Author Archives: Paula Hendrickson
How to turn fresh fruit into summertime treats
With unprecedented heatwaves hitting much of the United States this summer, it seems everyone is looking for a fun way to cool off. Popsicles are great, but a lot of store-bought varieties are full of sugar. And the healthier ones made with real fruit can be expensive.
The good news? If you have fruit, a blender, a freezer—and some type of mold—you can make them at home.
Simple to make, refreshing, and healthy. What’s not to love?
The other day I saw these gorgeous strawberries on sale, just $2.50 for two pounds. With (another) string of 90+ days in the forecast, I knew I’d be making strawberry frozen fruit bars this week.
First, I soaked the berries about 5 minutes in cold water with a splash of cider vinegar. After rinsing and draining, I hulled and halved maybe two-thirds and popped them into a blender with about a quarter cup of water and hit puree for approximately 10 seconds.
At this point, sample the puree to see how sweet or tart it is. Tart berries might need a touch of honey, sugar, or agave, but don’t overdo it. Most of these berries were so perfect I only needed to add two scant teaspoons of sugar to balance the flavor. To add a little texture to the end product, I popped four more halved berries in and pulsed the blender two or three times.
Knowing how much liquid your molds hold is really helpful. From past experience, I know each of my six molds holds half a cup. The measuring lines on my ancient blender make it easy to eyeball the 3-cup mark. I could have added a few more berries and been just fine, but the fact is I wanted a few of those beauties to eat.
I carefully filled each mold directly from the blender’s pitcher. As you can see above, I could have made a tiny bit more. But I’d rather slightly under fill the molds than have the fruit mixture spill down the sides. I topped them off and popped them in the freezer. They take about 6 hours to freeze, but I usually leave mine in overnight.
If you decide to make frozen fruit pops, think beyond strawberries. Watermelon with a dash of fresh lime juice makes a great combination.
When I don’t have enough mixture to fill all six molds, I’ll juice a few oranges to fill the rest. I happen to have about a 10 clementines sitting in the fruit bowl. Once a couple of these molds are free, I’ll get squeezing.
Which fruits do you think make the best frozen fruit pops?
I know it’s too late to make a set of felt coasters for this Christmas, but I couldn’t share my latest non-pattern pattern until the family members I made these for had opened their gifts on Christmas Day.
The good thing is people need coasters year-round, and you can incorporate any types of designs you like. I like to stick with no more than five colors so there’s a cohesive look, but have fun and play around. There are no rules.
The inspiration for these coasters came from Instagram. I was scrolling through my feed and saw a photo of a mug sitting on a felt coaster. They intrigued me enough to ask the poster more about the coasters. She said they were made long ago by her mother, and she cherishes them.
Hers were square with rounded corners, but I opted for circles. (For the record, I traced around the inside of an embroidery hoop I keep in the box of embroidery floss.)
I could see my Instagram friend’s coasters were two pieces of felt sandwiched together with a blanket stitch. Simple. Not only does that offer an extra layer of protection between a cold glass or hot cup and your furniture, but the bottom layer also hides the knots and stitches from where the decorations are appliquéd to the top piece.
I happened to have several sheets of craft-store synthetic felt on hand. It’s an ideal choice for this project since it tends to be colorfast; wool or wool-blend felt might not be colorfast, so you can test it by putting a snippet of felt in a dish of hot water for a few minutes to see if the color bleeds. You don’t want the colors to bleed into each other. When I started I had no idea what I’d come up with, but I made four coasters in less than three hours.
It’s too simple not to give it a try:
Step one: Cut fronts and backs for your coasters
I chose a different color for the front and back of each coaster, but you can do whatever you like. If you don’t have an embroidery hoop, trace around a small bowl or cut squares. You could do scalloped edges, flower shapes—there are a lot of shapes that will work. Whatever shape you choose, make sure they’re large enough to accommodate most mugs and drinking glasses. You don’t have to be precise—I love a peek of color from the reverse side showing here and there.
