Project #5 - Sarubobo (The 12 UFO projects of Christmas)

Saturday, December 21, 2013
This is the Fifth project in The 12 UFO projects of Christmas. An explanation of what I'm doing and a list of all projects can be found here.

Project #5 - Sarubobo

Reason for UFO status: I remember starting this project but I don't really remember what put it into UFO status. I was probably working on multiple projects and this one got pushed aside and forgotten until rediscovered when cleaning.

A Sarubobo doll is a Japanese good luck charm and they're given by mothers to daughters for a good marriage and children. Traditionally they are red colored and faceless (no one knows why the dolls are faceless; it is speculated that the absence of a face allows the owner to imagine it). Modern Sarubobo's are available in many different colors but still remain faceless.

I had been following and reading the blog Mairuru who is a Japanese crafter. She wrote this post - How to make Sarubobo plush - and I was immediately enamoured with the idea of making one. The above picture shows how far I got before the project was derailed by who knows what. All the prep work of supply collection, pattern making and fabric cutting had been done and I had even started stitching the first body so I forged ahead and finished one Sarubobo plush. I had pattern pieces for a second plush cut out and ready to sew but decided to make only one.

I couldn't resist playing around and taking this picture of the Sarubobo in the pink tulips!

Final Thoughts: I thought this project might be a prototype for a valentine (hence the heart fabric) but I don't want to make a dozen of them. The hand stitching and stuffing were straight forward and easy, but fussy. They're cute but not THAT cute (my daughter Laura thinks they're creepy) and how to use them is a big question. So in the end it's a "meh" project and not going to be developed further.

Project #4 - Web & Blog Updates (The 12 UFO projects of Christmas)

Sunday, December 15, 2013
This is the Fourth project in The 12 UFO projects of Christmas. An explanation of what I'm doing and a list of all projects can be found here.

Project #4 - Website and blog updates

Reason for UFO status: A website with a blog is a perpetual UFO. There is always something that needs to be updated, fixed or written.

It takes a fair amount of time to write web pages and blog posts. It takes even more time to solve coding problems with html, php or css. So here's a sampling of recent fixes and updates:

Blog updates:
  • Blogger "About Me" - Finally got around to deciding out what I wanted to say and then writing a few sentences for the About Me section of the blog. It's a succinct and accurate statement of my crafting philosophy.

    Blog fixes:
  • The Google search box widget on my blog wasn't working. Google widgets stop working periodically and normally I don't have to do anything because Google fixes them before I even know they're broken. This time I noticed because I regularly search my blog to find old posts that I want a link for - so I went looking for a solution. I found this resolution - Is Your Search Box Gadget Broken?, which works, but I prefer the way Google's search widget displayed results so I'm going to have to remember to check back and see if Google has solved the problem.

    Updates for mobile devices:
    I tested my website and blog on a couple of mobile devices and overall everything looks and functions well. However, I did find some issues that needed to be corrected:

  • Homepage - The homepage of my website wasn't centering on mobile devices so I had to research how to vertically center a div (a coding tag that defines a division or a section in an HTML document). I found this well written blog post about Vertical Centering with CSS which solved the problem.
  • Additionally, the drop down menu of my navigation bar wasn't working and it took awhile to track down why - it's because the touch interface of mobile devices doesn't support the :hover selector. On computers you use the mouse and "hover" to drop down new menu levels but phones and tablets use only "touch" so some of my site navigation didn't work right on a mobile device. I want my website to be viewable across multiple platforms and this problem had the potential to become a MAJOR code rework or even a site redesign. Luckily, I found an easy and quick fix here that appears to be working.

    Website update:
    Through the years I've participated in a number of art installations so I've highlighted this activity on my website with a new section.

    Final Thoughts: I wanted to complete a couple of updates to my blog and website but wound up fixing more things than I updated! That's par for the course though when it comes to computer/web work.

  • Project #3 - Été Chic (The 12 UFO projects of Christmas)

    Monday, December 09, 2013
    This is the third project in The 12 UFO projects of Christmas. An explanation of what I'm doing and a list of all projects can be found here.

