On the Ninth Day of Craftsmas . . . .

my true love gave to me . . . handmade felted Christmas ornaments for the tree (and a giant margarita because we are getting down to the wire, people).

Last Christmas, I saw a pretty picture of some felted ornaments in Better Homes and Gardens magazine and I could not get to the craft store fast enough. Here are some of the pretties I made last year:

Christmas balls

Christmas balls

To make these, you will need:

the paper templates from the magazine linked to above (where there are also complete directions and a supplies list more thorough than I offer here)

felt, styrofoam balls, glue, pins, sequins, beads, faux pearls – anything sparkly a pin can go thru, ribbon, rickrack, trims, etc.

My bucket o' goodies I stick on the ornaments

My bucket o’ goodies I stick on the ornaments

1. Using the paper templates, cut out felt pieces of your choice and pin them on the balls. When you have a result you like, glue the felt in place – only the parts that look like orange wedges.

the printed templates and felt pieces cut with them

the printed templates and felt pieces cut with them

2. Use pins to over the seams of the wedges with ribbons, trim or rickrack of your choice. When you have them in place, remove the pins one at a time, add a bead or a sequin – or both – to each pin, dip the point of the pin in a dab of glue and insert the pin back into the ball.

3. Cover the “poles” of the ball  – the places where all the orange wedges meet – with a star cut from felt, or a circle. Decorate this as you wish, again placing beads and/or sequins on pins that are then dipped in glue

Covering the pole with a star

Covering the pole with a star

You can get as fancy or as simple as you want! I even bought some ornament tops at Michaels and pinned those on so I could hang the balls on a tree.

Larger balls

Larger balls

My goal is to someday make enough small balls that I can display them in a large glass vase during the holidays

Small balls!

Small balls!

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On the Eighth Day of Craftsmas . . . .

my true love gave to me . . . a big, fat Cranberry Cordial Cocktail because I’m about to kill someone if Christmas doesn’t get here and get over FAST.

Ugh.

So, if you’ve been following along, on the third or fourth of whatever day of this silly construct I made some Cranberry Cordial using a recipe that appeared in the New York Times Dining section at the beginning of the month.

Cranberry Cordial, steeping

Cranberry Cordial, steeping

The cordial was ready for straining and bottling after two weeks this last Wednesday night. So my visiting son Shawn and I opened the jar and tested it out.

Oh, baby.

Getting' it together

Getting’ it together

Okay, before we get how good this was, let’s talk about the process. The cordial steeps with chopped up cranberries in it, so we had to strain that out. Out came the cheesecloth, strainer, pitcher, etc. I made a terrible, sticky mess on the counter. But let that pass . . .

Cranberry mash

Cranberry mash

After straining the liquid once, I funneled it into a bottle.

Puttin' the genie in the bottle

Puttin’ the genie in the bottle

Then we funneled it into our mouths, straight up.

Straight up!

Straight up!

It was DELISH!!!!! Tasted sweet, but not too sweet and has the tart bite of cranberry and a hint of the orange peel it steeped with (I might increase the amount of peel pin the next batch).

After tossing that back, we opened the prosecco and made what I am calling a Cranberry Sparkler – 1/2 glass Cranberry Cordial and 1/2 prosecco. I would have added a lime twist, but it was 10:30 at night, it had been a long day and I just wanted the down my gullet.

Cranberry Sparklers!

Cranberry Sparklers!

Today is Saturday and Shawn, my husband Terry and I just finished off the cordial by making what I am gonna call Cranberry Sunsets:

Cranberry Sunset

Cranberry Sunset

1/3 cranberry Cordial, 1/3 tangerine juice, 1/3 sparkling water, preferably the kind with lemon flavor. Or, do 1/3 prosecco. Add a twist of orange – which you can see I did not, see above reason. DELICIOSO!!!

 

 

 

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On the Seventh Day of Craftsmas . . . .

WE QUESTION OUR SANITY AT STARTING THIS THING IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!! DID WE NOT LEARN FROM OUR SUMMER OLYMPICS DEBACLE????

I mean, ahem, “. . . my true love gave to me . . . a silver wire knit pearl bracelet.”

So the other day, I was teaching some friends how to knit this wire earring when I thought, I HATE THIS EARRING. Then I thought, but what if instead of knitting something fan-shaped – which I found fiddly and difficult – I knit something square or rectangular?