Step two: Plan your designs
I thought about what types of Christmas designs I could appliqué onto the coasters, especially given the colors I had to work with. Trees, wreaths, candles, bells, stars, stockings, ornaments, and my personal favorite, Christmas lights.
You quickly realize some shapes are easier—or harder—to cut out. The bell did not go well, so I used the gold felt for stars. They were challenging, but I liked the end result.
If you’re good at embroidery, you might prefer to embroider designs instead of appliquéing cut-outs.
Step three: Arrange your decorations
Position and pin your decorations to the top piece of felt. Honestly, since the felt doesn’t slip around much, you could even skip the pinning if you like.
Step four: Appliqué
I wanted a folksy, hand-made look, so I used black embroidery floss to attach most of the appliqués with bold, and intentionally irregular, stitches. I didn’t even split the floss so it would really stand out. Another choice would be to attach the pieces with a blind stitch using matching floss. It’s up to you.
Step five: Attach the backs
The easiest way to secure the tops and bottoms of the coasters is with a basic blanket stitch. There’s a good tutorial video on You Tube that demonstrates, quickly and clearly, just how simple it is to do.
Once again, I used un-divided black embroidery floss for a bold, decorative look.
I wasn’t at all precise in stitch length or spacing between the stitches because I wanted a random, primitive look to the coasters.
That’s literally all it takes to make practical, pretty coasters. For me, the hardest part was cleaning up all of the tiny bits of felt that fell on my lap when I was trimming pieces.
Now for a quick peek at the backs of some finished coasters:
Look at that—they’re reversible! Even if you top your coasters with seasonal designs, just flip them over they can still be used during the off season.
I made the first four coasters as an experiment. I thought my sister would like them. (She did.) The coasters were so quick and fun to do—and I had enough felt left—so I decided to make another set for my brother and sister-in-law—and finally a set for myself.
What handmade gifts did you get or receive this holiday season?
I always love trying something new or learning a new technique with each knitting project, but only last month did I finally get around to trying entrelac.
I’m not sure how to really describe it, other than the finished piece looks somewhat woven. That’s accomplished by working each “tier” in a different direction by picking up stitches and knitting others together. There’s a sense of immediate gratification with entrelac, since you’re sort of building it in blocks. It begins with a foundation tier of triangles, with the next tier being rectangles worked on one side, with the following tier going the opposite direction.
The pattern I chose, Entrelac Cowl by Marly Bird, was a great choice for my first attempt at entrelac.
It sounds complicated. Reading the pattern can be confusing. Fortunately, there was a You Tube video created for this very pattern. As soon as I saw it in action, everything clicked. Once that happens, you barely need to glance at the pattern because it simply repeats itself—one tier worked on the “right” (knitted) side, and the next worked on the “wrong” (purl) side.
The coolest part? Using a yarn with long color changes really shows off the pattern. You don’t need an expensive hand-dyed yarn, either. I used Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable in “Dragonfly,” but you could use any brand or colorway.
I had so much fun making the cowl that I wanted to make another one, so I told my sister if she liked it she could have it. Here she’s wearing it down (you can also use it to cover your shoulders), and below she’s got it doubled up. (She even joked around by wrapping it around her neck and over her head. That might not look so cute, but it works if you don’t have a hat.)
You guessed it. She liked the cowl. That means I’ll have to make a new one for myself—after the holiday knitting is done.
If you haven’t tried entrelac knitting before, don’t be intimidated. Give it a try!
What knitting techniques have you always wanted to try buy haven’t gotten around to yet?
Over a month ago I discussed the summer slump in my crafty projects. Not much has changed since then, but I’ve finished two more throw pillows for my sister, and have worked my way through most of that stash of cotton yarn.
