Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fall Promotion

Fall is here!  Well, at least in theory for where I am.  Living in southern California means that it is only 100 degrees outside instead of 115.  But hopefully in other parts of the country the leaves are turning shades of red and orange and there is the cool crisp in the morning air.  To celebrate the return of handknits weather, I am offering 20% off all my patterns until October 1st.  Enter coupon code fallishere in the Ravelry checkout box.  Happy Fall and Happy Knitting!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Adventures in Applique and Vacuum Cleaner Cookies

It all started yesterday when I mentioned cookies to my husband.  He is stationed across the US from me, and until I can move out there we usually only get to talk on the phone once a day.  I mentioned that I had been craving some homemade cookies, and he burst out, "Oh!  Will you send me some cookies? Please please please!"  Would I really say no?  Of course not.  I really enjoy cooking for him, and being 2,400 miles apart makes that a bit difficult, so sure I'll send him some cookies.  He specifically requested my famous Vacuum Cleaner Cookies.  No they aren't made in a vacuum cleaner and they're more like bars than cookies.  My mom used to make them when I was a kid, and they are still my most favorite cookie.  Easy to make, not too many ingredients, completely unhealthy, but the most delicious cookie you will have ever eaten.  I promise.  So here is the recipe:

1/2 c margarine (not butter) melted
1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1 1lb box powdered sugar
1/2c flaked coconut
1/2c chopped walnuts

Combine margarine, cake mix and 1 egg.  Stir together until moistened.  Spead into a well greased jellyroll pan.  Beat 2 remaining eggs, then beat in cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Stir in coconut and walnuts.  Pour over mixture in jellyroll pan and spread evenly.  Bake at 325 45-50 minutes until golden brown.  Cool pan on wire rack then cut into squares.  It actually makes more than twice the amount shown in my picture, I already packed up half the cookies into my care package.  I have to keep a few for myself!

While the cookies were baking, I decided to make a little something to put in the package.  Hubby has gotten used to the insane amount of craft stuff I have and graciously accepts every little thing that I make for him.  Several years ago, while we were still dating, I convinced him to go to the Renaissance Faire with me.  In costume.  While it was 90 degrees outside.  Yes, he really loves me that much.  As a finishing touch to the costume, I gave him a handkerchief with my initials embroidered in the corner as a 'token of my affection'.  To my surprise, he carried it around in his wallet every single day until he left for basic training.  He left it at home somewhere but can't remember where, so I thought that today would be a good day to make something to replace it.  I've been oogling lots of beautiful quilts lately, many of them with incredible appliques.  I've never tried an applique and thought this would be a good opportunity to give it a whirl.  I designed a little heart with our initials embroidered inside.  I haven't embroidered for about 20 years, so I was glad to find that I can still do a decent job of it.  The applique, however, proved more difficult.  At first I tried just pressing under the 1/4" seam allowance but has a hard time.  I decided to put the finished size heart paper pattern on the side and basted the seam allowance to it and then appliqued it to the backing fabric.  When I had about 2" left on the straight edge of the heart, I pulled the paper out and completed sewing on the heart.  I think it turned out pretty well.  It isn't really as crooked as it looks in the photo, I just took the picture at a funny angle.  I stuffed a piece of my lofty batting on the inside.  Not really a pillow, I'm not sure exactly what it is.  Just one of those funny things to have around.  I wrote on a note to him 'its soft and squishy and has a big heart- just like you' haha.  Lets hope he doesn't take that the wrong way!

making progress on designs and quilting

Last night I finished the second version of the button box cloche.  Now comes the hard part... actually writing up the pattern!  With two versions, multiple sizes for each, plus some instructional photos it will take me awhile to get it looking clear and cohesive.  Before I tackle that big project, I decided to write up the (simpler) pattern for a hat I finished earlier this month.  I took the photos this morning, much to the amusement of my neighbors.  They probably wonder what that crazy girl with the tripod is doing.  Here is a closeup of the stitch pattern.

  After the photoshoot I came back home to type up the pattern.  My knitting assistant pooped out pretty early on and provided moral support from afar. 

