Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Christmas in July

"So much in life is solved by walking..." (St. Augustine)

Back in January, I made a pledge to work on Christmas crafting all year long, so as to avoid the hectic holiday rush at the end of the year. Some people have even been doing a little Christmas every month (I think there's a cute name or a Flickr group for this but I can't remember where I saw it.) Anyway, I have not been doing a little Christmas every month, but I did do some this past weekend.

Remember these star boxes I made last year and filled with homemade toffee for my Women's Group friends? Well, I had six boxes left so I spray painted them silver in preparation for stamping so they'll be all ready for gift giving this year. I'd also like to get them all stamped and ready to go, but I didn't get that far.

That wasn't the only painting I did this weekend. I also painted the trim in my bathroom that my brother-in-law installed when he was here drywalling our kitchen ceiling (where he had hung new pendant lamps for us last year.) Tonight I have to caulk and then put everything back in the bathroom. It's been sitting in the hallway for two weeks.

Could Lynn who commented asking me if I was interested in joining her swap, please email me with your email address (it doesn't come with your comments unless you set your preferences that way. So, everybody, change your preferences!) Email me at schlumpfh (at) claretians (dot) org.

Today is my dad's birthday: Happy birthday! He's at the Brewers' game in Milwaukee. So is my mom, but she's not sitting with him (he's with his bowling team). She's sitting with her knitting friends for Stitch and Pitch! Speaking of Wisconsin, Ed and I are hoping to make it to the Wisconsin State Fair next weekend: cream puffs, cows, crafts, maple candy. Did I mention the cream puffs? They're famous and to die for!

UPDATE: The website is called Christmas in Progress (CIP).

Monday, July 30, 2007

New look

How do you like my new look? I used Blogger's new customizing software. The new Spiritual Knitter logo is compliments of my art director, who designed it in exchange for a recycled purse for his daughter!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

For Sam and Sophie

"we can never be born enough, / we are human beings; / for whom birth is a supremely welcome mystery, / the mystery of growing: / which happens only and whenever / we are faithful to ourselves." (Poet e.e. cummings, from the introduction to from new poems)

Thanks for all the "frogging" commiseration. The new sleeve is coming along. I'm having a very crafty weekend and will post some FOs later this week. Meanwhile I'm catching up with posting about the past few weeks. Here are some great garage sale finds for Sam and Sophie. I found these wooden toys (that's a play sandwich kit!) at a sale near the Old Town School Folk Fest a few weeks ago. $1 apiece. I love wooden toys! I know my house is destined to be full of plastic toys, but I hope to have our kids enjoy some more traditional toys too.

My mom found these adorable patent leather Mary Janes at a garage sale for $1. They look barely worn. They are a larger size, though, and I'm going to have to start putting older stuff in storage somewhere, as our future nursery is getting very crowded. Ed and I did a good cleaning in there on Friday and it looks much better. I still have to do more with my craft crap.
I keep meaning to mention movies we've been seeing. We finally saw Pan's Labyrinth, which was very good but I had a hard time with the violence. Also, I didn't realize it was subtitled, so was all ready to knit during it but then couldn't. Still, I was moved by the obvious Christian religious comparisons at the end.
Also, Godspell was on TCM last week. I sang the whole way through it: "Prepare Ye." "Day by Day," "By My Side," "Light of the World." Oh, it was the 70s all over again!
Coming soon: My loot from the world's scariest garage sale. Mom, can you email me the photo from your camera phone?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Rip it, rip it

"Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again." (Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness)

It took me a long time to figure out why some people called ripping out knitting "frogging." (See title above.) My mom calls it "tink"ing (knit spelled backwards. Get it?) Whatever you call it, I'm doing more of it than ever before in this project, a sweater for my niece. My sister-in-law bought such nice yarn, I want the sweater to be perfect. So I've torn out rows to fix boo-boos I would otherwise leave in.

And now I'm frogging two whole sleeves! When I went to make Sleeve #2, I realized that I hadn't cast enough stitches on intially (I did the number for the smaller size.) But my mom helped me decide that maybe if I blocked the first one to be a bit bigger, and made sure the second one was the same length as the first, I could get by. "As long as it fits the raglan," my mom said, and that bugged me until I got halfway through the second sleeve and realized it won't. So I ripped out that sleeve, and I will have to redo the first one as well. I guess this is why knitting teaches patience...

