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1  CROCHET / Crochet: Completed Projects / Chunky Candyland Cowl on: February 09, 2013 10:40:15 AM
I'm relatively new to the crochet world (I'm used to needles, not hooks) and I've been trying to find ways of practicing crochet while producing useful stuff. I'm not much into potholders and scrubbies, but I came up with a chunky cowl pattern that I wanted to share. It uses up my vast stash of yarn and it's super easy.

Various colors of worsted yarn.
Size P crochet hook
Darning needle
Crocheting with two strands at the same time, chain 52 stitches. I like to do the foundation-free method, which you can easily find on Google. This way I dont have one row thats wider than all the rest. Slip stitch into the first stitch, creating a big loop.
1. Bring in your next color by chaining 2 stitches. DC into each stitch all the way around, making 2 DC in the last stitch. Slip stitch to the top of the first DC.
2. Bring in the new color and Ch 2. DC all the way around and slip stitch into the top of the first DC.
Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have 58 stitches or 13 rows, whichever comes first.
Cut yarn and draw up through the last loop. Weave in all the ends. I weave them in as I go, but you could also tie the bits of yarn to one another and clip them short.

For more information and photos, check out my blog post: http://alaskaknitnat.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/crochet-candyland-cowl/
2  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Crock Pot Stuffing on: November 24, 2011 09:52:31 PM
I know Thanksgiving has come and gone, but I thought I could share this recipe anyway since holidays are still in order and stuffing might be just around the corner.

I'm excited to say that I have found my most delicious method of cooking stuffing -- the Crock Pot.

I don't like to stuff my turkey because it makes the turkey take longer to cook and it doesn't always cook the bird evenly.

I've always cooked my stuffing, or dressing if it's outside the bird, in a casserole dish in the oven, but this year I wasn't hosting our Thanksgiving feast so I had to find an easy way to transport the stuffing and a good way to keep it heated while it's waiting for the main event. I also didn't want to take up the hosts' valuable post-turkey oven space.

A Crock Pot makes perfect sense. It cooks slowly and keeps moisture in throughout the process. It's kind of like a turkey. It's also easy to transport and once it arrives at its destination it can be plugged back in and kept warm outside of the oven until dinner is ready to be served.

What I discovered is after several hours of slow cooking, my stuffing was moist and flavorful, as though it had been scooped straight from the turkey.

Here's my family recipe for melt-in-your-mouth turkey stuffing.


1 cup of chopped onion
2 celery stalks, chopped
Cereal bowl full of sliced crimini mushrooms (Less than a carton)
1.5 packets of breakfast sausage links
1/2 cup golden raisins
3/4 can of medium black olives, chopped
14 oz. bag seasoned bread cubes
3/4 cup finely chopped parsley
3/4 stick of butter
2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper
A large crock pot

 Start making this when you're ready to eat breakfast. This way you can eat a couple of sausage links with some eggs while the other ones are cooling. Brown all the sausage links in a big saute pan. Once they are cooled, chop them into little rounds.

Slice the mushrooms using a hard-boiled egg cutter. I love this trick I invented that I'm sure other people have also come up with!

Add 1 Tbs. butter in the saute pan and heat on medium-high. Add the celery, onion and mushrooms and cook till everything is softened, about 7 minutes.

Spray the inside of the crock pot with Pam and dump in the bread cubes. Add the breakfast sausage, mushrooms, onion and celery.

Use the hard boiled egg slicer again for the olives. It's a cinch!

Add the raisins, olives, parsley, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

Cut the butter into little cubes and mix into the stuffing. Periodically pour in the chicken stock between mixing so everything is well incorporated.

Put the lid on the crock pot and turn it to low. Let it cook for 4-5 hours. Don't remove the lid until you're good and ready cause it takes a long time to reheat the crock pot.

Fluff the stuffing just before serving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For more photos of this recipe, please visit http://knitnatak.blogspot.com/2011/11/crock-pot-stuffing.html
3  COOKING / Vegetarian / Vegan / Greek Dolmas Recipe on: November 19, 2011 05:18:24 PM
I've never been a big fan of those little Greek treats wrapped in grape leaves known as dolmas, or dolmades, until recently. My tastes must be changing now that I'm pregnant! But after attending a wedding reception last week and downing about a dozen of them, I thought I should try making them myself.

They were a lot of fun to make and they were so tasty that I had them for dinner instead of as an appetizer.

The grape leaves were a challenge to find, but eventually I spotted them in the aisle with the jars of roasted red peppers. 

This recipe makes about 36 dolmas. Enjoy!

