Category Archives: Crafty

I like to make stuff and share it.

I managed to make something!

It’s just a little upcycled paper basket, but it was really satisfying. I’m looking forward to trying out the same concept in cattail leaves or possibly newspaper, I have a ton of that.

I also managed to grab a few minutes in the craft room to prep for a little sewing. I decided to finish the poly fleece covers and t-shirt fitteds I have cut for E, and make some more training pants for Z since she gets a rash in Pull-Ups and really isn’t ready for real underwear. I ended up tweaking the covers (some more), and I think I like the result enough to make the effort to share the pattern. Maybe. In theory, I get how to scan the patterns in and redraw them to look nice and print correctly. In practice, Inkscape gives me a headache and I manage to screw it up. Eh, I guess I should wait and see how well the modified pattern works before I worry about that. I need to finish the training pants tutorial first, anyway.

I unlocked the craft room.

Now, what do I want to make? What can I make in the odd minutes I have available right now? I did manage to do a little spindle spinning yesterday while the grandparents played with E, and Z played with her cousins. It felt really good to make something.

Maybe I should tackle my WIPs and UFOs. Just the sewing related ones; the knit, crochet, weaving, spinning, beading, and wirework projects are all either too big to feel like I made any progress in 5 or 10 minutes, or too easy for a certain 2 year old to destroy if I don’t securely put them away each time. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to install a couple of zippers and some elastic, anyway. The little ones could use some more diaper covers and training pants, and those cute little dresses aren’t going to finish themselves.

Maybe I should start something new designed to be done in short spurts. I made a crazy Google Docs spreadsheet to track projects I want to do and to help me keep track of deadlines, and lots of those projects could be broken down that way. Besides, I will need to get started on Halloween costumes soon, and Christmas presents, too!

What will probably happen is a little of both. My sewing WIPs are mostly simple finishing tasks, and won’t take much time to do once I organize them a bit. Designing new projects can be done in my head even when I have my hands full with the kids, and I’ve decided on a really easy jewelry project for my nieces’ Christmas gifts, at least. Now if I can just get both the little ones to nap at the same time!

I like to sew with knits

Today, I ran across some awesome sites with tips and tutorials for sewing with knits. A lot of people are intimidated by knits, or scarred by a bad first experience using less than ideal materials, but I’ve always liked working with knits. So it’s always nice to find tricks I didn’t already know!

A shop called Stitch Simple got 6 designers to work with knit fabric, and they had some great results. My favorite is probably Patterns by Figgy’s post with a neat raw-edge finish and a piped-look finish that would both be cute on almost any knit project. Then there’s Knitty Bitties’ ruffled skirt tutorial, which would be great for upcycling t-shirts. Then there’s piccoli piselli’s knit cuff tutorial, which would also work for a yoga pants-style waistband.

I do still make stuff.

Not that I find it easy to finish making anything. I’ll probably always be easy to distract with a new project, have rather disorganized supplies, and reluctant to call the last change truly the last. And time is always at a premium when you have a baby! It will really help to put things away in the craft room and get the rest of my supplies out of storage, though.

I did manage to finish some stuff this past year. Besides the usual Christmas ornament covers and the art bags for the girls, I made some diapers, Halloween costumes, a necklace, hats and a scarf, spun some yarn, dyed some fiber. There are still a lot of WIPs, and a few UFOs that need to be dealt with.

100_0159Sometimes I even manage a quick project like these sleeve pants for Z! They took 5 minutes. They need some tweaking on the fit, like maybe a seat gusset to go over that cute fluffy butt.

And then, there are all the things I want to make in the future. I have a place to have a workshop now, so I can set up power tools and my torch and make things with metal and glass. I want to make some rugs and clothes and a spinning wheel from an old bicycle. I want to do some screen printing and natural dyeing and make baskets from willow and cattail leaves.

