My first class on Skillshare!

I feel like my personal motto these last few years has been “be brave.” So when I’m afraid to do something I try to keep that in my head. And so even though the idea of filming myself teaching a crafts class was a little overwhelming, I decided to do it anyway!

I recently published my first class on Skillshare. If you’re not familiar, Skillshare is an online platform where you can pay a monthly fee to take as many video classes as you want. A lot of them are crafts/DIY related (knitting, calligraphy, drawing, etc.), but a lot of them are things like editing in Photoshop or getting more followers on Instagram. Good stuff!

One of my most popular patterns on Etsy and Ravelry is for a rope basket, so I decided to flesh that one out and explain in more detail for my first class. I really think it helps to see someone knitting the stitches and doing all the different steps in real time. 

So, if you want to take my class, you can enroll here. You should be able to use that link to get your first 3 months of Skillshare for $.99. BONUS: The first 25 students can take the class for free! 

As intimidating as this was, I still really enjoyed it and am already thinking about what classes I can teach next. 🙂

Super bulky cowl

If you’re looking for a project that works up quickly (a la the arm-knit cowl), try this one. I can have one of these babies finished in half an hour!

At first this project came up out of necessity — my other cowl patterns were just taking too long to make, especially when I needed to make lots of them for shows. But now I think I would make this cowl anyway, just because it is so cute and so warm.

Super bulky cowl

Materials

• 4 skeins Lion Brand wool-ease thick and quick yarn in navy (or your favorite color). *Note: 2 skeins is actually just the right amount for this cowl, but you will have to separate them into 4 equal parts to make the cowl.
Other super bulky weight yarns would also work great for this.

• Size US 50/25 mm knitting needles (the biggest they have, baby)

• yarn needle to weave in ends

Instructions

Start by holding 4 strands of yarn together and tying a knot in the end. Leave a few inches of tail and then cast on 6 stitches.

Work in garter stitch (knitting every row) until the piece measures approximately 48 inches. Bind off, leaving about 12 inches of tail to sew up the seam.

Tie another knot on the end of the tail and then use it to seam the two ends of the cowl together. I usually just do this part with my hands. When you’re done, you can cut off the knots from both tails and then use the yarn needle to weave any remaining ends into the cowl. I usually make a few knots just so the seam is nice and secure. Then snip off any extra yarn.

The garter stitch pattern makes this cowl nice and stretchy, so you can wear it doubled up or let it hang longer like a scarf. 

Cozy knit reversible cowl

Here’s another freebie pattern that I absolutely love for fall and winter. This cowl is super warm and cozy, and the bonus is that it is ribbed on one side and bobbly on the other. You can wear it long like a scarf, or doubled up around your neck. Or you can even pull it over your head like a hood or lower on your shoulders like a shawl.

Cozy knit reversible cowl

Materials

• 3 skeins Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick yarn in cranberry (or your favorite color)
Other super bulky yarns would work great for this, too.

• Size US 15/10 mm straight knitting needles

• Yarn needle to sew up the seam

Instructions

Cast on 32 stitches.
Row 1: K1P1 across.
Row 2: Knit.
Repeat these two rows until the piece measures 52 inches. Bind off on last knit row, leaving a long tail to sew up the seam.

With right sides facing and using the long tail of yarn, sew up the seam using mattress stitch or your favorite seaming stitch. Weave in any ends and turn the piece right-side-out.

*You could also just leave the piece as a scarf and make it longer or shorter. Up to you!

Stripey baby leg warmers

Unfortunately, the now-defunct Goodsmiths site has finally come down. So a lot of my blog projects that had been published there have disappeared. I’m not going to try to save all of them, but I would like to re-post some patterns that I have posted on Ravelry, and add some new ones. 

I’m gonna start with this baby leg warmer pattern because I enjoyed making these so much for Harper when she was a baby. 

They’re made with a fuzzy acrylic yarn that is machine washable and comes in a lot of great colors. You can knit them up plain or go with the stripe sequence I came up with. And if you like that yarn, you can also get my pattern for stretchy leg warmers that will grow with your kiddo from my Etsy pattern shop

Stripey baby leg warmers
sized for 0-3 months
make 2

Materials:

Lion Brand Jiffy yarn in colors: grape (A), country green (B), silver heather (C), and dark grey heather (D), (or any combination of 4 colors you like)

• Size 10.5 straight knitting needles

• Yarn needle to sew up seams

Instructions:

Cast on 18 stitches, leaving a 14-inch tail so you can sew up the seam at the end. Using a stockinette pattern (knit one row, purl one row), follow this stripe sequence:

5 rows A

4 rows B

2 rows C

3 rows D

2 rows A

3 rows C

1 row B

4 rows D

3 rows A

2 rows C

Bind off on your last row of C. Using your yarn needle, weave in any loose strings to the back side of the piece and snip off the ends. You can actually use these ends to carefully sew up the seam, matching the colors on each side. But if you don’t have the patience for that (half the time I don’t!), you can just use the long tail from the beginning of your work to sew up the seam. 

