Slowly, but surely....

...... with the help of my husband, I am organizing my sewing room.  This past weekend Tom hung half of a 4'x8' sheet of (already) white pegboard for me.  Oh, what fun I had arranging and re-arranging my supplies.  I'm still not satisfied, but this is where I'm at right now.  He hung the tapestry (to the right) for me too.  All my growing-up-years this hung above my piano and I looked at it while I practiced.... or was supposed to be practicing :)   I love it here.  The light on my work table is from my great-grandmother.  Having precious things near makes me feel good.
Another shot, below, to get an idea of my work area taking shape.  Right now, it's working well to have the serger and sewing machine side-by-side as it opens up the table for more cutting room.  I've got a table-on-wheels that stores in my closet, so sometimes the serger goes there if I'm through with it for a while.  You can see a new ruffled knit top cut out and ready to sew.  It will go with the skirt hanging to the right.  I'll show more of those later when they're done.  Oh, can't forget my Ott light in the corner.  As I've gotten older, my eyes don't work as well as they used to and this light is perfect to supplement the lighting up-close-and-personal while I sew.   All the bulbs in the overhead ceiling fan are also Ott lights.  Yes, my two chairs are not slipcovered yet.  I'm having trouble deciding what fabric to use, but in the meantime, they still work great for sitting and working!
And what happened to the other half of the (already) white pegboard?  Tom hung it in the garage to hold a few things....
....this is my favorite!
I'll show more photos of my sewing room/workroom as it comes together a little more.  This is just a beginning.  I'm keeping a full-size bed in here as it still needs to be a spare bedroom..... and right now the bed makes a great "extra" table!

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how I use straight needles to cast-on & knit a lot of stitches

A new prayer shawl has been started today and it will be for me.  My mother went to her heavenly home October 3, 2012 and is most dearly missed by her daughter, who wants to embrace quiet introspective thoughts, ponder favorite verses and pray as she knits in memory of her sweet mother.
It was cathartic to pull together a celebratory video of mother's life  posted at our nature, garden and homelife blog for her funeral, but now that 'life' has settled down into a new normal, I simply miss her.... a lot.  You're never too old to miss your mom.
Ramona Jo Bennett Watson ~ 12.20.1932 - 10.03.2012
Tom (my husband) and I put this pretty flower arrangement together for mother's grave this past weekend.  I am learning a lot about what supplies to use and how this all goes together.  Who knew the headstone's empty vase was upside down in a hidden compartment.   Now her grave looks proper with pretty flowers in the up-righted, up-turned, above-ground vase and I thought the silk flower sprays we chose looked spring-like and 'natural'.... something my mother would like.  
I am modifying my basic simple knit trinity stitch prayer shawl pattern - again - and will post about that another day.  Today I wanted to (finally!) answer a reader's question from last year about using straight needles to cast on so many stitches.  In my 38" wide trinity stitch prayer shawl, you cast on 87 stitches, in the wider 45" wide trinity stitch prayer shawl, you cast on 99 stitches using size 9.0mm/US13 needles for each.  I've made many prayer shawls in the past using both straight and circular needles and my personal preference is straight needles, because it always seems when I use circular needles, I stretch my work terribly.  These 'shawls' are heavy from both the bulky Homespun Lion Brand yarn and the size(s) at completion, so there's a lot of weight on your needles as the shawl is knitted.

Okay, let's begin a new cast on after making sure all supplies are at the ready.  This yarn, from my stash, was purchased a long time ago, as you can tell by the Wal-Mart sales sticker of $4.00 per skein and the color 'Antique', has been discontinued.  (Click here to see the current Homespun Lion Brand yarn colors.)
For this new 'shawl' that will complete at approximately 45" wide, I need to cast on 101 stitches, again using 9.0mm/US13 straight needles. 
A slipknot to begin.  There's much instruction available for how to cast-on, so we'll just cover how the stitches handle on straight needles.
80 stitches have been cast on at this point..... 21 to go... don't worry.... all will fit.
101 stitches have been cast on here.  It might look a little crowded, but it works for me.   I simply push all the stitches down, and manipulate stitch-control with my left hand as I knit with my right.  For some reason I don't have as many problems with my work stretching on straight needles as it gets larger and longer.
Let's begin knitting.  I tend to use my fingers a lot to manipulate the yarn and each stitch.  Below, my left finger has moved the stitch to the top of the left needle to get it placed for my right needle.  My other fingers on my left hand, are keeping the other stitches down and out-of-the-way.  I'm knitting my third row in the following photos.
Working the same stitch as the above photo, the right needle is about to slide off the completed stitch.  This is to show how I use my right index finger to make sure nothing slides off my needle until I'm ready.
Still working the same stitch as the above two photos.... but it has been completed and slid off the left needle and onto the right needle.  The photo below is to show how I'm using my right index finger to pull it down onto my right needle and make sure nothing accidentally slides off.
As the stitches begin to build up and 'bunch' on your right needle, stop every once in a while and gently pull them down.  I've got my left fingers placed making sure nothing accidentally slides off the top!
About halfway done - looking pretty good.  You can see my cheapo counter in the photo below... I love it and use it to keep track of rows when needed.  It's an old plastic money adder gadget from long ago.
Just a few more.....
....and we've completed knitting row 3 of 101 stitches on straight needles.  No problem at all.  Don't worry about the curleque on the needle there.  It'll all knit straight.
I hope this helps with the thought of using straight needles for a large quantity of stitches.  I'll post about my new pattern as it begins to take shape.

