Monday, August 11, 2014

Moving day

Hello friends!

I've started a new website and moved my blog over there as well.  This is my last post here. You can find it at  Hope to see you there.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Before and After: Pincushion makeover

I've been using the cheap felt pincushion on the left for almost ten years, when I bought it thinking it would hold me over until I could make something better.  Years and years later, I am so sick of using that thing!  I've been constantly reminded of how much I dislike it while doing lots of handwork for the Trip Around the World Challenge, and despite falling a bit behind on the challenge, I just had to whip out a new one before I could sew another stitch.

I'm quite pleased with the way the chevron pattern worked out, and hey! now I can use those colorful straight pins I had been saving for no good reason.  This weekend it's down to work!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Trip Around the World Challenge

I was talking with my mom a few weeks ago when she told me about Brigitte Giblin's Trip Around the World Challenge Facebook group.  Although I do have a few projects in progress, I'm always keen to start something new and this challenge gives me enough external motivation to stick with it.  We hung up the phone and I was already pulling fabrics out of my stash.  Despite bringing quite a lot of fabric back from Japan, I have a lot of small quantities so it wasn't easy to decide what to use.  I spread out all of my favorites and played around with them for hours.  I was about to give up when I decided just to take the top fabrics off the pile.  

I wasn't convinced that I had picked the best fabrics but I am enjoying how they all come together.  The piece grew steadily at first and after finishing row 5, I was on a roll!  As I have gotten further through the rounds though, I've gotten busier and seem to have less and less time to dedicate to my project each evening.

I've got 8 rows down now and I'm just itching to pick out the fabrics for the next assignment, rows 10-18.  We have a bit less time to finish these first assignments than I was counting on, but I'm still optimistic. It's obviously called a challenge for a reason.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Back to Blogging: Then and Now

Then and now

I started my first blog ten years ago, and I was a dedicated blogger for the first six years I lived Japan.  It all started as a way to share my adventures overseas with my friends and family at home, and get my mom's input on my knitting projects.  I never expected that people who didn't already know me would be interested in what I was writing, but I was surprised to make many new friends through my blogs in addition to everyone I knew at home.  

After moving to Tokyo for a new job, I traveled a lot and what little free time I had was spent exploring new hobbies rather than posting to my blogs.  As my posts were slowing to a trickle, I missed a notice from my blog hosting domain and my blog disappeared into an online poof of smoke.  Just like that!  All my years of goofy posts were gone in a flash.

I was so upset!  The content of my blog posts was intact in html form, but I didn't have the time or energy to reconstruct my blog online, so I took it as a sign.  I wished for a way to get in touch with my readers about my site's untimely end, but just reached out with a few personal emails and moved on. Luckily, I could stay in touch with many friends over the years and have recently been reunited with others through social media these past few years as well.

Looking at the photos above, it doesn't seem like a whole lot has changed.  I can't believe how much time has passed since my first post in 2004, but I'm happy to be back online again for a lot of the same reasons I started blogging in the first place.

Monday, June 9, 2014


I started Bitterroot a few weeks ago when I was in need of a new lace project.  I've been picking up and putting down my granny square project for years now, but it can't seem to keep my interest beyond a few squares.  This is the perfect lace project to keep my attention, and started with some yarn from my stash, too.  I was about to post how this is my favorite part of a triangular shawl project.  Just far enough in that I have memorized the lace pattern, but not so close to the end that the rows are pushing 300 stitches. 

You might notice that there are no needles in this photo though.  Even worse than interminable rows at the end of these projects are those moments when you realize you messed up some increases a while back.  At least I found it before making it much further!  I spent a bit of this rainy afternoon carefully making my way back to the problem area, and now I'm all set to enjoy the project again.  The details are on Ravelry.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Colorful designs for everyday life

As it's gotten warmer here, I've spent less and less time beneath my quilt and more and more time working on a whole new line of projects on the computer.  I've enjoyed making my own stationery and holiday cards for the last few years, so I decided to start an Etsy shop with some new card designs this spring.  It's still a work in progress but I've finally gotten my shop up and running.  Let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Replenishing my dishcloth stash

Ever since finishing my Echo Flower Shawl I haven't been focused enough to do the casting on for a completely new project so I've just been cranking out these handy ballband dishcloths from Mason Dixon Knitting.  I've made so many that I don't have to count rows, check needle size or any of the other project prep that keeps me from starting all those other patterns in my queue.  The only problem is I'm running low on Sugar'n Cream so it won't be on deck as my permanent standby project much longer.  

