How To Knit A Tie

Over the past two years or so, I’ve really gotten back into knitting. My grandma taught me when I was much younger. We’d sit on the couch together after I got home from elementary school, and she’d patiently teach me how to knit. My grandma was a very quiet person, but we did so much together (knit, watch Nick at Nite, eat snacks after school, pick flowers from the yard). She was a wonderful teacher.

After she passed away, I let many years go by before trying to knit again. Last year, I finally finished a scarf we had been knitting together for my dad. I didn’t remember how to knit, so I turned to one woman’s YouTube channel to learn again. Knitting Tips By Judy is a wonderful resource for knitters of all levels. Her tutorials are clear and concise, two important qualities for the beginning (or returning!) knitter.

My inspiration for knitting a straight tie actually came from another knitter, Kristen McDonnell of Studio Knit. Anne occasionally wears ties to work (she’s a teacher), and so I thought that she’d really appreciate a hand-knit tie! I altered Kristen’s tutorial slightly, so let me share my process with you. I decided to jazz things up with a contrasting color on the tie’s tail.

Using seed stitch for a tie is ideal because it holds its shape well and is reversible — meaning it looks the same on the front and back of the work. I find seed stitch to be an attractive stitch for all kinds of knitwear, even though some knitters find it tedious to switch between knit and purl every stitch.

Hand-Knit Straight Tie

Materials:

  • Two skeins of wool yarn in different colors (Use yarn that is meant for size US 8 needles)
  • Size US 5 straight needles
  • Tapestry needle
  • Scissors

How to Knit the Tie:

  1. Cast on 11 stitches using the color for the front of the tie
  2. Seed stitch for 21 inches
  3. Decrease to 9 stitches by knitting 2 together on both ends of the work
  4. Seed stitch for 1 inch
  5. Decrease to 7 stitches by purling 2 together on both ends of the work
  6. Seed stitch for 10 inches
  7. Switch yarn colors and continue seed stitch for another 22-24 inches
  8. Cast off and weave in ends

How to Knit the Keeper Loop:

  1. Cast on 11 stitches using the color for the front of the tie
  2. Seed stitch for 1 inch
  3. Cast off, but do not weave in ends
  4. Use yarn tails and the tapestry needle to sew the keeper loop to the back of the tie, approximately 7 inches from the bottom of the tie

Now that you’ve finished knitting your tie, it is important to block it. This will relax the yarn fibers, and help the tie sit flat against the torso. You can block the tie every few times it is worn in order to help maintain its shape. What’s great is that blocking can be done for all kinds of projects. Here’s how I do it.

Steam Block Your Work

Materials:

  • Ironing board and iron
  • Hand towel
  • T-pins

How-To:

  1. Soak the hand towel in water, and then gently squeeze out any excess water.
  2. Place your work flat on the ironing board, and lay the wet towel over your work. Stamp the hot iron over the wet towel, and you will start to see steam rise from the towel. Continue this process over the entire towel for about 1-2 minutes. Note that the towel and your work will both be incredibly hot.
  3. Remove the towel, and use t-pins to hold your work in place. These pins can go directly into the ironing board. Ensure that the yarn is not being pulled too far, but rather just enough to force your work into the desired shape.
  4. Once your work is bone dry, remove the t-pins. You’re done!

DIY Self-Watering System for Houseplants

Happy Monday! Did anyone notice I was absent last week? The bad news is I had bronchitis for a few weeks there, but the good news is that I’m feeling better! Philly is in full-blown spring mode, and I can’t get enough of it. My parents visited me and Anne this weekend, and we had a great picnic at the Japanese Gardens in Fairmount Park. The cherry blossoms were out of control!

As the warmer weather begins to take us out of hibernation, it quickly becomes the season to travel more. Day trips, weekend excursions, and longer vacations. All of this traveling means that those houseplants you so carefully take care of are soon left to fend for themselves.

When Anne and I took our road trip through the south last spring, we devised a self-watering wicking system to keep our houseplants happy and healthy while we were away for a week. I pride myself on my level of care for our houseplants, but let me say this: our plants have never looked better than that week they were watering themselves.

Here’s why a self-watering wicking system works so well:

  1. By using a wicking system, the plants only absorb the amount of water that they need. They will never sit in an excess of water.
  2. Different plants require different amounts of water. With this setup, you can keep all of your plants hydrated with one system.
  3. You don’t need to do a damn thing! This system will water itself and leave your plants feeling great.

Oh, and another tip: If you’re new to houseplants, or aren’t sure how much to water them, use this system even when you’re home. You can reap the benefits of keeping houseplants, but your black thumb won’t get in the way!

Are you convinced? Do you want to use this system the next time you’re away from home? The setup process takes about 30 minutes, and should be done the day before you leave in order to minimize stress and confirm the system is working. I’ll walk you through the steps to making your own at home.