(I’ve made seven more since this photo, and as you can tell from the dishcloth on the left, I’m at the point where I’m running out of one ball of yarn and finishing with another. Adding a multi-tone yarn to a coordinating solid helps you avoid having a “right” and “wrong” since to the dishcloth.)
I’ve also crocheted so many more hexagons for a summer bedspread that I have that pattern committed to memory, too. I think I have roughly 60 hexagons completed, which probably won’t even form one quarter of the future bedspread.
I really love the way the latest two throw pillows turned out, too. I especially love the texture on the larger pillow.
My plan for now is to use up all of the yarn as quickly as possible (leaving any small remnants to piece all of those hexagons together whenever I have enough for a whole bedspread), and knock out a few more pillows for my sister.
Once the cotton yarn has been used up, I have a new knitting project I can’t wait to get started on, but I want to wait until there aren’t any more 85-90-degree days in the forecast. It’s a larger project, so I had to get a longer set of size 11 circular knitting needles. Luckily, those were on sale when I bought the yarn.
It’s no secret that the new project is another baby blanket for my cousin and her husband, who are expecting their second child in early 2019. And don’t read anything into the color of the yarn. It’s not blue, it’s actually a vivid turquoise-y aqua. I chose that color because I saw a lot of aqua and turquoise on my cousin’s Pinterest page.
With the Autumnal Equinox just a few weeks away, it’s good to know I’ll have a challenging new project to work on when knitting season kicks in. It will involve a bit of intarsia, which means changing colors without stranding the yarn. It results in a cleaner reverse side, but you have to watch how you twist the yarn so you don’t create gaping holes.
I’ll probably post an update or two on the baby blanket as it progresses, but I don’t want to show the exact pattern. That will be the surprise for my cousin and her husband. Instead of “What’s Paula knitting?” they’ll have to wonder, “What will the baby blanket Paula’s working on look like when it’s done?”
After all, a knitter can’t reveal all of her secrets.
What types of creative projects do you look forward to when seasons change? Or do you refuse to let hot or cold temperatures stop you from your hobbies?
Ah, summer. My least-favorite season. (Sorry, summer lovers, but sweating while standing still is not my idea of fun.)
My desire to knit and crochet anything more than cotton dishcloths is virtually non-existant in hot weather. And remember the knitting machine a friend gave me? I still haven’t read the books that came with it. One detail I gleaned from a quick glance at the books is that the knitting machine needs to be clamped to a strong table.
The only option here would be the heavy-duty formica-topped drop-leaf table Grandma bought when she moved from her house to an apartment. But that’s where the sewing machine is currently set up for making throw pillow covers for my sister. I’ve even left the ironing board up since the loud squeak it makes each time it’s set up or taken down freaks out Doggie Sadie.
The sad part? I’ve only made two pillows so far. The first cover I made was for a huge 27″ pillow form. It was very frustrating because my sewing machine kept jamming. I thought I’d loaded the bobbin wrong. Nope. The machine was threaded properly, too. Then I realized the thread was too thick for the needle. I switched to a standard weight thread and all was well.
My sister bought two large pieces of that particular remnant, so I had more than enough to make a removable cover: a square front, and two rectangular pieces that overlap a few inches in the back.
The second pillow is striped, and I wanted the stripes to run horizontally. While I had enough fabric to make it removable, I knew the reverse side would look really bad if I couldn’t align the stripes perfectly….so this cover isn’t removable.
The pillow form is machine washable, so if my sister washes the entire thing and the fabric shrinks or looks wrinkled, I can always make another cover.
A big reason I consider sewing a summer project: The only air conditioner in the house is in the dining room. (It’s an addition. The original house has large, beautiful casement windows that open like doors, but the addition has ugly canopy windows, so I had a canopy window removed and a window unit built in. And yes, I saved the old window in case anyone ever wants to put it back in.)
Once I finish some more pillows I’ll put the sewing machine away and start reading the knitting machine books. Then I’ll try setting up the knitting machine. From what I’ve learned so far, it will probably need a sponge bar, and I’ll also have to see what types of yarn I can use in it.
