Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Best Dog Toy - Update

I thought I had finally broken the code on what makes a great dog toy.

Fits in the mouth, makes a noise, doesn;t roll under the couch and doesn't fall apart.

The bottle toy fit in Alex's mouth, it made a crunchy noise, did not roll under the couch but it finally fell apart.

Look what I found later that day.

It took maybe a maximum of eight hours for Alex to take my creation from cute to garbage.

I still like this idea but next time I will use canvas for the exterior rather than something soft and fluffy.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Best Dog Toy

The magnificant Sandy sent me a link to a toy sold at Petco that looked like it would be perfect for Alex.
They are called Bottle Toys and can be seen here. Essentially they are a stuffed animal with an old water bottle as the stuffing for the body. There are a couple of problems with these toys. First of all, all the little embellishments like arms and legs are just begging to ripped off. Also, the closure is velcro, another thing Alex loves to wreck.

What's a girl to do .....except make her own version.

First I needed an empty water bottle. Being someone who does not pay for water in plastic bottles I went to my hurricane supplies and pulled out a bottle of water. After finishing off the water I discarded the screw top as something Alex would love to break into tiny pieces and swallow.

Then I found some spare furry fabric and some pretty ribbon.

For construction I sewed a long tube with one end closed. I stuffed the closed end with some fiberfill, inserted the bottle and sew up the end.

Realizing that it looked pretty pathetic I sewed a neck and drew a face on the resulting head-like thing.

After tying the ribbon around the neck I tossed it on the floor and let nature take its course.

Once Alex realized it was his toy, he has barely let it out of his sight. He even took his walk this morning with the new toy in his mouth. See his devotion.....

He had also been trying to bury it in one of the old holes the Girls dug to get at the moles in the yard.

So there you have it. A non-sqeaky toy that has kept him busy for hours without falling apart. I think I need to a few more of these are Kemora and Kelis seem to be envious of Alex's good luck.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Things I Don't Understand #7,615

Like everyone else I keep seeing ads for cheap cell phone plans.

This is what I don't understand...

If data transmissions, like texting and internet access is the cheapest form of cellular phone usage and voice transmissions the most expensive, why do we pay for data and get voice almost free.

I don't get it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Thought I Was Safe.....

from fabric lust, at least for a few months.

After all I picked up about 25 yards at the latest fabric sale I attended and a dear friend gave me another ten yards of fabulous cottons for Christmas.

How could I possibly want more fabric?

Then I saw a post in about a new line of fabric being sponsored by the Victoria and Albert Museum. The first collection, produced by Liberty Art Fabrics for the museum, are based on fabrics in a quilt made in 1829 to celebrate Wellington's victory at Vittoria.

If you are interested, and I know I am, you can pre-order the fabrics at the V and A Shop for $5.64 (approx.) a fat quarter . Yardage is also available.

I will now struggle to keep my credit card in the wallet.

I don't need more fabric.

I don't need more fabric.

I really don't need more fabric.

Where's that website again?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Puppy Tales

Alex and the Girls have been driving me a little nutty over the past week or so. For your consideration I present the following tales.

Scenario One

Next to my bed is a chest of drawers. I keep several items I might need during the night in the second drawer that I keep open at night. Things like sleeping pills, asthma inhalers, handkerchiefs, cough drops and lip balm are all in a little open basket waiting to be used if needed.

Alex has decided that this is where I keep my toys and has started to steal things from it and bury them in the back yard.

I didn't realize he was doing this until the other day when I went to grab some lip balm and it wasn't in the basket. I then noticed that I was down to only one inhaler, no sleeping pills, no cough drops and only one handkerchief! After following him around outside I found all the missing items in a little cache he made for himself in a corner the yard.

No more open drawer.

"You mean you don't want this rope shredded?"

Scenario Two

My 'office' is in one of the spare bedrooms. Alex and the Girls used to drive me crazy competing with each other to sit in my lap while I work on the computer. I solved this by placing a board across the entrance to the room... short enough that I can step over it and tall enough that they can't jump over it.

Now they have decided that they can have wrestling matches outside the door while I work. I finally had had enough of all the growling, barking and running around and stepped out to lecture them on their poor behavior. All three sat down to listen to my lecture. Once I stopped they started up again. At that point I grabbed the spray bottle filled with water that I have used in the past to discipline them. All three sat again and looked at me expectantly.

Alex sat wagging his tail and looked earnestly looking at me as if to say..'I'll be good Momma. Really I will.' The girls just looked at me, no tail wagging and no remorse. Then Kemora started lecturing me! It sounded to me like she was saying..'You think your going to spray me you bitch? Fat chance. We can do whatever we want and you can't do anything about it!'.

