Happy Holidays!

I hope you had a Merry Christmas! We sure did, hence my belated Holiday Card post. This year I did heavily embossed Christmas cards. I began my planning in the fall; however, I ultimately made them around Thanksgiving. This years cards are A2 sized, like usual.

Since I didn't have any colored embossing powder when I started, my lovely mother-in-law Terri recommended some and her friend Mary Lou gave me a lifetime supply of red, green, and metallic ones. After making a sampler of the various embossing color options, I settled on a blue greeting, a clear desert scene, and a silver star.

Christmas Cards

Since the star and the desert scene are on the same stamp, I made a masking guide for my bulk processing. I stamped and embossed two sheets of paper with the scene in the desired position and cut out half of the scene on each. This way, when I stamped each half of the scene (either the star or the magi) the other half was covered. I found this to be a much simpler method for masking a large number of cards.

Christmas Cards

Like I usually do, I added a hand stamped greeting inside and a stamp to indicate it was handmade on the back.

Christmas Cards

Merry Christmas!

My First Steek!

After setting it up as a goal this year, I steeked for the first time last week! Last fall, my friend Mary was preparing to teach a class about finishing techniques at a knitting retreat. When she asked for my help in test-knitting her pattern and offered an opportunity to learn how to steek, I couldn't resist. Unfortunately last fall turned out to be quite eventful and busy, so although I finished all the individual pieces of the sweater (and helped with pattern testing), I was unable to sew and steek the miniature sweater I had knit.

After testing out the pattern and submitting my feedback, I was left with four pieces: a front, a back, and two sleeves. I seamed the shoulders first, then the sides and sleeves. In the normal scheme of things I'd probably pick up some stitches along the collar and call in finished. However, since the plan was to steek my mini pullover into a cardigan, I set it aside until steek day.

Miniature Sweater Steek

For those of you following along at home, yes, I did knit a sweater in pieces, only to steek it to make it into a cardigan. If you know anything at all about steeking, you probably know that it's a method to make it possible to knit in the round for the entirety of the sweater and then cut it open at the end to (magically!) become a cardigan. This is a distinct advantage for color knitting where working the colorwork pattern on the wrong side is not a proposition for the faint of heart.

The first step of the steek was to crochet along what was to become the edge of the cardigan. The middle of the front was marked with a line of purls to indicate where we would eventually cut. I crocheted through the sides of two stitches a half stitch away from the purls on either side. Reminding me of gym class, my left-handedness became a detriment as I followed my right-handed friend using my left hand but with a right-handed setup. On the second side I attempted to go fully left-handed which initially slowed me down; however, by the end I had started to get the hang of it.

Miniature Sweater Steek

After inserting our crocheted stabilization, it was time to do the scariest (and most exciting!) step: cutting it open. First I made certain that I was only going to cut through one side of my miniature sweater; I then began cutting along that center line of purl stitches. After the first snip, and the realization that the sweater really wasn't fully unraveling, I gleefully continued cutting and transformed the sweater into a cardigan.

Miniature Sweater Steek

Once it was split wide open, the main remaining step was to pick up stitches for the collar and placket. I opted not to add buttons since I didn't know the size of the stuffed animal it would eventually belong to (open cardigans fit more sizes!). The band is in 3 by 3 ribbing like the bottom of the sweater. After the ends were woven in, a final step should be taken to stabilize and flatten the steek and line of crocheted stitches. A blanket-style stitch along the inside will keep the line of crochet stitches and the loose ends flat and protected. Due to the rush of the holidays, I haven't had time to find a lighter weight yarn to use and complete this task; however I will finish this last step sometime in the new year.

Miniature Sweater Steek

I'm quite excited for my miniature sweater and the opportunities that steeking brings. I'll probably attempt a few more smaller steeks before I get my confidence up to do a full-size sweater. Although this quick little project took a little over a year start to finish as it waited for the right time to be steeked, it was definitely worth the wait!

Tea Advent Calendars

Tea Advent Calendar

It's that time of year where everyone on the internet is showing their favorite advent calendar, or the one they wish they had time to make. ; ) I recently finished making a set of advent calendars for us and for our friends and family.

Last year when I visited my cousin Amy in Germany around Thanksgiving, I saw a commercial tea Advent calendar. As a tea lover, I was intruiged and bought one to take home with me. Unfortunately, since it was assembled way in advance and had some particularly strong flavored teas in the mix, all the tea bags pretty much tasted the same. Whatever flavor it ended up tasting like, it wasn't one I liked. The idea of a tea a day for advent; however, was a keeper!

After my experience with herbal teas overpowering the black ones in the calendar, I decided to make a black tea calendar. I wanted a different variety every day, but since I have some friends and family members who only drink plain black teas I also made a "plain" variant with a bit more repetition.

While shopping for teas, a theme for the week began to emerge:
Sunday: Darjeeling for a nice light afternoon tea
Monday: Plain, strong black tea to get the week started
Tuesday & Wednesday: no set theme (plain and flavored black teas)
Thursday: "Earl's Day" (Earl Grey)
Friday: "Chai Day"
Saturday: Experimental teas!!

Tea Advent Calendar

Calendar Teas:

Bigelow Eggnoggin'
Celestial Seasonings Earl Grey
Choice Russian
Choice Earl Grey Lavendar
Choice Mango Ceylon
Ketepa Pride
Harney & Sons Black Currant
Harney & Sons Chai
Harney & Sons Cinnamon Spice
Harney & Sons Darjeeling
Harney & Sons Earl Grey
Harney & Sons English Breakfast
Harney & Sons Irish Breakfast

Harney & Sons Orange Pekoe
Harney & Sons Paris
Harney & Sons Passion Fruit
Numi Breakfast Blend
Organic India Chai
Taylors of Harrowgate Darjeeling
Taylors of Harrowgate Earl Grey
Taylors of Harrowgate English Breakfast
Taylors of Harrowgate Scottish Breakfast
Tazo Chai
Tazo Peach
Twinings Darjeeling

After it all arrived, the tea was laid out, individually numbered by day, boxed, and decorated. (It isn't an advent calendar if there are no numbers...) To put on the numbers, I first tried metallic pens, but found that they didn't work particularly well. I ultimately landed on printable labels. I used Avery 5293 round labels since that size came 24 to a sheet which is perfect for numbering an advent calendar.

Tea Advent Calendar

The boxes are made from cardstock which I cut, scored, and cut again. I added an embossed greeting on the top "Christmas is on it's way!" and stamped the silly gift barcode stamp on the back. The adorable mooses were handstamped and colored by Terri, my papercrafting genious of a mother-in-law, after she saw how cute one she had sent me home with looked on top of the box! (So cute!)

If you decide to do something like this yourself, my biggest suggestion would be to look very hard for the words, "enveloped" or "wrapped" on each and every tea you purchase. I learned the hard way that if a 20 count box is individually wrapped it doesn't mean that a 50 or 100 count by the same brand is as well. Another hard-learned tip is that Taylors of Harrowgates individually wrapped bags are about 1/4" larger than other brands.

Tea Advent Calendar

Happy Advent!