BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Neatly Nested

Adorable and cheerful as they are, handmade softies tend to accumulate in mass amounts around here if left unchecked. Multiplying mysteriously throughout the course of a month, it seems as though they spring forth out of the ether, entirely of their own accord. There’s no stopping this home invasion, but there are certainly worse problems to worry about. When space is at a premium and not another square inch can be spared, at least this particular close-knit family of featherless fowl is happy to accommodate.

Nesting within each other like plush matryoshka dolls, no actual nest is required for them to call any place home. Luckily for them and their hosts, even the smallest spaces can comfortably contain all four, right down to the tiny eggling still waiting to hatch. No matter what, you can rest assured that it will be kept very warm!

[The Nesting Birds knitting pattern can be found on page 45 of Huge & Huggable Mochimochi: 20 Supersized Patterns for Big Knitted Friends by Anna Hrachovec.]


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Raising the Sushi Bar

Coordinating shared meals can be tough enough with just one or two family members, but when everyone’s home at the dinner hour at once, it can be nearly impossible. Greatly disparate tastes define us, ranging from the fairly healthy vegan (hi there!) to the vegetable-hating omnivore, making it challenging to get a universally agreeable meal on the table, to say the least. In a pinch there is at least one safe haven where we can all find something good to eat, however: The sushi bar.

Topping this list of “must order” items is edamame. Those young soy beans are one of the only green edibles that said vegetable-hater will actually consume, and even willingly most times! Trust me, that’s a big deal in our household. Thus, a big bowl of edamame always graces our table, to be shared communally.

Vegetable gyoza are another staple found on most menus, and what’s not to like about chewy wonton skin stretched around a savory filling? Steamed or fried, plump parcels or dainty half-moons, even bad gyoza are pretty darn good.

And of course, the main event, the sushi. There’s so much more than just the standard cucumber and avocado, but there’s nothing wrong with those reassuring staples either. Nigiri is usually off the menu for me, but hey, when it’s made of this much fiber, it’s got to be vegan!

Tiny sushi bar pattern by Anna Hrachovec


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Indian Summer

Just as suddenly as the cold and darkness descended, a brief respite from the encroaching fall brings us glorious blue skies and gentle 80-degree breezes, as if summer never left us in the first place. Toying with my heart, it’s hard not to get attached to this anomaly of the season. While Canadian friends across the border celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m marveling at children still playing on the beaches, joggers baring all in skimpy outfits, and general summer behavior continuing as if the calendar pages haven’t already advanced beyond July. Even the wildlife are clearly mixed up and confused by this inexplicable shift.


Glass platter provided by Steelite

Lounging about on a placid pond without a care in the world, this little fellow can’t even dream of a time without warm sunshine. So comfortable on that buoyant lily pad, I swear I could see him flattening out, relaxing to the point of loosening every muscle in his tiny green body and becoming a genuine pancake of a frog. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that next week is just as liable to bring a blizzard as it is more of this Indian summer. What’s the harm in pretending it’s still vacation, for just a little while longer, at least?

[Flapjack Frog pattern by Anna Hrachovec of MochiMochi Land]


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Teeny Tiny Winner

Although it just barely missed the cut for Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi, this miniature ice cream cone seems to be in hot demand, as it was one of the most popular requests made in the comment section. Fear not, nimble knitters! This sweet little number is destined for another project, coming in the near future. Keep an eye on Anna’s blog for updates on her latest creations.

But let’s not beat around the bush here and get down to business. Selected by the random number generator, the winner of Anna’s new book is…

Commenter #46, Julie Overton, who suggests, “These are so darling! I would love to see if she can make lil sushi!” Sounds like a good choice to me, with a high probability of being adorable!

If you didn’t win this time around, never fear- You can still hop right over to Oiyi’s Crafts and join in on her giveaway, too.

And with that, it’s time for me to pack my bags and head off to Portland, OR for the first ever Vida Vegan Con. I’ll be leading a workshop on food photography, speaking on the “Young and Vegan” panel, and doing a demo on the illustrious vegan meringue. Who am I seeing there, and who’s getting excited now?!


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It’s a Small World

Proving without a shadow of a doubt that simply downsizing everyday items makes them instantly adorable, Anna Hrachovec has created an overnight sensation with her ongoing series of tiny objects. Ranging from animals to edibles to computer equipment, you name it and there’s a good chance that Anna has a yarn-and-fiberfill replica that could fit in the palm of you hand. After slowly doling out a few tiny patterns in irresistible sets for the past year or so, her latest book, Teeny-Tiny MochiMochi: More Than 40 Itty-Bitty Minis to Knit, Wear, and Give has finally been unleashed upon the world, bundling together scores of quick, cute knits.

