn't been test knit, so if you find any mistakes, please let me know so I can post the corrections here.

Now I have to get back to knitting bunnies and lambs. I have a few other commissions for next month that are for different animals, and I'm really looking forward to them. Once all my orders are done, probably around the end of April, I'm taking a break. I want time to work on new patterns, knit toys for a couple of shows I hope to get into, and do other crafty things. I want to sew myself some summery clothes, which I haven't done in years. Tunics and sun-dresses in pretty cotton fabrics, and maybe an outfit or two for my niece and nephew.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Let me introduce you to Wayne. He's a cowboy. He'll protect you from rustlers and bandits, while winning your heart with his charming smile and humble manner.

After much worrying, hair-pulling, and failed attempts, I finally have a cow pattern that I feel is worth sharing. It will be available in my shops starting tomorrow (I want to do one more proof-read before putting it out there). It's a bit of extra work, and you have to be comfortable with sewing. The spots are all knitted separately, then sewn onto the stuffed body. Not that I think you aren't capable of intarsia, but the pattern was simpler this way (even if it doesn't seem like it at first). Plus, it gives you freedom to knit as many spots as you want, and place them where you want. I think someone mentioned something about a long-horn version. I don't have time to knit it right now, but check back tomorrow for instructions for longer horns on dpn's.

The vest is a modified version of the Easter bunny's waistcoat. It looks super cute if you embroider little western-type decorations on it. I went with simple v-shapes on the shoulders and back. The pocket is just an extra little detail, not essential if you think it's too fussy. Then all you need is a little triangle of fabric to knot around his neck, and he's ready to go!

Monday, February 11, 2008

tricot machine

I found this on another blog I read, but I loved it so much I had to share. I'd heard of Tricot Machine from a friend, but hadn't heard their music before. I wish I understood more French, but I still think the song is lovely. And who wouldn't love a music video made from knitting?

techincal problems

I know, I know... I keep promising those tutorials, and they always fail to appear. I have the text all written, but when my husband read through it, he voiced some serious doubts about whether it's even possible to show what I'm doing with photos alone. So now I'm rethinking the whole thing. *sigh* I feel really crappy about taking so long with the whole thing, but I have this horrible need to do a good job. What will probably happen at this point is that we will try taking photos for the first installment this coming weekend. Then I will post that tutorial as a trial, and hopefully get some feedback from you as to what is missing, unclear, etc. If it seems like videos are necessary, we'll try borrowing a video camera, and get the rest of the tutorials done as soon as we have time (another serious problem being that we are both super busy right now).

I do have some good news! I'm nearly done with the cow pattern. I just need to work out some kinks with the clothing (as in some small problems, not that the clothes are kinky). I finally decided on how the cow should look, and while it's a little more work than my toys usually are, it looks like a "typical" cow and it should be easier than intarsia. It's a bright sunny day, so if I can get some good pictures, and get it written up tomorrow, the pattern should be available by Wednesday. Although, considering my track record with promises and deadlines, it will probably be ready at some indeterminate date in the far future :-/

Friday, February 8, 2008

full house

Here are some of the toys hanging around my house lately; although, this photo is a few days old, so there are some new critters, and one of the cuties in this photo is already gone. They look all good and behaved, lined up like that, but I have my suspicions that they get into trouble in the middle of the night. Their sweet innocent faces don't fool me. Besides, my cats know a trick or two, and I'm sure they conspire with the toys to party it up during the night, leaving fuzz and bits of yarn all over my house.

I took a bit of a break from knitting yesterday to do some baking. I got myself a lovely new KitchenAid mixer last week (courtesy of some wedding present money) and I've been putting it through it's paces. First I made rye bread, for my Russian sweetie. It turned out chewy and tasty, and met with great approval. Then I made peanut-butter chocolate-chip cookies, just because. They were also much appreciated!

I was also given a sweet little table for my sewing machine, so now it has a home! I was so tired of dragging it out of the closet every time I wanted to sew something. Now I have a corner of our spare room all set up for sewing. My first project is a heating-bag/toy for my nephew's first birthday. I made it in a teddy-bear shape, and it has striped flannel pyjamas. Plus, my sister can remove the flax-filled bag to heat it in the microwave, to make the toy warm and cuddly.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

almost forgot

I almost forgot to say that I will soon have more kits and books in my Etsy shop. There will be kits including the Fuzzy Knits book and the Easter Bundle book. I'm more organized this time too, and the kits will include yarn to make a particular toy. I probably won't include cloth bags with the Easter Bundle kits, in order to keep their price a little lower. I've also been considering changing the style of the cloth bags, so they fit the book, as well as a knitting project. What do you think?

bye bye

This little cutie pie is on her way to a new home. I try not to get attached to the toys I sell, but she really is special. I hope her new owner will love her too (she's a Valentine's Day present, so the odds are good). I have more of the curly yellow yarn, enough to make another lamb, I hope. The next one might be staying with me.

I'm working my way through the first of my commissions for this spring. Of the 10 toys, I have only 3 left to knit, and 5 to put together. With some determination, I'll have them all done by this time next week. Then I start on the next one, for 6 toys. After that I have some smaller ones. I tried to space those out a bit, to give me time to work on patterns. I've been working away on the cow whenever I need a break from bunnies, so it's coming along, slowly. I keep changing my mind about what I want it to look like, which isn't helping.

I've written out a draft for my long-awaited face tutorial. Looking at the length of the text, and thinking about how many photos I need to include, the face tutorial will probably be expanded into a mini-series. Each part of the face will be covered in a separate tutorial, spaced over several days. This way I can get as much detail as I want into each part, without making one enormously long post.

My hubby suggested the idea of making video clips to go along with the tutorials, which I'm a bit hesitant about. I mean, I love the idea in theory, because it will be much clearer what I'm doing. But there are two problems: one, we don't have a video camera, and two, I have this irrational fear that I sound like a 6-year-old. However, the chances are good that my husband will talk me into us getting a video camera. He's also done a bunch of narrating for videos, so he can coach me in the talking part. Who knows, maybe in some bizarre way me sounding like a 6-year-old will just add to the cuteness factor of my toys.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Sorry for the delay in getting the Gretel dress pattern into my Lulu shop. The procedure for listing new patterns there is a lot more involved that with Etsy, but I should have it done by the end of the day.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend, wherever you are! We're having a snow day, so my weekend should be pretty and wintry, at least :)

Gretel's Dress

Here is my surprise February feature pattern! I do hope you like it. I've been thinking about a dress like this for a while, and finally had all the right ideas together to make it just how I wanted. It has a fuller skirt than my other dress patterns, a scooped neck, puffed sleeves, and an apron. I really wanted appropriate photos for this pattern, with a dark forest around her, maybe a gingerbread house or a witch in the background. But I don't have props like that *sigh* I made do with some pretty flowers I have, but I think the dress still speaks for itself. The name is also a hint at what I might be designing for next month ;-)