Since this is a blog of my creative pursuits, I thought I'd show what my dad, my husband, my brother-in-law and I made a few weeks ago: a path in the woods along the lake at my parents. So that we wouldn't have to carry all those big paver stones down the stairs to the lake, we loaded them onto the pontoon boat over at the boat launch, then boated them over to our dock and unloaded them. Then we laid them, making sure they're level, and filled in with stone. This was a big project my parents needed help with and we were happy to do it. We enjoy so many nice weekends at the lake there. I'm a hard-core city girl, but I love having a place to get away from the city, too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Summer lovin'

"What do I do now? / I listen to water / Falling / Into / the / Gentleness / Of being / Nothing / More / Than liquid sound. / And I, at last, / Want nothing / More." (W. Paul Jones, A Table in the Desert)

I wish I could say my summer has been as relaxing as that poem, but unfortunately the price I pay for "summer hours" (every Friday off) is excruciatingly long Mondays through Thursdays. Still, it's been nice to get away on Fridays. This past weekend we were at my parents' lake house in Wisconsin. We relaxed, took a pontoon boat ride, visited some garage sales, and took a ride in my dad's 1971 Volkswagon Beetle to the custard stand. Ah, summer!

Speaking of summer, I sent off my Sweet Goodness Summer Fun swap package last week, and hopefully by now Sarah should have received it. Have you, Sarah? The theme was orange and yellow, and we were supposed to do something special with the container. Here's a peek at mine. There were lots of goodies inside, including some for her son Jack. My handmade item was knit and definitely summery, but I forgot to take a picture of it, so I will have to refer to you to Sarah when she photographs her swap stuff.

The weekend before last Ed and I went out to the suburbs to take our Uzbeck friends swimming. Last year we were matched with a refugee family though World Relief and have fallen in love with this family of six (seven if you count Grandma). They used to live just a block from us, but now have moved to Wheaton. The four girls--Ruiza, Farida, Albina, and Songul--all went swimming with us at my sister's neighborhood pool in Aurora one Friday afternoon. Only one knew how to swim, so it was quite a crazy afternoon. This family is ethnically Turkish and their people are persecuted in Russia, where they lived before moving here. We have been inspired by how hard-working, friendly, generous and sweet this family has been. We really miss seeing them more regularly, but now that we have a car, we try to get out once a month or so. Thanks to my sister for preparing a nice lunch for them and helping me with them at the pool.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pretty Pyrex

All shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well. (St. Julian of Norwich)

I'm playing catch-up again, posting some finds from a garage sale outing from a few weeks ago. My friend Delia and I hit the sales in the Edgewater area, near our parish. We founds lots of great stuff before it started raining. At one sale I found one of the above Pyrex dishes, for $2, then at another sale later, I found the second, reverse one. Also $2.

One of the Pyrex sellers also had this small gold one, which matches a set I got earlier this year. I don't know why I like these old Pyrex bowls so much. I've clearly been influenced by others' love of them too.

This cool fabric is from two vintage dresses I bought from a guy for $1 each. I planned to cut them up, but think the brown and navy one I might be able to refashion into a skirt. We'll see. Need to put that on the project list.

I also got a one of those metal wheeled grocery carriers for $2, but we haven't used it yet and it's too big to store, so maybe that's a bust. I also bought a soft-sided wheeled cooler (above), which we've used twice even though it's a bit awkward to pull. It was $4.

This weekend I stopped at a few garage sales around the Old Town School of Folk Music Folk & Roots Fest (which is where I spent most of the weekend). I got some size 4 boys' clothes for my friend Karen's son, and two nice wooden toys for my growing collection. I love wooden toys, as opposed to plastic, which I know you have to learn to live with. I also got three of those "Baby Einsten" classical and world music CDs for $1. The woman said she never played them, and while I don't expect our kids to become classical music geniuses, they might enjoy them. Or at least I will.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Baby hats

"Begin to weave, and God will give you the thread." (German proverb)

I've been doing some knitting the past few weeks. Working on this sweater (and making good progress). I also knit up three little baby hats for some new babies. And I used this opportunity to try a few new variations on the basic, solid-color hat that I usually knit. First, I knit the little boy hat for my neighbor's new son named Constantine (yup, Greek). This time I knit a navy blue stripe in it, although in retrospect, I think it should have gone a bit higher on the hat.

(Yes, those hats are sitting on a Notre Dame blanket--I keep it in my office because the AC is so darn cold. And yes, though I'm not a yahoo, I am a Domer.)

Then I knit two smaller hats for a friend who just adopted two newborn twins (domestically). For them, I added two little pink flowers using this pattern. I also experimented with the decrease, using Yarn Harlot's suggestion of decreasing every 8, 7, 6, etc, until you K2tog. I like how it makes a spiral (unlike my mom's pattern that says decrease every 8, knit a row, then every 7, knit a row, etc.) It's not a great photo, but you can see the spiral. It also makes for a less cone-head type hat.