For any knitter that has been disappointed by the crocheted amigurumi craze, unable to create such adorable stuffed toys, this is the book for you! Containing such a wide variety of items that there’s bound to be something that everyone will love, one of my favorite aspects of these mini knits is how quick they are to make. Small size means small time commitment, so you can churn these cuties out in no time– A particularly useful fact if you’re stuck for last-minute gifts.

As one of Anna’s devoted test-knitters, I can’t claim an unbiased opinion here, but I can tell you that I would have purchased this compilation of cuteness anyway. I mean honestly, how could you resist patterns for…

…A tiny cupcake, complete with rainbow seed bead sprinkles?

How about a plump, green pear, almost realistic enough to imagine out in the orchards?

Don’t forget about the starches; a baked potato topped off with beaded chives and a generous pat of sewn in “butter” would sure hit the spot!

Anna has even managed to create the ever-elusive vegan fried egg! I must admit though, it was a bit fibrous for my tastes.

I did slightly modify my knits to exclude the eyes, but only because this vegan prefers not to have food that can look back at me. Still, the adorable factor hasn’t suffered in the least, if I do say so myself. While the section of tiny foods was clearly my focus, there’s still a whole world of tiny knits to explore far beyond the faux edibles. The miniature lion is next up on my knit list.

For all you eager crafters out there, you’re in luck- Ever generous, Anna and her publisher have offered to giveaway a second copy of Teeny-Tiny MochiMochi to one lucky blog reader! To secure your copy, all you need to do is leave me a comment, using correct contact info, telling me what item you’d like to see as a tiny knit next. Anna is still hard at work on this series, so who knows, you may see your suggestion show up on her blog some day soon! Be sure to comment before Wednesday, August 24th at midnight EST, at which point I’ll choose a winner via random number generator.  Open to residents of the US only.  So ready your double-pointed needles and start thinking small; there’s a whole tiny world to explore!


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Welcome to MochiMochi Land

For years now, Anna Hrachovec has been a constant source of knitting inspiration, churning out patterns and ideas like a veritable softie factory. In fact, she’s even made adorable plush factories! With more unique and lovable ideas than snowflakes on a winter day, it was only a matter of time before a book deal came along, and the results were nothing less than spectacular.

Lucky enough to have previewed many of the patterns that would be going into this compilation by way of test knitting, I am probably somewhat biased in my assessment, but I still wouldn’t hype up Anna’s Knitting MochiMochi anymore than I felt was appropriate. While there are only 20 full designs included, there’s much more than just plain patterns included. This short but in-depth text teaches not only advanced knitters how to recreate many of those impressive yet relatively simply constructed toys, but it also has an expansive section detailing each and every type of stitch and technique necessary. There are even clear photos to go with every step! Talk about thorough.

From quirky and cute gifts to “impractical wearables” and even a section that teaches you how to design and create your own patterns, there truly is something for every crafter here. I’ve already shared my personal favorite, what Anna has called the “confused moose,” but rest assured, I have plenty more to share in future posts (and stories!). In fact, I was happy to have my favorite model, Isis, show off another adorable piece of knitwear…

[Hello? Can you still hear me over this incredibly loud sofa?!]

The “neck nuzzler”! Yes, it’s warm, soft, and cute as a button! What more can you ask for? If you don’t believe me, you’ve got to trust Isis’ judgment- She won’t wear any frilly collars or accessories, but she was quite content with this fashionable adornment.

If you knit, or want to learn, Knitting MochiMochi is a great book to turn to. I have yet to be disappointed by a single one of Anna’s patterns yet, and I’ve made almost all of them!


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Late Nights, Froggy Days

Gone are the days of “summer vacation,” the merciful cessation of homework and responsibilities. Once that final bell rings on a sticky late-June afternoon, kids bolt out the door, released from their bondage of books, not a second thought to be devoted to learning for the next 6 to 8 weeks. Making a clean break with the world of school work and taking the time to reset the mind, it still seems like an excellent model for preventing stress and burnout when it comes to most jobs. Unfortunately, as we all know, rarely is that the case when the days of grade school are behind us. In fact, my schedule has perversely flip-flopped to the other extreme, and I now find myself mired in the knee-deep sludge of a full-time summer semester. Rather than being kinder and gentler than the usual course load as one might imagine, this intersession study is twice as intense, attempting to pack in the full material of each class in half the normal time allotted. Needless to say, it’s rather demanding.