To make plain leg warmers, follow these instructions. You will only need one skein per pair. 

0-3 months 
Cast on 18 stitches. Knit in stockinette pattern until piece measures  7 inches. Bind off. 

3-6 months
Cast on 20 stitches. Knit in stockinette pattern until piece measures 8 inches. Bind off. 

6-12 months
Cast on 22 stitches. Knit in stockinette pattern until piece measures 9 inches. Bind off. 

Finishing

With right sides facing, use the long tail of yarn you left at the beginning of the piece to sew a seam all the way up to the top. You can use mattress stitch, or your favorite seaming stitch. Then snip off any extra yarn and turn the leg warmer right-side-out. Repeat with the second one. 

*If you don’t want a seam, you can always knit with DPNs or a magic loop instead. 

Toddler team pom poms

A while back I tried making Harper some pom poms in Packers colors, and they turned out as adorably as I’d hoped. Unfortunately, though, they did not hold up to being flung around by a toddler. The strings started falling out pretty much immediately. I had made them with a traditional pom pom technique (wrap the yarn around and around something, tie it off, then snip through both ends). And as with pretty much every other pom pom I’ve ever made that way, it didn’t last. So, back to the drawing board.

I figured that the problem was that the strings needed to be reinforced so that you couldn’t just pull one out. They had to be strung together. So I gathered up all the loose pieces and very carefully wove a string through the middle of all of them. It took a while, but it totally worked! Harper has been playing with her pom poms ever since. We occasionally lose a string, but it’s rare.

We cheer for a lot of teams in this house, so I’ve been making her more in some other colors. I found that this Hometown USA yarn in team colors actually works for quite a few teams with the same color combinations. But you could also just buy a skein of each of your team’s colors and mix them together.

This pattern is for teeny toddler-sized pom poms and only takes one skein of yarn. If you want them bigger, use a full skein for each pom pom.

Toddler team pom poms

Materials:
• 1 skein Lion Brand Hometown USA yarn in your team’s colors (or 2 skeins, one of each color)
• ruler
• sturdy string or embroidery floss
• needle big enough to thread the string
• scissors

Instructions:

Start by cutting your whole skein of yarn into 12-inch pieces. You can just stretch the yarn out next to a ruler to get the size right. Then once you have a few cut you can use one of the pieces as your guide.

Divide the pieces into 2 even piles. Start with the first pile.

Thread the string through your needle and start piercing it though the middle of each piece of string. One way to make sure you get it through the exact middle is to fold the string in half first.

As you work, the pieces will start forming a line. Every now and then you might need to cinch them up a little bit so you have room to add more.

When you’re finished, it should look like this.

Now bring both ends of the string together and pull to cinch up the pom pom. Keep pulling until it’s really tight, then tie a knot.

Just to get the pom pom nice and secure, wrap the string around the outside of the bundle of yarn one or two times and tie another knot. Now you can snip off the remaining string.

If you need to you can also snip off any pieces of yarn that are sticking out too much. Repeat this process with the second pom pom.

All done! It takes a while to thread all those strings, but trust me, it’s worth it to have the pom pom hold up over time. Harper loves hers. Go Royals!

Arm knit cowl pattern

I’m happy to say that my first knitting class went very well. We had a huge turnout — 16 people. Which is a challenge as far as helping each person goes, but it was fun to see that many cowls come together in all different colors.

I put together a tutorial for the class and I thought I would make it available here in case anyone wants to give arm knitting a try. It’s certainly helpful to have the in-person instruction of a class. But there are a lot of helpful YouTube videos that are great if you are trying to teach yourself.

Download the PDF here.

The pattern shows you how to make either a single loop or longer double loop cowl.

I’m thinking that teaching more classes could be a really great next step for me in my business. So I’m trying to come up with more ideas for quick and easy projects. After churning out so many of the same design it’s fun to put on your super creative hat sometimes!

DIY Brobee cake

I’m excited to share the cake I made for Harper’s 2nd birthday because it was one of those rare DIY projects that turned out exactly like I hoped it would. But it also took a last-minute change of plans to get there, and that’s worth sharing, too.

If you haven’t yet discovered the awesomeness that is Yo Gabba Gabba, I highly recommend it! It’s one of those kids shows that is very much for parents, too. Lots of quirky actors guest star with their “dancey dances” and indie bands play songs. (We record old episodes on Nick Jr. so we always have some to watch.) It’s kind of like if Barney was on an acid trip or something. Strange, but lots of fun. And Harper’s favorite character is Brobee, the little green guy.

