Giveaway Day!

Hi all, the giveaway is officially closed (sorry I’m a little late!) and the winner is Amanda! She says:

“I love the flowers and spending so much more time outside!”

Thank you to everyone who left me a comment or became a new follower – you guys are awesome!

Hello lovelies! Today is the day for the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway, and I’ve got something really cute this time around! Meet Rita the Bunny:

Lalylala Rita the rabbit blue yarn

Some of you may recognize Rita as being related to a few of my other recent finishes, and you’d be right – he’s the fourth Lalylala doll I’ve made so far! His hobbies include climbing…

Lalylala Rita the rabbit blue yarn back view

…hanging in the library…

Lalylala Rita the rabbit blue yarn hanging in library

…and gardening!

Lalylala Rita the rabbit blue yarn with plant

He’s made of completely washable and dryer safe yarn, with safety eyes and recycled stuffing, and he gives great hugs!

Lalylala Rita the rabbit blue yarn hugging

This time around I’m trying something new, so you’ll have two chances to win! For one entry, leave me a comment telling me what your favorite part of spring is (mine is flowers, especially magnolia blossoms!). And for a second chance, if you’re a follower, leave me another comment telling me how you follow (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or on a service like Blogger – or there’s an email sign up over there on the right!). I’ll pick the winner from a random number generator and the giveaway will be open until 6 PM P.S.T on Sunday, 4/10. I will ship internationally, so if you’re one of my overseas readers, go ahead and enter! If you are a no reply blogger, please make sure I have an email for you. Good luck and thanks for visiting!

Lalylala Rita the rabbit blue yarn with sail boat

Hitofude Cardigan

Last year, one of the blogs I follow (I can’t remember who it was, so if it was you, let me know!) was participating in a knit along for the Hitofude Cardigan. Although I didn’t have time to follow along, I bookmarked it to start as soon as possible, and finished up my version right as we went in to winter:

Hitofude 7

I couldn’t wear it right away because it got too cold (you may have noticed that this is kind of a theme with me!), but now that it’s warming up, I’ve found that it’s basically the perfect spring sweater.

The construction on this pattern is, seriously, genius; it’s knit all in one piece, so the only seams are underneath the arms (my favorite kind of sweater!). I’m going to quote the pattern notes here, because she explains it better than I ever could:

“The yarn stroke starts from the upper body and sleeves worked together in a rectangular piece, then moves to lower body, where the lace pattern increases evenly, creating a gentle drape.”

When worn, it hugs the shoulders (I think I actually could have made mine a couple sizes smaller and been fine – it blocked out a little more than I’d anticipated), and then falls very softly (and very flatteringly) around the upper body.

Hitofude

The back dips low enough to cover the bottom, but the soft shape and lace pattern keep it from looking frumpy or out of proportion, and the waistband creates just enough definition.

Hitofude 10

You can’t really tell because of the drape, but the sides are actually quite long.

Hitofude 12

Hitofude 11

They easily overlap, so the sweater can be worn held together in front with a shawl pin if you want…or you can just pretend to have a cape!

I used Cascade Yarns Heritage in color Como Blue, and for the most part, I really like it. It’s warm enough to be the perfect layering piece, but not so warm that it gets too hot wearing it on a sunny day, and the yarn is very soft and washes well. The label says that you’re able to machine wash and dry it, but after a few weeks of wearing it (admittedly, pretty constantly), it is starting to pill just a bit under the arms where there’s a lot of rub, so I’d probably stick to hand washing for this one.

It’s quickly become one of my favorite pieces of clothing and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on it, so I definitely recommend it; however it is kind of a technical pattern, so I’d say it’s for intermediate knitters, or newer knitters looking for a challenge!

Bee Update!

Since it’s officially a very happy spring here in Seattle (we’re in the 60s and sunny today!), I thought it was just the right time for an update on how our bees are doing. We (by which I mean, my husband Kyle – I’m just the official picture snapper) did a hive check a few weeks ago…

Bee hive check…and our bees appear to be super happy and healthy! Because we didn’t do a big honey harvest last year (they swarmed last year and we wanted them to have as little stress as possible during the winter), there’s still a whole lot of it left over from last year – all of the dark stuff in this picture is pure honey!

Man in bee suit holding frame of honeyWe decided we could take just a little for ourselves, so we extracted a frame’s worth with our super professional technique of using the bee scraper to scoop what was on the frame into a strainer.

