Scarves and the coming PSL

photo


I sold a scarf!

I’m so excited, y’all. Every year I think “no one is going to want a Harry Potter scarf now,” and every autumn I continue to sell them. It doesn’t matter that it’s currently 85 degrees and climbing, nor that my hands are fried from simultaneously typing like a madwoman at work, slogging away on my new novel and spending much of an evening with a crochet hook in hand!

My Etsy business is still alive and helping to supplement my wedding budget (woo!). And I get to keep making scarves, which is my No. 1 favorite way to decompress (well, maybe No. 2 — I’d have to give the top spot to reading). I am happy.


PSL with leaves
Archived photo from 2012. Don’t get too excited.


In unrelated but also slightly related news, rumor has it the pumpkin spice latte will be returning to Starbucks on Sept. 2. Don’t ask how I know; let’s just say I have my sources (like, um, searching for the PSL on Twitter). After several fruitless Google searches, I found a few reasonably reputable sources who say Labor Day is the official kick-off. Not sure if that’s accurate, but I’m going to hold onto that belief like a beautiful dream.

If you think I’ve kicked my pumpkin habit, friends, you are sadly mistaken. It’s a little embarrassing how much I love anything gourd-inspired. Last year I completed my massive PSL taste test, a post of which I’m still rather proud, and I plan to continue my tastings this fall . . . though after losing 30 pounds, I might have to do it a little more sensibly.

Eh, well — maybe. I don’t have to wear that wedding dress for another two months . . .


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The zen and balance of yarn


Work has been killer this week. After leaving the office each night, all I want to do is collapse with an overflowing bowl of brownie batter and eat. the. whole. thing. I totally eat my feelings — and they’re delicious.

But eating a bowl of batter would require me to get up and make the batter, or otherwise bribe my boyfriend/sister/dog to do it for me. So I’ve started crocheting instead. I mean, I crochet all the time — but for my Etsy shop. And I love it. If it’s possible to have a true passion for Gryffindor and Ravenclaw scarves, I’ve got it. I’ve created more than 60 since opening up a few years back, and I still find it as fun as I did in the beginning. Even when orders pile up near Christmas and I have to stand in the black abyss that is the post office and I want to cry or run away. (But I don’t. Because I am reliable!)

My mom and sister recently came home from a jaunt to Hobby Lobby, land of joy and peace, with a present for little ol’ me: rust-colored yarn. A burnt orange, if you will. It inspired me. I haven’t crocheted anything for myself in so long, save a skinny scarf I’ve worn a few times. But that took about an hour to make, so I don’t really count that toward my “personal projects” goal.

And I would like to actually have a personal projects goal. Just like my attempts at balancing review copies vs. personal books read, I want to make time for more of my own “fun” crochet projects that serve no purpose other than I . . . like them.

Balance, I keep telling myself. It’s all about balance. As complicated and tenuous and difficult though it may be.

Yarn is very zen for me — and many other knitters/crocheters, I’m sure. The feel of wool or acrylic, the click and slide of the hook, the happiness that accompanies seeing your lap fill up with row upon even row of stitches — and the joy of declaring a piece finished. I love holding something and thinking, I made this. It’s a sense of tangible accomplishment so different from anything else I do.

When I worked at a craft store, a young woman in scrubs walked timidly up to my customer service desk. She asked if anyone there could help her choose yarn — “for an absolute beginner,” she said — and a hook. She explained about her long commute each day, noting she had been feeling stressed and anxious. A doctor recommended she pick up a hobby, something to keep her mind occupied on the train, and she thought about crochet.

The store was really busy that day. It was probably around the holidays. Though I didn’t have much help at the registers and knew I would probably get in trouble for stepping away, I walked with her to the yarn department and helped her choose a basic hook and skein of yarn. She knew nothing about crochet, but she looked so hopeful — and there was no way I was turning her away. No way. I had her stand at my register while I helped other customers — and when there was a slight lull, I tried to show her the basics.

I don’t know how much she picked up that day — and she might have been better served watching videos on YouTube than instructed by a frizzy-haired cashier fresh off a long day of college classes. But I’ve thought about her over the years — about whether she stuck with it.

In my mind, she’s sitting on the Metro somewhere with the makings of a blanket in her lap. Everyone else is on their iPhone, reading a Kindle, staring vacantly into the dark train tunnel. But her blanket is growing, row by row, stitched together in reds and grays and whites. One long and flawless piece.


