Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Learning Stitch By Stitch

I wanted to post about a fabulous book I bought the other day called Stitch By Stitch, Learning to Sew One Project At A Time, by Deborah Moebes.

I have borrowed numerous books from the library in the attempt to teach myself to sew, but I ran into the same problem with each and every one.  The covers of all of these books advertised themselves as "beginner" books luring the novice like myself.  I opened the pages hoping to find easy instruction and words that I could understand, but instead, found myself wallowing in sewing jargon, looking at patterns that resembled 3D road maps and feeling about as able and intelligent as a rock.  I was starting to get discouraged and then I found Stitch By Stitch.
I opened the cover and swear that I heard heavenly voices and felt the warmth of an angelic glow funneling down from Heaven onto the pages.  Finally! A sewing guide for REAL beginners!
I love the writing style, the fact that the author doesn't assume you know how to find things like a seam allowance (or even know what a seam allowance is), she tells about things like fabrics and their characteristics and starts you with genius projects like making a stitch drawing to learn how to use your machine.
I've decided to make almost each an every project in her book in my attempt  to learn how to sew.  Rather than feeling completely hopeless, I'm excited again and am excited to show off my first project; a fabric applique that I made from fabric and then stitched on!

Monday, January 30, 2012


I love jotting down simple patterns, the kind that knit up in just an hour or two, can be knit, worry free while drinking tea, or catching up on a great movie.  I plan to post a few easy freebies in the months to come.

The first is a simple headband cover that I call Blossom.  =)

40 yards of DK weight yarn for headband cover
2-3 yards each of fingering weight yarn for embroidery in various colors
Darning needle for weaving in ends
Standard sized headband that measures 2 inches wide at the top
US size 5 knitting needles

Gauge: 6 stitches and 8 rows over Stockinette Stitch

K knit
P purl
W/s wrong side
R/s right side
KFB knit into the front and back of same stitch
Skpsso slip one stitch, knit the next stitch, pass the slipped stitch over the knit stitch.
K2tog knit the next 2 stitches together
B/o bind off

The Pattern:
Cast on 13 stitches

Step 1 (this will cover the left side of your headband): Begin on a w/s row, work 7 rows in Stockinette Stitch, (purl one row, knit one row) ending on a w/s row.
Step 2: Next row-increase: Kfb of first stitch, knit to last stitch, kfb of last stitch.
Repeat last 2 steps 4 times. (23 stitches)
Step 3(Top): Beginning on a w/s row, work 35 rows in Stockinette Stitch ending on a w/s row.
Step 4 (right side) decrease row: Skpsso, knit to last 2 stitches, k2tog.
Step 5: Begin on w/s row, work 7 rows in Stockinette stitch (purl one row, knit one row) ending on a w/s row.
Repeat steps 4-5, 4 times more. (13 stitches)
Beginning on a w/s row, work 7 rows in Stockinette Stitch (purl one row, knit one row) ending on a w/s row.

You now have the cover that will be seamed up around your headband. You can try it on the headband and should find that the Stockinette stitch should form a natural curl at the edges that will wrap around the headband.
I have not included a drawn pattern for the twig branch since the photo is probably more explanatory!
I will say that I used a simple backstitch for the twig as well as for the little flower buds. For the tiny berries, I simply brought the embroidery yarn up through the fabric, tied a tiny knot and pulled the yarn back down into the fabric.
Be creative here! You now have a “blank canvas” to work with!! Let your imagination run!

Begin embroidery remembering to start your embroidery stitch pattern with about 4 stitches on either side (these will wrap around to the underside of the headband and be seamed up).
As you embroider, I would suggest checking every now and then to be sure your design is centered.
Once you are finished with your design and have secured the embroidery thread ends, put the headband cover into place and using the seaming method of your choice, seam up the cover on the underside of the headband. I chose to use a mattress stitch for my seaming.
Weave in ends and wear!
Wrap fabric around the headband and seam up!

Saturday, January 28, 2012


One of the problems of knitting for an Etsy shop, is that you tend to spend almost all of your free time knitting for other people.  Now don't get me wrong, knitting for other people can be a lot of fun, but then again, so can knitting for yourself.
I finally took a time out and knit up The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife for myself.

Dyeing For Color

Part of my New Years Resolution was to cut back substantially on the time I spent knitting to be able to focus on new talents.  This year I decided to not only take on sewing, but also move to what I feel is the next step in my fiber journey; hand dyeing and by fall, hopefully spinning.
I love yarn and fiber and of course I love knitting, however, but I feel that to become an even better knitter as well as small scale designer, it is important for me to get a more personal relationship with my medium.  So, this year, I am only allowing myself to pick up my needles in the evening after all of the tiny eyes in my house are waltzing with the Sandman.  I have put the hand knits that go into my Etsy shop almost completely on hold.  Doing this has been very freeing for me and allowed me give myself permission to try some new things as well as focus on some older things that have fallen by the wayside.
Today I got to indulge in my first yarn dyeing, hand painting experience! As a girl who loves paint and her brushes, I thought that dyeing would be right up my alley and something I would relish.  I was right!