Frame of honey being extracted by handPro tip: anything you use in the honey extracting process will then be unusable for anything else, so if you’re considering this, I’d recommend picking up some old secondhand stuff. Learn from our mistake!

When we started extracting it, we saw that the honey had been in there long enough to turn super dark!

Very dark honey being extractedLook at the difference between that and the very first extraction we did early last year:

Very light "new" honeyYou would think they came from two different hives, but it’s just the difference between “new” honey, and honey that’s been stored for a while. It also has a lot to do with what the bees have been eating. I’m so curious about what went into our honey, but it will have to remain a mystery!

After the extraction, we decided to try refining our wax for the first time. I really thought it was going to be easy, despite the number of things we’d read that assured us it was not. I’m sad to report that we were wrong and everyone else was right…this is a really involved process. We decided to go with a method we’d read about where you put all the wax in old socks (which act as a filter) and then put them in a slow cooker with water for several hours.

Extracting wax in socks in a crock potThe idea is that the wax will melt out of the socks and rise to the top of the crock pot, and then once you turn off the heat, it will harden at the top and be easy to pick out. I’d classify this as mostly successful, but Kyle had to fashion a little tool that would hold the sock down – we found that without some pressure, most of the wax didn’t come out of the socks. The amount in the pot is about six frames worth, and this is the amount of wax we got at the end:

orange beeswax after being refinedI finally understand why beeswax candles are so expensive! This is a whole lot of work for not much wax. You can see that ours has an orange color to it; this is because we were using some older wax, and wax that had been part of brood comb (where the baby bees hatch). The wax from these sources is darker, and turns out finished product that is orange or golden in color rather than the pale, nearly white stuff we’re used to seeing. It was fun to see how it came out though, and we have a nice little brick of wax to do something with (we can’t agree on what yet!).

And, lest you think it’s all smooth sailing, I’d like to remind everyone that safety gear (like that lovely bee suit up at the beginning) is really important when dealing with bees. If you forget it, you may end up looking like this…

Man having allergic reaction of eye from bee sting…when one of those lovely ladies gets annoyed at you and stings you in the eyebrow! For the record, he’s fine now – a couple of days of medications and he was all better, but take this as a warning and always wear your gear!

Paddington Bear Wholecloth Quilt

A while ago I got a commission to make a simple baby quilt in gray and cream. Looking around for cute gray fabric, I stumbled across the new Paddington Bear collection from Camelot Fabrics, and it was perfect! I ended up with a soft, drapey quilt that still had an cute (but not cutesy) design:

Gray baby quilt, Paddington bear fabric with teal binding

The gray colorway is Tonal Paddingtion in Grey and I really loved working with it; the cotton is so soft, it almost feels like flannel. For the back I used Medium Dot in Cream on Cream by Riley Blake:

Riley Blake Medium dot Cream on Cream wholecloth quilt, teal binding

Paddington Quilt 8

To get accurate circles, I used my making pen (always test first!) and a compass to draw them as straight and close together as I could, then quilted those lines. I really like the little diamonds in between each circle, and by following one curved line after another (so, top half of one circle into the bottom half of the one next to it), I kept the stopping and starting to a minimum.

Tracing circles onto a wholecloth quilt

This technique worked well and I’m definitely going to use it again, although I think I’d make my circles smaller, just because I tend to like things more densely quilted. I added some teal binding (Ta Dot in Teal by Michael Miller) and once the baby was here, his initials and the date of his birth.

Folded Paddington Bear Quilt with teal binding

I usually just freehand when I do initials, but I wanted these at a specific spacing within the circle, so I used my ruler to give myself some lines while I was writing.

Close up of embroidered initials

All in all it turned into a pretty little blanket even without the piecing I usually do, and it was certainly a lot faster! I think I’m going to do a few of these when I’m having one of those “need to sew, but don’t want anything super complicated” days.

Paddington Quilt 2

Lalylala Dolls

A while ago I saw a picture of a Lalylala doll, and I was instantly in love. I put off buying any patterns until I had room in my schedule, which turned out to be a good call, because now that I’ve started, I can’t stop! So far I’ve made a bear, a dragon, and a lamb:

Lalylala amigurumi dolls - pink dragon, brown bear, teal sheep

I love these patterns, not only because they’re adorable, but because they’re incredibly easy to read and follow. She breaks down every little part, there are tons of pictures and diagrams, and she specifically notes things like where the eyes should go or where the arms should be sewn. These are some of the clearest patterns I’ve ever worked with, and she’s translated them into a bunch of languages!

