Sunday, January 31, 2010

Skating Anyone?

Hi Knitters,
Gotta love that cooooold Wisconsin weather when that's where you live. The Collector got ice skates for Christmas this year. She is so excited about them. My husband decided to make our own backyard ice rink in honor of the new skates. He did a bunch of research on how to make your own ice rink. He went with three of the kids over to Home Depot and gathered all of the materials which included a huge tarp, wood for the edges and brackets to hold everything together. My son and a couple of his friends worked on it one afternoon and made good progress. My husband then finished it up.
We have a cement basketball court in our backyard so that's where it made the most sense to put the rink. They filled it up with water over a week ago, maybe even two but it just finally froze hard enough to get a good smooth sheet of ice. For the past few days The Collector has been skating and skating and skating. Our neighbors have been over skating and they even made up a skating routine for fun. It has been hours of outdoor fun.
This morning is the brightest, coldest day and TC has already been out for hours on her rink. This afternoon her cousins are coming over to spend some time skating. I think that calls for some homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate! I need to get busy with the baking.

The Collector is wearing one of my favorite knitted hats, The One for All Hat. This hat has a knit in lining that is so simple and extra warm. The hat has one of the cutest ever pom-pom sets on top, too. I love this hat and have never really gotten a good photograph of it. When I saw The Collector had it on today for skating I thought I would try to capture a better shot of it. The back shot above is pretty good. The One for All Hat is a great first cable project to boot!

Here is the Ravelry page for the One for All Hat!
Outdoor winter fun is always good when you live in a cold climate like we do! Being outside, even when it's cold, just makes you feel better all around. I hope the backyard skating rink becomes an annual event. The cute dog next door, Maddie, enjoys the skaters, too. She stands there patiently watching as they go by. Occasionally the kids take a break and give her some love which is what she is waiting for.

My sister lives on a lake so she has a backyard skating rink all of the time. Do any of you have a backyard/homemade skating rink?

Hope you are getting outside a bit on these bitter cold winter days.
Talk to you soon.
best, susie

Friday, January 29, 2010


Hi Knitters,
I want to share one more of my new patterns that was recently released. It is the pattern for the Spud & Chloë pattern line called, Three Brrr Bears! Isn't that a cute name? I didn't come up with it but I am glad someone did. These are some fun polar bears to knit. I know this for sure since I knitted all three in the photo above.

Last summer I worked on the set of polar bears during the worst part of my home renovation. I remember it well. When I finished the largest bear I had it sitting in my studio. The main contractor came in my studio to discuss some house-related question and he asked, "Awww, are you making a bear?" I simply agreed. He had no idea what I was doing. I didn't even want to get into explaining it. I think he thought I sat around and knitted bears for fun all day.
Anyway, this pattern is so cool, literally. I had this idea to knit the same pattern with the three Spud & Chloë yarn lines, Outer in Soapstone (super bulky weight), Sweater in Ice Cream (worsted weight) and Fine in Popcorn (sock or fingering weight). Love those yarn color names. By simply changing the weight of the yarn and the needle size you get a different size bear in the end. I adjusted some of the lengths of limbs and the body for the different weights of yarn but that's it. The stitch counts and pattern is exactly the same for all three. It is so fun.
I started with the Outer bear. He is huge! This is the biggest bear or any sort of animal I have ever designed and knitted. It was a challenge to design a toy this size.
The Outer Brrr Bear sits on your lap like a big baby. The enormous paws and legs are knit in one piece. I am really pleased with the way they turned out.

There is a little polar bear tail and a big slouchy back to pat.
The Collector was taken. She had a hard time giving this one up.
Here he sits waiting to be stitched together. Here is the Brrr Bear whipped up in Sweater, the worsted weight yarn. This is still a good and hefty size toy that sits in and fills up your lap nicely.
Here is the littlest Brrr Bear worked up in the sock weight yarn, Fine. He is very sweet. I have never seen another toy pattern where you simply knit in different weights of yarn to get three different sizes. It is a trick I love to do with toy knitting. You could do this with Itty-Bitty Toys, too. The only catch is that you may have to do some length adjustment occasionally. Trust your eye if you do it.

