A Tale of Two Cowls

I was having lunch today with a couple of friends, both who had lived northeast for awhile but had migrated back down to Texas.  “It’s weird that it’s the holiday season and we’re all in shorts,” one of them said.

And that’s pretty much what fall and winter is like in Texas.  Eighty degrees?  Well, I guess it’s time to pull out the winter boots, because when else are you going to wear them?  Below seventy degrees outside?  BRING OUT ALL YOUR WINTER GEAR.

I have two finished cowls to show you, even though it’s currently 75 degrees outside and I will get a heat stroke if I wear them.

Rock Climbing in Vegas Cowl

Last year Fiancé and I went to Las Vegas for a friend’s wedding. It was such a wonderful trip!  Before we left, I stopped by the Sin City Knit Shop and bought a skein of their famous “Roll the Dice” yarn.  I received a free pattern with my purchase and selected the “Rock Climbing in Vegas” pattern by Debbi McCarty.  It seemed the most accessible for a beginning knitter.

As is customary with my projects, I didn’t start it until June of this year, when my family and I were traveling to Italy. I figured it would be a fun project to take with me on a plane.  I worked on the project during the two weeks we were there.  It was a nice way to take a mental retreat.

My cousin’s cat was really intent on helping me with the project.

“I got this.”

“But seriously…just let me try it.”

My aunt’s cat really wanted to help, too.  Italian cats are so nice, you guys!

The project worked up really nicely. I love the ombré effect.

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And the cowl is so soft and squishy!

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Decreasing the size of this picture so my face doesn’t take up your entire screen.  HEY GUYS!

This cowl is perfect to wear for transitioning into cooler weather.  It’s lightweight enough so I won’t sweat to death if I wear it in sub-70 degree temperatures.

Lil’ Snood Dogg

When I got back from the field last month, I decided to treat myself to a Joann’s trip. My brother had gotten me a gift card, and the money was burning a hole in my pocket.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a whole rack full of Wool and the Gang projects.  I excitedly took home a Lil’ Snood Dogg kit.

Let’s see what we’ve got inside.

The yarn is a cheaper wool/acrylic blend than the Crazy Sexy Wool you would get with ordering the kit directly from Wool and the Gang.  I’ve never worked with Crazy Sexy Wool but I liked the blend that came from the Joann’s kit.

The project is worked up in moss stitch. There were definitely some tension issues on my end.  A couple of rows to the end, I messed up and did a couple of knit stitches in a row, but was too lazy to fix it.  Sewing the ends of the cowl was a wonky task given the tension differences at the beginning and the end.  The stitches also worked okay, considering my dog decided to try and eat my knitting needles halfway through it.

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Despite the imperfections, I like the look of the cowl.  It’s snuggly and I don’t think my mistakes will be noticeable.

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I look like I’m about to rob a bank?

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MY FACE HAS TAKEN OVER YOUR SCREEN. HI.

I think I’ll wait until we get really cold weather to wear this cowl, though. So…I can wear this for like three days in January. Can’t wait!

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A Chronicle of My Jerkface Dog

My dog Apollo is one of my favorite creatures in this universe.  The way he snuggles up to me on the couch after a long day or leaps with joy when I return home makes me think the feeling is mutual.  I adore my little dog, and I spend a lot of time worrying about his well-being.  I imagine this is, in a very small way, what a parent feels like.

So I love my dog.

We got that part out of the way.

But you guys…can I tell you secret?

HE IS A MASSIVE JERK.

It’s not so bad now that he’s a little older.  Apollo is five and a half now, and he’s much calmer now.  But when he was a puppy, oh god.  I still remember the second day after we’d gotten him.  I was sitting on my carpet in tears, staring at this adorable but totally destructive little puppy, thinking, “What have we done?  I HAD A GOOD LIFE.”  In his heyday, Apollo chewed up, among other things, my carpet, the bottom of my blinds, two laptop chargers, and shoes.  And since he’s a dachshund, he’s incredibly stubborn and, admittedly, not very well-trained.