DIY Self-Watering System for Houseplants

Materials:

  • 100% cotton string
  • Scissors
  • Paper clips
  • Pasta pot
  • Short stool

Step 1: Gather your houseplants in a location near where they usually reside. Cut the cotton string into two-feet segments (cut as many as you have plants). If you do not have cotton string on hand, take an old 100% cotton t-shirt and cut it into long, thin strips.

Step 2: Tie a paper clip to one end of each piece of string.

Step 3: Fill a pasta pot with water, about 4 quarts. Place the pot on a stool to elevate the water above the level of the plants. (Gravity will work with you to pull the water down the string.) Gather the plants around the pot of water.

Step 4: Place the paper clip end of the string in the pasta pot. (The paper clips will ensure that the string stays in the water.) Take the other end of the string and, using your finger, bury it about one or two inches into the soil of each plant. Press firmly on the soil to hold the string in place.

Step 5: When you have placed the string into each plant, make sure that there are no “dips” in the string. The line of string from the pasta pot to the plant needs to be a fully downward slope. If the string dips below the planter, water will not travel back up the string and into the soil. To avoid this, gently pull the extra string into the pasta pot.

Wrong:

Right:

That is how to create your very own DIY self-watering wicking system! In about an hour, you will notice your plant beginning to receive water.

Depending on how long you are away, there will most likely be water still in the pasta pot when you return home. Gently disassemble the string from the plant, and go back to your usual houseplant routine in about ten minutes.

Or, don’t! There are other, more subtle ways to continue this system while you’re home. Keep your plants where you usually have them, and place smaller bowls of water–on a stack of books, say–near your plants. You can refill the water bowls and know that your plants are receiving just the right amount of water at all times.

Note: Our orchid and fiddle leaf fig are getting their own self-watering setups when Anne and I travel to Greece this summer. They are quite particular plants, so I will keep them right where they are elsewhere in our apartment.

Are you going anywhere this spring or summer? Tell me where you’re traveling in the comments!

Floral Arranging 101 With: Elaine Burns

One of my New Year’s resolutions for Scissors & Sage is to invite other people to guest post throughout the year. I so enjoy getting to learn from crafters and bakers and the like, and thought that this would be a nice way to collaborate. The first guest blog post this year is from my friend Elaine.

Elaine and I went to college together. Have you ever had the experience of knowing someone through a friend, but not really knowing them, only to find out later that you two have so many similar interests? That’s me and Elaine. I hope to craft with her in real life someday. She lives in Brooklyn, works for J.Crew, and is an overall lover of crafting. She knits, crochets, bakes, arranges flowers, and embroiders, among other nifty talents. Today she is here to teach us how to make our very own floral arrangements! I can’t wait to give this a try.

From Elaine: It’s the dead of winter and you’re counting down the days until spring — only three more months until warmth! While it may be desolate outside, a perfect (and foolproof) way to bring the promise of springy days ahead into your or a friend’s home is with a unique flower arrangement. You really can’t go wrong with some added pops of color.

Selecting Flowers

For this arrangement, I spent about $50 at my local grocery store and purchased six bouquets of flowers. When selecting, I aim to assort a variety of textures and shapes: long and skinny (like snap dragons) and round and dome-like (like dahlias).  Next, I focus on a color palette.

In addition to selecting the focus-flowers for an arrangement, I am also sure to select some foliage flowers or plants to add needed balance. I used hypericum berries, as well as leaves from carnation stems, in this arrangement.

Preparation

Once you have the flowers back at home, immediately take them out of the cellophane/paper wrapping, cut the stems at an angle (do not trim the stems at this point), and stick the flowers in a bucket of water. Grab a pair of scissors or a knife — it’s now time to process the stems.

When you bring home a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store or farmer’s market, they are typically unprocessed, meaning they still have all of their leaves, nubs, and thorns. Use your hands or a knife/scissors to clean these leaves from the stems. This will make it easier (and less messy) to assemble your arrangement.

 

Assembling the Bouquet

When I make a vase arrangement, I find it easiest to make a traditional bouquet as my skelton and then add embellishments from there.

To start a bouquet, take two flowers and cross them in an “x” shape. Then, rotate both flowers clockwise. The flower that was on top (in this case, the orange carnation) will now be behind the second flower (here, the light purple dahlia). Repeat again with a third flower: add to the “x”, then rotate clockwise. This rotation is important because it creates the spiral shape of a traditional bouquet.

 

 

Keep adding flowers; the more the better! With the first ten or so flowers you add, the spiral bouquet shape won’t be immediately apparent. But, the more you add, the more pronounced the shape will become.

Once you have added all of the flowers to your bouquet, you can trim the stems (cut at an angle) to fit into your vase of choice. I typically go for mason jars. The one I used here is a vintage find!

From here, it’s a matter of finessing your arrangement. Aside from processing the stems, I usually spend the most time on this step. Some flowers probably slipped below others while you were assembling the bouquet, so they will need to be pulled up. If you notice that one side of the bouquet is very heavy in one color, you may need to remove some stems and place them elsewhere.  If that is the case, just be sure to continue following the twisted shape of the bouquet. You really can’t go wrong!