In the meantime, a friend who makes hats for the homeless gave me a grocery bag full of brand new cotton yarn. She couldn’t use the cotton yarn for winter hats, but knew I like working with cotton yarn in the summer.
All that and I’ve barely made a dent in the new yarn supply.
My siblings both got creative this summer too. My brother did a woodworking project,
and my sister did an art project. I’ve asked if they’d do guest posts about their projects, and neither said no. But it will probably boil down to if either of them remembered to take photos while making their projects.
What summer crafts have you been working on?
I often say my dog, Sadie, has never seen a throw pillow she didn’t want to eviscerate. That’s not quite accurate. There are a couple she’s left alone, one being this Impromptu Pillow I made several years ago.
When I realized I had a couple of 10″ pillow forms and the two skeins of yarn Guest Dog Stanley got into a few months back, I decided to make a tiny version of the Impromptu Pillow. The 10″ pillows are small enough they could be dog toys (especially for my giant furry nephew, Duke—a Redbone Coonhound and Great Pyrenees mix), but since the Impromptu Pillows have crocheted edges, I knew I could make it look larger by adding a couple more rounds of edging.
I designed the original pillows to be made with super bulky yarn, so I had to adjust the gauge, using the gauge information from the yarn label that Stanley didn’t shred to determine how many stitches I needed to make to make a square to fit the 10″ pillow form.
Since this particular yarn says 20 rows of 14 stitches knitted on US 10 needles averages a 10cm square, I used a ruler that has inches and centimeters to figure out how many centimeters I wanted the square to be. Gauge can vary a lot by knitter, so I first tried 28 stitches, but that ran a bit small. Then I tried 30. That was still a bit small, and I also remembered that seed stitch works easiest with an odd number of stitches—because each row starts with and ends with a knit stitch there’s really no pattern to remember other than Knit 1, Purl 1.
Thirty-five was the magic number for me. After a couple of false starts, It was finally time to start knitting.
I didn’t count rows, I just eyeballed the size of the first square, and used it as my guide for the second square.
You’d think knitting panels for a smaller pillow would take less time, but I was using smaller needles and a thinner yarn. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it got a bit monotonous. There’s a reason I love thick yarn and big needles: The work goes a lot faster.
I made sure to finish each square with an odd row, so the cast-on tail would be at the lower right and the cast-off tail on the upper left.
Then the assembly began:
Starting at a corner, I joined matching yarn—you could use a contrasting color if you like—and used a simple single crochet to join the first two edges. If you don’t crochet, or want a more modern, streamlined look, you can always skip the edging and sew the edges together with matching yarn and a blunt, large-eyed needle. But remember, my goal here was to make a 10″ pillow look larger.
I used 24 stitches to close each side of the pillow, and for the corners I did 1 single crochet, 1 double crochet, 1 single crochet all in one stitch to form a square corner.
I improvised the edging, but sketched out a few options, with each dash representing a single crochet stitch. (I am not fluent in crochet charting symbols, so I did what made sense to me.) The first row was basically a repeat of 1 single crochet, skip one space, chain 1, 1 single crochet (starting each round with a chain 1 in place of the first single crochet, and ending each round with a slip stitch joining to it for the final stitch).
The final round I did—starting and ending like the previous round—was essentially a repeat of chain four, 1 single crochet in the chain 1 space, and the corners were chain 2, 1 triple crochet (into the double crochet stitch of the previous round), chain 2 which ended with a single crochet which leads right back to repeated stitch pattern.
I think the final result looks pretty nice. A little bit of a lacy flourish, but not too ostentatious. Here it is sitting next to the 16″ Impromptu Pillow shown above. That pillow only has one row of edging because I was nearly out of yarn. That super bulky yarn also doesn’t really allow the lacy details of the crocheted edging to show through. So I guess there are advantages to using smaller needles and thinner yarn. Sometimes.