I came home, strung 100 freshwater pearls onto one strand of wire, grabbed another strand, cast on and just made up a pattern as I went along.

This is what I came up with:

Pearl knitted wire bracelet

Pearl knitted wire bracelet

If you are a knitter, this isn’t hard. All you have to do is cast on, knit and run the wire through the stitches of the last row (no casting off). Here is what you will need:

Supplies

Supplies

2 spools of Artistic Wire 32 gauge wire – I used silver. The gauge needs to be this fine in order for it to be sufficiently manipulated by your hands and the needles. I got my wire at the very fine Baubles and Beads

100 or more freshwater pearls, 4 mm or smaller. Mine are a bit smaller and also purchased at Baubles and Beads. Ccrystals, beads will do, too, just keep ‘em small.)

2 US size 1.5 or 2 double point needles. I prefer metal ones with a very sharp point to get under the wire.

Two ribbon clasps for the ends and a closure of your choice – toggle, lobster clasp etc.

1. String the pearls onto 1 strand of the wire:

String of pearls

String of pearls

2. With both strands and leaving a 4 inch or so tail, make a lark’s knot onto one of the needles. Using e cast-on method, cast on 4 more stitches for a total of 6 stitches on the needle.

6 stitches om needle

6 stitches om needle

3. Begin bracelet: Knit three rows. This is where we’ll attach the ribbon clasp.

Three knitted rows, which will be covered by ribbon clasp

Three knitted rows, which will be covered by ribbon clasp

4. Begin pearl pattern: Row 1 (WS) knit one, place pearl, continue across row. Row 2 (RS) knit across. Rows 3 – 6  Repeat rows 1 and 2 two more times (you should have 3 rows of pearls). Knit 2 more rows, then begin with row 1 again and this time place two rows of pearls. Separate that by knitting 3 more rows. This should give you 3 rows of pearls on the RS of the bracelet separate by three plain rows followed by 2 rows of pearls, etc. Or just make up your own pattern as you go along, making sure to place pearls on the WS rows only.

Two rows of pearls placed

Two rows of pearls placed

5. Continue to desired length, knit 3 more rows. Cut wire leaving a 3 or 4 inch tail. Remove needle from live stitches and thread tail through the stitches.

Insert tails thru live stitches; cover with ribbon clasp

Insert tails thru live stitches; cover with ribbon clasp

6. Trim both tails close to bracelet. Attach ribbon clasp and the clasp of your choice.

DONE! Snazzy for the holidays or as a last-minute gift to give.

COUPLE OF TIPS – The spools of wire want to spring out and ruin your day. They will attempt to thwart your every move. My solution is to place them in these little lidded glass jars I got at the dollar store. The jars are heavier than the spools, so stay on the table when the lightweight spools want to fall off to the floor. Find something similar.

Jars

Jars

Also, the spools have a notch to grab the wire. Use it. Unwind a few inches of wire at a time, then notch it back to the spool. This will also help keep the wire from getting unruly.

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On the Sixth Day of Craftsmas

my true love (which I guess, at this point you’ve figured out, means ME!!!) gave to me: RED LENTIL SOUP WITH LEMON.

So why soup? Because next week I am going to eat my weight in wonderful things, so I thought this week I would make some healthy s&it.

I have been making this soup since I first read the recipe in the New York Times Dining Section three or four years ago. It is delicious – mildly Indian-feeling even tho it really has no absolutely Indian-only spices. It goes great with bread, salad and wine. Did I mention I am trying to cut back this week? Hmmm.

So in case you are too lazy to read the recipe, here is what you need:

Ingredients

Ingredients

Not pictured are the lemon, which I have to run out and buy, and the cilantro (YES, MOTHER, I CAN HEAR YOU GAGGING ALL THE WAY FROM TEXAS, BUT IF YOU DON’T LIKE CILANTRO USE ITALIAN PARSLEY AND BE DONE WITH IT). And see that red jar in the background? That’s my steeping Cranberry Cordial we made on the Third Day of Craftsmas. I get to strain it and drink it I MEAN BOTTLE IT FOR GIFTS on Wednesday. See that bottle of prosecco on the table? That just might have something to do with the Cranberry Cordial.

