House DIY

Almost six years ago, my husband was keeping an eye out for a house we could rent for our growing family and he stumbled across a cute two-story yellow house (he was drawn to it because it’s my favorite color) in a mostly quiet neighborhood.  I didn’t know anything about it until a week later when he took me to dinner for my birthday and asked if I wanted to get a dog.  “A dog?” I asked, and he said, “Yeah, for the backyard I’m going to get you.”

It was a series of entirely convoluted events that got us to the week after our wedding when we moved into our new-to-us house and started painting the walls.

Since then, we’ve ripped up carpet (gorgeous, original hardwood floors were hiding beneath it!), knocked out walls (my husband built these gorgeous shelves in our living room), and slathered everything in paint and stain.

shelves

Gorgeous, right?!  We have some more organizing to do, but right now it’s the kids’ area so I’m more concerned about function before we pretty it up.

I’ve been working 14-hour days the last two weeks and decided to take off this weekend to spend time with the kids and get some more work done around the house.  We took off the trim in the living room to strip and re-stain it, my husband is sanding down the windows, and I put new paint on the walls!  Here is some of our progress 🙂

mirror

The wall color is pretty plain, but it opens up the possibility of colorful decor!  My husband found this amazing hand-painted mirror and bench at a yard sale when he took a different route to work the other day — love!  And, they look perfect on this wall.  I really wish my camera took better photos, it’s gorgeous.

Soso

I found this picture frame in the recesses of my dad’s old building back in southwest Iowa.  It was originally a really pretty but beat up dark wood; it’s a great pop of color now!

Ever ask yourself why I chose the name ‘SophieChic’?  This is my amazing daughter, Sophie, when she was two — had I known more about the little girl she’d grow up to be when I started this venture at 5 months pregnant, I’d have named it SophieSass.

 

closetWe were driving somewhere, I can’t even remember, when my husband saw a sign for a garage sale.  The woman had a bunch of older furniture but I fell in love with this vanity and knew it’d fit perfectly into our entryway.  Has a ways to go, and I’m still deliberating painting it in tones of dark grey, but for now I’m glad it’s there no matter what the colors!

Each project my husband and I do gets us closer to the home we’ll raise our children in, enjoy large family holidays, and eventually have them and their families over.  It’s a slow process, but it’s filled with happiness (and a lot of yelling).

I should probably get back to orders now!  What recent around-the-house projects have you worked on?

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Phat Fiber Sampler Box!

Have you heard of Phat Fiber?  No?  Well, if you’re into spinning, knitting, or crocheting, then you need to read this blog!

Every month, Phat Fiber has a limited number of sampler boxes available for sale.  They are themed and stuffed with great fibery things from indie businesses.  You have three boxes to choose from: one for the spinners looking for new fiber suppliers (‘Fluff’); one for crocheters/knitters looking for new yarn (‘Stitches’); and one with a bit of both for those of us who can’t help ourselves and dabble everywhere (‘Mixed’).  Each month’s boxes are themed, and they come chock full of amazing samples to wet your fiber appetite, exclusive discount codes, and sometimes very one-of-a-kind items just for you!

This month’s box was called ‘Birds of Paradise’, and stingy me got one of each box 😀

For this blog, I’ll focus on the ‘stitches’ box and save the other two for another day.

 

phatfiberbop

Who wouldn’t want this in the mail?!

Since the theme is about birds, each of the samples were either a bird-inspired colorway or were at least somehow bird-related.

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I am obviously not sharing everything in the box; these are some of my personal favorites, and then that list was whittled down further by what came out in photographs the best — I can make things with fiber, I leave the photographing to my photographers 😉  I apologize to everyone else in the box, I’ll be adding links to all contributors soon ❤

Though this last one isn’t bird-related, it’s flight-related . . . and the colorway is Tardis Blue, so of course I had to include it!  Whovian for life!

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The amounts of each sample varies, but they’re more than enough for you to get a feel for the quality of the yarn and for you to whip up some small projects; I intend to use a lot of mine for tiebacks, or maybe I’ll eventually have enough for a sampler-afghan!  What would you make with these mini-skeins?

Check out Phat Fiber for information on how to get your sampler boxes!

