Thursday, February 27, 2014

April Showers

As a work-at-home-mom of an original online clothing boutique, I have spent the months leading up to every season's change for the last 7 years at my sewing machines and knitting needles working up creative little imaginings for other people's children and their wardrobes. This past summer I had the immense joy of being able to make most of my youngest son's wardrobe. It was SO fun to plan, shop sales to gather the supplies needed, then watch everything take shape, right down to his winter coat. Since my official hiatus began in November I have worked on not just making the wardrobes for my youngest, but for all my kids. As spring is approaching, I am beginning to plan for this summer's wardrobes: shopping sales, choosing patterns- both from my stash and finding new ones, and mentally
making check lists of what else they may need. It's thrilling. The kind of high only a true craft junky would understand. As if sifting through bolts of fabrics wasn't enough of an inspiration, looking through my collection of scores and scores of patterns from Peek-a-boo Pattern Shop, Viola Lee, CreateKidsCouture, Violette Fields (and more!) and actually deciding which fabrics will be transformed into which garments is blissful. Add in the knitted woolies for the baby, vests for the boys like Milo and Pepo Pie, and cardigans and tops for the girls like Summer Days and Darwinia and I'm pretty much floating on cloud nine with not enough hours in the days- in a good way! 

What's on your spring and summer "To Knit" or "To Sew" list? 

Monday, February 17, 2014

In Lieu of Flowers

   This past week found us back in our home state of New York spending time with family and celebrating the memory of my grandpa. My girls needed something appropriate for the services because, while I do not put my kids in black for such things, I do prefer darker colors for tradition. I took the girls to the fabric store to choose their fabric and, well, it was easy to see why their closets are full of brightly-colored, loud prints. I could get them to choose nothing else, so I settled for a dark background color. I used the Geranium Dress pattern, and it was perfect! So many options, measurements laid out clearly so I could make sure the girls had a custom fit and all the girly sparkle their little hearts desired.
    I put off the sewing repeatedly until it was the night before our departure and I had no choice. Remarkably, both dresses were done from start to finish in three hours, and they looked none the worse for the rush. Best of all: the girls loved them, and the morning of the memorial service we were dressing in our hotel room there was not a single whisper of complaint over the color, the shoes, the leggings, the long-sleeved tees underneath to make them winter-worthy in 13F and blowing snow weather, the comfort,
or the fit.
  Though we only moved down south two and a half months ago, it was strange to be back in New York and awesome to see family- some we hadn't seen in years, including my grandma. Such a strong, sweet woman I admire to my very core. She raised six amazing children, was the strong, supportive wife of a hard-working dairy farmer, and my childhood memories are full to the brim of her always helping anyone who needed it, and volunteering in her church, hospital, and community where ever she was needed. Ever since Grandpa became very sick many years ago, she dedicated her life to his care. For nearly twenty years she was a living, breathing example of, "In sickness and in health." Even as her own health issues arose, she thought not of herself, but frustration with her own body that was not allowing her to continue as she always had, and care for Grandpa as she was accustomed. In Grandpa's final days she wrote on her Facebook of being terrified that she wasn't making the right decisions, or that she might later regret something, but also reiterated her faith in God, feeling his peace, and appreciating the encouragement and support of her pastor. The strength and love in her words brought tears to my eyes, and it was pure joy to spend time with her while we were in New York, even when it was just sitting beside her playing with my children as she looked on. Such a strong, faithful, loving, giving woman in every way. Even in her times of great struggle and pain, she always thinks of others. When we arrived home late Sunday night and retrieved our mail from the days we were gone, there was a birthday card for me from Grandma. Even in taking care of last arrangements for Grandpa and packing his things to be given to war veterans, planning the memorial service in New York from her home in Florida, packing and preparing to fly up, not to mention dealing with the grief of saying, "See you later," to her companion of 69 years, Grandma thought of me. Somehow, with all of that going on and sixteen other grandchildren, Grandma remembered me. And even though I'd just returned from his memorial service, had spent time in his former home and seen his empty chair in the living room, seeing just Grandma's name on the card is what really-really made it real to me that Grandpa was gone. I'm taping this card to my refrigerator to help remind me to pray for this amazing woman God blessed me with in my life, and to pray for the courage to always be as strong, selfless, caring, and faithful as the
example she has shown me.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

DIY: A Tutorial on Putting an Elastic Waistband in Knitted Pants(or Shorts)