Bonus Bud Vase

When processing and arranging a large display, you will inevitably accumulate a collection of smaller buds, extra foliage, or a flower or two that didn’t make it into my final arrangement. Bonus!!

These smaller flowers can then be used to filled smaller bud vases (of which I now have a growing collection) and used to pepper the rest of your home with some added color and texture. I usually make a loose bouquet shape before sticking these into a vase.

So, happy winter, all! Here’s hoping your home feels a little bit brighter and warmer with the addition of a new floral arrangement.

Flowers Used

Dahlias, Carnations, Snapdragons, Daisies, Hypericum Berry

All Photos taken by Elaine Burns

Victoria’s Spring Essentials

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Spring has practically-almost-maybe arrived, and I couldn’t be more excited.  While I really enjoyed the winter season this year, I am certainly ready to see it go.  Today, Anne and I are leaving for a spring break road trip for nine days.  Yippee!  So, with spring on my mind, I’ve put together some of my essentials for this upcoming season.

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Ray Ban Sunglasses: Any type of sunglasses add a twist to a spring outfit.  Wear them, hook them onto a t-shirt, or use them as a headband.  Get them here.

Made With Love: These bracelets were a lovely birthday gift from a friend last year.  They make such a statement, whether you wear just one or all eighteen together.  They are made from recycled rubber, and they come in all sorts of colors!  Get them here.

Hair Clips: An alligator clip is always clamped onto either my backpack or my purse.  They get hair out of your face in an instant, and look more professional than regular old hair elastics.  Get them here.

Aveda Hand Lotion: I don’t know about you, but the end of winter does not mean the end of dry skin for me.  I almost always keep a small bottle of lotion on me, and Aveda does the trick.  Thanks, Mom!  Get it here.

Clutch: Anne bought me this Anne Klein clutch this past Christmas.  Lemony-lime yellow is a popular color right now, and it’s easy to match with many of my outfits.  It’s perfect for a night out on the town.  This particular bag was from Marshalls.

Bird Ring: This ring is from one of my favorite jewelry stores, Silverado.  The bird image was adapted from a temple screen found in Thailand.  One reason I love it so much is because of the statement it makes–I ditch all other jewelry when wearing this ring!  These birds remind me that spring is on the way.

Hair Pins: These polka dotted hair clips make for a great hair accessory.  Jane Tran makes many cute styles–I have a few!  Get them here.

Lip Gloss & Lipstick: I’ve been challenging myself to wear bold lip gloss and lipstick recently.  There’s something about a red lipstick that changes an entire outfit.  During the day I’ve been wearing Burt’s Bees Rose for something a bit subtler, and Wet n Wild Cherry Frost on nights out.  Get them here and here.

Timex Watch: Another statement piece.  I’m all about minimal jewelry that speaks loudly come springtime.  This watch from Kohl’s was on mega sale, and it has definitely become one of my go-to accessories.  Thanks, Dad!

Essie Nail Polish: Essie is my favorite nail polish brand.  This past year, I have been giving myself manicures rather than spending money at a salon.  I’ve started a little Essie collection of six or so nail polishes.  These two are called Mint Candy Apple and Imported Bubbly.  Get them here and here.

Happy spring, everyone!  Do you have any of these items?  What’s in your spring essentials collection?

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Last month, Scissors & Sage hosted its very first comment contest.  I am happy to announce that the winner of this Valentine’s themed mystery treat was Theresa of TheresaBuoy!  This experience gave me an opportunity to meet a new blog friend across the country, and to expand my blogging horizons (literally).  Thank you to all who participated.  I look forward to future contests on this blog!

The mystery treat I baked for Theresa was a batch of lemon ricotta cookies.  Perhaps you have never heard of these – I hadn’t until about a month ago.  I was in Isgro Pasticceria with my family when I saw these little fellows in the display case.  Now, I am Italian.  Like Brooklyn Italian.  But I had never heard of lemon ricotta cookies!  I was embarrassed.  I was confused.  I knew I had to try and make these myself, so my uncle helped me track down Giada De Laurentiis’s well-regarded recipe.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Yields: 52 cookies

Cookies:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • Sprinkles (optional)

Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Preheat oven to 375 °F.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar using an electric mixer until fluffy (3-4 minutes).  Add the eggs and beat until fully incorporated.  Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Beat to combine.  Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop 1 tbs of batter per cookie.  Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly golden brown along the edges.  Remove from oven.  Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and let stand for 20 minutes.

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl.  Stir until smooth.  Spoon the glaze onto each cooled cookie.  Add sprinkles if desired.  Let the glaze harden for 2+ hours.  Package the cookies for up to two weeks.

From Scissors & Sage

I packaged these cookies up for Theresa in a decorative paper loaf pan.  These cookies are the perfect springtime cookie.  They are light and citrusy, and can be enjoyed in combination with this warming weather!