— Fauna ❤

War of the Pages — Boys Win!

To kick off summer, I finally sat down and wrote out two sunhat patterns.  I pit the boy hat against the girl hat on my Facebook pages — SophieChic and Polka Dot Dinosaur — and promised that the winner would be featured on my blog as a free pattern.

Well, boys won, so here we go!

boysunhatBoy Sunhats, sizes Newborn, Infant, and Toddler

Materials needed:

  • H-8/5mm hook
  • I-9/5.5mm hook
  • 100-200 yards of medium-weight cotton yarn
  • Needle
  • Scissors

All hats are worked in joined rounds.  Ch1 at beginning of each round does not count as a stitch.

 

Newborn

With H/8, make a magic circle.  Put 11 hdc in ring, tighten.  Join with slip stitch to first hdc.

Round 1:  Ch1, 2hdc in join and in each stitch around.  Join.  (22hdc)
Round 2:  Ch1, hdc in join.  2hdc in next stitch.  (Hdc, 2hdc) around.  Join.  (33hdc)
Round 3:  Ch1, hdc in join.  Hdc in next stitch, 2hdc in next.  (Hdc, hdc, 2hdc) around.  Join.  (44hdc)
Round 4:  This round is worked in back-loop only.  Hdc around; join.  (44hdc).
Round 5:  Working in both loops, hdc around.  Join.  (44hdc)
Round 6 and 7:  Repeat Round 5; do not chain 1 at the end of Round 7.

Switch to I-9.

Round 8:  Slip stitch around, and be careful not to make your stitches too tight.  To join, slip stitch into the first hdc from Round 7 (it will be behind your first slip stitch).  Pull the yarn tight and switch back to H-8.

Round 9:  Working in front-loop only from Round 7, ch1, hdc in join.  Hdc in next, 2hdc in next.  (Hdc, hdc, 2hdc) around — you will end on 2nd hdc of increase pattern.  Join to first hdc.
Round 10:  Working in both loops, ch1, hdc in join.  Hdc in next 3 stitches, 2hdc in next.  (Hdc, hdc, hdc hdc, 2hdc) around — you will end on 3rd hdc of increase pattern.  Join to first hdc.

If you want an alternating color like I did, this is where you’ll need to switch-colors.

Round 11:  Ch1, sc in join and in every stitch around.  Join.
Round 12:  Slip stitch around.  Fasten off and weave in ends.

 

Infant

Work hat the same as Newborn through Round 3.

Round 4:  Ch1, hdc in join.  Hdc in next  two stitches, 2hdc in next.  (Hdc, hdc, hdc, 2hdc) around.  Join.  (55hdc)
Round 5:  This round is worked in back-loop only.  Hdc around; join.  (55hdc)
Round 6:  Working in both loops, hdc around.  Join.  (55hdc)
Round 7 – 9:  Repeat Round 6; do not chain 1 at the end of Round 9.

Switch to I-9.

Round 10:  Slip stitch around, and be careful not to make your stitches too tight.  To join, slip stitch into the first hdc from Round 9 (it will be behind your first slip stitch).  Pull the yarn tight and switch back to H-8.

Round 11:  Working in front-loop only from Round 9, ch1, dc in join.  Dc in next, 2dc in next.  (Dc, dc, 2dc) around — you will end on 1st dc of increase pattern.  Join to first dc.
Round 12:  Working in both loops, ch1, dc in join.  Dc in next 3 stitches, 2dc in next.  (Dc, dc, dc dc, 2dc) around — you will end on 1st dc of increase pattern.  Join to first dc.

If you want an alternating color like I did, this is where you’ll need to switch-colors.

Round 13:  Ch1, sc in join and in every stitch around.  Join.
Round 12:  Slip stitch around.  Fasten off and weave in ends.

 

Toddler

Work hat the same as Infant through Round 6.

Round 7:  Ch1, hdc in join.  Hdc in next three stitches, 2hdc in next.  (Hdc, hdc, hdc, hdc, 2hdc) around.  Join.  (66hdc)
Round 8:  This round is worked in back-loop only.  Hdc around; join.  (66hdc)
Round 9:  Working in both loops, hdc around.  Join.  (66hdc)
Round 10-13:  Repeat Round 9; do not chain 1 at the end of Round 13.

