Monday, December 29, 2014

She Cleans Up Nicely

Am I the only one who starts to feel like they're living in Santa's little sweatshop as the week before Christmas nears?  I think I'm usually more organized, although I fear a trip into the archives lest it proves me to be a disheveled human overall.

Anyway, the last 24 hours leading up to Christmas Eve were almost a nonstop sewing extravaganza complete with a near constant stream of scraps being thrown over my right shoulder.  (I noticed I only throw over my right shoulder and part of me wonders if that means something but I had no time to investigate.)

Christmas is no longer at my house since my kids are older now, so part of my holiday prep now involves loading up the car and checking my list sixty four million times to make sure no ones' gift is left behind.  No one was forgotten and except for a pair of partly finished slippers and a pair of not even started yet boot toppers, all was completed.  Our visit to family was a whole lot of fun and everyone seemed happy with their presents.  Whew!

When I got home Friday evening and went back up to my craft room, it was worse than I remembered.  To quote my older son, "Its a crapfest in here."  I assure you,  he was being kind.  There was not a flat surface that wasn't covered in something and that included the floor.  When the dog sniffed the floor, thread stuck to his nose.  Nothing productive could go on until this creative explosion was brought under control.

Since then, I have spent a portion of each day organizing things in a way that makes sense.  Future etsy shop projects live in one place, large pieces of fabric  are in their own bin, small scraps in  a separate one, you get the idea.  Its starting to come together, although yesterday my son son said, "Its still a crapfest in here."  I think I need another day or two.

Part of this process, is letting go of the things that you aren't going to ever use.  That's hard but made easier by the fact that I can take these items to a local reuse shop for others to enjoy.

I leave you with a peek at the tops of two quilts I made for Christmas.  (For heaven's sake, don't look at the floor!!!)  The first was for my niece, the second for my nephew.  The tops were made out of fabric I already had, a fair amount of it was clothing that had cool patterns but were no longer functional (too small, worn out, unfashionable, etc).

If you're inspired to use your scraps and some of them are t-shirts or other stretchy fabric, know that interfacing is your best friend.  How did I get along without this wondrous stuff?

Anybody else cleaning up their craft stash?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Handmade Holiday Gift Inspirations and a Shop Update

I finally got the shop updated.  I think it is more work to do that than to create the things in the shop.   I'd love to hear what you think.

I need to get back to my personal Christmas Projects but here are a few ideas to inspire you:

Try heading over to Sew Mama Sew for some fabulous sewing inspiration.  They truly have ideas for everyone on your list.

If you're looking for some knitting inspiration, head to the library and look for Last Minute Knitted Gifts and More Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson.  The projects in these two are listed by the time they take to complete.  There's still time!

Happy Crafting!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Handmade Holidays

I still enjoy making the majority of our holiday gifts.  I also have discovered that I enjoy knitting socks.  However, socks knit on size 2 needles just don't come together quickly enough to be practical gifts.  Enter the sport weight winter sock followed by his big brother worsted weight sock.  I am in love!

Head on over to Ravelry and do a search.  The possibilities are endless.  I like to only chance patterns with 5 star reviews when I'm in a time crunch.  Let me know what you decide to try.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Some Days You Just Have to Be Flexible & Something for Your Head

Well I truly thought I'd be able to get some pictures taken to list the the upcycled denim tote bags on SavedbyKate but since the sun hasn't been shining and my picture taking skills are limited, looks like that shop update will be waiting until the snowstorm is over.

I'll leave you with this very loose recipe for a tea to help clear up a stuffy head and cough.  It was told to me by a lovely woman at a winter farmer's market at Vassar College.  I tried to search for it in the blog since we've been making it for years but I came up empty.

In a saucepan pour about 4-6 cups of water and some fresh ginger, about a one inch piece.  I confess to totally winging the amount after all these years.  Bring this to a boil and then simmer for about 15-20 mins.

In a mug put:

  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • about a teaspoon of honey 
  • a splash of unsweetened cranberry juice
Top this mixture with the ginger water, straining out the bits of ginger, and enjoy.  

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Rug Reveal and an Announcement

Well, I've been less than consistent with keeping up the blog, given the 9 month gap between this post and my last one.  Interestingly, that hasn't stopped people from visiting this space.  I'm glad its being viewed and I hope its being enjoyed.

The last post referenced a better rug making technique and asked if people could identify the raw materials and the means of assembly.  AnnMarie and DJ guessed t-shirts and that is absolutely correct.

The technique remained a mystery.  Now for the big reveal, they're knitted flat on giant circular knitting needles.  I believe I used size 35.  The end product is thick, squishy and entirely machine washable and dryable.

So far these rugs have made it into the hands of my both of my daughters and a professor from Syracuse who won one that I donated for a silent auction.  Of course a few are in use at my house but that, I'm sure, surprises no one.

In other news, I just participated in my second craft fair this past weekend.  It will be no surprise to anyone reading that my items are made from upcycled fabrics.