1, 8-oz. jar of grape leaves, drained
1 onion, grated
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 cup of raw white rice
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
2+ cups water, divided
1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped
1/2 pine nuts
1/2 finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
several dashes of allspice, to taste
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 lemons, juiced and sliced (slice them after juicing)

For the filling, heat a large saute pan with 1/4 cup of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and zest and cook, stirring once in a while, for 10 minutes. Add the rice, pine nuts and raisins and stir so that the rice is thoroughly coated in oil. Cook for 2 minutes then add 1 cup of water. Stir rice frequently and cook for 10 minutes so rice absorbs the water. If the water evaporates before this time is up, just add a bit more water.

Transfer mixture to a bowl and combine with the parsley, mint, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste mixture and make sure you like the flavor. Let it cool.

While this cools, prepare the grape leaves by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Lay the grape leaves flat and set into the pot. Cover and return to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the pot sit for ten minutes. Drain and set the leaves in a bowl of cold water until you're ready to fill them.

Take a dutch oven and put a plate inside of it. Cover the plate with grape leaves that have tears or holes in them. This will prevent the dolmas from burning while you're boiling them.

Now it's time to make your dolmas.

First, lay out a leaf veiny-side upward and trim away any of the stem.

Place about a tablespoon of filling at the base of the leaf where you trimmed the stem. Pack it with your fingers so it's in a little mound.

Fold up the right corner of the leaf over the filling, then fold up the left leaf. Fold in the sides and roll it up!

Place dolma seam-side down in the dutch oven. Pack them in really tight and when you run out of room, cover with a layer of grape leaves and start a new layer of dolmas.

When you've run out of filling, used up your grape leaves or run out of space in your pot, pour 1/4 cup of olive oil, lemon juice and about a cup of water over the dolmas. Fill the pot with water until it reaches halfway up the top layer of dolmas. Take your lemon slices and fit them in between and on top of the dolmas. Place a plate upside-down on top of your dolmas and if you have space, place another plate right-side up on that one. This will weigh down the dolmas so they don't unwrap while they boil.

Place the lid on top and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 40 minutes. Test a dolma. If the rice is still firm, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so.

Enjoy with plain Greek yogurt!

For more photos and information, visit my blog post at http://knitnatak.blogspot.com/2011/11/greek-dolmades.html
4  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: Reconstructed / Dress Shirt Tote Bag -- With Tutorial! on: September 26, 2011 11:31:44 PM
I had crafts on my mind as soon as my husband told me he was getting rid of his old dress shirts and ties -- I just hand't figured out what to make.

After much thought, I decided to make a lined tote bag out of one of his shirts and to use a neck tie as the handles. It was my husband's idea to add the tie to the front. I just love how he gave me a tie clip too!

One large button-up dress shirt
Lining fabric (about 1/2 yard)
One neck tie
Stiff iron-on interfacing

Sew a seam along the buttons so that you can no longer button and unbutton the shirt. There should be seam already there for you to follow.
Measure two 15x16-inch squares of the lining fabric. Do the same on the dress shirt, but make sure the buttons are centered at 7.5 inches. The shirt pocket may need to be sacrificed a little bit.

Cut the interfacing a little bit smaller than the body of the bag and iron it to the wrong sides of the exterior fabric.
Turn down the top edge of all the bag parts by one inch.

Sew the edges and bottom of the exterior fabric, right sides together. Do the same for the lining.
Iron open the seams. Turn exterior fabric right side out and slip the lining inside it (keeping it inside out)

Pin the top edges together, making sure the lining doesn't poke out above the exterior.
Now you'll need to figure out how long you'll want your necktie straps. Add an inch to each side of the strap once you know how long you prefer it. Cut the tie into to equal lengths. One strap will probably be wider than the other because the tie is tapered, but I think it's cool that way!
I measured two inches out from the center buttons and pinned my first strap in place, nestling the raw strap edge between the lining and exterior fabrics. I eyeballed the second strap based on the placement of my first.
Make sure the straps are equal lengths by holding the bag the way you normally would. Make adjustments if necessary.

If you'd like to add the tie to the front, measure how long you'd want it to lay and add 1.5 inches. Set the raw edge between the lining and exterior fabrics and pin in place so that it sticks up and away from the bottons. You'll be sewing a seam and the tie will flop over, hiding the seam.

Sew all around the edge of your bag, leaving a one-inch seam allowance. Sew another seam all the way around, but very close to the edge.

If you'd like more photos or would like to know how to give your tote a flat bottom, visit my blog posting at http://knitnatak.blogspot.com/2011/09/i-just-nearly-had-heart-attack.html (I'm not sure why Blogger decided to label the link the way it did, but it will take you to the tutorial).
5  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: General / Teatime on the go -- Tea Wallet Photo Tutorial on: May 15, 2011 07:54:08 PM
In high school I used to make wallets. They had credit card slots and velcro, just like old-school nylon wallets. For a while I've been tinkering with the idea of using my wallet knowledge to create something where you could have tea and sugar on the go. Say you're at a restaurant and you prefer your fancy tea over the cheap stuff. You could just ask for hot water, pull out your tea wallet from your purse and you'd have a cup of the tea you love.