Okay, recipe step one – heat 3 T of olive oil in a heavy pot. Add 1 chopped onion and 2 cloves of chopped garlic. Saute for 4 minutes (I am not showing you a pic of onions and garlic sautéing because you should know that that looks like. And if you don’t there is simply no hope for you as a cook – turn back now).

Step 2 – Add 1 T tomato paste, 1 t cumin, a little cayenne (don’t do as I did and confuse the cumin and the cayenne – I realized it in time. And I hadn’t even had a cocktail yet), 1/4 t salt, 1/4 t pepper and add to the pot. Saute two more minutes.

Adding spices and paste

Adding spices and paste

Step 3 – Add the broth (I used stock), 2 cups of water, 1 c lentils and 1 carrot diced. Stir that sucker. Bring it to a simmer and cook partially covered for 30 minutes, until lentils are tender.

IMG_6911

Step 4 – Puree half the soup. I prefer to use an immersion blender my excellent mother-in-law (who reads my blog!) bought for us several years ago – best gift ever!

Immersion blending

Immersion blending

Step 5 – Squeeze juice of 1/2 lemon into the soup. Chop some cilantro (I KNOW MOM, IT TASTE LIKE SOAP) and sprinkle on top.

Step 6 – EAT IT!

Here’s an idea for a cheap I MEAN ECONOMICAL Christmas present – copy the recipe on some pretty paper, stick some lentils and spices in a jar and tell people how much you love them (but didn’t want to spend any money on them).

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On the Fifth Day of Craftsmas . . .

. . . my true love gave to me: knitted bead wrap bracelets!

Knitted Bead Wrap Bracelet

Knitted Bead Wrap Bracelet

Okay now before you get all wigged out, let me just tell you that you are going to see pictures of all different ones of these I have made in the last year or two here as illustrations. I wanted to get this post up, so I took pics of some that were already finished, some in progress and some I just started. So you’ll see all different colors. You can also go to my Etsy store and see the ones I have up for sale.

I started making these bracelets when I had so many schnibblets of fine fibers left over from big lace projects. A schnibblet is a highly technical knitting term that I made up that refers to a small ball of yarn too little for any real project and too big to throw away. So what could I do with the schnibblets? This is what I came up with

As a necklace

As a necklace

As you can see, this “bracelet” – long enough to wrap around the wrist three times – can also be worn as a necklace. It is a simple knitting project that anyone who knows how to cast on and off and make a knit stitch can do.

What you will need for the project:

1 schnibblet – If you do not have a proper schnibblet, go to your local craft store and purchase a single skein of DMC Perle Cotton 5, pictured below. Do not substitute DMC embroidery floss as its 6 separate strands make knitting it difficult

2 20 gram tubes of size 6 seed beads (bead mixes work nice for this one)

big eye needle

magnetic clasp

size US 1.5 knitting needles, preferably metal (DPNS work well)

scissors, sewing needle, dab of hypo cement

Supplies

Supplies

1. Wind the schnibblet into a ball. Use the big eye needle to string all the seed beads onto the schnibblet.

Mr. Schnibblet meets beads

Mr. Schnibblet meets beads

2. Leaving a 6 to 8 inch tail, cast on 3 stitches. Knit one row.

Cast on and one row knit

Cast on and one row knit

3. Begin bracelet: Slip first stitch as if to purl with yarn in front; *insert right needle into next stitch as if to knit, slide up one bead, knit stitch.* Repeat between * and *.

Slipping the first stitch

Slipping the first stitch

4. Repeat step 3 until all the beads have been used up or you have reached a length you like.

Insert into next stitch, slide bead up

Insert into next stitch, slide bead up

You want to be sure to slip the first stitch of every row as if to purl with yarn in front so that you get a nice, smooth edge to your bracelet. It will look like a braid:

Slipped stitches on side

Slipped stitches on side

But if you are a brand-new knitter and this seems to hard, you can just knit the first stitch with no bead. But this will give you a different edge – pretty on its own, but different.

As you can see from the above picture, your bracelet will look like a zig-zag from the side. That’s what you want. As you get some length to it, tug down on the completed part every now and then to smooth it out a bit and get it even.

When you have reached your desired length, cast off all three stitches, cut yarn leaving a 6 to 8 inch tail. Use the sewing needle to attach the clasp with the tails, making 2 – 3 passes of the thread through the clasp. Tie a surgeon’s knot, trim the tails and add a dab of hypo cement to the knots.