I figured I could fashion a Brobee cake by making one rectangular cake the body and another cake the arms, which did work. I decided to make one 9×13-inch chocolate cake and one 9×13-inch vanilla cake so people would have more than one flavor option. I used boxed mixes to save time, but I can also recommend the recipes we used for our wedding cakes, which I blogged about on Goodsmiths (RIP…).

The body and legs were easy. I just removed a long skinny triangle to create legs. For the arms, I cut the chocolate cake into thirds lengthwise, and used two of them for arms. I rounded the corners where the hands would be and cut the bottom of the arms at an angle so they would fit next to the body. The other third I cut in half and made one part the head and used the rest to cut triangles to go on top of the head.

That left a lot of delicious cake to snack on.

I had to add a little piece of vanilla cake right next to where the head attached because there was a height difference. Then I smoothed it all over with one layer of buttercream frosting. It took every last bit of a half batch of buttercream to cover the cake.

I did this part the night before so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with cake decorating right before the party and I’m so glad I did. Here’s what he looked like before the final decorating.

By the way, I used a piece of foam core board covered with parchment paper to hold the cake. It worked really well. I certainly didn’t have a plate big enough to hold a cake like that.

This is where I had to stray from my original plan. Inspired by this Pinterest post, I had gone out and bought some piping bags and a grass tip at JoAnn (who has an amazing selection of cake decorating tools, if you need any). But when I started piping on the buttercream it very quickly started going wrong. The “fur” was coming out all squiggly and then eventually the tip kept getting clogged and it would squirt out way too much. So I kind of stopped for a minute and decided it was not worth the effort it was going to take to keep using that tip. So I abandoned it and just spread on the frosting with my favorite little offset spatula. And though it took some precision, it was much faster and it looked great.

I’ve had mixed results with gel paste food coloring so I ended up buying a bottle of liquid green food coloring to dye the frosting. Basically I added enough food coloring (combined with a little bit of yellow I already had) to get a light green color. I frosted on all the light green stripes. Then I mixed in more green to make the remaining frosting darker and used that to fill in the dark green stripes. This is where it really helped to have a Pinterest photo and a stuffed doll to look at for inspiration.

For the details on the face, I used these Wilton decorating icing bags that come with tips on them. I bought one white, one black and one red (about $3 each). I just freehanded the eyes, mouth and unibrow and then iced over the triangles on the head.

I feel like it was just luck that the icing came out the perfect thickness for the details I needed. The mouth was especially easy.

It’s one of those things where you have to take a deep breath and accept that you have one shot at getting it right. I suppose you could scrape off the frosting if you messed it up and try again, but I was really hoping not to have to do that.

In the end, Brobee looked like this. (I wiped off the excess crumbs with a wet cloth before serving the cake.)

The cake was a huge hit, and I think people really appreciated the two-flavor option. I also made some gluten-free cupcakes with green frosting. I’m finding that option to be more important now (plus some people just like cupcakes!).

The most important part, though, was that Harper liked the cake. She was so excited when everyone sang to her, and she definitely ate a piece of cake.

It was even better with the homemade coconut ice cream our friend Joanna brought. You know you have good friends when they bring you something like that!

I don’t know how much it would have cost to buy a cake like this from a bakery, but I’m guessing several hundred dollars. I think with everything, including the frosting supplies, I spent about $30 to make this cake. Plus, I love being able to do something like this for her. Sometimes — often — I feel like I don’t know what the heck I’m doing as a mom. But damn it, I can make a cake. 

The next day, this was all that was left of Brobee, so I think it was a success.

Next year, Daniel Tiger?

Free cowl pattern

Earlier this year I designed a big chunky cowl that I thought I might sell when it started to get cold again. I’m still not sure if I have time to make them to sell, but I LOVE how the cowl turned out. I wrote up the pattern and posted it on Goodsmiths if you want to try it out.

DIY coffee bean roasting

So while I was staying with Erin, she showed me how she roasts her own coffee beans in a popcorn popper. It’s actually really easy, and you learn how differences in the length of roasting time can vary the taste of your coffee. It’s kind of like wine snobbery for coffee.

You start with green coffee beans, which you can order from Sweet Maria’s.

You heat up the popcorn popper, then add a scoop of beans, and wait for it to do its magic.

As the beans heat up, the popper pushes off little shreds of the shell, and the beans eventually start to darken and make cracking noises. You can tell by the sound of the cracks how ‘well done’ your beans are.

After they’re done roasting you toss them back and forth between two strainers to cool them off a little, then let them sit and cool some more. By morning you’re ready to grind ’em up!

I can’t wait to get an air popper and try this myself. I want to have the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans in my kitchen.