BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Save the Date

Come 2010, there will be a whole new reason to look forward to each new day… With the Crochet-a-Day calendar!  Yes, this fun page-per-day timetable has been around for a few years already, in addition to its sister Knit-a-Day calendar, but this next year’s edition is especially worth checking out.  Packed with a couple hundred creative new designs that are sure to get you inspired every morning when you flip the page, this one will also include a certain pattern that has some additional significance to me…

On May 19, 2010, my Basic Birds, the very first crochet pattern I ever wrote, will be featured!

Having been translated into over a dozen different languages and used to create a couple hundred little birds, I could have never imagined that this simple project would have become such a sensation.  An easy first amigurumi for newbies, or quick diversion for the more advanced, the fun part is how easy it is to make your own.  Each little face is slightly different, the shape of the body unique to the hands that made it.  So, how will yours be different, intentionally adapted or not?  If you don’t want to wait for the calender, and all of the other fun patterns that come with it, the free pattern is right where it’s always been.


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Endless Summer

August. If there ever were a more uninspiring, monotonous month, I have yet to meet it. Vacations are winding down, and yet the heat and humidity are only gaining in intensity, condemning restless kids to the air-conditioned environment indoors. Mornings, afternoons, and evenings crawl by at a snail’s pace, each one undistinguished from the last, bringing only the same old routine, hardly even worth counting as an actual day. By the time September finally rolls around, it’s almost a welcome splash of cold water on the face, even if that does mean back to school and work for so many.

Of course, not everyone shares my sentiments about this drawn-out month, and there are still plenty of people and creatures alike taking full advantage of the tail end of summer.

Perfectly happy to traverse a barren desert and the rainforest belt alike, this particular ostrich got lucky enough to discover another enjoyable climate: New England in the dog days of summer!

This flightless bird sure doesn’t bury his head in the sand, oh no. He seeks out the new, fun, and otherwise overlooked delights that this unsung month holds. When else would the east coast be the least bit hospitable such an exotic, warm-weather bird?

Flightless as he may be, he still managed to hop a ride into the states just in time to enjoy this final heat wave, squeezing every last usable minute out of the season. Just in case it seemed too late to fit in that last picnic, or day at the beach, this guy ought to stand as a positive reminder- Go for it, today, because there’s still so much of summer left to enjoy!


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Do the Jellyfish Jam

Every year, it’s the same thing; The summer months fly by, slipping through my fingers before I even realize they’re at hand. Only when the season starts to wind down, and cold breezes begin threatening to blow the warm climate back down south, do I even remember about the beach. Oh, right, we live about a five-minute drive away from sandy shores and the gentle salt water waves of the ocean! It’s a luxury that I take for granted, giving what might seem to be paradise to some the cold shoulder, huddling inside instead with the AC at full blast. It’s no secret that I’m not a real outdoors-y type, but even I can appreciate the beauty of our local beaches. Some of my best childhood memories involve collecting sea glass and tiny little shells at low tide, planning elaborate necklaces and mosaics with them, and staying out late enough to see the boats and barges glow atop the rippling water. Mental images like that drive me back to the shoreline, no matter how late into the season- It’s better than forsaking the place entirely, right?

Alas, it was just too late for this summer, and by the time I set sandal-clad feet on the rough pink sand, the waters had been over taken by a more territorial visitor. There would be absolutely no swimming today, because the jellyfish had returned in force.

Don’t let that innocent little grin fool you- These spineless sea jellies will give you one nasty sting if you don’t watch your step. Cute but dangerous, I can’t say they would make for very good pets or companions… But if you ever need a watch guard for your private beach, don’t bother with a dog; A jellyfish will surely keep those nasty intruders out! Although I don’t really appreciate this possessive approach to the public beach down the road, perhaps you’d like a jellyfish to call you own?

Body:

With an F hook and variegated worsted weight yarn, sc6 in a circle
Sc twice into each st (12 sts)
Sc1, sc twice into next st* around (18 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* around (24 sts)
Sc around
Sc3, sc twice into next st* around (30 sts)
Sc4, sc twice into next st* around (36 sts)
Sc around for 5 rounds
Skip one st, 5 dc into next st, skip one st, sl st* around
Break yarn and tie off.

Bottom:

With solid colored yarn, sc6 in a circle
Sc twice into each st (12 sts)
Sc1, sc twice into next st* around (18 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* around (24 sts)
Sc3, sc twice into next st* around (30 sts)
Sc4, sc twice into next st* around (36 sts)
Break yarn, leaving a long tail.

