Scrappy Baby Bear

Monday, November 21, 2016

Isn't he cute?

I love using scraps from one project to make something else. This little baby bear was made with unused fur fabric from a Halloween costume, along with a little bit of embroidery floss and a few yards of fingering weight yarn for the scarf. That was it!

The pattern for the body came from Sew Toy's, How to Sew Quickly A Cute Little Soft Baby Teddy Bear.

Here are my production notes:

  • I scaled the pattern down when printing by choosing 4" x 6" paper and "fit to printable area" in my printer settings. I really like this smaller size but the pattern can certainly be printed as is or scaled to any other size.
  • I traced the pattern onto the wrong side of the fabric and stitched along that line (leaving an opening of course!) and trimmed away the excess before turning, stuffing and closing the opening.
  • The eyes are six strands of DMC floss #143 which is a dark gray. Next time I'll go for a true black because the facial features tend to be obscured with the fur.
  • The scarf pattern is 3 stitches cast on size #1 needles and knit in garter stitch for 12". A scarf made from fleece scraps would be quicker and work just as well but I couldn't resist adding a knitted touch.

Pattern Weights

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pattern weights are great to use with delicate fabrics when you don't want to make holes with pins or when you need to hold things down for a quick cut.

Commercial pattern weights are usually metal rings but anything that successfully holds the pattern down works. I've used drinking glasses, soup cans, and any knickknack close by and in reach. It was finally time to just get it done and make some.

I cut 3.5" fabric squares and sewed with a 1/4" seam allowance for a finished size of 3". Here's the twist -- I used small garden rocks leftover from a landscaping project to stuff the squares!

These are so handy and useful that I wish I had gotten around to making them years ago. I still will use a few pins on the grain line (old habits die hard) but mostly it's these pretty little things holding the pattern down while I cut.


Signature Quilt

Friday, October 21, 2016

This past spring my sister, brother and I gave a party to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday and I organized a signature memory quilt activity. Using the Siggy Block Tutorial, from the ps i quilt blog, I made a stack of blocks to take to the party.



I chose 8 colors of Fabrico Dual Tip fabric markers to write with and encouraged everyone to decorate a block with a birthday wish.






I love how this project turned out. I especially like the hex shape which is a very nice one for use as a wall hanging but it also works well as a lap quilt. I also like how I was able to include a few blank squares for friends and family who were unable to attend to sign later.

I am not an experienced quilter and there were a few Macgyver moments which I'm sure broke quilting rules (I have a page of notes for things to do differently the next time!) but my design vision was achieved and it is definitely a memory maker.

Dryer Balls

Monday, October 03, 2016

Felted wool balls can be used in your clothes dryer to hasten the drying time, prevent static cling and eliminate the use of chemicals from dryer sheets and fabric softeners. Actually, any kind of ball that holds up to the heat of a dryer can be used and there are heat resistant plastic balls made specifically for the purpose but the diy version is made with wool.

I was immediately intrigued with the idea of not having to use dryer sheets and the project was right up my diy crafting alley so I had to give it a try.

There are many ways to make dryer balls. I followed the Make Your Own Dryer Balls instructions from One Good Thing by Jillee and made four large balls from two skeins.



My experience? I'm not using them any more! I don't know if they reduced the drying time because the NOISE of them thumping and thumping in the dryer made it seem like an eternity. Also, for me, they did nothing to help with static cling. It was a fun little make-it project but I'm back to using dryer sheets and I'm looking for another way to use the felted balls.


Wedding Heart - Pattern

Thursday, September 08, 2016



This heart has an updated and modern look.


Wedding Heart

Materials
Knit Picks Palette - approximately 10 yards
Size B crochet hook
Fiberfill
Tapestry needle for finishing

Gauge
Gauge is not important for this project. Using the listed materials, my hearts measured approximately 2.5" x 2.5" but just about any size heart can be achieved by adjusting the yarn and hook size.

Stitch Explanation
  • sc = single crochet
  • dec = decrease
  • Regular dec = (insert hook through both legs of the next stitch, yo and draw the yarn through the stitch) twice, yo, and draw yarn through all 3 loops on the hook.
  • Work even = single crochet in each stitch around.

    Notes

    1. There are two crochet techniques needed to make this heart look its best - the magic circle and the invisible decrease.

  • My favorite tutorial for the magic circle:
  • My favorite tutorial for the invisible decrease:

    2. All work is done in a spiral. Do not end rounds by joining with a slip stitch.

    3. Fasten down the beginning threads of the humps by working over them when you begin. You can leave the tails to help with the stuffing or trim them.


