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Friday, December 31, 2010

Yarn-y projects

I've been doing a lot of needle-work projects recently... mainly because of my goal to make the majority of my Christmas gifts this year.  Here are a couple that didn't make it to the blog along the way due to the hectic holiday season.  As much as I love the needlework crafts, I am looking forward to putting together some new garments to kick off the new year.

Fingerless gloves and another scarf

Crochet cowl

And one not so yarn-y project...

A flower hair clip I made for a dance performance

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crochet Shawl... I mean, Scarf

When I first signed up for Ravelry, I accidently purchased a crochet pattern: the Crocus Bud Shawl.  For some reason, I had missed the fact that patterns could be for either knitting or crochet... and I only knew the former.  I promised myself that one day I would learn to crochet just so I could make the shawl.

Before blocking
Well, I didn't end up learning to crochet just for that pattern, but I did instantly run and dust it off.  I was happy to discover that it was a fairly easy pattern and consisted of stitches that were similar to my first crochet lesson.  I busted out a sock yarn from my stash (as I just don't have the motivation to make a pair of socks) and whipped out this shawl... Unfortunately, I didn't have enough yarn to make a long, drapey shawl, however once it was blocked, it still made a nice scarf.

During blocking
I really enjoyed working on the pattern though so I'm ready to cast it on with some lace weight yarn I've been saving for a similar project.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


A sneak peak of the crochet shawl I'm blocking.  So exciting!

Even with a couple of blockings, it's not as large as I would have liked, but it was so easy to make that I think I'll just make another one.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Off the grid

Wow! The last two weeks have been crazy! As usual, when it rains, it pours, and as I got ready for the holidays, work was crazier than ever.  I had a lot of deadlines that I had to meet before I could escape for my vacation, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to blog as much as I would liked.  I was also furiously crafting to get out my final Christmas gifts.  Ultimately, I was able to finish the main things I needed to get done and on the first day of the holiday shutdown, I was on my way to a private retreat with my hubby, and my fur-baby, Wallace.

It’s not often that we can take our dog with us on vacation, but for a few years I’ve had friends tell me about a place in Anderson Valley that is the perfect getaway.  It’s hard to take it seriously though... with a name like: Sheep Dung.  That’s right, Sheep Dung.  It’s set of two properties, The Other Place and Long Valley Ranch that house several cottages that are individually fenced in and technically ‘off-the-grid.’  

The cottage that we stayed at, The Buckeye, was situated on about an acre of land completely fenced in for Wallace to sniff as he pleased.  We had a spooky old barn and tree located at the top of the property which led to some photography fun.  When we weren’t enjoying the property, we were checking out some of the surrounding wineries and coastal cities.  

We enjoyed some delicious wines (Roederer was my favorite), visited the Mendocino Botanical Gardens, and checked out the local scenery.  I finished a couple of craft projects (more on those later) and spent lots of quality time with the hubby and Wallace.  It was a wonderful start to the Christmas vacation, but now we’re back home with internet connection and my craft room.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sweet Treats Saturday: Chocolate Mascarpone Cupcakes

Merry Christmas everyone!   I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday.  In honor of this lovely day, I am posting a recipe for some decadent mascarpone cupcakes.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite Food Network chef's: Giada de Laurentis.  It's a recipe for her Chocolate Chip Mascarpone Cupcakes.  I made a few adjustments to the recipe as I went along and have written them in.  The recipe is from FoodNetwork.com (you can use the link above).


    * 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
    * 1 cup water
    * 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
    * 2 1/4 cups sugar
    * 1 cup vegetable oil
    * 3 large eggs
    * 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    * 3 cups all-purpose flour
    * 1 teaspoon baking soda
    * 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
    * 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    * 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (recommended: Nestle morsels)


    * 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (recommended: Nestle morsels)
    * 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
    * 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    * Special equipment: 2 (12-count) muffin pans with paper liners


For the Cupcakes:

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.

Combine the unsweetened chocolate and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes. Whisk in the mascarpone cheese until the mixture is smooth.

Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until blended, then add the mascarpone mixture. Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture. Stir until just blended.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes completely before dipping, (about 30 minutes).

For the Ganache:
Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl. Combine the heavy cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until small bubbles appear on the outside edge of the cream. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate chips. Using a fork, gently stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Give the chocolate mixture about 5-10 minutes to thicken before beginning to dip the cupcakes.  Give it a quick stir before you start dipping.  It should be a nice, thick, ganache.