Anyone want to guess how long it will take Sadie to attack this new pillow?
For some reason, a lot of people in my family (including me) like sleeves with thumbholes. When Sadie was a puppy, her razor-sharp puppy teeth ripped holes into the sleeves of a couple of my tops, but instead of turning them into dust rags or quilt fodder I stretched the tiny holes into thumbholes.
But no one loves thumbhole sleeves as much as my sister does. When she found this pattern for Camexia Design’s Cropped Thumbhole Sweater, she asked if I could make it for her. The pattern looked fairly simple, and I love working dropped stitches, so she ordered the same King Cole Big Value Chunky yarn mentioned in the pattern and had it sent to me. She chose the color “Caramel”—ostensibly to match her dog, Stanley.
The yarn happened to arrive on the first day of Stanley’s latest doggie vacation here with Sadie. I wanted to read through the pattern before casting on, so I put the yarn into a project bag and set it beside my knitting chair. The next morning I found this spread across the living room floor:
Someone had a party with two skeins of yarn. Luckily my sister bought five skeins, just in case I needed to make a different size.
While I didn’t witness the mayhem, Sadie is used to yarn and knitting projects—finished and in progress—so she’s pretty blasé about it all. When I get new yarn, Sadie takes one look and is like, “More yarn? Boring!” Stanley, on the other hand, happily sniffed the yarn after it arrived, and an hour or so later I caught him on the chair curled up with an intact skein of yarn. In the middle of the night he ran into the living room to bark at things several times. Given the evidence and Sadie’s total disinterest in yarn, I think it’s clear who the culprit was.
The good news is I only needed three skeins to make my sister’s cropped thumbhole sweater, so I didn’t have to detangle the massive pile of yarn to finish the project. (That said, when I finally did untangle it, it took a couple hours.)
This sweater is designed to have the bumpier purl side of the stockinette stitches showing, but my sister preferred it with the smoother knit side showing. Either way, it was a fun knit and looks really cute on her. In fact, she loved it so much she asked me to make a second one in a heathery charcoal grey.
I only came across two stumbling blocks when making the first sweater. One I didn’t notice until I’d finished it:
- I think there should be yarn overs BEFORE purling the first stitch of the yarn over rounds or you won’t have loops to drop on the first stitch of what I call the “purl drop” rounds; knitted as written, there’s a vertical column of tighter-looking stitches running down the middle of the back (or front, since it works either way; see photo above) of the sweater. My sister has long hair, so if her hair is down she can put that side in the back, but if she wears her hair up she can throw on a couple of longer necklaces to divert attention.
- Try as I might I couldn’t figure out the special cast-off method described in the pattern. I contacted the creator via Instagram and Ravelry, and she gave me a link to a video that shows a similar technique. She said it was included with the pattern, but I didn’t see a URL for it on the printout I was using. Once I saw a few seconds of the video it made perfect sense. You’ve got to love a responsive designer who answers your questions!
Now that the second sweater is on the needles (isn’t the heather gray gorgeous?), here are a couple photos of those super fun double purl drop rows.
If you have a big gap under the arms when you finish, just thread a little leftover yarn through a wide-eye darning needle and close it with a few quick stitches. Simple.
I hope my sister likes the charcoal version as much as the caramel one!
Ruk is a good friend of my sister. Ruk is a long-time knitter (I got my go-to sock pattern from her several years ago). She’s also very generous. A couple months ago, Ruk asked if I might like her old knitting machine.
Yes, please—and thank you!
I had no idea what kind it was, but I thought it would be fun to try.
My sister brought it over yesterday. This morning I looked it over—it appears to be in great condition (even the original Styrofoam pieces that secure a couple of parts were intact!)—and noted the brand and model number: Studio 155.