Here's a peek at a few of my items:

Back in March, I mentioned that I set up an Etsy shop but hadn't had the courage to put anything into it and actually launch the shop.  Fear is powerful.  I participated in The Sewing Party in early November and one of the online classes was Becoming an Etsy Entrepreneur.  That class gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get the shop up and running.  

So let me introduce you to my Etsy shop, SavedbyKate  The inventory levels of current items listed will be updated by Wednesday as I incorporate leftover craft fair stock into the shop.  New items will be added by Wednesday as well, like those tote bags you see above.  

This is a new experience and definitely one I'm learning from, so I welcome your feedback.  Of course, I'd love it if you share my shop with your friends.

I'm looking forward to sharing this new adventure with you!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A Better Recycled Rug

The Denim Braided Rug tutorial post is one of the most popular posts I ever composed.  In fact, it's got the most hits of any post I ever wrote.   I've got a confession to make, after a while I wasn't crazy about the way it was coming out.  Truth is, I eventually abandoned the project.  It just didn't look the way I felt it should.

In fact, after taking a rug braiding class, I realized I hated the whole process.  I was actually a little shocked by how much I hated.  I also discovered along the way that I disliked crocheted rag rugs.  Oh I like the way they look but I can't stand the lack of symmetry in the ones I've made.  I get that the lack of symmetry is all about my lack of crocheting skills and that I'd likely get better with practice but its not enough to make me want to keep trying.

So have I given up on rug making?  No way!!  I just found a raw material and technique that worked better for me!  Here's a sneak peek

Can you tell what I've used?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Yearning for Spring

I'd talk about the weather but truth be told, there's not much to say beyond what these mittens say. It's been a long winter here in Ithaca. I've done a great deal of knitting this winter, no surprise there.

Spring must be around the corner though because the local CSA fair is this Saturday. We are fortunate to have many CSA options here. There are so many that once a year they gather in a school auditorium so people can compare their offerings. How cool is that?

We joined a fruit CSA and a veggie CSA and I love them both.  Interestingly, the past two growing seasons, my little city yard has easily been home to the most productive garden I've ever tended.  That seems crazy when you consider that I left behind a little more than 1 1/4 acres but its true.  It will never take the place of our CSA but its a great way to augment the CSA's offerings.

Here are a few pics, taken at the beginning of last spring.  This first patch had strawberries, onions, lettuce and green beans.  You can see pots on the stairs holding mixed baby greens.  This whole area was a fairly epic success in my opinion.

This is my raspberry border.  There are several different varieties mixed in there.  Raspberries were the perfect choice because that side of my yard borders a parking lot and I was looking for some privacy.  Also the landscaping isn't always tended to on the neighbor's side and raspberries are bossy and don't care.

This pic shows my abundant Jerusalem Artichoke patch in the back.  This is another crop that doesn't give a hoot if your neighbor has crazy, vining nonsense growing untended nearby.  It is nearly indestructible, prolific, tasty and has lovely yellow flowers in the fall.  The trellis in the back had scarlet runner beans on it, the one in the front tomatoes.  In between I grew eggplant, kale, swiss chard, zucchini (although the squash beetles really took a toll on them much to my non-zucchini loving sons' delight) and brussel sprouts.  I tried peppers but had no success.

This is me in early spring last year at the spot where city residents can go to pick up free wood chips.  My son has climbed to the top of a giant mountain of wood chips because we only brought one shovel and climbing a slippery wood chip mountain is fun.  This picture is here because there is a lesson that goes with it.  We've got a bit of a slug problem where I live and if you have a slug problem you really don't want to make a super slug friendly environment by adding wood chips to your garden, especially not around your newly planted seedlings.  It's like inviting slugs to a buffet, drawing them a map and offering to drive to make it easier.  Don't do it!!
I'm itching to get out there and see how everything made it through the winter.  Of particular concern is my newly planted asparagus bed, and my hardy kiwi plants.  The kiwis (you have to have a male and a female) made it through last winter and I even got one teeny, tiny kiwi.  Isn't it cute??  The asparagus that I planted the prior year did not make it so I had to replant.
I'm still planning this year's additions.  What's going in your garden this year?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Simple Brilliance - The Clay Creature

We all need some moments of simple brilliance. I'm talking about little inspirations that are delightfully simple but make our daily tasks so much easier. I came upon one last night while taking a sewing class.

During the class, we used a variety of found objects for pattern weights; specifically, clean stones, cast iron figurines and antique irons. I woke this morning with a desire to get started cutting out a skirt pattern that I've been wanting to make and a feeling of competence about doing it. But what to do about the pattern weights? I'm not digging up stones in 12 degree weather. One of those kitschy antique irons would be nice but I don't want or need to spend money on them.

Right about then my eyes landed on a clay creature that my son made in elementary school. I believe he called it super pig. There are several of these clay creatures collecting dust around my house. The makers don't care much if they are displayed or stored but I'm going to dig these babies out of hiding and gather them in my sewing room to use as pattern weights.