Cupcake liner organization — a Pinterest challenge

Oh, Pinterest. That epic timesuck furthering a misconception I’m craftier and artsier than I really am. I can’t log in without wanting to bake, create or wear everything in sight, and I’ve found some fabulous decorating ideas and saved tons of cupcake recipes for future use. As if I’ll ever run out of those.

And speaking of my cupcake obsession, I’ve amassed quite a few decorative cupcake liners over the years. So many that they’re literally spilling out of my kitchen cabinet, their colorful wrappers winding up on the floor. I’ve been thinking about ways to get organized and keep them clean and accessible, and that’s when I saw this:



Perfect.

The lovely Trish issued a challenge for all the Pinterest addicts out there: actually do some of the things you pin in the month of May. Never one to shy away from adventure, I joined up — and completing my cupcake organization was my first task.

After a few weeks of searching for a comparable glass container, I eventually found one I liked from HomeGoods. Though not as lovely or large as this baby at Such Pretty Things, I’m really happy with how it turned out! And by “turned out,” I mean how it looked when I stacked all my cupcake liners inside. It took less than five minutes.

Here’s mine:



Pretty enough to leave out year-round!

For $4, I have a way to store my cupcake liners and, best of all, actually keep track of everything I own. Do you know how many packages of Christmas cupcake cases I have? (Answer: at least four. That I can find.) Though I might eventually invest in either a second or larger jar (this is already full, as you can see!), I’m hoping my organized storage system will encourage me to use up what I already have. And that will save me money. Win-win!


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Many thanks to Trish for much-needed nudge to get crafty! Join the fun this May by completing a few Pinterest-inspired projects, recipes, etc. For more information, visit Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity.


Everybody go quilt tonight


I’m big on handmade. Owning something lovingly crafted by another human being — not a machine — greatly appeals to me, and that’s probably why I spend so much time perusing handcrafted items on Etsy.

Crocheting has been a hobby of mine since I was a kid, and I absolutely love making scarves. The repetition soothes my soul. When life has gone awry or I’m feeling anxious, just holding the crochet hook makes me feel better. There’s something to be said for the joy stemming from wearing something you’ve created. Taking two skeins of yarn and weaving them into something new — something I made — is a great feeling.

I wish I knew more, though. Of all the skills I envy, quilting is at the top of that list. Between Trish’s posts on quilting bees, Lexi’s skills and my boyfriend’s mom’s talents, I find myself surrounded by adorable quilted items and long to learn the skills myself.

If we lived closer, Alex could probably help me — but I’ll settle with admiring her wares, now up in my Etsy shop. Her latest creations are those adorable miniature baskets pictured above. I have one on my desk with the rest of — ahem — the Valentine’s Day candy I’ve been squirreling away. I’ll be using it for storing paperclips and other cute things when it’s empty. She has spring patterns and gorgeous pastels out now.

Further proof of her talent wasn’t needed after she made me a sock monkey quilt for last year’s birthday. I mean, sock monkeys — on a quilt.

I crocheted her a scarf for her birthday, but let’s be honest — not nearly as impressive.


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Any craft skills you covet? Are you a quilter? Or do you share my rampant obsession with sock monkeys? (I’m starting a support group. We can get through this . . . together.)


The more I create, the more I keep creating

I measure my days in scarves.

As the weather gets cooler and Halloween approaches, I’m seeing the return of a fun time in my yearly schedule: scarf-makin’ time. Strangely enough, people aren’t too interested in cozy outerwear during the hot winter months, but October? Now is my time to shine.

I’ve been fortunate to see a boom in my Etsy business, which is where I sell my crocheted scarves. I’ll be perfectly honest: I don’t know any stitch but the afghan stitch, so I’m not a very versatile crafter. But the one stitch I know? Well, I can do it well. And I’m putting it to use while making scarves I hope any Hogwarts student would be proud to wear.

I can’t say I set out to make Gryffindor and Slytherin scarves (with the odd Ravenclaw here and there) exclusively, but what started out as a hobby has quickly taken over my free time. I’m very thankful to have orders pouring in, no doubt about it, but I’m almost getting to the point of needing to outsource my work. Coupled with lifelong hand and wrist issues, I’m having myself quite the time.

But it’s a great way to keep the Potter love alive while still feeding my Etsy addiction. While others may see autumn as a time of pumpkins, apple picking and “Hocus Pocus” screenings, I see only crochet hooks and yarn in burgundy and gold. My supplies cover the couch and travel with me everywhere, just in case I have a moment to finish a few rows. The more I create, the more I want to keep creating.

Constantly running through my head? “I’ve finished a Gryffindor but have two more to make,” I think. “And I need to put tassels on the Slytherin. And the Ravenclaw. And one’s going to Canada, and one’s going to Virginia. Need to get them in the mail.”