Switch to I-9.

Round 14:  Slip stitch around, and be careful not to make your stitches too tight.  To join, slip stitch into the first hdc from Round 13 (it will be behind your first slip stitch).  Pull the yarn tight and switch back to H-8.

Round 15:  Working in front-loop only from Round 13, ch1, dc in join.  Dc in next, 2dc in next.  (Dc, dc, 2dc) around.  Join to first dc.
Round 16:  Working in both loops, ch1, dc in join.  Dc in next 3 stitches, 2dc in next.  (Dc, dc, dc dc, 2dc) around.  Join to first dc.

If you want an alternating color like I did, this is where you’ll need to switch-colors.

Round 17:  Ch1, sc in join and in every stitch around.  Join.
Round 12:  Slip stitch around.  Fasten off and weave in ends.

 

Contrast Band (optional)

With alternate color and I-9, chain (50 – Newborn) (66 – Infant) (77 – Toddler).  Loosely slip stitch in second chain from hook and each stitch across; fasten off, leaving a long tail.

How close/far apart you want to weave your band is up to you.  In last hdc round BEFORE the round you slip-stitch through to make the brim, weave your band in.  I did mine as follows:

  • Newborn — every 4th hdc
  • Infant — every 5th hdc
  • Toddler — every 6th hdc

End the band with both ends inside of your hat.  Sew tail through opposite end of band (first slip-stitch) and fasten off.

 

Viola, boy sun hat!

Are you making one?  I’d love to see a completed photo!  Comment here or share it on my Facebook page.  Include your own page, if you have one, so that I can give you some love ❤

Alpaca Spotlight: Dreamswept Alpacas in Byron, Illinois

Today’s blog post is all about alpacas!

Last year I joined the Rockford Etsy Team (are you a local artisan and interested in more information?  Check here) and came across a woman named Michele who sold handspun alpaca yarn from the alpacas she raises/boards at Dreamswept Alpacas.  After placing a few orders, she contacted me in regards to crocheting items from her fiber for her to sell at local market events — the chance to play with gorgeous alpaca fiber, with 100% creative license, and payment in yarn?  Um, YES!

I visited her farm with my daughter and met her alpacas and it was wonderful.  She’s located in Byron, Illinois, and her alpacas are incredibly friendly, if not the weirdest animals I’ve ever pet!  If you’re interested in visiting, all you have to do is give her a call!

The yarn she sells is both hand- and machine-spun, and she has some gorgeous art yarns as well as natural fibers and some with firestar (if you’re not familiar with it, it’s absolutely divine!).

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(natural fibers on left and top, firestar on right — it’s the pinkish streak running through)

 

Here are a few of the items I have made; contact Michele here to check availability and pricing.

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Alpaca is one of my favorite natural fibers to work with.  It’s hypoallergenic, so it is great for people who want natural fibers but have a sensitivity to sheep wool, and the drape of finished items is so beautiful!  Here are some fun-facts about alpacas and their fiber:

  • Alpacas were domesticated by the Incas over 6,000 years ago; due to the quality of their fleece, they were most often seen on nobility.
  • Alpaca fiber is similar to sheep’s wool, but it is warmer and not as itchy.  It also doesn’t contain lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic.
  • Alpaca fiber is flame-resistant.
  • It is also water-resistant, like wool, but wicks away moisture like cotton.  Because of this it is warmer than wool but lighter than cotton in damp environs.
  • Alpaca fiber comes in 16 recognized tones that range from white to light rose-grey, and then to dark fawn, and then any combinations thereof.  This renders harsh dyeing procedures unnecessary.
  • There are two types of alpacas:  Suri and huacayas.  The differences are noted in their fleece.  Suri fiber is long and forms silky dreadlocks while huacayas is similar to that of a teddy bear.  90% of the alpacas in America are huacayas.
  • Being related to the llama, alpacas and llamas can successfully cross-breed.  The offspring is known as huarizo, which is prized for their longer fleece.
  • Alpacas use one area of their living space as a bathroom, and there are many cases of successfully house-trained alpacas.
  • They live about 18-20 years.
  • Baby alpacas are called ‘crias’.
  • Average gestation is 11 months.
  • Average fiber harvest is 4lbs per adult per year.
  • They are ruminants (like a cow) with three compartment stomachs.