Anyway, if you want to check out the Three Brrr Bears you can look to a bunch of places. Have fun!

You can purchase the pattern here online among many other online shops and here on the phone (801 466 1811)and here on the phone (608 232 1500). Anywhere you purchase the pattern you can also purchase the yarn so be sure to ask or look!

Quick change of note, I have been receiving some of the nicest, sweetest emails and gifts in the mail from people lately. I always try my hardest to respond but I want to tell you here as well (Linda, Michelle, Kathy, Amy, Judy, Kay (2), Renee (2), Sooz, and Gabi to name a few) how much I appreciate your effort to contact me to say kind and encouraging things, to send fun photos of your knitting accomplishments and to send me links of fun stuff. I love all of it.

A person doesn't get wealthy in my line of work but I am certainly rich with dear people like you by my side.

Thank you.
best, susie

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Hi Knitters,
Last May I designed and knitted a new bunny pattern for Blue Sky Alpacas. The pattern is now available and is called, Hop. Honestly, I had no idea what Hop would end up looking like when I started. I had a couple of ideas in mind when I began. One was that I wanted to knit the bunny in one piece with no seaming. The other idea was that the bunny should have a vintage feel. When I looked at some vintage toy images I gathered a couple of consistencies that ran throughout. Many of the fabric toys and dolls were long and many were flat. I liked this shape because a lot of the toys I design are round and chubby. This would be different and a fun challenge.

The image above is from the Blue Sky Alpacas photo shoot and it is the photo on the pattern. Isn't it beautiful? The photograph tells a story. The storybook quality is priceless. It's so moody. This photo tells more than a story, it could be the start of a novel.
The following photos tell the story of me in my living room with a finished bunny and a camera. It's not quite as intriguing. The bunny is knit in Blue Sky Hand Spun which is a huge treat. It is one of my favorites because of the homey hand spun feel. It is bumpy and sweet and organic and fantastically vintage-like in itself.

If you aren't sure how the construction works to knit a toy in one piece here it is kind of spelled out. You start knitting at the first toe and continue on to knit the leg. Set aside. Knit the second foot and leg. Join the legs together on the next round and begin to knit the body up to the underarms. Knit the arms separately starting at the hand. Join the arms to the body on the next round. Decrease for the shoulders and neck. Increase slightly for the head. Separate for each ear and knit to the top of the ear. You are done! There are only a couple of little gaps that will need closing up with a couple of quick stitches at the end.

What a fun little knit. You see the bunny come to life as you work.
I decided Hop could use a sporty sweater with a carrot applique and...
... a hole for the bunny tail to peek through. The sweater is knit in Blue Sky Skinny Dyed Cotton. It is knit in one piece as well, no seams.
I added some sweet whiskers to give Hop a distinguished look.
He looks sort of book smart to me and sort of soulful at the same time.
I love the over sized feet. Anyway, this pattern is an accomplishment for me. Creating Hop pushed my knitting in new ways. If you make Hop for yourself or a friend or loved one, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

You can purchase the pattern here among many other online and local yarn shops.

It's the perfect season for some serious bunny knitting with spring on the way soon. For some reason I love knitting bunnies. Here are some other bunny patterns I have made: Bunny, the free Rabbit pattern, the Oh, Bunny! washcloth, the easiest ever garter stitch square Bunny & Chick, the Organic Cotton Bunnies in One Skein Wonders, the Chubby Bunny, the Bunny Rattle, and the Bunny Tail Hat.

Phew! Maybe I should do a whole book of knitted bunnies. That would be fun.

