Saturday, September 30, 2006


You know when you buy something at a garage sale and you're not quite sure it's going to fit, but you decide to take a chance, because, hey, it's only a few bucks. Then you get home and it doesn't really fit, or you discover the zipper is broken, or there's a big stain you missed. Well, today was NOT one of those days!

At the second of three garage sales I hit today I found a gorgeous, J Crew, tags-still-on-it (regular $135, on sale $49.99) dress. This dress is so me: strapless black satin sheath with a wide pink satin ribbon around the waist and bow. (Someday, when I get to have a craft room/office I want it to be pink and black with posters of Audrey Hepburn, especially from Breakfast at Tiffany's.) Anyway, it was a size 4, but not a petite, and she wanted $5 but I got down to $4. Then I got home and it fits me like it was custom made for me. I could hardly contain myself! And we have a wedding next weekend that I wasn't sure what to wear to. Problem solved. Here's a photo of me wearing it with the armoire that it took me two years to find in the background. Finally found it at Room and Board. I love that place.

So my other finds of the day pale in comparison but I'll share them anyway: At Sale #2, I also got a box of funky, vintage-look cards for $2 and a bamboo-type purse handle for $1. At the final sale I stopped at, I got about a dozen sage green binders for $1. They seem old; the cover feels like leather but it's not. I hope to organize something in them. Not sure what, but couldn't pass them up for the price, and I like the green color.

Finally, at my first sale, dubbed an "estate sale" on Craig's List though it really wasn't, I got some nice jewelry: this really long strand of jet beads (my mom has a similar one, I think, and I got some matching earrings from her) and a pair of silver and blue stone earrings. Total: $5. Sorry the picture is so blurry. So, all in all, a pretty successful day. I think I spent $15 total, including the $2 Starbucks coffee. And I have a new favorite dress.

Friday, September 29, 2006

WIP Friday: I believe

Last night I had dinner with a new friend, Chris, whom I met through a mutual friend who knew we had a lot in common. Which we do: we've both written spiritual books, we've both gone through infertility, we're both considering adoption. We had some nice Thai food, and as women do, just jumped right in and shared our lives. I can tell she is a very smart, deeply spiritual woman. (She recounted the bibilical story of Samuel for me!) But, in addition to picking up the check for dinner, the greatest gift she gave me last night was that she reminded me of my own faith. These days I tend to think I don't have much, but Chris said, "I've read your adoption blog. You have faith that these children are coming." I argued with her and said that some days I really didn't, but as I walked home I realized that she was mirroring to me something I had forgotten about myself. That's a real gift. And sometimes it takes a stranger to do it for you.

For my WIP Friday project, I'm sharing more evidence of that faith, I guess. This is a blanket I'm knitting for my son, whom I originally thought might be joining our family in a few months, though now it looks like summer would be a reasonable guess. But I haven't stopped working on his blanket. It's at about 10 inches now, and although I'm almost through the first skein of yarn, I'm not quite half done. I could always buy a third skein, if I want it bigger. I love this pattern, with the diamonds. It's from a vintage book of my mother's, from which she knit me a sweater when I was baby. In retrospect, I should have gone for nicer yarn. Instead I tried to use up some cheapo yarn from my stash (I'm trying to use up all the cheapo yarn!) because I liked the color and it was washable. But I can tell I'm quickly getting to the point where cheapo yarn will not be a part of my knitting life anymore!

I took this photo outside to get some natural light and learned that the NPR weather report was correct. It's in the 30s out there! (But in true Chicago fashion, it's supposed to be 80 by Monday. If you don't like the weather, stick around a few days.) I'm feeling a bit better this morning, probably because I tried my mom's home cold remedy: rubbed Vicks Vaporub on the bottoms of my feet and put on wool socks before bed, then drank whiskey (it was supposed to be Jameson's but all I had was Jim Beam) in boiling water with lemon (only had lime juice) and honey (used Sweet and Low!) I'm still coughing a bit a congested, but definitely on the mend. Speaking of my mother, she just posted some great photos of all her bead knitting on her blog. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Buttoned up

After seeing it on someone else's blog (I can't remember where because I've read so many in the past few weeks), I decided to sort the buttons I bought in Wisconsin by color. I had this little plastic container already. Handy-dandy! Though I think I will probably put the white ones in a jar and use that section of the container for purple or metallic or something.