Like I said, he’s a massive jerk.  I don’t remember when the switch happened – when he stopped being utterly exhausting to a pet that brings me a lot of joy, but it happened and here we are now.  He’s cuddling next to me as I type this.

But the jerk gene is strong in this pup and he wills it as he chooses.  When Apollo was a baby, his insatiable appetite to destroy everything in my apartment was really a function of his curiosity.  Now that he’s older, he only steals or chews things when he wants our attention.

Relevant example – I was cooking dinner yesterday.  Fiancé was traveling home after being gone for several days, and I was very excited to see him.  I’d left a knitting project on the couch so I could preheat the oven for the chicken wings I was making.  You guys are probably all, “Why did you leave your knitting project on the couch after talking about what a jerk your dog is?” I KNOW, GUYS.  But I’d already taken him for a walk and thought that I’d expended any energy he had.  Wrong.  I heard this unusual crunching sound and rushed out of the kitchen to check on Apollo.

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This is not the first pair of knitting needles he has munched on. (I should have known better, etc etc I GET IT).  Thankfully, he did not ingest the bit that he’d torn off.  I was very upset since I don’t have extra needles in this size, and I wanted to continue being a loner introvert and not have to, you know, drive to a store and deal with people.

I found a pencil sharpener from my cosmetics kit and was able to file the needle down fairly well.  It’s been a bit of a struggle to continue using this particular needle, but it’s getting the job done without too much damage to the project I’m knitting.

Apollo’s reign of terror and bid for attention did not stop there. Fiancé surprised me with an adorable teddy bear when he came home.  I placed the bear on my coffee table and was attempting to take a picture of it when my dog snatched the bear and ran off with it.

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I laughed so hard when I saw this picture.  It is probably one of my favorite pictures of Apollo. This perfectly captures his endearing jerkface qualities.

And then, by the end of the night, he crashed hard.

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First Day of Spring! Inspirations

Spring is finally here! Although it’s been feeling like spring since February?  But that’s Texas weather for you.  Today I was planting flowers I’d purchased three weeks ago tending to my garden and noticed a lovely Texas bluebonnet blooming.

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I have a brown thumb, so I wanted to capture this moment before it dies next week.  ::insert inspirational thoughts about flowers and spring here::

This weekend was pretty great.  My friends and I decided to check out SXSW on Saturday. I don’t go to SXSW every year, but when I do, it’s always fantastic.  I think my fondest SXSW was in 2011, when Brother and I attended the Foo Fighters documentary premiere Back and Forth, and Dave Grohl was RIGHT ACROSS THE THEATER eating POPCORN and it was CRAZINESS.  That was also the year we waited in line for five hours to get into the MTV Woodie Awards just so we could watch the Foo Fighters perform one song.*

This year my friends and I took a more chill approach to SXSW, but we still had a blast.  They are all artistic people and I feel more inspired to create just being around them.  We also caught some really good shows.  I’d been feeling burned out on shows lately but Saturday refreshed my palate, I think.  My friend and I caught this one band called Happy Meals, and it was such a fun set.  But I’m hesitant to look them up now because I’m afraid they won’t sound as amazing when I’m sober.

Now that it’s spring and I’m wrapping up my pincushion project (the review will be ready this week!), I’m already eyeing more projects to add to my queue.  After my test is done, of course.**

PICTURE TIME.

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Wool and the Gang Dylan Tank

Wool and the Gang has all these awesome free patterns, and I’m eyeing this one for spring.  REAL TALK – I would nix the fringe though.

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Two of Wands, Movie Night Cocoon Cardi

I love this cardi by Two of Wands.  It would be a perfect transitional piece for the approximately two cooler days I can expect this spring.

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Lion Brand Afternoon Breeze Shawl

Ditto on this shawl.  It’s so cute! I can wear it to work so I won’t freeze to death in my cube.

