Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Show-and-tell Tuesday: Dance bag

When I signed up for adult beginner’s tap-dancing class early last September, I did so with four motivations in mind:

-- I wanted to do something quirky and unexpected as my 50th birthday approached
-- I wanted a fun new form of exercise
-- It involved shoe-shopping
-- It offered a chance to sew a fun new bag to tote said shoes to class

Nearly eight months later, the class has filled all my expectations, and then some. And here is the bag. This photo is awfully dark, but you can click on it to enlarge for a better look if you want. Don’t you love the funny vintage shoe print? I found it at a Hobby Lobby in Cincinnati last summer when I was shopping there with my sisters.

The bag is actually a backpack, so it’s easy to sling it on as I walk to the local arts center every Monday evening for an hour of rigorous shuffle-ball-changing and fa-lap, fa-lap, fa-lapping. Next time I make this pattern, though, I’ll make the straps a little sturdier – they’re just extended fabric drawstrings, and are a bit on the wimpy side for actual shoulder straps. Still, quite functional for now.

Oh, and in case you wondered, all the beginner’s classes at the arts center will indeed present a recital next month, with our year’s worth of learning on full display. Our adult tap class goes on right after a bunch of five-year-old ballerinas, I think. We tend to lumber about like so many menopausal elephants, but we do have a great time. And the song we’ll be tapping to? The rockin’ Beatles classic, “You Say It’s Your Birthday.” Which is appropriate, since we have much more experience at birthdays than anyone else in the show.

Be sure and enjoy Show-and-Tell Tuesday with Pieces and Veronica (speaking of birthdays!!) as well.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A fun little hat

On the first beautiful spring weekend we've had here in Western New York, I don't know why I was itching to knit a wool hat, but nonetheless, I was. So I did.

This Stained Glass Hat pattern had intrigued me for some time, so I dug out a couple of balls of Paton's wool from my stash. I've never done much stranded knitting, other than doing an occasional decorative lap or two around a hat. But I found this hat surprisingly easy to do. I didn't inspect my work very well as I was going along and found a few bungled spots after I finished -- but it was a good learning experience. When I make this one again, I'll also correct one error in the chart (see where the stitches form a little red crosses in some spots and things that look like little red bats in others? If you make this hat, you'll want to shade in the first box on row 2 of the chart for crosses throughout.)

The other delightful thing about this hat is the double thickness it gains from carrying the contrasting stands behind. Why had that never occurred to me before? It should be really warm and fun to wear. All in all, a good experience in stranded knitting -- and it was even more fun to knit out on the deck enjoying the beautiful spring sunshine. I'll definitely do more of these.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


If you know anyone on active military duty overseas, please consider extending them a little extra TLC about now. These folks and their families got a figurative kick in the gut last week with the news that their deployments are being extended an extra three months. There isn't anything that can really ease the disappointment and frustration they must all be feeling -- but a gesture to let them know we're thinking of them can't hurt.

You may be familiar with cool ties. They're long tubes of cotton fabric, into which you insert water-absorbing crystals. If soaked in water and tied around the neck, they can provide a little cooling action as the crystals evaporate, and they can be used over and over again. This is part of a batch going this weekend to my nephew David in Baghdad.
Here's the easy pattern. And if you want to make some for a soldier but you're hesitating because it's a hassle to get the little crystals, I will send you some. Seriously. I have a whole bag of the stuff, and each tie takes only about half a teaspoon. E-mail me: (annekenlonATstnyDOTrrDOTcom) with a mailing address and I'll send you enough for a nice batch of cool ties to send to someone you know, or to a program like The Ships Project.

Slippers, cool ties, or just a note or e-mail to say hello - just reach out and connect.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A pause

It didn't seem right to blog about crafting the day after the tragedies at Virginia Tech.

The university's motto is Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). What can the rest of us now do to serve this wonderful place and the families whose lives have been forever shattered?

I have no idea.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Show-and-Tell Tuesday: How I learned to sew

I'm joining Pieces in her fun idea for "Show-and-Tell Tuesday." I thought I'd share some quirky things around the house that have to do with crafting.

This little apron is my very first machine-sewing project. I made it as a 4-H project during the summer I was 8 years old, so that would have been 1965. Cotton gingham was the fabric of choice for all 4-H aprons, and I remember my mother taking me shopping at Hemmingsen's in our little town of Auburn, Nebraska so I could pick out whatever color I wanted. That's where we also got the plastic "apron ring" to slip through the casing instead of making ties for the waist -- an odd gizmo that I've never seen in stores since then.

I washed and starched this little relic last night in honor of its photo op today, and looked closely at the machine stitching along the casings and hems. Yep, it was still the same as it was nearly 42 years ago. A little crooked, with the thread broken every few inches - evidence of where I'd corrected off-the-edge stitching mishaps while learning to use our old Singer sewing machine. Mother was wonderful at assuaging my angst when the apron earned only a lowly white ribbon at the county fair. I'd sewed every stitch myself, and that alone was something to be proud of, she said - and those words must have had an effect on me, because my white ribbon didn't squelch my interest in sewing one bit.