I made each one out of a different yarn to see how they behaved (all were crocheted with a size C 2.75mm hook and used size 9mm safety eyes), and tried different stuffing methods for each. First up, we have Lupo the Lamb:

Lalylala amigurumi doll - teal lamb

I used Caron Simply Soft in Cool Green and White. I like how she turned out for the most part, but if I were using this yarn again, I think I’d go up a hook size – 2.75mm was just a little too small for those bobbles. She’s stuffed using regular old Poly-Fil, which turned out okay, but wasn’t as sturdy as I wanted her to be, so she’s got a bit of a slouch going on, which luckily seems to be working for her!

Lalylala amigurumi doll, teal lamb

Lupo has a hat (most of the others have hoods that connect to the body, but this one has a hat that fully comes off) that’s tied with little single crochet strings ending in pompoms. The pompoms are a pain in the neck, but I’ll admit, they might be worth it. The ears are very easy to sew into place, and that’s really the only part that has to be sewn at the end (the head is crocheted from stitches picked up from the body).

Next up, Dirk the Dragon, made in Cascade Cherub Aran in colors Rouge (the hot pink) and Cotton Candy (the lighter pink).

lalylala amigurumi doll - pink dragon

She’s stuffed with a firmer stuffing (I used this Air Light recycled stuff, which I really like), and stands up better, but I think it made the head too heavy – probably not a thing anyone else would notice, but something that bothered me a bit. Despite that, this one is probably my favorite of all the dolls I’ve made so far. The spikes are so clever, and the tail and ears are just too cute.

lalylala amigurumi doll - pink dragon

The hood is supposed to come off, but I wasn’t being careful enough when I crocheted the spikes and got some of the head too, so the hood is just for show on this one.

And last but certainly not least, I made Bina the Bear from Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Chocolate and Oyster Heather.

Lalylala amigurumi doll - brown bear

This time I tried the firm stuffing in the body and the lighter Poly-Fil in the head. I took extra care to basically over-stuff the neck, and that seems to work well. I probably should have used a darker stuffing because it shows through a bit, but mostly I really like how this one came out. Next time, I might double up on the yarn and increase the hook size when I make the ears and tail, because I felt like they could have been bigger, but that’s just personal preference. Bina’s hood does come off, so I may add hair at some point!

Lalylala amigurumi doll - brown bear

Overall, I highly recommend these patterns. You’ll need to have intermediate crochet skills – most of it is single crochet, but both the dragon and the lamb use double crochet, half double crochet, and bobbles, as well as increases and decreases, but if you’re familiar with those things, you should be all set. Or, if all that sounds like too much trouble, the dragon and the bear are both up for sale in the Etsy store!

Lalylala amigurumi dolls - pink dragon, brown bear, teal sheep

Spring Wreath Tutorial

We have been graced with a very early spring here in Seattle, and it’s put me in the mood for all things bright and sunny, so when I saw these ready-to-make paper flowers at Daiso, I picked up a few packages. You just never know when you’ll need some bright tissue flowers, people!

Tissue paper flowers, pink, white, and yellowI finally sat down this week to figure out what to make with them, and remembered that I had an extra wreath form (these are obviously easier to get around the holidays, but it looks like they’re available on Amazon and at most big craft stores) that I’d saved from a Christmas wreath. A cute door decoration sounded just perfect, so I tied a ribbon around the top…

Empty wreath form with pink ribbon tied to it…and then started to put my flowers together. These things are crazy easy to make, so this would be a great craft to do with kids; I got some that came pre-folded with a twist tie in the middle (makes affixing them a snap) from Daiso, but they’re also really simple to make from scratch (this is a good tutorial, and you could use different colors in the same flower). You start by fanning out each side:

White tissue paper flower Then gently pulling up each layer, alternating sides:

Half finished white tissue paper flowerOnce you’ve pulled up all the layers, you end up with a pretty tissue flower that kind of looks like a peony (one of my favorites!).

Pink tissue flower White tissue flowerThen, I just used the twist ties to tie them to the wreath form:

Back of spring wreath, flower held on with twist tieI didn’t really have a plan, so I just put flowers on until it looked full enough, and ended up with a pretty cute spring wreath for the door!