I may share some of these buttons in what will be my first swap I'm participating in. It's a craft supplies swap, so I see it as a good chance to get rid of some surplus supplies to someone who might appreciate them. I've avoided swaps in the past because I don't need more stuff, and right now can't handle any more responsibilities on my to-do list, but I have been impressed with the generosity and creativity in the many swaps I've seen shared on blogs. This craft supplies swap is sponsored by Thrifty Goodness (details here). You need to sign up by October 1. C'mon, Aunt Pat, this has your name written all over it!

I've been fighting this cold that lots of other bloggers seem to have, too. It's been two days of chicken soup and hot tea. Hopefully I'll be on the mend soon. It's definitely slowing me down. I was supposed to go to the Cubs/Brewers game tonight, but just didn't feel well enough to sit outside in the chilly air. Oh well. It's football season anyway...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Wisconsin purchases

Picture this: After two days in the woods, packing up our wet tent and other gear, backpacking two miles back to the car--did I mention that we hadn't even brushed our teeth?--I convince my sweet husband to stop 1.) at the cute farm produce stand where we buy apples, apple cider, homemade deep-fried doughnuts, Wisconsin-themed food gifts for his brother and sister-in-law, whom we will visit next month in Kentucky, and nice hot coffee; 2) at a little out-of-the-way (meaning not totally on the main drag from Chicago to Door County) antique shop where I find the above button collection and apron (with apples and wooden spoon design!) and finally 3) at McDonald's where he buys lunch, I brush my teeth and we both get a pumpkin off a wagon (with an honor box) for $2.

Now, I know I paid too much for these buttons. They were marked $15 and I got them for $13. But it was not only a nice full tin, but it had a separate bag of all these sparkly rhinestone ones, plus a bunch still on cards. I would have liked to pay $10 but this lady drove a hard bargain. The apron was $2.

Btw, I did not get any knitting done at jury duty today, and I barely escaped having to serve on a murder trial that looks like it will last at least a week. Twenty-eight of us spent four long hours being questioned, then the lucky 14 of us got to go home and not have to come back. I've had to report to jury duty several times before, but never gotten this close to being selected. My stomach was hurting as soon as I heard it was a murder trial. It scares me to have someone's life in my hands like that, and I couldn't stop glancing over at the defendant, who sat so still and never moved a muscle the whole afternoon. I kept feeling guilty for wanting to get out of it (I have a busy week at work, plus adoption paperwork to do, and a doctor's appointment this week, too), but then realizing how serious this trial really is: someone died, and now this man may pay for the crime. I'll have to see if I can follow the trial and see how it turns out.

Woodsy knitting

Oh, don't I look good after two days without a shower! My mom always says that knitting is the best craft/hobby because it's so portable, and she's right. I even took along my mini mitten project on a two-day camping trip to Door County, Wisconsin, this past weekend. And this is pack-your-gear-two-miles-from-the-car kind of camping. Still, I found room for knitting.

This is the third year we've stayed at Site #8 at Newport State Park, although we usually go in the summer. The first year a racoon ransacked our site and hissed by our tent; the second year we had a torrential thunder and lightening storm the last night, which resulted in about four inches of water between the tarp and the tent floor (like a waterbed!). This year, we lucked out. Rain was forecast the whole weekend, but we only had showers Saturday night (no thunder and lightening!) It was very relaxing: we hiked (see autumn leave-strewn path at left), read (I finally started The Time Traveler's Wife), and I knit, of course.

On the way home, Ed was kind enough to stop at one antique store that was a little off the beaten path. I found a few things and will post them later this evening. For now, I'm off to jury duty today--where I also plan to bring my knitting (and laptop. I have a story to write). What a wonderful way to spend my second wedding anniversary! And Ed has class tonight, so I may not even see him till 10 p.m. We plan to celebrate later this week, with a nice dinner at Reza's, the Middle Eastern restaurant where we had our reception. And of course he had a nice camping vacation. I'll leave you with the view from our tent, the morning after the rain.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Autumn comes...