Sometimes, I wish I were more focused on a single craft, or even a single family of crafts. Then I go start another project. ;)

Playing with fluff

It’s an obsession that matches my earlier experiences with beadworking. I have collected all sorts of fibers to play with: cat fur, recycled silk fiber, wools, alpaca, bunny down, dog down, and assorted stray fibers from deconstructing garments and weaving thrums. I made spindles, bought large dog slicker brushes to use as budget hand cards, got Dad to drill holes in scrap 2-by lumber for spindle stands and makeshift lazy kate. When the egg dyes went on clearance, I bought some of those and some fiber reactive dyes, and collected lichens, onion skins, and oak galls. Then came the umbrella swift and ball winder, building a frame loom, making weaving shuttles with Mom and experimenting with heddle options. And I’m still knitting and crocheting, sewing and embroidering, and possibly tatting. Maybe this is worse than the bead thing. ;)

I started spinning by rolling cat fur down my thigh, the most primitive form of making yarn. Then I learned spindle spinning by parking and drafting for what felt like forever, but it didn’t take too long to learn to draft and spin. Keeping tension on the singles while plying is kinda hard, especially when plying directly from one spindle to the other. At least, I’ve had trouble; the single has drifted apart a few times while I plied the sock yarn. It’s easier to use my spindle stands to provide tension while plying, but plying spindle to spindle is really portable. Better yet is ply-on-the-fly, where the single is spun and immediately chain plied. I think that’s my favorite spinning technique!

My second favorite technique is actually making rolags, which is a type of fiber preparation for spinning. I card out the fiber and roll it up off the hand cards, making nice fluffy tubes that are really easy to draft. They make for a lofty yarn, too. And I can card in whatever grabs my fancy, like alpaca with bunny fur or wool with recycled silk. Really, I can see where making my own blends could get out of hand.

My least favorite fiber task so far is washing and picking fleece. Alpaca fleece is considered to be easier than sheep fleece to process but if this is easy, I don’t want to try hard. A fleece is heavy and dirty and sort of matted together. It doesn’t help that I don’t have a good place to wash it, even though an alpaca fleece doesn’t have to be washed the way a sheep fleece would to be clean.

To dye for

Quite a while back, I dyed my NZ wool roving using Easter egg dye and microwave steaming to set it. I have to admit I had some doubts, but it works really well!
NZ roving rainbow roving I did two batches, a little more than half the ‘bump’ dyed (8 oz.?) and half of that spindle spun one weekend. Bump is one of those technical terms that crop up in the jargon of any field, and seems to mean a quantity of processed fiber rather than locks or raw wool. This bump took up a gallon zip-top bag. I’ve managed a fairly fine single, thanks to all the practice on the cat fur and the felting fiber. Then I chain plied it into about 92 yards of DK to worsted weight yarn.
spring yarn 2 At some point I’ll decide what to do with it!

This year I dyed more fiber with egg dyes, this time a pound of Romney wool and about an ounce of silk cap.
april09 010 Pretty, don’t you think? I decided to do color families on the wool instead of the rainbow effect I did last year.
april09 033 I used red, blue, and lime green on the silk and you can see that brilliant in the cap does not necessarily mean bright colors after drafting for spinning!

I also tried using the egg dyes on the cotton roving, with baking soda to make the mix more alkaline.
april09 037It is very pale, but pretty. I may try using wash soda to premordant the cotton as recommended, then use straight food coloring and see if that gives stronger colors. I also intend to try fiber-reactive dyes and some natural dyes on the cotton.

One kind of dyeing I really want to try: lichen dyeing. I think a good chunk of the lichens I collected from downed limbs after the ice storm can be fermented to produce a nice purplish color. The rest should produce some nice grays and browns. It’s really fun to experiment!

Spinning in (and out of) the wind

spring yarn 5

A few years ago, I was bitten by the spinning bug. Not the bicycle exercise kind, the making yarn kind. It’s surprisingly portable, easy, and addictive. I’ve spun in all sorts of crazy places, including while walking to class, and almost nobody has so much as given me a second look! It’s amazing how much yarn I can make on a spindle. Not that I don’t covet a spinning wheel all the same. I even have some mad scientist plans to make a wheel, but they will get their own post.

spindles 4I made a couple of spindles with wooden toy wheels and dowel rods, light ones that I’ve been using to make really thin singles and heavy ones with a hook that I’ve been using for plying and ply-on-the-fly. All supplies for them except the sandpaper from Hobby Lobby, since I worked there and all. I plan to make a few more; old cds, decorative wooden motifs, big glass beads, and stone donuts all beckon to be stuck on a dowel as whorls.

fur yarn 2 Actually, the first non-cat-hair fiber I spun was wool sold for felting from Hobby Lobby, from which I have knitted some pretty sweet socks. Easy access makes a difference, sometimes, and the local yarn shops are just starting to have spinning fibers and equipment. Oooo, and now the farmer’s market in Fayettville has a fiber and yarn seller!

