Holiday Gifts 2010

I know, I know. It's over a month past Christmas, but I'm still doing holiday-related posts. I *think* this is the last one, so bear with me, okay?

For Christmas 2010, our goal was to give all hand-made presents. And we actually succeeded, save for 1.5 recipients. And that didn't necessarily mean that I made all of the gifts. They could be handmade by someone else, too. (Yay for Etsy!). I was proud that we were almost able to meet our goal, but it definitely came at a price - it is SO time-consuming! I know you're thinking, "Duh, emily.", but sometimes I conveniently forget that little fact. 

Here's the breakdown:

My dad spends a LOT of time at the library, and I know from experience that the pile of books he hauls gets quite cumbersome. So we decided to give him a tote bag for his trips to the library. This was made from some super-soft thrifted fabric that I thought looked "manly" enough for my dad to sport, lined with some grey thrifted suiting. And it includes a Bluestar Star!

Stephen's mom has been dabbling in knitting and expressed she wanted to make a market bag. So I used this tutorial, scaled it a bit larger, and made a yarn stash basket for her knitting projects. I also included a couple skeins of cotton yarn that I like using for my knit market bags.

I made a scarf for Stella's sitter and speech therapist. The main fabric is cotton jersey, and I screen printed the fabric leaves and hand-sewed them on to either end of the scarf. I also added my new screen printed Bluestar Ink garment tag to the edge.

Speaking of knit market bags, I made one for my mom for Christmas. I played around with changing yarn colors a bit and creating some stripes. It's not too complicated, but I'm still a pretty inexperienced knitter and I thought it looked kinda cool!

I've developed a new shoulder bag design (which I've neglected to share), so I made one for Stephen's sister-in-law. I used some totally amazing thrifted fabric that I've been saving for-e-ver. No project was ever good enough to use it on, so I decided, if nothing else, I'll see her often enough, and see the bag so I can continue appreciating the fabric. If it was going to a stranger, I'd never see it again! (I know, I have weird reasoning). Oh - and the striped lining and button are also thrifted.

So that's my Holiday 2010 handmade (by me) gift round-up! Apparently, as I write this post, I REALLY like bags. Can you tell?

I'm off to work on some gifts for next year...
...just kidding...

First Wearable Knit Hat


Right now, here in lovely Wisconsin, it is snowing. A LOT. And I figured what better time to show you my latest project: a reversible knit hat! 

Now this isn't my first hat attempt - I tried one a few months ago which was intended for Stephen, but it ended up so small that it barely fits on Stella! It's pretty funny, actually - I think Stella's stuffed animals are getting more use out of it than anyone else. Oh well. If you at first don't succeed, try, try again. Right?

Right on. So for the second attempt I used the same pattern but loosened my stitches slightly and I added about 3 extra inches. And I think I was overcompensating, because now it's a bit long for Stephen, but at least his ears are covered! 

And the yarn is a lovely Malabrigo. Isn't it pretty? Even Rettie the Fuzzy likes it!

Stay warm,

Iowa City Vacation


We finally made it back from our long weekend in Iowa City. Though it's nice to be back in our own beds, I have to say, I didn't want the weekend to end. For whatever reason, family time away from home is so much more special. I think it's because we don't have all the distractions of work, cleaning and honey-do lists - we actually get to spend quality time enjoying each other.

The University of Iowa is Stephen's alma mater, so we hit up a lot of his old haunts from back in the day. We had wonderful meals, met up with some old friends and went shopping. We stayed in a wonderful bed and breakfast called the Mission House and had some amazing meals and conversations with the innkeepers. Stella brought her bike and biked her little legs to and from the downtown. I had a run-in with a hermit crab (actually a cicada...not one of my most brilliant moments), we got stuck in several downpours and did I mention shopping?  Ah, it was fabulous.

 The Mission House Bed & Breakfast

I think I may have found my new favorite store. We were walking down the street when I noticed a cute little sign reading "Home Ec Workshop". Well, of course I have Home Ec on the brain with our online class coming up next week, so I noticed it right away. I just had no idea what amazing things I would find inside. My eyes must have bugged out of my head the moment we stepped in, because I was surrounded by the most glorious fabrics, notions and yarn - all in one place! I didn't even know where to start. Since the fam was with me, I knew I couldn't spend much time there, so I made myself leave. But from that moment on, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

 Home Ec Workshop

Well, I ended going back not once, but twice. In fact, the first time I went (sans the family), I actually ran, I was so excited. Me. Run. Ha! Yes, I ran my little TOMS shoes all the way back to the Home Ec Workshop. And I hung out. And looked at fabric. And gazed at the yarn. I knew I wanted some of the beautiful yarn, but I didn't have any projects in mind. So Codi, one of the awesome owners, helped me find a project, and I left with enough yarn to make hats and mittens for Stephen, Stella and I.

Codi was so cool, and we ended up hitting it off right away. Turns out she follows a lot of the blogs that I do, and was even familiar with the Home Ec online class that I'm taking! Finally I was able to gush about all the stuff I love with a real live person! 