Tentacles (Make 3):

With the same yarn as used for the body, ch16,
Starting in second loop from hook, dc3 into each st
The going will get tough and the stitches might become very tight, but don’t give up- Pull, dig, coerce those stitches into place! Show that yarn who’s boss!
Tie off at the end of the row, and weave in the ends.

To Assemble:

Insert safety eyes into the body and embroider a smile with black worsted weight yarn if desired. Use the long length of yarn from the bottom piece to sew it to the body, stitching it to the row just above the dc’s. Once you get most of the way around, stuff the piece firmly. Sew closed, tie tightly, and bury the knot. Sew the tentacles to the bottom, attaching the short edge of each piece in the very center, and arranging the top edges of each piece to point outwards at equal intervals. Weave in any loose ends.

Use invisible thread to hang them from the wall or ceiling, allowing your jellyfish to swim through the air, if desired!


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Sweet Easter Sunday

Ranking just below Halloween, Easter is one of the most lucrative times for candy makers and sellers, beating out the sales from both Christmas and Valentine’s Day combined.  On top of that well-known fact, it’s also been proven that in times of economic hardships, just about the only thing that is truly recession-proof is candy, so you can image how much of the sweet, sugary stuff is flying off the shelves right now.

Surrounded by such temptation at every turn, it’s hard not to indulge just a little bit… And the risk of overdoing that little sugar fix is so great, even the Easter bunny himself would struggle to maintain moderation.

Just try not to get sick to your stomach today! Mr. Bunny here is looking rather green now, after pounding down piles of chocolates and marshmallows, and may very well need the next couple of months to sleep off the impending sugar coma. No wonder Easter only comes around once a year!


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It’s Electric!

Finally, now that the sun has decided to take the chill off the earth and it suddenly feels much more temperate all around, it’s the perfect time to take a stroll along the beach.  Why wait until it gets unbearably hot, when the tourists creep out of hiding and pollute the shores, and even the bugs and bees seem more ferocious?  Just as winter breaks, and the sandy shores are still quiet, that simple strip of undulating water feels like a refuge from the craziness of everyday business.  For a brief time during this off-peak season, dogs are still allowed in as well, so it’s a great opportunity to spend some quality time with your canine friend(s).

Not a soul in sight, a peaceful breeze is the only thing we meet on this brisk March morning.  Isis romps happily to examine the debris left behind at low tide, being careful not to actually touch the water’s edge.  She hates baths and walking in the rain, or just getting wet in general, with a fiery passion, so it’s understandable that she’s wary of this strange mass of moving water.

Trotting out onto a freshly unearthed sandbar, striated with gentle waves that mimic the ocean’s caress, it was there that she paused, and suddenly let out a low growl.  Typically easy-going and certainly not aggressive like this, I rushed over to see what she had found.

Laid out nearly straight like an emerald green arrow, I could scarcely believe the object of Isis’s fascination was in fact an electric eel!* Sure, there may occasionally be the odd jellyfish or two that washes up on our beach, but never an eel- They usually stick to the bottom of the ocean floor anyways, so what was this guy doing all the way out here?

Fearing that it might be stuck, and more importantly, that Isis might try to eat it soon if I didn’t do something, I thoughtlessly reached down to scoop the overgrown worm and toss him back into the blue-green waves when…

ZZZzt! Like sticking your fingers in an electrical socket, a jolt of electricity surged through my arm, thoroughly shocking me both literally and figuratively. All the while, that beached little creature looked so innocent and helpless… What a joke!

Quickly putting Isis back on a leash and marching away, I can only wonder how many other poor passersby might have tried to “help” had it been a little bit later in the season, when the people come in droves. I guess it’s a good thing it was just the two of us- But what an electrifying experience!

*Yes, I know that electric eels look different, just humor me here, okay?


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Not Quite Duck Pins

In the frozen depths of the arctic, very few creatures are equipped to survive the severe conditions by themselves. If you think the weather is bad where you live, just imagine the creatures that have to deal with snow storms that continue to dump frozen precipitation for weeks at a time! Polar bears have their thick fur coats to stay warm, seals have comfortable layers of blubber… but penguins? Though they lack the same degree of insulation, penguins are unique in that their communities are able to band together- Literally- And share body heat to stave off those subzero temperatures.