I have solved the problem of, "what the hell do I do with this?" and my lack of pattern weights. As a result I'm feeling simply brilliant. Happy Friday to all!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kombucha & Kimchi, two of my favorite K words

Kombucha is like cilantro, you either love it or hate it. I've never met anyone who falls in the middle on either. For those of you who love kombucha but don't love the price tag, I've got news for you. Kombucha is super easy to make and super hard to screw up.

Here's a link to the article and recipe that got me started. I've been brewing my own kombucha for at least 2 years now and I've never had a batch fail.

My process is a little different now from the recipe. It's evolved to fit my personal kombucha consumption and the way my kitchen (and life) works. Bottling the finished batch and setting up the next one is usually a two day process for me.

On day one (this assumes you've got a batch ready to bottle) I set up my water bath canning pot with 7 1-quart mason jars in it and boil them to sterilize them. You want those jars clean and cootie free. I boil them for about 20 minutes. I also boil the lids and rings. I should point out that I reuse the same jar lids and rings each time. You don't need a true canning seal to brew kombucha. I take the jars out and let them cool a bit upside down on a clean dish towel. At this point, I usually remember to take off my super fuzzy sweater that for some reason I always seem to be wearing when I make kombucha. I brew my kombucha in two, one gallon glass jars that are covered with paper coffee filters held in place by rubber bands. They allow air flow but no critters or dust gets in. I take the scoby out of one jar and put it into the other. Then pour the kombucha from your scoby-free jar into the mason jars. Transfer both scobies into the now empty first jar and cover with some of the kombucha from the second jar. Put the coffee filter hat back on the gallon jar. Pour the remaining kombucha into the mason jars. I know that a double batch of the kombucha recipe will give me enough to fill 7 mason jars and leaves about an inch in each jar empty so I can add a juice for flavor if I choose. The quart jars get capped and placed in a cabinet for 2-3 days and then they go into the fridge and are ready to drink.

On day two, I boil up two gallons of water that has run through my Brita filter. I don't actually measure anymore because I know where two gallons comes up to in the pot I always use. Once boiling, I add 2 cups of sugar. When it dissolves, I turn off the heat and add 8 teabags, usually Lipton because its what my hubby drinks and I have it on hand. Let the teabags steep for 30 minutes and then remove. Let this cool to room temperature, high temps can kill the scoby. I have three one gallon jars, at this point one has the two scobies in it and the other two should be clean and empty. Place a scoby into each gallon jar and divide the liquid evenly between the two jars. I pour the cooled tea/sugar brew into the two jars, put the little coffee filter hats on and put the jars into the cabinet for two weeks. Then lather, rinse, repeat. You know what I mean!

But what about the need for a scoby or "mother" to get your batch started? My original scoby was offered on our local freecycle website. Since then I've giving several several away. My scoby is a prolific little devil. Other sources are the dregs from your bottle of store-bought kombucha. This is supposed to work, although I have never tried it. You can order online as well but that seems creepy to me.

Kimchi making is a new adventure. My daughter and her boyfriend got me a kit for Christmas. I finally got around to making it last feel and it came out amazing but I need to explore more about the process before I feel qualified to share the how-to though.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'll give it a try...

I don't know if this will last or not but the way I see it, I still have thoughts to share so I'll give it a try. Maybe sharing in this space again will get me moving on some stalled projects.

Since I really haven't been in this space regularly since 2009 I guess there's some updating to be done. We moved in 2011 to Ithaca, NY. You veggie die-hards out there should recognize the name, it's home to the famed Moosewood! It's a dream come true. I get to live in a place where composting is the norm, there are vegetarian options everywhere and everyone knows what a CSA is.

My daughters are now in their 20's and living their own frugal veggie adventures. The boys are teenagers and eat more than I ever imagined possible. Beware mother's of young sons, they eat two dinners every night when they turn 14!!

I'm keeping busy teaching yoga, volunteering, crafting and being mom. That makes it sound like Jim does nothing and he does plenty, I swear. Our house is around 150 years old, so there's never a shortage of projects for him to dabble in.

In food, we've had some changes. We are definitely still vegetarian but I discovered I was gluten intolerant during our move. That was a challenge and I'll happily share more about it another time. In short, it pissed me off. It really pissed me off. No more muffins or breads, no seitan, separate pasta for me, ugh!! However, the discovery led to a lot of positive change that was hard to see the potential for in the beginning. I eat a lot more raw foods and almost no processed foods. I've also made a culinary compromise along the way that you may or may not agree with. I still won't eat dairy but if there's nothing else on a breakfast menu that I can eat, I'll order eggs. I never thought I would but facing down a menu with no gluten free options is life changing. That having been said, Ithaca is super gluten free friendly as well, so I often don't have to make that choice. We even have a waffle shop that has vegan, gluten free waffles. Either way, no judgement please, life is too short to get mired in crap like that.

This past December I participated in a craft fair selling some of my denim quilts and t-shirt rugs. I've got an Etsy shop set up but haven't had the courage to take pictures and put stuff in it, even though its here and ready to go. So I'm still a work in progress. Maybe we'll make some progress together.