Monthly Archives: February 2014

Taken By Surprise

1_65Wall

I realized in January that my mother was to have a special birthday this February.

She was turning … ?5.

I quickly got to work and organized a surprise party! For invitations I designed a very simple, clean postcard. I love drawing type by hand – I think it added a warm, personal touch to the invitation. Being in Chicago, I wanted to find a local, independent printer that I could work with to achieve the best result for the postcard. The people at HD Design & Printing were fantastic to work with – I was able to make an appointment, talk to them about the result I wanted and look at papers. They were able to turn this small job out in a matter of days.

 

2_Invites

 

Next task was to start planning the decorations. My go-to books at home are Paper + Craft by Minhee & Truman Cho and Handmade Weddings by Eunice Moyle, Sabrina Moyle, and Shana Faust (I find that at least 80% of this book translates to Handmade Events, not just weddings!). My apartment has a strong white base with a heavy dose of natural lighting – it’s the perfect neutral setting to easily transform. When choosing materials, I stuck with a palette of white and gold using subtle pops of pink and black.

 

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The cone wreath came from a project in Paper + Craft. I chose a variety of neutral metallic papers to construct this decoration. In the dining room, I used two long strings of lights to run back and forth across the ceiling which created a party tent-like effect. From Handmade Weddings, I took inspiration from the Cupcake Liner Pom-Poms using both metallic gold and a black patterned liners. I also used coffee filters to create some contrast in size. In the dining room, I had different stations which I denoted with floating signs. I created these by cutting letters out of glitter paper. I then used blue tape to secure the letters to metal wire I hung from the strings of lights.

 

4_Deserts 5_counter

 

As for refreshments, I kept things classy and simple by serving coffee, a variety of teas, a blackberry lemonade champagne punch and  an assortment of both savory and sweet finger foods – no forks! To serve food and drinks, I used a mismatched system based on the white and gold palette. The outcome was subtle, but still very fun and eclectic.

 

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What worked in perfectly was a set of china I inherited from my grandmother. I was both ecstatic and terrified to use this thin, fragile set of Bavarian china for the first time. While being acquired a number of generations back on my mother’s side, it has a delightful Art Deco feel to it – it’s simple with just a thin band of a geometric plant pattern on the edges, outlined in gold (of course). However, I figured that if I were ever going to use it – this was the right age group to give it a go!

 

7_ChinaComp8_China_Rim

 

For a more original decoration, I went back to the original branding I had created for the invitation. I blew up the “?5” I had drawn and printed these 2′ elements as an engineering plot at Staples for about $4. I used a large piece of cardboard and cut these pieces out with a larger exacto knife. After these were cut, I carefully wrapped the pieces in crepe paper – carefully taping the strands in back and pulling the corners over the curves. I then took them outside and lightly spray painted them gold. I then took the “Sally turns”  hand-drawn elements, blew them up, printed them out and cut them out of black glitter paper. I placed all these elements in a similar position to the invitation and it became a beautiful wall decoration.

 

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Last, but not least, I made the birthday girl a pin to wear. I used the Felt Bud project from Handmade Weddings. Instead of making boutonnieres, I glued the buds and leaves to a pin back.

 

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When the hour finally arrived and I coaxed my mother upstairs, nothing beat the look of astonishment on her face when her close friends and family yelled “Surprise!”

 

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Pondering Process: The Herringbone

It’s been a rough week for me here in Chiberia (Chicago’s Polar Vortex). I came down with the flu Monday – out of no where – and it’s thrown off the week. Hence, I’m going keep it simple and talk about process. One of the joys of doing it yourself is altering, adding to, or subtracting from existing patterns. DIY patterns should also be seen as ideas to build upon. Today, I share a process told through the story of Purl Soho’s Big Herringbone Cowl.

HowIGotThere

This gorgeous pattern debuted during the time I worked at Purl Soho and it was immediately an international craze. For the yarn world, that’s big. Being a graphic designer, I challenge myself to add my own special flair. Or, as they tell me at Knitche – a way to make my life more difficult …

Here we go!

1I made the infinity cowl once as a gift. My first amendment to the pattern was simple – and a common adjustment – I used a different yarn. Having worked in now three yarn stores, I can safely say that this is the most common help I give – substituting yarns! It’s really very fun. For this cowl, I used Swans Island Worsted instead of the recommended Blue Alpaca’s Worsted Sky Hand Dyes. Because the gauge of the new yarn was different, all I had to do was drop a needle size. Note: I don’t usually start this process by making an entire test piece – this was just for a quick gift.

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What was really stunning in this cowl was the natural, subtle color striping from the hand dyed quality of the yarn. Because I hastily gave the first cowl away, I made my own (above) in Swans Island Worsted Beetroot.

2Then I took it a step further. I wanted a small, quick cowl in this stitch that could carry into the Spring. I was able to alter the pattern simply by using the gauge of the first cowl I knit. I multiplied the number of stitches per inch by the new circumference. For a slip-on cowl, I typically use anywhere between 22-28 inches. This number becomes your cast on. Note: depending on your pattern, you might need to keep a certain number of stitches divisible by your base pattern.

3When Choosing a color palette, I personally strive for a neutral main color with a pop of a favorite color from the same brand as the main color. In this case, I had two stunning colors from this brand and weight IN my stash! I generally like to incorporate the color pop in a very small way. For this cowl, I added two very thin stripes.

and

Small_Herr  Stripes

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Hold on to your hats, because this next part gets nuts. Another of my favorite yarns is Alchemy Yarns of Transformation‘s Kozmos. Shockingly (you’ve seen my Yarnerator), I had matching colorways IN my stash as well. If you look closely at the detail image to the right above, I knit three rows in the teal color, the first row holding the matching Alchemy yarn with the Swans Island. It’s hard to see in the green, but I knit two rows – mimicking the teal by knitting the first row with the matching Alchemy. Holding the Alchemy adds a special detail texture both in color and fiber.

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5The last and final step, of course, is coercing a friend to take adorable pictures in the cowl. Usually helps to buy your model coffee.

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Alpha Ball

Being a Graphic Designer who adores typography, I was drawn to the book Knitted Letters by Catherine Hirst and Erssie Major.

As it was time to do another project for my nieces, The Alphabet Blocks seemed like the perfect choice. Since I had used Spud & Chloe Fine (one of my favorite kid-proof yarns) for their Elephants last year, I decided to keep it in the family. This project is also nice because I could build a set for them over time – one block at a time!

I personally favor typefaces that feature a “thick-thin” quality, so I opted for the Stencil charts in the back of the book. This was my first colorwork project, so bear with me!

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As I blocked each square (they came out to about 4.5″) and started to assemble the block, I noticed that the regular stuffing wasn’t achieving the block shape. I took pause and consulted my local yarn community at Knitche. While the traditional block look was what I had wanted, the ball quality was fun and oh so cuddly! I chose to stick with the regular fill, but could have switched to a foam that would give it the rigid, cube shape. My Alpha Balls ended up being about 5.5″ in diameter.

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For these blocks, I did the girls’ initials, the number of the month each was born, and a picture. Because the book doesn’t include numbers, I referenced a similar typeface and charted the numbers myself. For the pictures, I designed an elephant for one block and an Aspen leaf for my niece’s namesake.

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For more pictures, see my Ravelry Post.

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