    Project #3 - Été Chic shawlette

    Reason for UFO status: Finishing details - Needed blocking.

    I love the design of this shawlette. The lace edging was knit first and then stitches were picked up along the length for the body which was finished with short rows. It's more scarf than shawl or shawlette so I was slightly disappointed by the size but that's a minor complaint because I'll wear it no matter what you call it!

    The pattern can be found here. My Ravelry project page is here.

    This project was the easiest to find the motivation to finish because all that was needed was to get out the blocking equipment.

    Final Thoughts: Perfection!

    Project #2 - Microwave Potato Bag (The 12 UFO projects of Christmas)

    Thursday, December 05, 2013
    This is the second project in The 12 UFO projects of Christmas. An explanation of what I'm doing and a list of all projects can be found here.

    Project #2 - Microwave Potato Bag

    Reason for UFO status: I started the project in a moment of interest but didn't finish.

    I was making ironing board covers at work and had bought a bag of cotton batting for padding. On the package were the instructions for making a Microwave Potato Bag. My curiosity was piqued! So after I finished the ironing board covers I cut pieces from batting and scrap cotton fabric to make one. Then I set them aside and forgot about it.

    The instructions for the Microwave Potato Bag are online at the Warm Company's web site in the Creative Corner section. The blog Distant Pickles has another good tutorial - You Say Potato, I Say Po-tah-to

    Construction notes:
  • I used muslin for the inside of the bag and then quilted all three together with channel stitching 2" apart.
  • The two narrow ends were finished with matching yellow bias tape.
  • I deviated from the pattern and folded my bag to have a 3" flap at the top of the bag. The sides were stitched and then serged.
  • The finished size is 9½" x 11".

    Instructions for using Microwave Potato Bag:
  • Wash potatoes (do not poke holes).
  • Wrap in paper towel and put in bag.
  • Place bag in microwave with the flap facing down.
  • Bake on high, 4 to 6 minutes, depending on the number, the size of the potatoes and the power of the microwave.

    Final Thoughts: I have no idea yet how well the bag works at cooking potatoes but I love the end results. At the very least it would make a novel housewarming or hostess gift.

    Update: If there's a turntable in your microwave it's important that the bag rotate freely and not touch the walls. Mine was too big so I had to lop an inch and a half off the bottom. The size of my bag is now a square 9½" x 9½".

  • Project #1 - Overdyed skein of yarn (The 12 UFO projects of Christmas)

    Monday, December 02, 2013
    This is the first project in The 12 UFO projects of Christmas. An explanation of what I'm doing and a list of all projects can be found here.

    Project #1 - Overdyed skein of yarn

    This is the first project in The 12 UFO projects of Christmas. A list of all projects can be found here.

    Reason for UFO status: I couldn't find something that worked with the yarn as originally dyed.

    Many years ago I took a class on yarn dying. At the end of the class a skein still remained undyed so I went for random and spontaneous by quickly throwing leftover dyes onto the skein. The result was this:

    An interesting mottled mess of colors! I tried many patterns trying to come up with something that looked good with this dye pattern and colorway. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything I liked so I decided next to try over-dying. I used 1/2 packet of Cushing's Perfection Acid Dye and chose the color maroon which I hoped the old colors would take to and make interesting new shades.

    Final Thoughts: It's still a little bit of a mottled mess but it's a more cohesive one and I'm quite happy with the result. I have high hopes for using it! I think it would be "cheating" on my ban if I started working with it now but I'll update this post when I've made something with it.

    Update: I knit the Sunshine Shawlette with the overdyed yarn. It's now a perfect fall scarf!

    Ravelry Project Page - Sunshine Shawlette

    The 12 UFO projects of Christmas

    Sunday, December 01, 2013

    Like many crafters, I have plenty of projects that I've started and for one reason or another they haven't been completed. Knitters and crocheters have a term for these unfinished projects, they're called UFO's - UnFinished Objects. Let me start out by stating that this project, other than mostly occurring during the month of December, really has nothing to do with Christmas!