Well, the next day, Stephen wanted coffee, so he suggested we go back to the Home Ec workshop. (Did I mention they have coffee and baked goods, too?) I warned him that if he allowed me to go in there again, I wouldn't be able to help myself from spending more money. He was apparently okay with that because we ended up there again, and I stayed true to my promise. This time I focused more on the notions, thinking I'd probably be needing some things for the online class. I ended up with some adorable polka-dotted oil cloth and some cotton webbing and bias tape. I can never find patterned stuff like this, so I felt I'd better stock up when I had the chance.



So now that I'm home, I'm trying to figure out if making a 2.5 hour trip to Iowa City specifically for this store is absolutely crazy. I think it probably is, but I loved it so much. In addition to the wonderful products, the store had a ton of personality, Codi was so great and even the customers were a happy, friendly bunch! All-in-all, it was a fabulous experience. 

How was your weekend?

Market Bag

Since I finished the felted yoga mat bag, I had desperately been looking for another knitting project. After that bag, I was totally addicted, and I needed more, more MORE! The Cat and Crow, our local yarn store, offers classes, so I decided to take one - the Market Bag class. This project would be drastically different from my first for a few reasons: I ended up using cotton instead of wool, the needles were a lot smaller and there were many new techniques I had to learn.

And since I was taking an actual class, as opposed to just going along at my own pace, I had to work extra hard to keep up for the next class when we'd be learning new skills. Despite being glued to my knitting for days on end, I really liked how the bag turned out:

It's kinda hard to see in the photo because the bag isn't very full, but one of the new techniques we learned was creating a mesh pattern. So when the bag is full and stretched, there is a nice, breathable, holey mesh that is revealed.

I love this bag because I can easily throw it in my purse when I go to the store, then use it for my goods and it is surprisingly big and strong when it's filled.

In other knitting news, I've joined the knitting/crocheting online community, Ravelry. So if you're a member, send me a friend request! My handle is emilybluestar. I haven't had a lot of time to peruse the site and capitalize on it's features, but from what I can tell, there is an amazing amount of information, patterns and people. It should be a fun experience!

We're leaving today to head to Iowa City for Stephen's Xterra race and a mini vacation. I'm bringing my sketchbook and hope to get some drawings done while I'm there. Yay for long weekends!

Yoga Bag holds the Mat

Stephen, with his new felted yoga mat bag

The yoga bag is felted, and is serving it's purpose!

I can now say I have completed a knitting project. After the long felting process and 2+ days of drying time, Stephen finally got a chance to use his new carrier when we went to the gym yesterday. As you can see in the photos above, I think it turned out pretty well.

Since I had never felted anything before (intentional or otherwise), I had no idea how long the felting process would take. I would say, when all was said-and-done, it probably took about 10 5-minute cycles in the hot wash before it shrunk to the desired size. The directions kept saying how fast the yarn would felt, so I guess I expected it to be much quicker. It is quite amazing how different the textures and colors are, compared to the original knitting.

I have to say, I love, love LOVE the whole process, and I can't wait to take up another felted knitting project. But now that it's done, I should probably be responsible and focus on my real work for a while, since this bag turned out to be quite the distraction.

Have a great week,

Jumping Bag

Warning: I'm being silly today.
Why? Because I'm in a great mood. The sun is out after a LONG night of thunderstorms, Team USA just advanced to the next round in the World Cup, and I've finished knitting my yoga bag!

I wanted to take a photo of me with the bag pre-felting, so you can see just how big it is. It measures approximately 48" from end-to-end (which seemed like for-e-ver when I was knitting). As you can see from the photos, I got goofier and goofier. I'm just so excited to start the felting process!
I'm trying REALLY hard to time a jump. It took several tries.

And, of course, here are the close-ups of the bag. I was a big unsure of the multi-colored yarn. It looked a little too 80's rainbow pastel on the skein, but it's really quite beautiful knit into the bag. And yes, in case you're wondering about the color palette, Stephen DID request pink. It will go along with his pink bike and pink shirts. He knows what he likes! :)

Once I gather my nerves I'm gonna felt this baby. I just don't want to ruin it! Since this is my first knitting project, and I've been working on it daily for about 7 weeks, I'd hate for it not to work. I'll post more photos once it finally happens!


Knitting Monday

Monday was a big day for our family. Stella had eye surgery, so lots of time was spent at the hospital. She did awesome, but was pretty groggy and crabby as she came out of it - understandably so! It is amazing what a trooper that kiddo is - it definitely makes our job as parents easier!

With Stella taking really long naps, I occupied my time watching over her by working on Stephen's yoga mat bag. On Saturday I had visited our local yarn shop to get a quick lesson on knitting in the round - a key component in knitting this long, tube-shaped object. After a couple hours working with the shop owner, I felt fairly confident that I could continue on my own. And yesterday, during Stella's recovery, I knit 15 rows. Woo hoo!

Now it just looks like a head wrap. So I guess if the whole yoga mat bag thing doesn't work out, I can always produce head wraps! Stay tuned for more 15 rows I get to start a new color - exciting!