Between all my Postcrossing cards and scarf packages, I’ve become quite chummy with the folks at my local post office. I’d say we’re almost on a first-name basis.

And considering how annoyed they usually seem, I consider that quite an accomplishment.

Why has no one ever told me about Hobby Lobby?

I have a bone to pick with you guys.

Why has no one ever told me about Hobby Lobby?

Seriously. It’s like HomeGoods, Michael’s, A.C. Moore and Pier 1 got together for a big party, things got a little randy, folks made a few poor decisions and, well . . . nine months later, Hobby Lobby was born.

Last Saturday, I was innocently wandering around Fredericksburg, Va., with my mom, sister and Spencer, the world’s kindest and most patient boyfriend. After a day of checking out antique shows and shopping (again, I present to you: SPENCER! The World’s Most Patient Boyfriend!), we were on our way out of Ol’ Virginny when we spotted a gigantic sign glowing in the encroaching night: Hobby Lobby.

And who were we to resist? We had energy for one more stop, right? Just a dash in and dash out sort of thing? See what there is to see?

Well.

So many things start out that way, don’t they?

I feel bad because, from the start, I’d approached our Hobby Lobby visit as “for Spencer.” At an auction Friday night, Spence bought a pretty cool shop clock made of a saw blade (pictured above, with auction sign). Neat, but the hands were bent and it wasn’t working well. For less than $3, though, it was a steal — just needed a little TLC. And my guy is nothing if not handy and industrious. (And cute. And amazingly thoughtful. But, eh, I digress.)

After failing to find the right clock parts at another craft store, I thought that with a name like “hobby,” something good would come of this excursion. I was right, of course, but not for poor Spence. (Though he did find clock parts, yes.)

For me. And Mom. And Kate.

Walking in was like being transported to Craft Heaven. The place is gigantic, for one, and filled to the brim with all sorts of awesome seasonal merchandise. There were three full aisles of Valentine’s Day items, coupled with several more St. Patrick’s Day and Easter varieties. It was like a party store . . . in a craft store. Inside of a home decor store. Total insanity.

I was a good girl and left with only a few items, including a three-pack of paper bookmarks (for 99 cents!) and a skein of adorable green yarn laced with silver (called “Jelly Bean”). I’m working on an Irish-inspired scarf now for my Etsy shop and was just salivating over the yarn selection! I mean, a girl can only look at so much Red Heart before she goes colorless and devoid of inspiration. Just seeing a whole aisle of a fresh brand — “I Love This Yarn” — was so exciting. I probably should have bought more, but I’m trying not to become a yarn hoarder. I wish there was a 12 Step program for that.

Apparently Hobby Lobby is all over the place, friends, though nowhere within an hour’s distance of yours truly. Devastating.

But I think that means another road trip is in order.

EDIT: The scarf is done! So pretty and soft.

Books as purses — the latest way to feed my literary obsession

Please allow me another moment to harp on how much I love my boyfriend (I know, I know — insert the groans and rolling eyes here). In addition to being sweet, smart, funny and considerate, Spencer actually listens to me. And notices things — then remembers them.

Based on my previous track record, this is nothing short of a miracle.

Walking around Eastern Market in Washington, D.C., last month, I noticed a young woman selling clutches. Her stand was nicely appointed and featured bags in a variety of shapes, colors and textures — all made out of old books.

Being the bookish chick y’all know and love, I spent a good, long while looking at the purses. Totally adorable but not entirely practical, I enjoyed checking out the bags and chatting with the nice lady who made them. Much as I liked them, I couldn’t justify shelling out $50-$70 on a clutch I would probably rarely use — and really just wanted to look at.

So Spencer was buzzing with excitement the other night, producing a tall blue bag. Days from my actual birthday, I gave him a quizzical look. He told me it was an early birthday present and I should go ahead and open it.

In it? Book clutches!

His mother is a master quilter — very, very talented — and, together, they developed a prototype of sorts for the book bags I’d seen downtown. Mrs. J found the hardcovers to use and then carefully removed the old pages within, replacing them with quilted bags she’d made. They were shipped to me from New York.

And now? Well, I use the old books to carry my books. The larger, black hardcover bag is the perfect size for carrying my hardcovers (imagine!). And the smaller one is the perfect size for tossing in a few small items en route to a bookish event. I have a feeling they’ll be making an appearance at the next literary event I attend.

I’d convince Mrs. J to start a business and shop these little babies on Etsy, but I know how time-consuming they are to create. The competition is fierce (and pricey!), but I think she’s on to something here!