Crafty Stories

I like to tell stories through the creative arts. I may be slightly obsessed with books, movies, TV shows, yarn and fiber. Wanna hang out?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Weekend SALE!

Cyber Weekend is here! Shop Storied Yarns for all your fiber arts needs! This weekend, you have TWO amazing ways to save!

First, use the coupon code NUEVO to get FREE SHIPPING worldwide! Put this code in the coupon code box at checkout for automatic savings.

Next, use code THANKSGIVING to get even more savings! Put this code in the Notes to the Seller at checkout to receive:

    10% off fiber/yarn clubs, holiday surprise gift packages, kits, KAL/SAL listings and custom orders.
    20% off in-stock yarn, rovings and batts.
    30% off in-stock handspun yarns.
    FREE Spinning service - you buy my fiber (at 20% off) and I will spin it for you for FREE!

Use the THANKSGIVING code in your notes to seller so you can combine it with the NUEVO code in the coupon box. You can either pay with PayPal at checkout and I will refund the THANKSGIVING discount or choose "Other" as your payment method and I will send you a PayPal invoice that reflects your total including the savings.

Remember, December 1 is the last day to purchase a holiday surprise yarn or fiber package, so get them while you can!!

I will also be including a small gift with every purchase made this weekend - just my way of saying thank you to YOU!

You can use the THANKSGIVING code to save on as much or as little as you want! If you buy one skein of yarn you will save 20%. If you buy a batt and a club to go with it you will save 20% and 10% on those purchases, respectively, too!

THANK YOU for shopping with me. I hope you enjoy your holiday weekend!!



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What's Cookin'? Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie Recipe

A few years ago, the Quaker Oats company made this amazing concoction: breakfast cookies. They had oatmeal raisin and oatmeal chocolate chip, and they were delish. They don't make them any more (now they have a similar product called Oatmeal to Go or something like that), but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy something similar!

Today I baked up a batch of regular oatmeal cookies for my kids, using the same recipe I always use - it's in my Betty Crocker cookbook. Then I made another batch where I tweaked that recipe and cooked up some breakfast snacks. I figure I can give them to the kids in the morning as an alternative to regular oatmeal or pancakes; they're full of whole grain and protein (and fruit for some of them) and they'll save me some time.

In case you'd like to make them for yourself, here's my basic recipe:

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts (baker's choice on the nut variety; mine were mixed)

1. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium/high speed with an electric mixer for about 20 seconds. Add in the brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Beat until combined.
2. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined, then add the flour and continue to beat until you have to stop and use a spoon. Stir in the rolled oats, then stir in the nuts.
3. Drop in heaping tablespoon portions onto a cookie sheet; I can fit 9 to 12 cookies on one of my standard cookie sheets if that helps you with size proportions. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10-12 minutes or until slightly brown on the edges. Allow to cool.

- For my cookies, I made half the batch as described above. Then I beat a banana with my mixer in a separate bowl and stirred that in with the rest of the batch and baked a banana version. My daughter, who's 6, pronounces both pretty good but she prefers the banana-free option. This banana version would also be great with some nutmeg thrown in, but we were out.
- I think this would be awesome with chocolate chips, though since it's for an everyday breakfast in our house I left them out.
- My friend Candice suggested adding raisins or dried fruits. If I do that my kids won't eat them, but maybe yours will.
- I considered adding some applesauce or finely chopped/diced apple pieces, too.

Happy baking! If you make these, I'd love to hear your comments and suggestions for improvement. Mine turned out pretty good but I'm definitely NOT a professional baker (just ask my sister, who still laughs at me b/c I didn't know the ingredients for making buttercream icing), so I'm open to ideas! :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Handmade for the Holidays

So, some of my husband's co-workers wanted to know what types of things I can make. Rather than try to send all that in an e-mail I thought I would make it into a blog post. For the rest of you readers who are also crafty, maybe it will help you get ideas for your own handmade holiday gifts as well!

Let's start with knitted/crocheted items.

For gifts, I love hats, cowls and fingerless gloves. They're fast, almost anyone can use them, and you can drastically alter the cost of the project by careful selection of the yarn you use. Here are some of the items I've made in the past:

These are the Lovisa Armwarmers, made in one color instead of doing the colorwork suggested in the pattern. I used handspun I received in a swap, and I wear these things ALLLLLLL the time!

For another simple armwarmer pattern that looks great in handspun, I love Toast and Toasty!