Finally, I want to make this:

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Fancy Tiger Crafts Sailor Top

I wish I had known about Fancy Tiger Crafts when I visited Denver two years ago, because I would have been ALL UP IN THAT.  I really have been wanting to go back to Denver because Rocky Mountains, the crepes place, Garden of the Gods, it’s amazing, etc etc etc, so this is just another reason to visit, right? Anyway, I got a little sidetracked…this top is really cute and versatile, and it’s supposed to be beginner friendly.  I really want to make it.  And also move to Denver.

I need to be responsible so I should probably sleep. Good night!

*I’m very done with waiting in line for hours and hating my life, but I’m really glad I did it then and have those memories.

** I splurged on a review course so my attitude has gone from “I’m going to fail” to “I might pass, maybe!”

Morning Routines and January Makes

Happy Friday everyone!

This morning I woke up determined to do yoga.  I’ve fallen out of my routine and I wanted to get it started again.  I woke up last night with a panic attack, which is not something I’ve had in a long time! It told me I needed to get back to yoga, which is really wonderful for soothing anxiety.  I did Lesley Fightmaster’s Day 1 of her Hatha Yoga Happiness series and I feel great!

Lately, my morning routine has consisted of sipping coffee and browsing Twitter.  I had been off of Twitter for years, but with everything going on, I’ve been checking it out more often.  Plus, who knows what country our president will threaten now via tweeting?  There’s so much excitement to be had! /sarcasm

I’ve also been doing a little crochet in the morning as I sip my coffee.  It’s been soothing and puts me in a good mindset for work. I’ve slowly started working on my blanket.

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This blanket is working off a pattern from Attic24 with some modifications.  She has the prettiest, coziest blankets and she has a really easy pattern for making a blanket in double crochet.  She includes a lot of helpful pictures for an easy go-to reference.

I can’t believe it’s February already!  Though I didn’t complete all of my January goal makes, I did complete several projects – mostly hats!

The top left is my beautiful mama, the Napoli Girl.  )She’s a fashion blogger so she has the pose down pat!)  I’m proud of this project because I crafted from my stash.  My mom originally left a comment on my Instagram post for my blue crocheted hat (top right), saying that it was hers now.  “You can have it!” I said.  “Well…” Mom responded.  “I actually want a brown hat.  Without the flower.”  Luckily I had some brown yarn in my stash and was able to make Mom a new hat.  It was a really soft yarn from Isaac Mizrahi (Skyscraper in Carlton) that was really soft and fun to work with.

My goals for my February makes are pretty simple.  I’ll be in the field for two weeks, for I’m looking for short, easy projects that don’t require a lot of effort, since I’ll be too tired in the evenings to focus very much!

I’d better get ready for work; I hope you have a great weekend!

January Craft Goals

Hello my friends! We meet again.

Are you now thinking of that Creed song from fifteen years ago?  YOU’RE WELCOME!

I’m really not sure how I’m still awake. I woke up very early this morning for field work.  The field job is local, which is great!  I really enjoy being able to come home at the end of the day and unwind.  The site is in a fun location within the city, too.  It’s funny because I don’t know how many times I’ve run by that area, not even realizing we had a site there. (I get strangely dorky when I see groundwater monitoring wells while I’m not at work.  I point to them and say, “LOOK! THIS IS WHAT I DO!” and then nobody cares).

It’s been a very cozy week.  This weekend was coooooooold.  It was a perfect time to get bundled up and make things that will keep me warm.  I’m currently on a knitting frenzy. Now that I’ve made one hat, I want to make ALL HATS.

  1.  Craft Goal # 1 – Hat that probably will not fit my head

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I’m working on this pattern (stockinette stitch all the way) using Euro Baby’s Fruits and Veggies yarn.  I bought the yarn when I was in Vegas.  It is super cute.  The ball of yarn was shaped like a blueberry and the little green stem you see in the picture above was on top of it.  Like a blueberry! Get it? Unfortunately, I just made the realization (like, ten minutes ago) that the pattern was developed for a small child.  “But Jenny,” you’re thinking, “the brand is called ‘Euro Baby.’ Is that not a big enough clue that it’s for LITTLE KIDS?” And I’m like GET OFF MY BACK GUYS, IT WAS CUTE YARN, OKAY? I need to think of small children in my life who I can gift this to.  I do have a small cousin so maybe she will like it.