Already feeling the additional strain, passing the hours studying, writing, and pounding away at the keyboard, it’s easy to lose touch with the outside world. Beautiful clear skies stay safely obscured by the drab white ceiling directly overhead. Sweets remain unphotographed and recipes languish in unsaved files, half-written. All that matters are the quizzes and assignments, discussions and commentary, that all weigh so heavily on my mind. Time stands still, until I finally come to and watch a whole day elapse in just an instant. By then, any number of things could have happened without my conscious knowledge. I got a first-hand example of that when I went to take a sip of my water… and was jolted firmly back into the land of the living by quite a shocking discovery.

Unbeknownst to me, a tiny green frog had taken up residence in my glass while I had been tuned out! Looking quite comfortable perched upon his flat lily pad, bobbing up and down amongst the ice cubes, I can only imagine how long he had been sitting there before I noticed. Enjoying the cool little oasis I had constructed on this hot summer day, he didn’t seem the least be disturbed to have caught my attention, but kindly hopped out as a courtesy to me. Such a thoughtful fella, willing to share this treasure he had found without any prompting.

Though still disturbed about where exactly my new friend came from, and how long he intended to stay, I restrained my alarm and resisted the urge to fling him straight out the open window. How could I be so selfish to kick him out into the harsh elements outside when I could just get another glass of water, anyway?

Now staring at me with those dark, thoughtful eyes, possibly waiting to see what my next move would be, I thought it might be best just to get back to work. Clearly, the heat and long hours of study were beginning to get to me. Maybe this is why most kids go on summer vacation.

[Tiny frog pattern by Anna of MochiMochi Land]


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The Secret Life of Woodland Creatures

The imagination of a child is truly a precious thing. Before the ways of the world and common sense are stamped into those malleable brains, they can come up with some pretty amazing ideas, far beyond the grasp of someone accustomed to assuming the obvious answers. The greatest tragedy is that we can’t see our surroundings through such a creative lens as we grow older and “wiser.” For example, I know full well that the stoplights are set to change either at fixed intervals of time, or according to sensors that detect traffic flow. When I was much younger, however, I was convinced that it was someone’s job at every single intersection to keep an eye on traffic, and switch the lights manually. This person might also know if you had been good or bad that day, and speed up or delay the lights as they saw fit. It made perfect sense at the time, and I would always breathe a sigh of relief when the light finally turned green, proving I had been a good little girl that day.

Another thing I always wondered about was where the forest creatures went at night, or when it suddenly turned chilly or rainy. Did they have their own little blankets and umbrellas hidden away, to be removed from storage only when nobody was looking? Even that idea was a little far fetched for me to believe, but I had my own theories…

In the cover of darkness, deep within the woods where no one was looking, every night the animals would convene for big slumber parties. Together, they would share each others warmth and company, instantly becoming the best of friends. All would return to normal in the morning, the circle of life and survival of the fittest back into effect, but just for the evenings, animals large and small would act like family. From the birds to the mooses, it didn’t matter the species, there would be peace and community within the animal kingdom. I could practically picture it: Birds of all colors would flock to the safety of outstretched antlers, and nestle in for the evening, perfectly warm and cozy. Like a trusty mobile home, surely the moose could move to take shelter from a storm if needed, and danger could easily be outrun.

Looking through the eyes of a child, doesn’t that scheme tie up the unknown, loose ends nicely and make good sense? I’d sure like to hear you propose a better idea!

[Knit moose pattern from Knitting MochiMochi by Anna Hrachovec]


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Love is in the Air

It’s a highly contagious ailment that has no cure and no one is immune to. Spreading like wildfire once exposed to any considerable population, it could take down all of civilization as we know it in mere days. Don’t be alarmed, but there’s no sugar-coating the fact that we’re all at risk for this ruthless malady. Identifying those affected is an easy task, however- Just look for the glassy eyes, goofy smiles, stuttering, rapid heart beat, and lack of coordination. These people are to be avoided at all costs, because they’re likely to spread their affliction in the blink of an eye, without even knowing it. Sadly, most are far beyond saving by the time their symptoms become evident, as they’re often head-over-heels… In love!

As you can see, this horrible, gruesome affliction turns mild-mannered folks into certifiable hug monsters. Especially dangerous as Valentine’s Day approaches, one suffering from the disease is liable to latch on to the nearest person and simply hug and squeeze until they turn blue. Their system overwhelmed with more love than they can handle, hugs are the only way to release any of the otherwise painful tension. It’s such a terribly sad thing to see.

So guard yourselves, cross Valentine’s Day off your calendar, and stay away from anyone you care about, or you too might become an unwitting victim! I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but left unchecked, I’m afraid this thing called “love” might just take over the world, if we sit back and let it.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Make sure you give a hug to everyone you love!

[Pattern available at MochiMochi Land]

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