    The top four reasons for my UFO's are:

    1) I lost interest. Many times I'll start a project because it's "cute" or "I can make that!" but that sentiment or interest doesn't last through to the completion of the project. Sometimes I lose interest because it's a huge or repetitive project and I get sick of doing it. These projects are usually completed once my interest is piqued again.

    2) I encountered a problem and need to figure out how to solve it. Sometimes this is because I have to learn a new technique but more frequently it's because I don't like the way the project is progressing and have to rework the pattern I'm following or rethink my own design. These projects are the most difficult to finish because I need to do research or wait for design inspiration.

    3) I no longer like or want to do the project. Sometimes projects just don't look the way I think they will, sometimes they turn into a mess that I don't want to recover from and sometimes I can't remember what got me started on a project in the first place. Sometimes I look at an unfinished project and ask myself "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?". These projects just need to be ditched.

    4) Finishing details. Garment hems, sanding and painting and blocking knits are examples of finishing details that can sideline a project. These projects are the easiest to complete but I have to be in the mood.

    I currently have so many unfinished projects that they are taking up space and are distracting. So I've put a self imposed ban on starting any new projects until I've cleaned up some of the unfinished ones. At first I thought I would make the ban a timed event between Thanksgiving and the new year but in the spirit of the holidays and inspired by the song The 12 Days of Christmas. I've decided to make it the completion of 12 UFO projects OR the start of the new year - whichever comes first.

    So here goes.

    The 12 UFO projects of Christmas
    Project #1 - Overdyed skein of yarn
    Project #2 - Microwave Potato Bag
    Project #3 - Été Chic
    Project #4 - Web and Blog Updates
    Project #5 - Sarubobo

    That's it. I've actually done 12 projects but these are the only blog worthy ones. I'm off now to cast on a shawl for that overdyed skein of yarn!

    Timeline - A Conceptual Knit

    Saturday, October 05, 2013

    Hurricane Sandy, historic blizzard Nemo, Whitey Bulger trial and the Marathon bombing - a lot happened to Boston this past year. I purposely say “to” Boston rather than “in” Boston because each event took a toll on the collective psyche of everyone who claims Boston or the surrounding areas as home (Boston is so much more than its city limits).

    “Boston Strong” became not just a rally cry but a mantra to remind ourselves that in addition to strength we also have the will and the power to endure bad things and move into the future better and wiser. One coping mechanism for many Bostonians was to get away from it all by attending or watching a sporting event. The Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and Revolution all provided hours of escape and entertainment.

    Timeline is a conceptual knit I designed and knit for the Yarn Graffiti event by the Fashion Design and Retailing Department. It was displayed on the Framingham State University campus from September 16th thru September 27th.

    This conceptual knit design records the results of Boston's professional sports teams during the past year.

    Between September 1, 2012 (on the left) and August 31, 2013 (on the right), colored ridges were added successively to the right edge to represent wins and losses.

    Naturally, wins by the Red Sox are red. The Celtics are green; the Bruins are gold; and the Patriots and Revolution are navy blue (soccer IS football so the Revolution and Patriot games are both counted as such). Losses by any team are colored gray.

    The twelve colored blocks along the upper and lower edges each correspond to one calendar month.

    A break in the pattern occurs on April 15, 2013, which was the day of the Boston Marathon. The knitted panel, showing the Boston skyline and the words "Boston Strong" was designed by Lisa McFetridge to honor the marathon victims, and is included here with her permission.

    Conceptual knitting was developed by Lea Redmond of Leafcutter Design in Berkley, California and encourages the knitter to explore whimsy and adventure in knitting.

    Yarn Graffiti at Framingham State University

    Friday, October 04, 2013

    Thanks to everyone who answered this call to participate!

    The yarn graffiti was a community art installation celebrating the creation of the new Fashion Design and Retailing Department at Framingham State University and was displayed on campus from September 16th through September 27th.

    If you contributed a piece I hope you find it in the pictures below. Mouse over each picture for additional information and links to larger photos.

    A special art installation collaboration and exchange was arranged with Dr Julia Percival at the University of Surrey and 'The Perovskite Project'.
    Yarn Graffiti

    Yarn Graffiti

    Tree #3 (view 3 of 4)

    Larger Photo

    Yarn Graffiti

    Yarn Graffiti

    Tree #3 (view 4 of 4)

    Larger Photo

    Yarn Graffiti

    Yarn Graffiti

    A nod to the bustier designs that our students love to do!