At night I have been hand quilting my throw blanket.  I'm having a really hard time making the stitches small, I think I picked a batting that is too lofty for hand quilting.  I suppose that is just one of many mistakes I will make as a beginner.  I bought a neat book called the The Quilters Catalog by Meg Cox and it is packed with information.  Definitely not a 'how-to' book, but more a resource guide of teachers, history of quilting, different quilting machines, etc.  I'm not even 1/4 of the way through the book and my brain is already boggled.  I read a profile of Eleanor Burns and checked out her website  I was really happy to find that her videos are available for free online.  I watched a couple of them and found that she is really entertaining and easy to watch while providing a lot of useful tips and instruction.  I laughed every time she unceremoniously threw her scraps over her shoulder and kept on working.  If you are a quilter and haven't watched any of her videos, check them out.

Ok, enough funny business.  Time to get back to work!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Design Aesthetic - Do You Have One?

Recently there has been a discussion about layouts for design proposals in the Designers group on Ravelry.  Several magazine editors have chimed in on what they looking for in a proposal, and one editor suggested a proposal that 'represents your aesthetic as a designer'.  What exactly does that mean?  I thought about it for a few minutes, and came to the conclusion that a 'design aesthetic' is a recurring theme or style that is apparent in a person's designs.  Sometimes you can spot a design and instantly know who the designer is without even having to look at the name.  A couple of handknit designers with a strong design aesthetic come to my mind.  Joan McGowan-Michael creates very feminine and vintage sweaters that are flattering for all figures.  Ysolda Teague creates whimsical and somewhat retro designs that are very wearable for everyday life.  But what about me?  Do I have a design aesthetic?  Looking at my 27 patterns listed on Ravelry, I don't think any of them scream "Thats a Cassie Castillo design!!" so maybe I don't have a certain style yet.  This is something I've struggled with since I was in fashion design school.  Other students around me definitely had a certain style of dress and their collections reflected that style.  If I had an unlimited budget, I suppose that my wardrobe would be very 1940's/50's inspired and I would knit sweaters to match.  I definitely know what I like to knit- designing cables, interesting use of entrelac, and geometric lace motifs- but I don't have a theme or 'message' that some artists try to convery in their art.  Maybe the design aesthetic is something that can only be built up with time and practice, so I'll keep on designing and hope that a theme eventually emerges.

Now if you've read this far, I'll give you another sneak peek at my upcoming design.  It was a nice and cloudy morning-- perfect for diffused lighting-- so I hurried outside with my tripod and took photos of my Button Box Cloche.  This one is definitely vintage inspired, so maybe I'll just add on to that 'design aesthetic'!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Button Box

I'm currently working on a design that involves buttons.  Lots and lots of buttons.  When I was a kid, my dear mother gave me lots of different craft kits.  Many of these kits were from the HearthSong catalog, which still sells great toys for kids.  One day she gave me a big Button Box that was filled with hundreds of different buttons.  Like any kid, I would go through them all and pick out my favorites and group them all by color or size.  Over the next 16 years I added buttons leftover from sewing projects and attached to new clothes.  Needless to say, my collection has vastly grown over time.  This morning I got out my Button Box and, just like I did many years ago, marveled over every button and picked out my favorites to use for my new project. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

New Pattern: Desert Waves Scarf & Shawl

I am happy to present my newest knitting pattern, Desert Waves Scarf & Shawl. 

Desert Waves Scarf and Shawl are worked in an eyelet chevron pattern. When worked in a yarn with long color changes, the pattern creates a gradation of undulating waves of color. The scarf and shawl are worked on needles larger than usually used for fingering weight yarn, which creates a slightly open fabric that provides warmth without too much weight.  Pattern includes charted and written instructions.

Finished Measurements:
Scarf: 10.5” wide and 60” long Shawl:17" wide and 80" long

Skills Needed:

Materials Needed:
US 6/ 4mm knitting needles
Scarf: 390 yards fingering weight self striping yarn
Shawl: 780 yards fingering weight self striping yarn

18 stitches and 24 rows = 4 inches in Stockinette stitch
Cost: $5

The photoshoot for this pattern was a rather funny experience.  It was the middle of August and I was visiting my parents down in the hot hot desert near Palm Springs.  I decided to take the photos on the golf course in front of my parents house, thinking that the palm trees and purple mountains would make a nice backdrop.  Right after breakfast my mom and I went out there to take photos.  It was only about 8:30, but it was already at least 100 degrees and there were biting fleas in the grass.  I found it hard to have a serene look on my face while I was dripping with sweat and getting flea bites on my legs!  Luckily we were done in about 15 minutes, and I very quickly ripped off my wool coat and took a dip in the swimming pool.