 

What are your favorite natural fibers to work with?  What are your favorite fiber-animals?

 

Information credit:  Huffington Post
 
                           Phil Switzer

The Tools of my Trade

My customers frequently ask where I find the time and ability to make the things I create.  My answer is always the same:  I don’t know (I am a work-at-home mother of 6, so I’d guess 99% of my available time actually comes from my wonderful husband, but even then I’m not sure how I get everything done!), and I operate on a trial-and-error basis until something looks and feels right.  I’ve been known to frog (have you heard of the frog-stitch?  It goes, “Ripppit, ripppit . . .”) a single project a dozen times before I’d show it to anyone.  Sure, some techniques and tricks are implemented, but the only way to get that knowledge is to try, try, and try again.  If you don’t think you’re work is good enough, just make something else!  And then something else, and then something else . . .

On the flip side, and now that I am getting a lot more traffic from fellow crocheters, I’m getting questions like, “What size hook do you use?” or “Where is your handspun from?”  I love talking yarn and hooks with people, if I could I’d do it all day long!

But, instead, I’ll write a blog about it 🙂

This is my spinning wheel.

LouetIt’s a Louet — I’m not certain on the model since I bought it off a friend — and I love it. I don’t get nearly enough time to play on it (and then, I don’t have nearly enough fiber to spin on it!) so for now, my wheel is just for fun. I hope to soon be spinning yarn of enough quality to incorporate into items I can sell, or even to be selling the yarn itself. For now, though, I’ll stay with my favorite spinners. Ahh, a perfect segue.

The majority of handspun is made with natural fibers, something I used to be terrified of using. The price scared me and I wasn’t certain I would be able to do anything worthwhile with it, so I avoided it. Then, one fateful day, someone was selling clearance handspun and I jumped all over it . . . and I haven’t looked back! I’ve tried quite a few different natural fibers, but I’m especially enamored with merino. It can be spun bulky or light but it is always fluffy, and I haven’t been disappointed with the beautiful saturation of colors yet.  Below are yarns spun by three of my favorite spinners. I’ve sampled yarn from just under a dozen, but I love the consistency of the spin and the coloring of these particular spinners the most. Not pictured but deserving mention (I simply don’t have any more of her yarn to photograph, I’ve used it all!) is Carrie from Unraveled Designs.

HandspunLeft to Right

Now comes the tools I use to make things from this beautiful yarn!  My hook size of choice is an H-8(5mm US), but I use F-J most frequently.  Sure, I don’t need flashy hooks to get anything done but where’s the fun in not having pretty tools? A recent addition to my work repertoire are stitch markers. Some crocheters get by with an odd piece of yarn, a safety or bobby pin, a paper clip, and that used to be me as well, but I for one feel it is more than worth it to invest in stitch markers. They’re gentler on some yarn types and are easier to use in specific projects.

HooksMarkersLeft to Right

LargeKnittingNeedlesThen, when it comes to some really pretty thick-and-thin handspun or some super-bulky manufactured yarn, I like to pull out these bad boys (needles from Spinning Wheel Studio). My knitting skills are still sub-par, I think I’ll refer to them as that even when I’m making Fair Isle sweaters for the queen, but making something with these extra large needles takes no time at all and, surprisingly, isn’t as awkward to work up when comparing to the tiny circulars (a type of knitting needle) or DPNs (double-pointed needles) required for those tedious-yet-beautiful works of knit-art. That was a really long sentence, I had to read it a few times to make sure it wasn’t a horrible ramble. Moving on!

These are the tools of my trade, and it’s safe to say that if my house is ever engulfed in flames and I had time after saving my kids, everything in this post would be the next things my arms would close around. I mean, so long as the husband came back in with me (I’d need his arms, too!).

My New Year Productivity

With every new year comes new resolutions (or as I like to call them, failed resolutions from previous years 😉 ) and one of mine was to keep myself creative with every chance that showed itself.

