Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Village

Each year I go up to Mass to visit my family and friends at Christmas time.  Each year my sister's husband Dave assembles a Christmas Village in the basement.  The Christmas Village is made up of ceramic shops, houses and people that both his mother and our mother have given him.  The Christmas Village now encompasses not just the railing shelf in the basement but now two additional separate tables.


He has assembled icicle lights along the ceiling and tree lights along the shelf.  This year he had his niece help him and I heard she really got into it and wanted to place each person just right.  Each year he adds a little bit more charm to the village.  One addition this year was the Frosty movie playing from a projector onto the wall.

Local train depot

He has features such as a train depot with a functional train, takes branches from outside and creates trees, and even made a covered bridge to connect the "town" across the doorway.

Christmas Village - Eastside

One year, there was an ice storm in the area and he recreated the ice storm in the village.  There were downed trees, fake snow covering the roadway, and even a snowplow.

Christmas Village - Westside

The westside of the Village has a town square and cars on the roadway.  Like I said earlier, he adds more charm to the Village each year.

Fire pit

This summer, my sister and husband cleared an area in the woods in the back yard and made a firepit with a picnic table and chairs.  So this year in the Village, he also created a firepit.  He was working on the picnic table last night.  He made it out of wood tongue depressors and glue.

Picnic table - isn't is great?!

Here is also a truck with branches cut-up to look like logs.

Logger truck

During my winter visit to Mass, we always make a trip to Foxwoods Casino in Conn to play a morning session of Bingo.  When we were walking to the Bingo hall area, we past a Christmas Village that was made entirely out of gingerbread, chocolate, and royal icing.  It really was amazing.

Foxwoods Village

In this Foxwoods Christmas Village was a church, houses, houses that were destroyed by a storm, royal icing trees, chocolate rice crispie rocks and bushes and, the best of all, Rapunzel's castle.

Click on pic to see more detail

If you look closely, you can see the prince climbing Rapunzel's braid of golden hair on the tower.  My picture really does not do it justice, but it was the coolest gingerbread house I've ever seen.  The Village continues to the right of the castle, but I did not get a good picture of it. 

On a side note, each year I go to Bingo and I have never won a game.  This year, one of my friends in our group was the sole winner of one of the games, so she did not have to split the pot with anyone!  It was very exciting for us, so she was even more hyped-up after the win.  So much more hyped-up that she could barely concentrate on the next game.  It was a great time.  Congrats, Crystal!!!

Now that we have all seen the Foxwoods Christmas Village, I wonder how Dave will be inspired for next year's Christmas Village.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Crazy Cables

Once you get the hang of knitting you should try and challenge yourself with something that looks hard but is quite easy (assuming you have the knit and purl stitch down pat).  If you are ready for something new, try knitting cables.  They look very impressive when they are done, but, when the pattern is followed, it can be done painlessly.

My very first cable attempt was done on scrap yarn that I knitted up a swatch piece.  Sorry to say, I no longer have that little piece of cable, but I have moved on since then.  My first project was an Irish cabled sweater.  Yes, let's go for gold, I don't want to settle for bronze.  I jumped from a swatch piece to an Irish cabled sweater.  I never admitted to being crazy, but I have high hopes!  So, in my search for the perfect pattern, I asked my Aunt Eileen.  She is the person who taught me how to knit.  She is my great aunt that is like a grandmother to me.  She lent me (let see, over 10 years ago) a Irish knit instruction booklet.  This booklet has a copyright date of 1967!

The pics inside are even more classic!

The Bernat company is still around and going strong; their website offers a blog and free patterns.  The Bernat Book of Irish Knits had the perfect pattern: a classic pullover.  The yarn I chose (sorry Bernat) was Paton's Classic Wool.  It is 100% merino wool in the classic cream color Aran.  I bought it from Smiley's Yarns which can be found on the web.  They literally have yarn for $1!  I don't think this yarn was a buck a skein but it was wicked cheap. 

