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Monday, February 28, 2011

Knitting Cowls

I'm obsessed with cowls right now.  They're so easy to make, and I think the fact that I create them in the round helps break up some of the monotony of making scarves.  

Single loop around the neck...

I had this worsted Malabrigo on some needles for a bolero that I'd been stuck on for a while (make that... a year).  It required some weird stitch that I just couldn't get the hang of.  When I found the pattern for this GAP-tastic Cowl, I decided it was time to frog the bolero and whip this baby up.

Or doubled up. Nice and snuggly.

It was a ridiculously easy seed stitch pattern.  Just knit one, purl one, all the way around until I made it about 15 inches wide.  The length is perfect to wear with a single wrap around your neck or doubled up.   It took about one and a half balls of the Malabrigo and I was able to knit it while catching up on my tv watching. Perfect.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Snicker Squares

It all started when fellow crafter, Jess of Just My Type, posted on her Twitter that she was making homemade Twix.  This sent me on a frenzy searching the internet for more incredible desserts.  That is when I stumbled upon Snickery Squares by Brown Eyed Baker.  The photo alone lured me in and the hubby, who loves Snickers, said 'ooooohhhh!'  That's all I needed.

I gathered together the ingredients and set out to make this sweet treat.  If you haven't worked with candy making before, this is a nice intro.  Caramelizing the nuts was very simple and just took minutes.  Just make sure to keep stirring once the peanuts are added and keep your eye on the sugar to make sure you don't burn it.

Back to the recipe.  First, I assembled the shortbread.  I used my food processor and combined this in minutes.  I was concerned that the egg yolk wasn't going to be enough to bring all of the dry ingredients together, but after pulsing it a bit, I started to notice the texture come together.  I pressed the shortbread mix into my baking pan and set it into the oven.

Once the shortbread was in the oven, I put the sugar and water on the stove.  It took me the length of time to measure out my one and a half cups of peanuts and the sugar water had started to gain color.  I poured in the peanuts and started stirring.  As the recipe mentions, the peanuts while get a white sugar coating before they turn golden, but in about a minute they had the caramelized color requested.  I poured them onto my non-stick sheet to cool.

After the shortbread had developed some color on the edges, I took it out of the oven to cool.  This was the only part where I needed to step away for about 20 minutes while everything set.  Once the shortbread was at room temperature, I poured the Dulce de Leche over the shortbread and spread half of the peanuts on top.

I then put a heat proof bowl over a small pot of water and melted the chocolate and butter until combined and smooth.  I poured this over the rest of the ingredients in the baking pan, and smoothed it out as much as possible.  I used a little over the requested 4 ounces of chocolate which made this a little easier (I figure, you really can't have too much chocolate).  Then, I sprinkled the remaining chopped peanut mixture over the chocolate and put the whole thing in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

The recipe is below.  If you haven't checked out Brown Eyed Baker's blog, do it. If you're on a diet, it's torture, but it's worth it.  Everything looks and sounds amazing!

Snickery Squares
From: Brown Eyed Baker

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the Filling
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1½ cups salted peanuts
1½ cups dulce de leche

For the Topping
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.
2. To make the crust, toss the flour, granulated sugar, confectioners’ sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds – stop before the dough comes together in a ball.
3. Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven.
4. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, or  until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.
5. To make the filling, have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon. Put the granulated sugar and water in a 2-quart saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. Toss in the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with the sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white – keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet, using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature.
6. When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in large pieces for the filling, and finely chop the other half for the topping.
7. Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base, leaving a ½-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle the whole candied peanuts over the dulce de leche.
8. To make the topping, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water or in a microwave, using a low power setting. Remove the chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate.
9. Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, then sprinkle the finely chopped candied peanuts on top. Place the pan in the refrigerator to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you’d like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting.
10. Cut into 16 bars. Store covered for 2 days at room temperature, or refrigerate for 5 days.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Featured Friend Friday! Casey's Elegant Musings

Having the opportunity to interview Casey of Casey's Elegant Musings is such a gushing fan moment for me.  I stumbled upon her blog over a year ago when I was surfing YouTube for some new, vintage inspired hair styles.  Casey's video was one of the first I found which then led me to her website.  I was in awe over her gorgeous vintage styling, sewing projects, and finds.  I was hooked and my first blog was officially 'followed'.

