Monday, August 31, 2009

I Heart Knitted Ties

Since you don't want to overwhelm a beautiful suit with too many accessories, ties are easily the one accessory guys can use to add a little bit of oomph, and for some personal expression, in their ensemble. I'm a sucker for an elegant suit with a gutsy tie.

The bf recently got a skinny black knit tie from Hugo Boss and is waiting for the fall to wear it (which is coming real soon). I think it would look great against a crisp, white shirt, and under a dark suit. I have always had a soft spot for skinny knitted ties...maybe because it's kind of preppy, or because of it's romantic or vintage feel...I'm not sure...I just love it. However, I think a knit tie can be a little more challenging to wear than a regular tie. It looks more casual, so you want one that is clean (not frumpy) to go with a suit...and even cleaner if you want to pull it off with a casual outfit (e.g. with jeans and a sport coat). For me, there is a line between looking well-dressed and pretentious (or...too hip?), so pulling off a tie casually does require some thought. And before you think I'm too harsh or "not cool" about wearing a tie casually, I must defend myself and say there is nothing I hate more than the tie and t-shirt combination. I'm thrilled the trend is pretty much dead now; when it was all the rage, I wanted to gag every time I see someone rocking it. May it never revive itself. Ew.
When it comes to knit ties, I think it always looks great under a skinny suit, a preppy cardigan, or a nice dress shirt, but I must also say everyone has their own style and can pull off different things - so you should just wear it in whatever creative way makes you happy, as long as you can pull it off with confidence.

O.K. enough of that. The reason why I am all excited about knitted ties is that it's almost fall and I need to get my knitting fix soon. I would love to attempt to knit a tie and convince/bully/threaten/coerce the bf into wearing it. According to an online forum, a knitted skinny tie should measure between 2.25 to 3 inches in width. Any skinnier would look too outdated and any wider would look frumpy. My favorite skinny knit tie colors are probably burgundy, navy, and dark my project would be one of these colors. I can choose to knit it plain, or with stripes or polka dots (it actually is very cute), and even argyle or fair isle. I even saw(online) a very nice knitted tie with embroidery on it. The possibilities are endless! So, I'm on the lookout for a fine cotton, silk, or cashmere yarn. I can't wait to start knitting again!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Progress in the Pillowcase

It's been a pretty busy weekend, so I haven't really had the chance to work on my pillowcase embroidery. Friends and family is really cutting into my crafting/hermit time.

I managed to set aside my Sunday morning for some coffee and embroidering, which was nice :-)
As evident in the amount of purple markings all over the fabric, I doodled a bunch before deciding to abandon embroidering a monogram, and chose to stitch some pretty flowers and greenery instead. That dark, inky green is one of my favorite colors of all time, but I chose to keep the flowers a light color so the deer can still stand out. I was going to add spots on the deer, but changed my mind because I really like its simplicity.

Stitching the decorative flowers is so much fun. I love the freedom to be able to stitch whatever feels and looks right - it's almost like doodling. I'm also not militant about having every petal and leaf stitched to look identical, I like the organic look it creates when they are slightly different sizes. I adore how french knots (notice the beaucoup french knots) add texture, and I love running my fingers over them. I am, however, a little bit nervous about stitching the other side of the deer. I am crazy about balancing things, so I'll probably try and mirror the other side as much as possible, which means less doodling and more paying attention. Bah...
I'm going to have to be careful about not adding any more details before I end up embroidering the entire pillowcase. I never know when to stop!

Hopefully, it'll turn out fine.

Now, I'm off to visit our local city art festival; a friend is working a stall there distributing info to people on how live in a more eco-friendly manner - yay, go friend! The weather is so crummy, I cannot believe I'm going to have a throw on a wooly coat and a thick scarf for a summer festival. Bah, again! On a happier note, if things go my way, I'll find a good pork shoulder at the store for dinner tonight. festival and pork shoulder...a little bit of an adventure.

Friday, August 28, 2009


The weather has changed and it seems like, all of a sudden, autumn is here. Oh no...where did my summer go??

I guess it's not all bad. I cooked up a big pot of chicken soup last night with barley and all sorts of vegetables - so I spent a lazy, chilly afternoon listening to Iron & Wine, eating soup, sipping countless mugs of piping hot tea, and working on my pillowcase. I plan to embroider a deer, then stitch a monogram underneath it. I used a disappearing ink pen for fabrics to outline my deer, which, I must add, was not kidding about the "disappearing"! The ink was actually vanishing faster than I had thought it would, so it felt like a race against time trying to embroider the outline before it disappears. Talk about X-treme embroidery!