This sweater was orginally knit for my boyfriend (who became my husband, then my ex).  There is folklore that if you knit your spouse or partner a sweater, then the relationship will sour.  I knew this going into this project, but I knitted it anyway!  I mean, who really believes in that old superstition anyway?  The sweater certainly did outlast the relationship, but at least I was smart enough to hold onto the sweater! 

This sweater, I thought, would take me a few months to knit.  I typed out the pattern so I could read it easily and write on the paper.  Well, to make a long story short, it took over a year to knit!  With all that time invested in it, the boyfriend/husband/ex only wore it a handful of times.  During the piecing of the sweater, he had complained that it was going to be too tight, then I knitted side panels to extend it, then he complained that it was too bulky.

See why I kept it!

I had knit the side sections in moss st, then knitted the cables, and then the middle section was done in popcorn st.  This was very time-consuming and I had to pay attention.  So, watching TV while doing a project like this is not recommended.  At this stage, I would have considered myself an Advanced Beginner.  Only a beginner because I did not know how to seam very well.  You can notice the side seams where I added the extra panels.  For my first cable project, I impressed my Aunt and myself! 

Close-up of cables

I wear it on those few chilly days a year as a cover-up/jacket because it is too large for me; I wear it anyway and I love it.

My next cable project came years later and it was a scarf.  The pattern came from Family Circle Easy Knitting (now it is published through Vogue and is called Knit Simple).  I had a ton of extra Paton's Classic Wool (apparently, I overestimated my yarn requirements) and knitting it up with that.

The scarf was cabled along the bottom edge of each side but carried only three cables through the neck/body.  I was hooked from the look of the ends so I gave it a shot.  After the sweater, this was a piece of cake!

Cute, huh?

Oh, yes, and it had a rolled edge.  The original yarn for this pattern was a soft, fluffier mohair or something.  The end cables had almost a halo appearance to them.  I was being frugal, so no halo effect, but I really liked it anyway.  The side cable always rolls in.  I never blocked it, so that may prevent that from occuring.  Blocking is when you wet the garment either with a spray bottle or a steam iron, set it out flat, shape it, and place a towel with heavy items on it to "set-in" the shape.  It is effective method with sweaters, but not sure if it works on scarves. 

Ends are my favorite part!

My latest cable project was a skirt pattern from knit.1.  This is a hipper knitting magazine for the younger knitters.  The teens and early twenties knitters don't want the stuffy patterns of some of the classic knit magazines.  This is a nice choice for them.  I was in my late twenties when I subscribed and I can see that I would not knit half the patterns, but I enjoy looking at what people can create.  The skirt was knit with Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool.  The pattern had cables running diagonal throughout the skirt with a rolled hem/edging.

I see a color theme going on here...

I finished this skirt the Christmas before last, while visiting my sister in MA.  I have to admit, when I was done, I put it on and thought, "No way am I wearing this in public!"  Let's just say it was very form-fitting and I would need some leggings under it to cover myself up!  It did come out nice, I just am not confident enough to wear it as intended.

Waist cables are a nice feature

My beau and I had a holiday housewarming party and I thought, I want to wear that knitted skirt.  Again, I put it on and could not do it.  Then I got an idea, "What if I wore it as a shirt?"  Marisa from New Dress A Day blog does it all the time!  I threaded a grosgrain ribbon through the cabled waist, put a tank top underneath to protect my skin from the itchy wool, threw on a shrug and viola!  I skirt-top!

Last pic of the evening

It was a cute way to finally wear my knitted cable skirt.  I got several compliements, so I thought that I should've done this ages ago!  Along with my top, I also showed off my early Christmas present from my sister.  She sent it to me and told me to open it up and not wait until Christmas.  She surprised me with a cabled blanket!  I have been talking about knitting one myself forever and she must've got sick of hearing me say that because she did it!

So nice!

