Tiny Basketball Cap!

I have a cousin who has managed to mold a lifelong hobby into a legitimate career.  He has lived and breathed basketball, as far as I can tell, for his entire life, and now he’s a sports writer who follows all his favorite NBA teams, watches every game, and interviews the players and coaches for a living.  (Obviously, lately he’s been following more legal shenanigans than actual games, but… that’s really not relevant to the post.)

It seemed only natural, when I learned he and his wife were expecting a little girl, to make something special and basketball-ish.

Possibly I was a little too literal?

In all seriousness, I actually put a good bit of thought into the design.  I could have gone for the plain old beanie design, thrown some stripes on and called it a day.

“Hey, cuz!  Check it out!  Now your kid’s head is a basketball!”

But baby beanies are just so… common.

Furthermore, I wanted to add some element of fashion, because my tiny victim’s mother is a dance teacher who somehow even manages to add some style to her slouching-around-the-house clothes.

Clearly, I needed some kitsch.  Something hip.  Something that says, “I look at fashion trends at least once a year… y’know… when I’m bored.”  Clearly, a newsboy cap was the way to go.

As an added bonus, I knew the smaller size of the hat would drastically reduce the problem I usually encounter with brimmed hats.  Specifically, the brims tend to get… floppy. It’s a simple matter of physics, really.  The kind of yarn I want to make a hat out of tends to be very flexible, and then the design of an adult-sized hat would call for a brim that is a good six to eight inches long, and more than an inch wide, at which point the flexibility of the yarn will cause the piece to droop.  Since I am generally far too lazy to do something as involved as conjuring plastic inserts, I just very rarely make brimmed hats.

This is especially sad because I love brimmed hats.

As usual, any excuse will do, and I made a tiny brimmed hat with a tiny brim for my tiny new cousin!

 

Two Shawls!

By the time my fellow tech-monkeys and I started attending rehearsals for Charles Dickens Unleashed, the cast was mostly done assembling their costumes.  I asked if there was anything else they needed, and a call came back for accessories.  Specifically, there was a shortage of shawls.

Well, do I ever need more than a half-baked excuse to crochet something?

A few short weeks later (I have a day job, people), I give you two shawls!

(Please forgive the awful photo editing.  Turns out it’s tricky taking good pictures of large things that blend in with all my usual backdrops.  Go figure.)

Both are made with I Love This Yarn sport weight that I just happened to have in my stash.  The black shawl is made using an increasing treble stitch pattern.  Needless to say, it took both skeins of my sport weight, half a ball of a medium weight (also I Love This Yarn), and at least three times as long to complete as the white shawl.

I’m not entirely sure what the proper name is for the method I used to make Whitey.  It is basically a netting technique used most commonly in market bags.  It took only a skein and a half, and maybe a whole three hours to complete.

This the kind of project I live for.  It’s quick and easy, and when it’s done I have something pretty to show off.

Happy Mirth Day?

Mother’s Day and Birthday, rolled into one!  Get it?

Heh.

Yeah.

So I was in the midst of the Great Moving Marathon for both Mother’s Day and my mom’s birthday, and used that as an excuse not was sadly unable to get her anything.  I mean, she’s impossible to shop for anyway, and doesn’t like just stuff, so in a way, I was giving her what she wanted.

(Yes, I am the worst daughter ever.)

Then she came to visit, and asked me – point blank, “Can you make me one of those purses?”

I was so thrilled, I nearly started work right away.  I asked what color she wanted, and pulled out the big box-o-nylon thread.  She pulled out this lovely red and peach variegated.

She noticed I had less than one full spool and expressed concern that I might not have enough to finish the purse, but I assured her that I could always buy more.  After all, who am I to pass up a good excuse for a trip to Hobby Lobby?

Funny story.  I couldn’t buy more.

That’s right.  That nylon thread I spent three months looking for?  Yeah, this was why I needed it.

I didn’t find it.