One of the things I've loved about reading so many knitting and craft blogs over the past weeks is that so many blogger really pay attention to the change of seasons. Nearly everyone has mentioned the coming of autumn. One tried the old balance-an-egg trick. Remember that? Some are still trying to hang onto the end of summer. But most are noticing the change in the air and preparing their houses and themselves (and in one case their cell phones!) for the new season.

The change of seasons has always been spiritually meaningful for me. The cycle of seasons mirrors the life-death-new life cycle that my faith teaches me and that I see in everyday life. Fall has always been my favorite season, perhaps because as a student I always loved the new beginnings of a new school year. My heart also just really connects with the beauty of autumn's colors and even with the sadness in the leaves' passing. I think people who have experienced a lot of grief in their lives often connect with fall.

In a region like the Midwest, you never know when fall has really arrived. You wear a wool sweater one day, and the next day it's 90 degrees. But, for me, at some point I make the decision to leave summer behind and embrace the next phase of my life. And I make it official by doing the summer/winter clothes switch.

Yes, even though I have a nice large walk-in closet (made by knocking out a wall between two smaller ones) filled with lovely closet organizers, I can only fit half of my clothing in it. So twice a year, I have to haul about a half dozen blue Rubbermaid bins up from our storage unit in our condo's basement, unpack those, repack the previous season, and rehang all my clothes.

This is my pile of summer clothes piled on my bed. For a person who lives in a region where you get only a few months of weather where it's possible to wear a sundress (three, max), I have way too many summer clothes. (In fact, now that we're saving for our adoption and for the expenses of children afterward, I'm on a clothes buying moratorium. Seriously, I bet I've bought less than one item a month, if that. And that includes underwear! It's not a problem: I have enough to last me for years.)

The "before and after" of my closet is dramatic, no? I emptied out all the summer clothes but left in my purse bins (and that's my sewing machine on the floor on the left. It gets tucked behind pants; no wonder I don't use it much!) Once filled, I have pants and short skirts on the bottom left, blouses on the top left, dresses and long skirts in the middle, and a very high shoe rack on the right. Some sweaters go down the left on shelves, but most are around the two top shelves.

Thanks to extra high ceilings (since we're on the top floor), we had room for two levels of shelves, which are packed to the brim. I have sweaters (organized by color. I know, I'm a freak), my antique hat collection (in boxes, would love to display them some day), and on the right you can see my craft supplies in plastic bins. Oh, how I envy those of you who have a whole room!

I'm a knitting designer!

One of the first knitting blogs I ever read was Just Another Day. The writer, "Creative Genius," eventually started an online knitting magazine called For the Love of Yarn. Yesterday she asked me to write up my mini-mitten pattern and submit it for their October issue. I was so flattered!!!! I'm such a newbie and this is really my first pattern. I'll be sure to let you all know when it runs. Here are the mittens I started embellishing last night with green felt and buttons. What do you think?

A good friend stopped by my office yesterday and brought me these lovely fall flowers to cheer me up. I am so lucky to have such wonderful friends who care so much about me. What shocks me is that I've also made some wonderful friends out in blog-land. So many people from knitting, craft and adoption blogs have been following our trials and tributions of trying to make a family and have been so supportive. Thank you to everyone. It really means a lot.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Felting sweaters

I decided the red knit mini mitten ornaments needed some embellishment. As cute as they are plain, they would be even cuter jazzed up a bit. That's how I ended up buying nine sweaters at the Salvation Army thift shop.

Here's what happened: I started thinking it would be cool to embellish with little green felt holly leaves and red beads for berries. I could knit up some green wool and felt it, but why not try to felt an old sweater? I've always wanted to try that.

So, excited that I still have my neighbor's van, I decided to take a few bags of our old clothes and other donations to the Salvation Army on Montrose and Broadway and shop for sweaters, then round out my night of errands with a trip to the Jewel that's right there.

I hit total paydirt. I couldn't believe how many cool 100% wool sweaters I saw--each for less than $3, some only $1. Here's three patterned ones that I thought would be cool felted (note the really beautiful metal clasps on the middle one. Unfortunately I've decided I like this one as a sweater so may not felt it.) I already felted the other two and they turned out great!