Isn't is wonderful?!  I have it displayed on the couch, but I actually have it in my bedroom at the end of the bed.  It has been in the 40's and 50's here in FL and this blanket is the perfect weight for that added warmth.  Even though my sister did not blog about it and take pics along the way, I had to feature it in mine. 
Thank you agian, Kathy!!! 
Cable close-up!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Glitter Candle

Alright everyone, let me introduce you to my first guest blogger, Crystal.  She is from Rhode Island and is one of my very good friends.  We met through my first "real job" in Boston, MA.  When we first met, we chatted and found out that we were in the same Organic Chemistry class in college, but we barely remember each other.  Strange how paths can cross multiple times and then one day it clicks.  Anyway, I am very excited to host today's guest blog post.  Here it is:
So, it's Thanksgiving Eve, and I realize I need a hostess gift.  Being a Scrooge I didn’t want to spend too much and I thought about Nancy’s sentiment of giving hand-made gifts.  Now people usually “Oooo” and ”Ahhh” over various things I make.  While I acknowledge that I have some degree of skill I never feel totally justified receiving their praise.  Why?  Because I steal ideas from the internet or just follow a pattern.  The “art” isn’t really my own creation.  This time was different, I came up with my own craft and felt that it was worthy of a guest blog.
At first I got a really cheap ($1) candle.  It was gold and really pretty.  But when I took the wrapper off most of the gold came off with it.  They went back to the store.  Next I got a red/maroon candle from Target for about $2.

Plain 'ole candle

The next thing I did was to print a “D” for my hostess last name. I used Edwardian Script in Word with a font size of 150 bolded. I then taped it to the candle.
A "D" for Delicious (actually the Hostess' last initial) 

The next step was to use a utility knife to cut out the letter.  I would have used an Exacto knife but for some reason mine hides from me whenever I go to use it.  I didn’t gouge too deep, just enough to outline the letter.  I peeled away the black just so you can see but it really isn’t necessary.

Exacto, where are you when I need you?

At this point I was at a loss as for how to make a nice groove to hold my glue.  I wanted to create a kind of well so that the glue would just sort of flow into it.  I ended up using just a regular old pen.  Note that this chosen pen will get so waxed up it will never write again.  Hey, maybe that makes this a “green” project since you can repurpose a pen that just won’t write.  You know you have them in that junk drawer!  Anyway, I just get “writing” with the pen and digging out my groove.  It made a terrible mess which required me skitteling over to the trash to brush myself off.  Finally I went outside and shook like a wet dog; that worked.
The next pic is a little dark but I wanted to show how the etching looked.  Let’s pause here to say I am not a photographer.  I can’t take a decent picture to save my soul.

Etched out area

I then took some plain Elmer’s glue and very carefully filled in the little canals I had created.  I went through all the trouble of making these canals because I was afraid if I just wrote in glue that it would just fall off because of the waxy slipperyness of a candle.  I also didn’t think I could get the fancy contours of the line for the letter without some guidance.  It worked out pretty well.

Carefully fill in letter

I took some silver glitter and sprinkled it over the glue.  I was very generous but being Scroogey as I did it over a newspaper so that I could recover any un-stuck glitter. 

Crafting's not cheap, so save that excess glitter, ladies!

Here you can see how it looks after just shaking off the excess glitter.

Almost there!

Now you have to let it dry for a good while.  Then take a stiff, thin brush like this one...
Brush to brush 

...and gently brush away the random, spare glitter.  Now you have your finished product.  I think it is beautiful if I do say so myself.  I will feel great giving this gift and comfortable for once taking the praise I hope it will receive.

Beautiful, personalized gift!

Lastly, I want to say how much extra time it took to turn this project into a blog.  I am very grateful for Nancy’s hard work each week.  I had no idea how much it took to document a simple process.  Thanks for the blog and thanks for letting me guest!
Well, that was a great project, Crystal!  Thank you and you're welcome for being my guest blogger!  I love how the last pic has one glitter piece that is giving the little "bling" wink to everyone.  Let me know how everyone makes out with this clever project.
Anyone is welcome to guest blog, just email me and I can tell you what I need from you.  :-)