I sprayed both Girls and they decided to go outside for more fun and games. Alex decided to stay and whine outside the 'office' until I could stop what I was doing and let him sit on my lap.

Need a substitute for the water bottle sprayer.

"You think this face needs discipline?"

Scenario Three

This morning I was sitting at the kitchen table deciding what to eat for breakfast when I noticed Alex and the Girls were very interested in some paper ont he floor of the living room. I couldn't see what it was but decided to leave them alone. I then noticed that I couldn't see the paper, or them, anymore so I decided to investigate.

One of them (Alex?) had grabbed the cereal box off the kitchen table, opened it, dragged out the inner bag, torn a hole in the inner bag and the three of them then proceeded to eat about half a large bag of Honey Nut Cheerios.

Gross! What was left was covered in doggy drool and dirt.

Need to buy more cereal!

"Of course I didn't do it!"

So there it is. Three Scenarios, all true, about Alex and the Girls and how they drive me crazy. If my son hadn't already given me grey hair, these guys would have done it for him.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Knitting Basics

Thursday morning I am teaching some members of the Kingwood Area Quilt Guild how to knit. Although I have gathered a lot of donated knitting needles and yarn and even made a few knitting bags, I realized that adults, unlike middle schoolers, like things in writing so I came up with the following.

Knitting 101

Basic Tools

Two sticks – normally called knitting needles but chop sticks or pencils will do in a pinch
String – also called yarn

Other Tools (in order of extravagance)

Scissors – used for cutting string

Pen and paper – for making pattern notes

Yarn Needles – for weaving in ends of string

Crochet hook – to help with fixing dropped stitches

Row Counter – neat little tool to count your rows instead of keeping track of them on paper

Markers – can be anything from a paper clip to fancy beads on an ‘O” ring to keep track of stitches

Tape measure - for checking the length and/or width of your projects

Metal Needle gauge - needed to find out the size of your needles and for establishing your gauge/tension of a swatch of knitting

Project bag – to hold your projects and tools, can be anything from a zip lock bag to a leather suitcase

Reference materials – I like ‘The Knitting Answer Book’ but there are others like ‘Knitting and Crocheting for Dummies’

Ball winder – for helping with transforming skeins to balls before knitting

Swift – holds your skein of yarn while winding (instead of using a volunteer)

Project One

Book Mark
Cast on 18 stitches
Knit eight rows
Bind off
Tie bound off yarn to yarn from cast on for a tail

Basic Skills

Cast on – Reverse Loop Cast On
Knit – Pull string towards you
Purl – Pull string away from you
Increase – Knit one in the front of the loop and one into the back of the same loop
Decrease - Knit two stitches together
Bind off – Knit two stitches, take first stitch and loop over second stitch so that only second stitch remains on your right hand needle

Internet resources - I think this is the place with the best videos on different knitting skills - an online community of knitters. I don’t go there a lot except when I am looking for a pattern. My name there is knittyalice. - just write in the search box what you need and up pops thousands of videos. Many of the videos are poorly made but there are some real gems out there. - great place to spend a lot of money on all things knitting. Excellent prices on tools and I like their self branded needles a lot. - incredible yarns at incredibly good prices. - one of the best places to find free patterns from famous designers. JoAnn’s carries their yarns.

Local Stores

Twisted Yarns – On the road into Old Town Spring from I45 -

The Hen House – On Louetta, west of I45 -

Knitting in the the Loop – north of 59, east of 610, just south of Westheimer -

Yarns 2 Ewe - south of I10, going North on Shepherd -

Other Resources

Knit at Night Guild – meets all over the city. Closest meeting is in Spring (Knitters North of Town = KNOT) on the fourth Thursday from 6:30 – 8:30 PM.

Yarn it! Darn it! – Sponsored by the Kingwood Branch of the Harris County Library System. Meets the third Saturday of the month from 10:00 AM – Noon.

Friday Morning Knitters – every Friday at 10:00 AM some of us meet at the Town Center Starbucks to talk and knit. Everyone is welcome to join us. Show and Tell is always welcome and advice is always available for free.

I hope the quilters enjoy learning a new skill. Some of them are such talented sewers that I think they will surpass their knitting teacher in no time at all.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nov. 2009 Tote Bag

The final Tote Bag from Stitchin Heaven that I received was sent out in November last year. I finally made it the other day as a present for a friend's grandmother. I had made a bag for her earlier from a huge rice bag but it was suggested that a zipper closure would make it more secure.