Yellow, white, and pink tissue paper wreathI’m not sure how this will hold up when it rains (although it is under a covered porch), so I may move it to an inside door if it seems to be getting too wilty out there, but it will look cute either way!

Yellow, white, and pink tissue paper spring wreath

Bottle Hummingbird Feeder

We went to the Northwest Flower and Garden show a couple of weeks ago and picked up a very cool little stopper:

stopper for hummingbird feeder

This was one of those things I didn’t know I’d been looking for, as I had the perfect bottle to turn into a hummingbird feeder just hanging out at home – reinforcing my belief that I should save all things for later repurposing!

How to hang the bottle was a bit of a challenge, but I thought wrapping wire around would be the best, and prettiest, way. I ordered some 16 gauge copper, got out some pliers and wire cutters (we have giant ones but smaller jewelry cutters would definitely work if you decided to try this) and got to work.

Empty glass bottle, copper wire, pliers, wire cutters

I first tried just winding the copper wire around the bottle, but the wire kept stretching and letting the bottle fall out, so I eventually decided on kind of hybrid braiding/wrapping method, very similar to how I made the hanging planter from a while ago. I just used the bottle as my form, and then wrapped all the loose wires together at the top to form a handle. I ended up with a very pretty holder that can be slipped off when it’s time to refill or clean:

Copper Hummingbird feeder holder for a bottle

When I hung it outside, I bent the top handle a bit to give the bottle an angle (a suggestion from my husband to make it a little easier for the birds to get the food). Our house came with little hooks under the eaves, but it could easily be hung with a hook screw.

Copper wrapped bottle hummingbird feeder

In a happy accident, it matches the copper roof on our regular bird feeder (currently filled with black sunflower seeds and very popular with our local finches), and I think it will still be really pretty when it starts to weather and oxidize. We haven’t had any visitors yet, but I’m hoping the warmer weather will encourage some little hummers to investigate!

Copper wrapped hummingbird feeder

Sew Together Bag

It’s probably been made clear by now that I love a wide variety of crafts, which means I have a whole lot of accessories to go with them. For several years, I’d been making little kits of the things I thought I’d need for whatever hand projects I was working on (stitch markers, scissors, thimble, etc.) to throw in my bag when I was taking said project on the go. The only problem with this system is that it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for bringing more than one work in progress, and I was constantly losing little things like my needle case when I changed out the kit. I needed a place to put all this stuff…

Pile of sewing and knitting notions

…without it getting jumbled together. Enter the absolute perfect solution: the Sew Together Bag.

Sew Together Bag made with Far Far Away Fabric (zippered bag decorated with green frogs on yellow lily pads with pink binding)

This is probably one of my favorite makes of all time, both because it’s made from some of my precious stash of Far Far Away fabric, and because it’s so freaking useful. The inside features three zippered pockets and four open ones, and the whole thing closes up with a long zipper that becomes the handles. Genius, right?

Sew Together Bag made with Far Far Away Fabric (zippered bag with pink binding and three zippered pockets)

All my stuff fits inside with room to spare, and the separate pockets means I can keep each craft separate.

Inside of Sew Together Bag with notions inside

The middle open pockets are perfect for a spool of thread and even some circular needles, and the outside open pockets fit my scissors and little measuring tape (that’s what the penguin in the earmuffs is!) just right.

Inside of Sew Together Bag with circular knitting needles and other notions

The pattern calls for interfacing on just one side (the exterior pieces), but I used it on both the exterior and linings, and I’m so happy I did, because I can put my cable needle in a pocket without worrying that it will poke through:

Pocket inside Sew Together Bag holding knitting notions

It also made it a little more stiff, which means that if I throw it into my bag or backpack, it doesn’t lose it’s shape and become a crushed mess. In hindsight, a lighter fabric was probably not the best for something that’s getting so much use, but really, who could resist these little froggies?

Close up of Sew Together Bag with green frog on yellow lily pad

The handles turned out a little lopsided (totally my fault, not blaming the pattern at all for that one!), but I don’t really mind, and I’m not sure anyone else has even noticed. I haven’t tried using it to tote around a hexie project yet, but I suspect it will be perfect for that, and I’ve already had a couple of requests to make ones with vinyl on the inside (one for makeup and one for art supplies). I highly recommend this pattern to anyone who needs to tote around smallish stuff, for any reason; it’s not a super difficult pattern, it only takes a few hours, and it’s so helpful!