Always remember that somebunny loves you, especially a knitted somebunny. (I'm such a nerd.)
best, susie

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hodge Podge

Hi Knitters,
I am lining up some yarn for a few projects today. Above is a fresh and spring-like pair of colors, Spud & Chloë Sweater in Pollen and Firefly, that will be whipped up into a new toy for an upcoming project for publication. I am nearing the deadline on this particular project so I really need to buckle down tight over the next few weeks. All other non-related projects have to take a backseat until I get things tied up and finished. Dig in and get things finished!!! That's my motto.
The Spud & Chloë Outer is going to be whipped up into a fun stocking hat that I have been planning for awhile. It will be an incredibly fast knit on size 15 needles. Bold, wide stripes will rule the roost! Look for this free pattern soon on Spud says! I will keep you posted.
The Collector is loving her new Slip Hat. It is a good hat to wear with curls I guess. It is soft and big enough not to crush your hairdo. I have no hairdo so crushing doesn't matter much.
Here is The Collector with her curls in the school spelling bee. We were proud. The boy in the green jacket seated behind her won.

Last week was incredibly busy and hectic. I felt like every day there was something or other going on. I am hoping for a quieter week ahead. How about you?
This is actually The Collector's new hat in the making. I tried it on because our heads are practically the exact same size with only 1/2 inch difference. She picked out the colors in Spud & Chloë Outer and she had some specific details she wanted. I later added earflaps, a fleece lining and some braided trim and ties. It is super, super cute. T.C. wore it the entire day yesterday and already has it on again this morning. It looks way different than in this photo and way cuter on T.C. I'll share more on this later with better photos of the finished project.

This is going to be another free pattern coming up on Spud says! I will keep you posted when I get it available. Again, it is so fast knit up on size 15 needles. We are talking about an hour or so for the hat.
Remember those marshmallow snowmen? This is the thank you note I got from T.C.'s class for sharing them with her class. Her teacher is adorable and creative. She has had all four of my kids and I am a lucky, lucky mom. The kids loved the snowman treat and I love that fact.

Okay, Barb Yerke may be the next cutest thing on my list. She fell in love with the movie Julie & Julia. She was inspired by Julie Powell's adoration for Julia Child and her cooking and blogging her way through Julia's cookbook. Barb is taking her own twist of an adventure and knitting her way through the Itty-Bitty books. Isn't that cute and wonderful? Please hop over and give Barb some love. Her brand-new blog is here: Knitting Thru the Itty-Bittys. She's off to a good start and I'll be cheering you on, Barb!

I posted a sweetheart of a little project for a Heart Tape Measure. It's a free pattern! Don't miss it. The Ravelry page for the tape measure is here.

I gotta scoot! We are going to the tooth fairy movie. Can't wait. I love Julie Andrews.
best, susie

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Little Corner

Hi Knitters,
No matter how hard I try to keep my tiny little studio space clean and tidy it never lasts long. Piles start forming on the floor, needles are strewn about, yarn and yarn labels are everywhere. And there I sit in my little corner of the world, smack dab in the middle of the mess working away like mad.
A short while ago I bought a pack of three canvas bags at Jo Ann's. I thought it would be fun to take a cheap canvas bag and turn it into a mini-work of art. I have a bunch of stacks of fat quarters that I ordered from here and some other odds and ends of fabric. I get to visit Spool which is right next to Loops in Philadelphia in March. Can't wait!
I made pockets and lined the inside of the bag. This is where my measuring skills leave something to be desired. The lining turned out a bit shorter than the canvas bag. I turned my error into a really cool design feature. I found a piece of coordinating fabric and I folded it in half. I ran stitch lines across and down to create a fun texture. I stitched it on to the top of the lining so it would stick out of the bag. How cute is that?
It looks so cool. I cut the measly original straps and covered and added on some fun fabric straps so I could wear the bag over my shoulder. Before I put in the lining, I sewed a checkerboard pattern with a pink thread on the canvas. Also, I cut out a few squares and stitched them on the thread pattern. The edges will fray with time, which I adore.
I have to have pockets no matter what. I added two good sized pockets in opposite fabrics on each side of the lining. As I was sewing I noticed my studio getting messier and messier. Sewers must have a lot of mess to keep up with. How do they do it?
The bag stands up so nicely. I love the little gap at the sides, it gives it a little character. The canvas forms like an outer shell.I love the mismatch of it all. Always will. The only time I don't mind ironing is when I am sewing.
What is it about canvas? It's so clean and natural and blank.

