It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

I finally started to get into the Christmas spirit a little bit this weekend, probably because on Friday afternoon my yard looked like this:

And by Sunday it looked like this:

Many of my friends and family bemoaned the precipitation and freezing temperatures, but I always like a bit of snow before Christmas. A green Christmas just isn’t very Christmas-y to me. That being said, it’s supposed to go up to 9°C (48.2°F) on Tuesday, so it’s not like this is going to last.

It really put me in the mood for Christmas shopping, though. Unlike in the States, where the holiday buying season appears to officially start as soon as the clocks strike midnight the day after American Thanksgiving, we don’t really have a traditional time to begin. Some people shop all year ’round. Some companies put out their Christmas merchandise at the same time as they’re building their Halloween displays (which is a little early to me, but oh well). For me, all of the Halloween debris has to be cleared away and there has to be some snow on the ground for me to feel like shopping for gifts — although I have been known to pick things up six months in advance if the opportunity arises at a great price.

I went with my mother, Thing 1, and Thing 2 to a number of craft fairs on Saturday, but one of my perennial favourites was the one held at Cairine Wilson High School. It’s a huge fair; it packs full the big gym, the little gym, the hallways, and the cafeteria. Given the number of booths, I’m bound to find something that I know someone will like.

But even if I don’t find the perfect gift for someone, it’s a lot of fun to check out the wares of local craftspeople. This is one of the few times of year that a lot of these people make their work available to the public; many craftspeople work all year by themselves to make enough stock for one or two holiday shows.

After hitting a few craft fairs, we rushed home so that the kids could get changed into their uniforms and we could drive out to Epiphany Anglican Church where the Girl Guides’ Holiday Tea is held every year. Since I’d gone to all of the effort of baking brownies for the tea, I pretty much had to attend. It’s always a lovely time, with such cheerful little servers and so many delicious treats on which to nosh.

I may have kind of taken a picture of some of the sweets for our table after I’d already nabbed the chocolate ones. Just maybe. I think that the next to go was that shortbread on the bottom right, since I’m a sucker for those too.

Jack-o’-Lantern Herb Pots

I grow most of my indoor plants (and some of my outdoor ones) in terracotta pots a) because I like the look of them, and b) because they’re inexpensive. I generally have a row of herbs growing in a window planter all year long. I was looking for a way to spruce them up for Halloween on the cheap.

I came up with this quick craft — and I do mean quick, as in it took me less than ten minutes to decorate five pots. There are all kinds of tutorials out there for how to paint or draw on terracotta pots to make them look like Jack-o’-lanterns, which is simplified by the pots already conveniently being orange. I wanted something a little less permanent, since I didn’t want to have to re-pot my herbs for every holiday.

I took a sheet of black construction paper and cut it out freehand into the appropriate shapes. If you’re not comfortable drawing or cutting freehand, you can always Google “Jack-o’-lantern face template” and either trace one of those designs or print it and cut it out. I then stuck the pieces onto the pot with tape. Any tape will work, but for something so temporary I prefer to use painter’s tape (any brand), which isn’t meant to stick forever and rarely leaves any sticky residue behind.

I really like how they all turned out! The plants in the pots make fun “hair” for the Jack-o’-lantern faces, which tickles my kids to no end. Those plants are, left to right: chives, oregano, baby pine tree (okay, technically not an herb; this craft will honestly work with any kind of plant, I just like how quickly and thickly herbs grow), thyme, and garlic chives.

I think that this craft cost me maybe a quarter? Of course, I already had the potted plants. If you don’t have that, the pots generally run only a few dollars for the smaller sizes (they’re generally available at dollar stores and at WalMart all year round), and you can pick up a small pot of herbs for only a few dollars more at your local grocery store or garden center. As a bonus, after Halloween you can use the herbs in your cooking.

Preparing for Halloween

This coming Saturday I’ll be hosting my annual family Halloween party, and I am currently in full-on party-prep-panic mode. Half of the interior decorations aren’t even up, the house is in a desperate need of a cleaning, and I still have all kinds of food to make. However, I recently treated myself to a few new cookbooks, which happily arrived in the mail just in time to make some of the dishes for the party.