Here's a step-by-step guide to sewing a tea wallet. For more photos and information, visit http://knitnatak.blogspot.com/2011/05/tea-wallet-photo-tutorial.html

Two different patterns of cotton fabric
light interfacing
one snap
sewing machine
needle and thread

The wallet is made of five parts: The outside material (piece A), the inside material (also piece A), the two inside pockets (pieces B and C) and a little strap to fasten the wallet together (not pictured below).

The body of the wallet is 6.5 inches wide x 4 inches tall.
The first pocket is 6.5"x 3"
The second pocket is 6.5" x 2.5"
The little strap is made from the outside material and it's 1.5" x 3"

The first thing you'll need to do is iron on some light interfacing to the inside parts of the wallet, namely the inside A pattern and the B and C patterns. It's up to you what material you use for the pockets, but I like pocket B to be made of the outside material and pocket C to be made of the inside material.

Cut the interfacing for patterns A, B and C and iron the shiny side of the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric.

Turn down the top edge of pockets B and C and iron flat. Sew a straight stitch across the top edge of each pocket.

Arrange pocket C on top of pocket B, which is on top of inside piece A. Baste along the side edges of the pockets. Fold these basted pieces in half and iron. Make a stitch along the ironed line from the base of the wallet to the top of pocket B, making sure to backstitch. This creates a dividing line between each side of the wallet.

Next, you'll make the little strap. Iron in the long edges of the strap and then fold the piece in half and iron. Basically, you're making a small piece of bias tape. Sew along the ironed edge of the tape.

Sew one side of a snap to the outside piece of pattern A, about an inch inward. Place the raw edge of the little strap on the opposite edge of the outside pattern A, facing inward. Pin outside piece A to inside piece A, right sides together and sew all around the edge, leaving a 2-inch space open at the top of the wallet, closer to the snap side.

Trim the edges of the wallet except for the top edge. Turn right side out and iron flat. Sew the opening shut, very close to the edge.

Next, place the tea bags and sugar packets in the wallet and figure out how long the little strap should be in order to reach around to the snap on the body of the wallet. Trim the strap accordingly, fold under the raw edge, then fold it again and sew it down. My machine didn't feel like sewing this part, so its easier to hand sew for me.

Finally, sew the other side of the snap to the inside of the little strap.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I'm not used to writing sewing patterns.

6  HOME SWEET HOME / Crafty Housewares: Completed Projects: General / Reupholstered Dining Chair -- Easy Photo Tutorial! on: April 10, 2011 07:01:41 PM
Reupholstering a wooden chair with a padded seat is surprisingly easy. It takes about 30 minutes and it's a great way to dazzle up a thrift store chair. Yesterday I found a girls' sundress at the thrift store for $2:

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it, but I knew I wanted the fabric. When I went to the next thrift shop I found a wooden chair where the frame was in great shape but the padded seat was well.....ugly as sin. I found my Sunday project!

Here's a step-by-step tutorial on how to recover any piece of furniture that has a removable padded seat.

All you need are the following materials:

An old chair with a padded seat
A piece of fabric 3 inches bigger on all sides than the cushion
Staple gun
Fabric scissors

First, unscrew the cushion from the chair frame. Place the screws somewhere where they won't get lost.

Then, iron your fabric and make sure it's big enough for your cushion. My fabric was thin and see-through and the dress came with a lining so I decided to double up the lining and the fabric.
Trim the fabric all around the cushion so there's about 3 inches on all sides.

With the cushion face down on the fabric, stretch one side tightly around and staple in the middle. Do this on each side, turning the cushion over once in a while to make sure there aren't any wrinkles.

Next, staple the corners of the cushion by gathering up the fabric so it looks nice. Staple all of the corners.

Now, staple along the edge of the fabric, stretching it taut as you go. Check the other side of the cushion for wrinkles. If there are any, either pull out the staple by the wrinkle and redo or just tug the fabric and staple it down.
When you've stapled all around the edge trim the edge so there's about 1/2 inch of fabric next to the staples.

Finally, screw the cushion back onto the frame.

7  CLOTHING / Clothing: Completed Projects: General / Mexican Oilcloth Headband with Photo Tutorial on: March 27, 2011 08:42:27 PM
Every time we go to Mexico I can't resist buying oilcloth at the fabric store. All the bright colors, fruits and flowers just make me so dang happy.

Here's a photo tutorial on how to make a lovely headband. It's pretty easy and looks pretty profesh. Enjoy!

Sorry, my usual photographer was taking a nap.