I'm so very lucky to have experienced fiber friends, however, to help me along the way!! Hand dyeing yarn is a little more complex than I thought it would be!  I think the toughest part about dyeing at this point is choosing the colors and knowing where to put them and it was quite nerve wracking and liberating at the same time, to put that first brush stroke to the fiber.
I love the way this first attempt turned out and can't wait to see what it knits up like! I have a project in mind, stay tuned!

Friday, January 27, 2012


One of my best friends and I started up a group on Ravelry called Plum Dandi which is focused on answering questions about our patterns, showcasing new designs coming and offering pattern giveaways.
But more than that, we just wanted to get to know the people who are interested and knitting our designs.
I sat down the other day to doodle out a logo for our group. I wanted to come up with an image that represented things that we both love.  I love knitting, but drawing is my oldest passion and it relaxes me more than any of the creative things that I do.  Like an old friend, it's always nice to be able to come back and pick up where we left off.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Design- Gosling

I have a new pattern available today in my Etsy shop, as well as on Ravlery (see links to the right) called Gosling.
Gosling is a super cozy fingerless mitts pattern that has a convertible top that unbuttons and unfolds to allow more warmth for those frost bitten fingers.
I ran into that problem a few days ago while taking my daughter to school in the morning.  The steering wheel was so cold it hurt.
I went as soon as I could to the sweet little yarn shop here in town and grabbed up some Spud and Cloe Outerwear yarn.
I can not say enough about this yarn.  I have made so many projects with it and have yet to get bored with it.
There is nothing so cozy to wrap around your neck, or in this case, cold arms and hands.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Not A Day Without Creation

Some days I find it seems like the time just slips away faster than I can race after it in my oatmeal, drool covered yoga pants. But even on those days, I try to find some time for creative outlet.
Yesterday, I stumbled upon a few really wonderful web finds.

The first is this fantastic site http://oliverands.com/  !  I am smitten with the fact that the clothing patterns are presented as paper dolls, but then there are the patterns themselves!
I had to stop a moment and catch my breath before venturing into the company blog where the photo projects take inspiration to a completely new level.

There is a charge for many of the patterns, but I was able to find a free pattern called the Lazy Days Skirt.  I didn't have the fabric called, for, but since I'm such a beginner, I just wanted to practice following a pattern.   The pattern was FABULOUSLY well written and here is a photo of my first attempt (again- with the wrong fabric shapes).
I am planning to get some fabric this weekend to try again, this time for an actual wearable finished project.  I saw some fabric at the local resale shop in town that was calling to me and now I know why.

Now when I say this pattern was easy, it really was, because I was able to get it together while trying out a new recipe I found at this website http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Fragrant-Beef-Curry-with-Rice-104202 .  I've posted the recipe below.
Words can not describe how fantastic this dish turn out.  
We eat all organic, grass fed meats and try to buy from local farms.  We usually buy our meat in bulk and because of this, tend to have the same cuts over and over again.  I've made beef stew and Hungarian Goulash a bazillion times and was really looking for something that was WAY out of the box for our house.
This curry dish was a gamble because I have little ones and little mouths typically don't go gaga over spicy foods.   This dish was an exception.
I think it was the aroma that won everyone over from the very start.  The smells of cloves, cinnamon, ginger and curry wafting through the house made me feel like I was traveling through some far away bazaar and  one flip of the Ipod to some great world music and I was there.

Sweet and spicy this is one that will be logged in as a new family favorite and perfect for the cold weather and stuffy noses that it brings!

Now, I promised my five year old that since I started a new blog about airing out some creativity, that I would post some of her work as well.  After dinner, we sat down to make fantastic play doe desserts.  Sometimes this is all of the artistic outlet I get during the day, but I've got to say that oftentimes, it's the most enjoyable.

Fragrant Beef Curry With Rice

2 pounds well-trimmed boneless beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large onions, sliced
6 whole cloves
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 large tomatoes, quartered
3 tablespoons Major Grey chutney ( I used mango salsa instead)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Hot cooked rice


Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Working in batches, add beef to pot and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes per batch. Using slotted spoon, transfer to plate.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until tender and brown, about 7 minutes. Return beef to pot. Add cloves, garlic, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf and dried red pepper to pot; stir 1 minute. Stir in milk, tomatoes, chutney, lemon juice, ginger, curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until beef is tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

Uncover; increase heat to medium. Boil stew until juices are slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve over rice.

Really, so, so delicious!

Monday, January 23, 2012


Just before Christmas, I found this fabulous video shared on Pinterest (love!) demonstrating how to to transfer your photos onto wooden blocks.