Currently accepting suggestions for mindless spring knitting.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Echo flower shawl

This is how I spent the end of winter in Dallas.  The last major project I started, this Echo Flower Shawl was cast on in Atlanta in Fall 2012.  Just a small project to work on during my business trip, I thought!  After that, it traveled the world with me, most notably on a business trip through 7 countries in Europe when I didn't even knit a stitch.  Since then, I had worked on it on and off throughout other trips and breaks, but it wasn't until this winter that I got serious about casting off.  With 350+ stitches in the last rows and an edge chart with a different lace pattern, I queued up Scandal on Netflix and spent a good two weeks powering through (both the project and the episodes).

I've just cast off, but I'm starting to wonder how exactly I am going to manage blocking this beast that is already nearly the length of our sofa.  I wasn't too concerned until I remembered that I don't have my trusty tatami floors to pin my knitting to anymore.  Now what?!  It's already too warm to wear this in Texas so at least I can put it off blocking it in good conscience.  Yarn:  Malabrigo Lace Merino (Tuareg) - 2.3 skeins (although you could easily use less and not add endless repeats like I did)Needles:  Clover bamboo, Japanese size 7 (US 6)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Small log cabin piece

This small log cabin piece has been in the making for more than 3 years.  I returned home to my parents' house from Japan unexpectedly in the spring of 2011 and one of the prized possessions I'd brought with me was the colorful fabric strips that I had neatly cut and stacked, waiting to take on a project like this.  I moved back to the US last year with this quilted (with pearl cotton) but still in need of a good trim and binding.  I was delighted to do the finishing work knowing I could hang it on my wall when completed.  This completely dark spot in the hallway needed some brightening and it's nice to know I don't have to worry about fading.  As a bonus, this spot is visible from my main kitchen and living area so I can enjoy it every single day.

When I first hung this on the wall, my husband was very concerned that the "New York" writing was upside down.  "Is it supposed to be like that?" he asked, a bit hesitantly.  I hadn't completely decided which side was up, but I actually quite like this version, for now.  In case I change my mind, I bound it with triangles in each corner on the back so I can just readjust the dowel rod when I'm ready for a whole new look.  

In the spirit of full disclosure, these triangles really ARE a bit too small.  They work just fine for this small piece, but as much as I hate to admit it, my mom was right when she told me to make them a lot bigger than these.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy White Day!

Today is White Day in Japan.  Traditionally, Japanese women give sweets and gifts to men on Valentine's Day, and then can expect something in return one month later on White Day.  This is extra incentive for anyone who likes to bake or make sweets to pass out heaps to co-workers on Valentine's Day and then wait for it to pay off come March 14.  

I was never one much for this tradition, which is a good thing, because if I were planning to reciprocate for the treats that arrived here on Valentine's Day, I'd be in trouble!  Can you guess what I found in the mailbox one month ago today?

If you guessed a box full of fabric "scraps," ironed and organized by size and shape, you'd be correct. As if this weren't good enough, a lot of the fabrics are familiar patterns from quilts, pillowcases and other gifts I've received through the years.  The possibilities are endless!  Thanks, Mum!

As my White Day gift to you, let me share the simple recipe for a tasty treat I have been enjoying off and on since Valentine's Day.  If you have the three ingredients on hand, it will come together in less than 5 minutes and makes a good addition to breakfast or a bedtime snack.  Freeze any leftover extra coconut milk in an ice cube tray to toss in smoothies on a rainy day.

Cherry coconut chia treat (makes 4 servings) 

200 ml coconut milk, or about 3/4 cup
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp black chia seeds
2 handfuls of dried cherries

Combine all of the ingredients in a mason jar, seal tightly and shake.  Alternatively, you could whisk together in a mixing bowl.  Leave in the fridge for about 4 hours, shaking (or re-whisking) from time to time, as you think of it.  After that, serve, and enjoy!  