For a budget-friendly, masculine option, I made these mitts for my dad out of a wool/acrylic blend chunky yarn:

The pattern for these is Scrummy mitts. I also made a hat for him that matches:

Another super simple pattern, the Brangelina hat!

A few more hats I've made recently -

This one I made out of handspun 2ply Polwarth. It was a real dream to knit!

This pattern is the Lotus Hat and it's probably better suited for solid colored yarns but I still like how the texture shows through the colors I used.

I also crocheted this lacy beret for a swap partner using my own hand dyed sock yarn:

The pattern for that one is The Columbia Beret and I like how it's lightweight and feminine, which works well down here in the South where we don't always need a super warm, bulky hat.

How about those cowls? I love cowls because you can make them long and loopy or short and close-fitting. Either way they look great and they're a fabulous addition to any winter wardrobe. Here are a few of my favorites:

I made this one for my sister last Christmas from some silvery handspun. I love how you can loop it up to three times and it's lacy but also warm:

The pattern is my own design - the Infinitely Simple Lace Infinity Scarf pattern.

Here is one I knit up using some handspun that I got in a swap. I just did a garter stitch border and stockinette for the middle section, so there's no real pattern. For extra warmth you can wrap it up around your head or loop it twice around your neck and head area.

I can also make baby items! Baby items are great for any time of the year; they're always being born, after all!

Here are a few baby items I have knit - I especially love hats and blankets because every baby needs plenty of those.

This one is the Big Wool, Little Hat that I knit for my son a little over a year ago. I love the pointy top and the braided tassels!

I made one of these Beth's Little Star Afghan blankets for each of my children -

I also made one for a friend's baby using the colors of her family's favorite football team. That one was a hit!

In addition to hand-knits, I also like to sew gifts for people. I made this blanket for my sister to give to her friend (the baby's last name is Martini, so you don't have to be too disturbed by the fabric choice, ha!):

I also love to sew toys. I made this pink dinosaur (with a bad boy's heart, LOL!) for my son, whose favorite color is pink!

And I made these patchwork pillows to match the futon in my kids' play room:

There's really no limit to handmade gifts if you just use a little creative thought and put in the time. I'm happy to take custom order requests for any handmade (knit, crochet, sew, quilt) gifts for your loved ones this holiday season or any time! Just leave me a comment on this post and I'll get back to you!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Holidays to YOU!

I've added a few holiday listings to the Storied Yarns shop!

Do you want to be sure you'll get something you really love this holiday season? Buy yourself a fibery surprise package! Choose either the small surprise box or the large surprise box and I will send you full-sized yarn or fiber offerings PLUS extra goodies - everything from handmade products from Etsy to items from my local gift shops and even edible treats! I will send you a survey after purchase to be sure you get a box full of GOOD surprises you're sure to enjoy!

Also, if you want to send this as a hint for someone you love who will be shopping for YOU this holiday season, sign up for my newsletter! I will be sending out information about these packages in the next issue (coming out at the end of this week, so sign up now!) and you can forward it to your loved ones!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Drive-By Book Review: Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

My friend Steph recently sent me a box full of books to read (a great little swap we've arranged between the two of us), and in it was Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. I devoured that one pretty quickly so she brought me the sequel the next time she saw me - Sapphique.

If you know my reading preferences at all, you won't be remotely surprised that I was instantly intrigued by the premise of Incarceron - it's a Young Adult novel set in a dystopian future. In other words, it's right up my alley!

With Incarceron, Catherine Fisher grabs you right from the start and sucks you into her story and her characters. Immediately you meet Finn, a prisoner; eventually the story unfolds to reveal what's going on in Finn's world and Outside the prison.

Essentially, Incarceron is set in a fictional future where we have destroyed our planet with war. As a solution to this a king has created a system where everyone lives in a sort of historical re-enactment. Trapped by the protocol of the past the people are left without sufficient technology and freedom, therefore they aren't able to destroy the earth or each other again.

Oh, and as an added bonus, they stuck all the criminals in a living, breathing prison known as Incarceron. Built to be a Utopia where all the undesirables of society can start over and rebuild their lives, Incarceron is instead a Hell for its inhabitants. It is full of mysteries and monsters and humans with darkness inside their hearts. Finn is trapped in this world, but somehow he senses it isn't where he belongs.