One piece of oilcloth, 1.75 in. x 18 in.
One package of double fold bias tape
One four-inch piece of 1/2-in. wide elastic

1. Cut two lengths of bias tape to run along the long edges of the oilcloth. Slip the edge of the oilcloth into the bias tape. It should fit snugly in there. Sew the bias tape in place, making sure you're sewing through the top layer of the tape, the oilcloth and the bottom layer of the tape.

2. Using a zig-zag stitch, secure the elastic to the raw edge of the oilcloth.

3. Fold in the corners of the band so it makes a taper. Sew in place with a zig-zag stitch.

4. Place the headband around your head and adjust the elastic so it's comfortable. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the other end of the band.

It's as simple as that. Only took me about 10 minutes total.
8  CLOTHING / Clothing: Completed Projects: General / Springtime Headband with Photo Tutorial on: March 27, 2011 04:03:40 PM
The apparel store I work at always gets fun headbands this time of year. They are simple construction with bright, pretty fabrics, but they always cost way more than I'm willing to pay. Eighteen dollars? I could just make the same thing with materials I already have at home. That's free!

Here's step-by-step instructions on how to make your very own springtime headband. Enjoy!

A piece of cotton, 18 in. x 4 in.
5-inch piece of 1/2-in. thick elastic

1. Cut your fabric to a dimension you prefer. I wanted about a two-inch thick headband, so I cut my fabric to be 4 inches wide (it's a little narrower than two inches because of the seam allowance). You also might have a different sized head from mine, so you could always measure the circumference of your head and subtract four inches.

2. Sew your fabric together on the long edge, right sides together. I use a very small seam allowance. I line the fabric up with the edge of the foot. You are essentially making an inside-out tube. Turn your tube right-side out and iron flat with the seam going up the middle. This will be the inside part of your headband.

3. Iron the edges in on each side of the strip so that no raw edges show.

4. Place the edge of the elastic inside one of the ends of the fabric strip so about 1/2 inch of the elastic is inside. Sew in place using a zig-zag stitch.

5. Iron in the corners of the same side of the strip so it makes a tapered edge. Zig-zag stitch the folds in place.

6. Now place the headband around your head and figure out how much elastic you will need to make it comfortable. Once you've figured that out, repeat steps 4 and 5 on the other edge.

Presto! I think I'm gonna whip out several of these for my friends.

9  COOKING / Vegetarian / Vegan / Homemade Granola on: March 21, 2011 10:30:49 PM
This is a super easy recipe for granola. It's a yummy snack that's pretty healthy. Be sure to use rolled oats and not any kind of quick or instant oatmeal. Also, I made sure to use white chocolate that didn't contain any palm kernel oil, as I've heard the stuff isn't very good for you. I ended up using Ghiridelli white chocolate in bar form, as the baking chips contain palm oil. And get creative! I put dried fruit and mixed nuts in my granola, but you could easily add anything you like to make it your own personal trail mix or GORP (good ol' raisins and peanuts).


1.5 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup all natural applesauce
1/4 cup dried mixed fruit
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup mixed nuts
1 4-oz. bar of white chocolate

Preheat oven to 220 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. In a mixing bowl, combine the applesauce and oats. Add the nuts and fruit and mix thoroughly. Spread out on the baking sheet and place in the oven for 1.5 hours. Meanwhile, chop the chocolate finely and add half the chocolate to a mixing bowl. When granola is cooked, add it to the bowl and top with remaining chocolate. Mix granola until chocolate is melted. Store in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.
10  CLOTHING / Clothing: Completed Projects: Reconstructed / Semi-Homemade Skirt and Cami on: February 21, 2011 05:29:12 PM
Yesterday as I was rifling through the crafts section at a thrift shop, I came across a piece of pretty red fabric for 50 cents. When I got home I realized it was the beginning of a skirt that someone had never finished. Plus, it had pockets. I decided to finish what someone else had started.

I have basic sewing skills, but I cut the length of the skirt by about 8 inches and used the trimmed fabric to form a 3-inch waistband. Since I didn't want to bother with zippers or hooks, I decided to make the skirt elastic. The skirt was pretty wide at the top so I thought a simple elastic waistband would look too bunchy, so I made a couple of basting stitches along the top and then created little gathers in the fabric. I made sure I could still slip it on and then secured the gathers by sewing across the basted stitches.

I sewed the waistband to the top of the skirt, flipped it around, and sewed the band to the inside, creating a 3/4-inch band. I left part of the waistband open so I could push elastic through it. When the elastic was tight enough for my waist, I sewed it up and voila! A nearly perfect skirt -- with pockets!

Since I was feeling especially crafty, I thought I might make a top to go with my new skirt. I took an old tank top that was pretty long and cut off about 4 inches from the bottom. I rehemmed the top and made ruffles out of the extra strip by using the same gathering technique as the skirt. I really like how it turned out. I have to make more ruffle tops. It's really satisfying. These ruffles would have also made pretty rosettes. I had a hard time deciding!

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