This is a cowl I made with some bulky yarn from KnitPicks. I used the pretty “Tell Me” cowl pattern by DROPS design, but changed it around a bit to use the bigger yarn. I just did fewer repeats. It worked up very fast and is soft and cozy. Wearing great big, chunky cowls feels a a trend mostly embraced by women younger than me, so the first time I wore this out in public I felt a little self-conscious. But then I got hit on by someone slightly younger than me at the Subway, so there you go. Crochet this cowl, get hit on at Subway by slightly younger men who can clearly see that you are toting around three children and have a wedding ring. Hmmm.
I’ve been experimenting with a recipe that has been circulating on the Internet. It promises an easy meal or party food in the form of hot ham and cheese rolls. Sounds good to me! When I first saw the link (for some reason this recipe is haunting both my Facebook and Pinterest feeds) I didn’t bother to click on it, but set about making some immediately with ingredients in my fridge. I made a batch of bread dough in my bread machine, rolled it out, layered ham and mozzarella cheese, rolled, sliced, and baked. My oldest daughter just about lost her mind when she tasted my first batch–thought I’d fed her dessert for lunch. They were pretty good, but they were doughy in the middle and didn’t contain enough ham (I didn’t have a full package on hand) and probably contained too much cheese.
For round 2 I actually clicked on the recipe link but was disappointed to see that it involved refrigerated pizza dough in a can, which is a category of food product we don’t eat at my house. (I’m not being judgy. I don’t care if you eat it. We just don’t, and because we’re already at home all morning doing school it is reasonable for me to make dough on my own.) But it also included a yummy-sounding glaze made with mustard and butter and some other things, and sliced Swiss cheese, which sounded a little more flavorful and tidier to slice than the shredded mozzarella that had gone into my first batch. So I tried it again, this time using homemade pizza dough and the glaze. I thought these were yummy, though with the glaze they did start to feel more like a party food and less like the lunch than what I was hoping for out of this recipe. My daughter was very disappointed because she a) didn’t like the glaze, b) didn’t like the much less doughy pizza dough, and c) didn’t like the Swiss cheese as well. The younger kids weren’t impressed either, and I was basically forced to eat a whole pan of party-worthy ham and cheese rolls myself, which honestly wasn’t much of a hardship.
Enter round 3! This time I went back to bread dough, but made up a smaller batch so that when I rolled it out there would be less of it. I used shredded mozzarella but measured it so I knew I’d be getting a reasonable amount, and I brushed the whole thing with butter and sprinkled it with a little bit of seasoning at the end instead of a glaze. These were awesome! My daughter and I both thought this round was great, and I’m glad to have another lunch trick up my sleeve. These feel really decadent on a cold day but aren’t difficult to make and are nutritionally similar to a regular old ham and cheese sandwich on homemade bread. (No nutritional powerhouse here, obviously, but it could be worse. We use all-natural ham and ate them with a side of fruit!) Out of curiosity I used an online calculator to figure out the calorie content and found out that there are 210 calories per butter-brushed roll, made using the recipe below, in case you care.
1 cup water
2 TB butter
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 cup bread flour
2 TB dry milk
1 TB sugar
2 tsp yeast
1 package deli ham
1 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 TB melted butter
1 tsp Penzey’s sandwich sprinkle, or seasoning of choice, if desired
Place all dough ingredients in a bread machine pan (liquids first) and set for dough cycle. If not using a bread machine, make a bread dough using the ingredients above however you usually do it and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
After the dough is done preheat the oven to 375 and roll the dough out into a rectangle shape. (It’ll be about 18″ by 12″.) Arrange one package of all-natural deli ham evenly over the dough, sprinkle the ham evenly with the cheese, and roll it all up on the long side. Using a serrated knife cut the log in half, cut each half in half, and then cut each fourth into thirds to make 12 even rolls. Place in 4 rows of 3 rolls in a 9×12 glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle any shredded cheese that fell out when you were slicing evenly over the rolls. Brush the rolls with the melted butter and sprinkle with the seasoning if you wish. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.