And, I know, the cup of hot tea so close to my embroidery makes me cringe too. I have had a tragic incident where my coffee spilled onto an almost finished embroidery project, completely ruining it. You'd think I'd learn my lesson, right? I simply cannot resist hot beverages when I'm working on's terrible.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shop Update

I have been having a lot of fun with my Etsy shop: ItsyBitsyKC . I only have a few things listed for sale now, but I have a number of future projects I would like to post on Etsy that I am pretty excited about. So far, I have seven different hand-made greeting cards in my shop - all of them involving some kind of bead-work or ribbon embroidery.

My personal favorites are probably the Elephant, the Skull, and the Snail. I just listed the Egg in Nest cards today, and I really like the colors on them as well. I do struggle a little with my camera-work. I am often bummed out because the beautiful colors does not always come out in the pictures. I think I still need to work on my lighting, or finding a little nook where lighting is consistant and not so bright that it washes out the colors, but bright enough to take a good picture.

I am hoping (near) future projects can include some custom monogrammed pillowcases. I have an adorable fawn crewel embroidery pattern I am dying to try out. Now, if only there were more hours in a day...and if only my crafts table had more room...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Me Break Threader

I took my new threader out of its packaging today, and, as I tried to use it to thread a needle for some crewel embroidery, I pulled it apart into two pieces.

I am strong like bull.

Or...I may have bought a bad threader? It was a cheapie, so I'm not even motivated enough to take it back to the store. And I will admit I may have been strong like bull and just tore that sucker into two with my brute strength. That's a little bit embarrassing.

My Snail Card

I love snails, so naturally, I had to make a snail-themed card.

When we lived in Indonesia, we would find gigantic snails in our garden and patio - Seriously, these snails are as big as your hand. One of my favorite memories is that of my mama showing how you can gently touch the ends of their little feelers and watch them retract and come out. They would go up and down, and I thought that was hilarious and would be incredibly amused (no, it's really funny!). I have often showed this trick to childhood friends, but I never got a positive response..."Ew, you're gross" and "Lets find something better to do" were common responses.

Whatever. I still think it's so funny, and I still have a soft spot for snails of any size. And I most certainly will chuckle shamelessly at childhood memories of snail-harassment, if I please!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Boy, prepare my thimble!

I have never really used a thimble when sewing before. I tried out a flimsy plastic one once, but it just kept falling off my finger and slowing me down - so I've never had much interest in trying again.

Recently, I started to sew again and my finger has been taking a lot of abuse...I was in enough pain that I abandoned this mode of X-treme stitching and bought a thimble. I went to Jo-Ann and it was a little bit of a challenge to find the right thimble, because there are so many choices. There were plastic ones, metal ones, leather ones, plastic ones that you can put in the microwave and melt so it will conform to the shape of your finger, ones that have an open top so youre manicure stays nice...There was also the issue of size - I have freakishly short and small fingers, so I knew I had to find one that would cling to my finger very well.

In the end, I purchased the economical $4.99 (I figured if the decision was a failure, I won't be too sad) Dritz leather thimble. It is impressive in size because it almost covers your entire finger, and it makes me feel pretty invincible..I feel like I ought to go out and fight a duel, or command a hawk to land on my finger. Its stretchy band wraps pretty snugly around the finger so there is no slipping off or moving about, which I love, and there are even two little 'breathing holes' at the end of the thimble so your finger does not get sweaty and gross. The leather did need to be broken-in; it was quite stiff when new, but after about an half an hour of sewing it conformed to the shape of my finger, and is now pretty much my very own custom thimble.

So, all in all, I am pleased with my choice.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cooking Diaries: Portabella Mushroom Dinner

I love to cook. Some nights, I will be in the kitchen roasting the perfect chicken or stirring a risotto for dinner...but some nights, I am not in any mood to perform any sort of labor over food.
Tonight is such a night.

I have a few trusty recipes for these lazy-bum nights, but I have also just peered into the fridge and thrown anything edible into a large pan. Mmm...frozen peas, tofu, and cabbage, anyone? Since we have been trying to eat vegetarian meals at least twice a week, for health and environmental reasons, I decided to make a meal out of the portabella mushrooms I had on hand. Everything else involved is pretty much staples in my pantry and freezer - they are always available and ready-to-use (love it).