Stay tuned to see what I whipped up with some adorable kitchen towels...
On a side note, we made our annual marshmallow snowmen for The Collector's class. They are so fun. 3 marshmallows stacked on a sucker stick, dipped in melted white chocolate (the kind of chocolate discs from Vanilla Bean (Madison people) that melt in the microwave).
Mini-chocolate chips for faces and buttons. Fruit roll-ups make the scarves and a Rolo with a Peach Ring adhered with white frosting top it all off.
We wrapped up the treats in cellophane bags with a golden twisty tie.
Someone was very pleased which makes it all worthwhile!

Have a good rest of the week.
best, susie

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winner of Mad Hungry

Hi Knitters,
I randomly selected a winner this morning for the Mad Hungry giveaway. Elissa will need to email (my email is always on the blog sidebar) me to provide her mailing address. If I don't hear from Elissa in a couple of days I will select a new winner. Congratulations, Elissa! I know you are going to love this book. Thanks to all who left a comment and I loved reading about all of your Mad Hungry houses! We are not alone.

Here is the winning comment:

Blogger Elissa said...

this book looks fabulous and if i don't win, i for sure will check it out anyway! my boys are still only little and tend to have only spurts of mad hungriness, but i KNOW in a few years we're going to dealing with mad hungry all the time! thanks for the chance to win!
January 15, 2010

I hope you all had a good holiday weekend. It was nice to have that extra day. One exciting thing of note is that Stitchers Crossing in Madison has just received a boatload of Spud & Chloë yarn!!! Madison finally has Spud & Chloë in person!! I get so many questions about where to get Spud & Chloë yarn and products locally and now we have it available. Thank you to Stitchers for bringing in these great yarns. Let's be sure to support their effort!
I worked on Spud & Chloë Outer yarn all weekend long and it is a dream, just look at the photo below. This new color is called Cornsilk and it is a beauty.
Have a good day, Knitters.
best, susie

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Aunt Patty Was Here

Edited 1/19/10: The contest for Mad Hungry is now over. Thanks for entering!
Hi Knitters,
As promised I whipped up Aunt Patty's Coffee Cake this morning. The coffee cake recipe is found in Lucinda Scala Quinn's Mad Hungry, Feeding Men & Boys. I am hosting a giveaway for this awesome cookbook right now. I will let the giveaway stay open until Tuesday, January 19th. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post! Keep the entries coming! You will love this book.

In the background you can see some little legs just waiting for the coffee cake to cool. There were three kids waiting for me to turn the pan over so the coffee cake would pop out. They kept asking and asking when it would be ready. Mad Hungriness can even happen right away in the morning! Who knew?
It was perfection! There is a swirl of chocolate filling that runs throughout the cake. I didn't add the instant coffee in the filling because I wasn't sure if the kids would like the coffee flavor. Instead I doubled the cocoa powder to replace the coffee. It worked great.
Next, I whipped up a vanilla glaze to pour over the coffee cake. This isn't in the book but we all love a little glaze on our coffee cake. We're glaze people. The kids absolutely loved it!
My older daughter jokingly asked if I could make this every morning. The kids were all so quiet while they were eating and enjoying their breakfast. That is the best kind of review, right? It was a hit.
Here is the book version and behind is my version. It was so simple to make. I had the batter mixed together in a matter of minutes. The house smells like heaven from the baking. My kids and husband gobbled up the entire coffee cake in one sitting. Do you see why I need this book? We never have leftovers no matter how much I make. My husband made up some crispy bacon on the side. Sweet and salty.

Thank you, Lucinda and Aunt Patty! What a treat to have a warm coffee cake on this sleepy Madison morning. The recipe for Aunt Patty's Coffee Cake is now on my permanent keeper list as something to make again and again. Wonderful. You should give this one a try.
The shades of gray and creamy white make it difficult to photograph but we are in a frosty fantasy land this morning. The world is covered in vanilla glaze. The trees are coated in crystals and the air is misty. It is straight out of a storybook. My husband told me that he was watching the weather and they said the frost is a phenomenon called, frozen fog.
I had never heard of frozen fog before but it is so beautiful. I want to get out for a walk to fully the enjoy the magical quality of the trees this morning.