Sometimes projects are inspired by different things. This project came about because I had earrings with no outfit to go with them. It’s all well and good for me to watch PBS dramas, lust after the costumes, then see show-inspired earrings on Amazon.com while innocently browsing for something reasonable like homeschool workbooks, then to add them to my wishlist, and to actually receive them for Christmas (in 2014)…but it’s another thing altogether to find something in this Kentucky homeschool mama’s closet to wear with Downton Abbey earrings. So crocheted a shawl to go with them! I used Andean Treasure yarn from Knitpicks for the first time, and it will not be the last. I loved, loved, loved this yarn. It may be my favorite yarn I’ve ever used. It’s soft and delicious, the color was so complex and beautiful (I used midnight heather), it didn’t split, it didn’t grow when I blocked it, and it doesn’t appear to be pilly. Wow! The pattern was nice too. I like the patterns by DROPS design; they are clearly written without over-explaining and they have clear charts. This pattern, 104-11 Crochet scarf, is mostly just a chart but it makes good sense. The result looks more complicated than the crocheting. I didn’t love the look of the ends of the scarf so I sewed mine together to make a loop. It’s quite possible that now I need a cup of tea and a Downton Abbey jeweled pin to go with it…
This project was inspired by a bout of lusting after all the clothes in Sundance Catalog. All the nice (expensive) basics in that catalog seem to be just good quality but ordinary things with a creative twist that make them unique and special. I was at Costco after drooling over that catalog one day and I saw this pink sweater, which looked to me like something the catalog would have sold, but with cute embroidery along the front and at a markup of about 400%. So I bought the sweater for $29.99 and decided it wouldn’t hurt to try and give it the twist myself. I used Curio yarn from Knitpicks and some instructions from this booklet because I am absolutely not a person who knows how to hand embroider. I had to pick out at least as many motifs as I stitched on, but I was happy with the final product. I probably should have practiced some stitching on something that wasn’t my sweater first, but I didn’t, and really it turned out fine. One of my concerns with this project was how well it would wash, but I did launder it on gentle and hung it to dry and it doesn’t seem worse for wear. I’ve been keeping a Pinterest page now of “plain sweater rehab” ideas, so maybe I’ll do this again on a thrift store cardigan or even a tee. It’s always fun to learn a new crafty skill! I’m amazed by the lovely embroidery that some people can do; I hope to learn how to do it better.
Daphne needed new mittens, and shouldn’t a girl who gets new mittens get a hat to go with them? I used the Little Scallops pattern for the hat, but chose unwisely because the tidy little scallops were obliterated by the identical color pooling from the variegated yarn I used on the crown. Oh well! It’s still cute enough, and she’s happy and warm. This was really cheap acrylic yarn I got on sale from KnitPicks and it’s not impressive so I’m glad I didn’t pay much for it. I thought it would be similar in quality to their Brava yarn, but instead it was rougher and duller. That said, it made pretty good mittens for a 2-year-old because it is cheerful, it washed up reasonably soft, it’s warm, it hasn’t pilled, and it launders nicely.
My son is a big guy. Born at 9 lbs 5 oz, he’s stayed at the top of the growth chart ever since. His pediatrician says he’ll be 6 feet 2 inches if he sticks to the curve he’s been on since birth; my husband says if that’s true we won’t be able to afford to feed him! One of the side-effects of his impressive growth is that he can’t wear anything I make him for more than a season. When I realized that none of his other hats came down to his ears I knitted (knooked) a wool hat and mittens for him to match his blue and orange jacket. I used basic Patons yarn. He was so excited when he found out that the item on my needles was for him that he pestered me like a fiend until I finished the hat (thankfully, only a day or two–these were quick projects and slow, cold days). When I started the mittens I hid them so he wouldn’t know to harass me, but sooner or later he noticed the telltale blue and orange. Thankfully those were quick knits too! He has endowed these mittens with magical properties and wears them around in the house all the time as part of some game his has invented, which is sweet but also a little annoying because then he can’t find them when he needs them. He also played a game with the hat that involved spinning it around and around on his hands like pizza dough and it is now so badly stretched out that it’s never going to fit properly again. But it only took a couple days, right?