Once I started regularly following Casey, I became more and more envious of the clothing she was making.  My basic machine knowledge had only ever made a quilt and some pajama pants, but soon, she had me convinced that I could do more.  And thus my sewing journey, and this blog started...

I hope you enjoy the interview!  If you haven't already heard of Casey (what?!), go check out her blog, pronto!

02.02.11 | outfit: a bookish sort

What inspires you?

Where to begin?! I have always been a visual person, so scenes and images have served as my greatest source of inspiration. Blogs have been a great place to gather ideas over the past few years--I have so many favorites ranging from well-established craft blogs to just-started personal style ones in my reader. Tumblr is something I started using in the past year that has served as a great spot to gather and catalog all sorts of images virtually. I also can't fail to mention my love of fashion history books and classic movies--and music too! Certain music never fails to put me in a creative mood and inspire me to make things.

12.01.10 | snail's pace sewing

What is your craft space like?

I'm fortunate to have about half of a spare room right now as my craft/sewing space. Along one wall is a table that holds my sewing machine and serger, and a few storage units to hold odds and ends. The wall next to that has a window, but also houses my rotating display of vintage clothing that I hang on the wall (as "art"!) to inspire me. The next wall has a couple of shelving units that I use to hold the majority of my crafty supplies (although I do have a bit stashed in the closet as well--yarn and scraps mostly!). I try to keep it neat and tidy, but that isn't always easy! One thing I also use my creative space for is to hang and display things that are inspiring me at the moment. I have a large cork board with all sorts of odds and ends tacked to it, a little clip-mobile hanging over my sewing machine, and a few "inspiration wires". It's a great way to keep the current ideas easily visible!

03.30.10 {vintage pattern finds}

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

Let's start with the "stumped" part... I have more than a couple UFO's lurking in various corners and stuffed in bags. Mostly of the knitting sort; although I love knitting, it's a craft that tends to go through fits and starts with me; I'm much  more consistent with other crafts. Right now there are a couple half-finished sweaters waiting for me to be re-inspired to knit! Right now I'm working on a dress for a sew-along that I'm running on my blog around a reproduction 40s dress pattern. It's my main project right now--I'm trying to focus on completing the sew-along and not get too distracted. But things that have been grabbing my attention for projects in the next couple months: a 1910s inspired blouse, working on some home decor projects, and finishing a little menagerie of crocheted sea critters I started last December.

06.08.10 {peter rabbit bag}

01.06.10 | first knitting project of 2011

What is your favorite craft to work with?

Definitely sewing--if I could, I'd eat, sleep and breathe sewing! It captured my interest when I was a little girl, and it still never ceases to fascinate and inspire me. I do enjoy other handcrafts--knitting vintage sweater (I discovered I just don't like knitting other things like socks; although hats and mittens are okay. But sweaters are what I adore!), crocheting (recently re-taught myself late last year!), embroidery and the occasional paper-craft. I've also been dabbling in millinery, which is a lot of fun but I tend to take forever to complete a project! But the one I always come back to again and again is sewing. Partly it's because I love fashion (especially fashions inspired by looks of eras past), but the puzzle of figuring out construction means that each new project can present a challenge to be solved. If you visited my house you could tell I am a big sewing-addict; half the books I own revolve around sewing! lol.

08.12.10 {adventures in hatmaking}

What is your favorite thing that you've created so far?

Tough one! I usually say that every new project is my favorite, and maybe that is because I always learn something new with each project and feel like the newest is always my best up to this point. I would have to say that a project that really caught my fancy is the 30s inspired blouse I created with the Sewaholic "Pendrell" blouse pattern recently. I just love the soft, vintage inspired femininity of the piece--and the fabric is a lovely piece of lawn I picked up last year and had been hoarding. It's the perfect spring piece!

02.07.11 | modern thirties blouse

Where can I read more?

I blog most often at Elegant Musings and write about all sorts of things: from sewing (of course!) to vintage fashion to cooking. I also post a lot on my Tumblr, Flickr and Facebook.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stitches West Recap

I go to very few conferences and conventions during the year. Maybe it's due to past jobs where I was required to attend 'x' many a year, but very few catch my eye or my interest.  Stitches is the exception.  I have this bookmarked on my calendar a year in advance.  Ever since I took up knitting last year, I've been hooked on Stitches.