There is no right way to make this.  You can increase or decrease any of the ingredients to your taste.  If you prefer something less rich, just fiddle with the coconut milk-to-water ratio until you find the consistency that works best for you.  Heart-shaped garnish, optional.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Adamas shawl

It's time to pull out the knitting before anyone should think this is just another quilting blog.  Although I've been enjoying the time and space to work on quilts more since coming back to the US, the knitting basket hasn't been more than an arm's reach from my spot on the couch.  This Adamas shawl that I started in 2008 has been languishing in my craft box for a long time, but I recently pulled it out to send to someone special.

This prompted me to take a closer look at my Ravelry notebook and I was delighted to see that the site now has more than 4 million users.  Congrats, Ravelry!!  Seeing those WIPs that are still in my knitting basket has me ready to set aside the quilts for a while.  Torn about which project to pick up at night, at least!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

My first quilt

For Throwback Thursday, I thought I'd post a the first baby quilt I made a few years ago for a friend in Tokyo.  Somehow, I managed to not take any photos of the finished quilt as I was rushing to get it over to their place between busy overseas travel.  But they helped me manage to get a few shots even with the new baby in the room.  Talk about friendship!

My friend loves strawberries, and I had a fun time picking out the strawberry fabric and some precious animal prints.  But when it came to quilting it, I wasn't sure if I was up to the task, so this one was all tied.  Almost 4 years later, I hope the ties are still holding fast!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Welcome Nanami!

The theme of 2014 so far has been to finish what I've started.  I'm now all settled into our new apartment and gone are the busy travel schedules of the last few years.  It's just me and all the projects I started or dreamed up during those last few years in Tokyo.  First up is a baby quilt that I had meant to sent out at the start of last fall.

I actually brought this quilt top in my checked luggage from Japan, thinking that I would just baste up the quilt and do some hand quilting in all the free time I would have when we first arrived.  The first week in Dallas had me busier than expected as we navigated all the details of a new city from our hotel room, getting set up for adult life in the U.S. for the first time, while working full-time to prepare for a 4-week business road trip the following week.

Needless to say, the quilt went on the back burner!  But I finished up work in December and gave this my full attention in January, my first time hand-quilting in a hoop. 

As much as I love the fabrics and pattern I chose for the front, I this animal print backing takes the cake!

This welcome to our new little friend was a little late in its arrival, but just as warm as could be.  And it made it there with time to spare before Valentine's Day!  Perfect timing.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Let the hand-quilting begin!

Last weekend, I spent Saturday ironing this quilt top and all day Sunday smoothing, pinning, smoothing, unpinning, smoothing, pinning, calling my mom and finally basting my first full-sized quilt on the kitchen table.  This has been a work in progress for the last 5 or 6 years although I have started and finished a few smaller baby quilts in the meantime.  I didn't have the room to lay it flat to baste in Tokyo, but now that I have the space, I'm (mostly) happily back to work.  I had a moment last Sunday afternoon when I was certain this would by my first and last quilt of this size, but now that it's basted and ready to hand-quilt, all that back-breaking work is forgotten.

Bring on the Olympics!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Almond Milk and Power Breakfast Bars

As I liberally edited a recipe I'd found online this afternoon, I felt a twinge of regret that I might not be able to recreate it if it turned out to be delicious.  I thought fleetingly of making a note in an email draft or writing it down in my recipe book, but I knew I wouldn't do that.  Wouldn't it be much easier to just start a new blog and post it there, available to be referenced anytime I like?  Of course.

It all started with a quick project to make my own almond milk.  I used almonds in the basic nut milk recipe from the January 2014 Bon Appetit magazine, but I substituted a small splash of maple syrup for the agave.

When I realized how much ground almond the magazine suggested I discard, I couldn't imagine chucking it all out.  I quickly found this recipe online to make "power breakfast bread" with the almond pulp, and checked my pantry to see that I had enough of the ingredients.  I seemed to have much more than 1 cup of almond pulp from my batch of milk, but loathe to be too precise, I didn't actually measure.  I used one whole banana, an extra 1/4 cup or so of flax meal, less peanut butter and more tart cherries than called for, and added generous portions of sunflower seeds and flax seeds instead of chopped walnuts.  Chopped walnuts?  No, see, I have (had?) things I want to get done today.

In the end, I cut mine into smaller breakfast bars to freeze and eat with my morning smoothies.  Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.  And most importantly, they're delicious!