When I decided to take spinning more seriously, I bought a pound of natural cream-colored New Zealand wool roving from Au Gres Sheep Factory at the big War Eagle craft fair.
NZ rovingBeing the pack rat I am, there were soon more fiber acqusitions: dyed and natural Romney roving from fleecemakers on Etsy, 8 oz. of Paradise Fibers’ Potluck domestic wool roving in multi-colored naturals, a silk cap from a local shop called KnitWicks, 4 oz. of gorgeous purple-pink batts from the farmer’s market, and about a pound of cotton roving from the thrift store for $2!
cotton roving
And…I found bags of alpaca fleece on Craigslist. I only bought one bag, and it weighed 5 pounds! Beautiful, rich reddish brown locks and fluff, although it’s really dusty. I’d still like to get some bamboo, and try some different wools and exotics, but these fibers will keep me busy for a while!

I’ve been trying out ‘ply-on-the-fly’ with the pretty dyed Romney on a bigger plying spindle with the hook. It’s a fabulous technique, but it’s much harder to make light weight yarn with the bigger spindle and the results so far are roughly worsted weight. Not that I mind; the Romney is really fluffy and will make a great hat and mittens or something similarly warm and cozy. I’m using a smaller spindle as a supported spindle to make cotton thread. I think it will ply up into something like size 5 pearl cotton, which I’ll dye and crochet or tat into lace.

Everybody knows about LOlcats, and probably LOLdogs as well, but I has LOLbunnies. I even have a favorite LOLbunny video – Bunny Concert.

I found a playlist of Christmas songs I actually like, but it looks like the service won’t be there for much longer so go listen now. I’m sort of in the mood for Christmas music anyway, unnatural, I know. It’s the not being in retail and hearing the music for two months that does it. I don’t miss retail at all.

I was horsing around on Etsy and noticed that my Etsy favorite sellers list is four pages long! My current favorite is rayela, who specializes in ethnic textiles and has some fabulous molitas and saris.

I’m playing with this star/snowflake element and I really like it. I’d like it even better if I had about an hour a day cat and munchkin free to bead. And I’ve started a cotton scarf on my frame loom to get the hang of weaving and it’s pretty fun. I can’t wait to start my tapestry! I also got some fat quarters and embroidery floss today to make a tote bag for Noodle Girl, but I’m giving myself until fall 2010 to finish it because that’s when she starts (eeeek!) kindergarten.

Really, I’m enjoying the opportunity to bum around. Work is just as scarce here as it is in other places, and I start classes again on January 12 so it’ll be back to that grind soon enough. For now I get to hang out with my parents and the kids, work on crafty stuff, and ignore the housework from a relaxed point of view instead of a harried one. What, you didn’t think I was suddenly a good homemaker, did you? Because I’m not ever going to be one. Clean counters and washed laundry just aren’t as satisfying as, say, designing a tapestry or spinning up some custom alpaca-bunny fur blend.

Imagination

Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality. -Jules de Gaultier

And I’ve about had it with reality – why did I think it would be as easy this winter to get through the holidays as last winter? – so I’ve really been indulging my imagination. I have melt and pour soap cubes, candy making supplies, the usual cast of yarns, beads, and found objects, and even wool roving to spin! Hobby Lobby has the roving in the needlework section with the needlefelting supplies, just started carrying it. I’ve checked Generation T out of the library and designed a wrap dress inspired by a project in the book.

Now, finishing a project? That may or may not happen. I do have startitis and the crafty ADD. I’ve finished an ornament cover and a charm bracelet, both for presents. The melt & pour soap and candy will be quick enough once I get started, but I can’t find some of the molds I bought. So I started a necklace instead, although it is over halfway finished already. I need to be coming up with projects for next semester’s beading classes while I’m at it. That will take some imagination!

Classy!

Yup, I’m finally teaching those jewelry-making and beadwork classes I kept threatening to hold at the Hobby Lobby in Rogers. Here’s the page for the class. It needs pictures. But it has all the same info that the class book at the store does, except the sign-up sheet. Twelve classes in all, a good, round number.

However, I’m having trouble writing a little ‘about the instructor’ bio. I have so little formal education in jewelrymaking or beading. Most of the techniques, I learned from magazines, the internet, and books. “Self-taught” just sounds so…smug. I guess that’s okay, though; if I have the gumption to teach other people this stuff, I can be a little smug. Maybe I’ll even work up an artist’s statement, although that will require more thought than the little bio.