While knitting I've caught several good movies IFC. I love IFC. I can recommend: Tao of Steve, a romantic comedy, and Igby Goes Down, a coming of age film. Both are funny, and quirky, and either heartwarming or moving at the same time.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

4th of July

"The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?" (Spanish cellist Pablo Casals)

We had a little dinner party on Friday night--out on our little deck. (Thrifting content: That cute "tablecloth" is a bedspread or quilt top--not handmade, I don't think--that I got for $3.) I was so excited that our drop-leaf table fit on the deck, with a few borrowed chairs from our next door neighbor.

Attending were Lourdes and Jason (above), and Delia and Liam--both friends from my now-defunct women's spiritual book group. Lourdes is a yoga teacher; you can read all about her here. Delia and Liam both helped my husband get a part-time job as a kayak instructor. If you're intereted in canoing or kayaking the Chicago River, check this out.

The red-white-and-blue theme was carried out in my attire: vintage apron, of course.

I served my signature summer appetizer: crusy bread topped with olive oil, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil. The entrees were buffalo burgers (from Trader Joes) and portebello mushroom sandwiches for the vegetarians. I also served the cous-cous salad from my sister, grilled veggie kabobs, and a beautiful raspberry tart for dessert, which I forgot to take a picture of! It was a lovely night to dine outdoors, and fun to connect with friends.
On the actual July 4, we watched fireworks from the Bucktown roof deck of our friend Michael. In addition to being able to see all the western suburbs' fireworks, the downtown ones against the backdrop of the skyline, and many from surrounding neighborhoods, we also had two groups within a block of his building who must have spent thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on illegal fireworks. They were big, loud and almost a bit too close for comfort. Still, it was nice to see Dan and Linh, and to meet some cool people, including a woman who teaches Chinese at the Latin School and another family that has adopted two daughters from China.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Bias tape bib

"Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west." (Isaiah 43:5)

I finally decided to try sewing something besides a purse. I saw bibs on someone's website (can't remember whose) and they linked to this pattern. It looked easy enough, so I got out these remnants of kids' decorator fabrics I had gotten at the thrift store (for 40 cents) and found some matching blue bias tape in my stash. Then I remembered that some of my sister's kids' bibs had terrycloth on the back, so I cut out some from a matching towel.

But then when I went to sew it, after just pinning the bias tape and top stitching it, it looked awful! The bias tape was all uneven, and in the back, I didn't even catch it. So I took it all off, read a bit on the web about sewing with bias tape and started over. I sewed it on the back first, then folded it over and topstitched the top. It was better, but still looked bunchy in some corners (see above).

Anyone have any advice? I suspect it would be easier if I didn't have that heavy terrycloth in there. The bias tape on the pocket looks great, but then that is only one layer and there are no curves there. I would like to make some more of these, but they look too crappy like this. (I put a heavy duty snap on it, but that's also having a hard time holding through all the layers. Maybe velcro?)

Slightly good news on the adoption front: Our Vietnam agency made their first referral. That means nothing for us, except that one person ahead of us is no longer waiting. And of course we're happy for them! I may be neededing bibs sometimes soon.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Felt flower charms

"Learn to trust--that is the great thing. You realize that you do have to do your work, you have to provide all that you can, but also you have to learn to believe that Providence is going to provide all that you really need." (Father Bede Griffiths)

One nice thing about blogging is that I've really been stretched as a crafter. I see what others are doing and want to try it, and my own creative muse if piqued after an evening of reading about others crafty pursuits. Swaps are another way to be challenged. I signed up for a "fabric charm" swap organized by Dawn, having no idea what a fabric charm was or what I would make.

I knew I wanted to use felt (my fabric of choice--scraps of which are selling like hotcakes on etsy. They're almost all gone. Noone has sntached up the Christmas colors yet, though. I guess people aren't thinking that far ahead). Anyway, in the end I didn't do anything that creative: just a miniature version of the larger felt flower pins I've made. I used these cute vintage buttons I had gotten from Sarah in the vintage Christmas swap and sewed in a jump ring. I sent my five off on Monday and should be receiving five different ones from other swappers soon.

Speaking of swaps, I've been busy working on my Orange and Yellow swap for another Sarah. I made a trip to the Village thrift last week, found a perfect container, and am finishing up the handmade items. Unlike the fabric charm swap, I may even be early on this one!