    Larger Photo

    Yarn Graffiti

    Yarn Graffiti

    Granite post #1 (view 1 of 2)

    Larger Photo

    Yarn Graffiti

    Yarn Graffiti

    Granite post #1 (view 2 of 2)

    Larger Photo

    Yarn Graffiti

    Yarn Graffiti

    Granite post #2 (view 1 of 1)

    Larger Photo


    Saturday, August 24, 2013

    This project started over a year ago, involved a few coast to coast visits and took A LOT of size adjusting before it was finished. However, the time, the energy and the effort were well worth it because the result was perfection for both me(execution) and Sarah(fit).

    The Pattern:
    The project started March 2012 during a visit with my daughter Sarah who lives in Seattle. Close by to her in Wallingford is Bad Woman Yarn, a well stocked local yarn shop and we like to pop in for a visit whenever I'm in town. On display, at the store's entrance, was a poncho that caught Sarah's attention. Sarah is always cold at her work office and was looking for something more stylish than the blanket she was currently using. The poncho was Madison by Martin Storey from Rowan's City Retreat book. The sample was knit with yarn that needed to be hand washed (not going to happen!) so we started looking for a superwash substitute. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the right yarn on this visit so I bought the book with a promise we would continue the search at a later date.

    Flash forward to December 2012 in Boston. Sarah was visiting and we finally had the opportunity to again shop for yarn. Success! We found a yarn and color she like with Cascade 220 Superwash in charcoal at Fabric Place Basement in Natick. Now to get knitting!

    One of the things I LOVE about Ravelry is the ability to read notes from other knitters who have knit the same garment. You can head off a lot of frogging and reknitting by paying attention to the problems other knitters have encountered. The issue mentioned over and over again about this pattern was how large it was sized. That's to be somewhat expected with a poncho but just to be sure I took Sarah's measurements and compared. Boy am I glad I did! I wound up making a number of adjustments to get the fit we wanted.

    The Adjustments:

    Gauge: I settled on using the pattern gauge but first experimented with decreasing the size by using smaller needles. This didn't work for a few reasons: 1) The fabric became too stiff using smaller needles. 2) The size didn't decrease enough and 3) The recommended needle size was 7 but I achieved gauge with a 6 which is really unusual for me because I'm a tight knitter and almost always have to size up to get someone else's gauge. However, I think the real reason for the needle size difference was the yarn substitution and not because of tension.

    Length and Width: In order to get the right length I needed to knit the medium size but that was going to make the width waaaayyyy too long. So I cast on for the medium size but knit the length following the small instructions AND I decreased the width even further by not knitting the first and last 22 row from the cable chart(for a total of 44 rows). I also skipped the first four set up and ending rows but that wasn't my original intention. That happened because with all the pattern readjusting I started working right from the chart and missed the instructions for the first four rows and therefore needed to match the pattern by omitting the last four rows.

    Blocking is a MUST to get the stitches uniform, the cabling pattern to line up
    and most importantly to make the border flat and straight.

    Cuffs: An interesting design feature of this poncho is the addition of an elongated cuff. Before starting the cuffs I steam and press blocked the body of the poncho. My blocked piece before adding the cuffs and borders measured 39" x 43". By now I had made so many adjustments that I wasn't absolutely positive what size cuff to cast on for or how long to make them. Luckily Sarah was back for a work visit in March and I was able to have a fitting and finish everything. I did a LOT of trial and error and frogging with the cuff to get everything comfortable. In addition, I made the cuff even longer and transitioned it into a fingerless glove.