I usually don't felt at home because I have a front-loading washer and can't stop it to check the felting process. But for these cheap sweaters, I decided to give it a try. I just ran them through a hot load with a pair of jeans and a tiny bit of soap. The green/blue/burgandy one from the first photo looked great after one cycle. The black one could use a second one. That's what I did with the forest green one, which got super tiny with tight fibers. I can't wait to cut out the holly embellishments. I also picked up a solid lavender Old Navy sweater and another nordic print, although this one didn't have a label. Even if it's not 100% wool, it was worth the $2 for seven of these really nice silver metal buttons.

In the linen department and found two darling yellow gingham pillowcases, with ruffles (45 cents), and I immediately thought of the pattern for pillowcase dresses forlittle girls. I'll save these for that. A final linen find was this cute kitchen towel (75 cents) with a rolling pin design, which has total apron potential, if I even get around to actually getting my machine out to sew. We'll see.

Finally, even though my closet is packed to the brim with sweaters I couldn't pass up these two grey ones: the far left is a wool Ann Taylor cardigan and was $2 and the middle one is a super heavy fisherman's sweater from Ireland. It was $1.50. Then this little pink top (Nine West) accidentally jumped into my cart (for $3). I'm a sucker for pink.

Mini mitten ornament pattern

A request has been made for the pattern for the mini mitten ornament. Here it is:

I use Size 4 double-pointed needles and worsted weight red wool yarn.

Cast on 20 stitches. Divide among three needles.
K2P2 for five rows.
K three rows.
Put three stitches on holder, CO 3 stitches.
K 12 rows.
K2tog for one row. Knit a row. K2tog another row and draw needle through remaining stitches and secure.

Thumb: Pick up 4-5 stitches around the thumb opening.
K 7 rows.
K2tog for two rows. Draw needles through stitches and secure.

Weave in ends, except for one at base of ribbing. Make two mittens and tie two ends of yarn together.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I still knit

Despite my renewed excitement over thrifting, I'm still knitting. I finished the first set of mitten ornaments. I decided against I-cord (it was too thick) and just tied the yarn ends together. Aren't they cute? Only 19 more pair to go. Luckily this project is very portable. I may even take it to this adoption program we're going to this afternoon.
(Sorry for the bad photo.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Have car, will thrift

In an ultimate act of thriftiness, my husband and I decided to try to live without a car almost 5 years ago. So far that's worked for us, although we are planning to purchase my parents' Toyota Camry when their new Camry hybrid comes in. Just in time for baby. So when I have access to a car (we rent one to go out of town and occasionally borrow one from friends), I'm psyched. This weekend, thanks to our generous neighbor going on a trip to Hawaii, we had access to his van, what he calls his "city car" (ie, he's not bummed when someone dings it or keys it, and parts of it are held together with duct tape!) So I decided to hit garage sales where I normally couldn't go. On Craig's List, I saw an estate sale in Winnetka (fancy North Shore suburb). Did I get a few dirty looks while driving in this!

This is the 8-bedroom house where the estate sale was, which was nothing special in this neighborhood. To be honest, I used to love driving up Sheridan Road to see the mansions, but this time I was uncomfortable. I stopped at a garage sale on the way and the lady was selling simple stuff (like a wooden mirror that looked like it was from Pier 1) for $50. There's just too much wealth up here, and as I dream about a SFH (single family home) where we might raise our family, I'm thinking more of a tiny bungalow in the city than a mansion in Kennilworth (not that the latter was ever an option!)

Anyway, despite an advertisement of a house full of stuff and arriving 15 minutes before it "started." the place had clearly been cleaned out already by the professionals. All that was left was some paintings, furniture and rugs and few things in the kitchen. I saw a fabric covered box that was pretty and discovered it was full of jewelry. As soon as I opened it and started going through it, I attracted a bunch of other buyers. But I got first choice. I picked out 7-8 things and asked for prices. Originally told it was "inexpensive, maybe $5 or $10 apiece," the check-out lady quoted $20 for the necklace and bracelet set, and $5 for the blue stone necklace. I offered $20 for all three and left the rest (nothing special). Not a huge bargain, but I really love the cuff bracelet (I have a similar pink one from my mom). But this set has a really cool luminescent shine. And the necklace has a nice invisible clasp in which a post just inserts into one of the beads. I wore this already tonight to the Goodman Theater's production of King Lear--a Christmas gift from my sister and her husband, and a lovely night out. (Stacy Keach in the title role was excellent, and it was a very modern, interesting adaptation of the Shakespeare.)