After a couple dozen unsuccessful trips to every store within 20 miles (and a few very generous expeditions by friends in other cities), I gave up and improvised a match, and I’m pretty sure I like it better:

The main body of the purse is a 4×4 basket weave texture, in a clever mix of two shades of red, off-white, and a ridiculously bright pink variegated I never thought I’d use for anything.  The color pattern actually got slightly complicated.  I had to switch colors every row to get the color variation I was aiming for.  Each row incorporates two threads, and I switched out one color at the end of each row:

Row 1:  Light Red/White
Row 2:  Light Red/Pink
Row 3:  Dark Red/Pink
Row 4:  Dark Red/White

At the end, I had a loose end on every single row that had to be tied off, trimmed, and fused.  Needless to say, finishing the bag was… time consuming.

But now, finally, I can show you a finished product!  Mom’s Red Purse:

This final picture is for Uncle Mike, in loving gratitude for his color commentary while I foolishly tried to finish anything while hanging out with my extended family.

Windmill Bag – now with handles!

Hey, remember that fabulous windmill-pattern bag I made for Dear Roomie last Christmas?  The one made from fabulous hand-dyed wool purchased from the fabulous little yarn shop in my parents’ fabulous little hometown in the NC mountains?  The one that was all done save the handles?  Welllll guess what I finally purchased, 8 months later!

Yes, the amazing little red bag has handles!  I was back in the mountains for the annual Mt. Mitchell Crafts Fair a few weeks ago, and nabbed these red leather handles at – you guessed it – the Yummi Yarns shop.  Of course, they had these same handles a year ago when I purchased the yarn, but I foolishly thought I’d be able to find something comparable closer to home.

Lesson learned, handles acquired.  The bag is complete!

…now I just have to get it to Dear Roomie, who is no longer actually my roomie.

I Like This Alot

For the uninitiated, Hyperbole and a Half is one of my very favorite blogs.  Dear Roomie and I have spent many an hour reading and re-reading her stories aloud to each other, sobbing with laughter.

One of my very favorite posts is “The Alot is Better Than You At Everything.”

I’ve been looking for a good excuse to make an Alot, and now I have one.

One of my cousins is beginning his third year of teaching high school English, and I just introduced him to the Alot this summer.  Obviously, he needs one for his classroom.

I’ve been hanging on to this I Love This Yarn brown tweed for a while, and I am unbelievably pleased with the touch of whimsy it lends while saving me from the pain and suffering of crocheting eyelash yarn.
It’s fairly simple amigurumi construction otherwise – doll eyes, yarn stitching, and felt accents.  This may be my first project involving felt, and I kind of love it.  Anchoring the horns and tooth was a little troublesome, but I’ve always liked the boldness and simplicity of felt in other projects, and that still holds here.

Crafting my way into the hearts of young people

I spent last weekend chaperoning a group of girls from my old church at camp.  Probably the worst part of moving was leaving behind that congregation, because they were there for the vast majority of my formative years and are therefore family.  By that measure, the girls are effectively my little sisters, and what do you do when you’ve spent too much time away from favored young’uns?  You bring them presents, of course!

In all honesty, this started out with a request from one of them last year to make this Pichu Plush, and I just wound up taking so long to finish it that I figured I’d wait and give it to her in person rather than shipping it around Christmas.  But then I had to come up with something for the other two, because it wouldn’t be fair to have something for just one of them. 

Shucks!  I had to make more cute things for people I love.

I gave the Pichu project a little extra challenge: I did not allow myself to diverge from the pattern at all.  It was shockingly difficult, given my propensity for ad-libbing more or less every project I touch, regardless of the quality of the original pattern.

Here is the finished Pichu, in all it’s adorable-ness:

You know you’ve done it right when you look at the unattached, unadorned head mid-assembly and have a sudden attack of Cute.

Now for the other two munchkins…

Munchkin #2 has had a long-standing love for all things Star Wars (I trained her well), and has yet to grow out of it.  Several years ago I made her an amigurumi Yoda, so I thought she needed another beloved character:

Chewbacca!