All squished up close together, penguins are certainly not claustrophobic. The more I thought about this arrangement, though, I couldn’t help but wonder if they ever get bored of the same extreme togetherness. What do they do for fun? Would one ever try to lighten the mood or play games in the midst of that tight circle? Imagining all sorts of ways that a restless penguin might try to make the situation more enjoyable, it suddenly hit me that there was one perfect past time that some penguins would undoubtedly enjoy…

Bowling! Just as your neighbors begin to nod off, one mischievous bird might excuse themselves from the group and wake them up with a lighthearted roll of the bowling ball!

Strike!

The only thing that might prevent this game from catching on is the risk that the rest of the colony might get tired of your antics, and march off into the sunset without you.

*For a usable set, you will need to make at least 6 penguins, stomachs, and beaks, and 1 bowling ball.

Penguin:

With a F hook and worsted weight yarn of any color, Sc6 in a circle using the magic loop technique.
Sc twice into each st (12)
Sc 1, sc twice into next st* around (18)
Sc 2, sc twice into next st* around (24)
Sc 5 rounds even
Sc 2, sc2tog* around (18)
Sc 1, sc3tog* around (12)
-Insert eyes and lightly stuff head-
Sc 2 rounds even
Sc 1, sc twice into next st* around (18)
Sc 1 round even
Sc 2, sc twice into next st* around (24)
Sc 3, sc twice into next st* around (30)
Sc 16 rounds even
Sc in back loops all the way around
-Stuff the body, and for extra stability, insert a yogurt lid cut to size into the bottom-
Sc3, sc2tog* around (24)
Sc2, sc2tog* around (18)
Sc1, sc2tog* around (12)
Sc2tog* around (6)

Gather the remaining stitches together and tie off, burying the knot and excess yarn inside.

Stomach:

With an F hook and white worsted weight yarn, Ch4
Sc into 2nd ch from hook and once into remaining 2 sts (3)
Turn, ch1, sc twice into first, sc1, sc twice into last (5)
Turn, ch1, Sc even
Turn, ch1, Sc Twice in the first st, sc3, sc twice in last st (7)
Turn, ch1, Sc3, sc twice into next st, sc3 (8)
Turn, ch1, Sc even* for 8 rows
Break the yarn, leaving a long tail to sew with.

Beak:

With an E hook and sport weight orange or yellow yarn, sc3 in a circle
Sc twice into each st (6)
Sc even for 2 rounds
Break yarn, leaving a long tail to sew with.

Bowling Ball:

With an F hook and grey worsted weight yarn, Sc6 in a circle
Sc twice in each st (12)
Sc 1, sc twice into next st* around (18)
Sc 2, sc twice into next st* around (24)
Sc 3, sc twice into next st* around (30)
Sc 4, sc twice into next st* around (36)
Sc 5, sc twice into next st* around (42)
Sc around for 4 rounds
Sc 5, sc2tog* around (36)
Sc 4, sc2tog* around (30)
-Insert a tennis ball, and while holding it in place, continue to crochet around it. You may need to pull your finished work tightly to get it to cover to completely-
Sc 3, sc2tog* around (24)
Sc 2, sc2tog* around (18)
Sc 1, sc2tog* around (12)
Sc2tog* around (6)
Gather remaining stitches together, break yarn, tie tightly, and bury the knot and excess yarn.


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Counting Sheep

Quiet settles over the kitchen like a soft blanket, as the hands of the clock continue their journey around to the AM hours. The gentle hum of the laptop is the only sound, punctuated by rapid spurts of key-tapping when the words begin to flow again. In the dead of night, with fewer distractions to get in the way, I tend to accomplish much more work and brainstorming is possible than in the daytime which most other people spend their waking hours. Allowing my mind to wander, following random lines of thought and then coming back to a focus once more, this is the only way that I can truly write with ease. While the rest of the house is fast asleep, that light in the kitchen keeps me company.

By the time I begin to wrap things up, I wonder how many bakers are beginning to wake for their pre-dawn shifts. 3 AM, 4 AM; the times that average people would be loathe to think about opening their eyes at. An insomniac with an excuse, I no longer try to fight it or count sheep to lull myself into a tired state… And while I may have given up on those fleecy animals, that doesn’t mean they’ve given up on me.

Try as they might, coffee at the ready so that they might be able to outlast my restlessness, I can always see them fading as the hours creep onward. Eyes closing, flickering open, and struggling to stay that way, it’s clear that this poor little guy got stuck with a tough job indeed. When my stream of thought finally runs dry and it’s time to head off to bed, it’s then that I notice that this diligent worker has actually beaten me to it.

It really is getting late when even the sheep give up.

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