Anyway, eventually Finn contacts Claudia, a girl who lives Outside as the daughter of Incarceron's Warden. Together they form a plan to free Finn from Incarceron and overthrow the dictatorial leadership of the Realm where Claudia lives. But, of course, they also unleash an awful lot of chaos and danger.

Sapphique finishes the story, revealing what happens to Finn and Claudia as they find themselves holding onto way more than they can handle in terms of plot twists. In Sapphique we learn more about the history of Incarceron and the Realm and the people who made it what it is. We also learn that nothing is as it seems, Inside or Out.

I'd give this series 3 out of 4 stars. It was very compelling in the first novel, slightly less so in the second but it still kept me turning pages, wanting to know what would happen in the end. I will say, too, that I never would have predicted how it turned out, and that's always a good thing!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: Spinning Locks!

As part of my offerings at the fiber festival, I sold hand dyed merino locks. A few customers asked me if they had to be carded or if you can spin them straight out of the bag. Of course you CAN card locks or fleece before spinning, but my preferred method is to spin straight from the locks.

Here's why:
1. Spinning from fleece is cheap and fast. You can just grab the fleece (clean or dirty, technically, though I prefer to spin clean wool so as to avoid dirt in my lap) and start spinning. You don't have to pay for all the extra fiber preparation steps and you don't have to wait to do those steps either. Instant gratification at its best!
2. Spinning locks sort of forces you to relinquish control. This can be especially fun once in a while for spinners who like to force the yarn into submission or who stress out when a yarn doesn't turn out the way it was "supposed to." Spinning locks/fleece is like controlled chaos, and you pretty much have to let the locks be in charge, which can be fun (I swear)!
3. Spinning locks gives you instant texture. I love to corespin locks, but they look equally well as singles, tail-spun or a plied yarn. It's so much fun, and it gives you the chunky funky texture of a commercial "fun fur" yarn but without all the plastic. Bonus!

So I thought I'd do a little post today about spinning locks. It's also kind of a lesson in learning from the fiber while you spin and also in how to improvise to create art yarn when you can't afford the wheel of your dreams, so stay tuned! It's a good one. :)

This time I started off with some hand dyed (by me) merino locks and some hand dyed Wensleydale locks that I got as a gift. I tossed the two fiber groups together, like tossing a salad, and I held it in my lap as I spun. Here's what it looked like at that point:

Super fun, right?!?!?

Anyway, as I spun the singles I just grabbed a handful at a time, drafting slightly but still retaining that lock formation and shape as I went. I tried to grab handfuls of each fiber type in proportionate amounts as I spun. Here's a close-up of the singles as I spun them:

You can see here how much I drafted and how the curly locks are still taking center stage, so to speak.

Here's the part where I learned a lesson. I started spinning these singles and I realized that since merino has something of a short staple, it's hard to hold the locks together as a strong single-ply yarn. I started wishing I would have corespun the yarn, but at this point I had already spun so much that I didn't want to waste what I'd used so far, so I kept going. At times the singles broke, either during the merino sections or as I joined merino to Wensleydale, so I ended up having to wind it back out the orifice and re-join in several spots.

As I considered knitting with this yarn, I figured the singles would break in that process, too, and that's just no good. So I figured I'd better ply them to make them more sturdy. The problem with that is that my wheel has a standard orifice, flyer and bobbin. As you can see in the last photo, those locks were barely fitting onto my darling Babe as singles; they were never going to fit through there once I plied them.

What was an art yarnista to do, without an art yarn friendly wheel at her service?

Well, this art yarnista went out to the laundry room where she keeps the Storied Yarns shop inventory. She grabbed her Rule of Thirds spindle and took it for a test spin (product testing is very important, after all!). She loaded that puppy up with a super bulky, 2ply locks-only yarn until it looked like this:

That's almost 3 ounces of super bulky 2ply locks on ONE spindle! Pretty awesome, eh? So, lesson learned: as I save up to buy my dream wheel, I can at least still make art yarns on a heavy spindle. Handy!

Here's the finished skein - sorry the photo is a little dark, I took this picture in the wee hours of the morning:

Pretty awesome, huh? I got about 25 yards of super duper bulky texture out of this little exercise, and it's super soft and gorgeous!!! I'll be putting this baby in the shop soon, but if it doesn't sell my sister might get a new scarf for her birthday out of it. :)

Happy Fiber Arts Friday!! Head on over to Andrea's blog and join in on the fun!