My Stitches stash
Lucky for me, Stitches West takes place in my neck of the woods.  This year my friend Jonelle was flying in from Seattle to join me for the convention.  We set a game plan, picked out suppliers that interested us, and determined our budgets (well, more like the 'would be nice to stay under this amount' budget).  When the Saturday of Stitches arrived, I picked her up from the airport and setout for the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Wonderful shawl pattern and print-outs from Never Not Knitting
Never Not Knitting's booth

Stitches didn't disappoint.  Surprisingly though, the majority of my early purchases were not of actual fibers, but of knitting accessories.  Maybe it's because I'm more experienced and know what sort of items I was looking for... or because my yarn stash is already out of control... but during the beginning of our Stitches trip, I focused on accessories. 

Some awesome felting from Ellen's Wooly Wonders

Some of the fun things I picked up:

From Slipped Stitch Studios: A project pattern protector case in an adorable hedgehog print.  Also, some great pattern magnets to help me keep track of my progress within a pattern.  This booth also had some great project bags and buttons.  It was also PACKED!  I was fighting for a spot within the booth to check out their adorable goods.  The good news is: they have an Etsy shop!  I'm bookmarking this shop for gifts for the knitters in my life.

Wool Candy makes me weak in the knees.  I love their yarns! Even better, a designer I've been drooling over on Ravelry and Etsy, Phydeaux Designs, was working in their booth.  I picked up a copy of the Asterisque Cowl pattern and have bookmarked the Regalia cowl for a later purchase... I think it will be perfect for some knitwear to go with my Spring Palette challenge.

One of the walls in the Wool Candy booth.

I picked up bits and bobs from a few other booths at Stitches, including some Malabrigo and Tosh yarn from ImagiKnit's booth, but my favorite of all of the booths had no yarn relation at all.  Nifty Thrifty Dry Goods was a huge booth filled with vintage buttons, ribbons, trims, lace and more.  I don't remember seeing them at Stitches last year but they couldn't be missed this time.  Their booth was beautiful! Everything was broken into a color story and contained perfect bits of accents to use for all of my crafty projects.  I picked up some buttons that I used on my Sencha blouse, and some cupcake ribbon to include in some of my creations. I thought it would be a nice label substitute until I take the time to actually make some of my own.

Now Stitches wouldn't be complete without the pre-Stitches parties.  Some of my LYS' had them, including Bobbin's Nest which carries my all-time favorite yarn, Three Irish Girls.  I swung by the Thursday before Stitches to enjoy the new releases of TIG and Hazel Knits, and picked up their new cowl pattern from Rocket Boy Knits, the Chirality Cowl.  I've already started knitting it in my new Hazel Knits sock yarn.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spring Palette Challenge: Sencha Blouse

Another garment completed for the Spring Palette challenge.  I'm on a roll but I know the couple of dresses that I have left will take me a bit of time. I need some instant satisfaction! 

I whipped this blouse up this weekend after I finished the Ceylon dress.  It only took me a couple of hours as the pattern is essentially just four pieces.  I hand-stitched the sleeves while watching tv in the evening.

The print is busier than I would normally wear, but I think it's perfect for Spring. Oh, and the buttons. I found these vintage buttons at Stitches West this weekend.  I love them!  More about my Stitches finds in a post later this week, but there were definitely some great new vendors that I'll have to follow.

Look at all of the buttons I've been sewing over the last few days! I'm becoming a pro.  I noticed that three of my five outfits for the Spring palette challenge have them.  Apparently my subconscious wanted me to work on my button skills.  It's been paying off.
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Monday, February 21, 2011

Spring Palette Challenge: Ceylon Dress

The Colette Ceylon dress is complete!  This dress taught me a lot.  Not because it was necessarily hard, but it required some techniques I had never used. In the end, it's the little details that I enjoy the most about this dress.  

I love the gathers on the skirt front and the back of the dress, and it has so many elements that make it such a flattering fit.  It's the perfect dress for a date with the hubby or to wear to work when I want to mix up the business casual requirement.


The only aspect that I changed from my original plan were the buttons.  I had originally planned on fabric buttons and had all the materials, but they were seriously going to drive me to drink!  I couldn't deal with fumbling of the fabric into the tiny little button and sealing the snap down.  I eventually (after two buttons) made a run to JoAnn's to pick up another alternative.  I'm happy with the end result and will just have to save those buttons for another project... one where someone with tiny fingers can assemble them for me.