I love all things antique and these blocks, when using black and white photos, have such a vintage feel to them, I had to give it a gander.
I love the result, even if I wasn't ever able to get all of the paper fibers out of the adhesive.  Not only do I have these dotting the walls of my little castle now, but they made such wonderfully personal Christmas gifts that my daughter could get involved with and add her own personal touch to!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Soul Sister

If you're not a member of the fabulous knitting, crocheting and fiber supporting community on Ravelry, do yourself the favor by following the link to the right of this post and sign up. I have never come across such a wealth of talent, inspiration and fun as I have on one site not to mention wonderful friendships.
A popular pattern I recently knit up for my daughter is Neighborly by Jennifer Casa. The pattern was interesting enough to keep me thinking, but easy enough that my brain didn't hurt during my relaxing hours in the evening when I knit.
I am so pleased with how the yarn choice (one of my many Etsy yarn finds along with some Malabrigo from my LYS BUY LOCAL!!) turned out.

Just one of the biggest reasons I knit.

Knitting With Love

A dear friend of mine shared this video link with me earlier today. As a mother it's hard to watch this video and not want to go through my stash, where I KNOW there are bits of fabulously warm and luxurious fiber that would be just perfect for warming one of these children's heads.
If you can find it in your heart to spend a few moments to use your talents to help one of these women and their child, please do it! I know I will be knitting. We all have the chance to make a difference in someone's life and think how you would feel if someone extended the same warmth and love to you, or to a child you love. The most rewarding thing in life is to help another life.

CURE Knit Pray Love from CURE Video on Vimeo.

In Honor Of The Rain Boot

Every year, I chose a new project to work on and a new skill to tackle.  In the past I've spent months pouring over Photoshop, drawing, painting and knitting of course.  This year I've decided to take on a few new projects, namely sewing.
I'm going to be up front in that while I feel relatively confident in my skills as a knitter, working with fiber in the form of fabric and with a needle that I rarely touch, I have definitely been served a heaping slice of humble pie.  But it's a slice I'll devour  up and enjoy!

I have a few photos sitting in my camera that I'll upload when I get the chance, or rather, the courage.

Until then, I thought I'd pay tribute to one of my dear friends, the rain boot.  If you are going to put your Jimmy Choos up for awhile and get down and dirty with your kids, or in your garden, the rain boot, who also goes by the aliases Wellies, Wellingtons, Rubbers, topboots, billy-boots, gumboots, gummies, barnboots, sheepboots, or mucking boots (this is how I know them)  to name a few, is a great choice of footwear.
Don't think you can style in a pair of knee high rubber?
Here is a bit of inspiration:

The Begining Of Another Dandi Day

 The question I've wrestled with for the past half an hour: where exactly does one begin a new blog?  Perhaps you might want to know a little about me?  Maybe not.
Then again, it's hard to know a book without starting somewhere near the beginning, and it feels a bit awkward to just start shoving my random thoughts at you the unsuspecting reader, so I suppose I'll start..... well, maybe somewhere in the middle.

 I am a wife and a mom.  I have a wonderfully handsome husband and two beautiful little girls that look like you tugged them right off the page of a Tasha Tudor book.  I have a Rat Terrier, the runt of his litter, named Puck who is more like a son than a family pet and we all live somewhere in the US where the summers are warm and the winters help to keep the hot cocoa industry in business.

Somewhere near the beginning of this story, my parents packed up my siblings and I and left the suburbs of Chicago and moved us out to a small 30 acre farmette where we home schooled, raised bees and sheep and lived the simple life. But when I turned 18 and moved away from home, I went completely Metro leaving the dirt roads and farm behind.  I look back so fondly on the days of shoes, the fashion, the city lights and the live music....oh the live music (I should mention here that both of my brothers are musicians and play across the country).  Those were good times.

But having children of my own has slowed my life down and brought me back to the basics I grew up with. I've packed up my heels (oh, don't worry, I haven't retired them yet or traded them in and I still make time to flip through my subscriptions to Vogue and In Style during nap time)  for the moment, and have donned baby slings and nursing bras, traded fancy dinners for organic homemade and sometimes homegrown meals and have made it my mission to master all things homemaker.  AND I AM LOVING IT. 

Now you know a sliver about me..... so what is the real purpose of this blog you ask?
Well, fear not, this blog will not be about my life's story.
No, rather it will be about my journey through homemaking, crafting, designing, cooking and getting back to some basics with a little bit of fabulous thrown in.  I am a firm believer that homemaker does not have to equal drab.
I want to use this blog as a place to share information that I find.  I'd also like it to be a place where I can share my new designs and ideas and my many failures too.
So, stay posted because not even I know where this story is going to go, but based on the first half of the book ( at some point I might throw in a page or two), it's bound to be pretty interesting.