December 30, 2009

A Blanket for Teddy

Here's a nice, quick pattern for a small blanket for your favorite teddy bear or doll. It works up quickly and can be ready for gift-giving in no time flat.

You will need:
*  straight knitting needles size 8
*  small amount of knitting yarn - I used Wool-Ease in the color "Fisherman"

Cast on 54 stitches.

Pattern set #1 is as follows:
row 1: (knit 6, purl 6) until there are 6 stitches remaining. Knit those 6 stitches.
row 2: (purl 6, knit 6) until there are 6 stitches remaining. Purl those 6 stitches.
Repeat those two rows three more times, for a total of 8 rows.

Pattern set #2 is as follows:
row 1: (purl 6, knit 6) until there are 6 stitches remaining. Purl those 6 stitches.
row 2: (knit 6, purl 6) until there are 6 stitches remaining. Knit those 6 stitches.
Repeat those two rows three more times, for a total of 8 rows.

Then go back to Pattern set #1, and repeat these two sets over and over until your blanket is as long as you like. I did four repeats of the two pattern sets, plus one additional repeat of Pattern set #1 so that my blanket was square.

These two pattern sets together give you rows of squares, rather like a quilt.

Block to size when you are finished.

My teddy's quilt is 10 1/4" inches square. If you'd like a larger or smaller blanket, simply change the number of stitches cast on. As long as you cast on a multiple of 12 stitches plus 6, the pattern will work.  (For example, 12 stitches x 4 = 48, plus 6 gives you the 54 stitches I worked this blanket on.) You could make it narrower and longer for a lovely scarf!

December 23, 2009

A Quick Bath Set Gift

Christmas is two days away as I write this, and if you are like me, you always wish you had just ONE more gift to give someone on your list. Here's an inexpensive idea that you can do quickly and easily at the last minute. And these are great not just for Christmas, but whenever you have saved enough of those mesh bags that fruit comes in and want to make something useful from them.

Here's all you'll need:
* Mesh produce bags. I used a total of six for this gift set. Some mesh bags are softer than others. I'm using the softer kind so that it will feel good and not too scratchy on skin.
* A crocheted cotton chain loop about 12" long for the bath pouf handle. Make a second one if you want soap-on-a-rope.
* A bar of soap. I make my own soap, but I like the minty green color of this bar, so I'm going to use it for this project. Although if you have access to some nice handcrafted soaps, that would make the gift even more special!
* Strong sewing thread.
* An optional soap dish.

To make a soap sack for the bar of soap, simply wrap a mesh bag tightly around the bar of soap, and tie it in a knot at the top. (This is why you want to be sure to use the softer kind of mesh bag!) If you wanted soap-on-a-rope, tie the crocheted loop into the knot. Trim the ends of the mesh bag close to the knot. Now your soap will gently exfoliate as you use it!

Now, to make the bath pouf, make sure your mesh bags are the same length, trimming if necessary. Mine were eleven or twelve inches long. Fold these remaining five mesh bags in half, with the cut ends overlapping slightly in the center.

Stack all five folded bags together. Using strong sewing thread, tie the bundle of folded mesh bags and the crocheted loop very tightly together. Take a few stitches through the center for added security if you like.

Fluff the loops of the pouf, being careful not to pull them out of the thread in the center.

Add an optional dollar store soap dish, and you have a lovely gift in a matter of minutes!

December 22, 2009

Fruity Breakfast Cookies

While looking online for something completely unrelated, I found a recipe on WalMart's website that looked like it had potential as a breakfast-worthy treat. I tweaked it according to the ingredients I had on hand, and my, those cookies turned out delish!

Fruity Breakfast Cookies
3/4 cup softened (not melted) butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup old-fashioned long-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups dried fruits (I used a mixture of cherries, cranberries and blueberries)
2 ripe bananas, sliced
1 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In electric mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar on low speed. Beat in egg. Beat in flour and spices. Now using a spoon, stir in oats, dried fruits, banana and pecans until thoroughly combined, but not so much that you smush your bananas.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. They'll still look a little pale on top. Let cool briefly on cookie sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 3 dozen small cookies. You can also use a scoop and make larger cookies, but increase the baking time accordingly.

We ate most of ours as soon as they were baked, but we did save a few for eating with some eggnog ice cream. YUM!

December 15, 2009

Candied Orange Slices are totally worth the wait!

The interwebs are a dangerous place for my waistline, indeed. I've discovered that my new life here in The Great White North seems to have brought me closer to the cyber world than I ever imagined I'd be, and hunting up new recipes has been part of the hours I've spent in front of my monitor. The profound love for potluck dinners in this neck of the woods (sometimes three a month! And that's just the ones I go to!) keeps me scrambling for new treats to bring along.

And I found this recipe for The Best Candied Orange Slices In The World over at Brownie Points.

So pretty with the light shining through them.

I made 5 navel oranges' worth of slices in one and a half recipes of the sugar syrup. By the time the three-week candying process was complete, it was evident I should have made more. We were eating them before they were even finished, so once they had dried and were dipped in chocolate, the love story could only continue. They weren't done in time for the last potluck of the year (phew!) so I thought I'd give them to friends for Christmas.