To read more about the journey making this dress, check out the original post here.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Peanut Butter M&Ms Cookies

I had a plethora (yes, a plethora) of M&Ms and decided to make some cookies with them.  After these were out of the oven, my husband declared 'I think you're on to something.'

While hanging out on one of my new favorite food blogs, I found a recipe for Peanut Butter M&M Cookies. Perfect! I whipped up a batch and mixed in two bags of milk and dark chocolate M&Ms.

This made a ton of cookies!  I used a small cookie dough scoop and it made well over the 3 dozen cookies that the recipe stated.  Good thing, because I'll have to hide some throughout the house so that the hubby doesn't eat them all, leaving none for me.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Photos from the week

I had a lovely post Valentine's Day week and ended up taking a few pictures along the way.  Here are some of them just for fun...

A lovely card I received from friend and blogger Jess of Just My Type.

Red Velvet Whoppie Pies baked by my friend Liz

Pink rice krispie treat hearts.

Watching Beauty and the Beast while baking. My cat provides his review.

And the hubby playing Just Dance with my dance sister. They really get into it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Progress on my Spring palette project

All week I've been waiting by the mailbox for the rest of my Colette Spring Palette project items to arrive. And they did!  I received the pattern and fabric for my stripe dress, and the fabrics for my Colette blouse and the last dress.  I'm really happy with all of the fabrics, as I've never ordered any fabrics online before.  In the future I will hopefully have more time so I can order swatches first, but luckily, it worked out perfectly.

Now onto the last blouse (Pendrall): I can't decide on the large or small polka dot fabric.  What do you think?  I think I'm leaning towards the smaller dots and saving the large one for a dress or something larger.  

On to actual sewing.  I've been working steadily on the first dress, Ceylon by Colette.  I've had this pattern in my file for a while, but the glaring 'Intermediate' tag was worrying me.  Oh, and the whole line of buttons along the front.

Now that I'm the 'master of buttons,' I wasn't feeling so intimidated.  The buttons should have been the least of my worries.  The dress itself has been coming along nicely, but I hate ruching fabric.  I love the final look, but uuuugggghhh.  It's ok, I only have the sleeves left to gather and then I'll be done!  

I love how it's turning out! I'm actually debating between putting an invisible zipper in the front but I may just go ahead with the buttons.  I think I'll love it either way.  More coming soon.  In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on the polka dots.  And do you have any favorite online fabric websites?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


In a chatty mood today so I decided to do a quick survey from Night Owl Crafting.


1. What did you get/give for Valentine's Day?
Valentine's Day is pretty low-key for the hubby and I.  He got me a few dozen of my favorite flowers (daffodils and tulips) and I got him a video game that he's been wanting.

2. Do you have a vacation planned in the next couple of months or in the summer?
Voyage to the Homeland 2011! Planning a trip to Scotland in August and trying to decide a possible second location along the way.  It's a toss-up between the Lake District of England, Northern Wales, or Northern Ireland.  Any recommendations?

3. What is one thing you do to pamper yourself?
Allowing myself craft time.  And the ocassional massage to offset all of the dancing that I do.

4. What sparks your interest to other people's blogs?
I love to see what crafty things people are up to! So many blogs inspire me that I'm always wanting to try new projects or live vicariously through others and their crafts.

5. What kind of a mood are you in today?
Little Miss Chatterbox.

What about you? Any fun answers to these questions? Oh, and I really would love your recommendations regarding question 2.  Thanks and happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fireworks Cami

These are more dandelions than fireworks, but since the radio won't stop playing the song, I instantly think I'm looking at fireworks when I see this blouse.

The front of the blouse. Oh, and I got a haircut. :)

I think this is the most well-constructed garment I've put together.  It was so fun to work with and though the thought of so many buttons was terrifying to me, in the end, I enjoyed putting them together. I think I'm almost ready for the Ceylon dress by Colette.

In regards to the buttons, I was going to do all black but my local shop only had 4 available.  I ended up alternating red and black buttons along the back. I like the whimsical feel of it and have received a lot of compliments about that aspect especially.

This was at the end of a long day of work so it's a bit wrinkled in back

A great project for a little over a yard of fabric.  I'll be making this one again in some additional fun prints in the future.  You can find my original, start post for this blouse, the Lotus Cami by Amy Butler, here.

Do you have any favorite, low-yardage patterns?

I leave you with some pictures of 'winter' in California.  I'm spoiled, I know.

Wallace playing in the backyard

My favorite flower

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