I stopped at a few more garage sales up in the North Shore (lesson: fancy suburb does not equal good stuff, or bargains), then saw an antique fair in a church parking lot in Wilmette. Since I rarely get to go to my favorite antique fair in Sandwich (see "no car" above), I decided to stop. There were some good things there: one woman from Michigan had cool vintage clothing, notions, aprons, etc. Unfortunately I lost her flyer with contact info. I was hoping she had a blog or website! Her prices were not astronomical, but weren't the cheapest either. Of course, she has to make a living. Then I saw one huge vintage jewelry booth that had bins of less expensive items. I dug through the pin bin, picked out five, marked a total of $13, and offered $10. Don't you love the little scissors? My favorite is the pink dress. The one in the top left is a dress piece that can be sewn on. I plan to put most of them on felted purses, I think.

Finally, I stopped at one last garage sale in Skokie (where there were lots of Orthodox Jews out walking from temple. I think today is Yom Kippur.) This sale had lots of baby stuff, but luckily I'm pretty set for the big stuff. So I got two pair of shoes for Sam for $1. You can see them here. All in all, a decent day, although I have to say I prefer my bike. No traffic.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Thrifty me

In keeping with the Christmas theme, I thought I'd share this new/old (new to me, probably dating to the 50s?) Christmas apron. Let me tell you the story of how I came to buy an old apron.

The past several months I have been really depressed. Our adoption has has lots of problems (and even those of you who don't read my adoption blog are probably tired of this same old story). Anyway, one of the things that takes my mind off of all this is knitting--and creative endeavors in general. I remember when I was going through my divorce, so many years ago, I sought the help of a counselor who asked me to name things I enjoyed doing that might help me survive the pain. Crafting was one of them, but it was also one of the things my ex-husband said made me "boring." As you can see, he's now gone. And I'm still crafting.

The problem is I've been so &*^% busy with work that I haven't had much time for creativity (and not even much creativity at work either, as I'm doing more "managing" than "editor" these days). Last month, I decided to try to change some of that. I took a few Fridays off and worked on a scrapbook (my first!) of our pictures from France. It's not done yet, but it felt great!

Then last weekend I decided to start a Christmas craft (see post below). In the process of trying to find a knit mitten ornament on the Internet, I happened upon a blog that was a combination of crafting and thrifting. I was hooked! I read for hours and hours, using her links and more links. You know how that goes?

Just like when I first discovered knitting blogs, I found this incredible, seemingly endless community of super creative women. That first blog was Thrifty Goodness. She's listed at a new set of links at right, which I'm sure I will be addding to. Others include My house is cuter than yours, Wee wonderfuls, Vacuuming in high heels and pearls (I especially love her Vintage pillowcase dress for little girls), The art of finding, Thift Shop Project, Soulemama and Apron Thrift Girl.

One thing I love about these women is how they embrace their domesticity. Now, the feminist in me has a healthy fear of domesticity, but I also love the domestic arts (except cooking. That one hasn't stuck yet). Most of these women are stay-at-home moms, which I don't plan on doing, but many of them are doing their crafts as a business. They inspire me.

So yesterday, when I had a really bad day, adoption-wise, I decided to go hit a thrift shop. Now I already have tons of shall we say "vintage" items in my home, most of them "purchased" from my grandmother's closet and basement. I'll post more of those in the days to come. But I haven't really done die-hard thrifting in awhile. So I stopped at thift shop near church on the way to my parish council meeting and found this cool apron. The shop is going out of business so everything was 50% off, so I got it for $1. YEA! I also got this not-so-vintage Ann Taylor leather purse for $8.

So look for some more posts on my vintage finds. I'm so inspired by these creative women who take old fabric and make it into funky new things for themselves, their children, and their homes. The domestic goddess has been released!

Four little kittens have lost their mittens...

During most of the summer, there was a part of me that thought I might be doing my Christmas shopping in Vietnam, so I didn't spend any time pondering a possible idea for all the people on my list (aunts, godparents, godchildren's families, really close friends) whom I usually send a small handmade gift. I have about 15-20 of them. Last year I made these cool coasters out of tiles that I stamped on. (I'll have to get a photo to post.) When I'm smart, I get started on those gifts in late summer or early fall.