I’m sure some of you have heard about a little site called Pinterest.  I personally have umpteen boards on it but have yet to complete a single project — well, as of this past week, anyway.  While I do have several yarn-related resolutions, this particular blog isn’t about them, but I am so proud of myself I felt this project was share-worthy.

First is something I think everyone has seen — the paint chip calendar.  Aside from the time I stood in front of the paint section deciding what colors I wanted to use, making this took me less than 5 minutes.

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I purposefully made it as half a month so that I would have more room for the activities of each day without sacrificing a huge portion of wall to have 31 days displayed at once.   If you want to make your own, you can change the size of your ‘days’ as well as how many there are and how they are laid out.  

I used:

  • 18 Paint Samples (free)
  • An unused picture frame *with glass* (mine is approx. 18″x15″, priced anywhere from $5-$35 retail, and I recommend glass for the ease of use with dry-erase markers)
  • 2-pack Dry Erase Markers, fine-tip ($3)

Cut your paint samples to the desired sizes and affix them to a paper that fills the entire frame (I used the backside of the product photo that came with my frame), replace the backing, and viola, new (reusable) calendar!  I love this project so much because it is entirely customizable.  You can pick a frame that goes with your decor, paint samples to match your walls, and it isn’t too much of a pain to switch-out the samples for holidays (you can bet my December is going to be red and green – instant and virtually effortless decor with added points for functionality).

The only thing I would do differently is get more markers – originally I didn’t think I would need an assortment of colors since the entire calendar is color, but once it was finished I wished I had more to decorate the ‘month’ space.

Are you making a calendar?  I’d love to see!

 

Knit or Crochet?

Ever since I started crocheting, I’ve heard dozens of people ask about my ‘knitting’.  I’m not going to lie: In the beginning, it completely annoyed me.  I would get defensive and frustrated and make a big deal of it . . . but then again, I was only seven.

Thankfully as time went on, I learned to let it go.  It became fun to teach people the difference, although the focus was on crochet since I didn’t know how to knit.  I tried several times, but it wasn’t as easy to self-teach so I gave up within minutes.  The next time I picked up the needles and went at them in earnest was much more recent, just the last few months or so, and I’m quite surprised with the technical differences.  Even more surprising is the fact that I haven’t picked it up as quickly as I expected.

Like most other crocheters, I’ve found that knitting is considerably slower-going than crochet.  It’s harder on the hands, and any patterns I’ve found aren’t as forgiving when it comes to personal tweaks as crochet patterns are.  Beyond all that, I seem to have a unique issue with knitting.

Traditionally, I’m right-handed.  Oddly though, I’m only able to play guitar left-handed (something I don’t do often, despite my husband’s many attempts to properly teach me) as well as throw a ball, but when it comes to knitting I’m a mess.  I have been told my ‘problem’ is a nice one to have, but for me it’s incredibly frustrating now that I’m trying to get serious about knitting.

What happens is, I’m able to work my knitting from both hands, meaning I don’t need to switch my needles after each row.  It complicates knowing whether I’m purling or knitting, but with an excess of YouTube videos at my disposal and photos of what certain stitches are supposed to look like, I’m slowly getting a grasp on it.

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This is an example of a knit infinity scarf (left) and a crocheted one (right) that I made.  They aren’t entirely similar, but to some people they don’t look different at all.  Even so, and especially since I need more practice before I’m comfortable my knit is the same quality as my crochet, I always make sure and differentiate when someone requests a ‘knit hat’.  While some people don’t see the subtlety and are happy with the instead crocheted item they receive, others literally mean ‘knit’ when they say it.

Going forward, whether you’re thinking about ordering items from me or any other fiber artists, or you are one yourself, I encourage you to take a minute or two to understand the difference so that you can be sure you’re getting what you’re paying for or you’re giving your customer their vision.  Better yet — while you’re checking out the differences, teach yourself how to do both!

Which do you prefer?

Welcome to my Blog!

New content will be slowly added over the next few months chronicling my journey as I grow my business and learn more about my craft — blog will officially launch in February, 2014!  There will be a HUGE giveaway planned, stay tuned ❤