And I did package up a few for friends, but only a few. We ate most of them, as you might guess. Son tried an undipped slice on a piece of toast and said it tasted like marmalade. Now I'm seeing the potential as a very fancy backpacking food. Or maybe that's just an excuse to make more!

December 10, 2009

The Eddie Bauer sweater refashion, part 3

As you can see, there isn't much left of our nice gray sweater after having made it into a hat and a scarf already. I'm determined not to let any of it go to waste, though, and there are still the two sleeves left! Happily for us, these sleeves are rather roomy, and they will make nice warm mittens for Son's man-sized hands.

The first thing I had Son do was put the sleeve on his hand and determine how far down his wrist he wanted the sleeve ribbing to be. The sleeve ribbing would become the wrist ribbing on the mittens. He positioned his hand on a piece of paper with the edge of the paper at the place where he wanted the ribbing to end on his wrist. Then he traced around his hand:

I added a half inch all the way around his outline for comfort, and another half inch for a seam allowance (one inch total all the way around), giving myself a new outline to use as a pattern:

Notice that the pattern doesn't have a distinct thumb piece. That's okay, I'll be cutting on the pencil line between the thumb and hand. You can click the photo to see it larger if you can't see the pencil line. Once the seam has been sewn, I will clip that area right down to the seam to give the thumb separation. I also intend to use the folded top edge of the sleeve - the part opposite the underarm seam - as the outside edge of the mitten. That's why there is no seam allowance or ease added to that side. I cut out the pattern and pinned it to the sleeve, matching the pattern's wrist edge with the sleeve's wrist edge, and the fold line of the pattern with the folded edge of the fabric. Then I cut out the fabric.

Turn the fabric right sides together, and pin it.

I used a three-step zigzag to sew the seam, in order to give it some stretch. Sew the seam and trim the seam allowances, being careful not to cut into your stitches!

Turn the mitten right side out and try it on!

It's a good fit, so go outside and make some snowballs!

See also: The Eddie Bauer Sweater Refashion, Part 1 and
  The Eddie Bauer Sweater Refashion, Part 2.

December 5, 2009

No-Pattern, Oddball Fingerless Mitts

Isn't this pretty yarn? BestFriend gave it to me quite a while ago, in a bag of random yarn balls she got someplace. There's no ball band, so I have no idea what brand it is, or what the fiber content is. I just know it appeals to me and that there isn't very much of it, meaning I need to choose a project carefully when it comes time to work it up.

Well, that day is now. During the winter, my hands get cold when I'm typing at my computer, and I decided (after a particularly chilly day) that I wanted some fingerless mitts to help stave off the discomfort of cold hands on the keyboard. I'm going to make up my own "pattern" for my mitts, and here's how I made them so you can make it up as you go along, too.

Without the ball band, I don't know this particular yarn's recommended needle size, but it looks like a worsted weight and the other worsteds I have recommend a size 7 if not an 8. When knitting mittens or gloves, you want a tight fabric to keep out the cold air, so you should go down a size or two in needles to ensure the stitches are without gaps. I'm using a pair of 5s.

First, I determined how long I wanted my mitts to be. I'm going to knit on two needles, and from side to side rather than top to bottom. Using a long-tail cast-on, I cast on 40 stitches, and with the stitches spread out a bit (not too tight or too loose on the needle, approximating the size of the stitches if they were already knit up) held it up to my hand and wrist to see if I was happy with the length. At this point, I can add stitches if it needs to be longer or take them off if it needs to be shorter, but I think I got it right the first time. When you're making your mitts, you may want them longer or shorter, so adjust accordingly.

To get a ribbed effect on the top and bottom of the mitts, while keeping the hand portion smooth to show off the variegation in the yarn, here is what I did:

Cast on 40 stitches using the long-tail cast-on method.
Row 1:  Knit across
Row 2:  Knit 5 (this is finger ribbing), purl 25, knit 10 (this is the wrist ribbing).
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until you can wrap the knitting comfortably all the way around your hand. For me, that was 57 rows. For you, it might be more or less.
Bind off.
Now fit the mitt to your hand by trying it on and pinning it on either side of your thumb to mark where the side seams will be and where the thumb opening is. Yes, I'm using bobby pins. For some reason I can't find my safety pins, and the bobby pins worked out great. For me, I needed to seam up 9 stitches at the top where my fingers are, and 19 stitches for my wrist, leaving the other 12 stitches open for my thumb. Your mitts might be different depending on how many stitches you started out with and where you wanted your thumb opening to be. Just try it on and figure out what you like, and it's all good. Now make a second one just like it. They're reversible so don't worry about which is the left-hand mitt and which is the right-hand mitt.

Here they are, all finished! My oh-so-pretty oddball yarn is now a cozy pair of oh-so-soft fingerless mitts.

Surely you've got some odd yarn in your stash that could be lovely, cozy mitts for you and your loved ones, right? Go get started!