   My kids have all been super-chunks, and none of the patterns I'd found were friendly to extra junk in the trunk and thunder thighs, aside from sizing up several times over and attempting to do the math to size down other aspects to make them custom-proportional, and when anywhere from $20 to $70 in yard was in question, I wasn't happy with the enormous margin of error. To remedy the issue I created my Kumfy™ Pants pattern in 2008. It has short rows shaped and spaced unlike any I've seen in another pattern, making the whole back side of the longies rounded out evenly throughout to make room for more than just a cloth diaper, and since the LARGEST part of a baby's thighs starts before the crotch, a gusset that makes them a TRUE wide leg fit, as opposed to the "just pick up more stitches to the legs when you start them" I've seen in every other pattern. I also put SO many options in it for different styles, lengths, cuffs, ruffles, waistbands, etc. It was perfect for my babies then, has been perfect for all the babies I've had since, and I've had rave reviews since I finally published it in 2011.
   But every now and then I find new things to do with my comfy old shoe of a pattern, and this is one of them: an elastic waistband. My 10-month-old is a chronic drawstring-chewer which leads to pants around his ankles or else crawled out of and left behind altogether. I didn't have enough yarn in this colorway and trim to do the fold-over yoga waistband option in my pattern so I decided to do an elastic waistband. In my daily knit-along thread on a cloth diapering forum a couple of knitters asked how that was done if it wasn't in the pattern, so here it is! You can do this with any pattern, no matter what kind of ribbing it calls for.
Cast-on edge of the long-tail cast-on method
   First, realize that this shortens your waistband to 1 inch. Most waistbands are 2+ inches, so you need to accommodate for this in the body of the garment. Secondly, read ahead in your pattern to discover if there are any increases in the waistband. If so, you need to cast-on the number of stitches that will give you the desired number your pattern calls for when you begin the body portion. Thirdly- The long-tail cast-on is best for this method.
So regardless of cast-on number, knit in the round all rows for one inch. Next, purl one row. This will be where the waistband folds in half. After the purled row, knit every row for another inch. Proceed as the pattern directs for the body of the garment.
   When you're ready to finish the waistband(you can do it a few rows into the body, or at ANY time during the body, or when you're finished), get your tapestry and a long piece(at least 1.5 times the waist measurement) of yarn matching your trim. Fold the waistband in half with the purled bumps at the top of the waistband. Push the tapestry needle down through the loops left behind by the cast-on method and the loop on the purl side that is the first row of the colorway(body portion). Pull the yarn tight, but leave a tail long enough to weave in at the end. Continue in this pattern, pulling each stitch gently snug until you have an opening 2-3 inches wide- just enough to thread your elastic through.
   To figure out how long your elastic needs to be, measure the intended wearer's waist at the belly button, then subtract two inches and that is the length of elastic you want to cut. For example, my guy's belly around the belly button measured 21 inches, so my elastic was 19 inches long.
   Attach a safety pin to one end of your elastic, then thread it through the elastic casing you've made. Make sure the elastic has stayed flat throughout the tube so it's not twisted.
   Sew the ends of the elastic together, either with a machine or by hand, going back and forth over the seam three or so times just to ensure it stays strong.

If your ends are sewn together properly and there are no twists in the elastic, the seam allowance(ends of the elastic band) will fold neatly over and lay flat against the band and tuck nicely into the casing so you can finish stitching the seam.

That's it! Easier than it seems, judging by all the confusion and questions I've seen on knitting and cloth-diapering forums. An added bonus of this method: Super easy to use a seam ripped to cut out those stitches and adjust the waistband should your baby turn into a toddler whose waist is trimming down like mine always do. 

Love this colorway? ME TOO! It's called "Suessical Rainbow with brown" on Mountain Meadow Wool dyed by one of my all-time favorite yarn-dyers, Aimee of Eco-Wrapz. See her shop HERE and her Facebook page HERE

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chia Seed Egg Substitute Goes Rogue

Chia seeds
This morning when my husband got home from his third shift job he asked if I could make some oatmeal raisin cookies while he slept. I never need a second request. NEVER. I rarely ever even need a first request. I just bake because I love baking and my sweet tooth takes up 3/4's of my body. I also love trying new things, especially when they're leaning in the healthy direction. I've been reading for months that chia seeds make an excellent egg replacement and add a lot of health benefits to any dish, so I dove in with both feet. I have to try everything at least once (See chick pea brownies for more on that) and I wanted to see if this really worked.
   From all the reading around I found the general consensus was that 1 egg is equal to the formula:

  • 1 tablespoon Chia seeds
  • 3 tablespoons water
Let that mixture soak for 15 minutes. You can use a coffee or spice grinder to make the seeds a fine powder, too, and that mixture only needs to soak for 5 minutes, plus there's no texture of seeds left. I chose to leave them whole because the baby was napping when I was making cookies so I didn't want the extra noise, plus they would be unnoticeable in the cookies. 
   So I got the seeds soaking and started making my Oatmeal Raisin Cookies:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs(or the equivalent chia egg substitute) 
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp milk(we use either almond or coconut)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups All Purpose flour
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1-1/2 cups raisins
Preheat the oven to 350F. Cream the butter. Add both sugars and cream again. Add the chia seed mixture, vanilla, and milk, and again mix until smoothly combined. Add flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, mixing until just combined. Add oats and raisins, and again mix until just combined. Scoop out golf ball-size spoonfuls and place 2-3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for  about12 minutes. (You can also flatten each cookie slightly for a smoother, more uniform shape and size, but you'll need to cook for 2-3 minutes longer.) Place on a cooling rack for several minutes. This recipe makes about 3 dozen medium to large cookies.
   So the whole point of the chia seeds was to be healthy. I know. But like I previously said, I have a RIDICULOUS sweet tooth. It just so happened that after lunch I had to take the kids to Kroger for some groceries, and I was forced to walk through the baked goods department I ordinarily really try to avoid. That's when I spotted my inspiration for what these cookies turned into, and quasi-healthy treats went out the window. Enter cream cheese frosting:
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese
  • 4 Tbsp softened butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Then whip it until combined. Perfect. Creamy, but not too cream-cheesy. Like a cross between butter cream and cheese cake. Nom-nom. Set it aside until the cookies are cooled. (The slightly-flattened cookies above are perfect for this application. *wink, wink* ). 
When your cookies are adequately cooled, put your frosting in a zippered bag and snip off the corner(or just use a fancy piping bag, of which I have two, but they're a pain to wash so this small bit of frosting wasn't worth that hassle. ). Then pipe a big, thick, round, delicious-looking swirl of it on the bottom side of some cookies. Then top them with another cookie. Then stand back and look at this delicious mess and realize every bit of omega-3's, protein, and fiber from the chia seeds and oats were demolished in this concoction, as was your goal to "be good this week" that you made three days ago. So you ignore your inner "be good" remind and eat one. 
   On the bright side. you probably only need one. The richness is delectable, and the raisins, oats, and chia make you feel a little bit better about eating it. Just keep telling yourself that. Oh, and the chia seeds? I didn't even notice them. Safe to say this egg substitute is a winner in baked goods even without the frosting.