I entered two other machine-sewing projects in the fair that year -- a potholder to match my apron (that's when I learned what cotton batting was) and a pincushion made out of a scrap of rather ghastly brown wool we had at home. It was one of those triangular pincushions with a strap of elastic on it so you could wear it on your wrist. It was stuffed to the max with cut-up bits of Mother's old nylons -- always our stuffing of choice in those days before easy-to-find fiberfill. The potholder earned a middle-of-the-road red ribbon, and the pincushion earned a blue, so that cheered me up a lot. But of the three projects, the mistake-ridden apron is the only one I've kept all these years. Lessons learned - warm memories cherished.

And that's what I have for Show-and-Tell Tuesday. If you post something, too, be sure to let me know!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Reflecting on Easter and knitting

It may seem a bit peculiar to be posting about preemie bereavement items on Easter Sunday, but that's exactly what I've been making today - perhaps because they bring yet another good chance to reflect on the day's joyful messages of comfort, hope, and life after death.

At any rate, I guess I was also inspired because yesterday I ran across this gigantic skein of yarn in my sewing room. I vaguely remembering buying it some time ago when Joann's came out with their new line of "Sensations" yarns. I had, of course, forgotten all about it.

It's a fairly ordinary sort of yarn - oh, wait, they refer to it as "classic" - and has that same sort of brushed texture as Lion's Brand Jiffy. It somehow feels a LOT nicer than Jiffy, though, which has always felt super-acrylic-y and unpleasant to me. Not so with this stuff, though - it's truly soft. And its sweet Easter colors made me think it would be beautiful for quite a few preemie buntings for my local NICU.

I started these based on a simple pattern that Tracy adapted and posted on her Woolwindings blog a few weeks back. I added some changes of my own, modeling the little hood after sock-knitting with a heel flap, a turned heel, and picked-up stitches along the edges. It made a remarkably smooth and sweet-looking hood to gently cradle and frame a precious little face.

I haven't written the exact pattern down, but if you're interested, let me know. I'll make a few notes and post it this coming week.

I have two done and a third almost complete - so I'll get back to knitting now. In the meantime, I wish you a very blessed Easter.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Quilters come together for a cause

Last fall, quilt shops all around the U.S. participated in a Quilt Pink event, aimed at creating quilts to auction and raise funds for breast cancer research. I had a lot of fun spending a couple of hours at The Glass Thimble, a local sewing machine dealer. working on a spectacular Lone Star quilt in many shades of pink.

Turns out that nearly 4,000 quilts resulted from quilters' efforts across the country on that day, and this week you can start to get a glimpse of those quilts on eBay. There'll be a new batch of them up for auction every week for the next six months, with all proceeds going to Susan G. Komen Foundation.

I'm frankly not a big fan of the rush of pink-ribbon retail items that have hit the market in recent years. They may send a few dollars to the breast cancer cause, but to me, most of them just seem to smack of commercialism more than philanthropy.

But Quilt Pink is a project I really liked. Through individuals volunteering just a little bit of time, 4,000 quilts are ready to be sold at a price starting at $150. Chances are good that most, if not all, will sell -- which means at least $600,000 will go toward breast cancer research. A significant result -- and I'm looking forward to participating again next year.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Burping in style

Babies are even cute when they burp - so why not make the occasion cuter yet with some colorful burp cloths? I saw this post on Barb's blog about some easy-to-make burp cloths and I immediately knew I wanted to make some for a baby gift.

They begin with ordinary pre-folded cloth diapers, which come in packs of a dozen. You embellish by stitching on a wide strip of flannel. Just be sure to pre-wash everything in hot water before you begin, because both diaper and flannel will shrink a bit. Barb's tutorial is great and very complete, so I won't repeat it here - check it out for everything you need.

I was using flannel left over from making some baby blankets, and my center strips were narrower than the Barb's -- but they will still be totally functional and easy to toss over the shoulder while awaiting baby's resounding performance. It just seems nice to be able to dress up the moment with a cheery little flannel print! Thanks, Barb, for a really great idea.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Knitting with white

I recently observed just how much white yarn I had in my stash, so I've been working on putting it to use. Here's a wee gown and bonnet that will go to my local NICU, and a soft blanket that will go to Amy in Idaho on behalf of the Emmazing Grace Foundation.

For the gown and bonnet, I used Lion brand Microspun. It's a little "splitty" to work with, but has a lovely sheen and feels so soft and sweet when it's knit up, and it showed off the ribbing in the skirt just beautifully. For the blanket, I used a Bernat Baby Boucle for a soft, cloud-like texture.

No sooner had I finished the bonnet than I read this great post about preemie bonnets by Tracy at Woolwindings. I'm absolutely going to follow this pattern and the many ways for adapting it. Check it out for some new inspiration on this very special service work.