Dip the tops of each cupcake in the ganache and transfer to a baking sheet. Place the dipped cupcakes in the refrigerator to set, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow cupcakes to return to room temperature before serving.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sewing machine cover

For as much as I use my sewing machine, I felt like it had been collecting a lot of dust.  I found a sewing machine cover tutorial on the Sparkle Power blog and it inspired me to make my own.  I didn't follow it exactly; I stuck with one fabric on each side, rather than the quilted look.  It was really easy to do and took under thirty minutes to create.  This could be a great gift for a friend that needs a cover, or just for yourself.  Freshen things up a bit.

First, I measured my machine.

Measuring the width

Measuring around the top of the machine
I added about an inch all around to my measurements, and cut out my fabric to size.  I layed the two pieces of fabric, right sides together.

Right sides facing

Assistance from Simon
I added four ties to the sides, each about 10" long.  I then measured 5" up from the edges and pinned them in place.
Pinning the ties 5" from the bottom on each corner

Right sides together and prepped to sew
I sewed the edges with a 5/8" border all around.  I left an opening at one side so that I could invert the fabric.  Then I cropped the corners to eliminate bulk.
Left a 4" opening at the bottom. Cropped corners.

Flipped outside and pressed the edges.

Flipped inside out and pressed
Once the edges were pressed, I stitched the opening closed.  Below you can see the final design laid out flat.

Both sides together, ties in place...
Laid over the sewing machine cover and tied in place.  Yay!

A sewing machine dust cover!

It's so purty.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sweet Treats Saturday: Dulce de Leche Brownies

It all started with a chocolate craving.

Mmmm melted chocolate...

While surfing through recipe sites, I suddenly found myself wanting to make something fudgy and gooey.  That's when I stumbled upon the Dulce de Leche Brownies recipe from David Leibovitz.  It just looked too good to pass up.

After adding the dry ingredients to the chocolate.

This recipe was so easy to put together and it really was a one-pot recipe.  Aside from the jar of dulce de leche, everything could be found in my pantry.

Ready to go into the oven. Dulce de leche swirled in.

I followed the recipe exactly, opting for bittersweet chocoate (instead of semi-sweet) and I didn't include the nuts.

Out of the oven and anxiously waiting for it to cool.
This recipe was a hit at work and my hubby kept asking for more.  This one's another keeper for the recipe box.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Featured Friend Friday! Tilly and the Buttons

I follow quite a few blogs now; far more than listed on the right side-bar.  There are a few in particular that I'm always excited to see when there's a new post.  Tilly and the Buttons is one of them.  She started her blog in January of 2010 to track her progress in the world of sewing and just amazes me with what she has accomplished in the year.  I'm totally inspired by her creations!  I'm so excited to feature her now for you on my blog!

What inspires you?
Sewing-wise? I love picking up fashion tips from movies, particularly from the French New Wave of the 1960s and from 1920s silent cinema. I adore fashion illustrations, especially from 1920s magazines (again,
mainly French ones!). But I probably get most of my sewing inspiration from other sewing bloggers and the lovely things they’ve stitched.

What’s your craft space like?

It’s currently the kitchen table! Not that I’m complaining. It is annoying having to move everything aside at dinner time, and I have to keep my fabric stash in another room, but I’m reluctant to set up a
dedicated sewing table elsewhere as the kitchen table is huge – it’s an extender!

Perfect for cutting fabric and for laying out Burda pattern print outs!

Below are links to some pictures:
Sewing machine

Let us in on your stash… what’s coming, what’s in progress, what are you stumped with?

So many project ideas, so little time! I’m currently working on accessories to give as Christmas prezzies, which I’ll post up on Crafty Christmas Club.

After that, I’m itching to make V8413, probably in black or green double knit.

And I’ve had a red gabardine version of Beignet cut out for a while – that might make an easy project for over the holidays. Ooh and I also really want to make a mustard or teal corduroy skirt to wear every day, with buttons down the front like Beignet but a slightly more fitted style – anyone know where I can find a pattern like that?

As for what I’m stumped with – trousers! During the summer, I arrogantly thought I could whip up a pair of pedal pushers in a flash, but didn’t account for the specificities of bottom-half measurements (like having to measure your “back crotch curve”!), so they were a disaster. The half-finished project is currently collecting dust on a top shelf.

What is your favourite craft to work with?
It’s sewing for me. I’m not a knitter. I gave it a go, but found it a strain on my RSI-ey hands and (dare I say it?) a bit… boring. Sshh! I’m planning to learn embroidery though. Stitching cute drawings in
thread sounds heavenly!

Favourite thing you’ve made?
Can I only pick one?! I love different projects for different reasons. My red Ceylon dress is the prettiest thing I’ve made.