2.  Craft Goal #2 –  Pussyhat

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My Instagram friend Jo let me know of this really cool project going on for the Women’s March in DC.  It’s called the Pussyhat Project.  The idea is to knit enough hats for all the DC marchers to wear.  I love it!  I’m working on a hat now.  I’m not sure if I can finish it by the January 14th deadline, though.  If not, I’ll wear it to the sister march in Austin!

3.  Craft Goal #3 – Embroidery Project of Laziness

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And finally, I really need to finish an embroidery project I started back in…November.  I am really excited about this project since it’s my first design.  I just need. to. finish. it. It’s probably about another hour’s worth of work at the most.

What craft goals do you guys have for this month?

Knit-Wise: Chunky Ribbed Hat Review

I admit that when I opened this project’s box, I was both excited and a little apprehensive!

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I had never worked a project in the round before, used circular needles, or used any decreasing stitches.  But I was eager to knit a hat and dug into the project.  This box comes with all the materials you need – two balls of yarn, a set of circular needles, a tapestry needle, a knit counter (which my dog tried to destroy), and instructions.  There is enough yarn to complete either a small or large hat.  I selected “large” for my project, though the instructions didn’t really indicate how large “large” is supposed to be.

I did struggle a little bit with using the circular needles and learning how to stitch in the round.  When I started the project around Thanksgiving, I could not find the circular needles tutorial on Knit-Wise’s tutorial page.  I checked last night as I was wrapping up my project, and the tutorial was there, so it’s possible I simply had missed it when I’d checked the first time.  There were also tutorials for the other decreasing stitches I hadn’t tried before.  These stitches (like k2tog) were much easier than I had anticipated!  Besides my initial struggles with using the circular needles, the rest of the project was a breeze.

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I really enjoyed this box.  The simplicity of the project made these techniques very accessible to new knitters like myself.  And now I have a beautiful hat to wear!  Now if only the weather can drop below 80 degrees again so I can actually wear it…

 

 

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The Procrastinator’s Guide to Crafty Christmas – Part Two (Craft Kits)

“JENNY!”

It’s okay. Just sit down for a min-

“CHRISTMAS IS IN TWO DAYS AND I DON’T HAVE A GIFT!”

 

Deep breath.  There you go.  We got this.

Welcome back to Part 2 of my series tailored especially for procrastinators like myself.  In Part 1, we discussed the different books you can purchase for the crafty people in your life.  If you’re looking to go a little above and beyond just a book – maybe you’ve got a crafty significant other or in-law and you want to make Christmas extra special – then you’ve come to just the right place.  I’m going to show you what materials you can purchase to  assemble your own crafty kits. At the end of this post, I’ll show you a perfect example of one I just received!

Just a quick note – you can find most of the items I’m suggesting at a chain craft store like Michaels or Jo-Ann.  Don’t forget to give your local craft stores some love too, though.  Here’s a shout out to some of my local Austin faves, like Stitch Lab (closing in February…sob) and Hill Country Weavers.  If you’re in the Tucson area, stop by Sew Hip and Birdhouse Yarns.  And if you’re spending New Year’s in Vegas, then you’ve got to check out Sin City Knit Shop.

Cross-Stitch and Embroidery

If you’ve got a cross-stitcher or embroiderer in your life, you have a couple of options.  You can’t go wrong with buying a counted cross-stitch or embroidery kit.  A word of caution if you are buying patterns or kits from a chain store – many (though not all) of these designs tend to be more traditional.  Which is TOTALLY FINE if that’s what you’re into, but maybe not so much if your crafty person is a fan of more contemporary, modern designs (like myself).    For me, the line between cute kitsch and “omg no never hanging in my house” kitsch is very fine.  Cross-stitch a deer?  Sure. I’ve cross-stitched a deer before.  Cross-stitch a hedgehog? But of course.  Cross-stitch a teddy bear or angel?  NO. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT $200.