As soon as I posted that information on Ravelry’s Machine Knitting group fellow knitters replied saying it’s a wonderful workhorse of a machine and offering links to information about machine knitting and tips about what to do before trying to use it. The most important thing being I need to check, and possibly replace, the sponge bar. I didn’t know what that was, but again, they provided me with links and information.
My sister said Ruk found another thing that goes with the machine, so I’ll get that later on. In the meantime I’ll read the owner’s manual (which I was able to download thanks to another link from my new friends in the Ravelry group) and a two-volume set of books Ruk also gave me, Bible for Machine Knitting.
Thank you for this wonderful gift, Ruk. I hope I can learn how to use it well enough to make some exciting new handmade projects. (To me, hand knit still means something it made one stitch at a time on handheld knitting needles.)
Precisely one year ago I announced my pledge not to buy any new yarn (unless it was for a special project for someone else) until my yarn stash was gone or the calendar said 2018.
The funny thing? I didn’t miss buying yarn that much. Or at least not as much as I thought I would.
This is what my yarn stash looked like one year ago:
This is what it looks like today:
And that includes remnants of new yarn I purchased to make one pair of socks, a baby blanket, four chemo hats, and four scarves!
How did I burn through so much yarn that it now fits into two under-the-bed storage cases?
- Gave a bunch of yarn to a friend who was making hats for the homeless
- Made two P-hats upon request
- Knitted wool mittens
- Knocked out a stack of cotton dishcloths
- Used scrap yarn to knit a Santa hat for a sock monkey
But hands down, the best stash-buster of all was the Sediment Scrap Blanket.
Not only did the quintuple-stranded blanket rapidly eat through an incalculable yardage of yarn, it resulted in a lovely, thick, and warm blanket which has been getting a lot of use during the recent (and seemingly endless) arctic blast we’re experiencing.
The challenge taught me that it’s important to save yarn labels or find a way to note what types of yarn you have in your stash. Knowing which yarns are wool is important if you want to make something that’s washable, if you want to felt something, or if you’re making an item for someone who’s allergic to wool or other fibers.
Now that I’m free to buy more yarn without any restrictions, I think I’ll keep wheedling down my yarn stash. It’s been a fun challenge, and I’d encourage other yarn addicts to give it a try.
What craft-related resolutions did you make last year—or for the new year?
I confess: Working on a lot of little projects barely put a dent in the yarn stash I pledged to use up over the course of 2017.
Fortunately I spotted the Katie Rose Pryal’s Sediment Scraps Blanket on Ravelry. Because you’re working five—count ’em five—stands of yarn at a time, this project really burns though a yarn stash. It also makes for a really thick, warm blanket.
The pattern works up much like the classic dishcloths I made over the summer (using up nearly all of my cotton yarn), but it seems even faster because it’s on large needles. This is what I had after a just couple of hours of knitting:
The Sediment Scraps Blanket pattern is really fun to knit. I got excited whenever a strand of yarn ran out and needed to be replaced.
I tried to balance the colors a bit, so there wouldn’t be too much of any single color in one area, but sometimes the yarn had a mind of its own.
This is a pattern that really showcases the basic garter stitch. Despite being worked on the bias, it’s also straightforward enough for a beginning knitter to tackle it if they know how to work simple increases and decreases.
It’s hard to believe, but about mid-way through I was worried that if I made my blanket too long I might run out of yarn.
The final result is a thick, heavy, warm blanket that’s about 50″ by 60″—a perfect size for settling in to watch TV on a cold evening.
Not only does this pattern use up a lot of random yarn scraps, it holds memories of each project those bits and bobs of yarn came from. A really cool thing happens when so many different colors combine into a single object: the new item can blend in with pretty much any color scheme.
Did it use all of my yarn stash? Not quite. But most of what’s left now fits into two under-the-bed storage cases, so it made a huge dent.
After the holidays I think I’ll try to make a coordinating throw pillow to use up the rest of my stash.