Washed out photo courtesy of my husband, who wasn’t allowed to tough the dials on my camera and thus can’t really be blamed that I didn’t have it on the right settings! It’s hard to get photographs of projects that are worn by me!
If you follow me on Pinterest, you may have noticed that I have been pinning crocheted jewelry like crazy. I love to pin it, but I’d only ever tried to make it once as a gift. In the after-Christmas lull I decided to finally try out a couple ideas for myself. I have a stash of Curio yarn from Knitpicks because buying whole spools of cotton crochet thread at a Knitpicks sale is cheaper than trying to buy enough tiny little wads of embroidery floss to keep my bracelet-happy nine-year-old in business. (Especially when she has a mother who raids her stash for her own projects!) I made two pieces of lace, then starched them lightly with some watered-down Stiffy (not the Stiffy again!). The gray one was very hard to block. I had trouble getting all the points even, and then maybe I didn’t stiffen it quite enough because it still got a little misshapen when I was wearing it. I tied the gray piece with a small silver ribbon. I wore this on New Year’s Eve and when I came down with it on my oldest daughter said, “what did you tie around your neck?” So there you go. But in all honesty, I kind of like it in spite of its problems. The red one blocked much better although I’m not sure the shape of it lends itself quite as much to being a necklace. I attached it to black metal chain with jump rings.
Today I’m sharing a couple gifts I made before Christmas. These were mitts I knitted (knooked) for my mother. They were for her birthday in November, but as is occasionally the case with handmade gifts they were a couple weeks late. (Because nothing says, “I love you Mom!” like exactly one knitted glove, right? Oops.) Mom was gracious about the wait. I made these out of sock yarn though the pattern called for heavier. I find that my gauge in knooking is often a little large when the pattern calls for ribbing or something with a lot of stretch. But these worked up quite nicely in the sock yarn, and they’ll be warm and washable. I used the Vineyard Lace Fingerless Gloves pattern and thought it was a good one, but wasn’t sure my choice of yarn showed off the design to its best advantage.
This is a long sleeve shirt I painted. I did one for each of my two nieces, personalized with their initials. I sketched the laurel wreath design on freezer paper, then cut it out to make a stencil. To make the letters I just printed off the lettering I wanted and traced them in good light. As always, I used Martha Stewart craft paint, which works very well and knit shirts and washes quite nicely.
I made printed napkins this year as holiday hostess gifts and gifts for friends. I bought several dozen cloth napkins from an eBay seller because I could not have made such nice napkins so affordably myself. I carved several simple Christmas tree and star shapes out of carving rubber, used a brayer to apply fabric paint to the stamps, and then transferred the stamps to the napkins. Stamping the napkins took a little longer than I’d envisioned, in part because I had to find space all over my house for several dozen painted napkins to dry and in part because the paint was messy business and I frequently had to stop to wash the stamps and the brayer, but I was pleased with the results. They are uneven and blotchy and very homemade looking, but I kind of like that about them. I kept a set for myself too!
I also helped the kids make reindeer napkins for their grandparents. The reindeer face is made by the side of my son’s fist, the eyes are Dorothy’s fingerprints, and red nose is Daphne’s thumbprint. I carved the date and the antlers out of carving rubber. Actually, because I’m an idiot, I first carved the date exactly as I wanted it to appear on the napkin, which of course makes it appear backwards when printed. Oops! But the second time I got it right. These napkins were a big hit and I will enjoy using them at my in-laws’ home during Christmas celebrations of the future.
I try not to miss out on opportunities to dress my three kids alike while they are still willing. It does get a bit harder, though, as they get older and their ages more diverse. This year I chose red t-shirts for all three (Children’s Place offered free shipping on all orders for months last summer/fall. Wish they’d kept that up!) and created ornament shapes out of a gender-neutral striped print. I machine embroidered their names on the front and then attached the ornaments to the shirts with fusible web and zig-zagged around them with the sewing machine. I bought Daphne an adorable tutu made by an Etsy crafter, but sadly she refused to ever wear it again after the picture. So I guess I have a used Christmas tutu for sale! The shirts, at least, got worn many times over the holiday season by all three kids and I used these cute pictures for my holiday cards.