Those books are Purely Pumpkin by Allison Day (2016), and The Pumpkin Cookbook by Deedee Stovel (2017). I’ve been taking Purely Pumpkin out of the library on a regular basis ever since it was published, so I figured that it was high time that I actually go out and get my own copy. I’ll admit that The Pumpkin Cookbook was one of those, “people who liked this book also liked” kind of suggestions, and I thought that yes, I would probably like this one too. Even if I don’t use these books for party food, I know I’ll need them next week after Halloween when I’ll have a bunch of big Jack-o’-lanterns to turn into food before they rot.

I also took a few minutes out of my hectic day to make a few fairy skeletons. There’s a great tutorial for a Fairy Skeleton Candle over on Epbot, but when I tried to stick my fairy onto an artificial candle, it just wouldn’t stay. Serves me right for buying one of those fake candles that’s supposed to look real because it has real wax on the outside; in retrospect, I should have known that glue wouldn’t stick. I still like the skeleton fairies (I made three), though, and I’ve used them to help decorate my house. They were super-easy to make and my kids thought that they were great. Honestly, it took longer to source the tiny skeletons for a reasonable price (no way was I paying $5.00 apiece like they wanted at one shop — I got these ones at Dollarama, originally attached to a plastic chain) and to find faux butterfly wings (Dollar Tree) than it did to make the actual craft. Total cost for three fairy skeletons: $2.50 plus tax. Not bad!

Cumberland Farmers’ Market — Harvest Market

Not this past Sunday but the Sunday before (October 1st), I headed out to the Cumberland Village Heritage Museum for the Harvest Market. This farmers’ market is usually held on Saturdays from mid-June to mid-September in front of the R.J. Kennedy Community Centre. This was a special, end-of-season event, though, so it was held at a larger, more interesting venue. As a bonus, admission to the museum was free! My kids were thrilled, especially Thing 1, who had visited the museum with her class and was excited to show it all to her little sister. My husband headed with the children toward the heritage and reproduction buildings from the 1920’s and 30’s (with special attention paid by the girls to the farm animals). I, on the other hand, got a chance to enjoy the beautiful weather and peruse the market for a short time on my own, which was lovely.

The aisles were teeming with shoppers:

The stalls, as always, featured interesting locally-made seasonal items, arts, crafts, and food:

In the top right background of the photo above, there was a vendor with really fantastic bibbed kitchen aprons made from vintage patterns. Honestly, they looked more like dresses than most of my actual dresses! I really wish I’d picked one up, or at least taken their card so I could find out where they’re going to be for the Christmas season. I’ve actually started using aprons lately to save my clothes, and it would be nice to have a pretty one.

Of course, then there was the produce:


I like the use of an old wicker papasan chair frame as a giant display basket.

I came home with one of the pumpkins from the above display, as well as an ambidextrous bow bread knife for easier slicing of my homemade bread. The pumpkin was turned into pumpkin pie, pumpkin tarts, and pumpkin bread for Thanksgiving this past weekend. I can’t think of a better end for local produce.

The Cumberland Farmers’ Market season is now over, but still to come is the annual Christmas Market on Saturday, December 2nd from 9:00am to 4:00pm. This market will be held at four locations in Cumberland (I’m guessing so that all of the vendors can set up indoors): 1115 Dunning Road, 2620 Market Street, 2557 Old Montreal Road, and 2655 Old Montreal Road. If I’m lucky, maybe the vendor with the lovely vintage-style aprons will be there!

Janeway / Sisko Baby Sweater Pattern

As this week is the lead-up to ComicCon, I thought it appropriate that I re-post my pattern from my old blog for a Star-Trek-inspired baby sweater. Back in June of 2013, friends of mine were expecting their first child at any time, so I wanted to knit them an appropriately-geeky baby gift. The couple was particularly fond of Star Trek, specifically The Next Generation (TNG) and Deep Space Nine (DS9). I knew what I wanted to knit, but I couldn’t find an appropriate pattern online, so I had to come up with one myself. We didn’t know if the baby would be a boy or a girl, so I thought that a sweater based on a uniform would be most appropriate. Most notably, I used photos of Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway and Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko as references.