Yes, I finally managed to crochet something with eyelash yarn.  I don’t think that will ever be happening again.

The third and final munchkin and I have this ongoing joke about finger puppets that came in a book of crochet patterns she gave me a couple of years ago.  There is a set of four patterns: a witch, a wizard, a white owl and… a baby walrus.

Yeah, one of these things is not like the others – unless it is a magical baby walrus, which… clearly, it must be.

Anyway, I made her the walrus for her birthday last year, so I figured he needed some other animal friends to keep him company:

I finished the finger puppets while I was in Houston with my sister-in-law and niece, and of course my niece took an instant shining to the bird, so I made one more before I left for camp:

She naturally came up with a fun new game for it immediately:

Watch [mommy, grandpa, grandma, auntie] wiggle the bird.  Grab for the bird.  Pull the bird off the wiggling finger.  Drop the bird on the floor.  Watch [mommy, grandpa, grandma, auntie] pick the bird up off the floor.  Repeat.

It is a very good thing this child is so freakishly cute, because she is evil.

…and I am so proud.

Touched by his noodly appendage, or just touched in the head?

As Dear Roommie sits weeping over creepy pictures of Justin Bieber on the internet (it’s really best not to ask), I have at long last finished the next entry in my new line of Very Silly Mythical Creature Hats:

The Flying Spaghetti Monster!

I may have finally out-sillied myself.

The tentacles are made using basically the same principal as the Secret Santa Squid. Everything else is pretty self-explanatory. Eye stalks are crocheted in the round, meatballs are uncut pom-poms.

The sad part is how many tries it took to get the bottom part finished.  Because it’s not intended for arctic winters, I had to find a way to keep it relatively open, so half the bottom is an open mesh pattern, then the last part that flips up is a single crochet made with a size N (as in, “No really, I want a HUGE stitch!”) hook.

Fortunately, I have a very good idea what I’ll be doing with this one.  If offers made at ultimate frisbee parties still stand two weeks later, I have a buyer for this bit of ridiculousness.

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Inspired by the Magical Pink Unicorn Hat, I have continued making very silly mythical creature hats.  This week’s feature:  CTHULU!

Though, as happens when I crochet Cthulu-themed things, it’s more of a Cute-thulu.

 

Anyway, it’s an adorable hat with the beady, soul-sucking eyes and itty-bitty tentacles, but I’m wildly pleased with the base design, and intend to make some saner hats based on the same pattern.

If nothing else, it’s a lot less complicated than the damned unicorn…

Magical Pink Unicorn… HAT!

So the climax of the nasty winter weather in my part of the universe hit Thursday night, and in the course of just a few hours, my Friday plans went from awesome!!!! to… uhh… nothing.  Nothing at all, because an inch of very wet snow fell overnight and then it stayed below freezing all day, so nothing thawed, and central Texans do not know how to deal with frozen precipitation that actually sticks around past sunrise.

So what did I do with my new found spare time?  Well obviously, I slept in.  Then I spent the entire day in my pajamas and under a blanket-burrow on Boy’s couch, watching most of a season of Farscape and… creating.

What did I make?

I made… well… I made this:

It’s a hat, you see.

Where did I come up with such a monstrous idea?

The idea is lovingly ganked from one D. Corsetto, creator of Girls With Slingshots.  Back in December, one of her main characters was gifted with an over-sized pink unicorn hat

…and upon reading this comic I instantly knew that I would have to make one of my very own.  This is not so much about the fashion statement as the challenge.

It came out looking kind of piggy, and my decision not to stuff the horn has resulted in some vaguely obscene shapes when it bends.  However, this is one of those rare projects where the dumber it looks, the better, so I’ve just been enjoying the freedom to be ridiculous.

Mechanically, I just tried to keep everything as simple as possible.  I wasted a few hours trying to do something fancy with the main body of the hat and the ear flaps.  Then I realized that that was stupid and went back to a very simple design.  After that, everything else was treated as an independent unit, created and shaped separately and stitched on at the end.  Looking at the final product, I am mightily proud of my monstrous creation.