Here is my Cheesy Portabella Mushroom Dinner (for 2). Be warned: this is the ultimate lazy-bum dinner, if you are a food snob looking for a pretty dinner, look away, because it will upset you. Though, I do promise that it is cheesy and delicious.

The Ingredients:
Olive oil, salt and pepper
2 portabella mushrooms, caps removed (you can just gently pop it off)
Some marinara sauce (optional)
Some red pasta sauce of your choice
Some shredded mozarella
Pasta of your choice (something small and sturdy is best, e.g. campanelle, rotini, penne, etc.)
Frozen, chopped spinach
Asiago cheese (or whatever hard cheese you may have on hand, optional)
2 tablespoons butter

1) Bring a pot of water to boil - add salt and (a little) oil to the water. When the water boils, cook the pasta according to package instructions.

2) Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat (enough for sauteeing), and add the portabella mushrooms. You want to keep the heat as high as you can without burning the mushrooms, so they stay juicy. After about 2-3 minutes, flip the mushrooms and let them finish cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Salt and pepper the mushrooms to your taste.

3) Spread 3-4 tablespoons of marinara (or if you don't have marinara on hand, just use the red sauce you have ready) onto each mushroom. Sprinkle shredded mozarella on top of the mushrooms, about 1/4 cup each - depending on the size of the mushrooms. Divide/cut 1 tablespoon of butter into little pieces and put on top of the mozarella, toss the other tablespoon of butter into the pan. Turn the heat down to low and cover. If you cooked this in an iron skillet, you can also stick it in the oven at this point. Cover until the cheese is melted.

4) When the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pot. Add the amount of red sauce you like, and stir in about 1/2 cup of frozen, chopped spinach. Stir over low heat until everything is heated through. Serve with the cheesy mushrooms.

A nice mesclun salad would be great with this meal. I, unfortunately, did not have any salad on hand :-(
Because this is a lazy-bum recipe, my instructions are lazy-bum instructions. It is a simple dinner so just eye-ball the measurements.

The Aspiring Quilter Diaries

I am in love with jelly rolls.

The strips of gorgeous fabrics cut and rolled into one magnificent bundle, then given the appropriately delicious name: jelly roll. Mmmmmm. Nom nom nom nom.

Being new at quilting, the jelly roll is especially attractive because most of the cutting and fabric-matching has already been done for you - making a quilting project much less daunting. After muchos browsing, I ended up buying Pam and Nicky Lintott's Jelly Roll Quilts. The book teaches you how to make at least sixteen different quilts. The instructions are simple and easy-to-follow, so no matter how complicated a quilt looks, I can still imagine myself making it.

So...I decided on making the Spiral Stripes Quilt from Jelly Roll Quilts, using a jelly roll from Moda's Gypsy Rose line of fabrics. And this is where I made a stupid mistake while buying my "jelly roll" from an Ebay seller. This mistake resulted in a fair amount of disappointment and frustration, and I am certainly put in my place as a new (and gullible) quilter. However, I did learn a lesson, and maybe will share this lesson in the next diary entry (when the bitterness and embarassment subsides).

Despite this hiccup, I am still in love with jelly rolls, and I am still an aspiring quilter. *cue Scarlett O'Hara fist-shake*

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sewing Machine Fun.

My obsession over making shiny, pretty things has been revived recently with the introduction of a sewing machine. A nice lady I know was cleaning out her garage (she's moving), and she dug out her long-forgotten/forsaken sewing machine. Like many sewing machines, this one was purchased with many hopes and dreams. Sadly, after some blood, sweat, and tears involved in trying to master its functions, it was banished into the corner of the garage, never to be talked of again.

I have been longing for a sewing machine for some time, but was hesitant to drop a wad of cash on the wrong machine. I knew I needed one that is good enough to work well, but I would only need basic functions since I'd use it mostly to make quilt tops. So, when she was kind enough to pass this (free) machine onto me, I was happy. It is a Kenmore, and pretty basic in its functions - which is perfect for a sewing machine novice like me. It no longer had a manual, but I was still able to figure out how to wind a bobbin, thread the machine, adjust the tension, sew, etc. via the internet (thank you YouTube and

Maybe my next project can be a set of napkins (and possibly even napkin rings!!) and placemats for some friends that just bought a new home. Now I just need to be on the lookout for some pretty fabrics....