Attaching the clasp

Attaching the clasp

Now wear that little purty to the next Christmas party!

Partay!

Partay!

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“On the Fourth Day of Craftsmas . . .

my true love gave to me . . . . bead crochet bangles for the party.”

Beaded Crochet Bangles

Beaded Crochet Bangles

Now this is a fun project! I started making these when I accumulated all these little odds and ends of “diva” yarns – ribbons, metallic yarns, rayons, silks, etc – and thought they were too pretty to throw out. And taking up too much room to keep.

So I went to target and bought a bundle of 6 metallic bangle bracelets for about $5. Then I came home, broke out the crochet hook – a size C – and about 5 yards of ribbon, some size 15 seed beads (tho 11s will also work) and a needle and beading thread.

Supplies

Supplies

Begin by making a slip knot on your crochet hook and leaving about a four inch tail. Then position the hook on the outside of the bracelet like so:

Slip knot and position

Slip knot and position

Next, bring the hook through the center of the bracelet and grab a strand of the ribbon and pull it through and back up to the original position, like so:

Grabbing a loop through the center

Grabbing a loop through the center

Now grab another loop from the ribbon OUTSIDE the bracelet – if you look at the picture above you can see that I barely have to move my hook to grab that ribbon – and pull it through BOTH LOOPS on the bracelet, like so:

GRAB IT

GRAB IT

Then bring the hook back through the center of the bracelet and repeat the above. It should start to look like this now:

Making stitches around the bracelet

Making stitches around the bracelet

Keep going all the way around. If you see the metal bracelet showing through, push the stitches closer together – but not too close. Just enough to cover. When you have about an inch of metal bracelet still showing, grab the tail extending from the slipknot and lay it across the metal bracelet and stitch over it, wrapping it inside, like so:

Covering the tail

Covering the tail

When you hit the first stitch you made on the bracelet, enlarge the loop on the hook, cut the ribbon and pull the loop out so that all that is left is the tail, like so:

Pull that loop so it becomes just a tail

Pull that loop so it becomes just a tail

Thread the tail on a tapestry needle and work it under the stitches. Cut both tails close to the stitching.

Now it’s time to add the beads – my favorite part. Cut about a 4-foot length of Fireline or other beading thread and thread it through a size 12 beading needle. With the FRONT of the bracelet facing you – this is the side where the stitches form a kind of braid across the top – insert the needle from back to front under one stitch. Be sure and leave about a 4-inch tail. String 5 – 8 beads – whatever it takes to reach over the top of this braid to the next stitch in the back, making a slant, like so:

Begin beading over the stitches

Begin beading over the stitches

Keep going around the stitches until you have covered them all and then tie the tail and the working end of the Fireline into a knot. Cut the Fireline and weave both tails under the stitches.

And it should look like this:

Ta da!

Ta da!

Make bunch, mix ‘em and match ‘em – or go buy ‘em in my Etsy store.

IMG_6875

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On the Third Day of Craftsmas, My True Love Gave to Me . . .

Cranberry Cordial under the tree!

Cranberry Cordial

Cranberry Cordial

What luck! Last Wednesday, the New York Times’ excellent Dining section had an article about kitchen-made gifts for giving. There was an intriguing recipe for chocolate bark with pomegranite seeds and sea salt (stay tuned for that one, perhaps), pralines and  . . . CRANBERRY CORDIAL.

On the same day, our CSA veggie-fruit box arrived with a container of cranberries inside. At first I thought, “Thanks for the cranberries after the turkey is gone.” But a few hours later I read the recipe and thought, “Deck them halls, baby.”

The great thing about this recipe is it only takes two weeks to steep, so you can give it away or enjoy it yourself (guess which one I’m going to do) before Christmas. The other great thing was I had every damn ingredient in my house and did not have to go shopping. HA!

Here’s the recipe. If you’re too lazy to click on that, I’ll tell you what you need here:

1-1/2 cups water

1-1/2 cups sugar

3 cups cranberries

1 liter of vodka

grated zest of one orange

Bring the water and sugar to boil on the stove. Pulse the cranberries in a food processor till broken up. Add the cranberries and the zest to the boiling water and remove from heat. Stir in the vodka. Put in a couple of jars and seal. Shake daily for two weeks. Then strain the cordial, discard the fruit and bottle it.

Shake me!

Shake me!

Or drink it. I’m gonna drink it. All of it.

 

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