The next obvious question is what to do with the thing now that it’s done.

Frankly, I have no idea.

Birthday Cupcakes!

Fellow bakers, I have a delicious bit of advise for you.  If you don’t already, find a special person in your life with similar tastes in sweets and a birthday very close to yours.  Then you have the perfect excuse to make the kind of birthday cake you like best, without feeling like a loser for baking your own birthday cake!

No really.

Stop looking at me like that.  It’s perfectly sound logic.

So Boy’s birthday is four days before mine, and he is just as big a chocolate fiend as I am.  Being the loving (and otherwise gift-less) girlfriend that I am, I naturally had to bake not one but two types of chocolate cupcakes for – ahem – his birthday.

I started with the known hit.  Last year I baked a devil’s food recipe I found somewhere on www.foodnetwork.com.  Naturally, I have long since lost track of which one – I just wrote down the critical things and “Food Network” in my recipe notebook and then cried a little when I searched the site for devil’s food again and came up with a few dozen results.

I topped said devil’s food cake with the chocolate frosting recipe off the back of the Hershey’s cocoa powder container.  I did something wrong with the frosting such that it came out super-fudgy, very tasty, and not at all easy to spread.  I wound up stuffing part of the cake with the fudge then thinning the rest until I had nearly double the intended quantity.  This year I knew to start with half the ingredients and then be sparing with the sugar and generous with the milk.

Just to add a little more variety – and to finally satiate my curiosity – I took advantage of the opportunity to test drive another recipe I’d been wanting to try for well over a year.

I’d heard some of the buzz around Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious when it first came out a few years ago.  For those not already familiar, this is a cookbook aimed directly at moms who can’t get their little ones to eat healthy things.  All the recipes are for pretty standard comfort and snack foods, but with secret ingredients like sweet potato, cauliflower, or spinach.

Being a relatively health-conscious non-mother, I was intrigued by the concept, but not quite enough to run out and buy the book.  Then a friend with the world’s pickiest two-year-old showed up with a copy and started raving about the chocolate cupcakes made with avocado puree.  Madness, I thought, but as I continued my search for the perfect chocolate cake recipe, I vowed I would try it one day.

As it happened, the stars aligned and that day was… three days ago.  Roommie’s mother happened to have the cookbook and loaned it to me a few months back, and I decided the birthday baking bash would be the ideal time to try these mysterious cupcakes.

Let me first say that trying to puree straight avocado in a blender is ridiculously difficult, bordering on just plain stupid.  Let me follow that by saying that pureeing avocado with the 1 cup of milk called for in the recipe anyway is kinda fun.  (heheheh whoosh!)  There is something more than a little creepy about dumping bright green sludge into what otherwise looks like perfectly good chocolate cake batter, but sure enough, it blended in without a trace and produced cake batter so tasty it almost didn’t make it into the cupcake tins.  The recipe notes that the avocado taste is still detectable while the cupcakes are warm (and it is – barely), but then it disappears into the chocolate-y goodness of some of the densest and most delicious cupcakes I have ever encountered.

Suffice it to say that Boy has a new favorite cake.

Sadly, I was unable to procure cauliflower in appropriate quantities for the accompanying cream cheese frosting recipe, but my old standard unhealthy recipe served just fine…

…at least up to the point where Boy suggested that the obvious improvement was simply to cover that chocolate cake with more chocolate.

This is what trial and error is all about – next year we will have the perfect chocolate-covered-chocolate-avocado birthday cakes!

Behold!  The very tasty chocolate fruits of my labor!  The normal-looking cupcakes are the devil’s food recipe.  The lumpy ones are the avocado recipe.  Yeah, they look funny.  Yes, you can see the occasional green fleck of a not-quite pureed chunk of avocado.  Yes, they weigh at least three times as much as the other cupcakes, but that just means they’re extra dense and tasty!