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a new swing cardigan

It's done and ready to wear.  I love it!
This swing cardigan is from NEWLOOK 6164 pattern, view A.  This pattern notes it is *JUST4KNITS and what a great, stretchy, soft knit I had in my stash to use.  Even though I matched my measurements to theirs, taking into consideration my serged seams would be 1/4", not their 5/8" seam allowance, I chose size 12....  (I usually wear a size 6 off-the-rack).... and feel this is a little large and I should make size 10 next time.
The roll-back collar gives it a nice finish.  I couldn't believe the 'striping' matched up 'between' the collar!!! That was a bonus!
A full view look.... can't you almost feel the movement of the fabric through the photo.  I modified the pattern instructions to make it a simpler process for me by NOT easing the sleeves in after sewing the side seams.   This meant I could sew one continuous seam from bottom of top to end of sleeve.
Did not realize my fabric not only had a pattern, but STRIPES that needed matching until I began the 'thinking process' before cutting anything out.   Oh, I sweated, and procrastinated, then sweated and procrastinated a little more before forcing myself to make the first cut.  This is a side seam view and I'm VERY happy.  :)
So you can get an idea of how it 'wears'.  I've got on a short-sleeved top underneath, as this will be worn with some sort of sleeveless something that I'll be making soon.  The front is just a little shorter than the back.... that's exactly what I wanted.  It has a little 'swing' to it and the fabric is so comfortable.  If you look carefully at the shoulder seam and under the arm area, you can see that's where it needs to be a little smaller to 'fit' a little better. 
Pattern:     $2.97 from Wal-Mart
Fabric:      $0  from stash
Notions:   none needed, thread from stash
Time:        2-3 hours
TOTAL COST:   $2.97

Overall, I am very pleased with this piece and will definitely make it again.  

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Please join me for a cup of tea

About to cut out a new top, I stopped to enjoy a cup of tea with a slice of homemade cheesecake.  First things first of course.  :)   I thought it'd be fun to use my good plates today. 
This is an oh-so-easy cheesecake recipe with the flavor of a traditional cheesecake you might find from one made in a springform pan, but using a prepared graham cracker crust instead.
A topping of fresh strawberries seemed like a good idea.  It was!
They really should've named this recipe oh-so-easy cheesecake.  I've always used the Neufchatel cream cheese. 
Oh, back to the top.  After making my comfy knit top, I've been looking for a swing-cardigan pattern to make and picked up this NEWLOOK 6164 pattern at Wal-Mart for $2.97 last week.  (Have you seen the cost of patterns lately?!  This is a GREAT price.)  This pattern is very similar to the pink comfy top with the exception that is has a neckband that folds on itself to make a collar all the way down the front opening.  I'm making view A.
Photo credit and Pattern Review with more info
I like the sleeveless top, skirt and dress too.  So those might be next.  There's a lot of mix-n-match one could do with this $2.97 pattern.

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a first ~ for me ~ a pinwheel quilt block

You're never too old to learn a new skill, and today I had my first lesson in piecing a pinwheel quilt block.  I've wanted to learn to quilt for the last few years and when I read about a prayer quilt opportunity through my friend Snoodles over at Lily Pad Quilting, I decided this was the time.  Though with all due respect Snoodles, it took me a LOT longer than your 'I-have-fifteen-minutes-of-time-what-can-I-get-done', but with this being my first pinwheel adventure, I expected such and set aside extra time and thoroughly enjoyed the process.   :)

Snoodles let us know about Missy who is needing help pulling together a prayer quilt for her friend, sweet Kenzie, who is 7, has cerebral palsy and is recuperating from surgery on her leg and hip.  You can read all about Kenzie at Missy's blog.  I've knitted many prayer shawls, so was immediately drawn to the idea of a 'prayer quilt' using the same principle as one prays for the quilt's recipient while the blocks are made.

Missy thought pink and white or purple and white pinwheels from a 5" square would suit.  My first pinwheel quilt block:
I decided to keep my first-ever-pinwheel-quilt-block and it didn't take long to work up 6 more, now that I felt like I sorta' knew what I was doing, so these have already been mailed to Missy.
I used the Missouri Star Quilt Co. 'Update on the Easy Pinwheels' YouTube video that both Snoodles and Missy linked to and also referred to Susannah Kate over at Art Nest 's photo tutorial.

It feels nice to be part of a prayer quilt AND push myself to finally dip my toe into quilting.  I think I'm hooked!  

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Sugar and spice and everything nice....

An upcoming shower for an expected baby girl to be named 'Maggie'.... short for Margaret Ruth.  
A quilted baby nametag for her diaper bag so everyone would know which one is hers.
(I'm so glad I took the time to write down my own instructions for myself, as it was hard to remember as I've not made one of these in a while.)
A little baby can never have too many flannel blankets.  
A 36" x 36" flannel fabric...
...edges rounded using a plate for a template....
...adjusted my serger for a serged rolled hem setting....
...love the pretty pinks...
Included a homemade card ---
'Sugar and spice and everything nice....
THAT's what little girls are made of.'
I hope she likes it.
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