Sweater modeled by Thing 2, who was 18 months old at the time, and who comfortably wore a size 2. The sweater is a bit too short in the arms and body, as well as being snug. I would say it’s actually about a 12-18 month size, but as you can see, it does have some stretch.

I used Fringe Association’s tutorial for how to improvise a top-down sweater — which is full of invaluable information — as a basis for my pattern. I really needed the help, especially since at the time I’d only ever knit two other baby sweaters, and that was years prior. I had some difficulties with getting the sizing right, to start. The first two tries were disasters, the first yielding a neck that wouldn’t fit a preemie, and the second one that was too big for my four-and-a-half-year-old. Try three gave me the size I wanted: 12-18 months, with a nice stretchy neck and short collar to accommodate a baby’s big head and short neck.

Without further ado, here’s the pattern for a 12-18 month size for the sweater:

Janeway / Sisko Baby Sweater
Size 12-18 months

Materials
– 25g (half a 50g/125m (1.76oz/137yds) ball) of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in colour 340034 (cherry)
– 140g (just under three 50g/125m (1.76oz/137yds) balls) of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in colour 340300 (black)
– one set of 3.25mm (US 3, UK 10) circular knitting needles in a length comfortable for the magic loop method (I recommend 75cm/31.5″ or longer)
– 10 stitch markers

Gauge
– 29 stitches and 44 rows = 10cm x 10cm (4″ x 4″) worked in stockinette stitch

Instructions

Neck:

– Using the cherry yarn and the stretchiest cast on you know, cast on 80 stitches. Tillybuddy’s Very Stretchy Cast-On for Double and Single Ribbing is the best cast-on I’ve found for this.

– Divide the stitches so that there are 40 stitches on each needle.

– Being careful not to twist, join for working in the round.

– Work in K2, P2 ribbing for 2.5cm (1″).

Yoke:

– On each needle, place stitch markers as follows, with “|” representing a stitch marker, and the numbers enumerating the stitches:

4 | 2 | 28 | 2 | 4

– Additionally, add a different coloured stitch marker at the end of each row.

– Round 1: Knit until last stitch before first marker, KFB, knit until first stitch after second marker, KFB, knit until last stitch before third marker, KFB, knit until first stitch after fourth marker, KFB, knit to end of needle. Repeat for second needle.

– Round 2: Knit. This pattern will increase the number of stitches on each needle by four every two rounds.

– Repeat Round 1 and Round 2 until the sweater measures 9cm (3.5″) from the very start of the neck. Switch the yarn to black yarn in the middle of the back of the next Round 2.

– Continue repeating Round 1 and Round 2 until the stitches on each needle are divided as:

21 | 2 | 62 | 2 | 21

Separate the Body and Sleeves:

– Knit until you reach the first marker, remove the marker, and then knit one more stitch. Place a marker. Remove the next marker.

– Knit until you reach the next marker, remove the marker, and then knit one more stitch.

– Place the next 44 stitches on waste yarn, removing the markers as you go. (These will be for one sleeve.)

– Cast on 4 stitches, place a marker, cast on another 4 stitches.

– Knit until you reach the next stitch marker. Remove the marker, the knit one more stitch.

– Place the next 44 stitches on waste yarn, removing the markers as you go. (These will be for the other sleeve.)

– Cast on 4 stitches, place a marker, cast on another 4 stitches.

– Your stitch count should be as follows: 44 stitches on each piece of waste yarn for the sleeves, and 72 stitches on each side of what will now be the body.

Body:

– Knit until the piece measures 27cm (10.5″) from the very top of the neck.

– Work in K2, P2 rib for an additional 2.5cm (1″).

– Cast off loosely, but not too loosely. I like Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off, but to keep the rib from flaring I only used it on the purl stitches, and I did a straight cast off on the knit stitches.