Well, I know for sure that I will not be in Vietnam before Christmas; in fact, I'd be lucky if I'm there before NEXT Christmas (feeling negative today). So this weekend I started thinking Christmas. I decided it'd be fun to knit something, but what to give a whole family (so can't be an individual item of clothing)? And what wouldn't take too long to knit? I decided on an ornament and eventually picked a mitten, since they are so darn cute. I found a few pattersn on the internet, including one super-mini one knit on dpns. It's the one on the far right. Then I altered the pattern to make it bigger and got the one on the left. On my third try, I got the second smallest, and eventually perfected it with pretty red wool on Try #4.

The plan is to knit two, and attach them with tiny I-cord so it looks like the mittens on a string you had when you were a kid so you didn't lose them. If you do the math, that means I have about 40 mittens to knit in the next couple months. But no worries: it only takes me about an hour or so to do one. Although I do suspect I'll get quite bored after awhile. I can alway switch to baby sweaters...

That reminds me: When I was borrowing my mom's computer I saw this link on her favorites: Here's a countdown to Christmas: only 101 days!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Clean slate

Over at Puns R Us (AKA my decorating blog), I've posted "What's it all a-grout?"--my description of a combo crafting/decorating project I recently finished. I thought I'd cross=post, under the assumption that many knitters are also interested in other crafts. (True?) Anyway, this cool slate tiled plant stand is my first stab at tiling and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. I'm hoping it will be the beginning of a long love affair with mosaics. I love the feel of tile, the patterns and colors. And it seems there are lots of surfaces that are screaming for a little deocration with pieces of tile, china, glass, etc. The only downside: these supplies are a lot heavier and bulkier to store than yarn.

Lincoln's Mommy

My friend Kristin got two kinds of showers today: a wonderful baby shower hosted by her friend Maria down in Beverly on the South Side of Chicago, and a few rain sprinkles, too. The shower was a lovely celebration, with unreal Mexican food, a nice ritual of creating a birthing necklace for Kristin, and of course lots of cool presents. Handknit gifts are always a hit, and Kristin loved little Lincoln's sweater, hat, booties, and teddy bear. I also got to learn how to use the Barbie Vtech computer with Maria's little girls Mattie and Lilly. I've got that dolphin game down pat.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lincoln's Layette

OK, so I am a better knitter than I am photographer (although I have won a few awards for my photos stories, believe it or not, thanks to some great photo editing by the art director at my magazine). I obviously took this photo too close and the flash washed out the cute aqua green color of this sweater, booties, hat and teddy bear knit out of Watercolors yarn. This was my first "pieced together" sweater, and I have been saving it for my friend Kristin since I learned she was pregnant last winter.

She has had a whirlwind of a pregnancy: first trouble getting pregnant in the first place, then learning from genetic testing that the baby had a fatal abnormality, then learning that the first test (from cells in the amniotic fluid) probably referred to a twin who had already died. Tests of her son, named Lincoln Milagro (Spanish for miracle), show that he is fine and should join us next month. Her shower is tomorrow, so I wrapped these all up with a copy of my friend Barbara and Mary Ruth's book, "Midwives of an Unnamed Future," which is about how we all help each other give birth to different kinds of new life. Kristin is having a ritual at her shower in which we all share "birthings" from our life and string a bead on a necklace, which she will wear during labor. Hopefully I'll have photos after tomorrow.

Now back to the next baby sweater (for my brother- and sister-in-law's little girl, due in December).

Saturday, September 02, 2006

New project

Because of all the new hassles with our adoption (see my Dear Sam and Sophie blog here), I haven't had much time or energy to work on Sam's blanket. Plus I learned that my sister-in-law's due date is the beginning of December, not the end of December as someone had told me. So I started a baby sweater for her little girl today. It's the same sweater I've knit for two others, but in a nice soft white yarn.

Last night Ed and I went to a bbq at our friends Daniella and Jason's and we both got to hold and feed their 3-month-old, Max. He was so cute! Maybe it will feel better to focus on (and knit for) someone else's baby for awhile. I also have a baby shower next weekend, so I've got to finish up that teddy bear, which still needs stuffing.

Or maybe I need to stop knitting baby gifts and make something cool for myself. Any ideas?