    Final cuff adjustments:
  • Cast on for the medium size (54 stitches) using size 7 needles and knit in the ribbing for 1". This is what worked to make the very top part of the cuff large enough so it didn't bind the arm.
  • Changed to size 6 needles and knit until the cuff measured 6". Switching to a smaller needle after the first inch help start the tapering for the arm.
  • Decrease one stitch at the beginning of the row and one at the end. Knit another 1".
  • Decrease one stitch at the beginning of the row and one at the end. (50 stitches left)
  • Knit until cuff measures 11 3/4"
  • Make thumbhole by binding off 4 stitches at the appropriate side of the cuff. Remember to work a left and right thumbhole (something I didn't do on the first pass!!!)
  • Continue knitting, (casting on 4 stitches over the cast-off thumbhole stitches) until the cuff measures 12 1/2"
  • Bind off in ribbing.

  • Knitting the poncho's body (once I had calculated how long I needed to make it) went smoothly. The cable pattern was easy to memorize and work. The cuffs took some time to get the fit right but were a quick knit once I had that worked out. This project was a reminder that even with a garment as shapeless and sizeless as a poncho you still need to measure and fit!

    Ravelry Project Page

    Community Art Installation

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    Your Participation is Requested

    The faculty, staff and students of the Fashion Design and Retailing Department at Framingham State University are promoting and celebrating the creation of our new department by inviting all knitters and crocheters to participate in a community art installation.

    Please help us by contributing a knitted or crocheted piece that will be used to blanket the trees, benches, posts and other objects on the campus commons.

    Everything on the Framingham State University commons
    has the potential to be graffitied with yarn!

    Knit or Crochet

    Pieces can be:
  • Any shape - squares, rectangles, triangles, and circles, etc.
  • They can be any color, any pattern, made with any type of yarn or thread.
  • Crocheted or knitted motifs (flowers, leaves, hearts, etc.) are also welcome for embellishment.
  • The best size is between 6”-8” in width and 6”-24” in length but all sizes are welcome.

  • Deadline

    September 6, 2013

    Update - 10/4/2013

    The Community Art Installation was a huge success! Thank you to everyone who participated.

    Read about it here - Yarn Graffiti at Framingham State University

    Cool Tie / Neck Cooler

    Sunday, July 07, 2013

    A few years ago I made neck coolers for my sister who lives in Fresno, California (where there are more days when the temperature is over 100 degrees than I want to even think about.)  Today in the Boston area, we are in our 5th day of a heat wave and it seemed like a good time to write up my notes for these neck coolers (also known as cool tie) - which, by the way, work really, REALLY well!

    Neck coolers are very easy to make. The hardest part is finding the polymer granules. I ordered 2 pounds of the medium 1-2mm polymer from Watersorb and that's enough for more neck coolers than I'll ever want to make. Luckily, there are a few other projects they can be used for. They can be added to soil for water retention (this might be helpful for those houseplants I keep forgetting to water!)  The crystals can also be warmed in a microwave (once they have been soaked) and used for heat pads -I'll save that project for the winter.

    There are a few ways to make neck coolers and these sites have good instructions:

  • Sew a Fast & Easy Cool Neck Scarf
  • Polymer Cool Neck Bands (This site sells the crystals)
  • Neck Coolers

  •  And, as usual, I came up with my own! Here are mine :

    1. Fold in half a piece of cotton fabric around 45" long and 4" wide.

    2. Measure 7½"  from the center back and mark points. Sew seams from the corner to these marked points with ¼" seam allowance.   This step is represented with the red dashed lines.
    3. Turn the fabric and stitch the pockets (make sure that the edges of the open seam are folded to the inside). This step is represented with the green dashed lines
    4. Load the granules into the three pockets - a scant 1/4 teaspoon in each is all it takes. Trust me, don't use more than the recommended amount - the first cool tie I made had that stuff oozing out of the fabric because I just couldn't believe such a small amount would balloon that much! 
    5. Top stitch the outer edge closed.

     When giving as a gift I print a card with these instructions:
    Soak the cool tie in water for 15-20 minutes or until the granules have reached the desired expansion.  As the polymer granules soak up the water "mush" them around so the polymer spreads out equally along the tube.  Tie around your neck.

    Wear the Cool Tie around the neck or head and it will bring great relief from the heat! Keep one in a refrigerator or ice chest and as soon as the one being worn reaches body temperature, exchange it with the one in the cooler.

    Store in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator, or hang to dry. The cool tie will rehydrate again using above instructions.
    Here's to keeping cool!