If you’re not sure where on that line your crafty person falls, then let me suggest some patterns for you.  Don’t worry – you can purchase these as instant PDF downloads.  Just hit print and slip into your gift basket.

  • CozyBlue has gorgeous patterns that your stitcher will love.

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  • Satsuma Street has the most fantastic cross-stitch designs, and if I didn’t already have a ton of projects in my queue, I would download at least three of these gorgeous patterns like TONIGHT.satsuma-street

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To wrap up your craft kit, take a look at the instructions.  Does it recommend colors of floss to purchase?

And in case you’re like “….floss?  Huh?”

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The most popular brand (or at least, the one I always work with) is DMC.  Cross-stitch and some embroidery patterns will list what colors correspond to the pattern.  Pick up enough for your stitcher to use for the project, along with a set of needles and the cloth that the pattern recommends.  If it recommends Aida or evenweave, then no worries. That will be in the aisle with the embroidery floss.  You’re all set.

Knitting/Crochet

Picking out yarn is so much fun and I can spend a long time in the yarn aisles. If you want to buy your knitter or crocheter a pattern, it would be good to know what their skill level is.  But what’s great about a knitting/crochet kit is that you don’t even NEED a pattern, really.  Chances are your crafty person already has a list of projects and will welcome the addition of yarn to their stash.

What kind of yarn to purchase?  Luxury yarn is great to work with (and it spoils you), but it’s luxury for a reason – it can get pretty pricey!  If I’m being honest, most of the yarn I use and purchase is budget.  There’s pretty fantastic budget yarn available that does a solid job at mimicking the higher quality yarn.  The most popular budget yarn brands include Lion Brand, Caron, and Patons.  My personal favorite is Lion Brand.  I really enjoy working with their yarns and have made several larger projects with them.

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With Scarfie, you can make a scarf using one ball of yarn.  I have two in my stash waiting to be used!

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Homespun is sooooo soft.  I used the Thick & Quick yarn for a project that ended up being a doggie blanket.  It’s so warm and cozy, and Apollo loves it.

Some other fun and trendy yarn is Michaels’ Caron Cakes and Jo-Ann’s Sweet Roll.  I have each in my stash and am excited to try both.

Sewing

I consider fabric to be a really personal choice.  Same with individual sewing patterns.  Certain kinds of fabric are really difficult for beginners (like jersey or silk), so you don’t want to overwhelm your crafty person if they just started sewing.  Unless your crafty person has been very explicit on what fabric they want (“I can’t wait to try those new Alexander Henry prints!”), then you really can’t go wrong with a gift card here for fabrics, along with one of the books I featured from part one.  Cute sewing supplies are also fun to stash in your craft kit.  Tula Pink Hardware  is a popular choice, though I don’t own any of these products myself.

Putting it all together

I’ll end this post with a pitch-perfect example – an early Christmas gift I received from Boyfriend yesterday!

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Boyfriend did a great job in selecting treats he knew I would both need and enjoy.  I’ve been looking for a cute sewing box to store my materials but I dislike a lot of the frillier ones out there – so the one he got for me is perfect.  I always, always welcome a ball of yarn into my stash, and I’m really digging the color palette for this Sweet Roll.  Apollo chewed up my knit counter the other day, so the sturdier one that Boyfriend purchased will (hopefully) withstand the teeth of a willful dachshund (also if I, you know, actually store it somewhere other than my coffee table).  Boyfriend knows I want to start my craft business one day, so I’m really excited to dig into this book.  And finally, a gift card!  Thank you Boyfriend! You’re pretty awesome. 🙂

And that, my friends, is it!  Good luck with your shopping and let me know how it goes!  I’ll see you Monday! Happy holidays!