Sleeves:

– *Pick up the 44 stitches that were set aside for one sleeve on waste yarn, then divide them in half, putting half on each needle. Put a stitch marker between the halves.

– Pick up and knit 8 stitches in the armpit of the sleeve (where you cast on the extra 8 stitches for the body earlier).

– Place a marker halfway. This should yield you 52 stitches total (26 on each needle) on the sleeve.

– Knit the sleeve in the round until it reaches 14cm (5.5″) measured from the armpit.

– At the start and end of each needle, K2tog for one round. You should now have 48 stitches total (24 on each needle).

– Work in K2, P2 ribbing for 2.5cm (1″).

– Bind off in the same fashion as you bound off the body.**

– Repeat from * to ** for the second sleeve.

Finishing:

– Sew in ends.

– Give the whole sweater a hand wash and a good wet blocking.

Two Weeks Until ComicCon

The countdown to ComicCon continues, and I am seeing some progress.

I’ve managed to get Thing 2’s bodysuit finished, which is, to me, the most difficult part. I hate sewing stretch fabric, but a bodysuit really needs to be stretchy. This is especially true for children, who will shed costume pieces if they find them too uncomfortable. These costumes have to work for ComicCon and Halloween, so I’d like them to be worn for more than five minutes at a time. Of course, when sewing this bodysuit I managed to put in one of the sleeves inside-out the first time. This seems to be an inevitable state of affairs for me whenever I make clothing.

I also painted Thing 2’s shoes for the costume, since we couldn’t find any in bright orange.

My Day 1 costume is pretty much complete, much to my great joy. I didn’t do a lot of sewing for this one (just the belt and the white part of the sleeves, actually), but there were a lot of little details that needed to be carefully painted and then dried. I probably could have sewn it in less time, but definitely not for less. The cap was $5.00 at Michaels, the shirt (which was blank and plain blue at the time) was $2.49 at Value Village, and the skirt was $3.99 at the same place. The gloves were $2.50 at the dollar store. I already owned multiple pairs of black leggings. The belt was made out of scrap fabric from my stash, and the buckle was made out of a $0.79 plywood circle from Michaels. The most expensive things were the shoes, which I paid $29 for (I think) at Payless, but they’ll get lots of use after the Con, so I don’t feel too bad about that purchase.

Welcome to My Craft Room

For many, many years I didn’t have a craft room. I worked wherever I could find the space: in my bedroom, my living room, all over the dining room table. Then the kids came along, and I found it increasingly more difficult to work on large projects because I had to have every last piece tidied up at the end of each crafting session. I couldn’t leave painted pieces out to dry, or pinned items ready for sewing, or even a simple needle and thread where the kids could get at it. Which is why I couldn’t have been more overjoyed when we moved to our current house and I could wall off a section of the basement as my own — separated from the rest of the house by sturdy baby gates.

I finally painted this space and really made it my own last summer. As you can see, it’s just a long stretch along one wall of my basement, “walled” off on one side by copious second-hand bookshelves. There are more shelves on the other side in the kids’ play room, and they’re all screwed together, making a solid-but-temporary barrier.

The kids aren’t babies or toddlers any more, so I can do without the baby gate and trust, for the most part, that they will leave my things alone. It’s a good thing, too, or they’d never get their costumes for ComicCon or Halloween in time, let alone all the little constant repairs that I have to make on their things.

Those first two photos were taken immediately after the renovations were complete and before I’d had a chance to get into any major projects. Right now… Well, it’s less than three weeks until ComicCon, and every surface is covered with costume pieces in the works. I’ll mostly be living in this room until then.

When I’m making costumes, especially when I need five on a short time limit, I have to multitask. Today I’m working on a ball cap, a T-shirt, a skirt, a pair of sneakers, and a head. That last “head” one is my most ambitious project this year, and I hope like heck that I manage to get it done in time.

If you already recognize what the costumes are going to be, well, you’re as big of a geek as I am. Congratulations! I’ll probably see you in a few weeks at ComicCon. Don’t hesitate to say hi!