Instead of sewing up another rice bag creation (the plastic dust really irritates my allergies) I decided to whip up the November tote for her.

I like it... do you?

The pattern is from the booklet called 'Quilters Get Organized' by Pattie Donham published in 2006. It is not an organizational handbook, just a book of decoratiing your baskets, bins, books and walls with quilt fabric and some embellishments.

The tote bag pattern and instructions were good except that at one point I discovered that instead of two vinyl covered exterior pockets, I could only get one from the fabric that was specified in the pattern and included in the kit.

I made a couple of changes... don't I always? Specifically I used:

  • fusible fleece rather than batting as the filler

  • lightweight interfacing to back the lining fabrics and pockets

  • a beat up rotary cutting mat to stiffen the bottom

  • a zipper to close the interior pocket

  • binding on the exposed edge of the vinyl of the exterior pocket

  • and one of my percious purse zippers to close the top of the tote.

This was an easy sew and I had enough bits of fabric left to make a small zipper case to add to the tote.

I hope the grandmother likes it even if its not made out of a rice bag!

Shopping Opportunity

Artgirlz is a wonderful online store offering unique pewter charms, felted wool balls, rubber stamps and patterns on how to use all their stuff. I have been a fan since I first saw them at the International Quilt Festival several years ago and I am in love with their quirky style.

Anyway... they are going out of business and everthing in their store is 30% off. This may be the last time you can find things like their 'Don't Panic' rubber stamp or the little wool balls needed to make wonderful bracelets so don't hesitate and head over to their store for some great deals.

Sign up for their newsletter or peak at their blog to keep track of their continuing adverntues.

Alison and Tracy will be missed but I am sure we will see them around in a new reincarnation.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Time Waster

I can't seem to make this work for me but you might have some fun with Wordle. It makes wonderful word pictures based on frequency of use.

A Weighty Issue

For the past couple of years the fashion industry has been attempting to address the issue of unrealistically thin models showing designer clothing.

Most of the runway models are extremely tall and extremely thin.

Size 2 has become a sample size for all those wonderful runway shows.

Of course that completely ignores the fact that the average American woman wears a size 14.

You can imagine my shock when I read an article in the New York Times today about a Plus Size model who wears a size 12 and about the people who hire her who are shocked that she is not fat.

Where have these people been?

Even at my most emaciated I could never even think about wearing a size 12... 39" hips just won't fit into a 12.

Don't you think its weird that a normal size equates to plus sizes?

Rant over.

Thank you very much.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pink Poodle Foot Stool

Congratulations to Joanne on her TV debut... I wonder if I should make a Dachshund foot stool??

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More Women on a Mission

Once a month a group of us get together to make things for charity. Although we are all part of the Kingwood Area Quilt Guild we rarely do quilt projects.

Last night was a perfect example of the type of projects we tackle. We made house slippers for a local shelter.

Based on a pattern originally focused on women and children in shelters in NYC, we made 18 pairs of house slippers, out of a friend's fleece stash, for our local shelter.

Don't they look great!

We used three layers of fleece for the sole and two layers for the upper... any more layers and our sewing machines were very unhappy.

This an easy sew and the slippers are a quick gift.
Even though the big freeze is over for this area I think these will still be appreciated and used by the shelter patrons.
I think I better make a pair for myself.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Women on a mission

Check out this article in the Boston Globe on crafting with the homeless. I don't know if I could do what these women are doing but I think I might have to try. Anyone else think this is something they could do?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Starbucks Socks

After I finished the Humphrey Bogart Socks I looked through my yarn stash and found some sock yarn that I had forgotten I owned.

Although I had just finished a pair of socks, I started on a new pair using the yarn I had rediscovered.

That was a few days ago.

Today was knitting at Starbucks with a friend. We go to the local Starbicks most Friday mornings to get in a little gossip and a little knitting.

Today, I took my socks with only 5 rows left to complete the second one of the pair.

It was also pretty cold out and my feet were frozen by the time I had ordered my coffee.

I finished my pair of socks and tried them on.

Almost a mistake... almost as I took a chance that they would fit....BUT not a mistake in that my feet became nice and cozy.

So, here they are, my Starbucks socks keeping my feet nice and cozy.

The yarn is Berrocco Comfort Socks Yarn, a 50% wool, 50% acrylic blend that should wash very nicely. There are two problems with this yarn. One is that is splits easily especially when you are using little tiny size 0 needles. The second problem is that that were a lot of breaks in the yarn. The first sock has one knot in it while the second sock has FIVE knots in it.

I hope your 2010 will be nice and cozy ... like my new socks.