Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review - The Underside of Joy

I was crying by the 18th page. The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson takes off at a run from the first chapter, immediately drawing you into the vivd world of Elbow, CA, a small town on the coast of Northern California.

The plot is not terribly unique - after the death of Ella's husband, Joe, Ella is enveloped in a custody battle over her two step-children, Zach and Annie. It's the compelling language and beautiful setting that sets this book apart, and makes you feel as if you're living the story. We're thrilled with descriptions of beach and Redwood forests that make it seem like Elbow is something out of a fairy tale. As Prince Halverson describes Ella's love for it, you can't help but love it yourself.  

Ella becomes as close to you as your best friend. The friends and family surrounding her are full of life, down to the smallest town "character." Even her dog, Callie, comes to life as she comforts Ella through her trials. Who hasn't had a pet that stuck their nose under the covers at just the right time?

And her children - Zach & Annie - are completely real. They are bubbly and emotional, saying the wrong things at just the wrong time, and sometimes the right things, too. The whole family in Elbow comes to life and fill the pages with an idyllic small town scene - albeit filled with tragedy.

The second chapter wasn't the only time I cried - after taking this emotional roller coaster with Ella, you're bound to get a bit verklepmt over the outcome - but there are lots of lovely, warm moments in the book as well, and you won't be able to put it down.

Sometimes I do paid reviews for BlogHer Book Club, because I love reading, but the opinions expressed are my own. I promise, the next post will be about crafts. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

a sister sweater

Meghan's Sweater

This Christmas, my sister, Meghan, requested a sweater. She is a sweetheart, though, and qualified the request with, "But I don't want to make you crazy like you were last year!" After making two sweaters last Christmas (for my mom and my great aunt), I was not eager to make any more. 

But she said it's ok if it takes a bit longer. So here it is, 6 days after her birthday, and about 25% done. I'm heavily modifying this pattern and knitting it with Knit Picks Andes del Campo in Vineyard Heather. It's gonna be one snuggly sweater coat!

And don't worry - I still gifted her Boy Meets World dvd's on Christmas Day. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

I love... Pom Poms

piles of pom poms!

During one of my pre-holiday trips to Joann's, I stumbled upon a selection of Clover's Pom Pom Makers. Now, you should understand that my pre-holiday trips to Joann's are sad, depressing affairs. There's only one store in Chicago, and it is overrun with every single crafty person in Chicago, from crazy bargain scrap-bookers to intense home-sewists. Shopping there is not the peaceful retreat it was in the suburbs of Michigan. So I admit - I've made a few escapist purchases, and these pom pom makers fall into that category. 

Best. escapist. purchase. ever. 

I used every single yard of "scrap yarn" and every ball of fuzzy yarn in my stash and created fun holiday packaging. I made approximately three thousand pom poms in 2 hours! 

gifts with pom poms

Katie's tips for making excellent pom poms, while using up ugly stash yarn:

1. This is the time to use fun fur. It makes amazing pom poms.

2. If you have weird variegated yarns to use up, mix them with a coordinating solid yarn. This technique created this muppet pom pom:

muppet pom pom!

3. Mix different weights of yarn, who cares! 

4. Use a lot of yarn for a nice, full pom pom. 

5. Always dress your bunnies in pom poms:

crazy ears

Next on my pom pom to-do list: purchase this heart-shaped pom pom maker, and make a pom pom garland (like this and this)!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Festive Short Row Sweater

glittery short row sweater

srs - the full back

I went a little crazy when I opened up my google reader in November and saw Purl Bee's Short Row Sweater. Yes, I was supposed to be knitting commissions, finishing up Christmas ornaments, and prepping for the holidays. But all I could think of was this gorgeously simple sweater!

I resisted its charm until Allyson started talking about it, and even picked out the perfect yarn for a Christmas sweater - Knit Picks' Stroll Glimmer. 90% reasonable fibers - 10% SPARKLE. It conveniently went on sale during black friday, and I ordered 3 skeins in Potion. 

I cast on between Christmas projects and ended up knitting most of it while I was home for the holidays. Nothing better than slogging through endless stocking stitch while watching Manor House and Downton Abbey

short row sweater from the front
What? It doesn't look sparkly? Blame the weirdly-sunny day for washing out these photos!

Back View

I finally finished on New Years Eve, and laid it out to block with hours until the celebrations. Because I knit this on size 6 needles, instead of the recommended size 5, with fingering weight yarn instead of sport, it grew a lot in length. I was worried that in addition to being cropped in the back, it would be cropped in the front. My worries were completely ridiculous - when wet, the sweater reached my thighs. So I did something wild - I threw it on the radiator, and it was dry in a few hours and ready for NYE karaoke. 

I knit the largest size - 40" bust - on size 6 needles and I almost ran out of yarn. Just a pithy handful left when I finished, and I took a row off the neckline and armhole ribbing. The one downside of knitting at such a loose gauge - it's totally transparent. I tried to wear it without a shirt underneath and you could see my brassier. Tacky. The good news is that it's loose and airy and looks great with a skirt or jeans. 

the leftovers
the tiny bit of leftover yarn

New Years Eve Outfit
how I wore it on NYE - tights & new boots

And I have to say: I've read a few comments online saying this sweater is only for "skinny" people. Dudes - I am not skinny. Because of the relaxed shape and fun back, this sweater is good for all shapes and sizes. Take it from a curvy girl. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dolly Knits - Winter Gear

AG in her winter gear

I looooved American Girl dolls when I was little. By the time I was 13, I had four: Samantha, Felicity, Kirsten and a Girl of Today (the one above). My sister had a few, too, and we were both totally obsessed. We didn't have a ton of outfits and accessories, though - holy, expensive!

So when my sister told me that my niece, Madigan, would be receiving her first full-sized American Girl doll, and her baby sister, Emlyn, would be gifted a Bitty Baby, I knew I had to knit them some less-expensive accessories.

I scoured Ravelry for good patterns, but my findings were a bit lacking. There's a lot of dowdy dresses, but not much in the way of cute, modern accessories. So I came up with my own pattern!

Green Winter Gear
Bitty Baby Winter Gear for Emlyn

Pink Winter Gear
American Girl Winter Gear for Madigan

The idea for the hat was based on Pickles' From Norway With Love Hat - but it's doll-sized! I knit a matching double-knit scarf with hearts, and came up with little mittens. 

I'm planning to put together a little pattern so all those American Girl Doll-lovers out there can have their own set!

Bitty Baby in her winter gear
Bitty in her Winter Gear

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012

Happy New Year!

In 2011, I knit some sweaters, quit my job, started my own business, decided to move to LA (moving date: February 1st, 2012), did seven craft shows, sewed more tiny felt things than I care to count, started teaching classes, and got back into comedy. I also only cut my hair once- the longest I've gone without changing it, fell in love with juicing, and started exploring the world of crunchy, natural, chemical-free body care. Which meant I failed at making deodorant and ended up with a rash in my armpits! 

This year has been quite the ride, huh? Here's to 2012, which is already shaping up to be a year of changes.