My denim Beignet skirt (with yellow floral facings) is the thing I wear the most.

And my scalloped Betty Draper jacket is the project I’m proudest of, as it taught me so many new techniques.

Where can I read more?
My blog is www.tillyandthebuttons.com
I set up a group blog for people making Christmas presents – http://craftychristmasclub.blogspot.com
I’m on Twitter as @TillyVanilly
On BurdaStyle I’m tilly-vanilly
And where appropriate I contribute to sewretro http://sewretro.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vintage Find: Terrier Juice Glasses

Here's a fun find I picked up from a local vintage shop.  It's a set of 4 terrier glasses from the 40's.  They were a great price and oh so cute!  The lady working at the shop said they had just put them out the night before.  I love little Scottie dogs.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday crafting

I'm in a feverish rush to craft a lot of my holiday gifts this year.  One night when one of my dance classes was scheduled, I decided to take the time to finally enroll in a crochet class.  I've wanted to for a while, but it has always conflicted with one of my other extracurricular activities.  I didn't expect to start crocheting right away, but I found it was pretty fast and easy.

The pattern that the class provided was cute, but in my preparation for it, I had picked out a few patterns that looked easy just in case I needed something to practice with.  After leaving the class I immediately cast on the Tea Scarf pattern that I found on Ravelry.

I was able to crochet this in a couple of nights. I love that it was so fast to put together! I'm not 100% sold on crocheting, but I will admit that it's pretty handy.

The yarn is from Three Irish Girls in the colorway Riordan. It was lovely to work with.

One gift, checked off the list!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sweet Treats Saturday: Fruit Smoothies

Sometimes, there's only so much straight sugar I can take (wait, who am I kidding?). Those days, when I'm feeling just a bit guilty, I make myself a fruit smoothie.  While the average fruit smoothie can be deceptively high in calories, I've found some methods that make some delicious, lower calorie smoothies.  I also like to sneak these in during cold season to get an extra boost of vitamins.

Fruit Smoothie
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup water
1 cup strawberries
1 small banana (or half a banana)
1/2 cup chopped mango
1/2 cup chopped pineapple

You can use any fruit combinations that you like. This is one of my favorites and I can usually find all of them frozen into smoothie size bits at my local grocery store or Trader Joe's.  If you are using frozen fruits, you don't need to add any ice.  If you aren't, you may want to add a cup of crushed ice until your smoothie is the right temperature.  I like to add a cup of water to the smoothie to cut back on the amount of fruit juice needed as this can be a lot of additional calories and sugar.

What's your favorite fruit combination?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Do-it-yourself ironing board cover

As I’ve been spending so much time in my sewing room, I’ve found myself staring at my grungy ironing board cover a lot.    It just so happened that Craftiness is Not Optional felt the same way and posted a tutorial for a quick and easy new cover.  I knew just the fabric that I wanted to use for my own.

Add caption
My local craft store had a Robert Kaufman dress form pattern that recently arrived. So cute!  I picked up two yards for my full sized ironing board.  I plan on using the rest for some other crafts including a sewing machine cover.
I followed the steps of the tutorial exactly:
First, I laid out the fabric under my ironing board and traced and cut about 2.5 inches around it.  

Measured and cut 2.5" around the board.

Laid out over the board just to confirm the size.

Then I folded over the edge about half an inch and stitched it in place, leaving a small opening at one end.  I took a 4 yard piece of 1/8” elastic (it came packed as 4 yards... I probably only used 3), attached a safety pin to one edge and began to snake it through the edge of the of the fabric. Once I made my way to the start, I placed the cover over the board and shaped it in place.  Then I pulled the elastic tight until the board was snugly covered.  I tied the two ends of the elastic in a couple of knots, and trimmed the ends off.  Voila! Instant new ironing board cover.


View of the edge once the cover was completed.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Unfinished projects challenge: Complete!

The scarf that never ends is now done! Fia Lotta Jansson's challenge was just what I needed to push me to finish it.  That and the wise advice of a co-worker/knitting guru who helped me to get back on track with the pattern.

It turns out that my biggest problem was just figuring out which side I was working from.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't remember where I left off when I set the scarf down.  My friend tink'd it back and wisely placed a stitch-marker so I wouldn't forget.  Duh!

Happy hubby with his new scarf

From there it was just tedious knitting, but a super easy pattern and repeat.  I knit until I ran out of yarn, then happily binded off the edge and told my husband that he better wear it constantly; including in his sleep!  I don't know if he'll follow my orders that much but I'm glad it's done, and I think it turned out nicely.

Pay attention when I'm taking a picture of you!
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