Have a good Sunday, Knitters. I'll be back soon with a winner of a copy of Mad Hungry in a couple of days. In the meantime, I hope you are finding some time to knit on this long weekend. I have been knitting up a storm. Can't wait to share.

By the way, the Sweetheart Washcloth and the Sweetheart Hat are selling like hot cakes. I can hardly keep up but that is a fun thing to have happen. Thank you!

best, susie

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mad Hungry? Win a copy!

Edited 1/19/10: The contest for Mad Hungry is now over. Thanks for entering!
Hi Knitters,
My publisher, Artisan Books, produces all sorts of beautiful, dreamy books that cover a multitude of topics. Mainly, they publish the most fantastic cookbooks by the world's most acclaimed top chefs. Every once in a while my editor, Trent Duffy, will kindly send me one of their new cookbooks. It is so fun to get a book unexpectedly on your door step. Well, this fall Trent sent me a copy of Mad Hungry, Feeding Men & Boys. I get to see a lot of cookbooks. I buy a lot of cookbooks. This one is IT! I am a family-size huge meal type cooker. This book calls my name loud and clear. Everything about Mad Hungry speaks to me. I absolutely have fallen madly in love, crazy head over heels in love with this book.
This is what happens to books I take a liking to, a post-it note attack. I start placing post-its to mark favorite pages so they stick out at the top of the book. Once I get too many on top, I then move to having the post-its sticking out on the side. The side sticker outers become the top of the list recipes. I have carried Mad Hungry around the house with me everywhere I go. I can't put it down.

The entire feel of the book is enticing. The cover is matte with a linen-y grainy feel, very old-school. The paper inside has a matte finish, the pages open flat and stay open, a wonderful feature. Everything about the book feels so good and warm and welcoming. The photography is delicious and appealing and simple and beautiful. Mikkel Vang showcases the food in a pure and simple light. Plus, I love the photos of Lucinda's husband and boys.

I can't get over how much I love the look and feel of Mad Hungry. It is different and cleverly constructed in the best way possible. Artisan Books and Lucinda Scala Quinn have created a piece of edible art with down-home accessibility. Congratulations.
Lucinda Scala Quinn (her blog is here and it is great!) has quite a resume. She is the Executive Food Director for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, a cohost of PBS's Everyday Food, has a satellite radio show called EatDrink and is married and has three boys. She knows of what she speaks. She is on Martha Stewart, the show, on occasion and I have seen a couple of her segments and she is wonderful to watch. When I first saw the book I wasn't sure what the expression Mad Hungry meant which is funny because I live with a mad hungry family every single day. There has been some discussion in a couple of reviews about the singling out of men and boys as the target for the cooking in the book and how it is stereotypical. But not for me! I totally get the concept of Mad Hungry and I wholeheartedly agree. I live with two hungry, starving boys and my hungry husband who is 6 feet 5 inches tall. All of the men in my life are athletes, constantly on the move and they live to eat. We all love to cook and eat. There isn't a day that goes by where someone doesn't ask me, "What's for dinner?" Usually it is early in the day when I get asked this.

Here is a blurb from Lucinda's introduction that struck home with me (p. XI):
"What's for dinner?" is the most important, most burning question. Food is everything to them and food is nothing until there is none. And, if they're "mad hungry" with no food in sight, life is a living hell." The title, mad hungry, is about that moment when someone can't wait another minute to eat, where control is lost and hunger has completely taken over their being. I get that. Lucinda goes on to say how completely satisfying cooking and feeding the loved ones in our lives is. Food is intertwined with family memories at our house and Lucinda clearly lives that way, too.