Claire’s Shawl

Recently, a good family friend was elected to be a judge. This is, obviously, a very big deal, and I wanted to make something that would attempt to equal the occasion. Meet my version of the Albertine pattern from The Knitter Magazine (special thanks to my lovely friend Aliya for agreeing to be my model for this one!):

Green lacy shawlI picked up some Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere (this color is Irish Spring, which it seems from their website might no longer be available) on our last trip to Ashland, and it was perfect for a special occasion gift. I keep saying that I don’t normally go for variegated yarns, but I guess I need to stop, because I’ve bought quite a few lately! It was just too gorgeous to pass over, and the yarn is made of Merino wool and cashmere, so once I picked it up, I just couldn’t bring myself to put it down. It’s amazing to knit with; so, so soft, no splitting, and no breakage (the label says it has a little nylon, so I’m guessing that’s why). I loved it so much that I’m going to buy more (in a different color) when I get around to making my next lightweight sweater. I was actually kind of sad when it was done!

Girl with red hair wearing green Lacy Shawl The shawl turned out a little bit bigger than the one in the magazine, which was just fine with me – I prefer ones that are big enough to wrap (as opposed to just draping, although those are great too!).

Girl with red hair wearing green lace shawlThe only problem is that we only have carpet in one room now, so I’m going to need to invest in some blocking mats at some point. I fudged it by just trying to go around the furniture in the guest room (I also can’t find whatever box I threw my blocking wires into, but luckily the edge turned out pretty straight anyway):

Green lace shawl blockingBy and large, I would recommend this pattern, but  (and I’ve mentioned before with this magazine) I probably wouldn’t attempt it as a new knitter. It wasn’t difficult, but as with most lace knitting, it requires a lot of attention to detail and careful counting, and there was a small discrepancy for me in the third row of eyelet increases. It may have been just me, but I frogged and re-knit it a few times and couldn’t get it to have the right number, so I ended up just adjusting the row to match what it should be. You couldn’t tell in the end, but it’s definitely to sort of thing that could really frustrate someone with not much lace practice.

Girl with red hair wearing green lace shawlProbably my favorite part of this shawl (apart from the color) is the teardrop shape that forms at the bottom of the last section of lace. It’s so pretty and elegant! My version doesn’t hang quite like the one in the magazine, but I think that’s a function of my gauge more than anything else…I could have sized down on my needles and been just fine (I used size 1 for this one; the label recommends 0-2, but I prefer my gauge to be tighter, as a general rule, so I’d go with 0 if I was doing it again). I’d say definitely try this yarn, and the pattern is great if you’re looking for a little bit of a challenge!

Anthropologie Shirt Hack

A while ago, the Pop Tee was on sale at Anthropologie, and as I had been stalking it for quite a while, I was very excited. Unfortunately by the time I made it over to buy one, they were totally sold out. I was sad for about 5 minutes until I realized that this was an easy item to hack – all I needed was a t-shirt and some fabric. I dug out a white shirt that I wore maybe once (not a huge fan of white, I don’t know if you could tell!) and some leftover fabric with lemons all over it (much more my speed).

White t-shirt and lemon fabric

It came out like this:

DIY anthropologie knockoff shirt with lemon fabric and white t-shirt

Now, I did not use a tutorial on this one, and I should have. After the fact, I googled around and found this one from Domestic Bliss Squared that seems pretty spot on and thorough, and I wish I’d used it! I kind of just guessed on the amount of fabric I needed, and how to put in a pleat…which I then realized I put inside out. Whoops! I basically eyeballed where I wanted the fabric to start (just under the sleeves), cut the shirt along this line, and then unpicked the side seams. I put in that inside out pleat to make the fabric match the length of the back of the shirt, then just sewed it along the three sides with a zig zag stitch, and hemmed the bottom edge to match. I made a little pocket and whip stitched it into place on the front (not a functional pocket, obviously, but I’m not sure I’ve ever actually used a chest pocket, so it didn’t bother me).
DIY anthropologie pop tee with white t shirt and lemon fabric

The back creeps over into the front a bit, but overall I’m pleased with how it turned out. The only problem is that I never want to wear a sweater over it, so I haven’t worn it since summer…but it will get quite a workout when warmer weather gets here!

DIY anthropologie knockoff shirt with lemon fabric and white t-shirt