To tell you a relevant story, my 16-year-old son is always starving, beyond starving, and it becomes painful for him (and at times, me). Yesterday he drove home (yes, he just got his license) after morning swim practice and before first hour class started. He called ahead and asked me to get 4 slices of wheat toast, slathered in butter and strawberry preserves, ready for him so he could grab it and go. He is "mad hungry" ALL of the time. He came in and downed 2 granola bars, a yogurt, a banana, 2 big glasses of orange juice and the 4 slices of toast. Before he left he gave me a list of foods he needs for his "food locker" at school. Yes, the swimmers each have a designated food locker. He then thanked me and jumped back in the car and drove off to school. That's my life.

Back to the book, Mad Hungry has theories, recommended tools, tips, ideas and mainly fresh, simple, authentic recipes. The recipes use ingredients that you most likely already have in your house. That's my favorite part. It is so doable and real. Mad Hungry is for everyday moms and cooks and for men and women and families. Everyone is included in this family cookbook.

The food chapters cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and down-home desserts (my favorite chapter). The other night I made Lucinda's Chicken Parmesan (the Queen of Chicken returns!) and it was delicious. The recipe even calls for 3 pounds of chicken which is what I make for an average dinner. Most recipes call for 1 pound of chicken and I always have to double or triple recipes. This was all set for someone just like me with a hungry family to feed. I knew this book was meant for me. Lucinda even uses things like canned tomatoes, love that. Don't let the association with Martha Stewart and her complexity scare you away. These are everyday ingredients that you find at any local grocery shop. It's real life stuff.

Here are some things on my list to make:
Golden Granola. I have some nut allergies and I love granola but often nuts are mixed into store-bought versions. I can't wait to make my own toasty sweet granola.
I am a coffee cake kind of girl and when it is laced with chocolate? It's over. I am making Aunt Patty's Coffee Cake this weekend. Can't wait. Yummy hot coffee and Aunt Patty? Here I come this Sunday.
Tomato, avocado and basil? I'm sold. Onions, too? Heaven on earth. Doesn't that look fresh and good? The variety in the book is never-ending and it's all so easy and achievable. Lucinda has done an excellent job.
The dessert chapter is to die for: strawberry rhubarb pie, apple crisp, one-pan busy day chocolate cake (Lucinda gets it!), banana bread (a staple at my house), chocolate pudding, rice pudding (I am a fool for rice pudding), cookies and bars. The gorgeous photo above is for no-bake peanut butter rice krispie bars. Rice Krispies? Always and forever!

What I am most excited to tell you is that you have an opportunity to win a copy of Mad Hungry! I love this book so much that I asked Trent at Artisan if I could host a giveaway for my blog readers and he said yes. I think you all will love this book as much as I do. I want you to have this cookbook!

Leave a comment on this post to win a copy of Mad Hungry. I will randomly pick a winner in a couple of days. Please only enter one time to keep things fair and square. Leave an identifying something or other along with your comment, name, location, link or ravelry name or something. If you are selected you will need to email me to give me your mailing address so please check back to see if you win!

Good luck!!
For a brief change of topic and a quick reminder, last year I designed a couple of Valentine quick knits that make perfect gifts for the season. The first is the Sweetheart Washcloth Pattern which is so fast and simple and fun! Click here to find out more about the Sweetheart Washcloth.

The washcloth along with a lovely bar of soap and a ribbon instantly makes the perfect Valentine gift for moms, grandmas, friends, teachers, babies, kids...
The other quick knit is the Sweetheart Hat pattern. I made this one out of Sugar-n-Cream cotton which you can get for a buck or two at a craft store. Any worsted weight yarn will work. Click here to find out about the Sweetheart Hat pattern.

One last Valentine's Day quick knit is the Heart on a String hat pattern which is FREE on Spud says! I just posted this pattern a couple of days ago and I don't want you to miss out. The Ravelry link for Heart on a String is here.

Okay, have a good weekend, dear friends! I hope you get to knit in between your busy-ness.
best, susie
p.s. Oh my goodness, my publicist Chrissa Yee just emailed me the link for a review of Itty-Bitty Toys and the free pattern release of the Panda and Zebra puppets from the book on CutOut + Keep! Fun! I hope it's a good review, I haven't even read it yet:) Read along with me.