    Heart Humps - Make 2
    Round 1 - Work 4 sc's into a magic circle. Mark first sc as beginning of round. (4)
    Round 2 - 2 sc in each sc around. (8)
    Round 3 - (Sc in next st , 2 sc in next st) repeat around. (12)
    Round 4 - (Sc in next 5 sts, 2 sc in next st) repeat around. (14)
    Round 5 - Work even.
    Round 6 - Work even.
    Round 7 - Work even.
    Fasten off after finishing first hump (leave a long tail which will be used to close the heart). Do not fasten off the second hump and continue working:

    Heart Body
    Round 8 - Join the second hump to the first by single crocheting in each of the 14 sts of the first hump (begin where you fastened off) and then single crochet in each stitch of the second hump. You now have 28 stitches in one round to begin the heart body. There will be a gap in the middle, between the two humps, which is where the heart will be stuffed.
    Round 9 - Work even. (28)
    Round 10 - (Sc in next 5 sts, invisible dec) repeat around. (24)
    Round 11 - (Sc in next 4 sts, invisible dec) repeat around. (20)
    Round 12 - (Sc in next 3 sts, invisible dec) repeat around. (16)
    Round 13 - (Sc in next 2 sts, invisible dec) repeat around. (12)
    Round 14 - (Sc in next st, invisible dec) repeat around. (8)
    Round 15 - (Sc in next 2 sts,invisible dec) repeat around. (6)
    Round 16 - (Regular dec) repeat around. (3)

    Fasten off. Stuff heart. Close hole and weave in ends.

    Photo credit:ARBR Pictures

  • Wedding Heart


    Photo credit:ARBR Pictures

    The final component for the wedding amigurumi was a heart. Not only is the heart a natural symbol to include for a wedding but they are my signature crafting motif.

    Sarah wanted an updated and modern look for the heart by elongating the humps of the heart to create a deeper V. I studied and made samples of hearts from published patterns but nothing produced the look that Sarah wanted or met my exacting demands for a polished look. Finally, I wound up writing my own pattern and perfected the assembly so well that I made over 100 of them and they became the wedding favors!

    I've written out the Wedding Heart pattern to share and you can find it on Ravelry. Also on Ravelry is the project page with all the details for these wedding heart favors.

      Ravelry Pattern Page - Wedding Hearts
      Ravelry Project Page - Sarah's Wedding Hearts

    Photo credit:ARBR Pictures


    Sarah's father wrote a limerick inviting the guests to take one home for a souvenir.

    Though we're saddened that soon we must part,
    We can offer a small work of art.
    Please select from the heap,
    A memento, to keep,
    Of our friendship. So, gladly, take heart.

    One heart was for the wedding cake.


    Photo credit:ARBR Pictures


    They are perfectly sized for babies



    and cats!



    Wedding Amigurumi

    Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    Photo credit:ARBR Pictures

    Sarah wanted amigurumi wedding cake toppers** for her wedding and asked if I could make them. Yes! I would love to!! She showed me a picture of the style she was looking for and I started searching my pattern collection, library books and the internet looking for inspiration about how to make them. I found the basic building block with this pattern for a Amigurumi Kokeshi Doll.

    I made remarkably few changes to the pattern. I omitted the arms, hands and obi, as well as a few rows on the base. I added a ruffle to the bottom of the dress and side bangs on the hair. I also resized the hair bun to be smaller and positioned it further back on the head. That was all it took for the bride. The groom was exactly the same but without the ruffle, bangs and bun and with the addition of a bow tie.

    The prototype was worked using size 10 crochet cotton thread and that looked fine and cute but Sarah was looking for something slightly bigger with a softer stitch definition, so I tried Knit Picks Palette which is a 100% wool fingering weight yarn and we were both very happy with the results.


    Side-by-side comparison of versions.
    Crochet cotton (left) and wool (right)

    Sarah has two cats, Stevie and Olive, who are doted on by her and her fiancé. The creation of the bride and groom toppers was going so well she asked if I would also consider making two cats. Of course I would, they're family!

    Cats are not well represented in the amigurumi world, maybe because it's hard to translate that "we cats are superior to humans" attitude they have, but Sarah found and really liked this pattern for Pusheen the Cat.

    I ordered a new batch of yarn colors in the shades of Stevie and Olive and got busy. Other than different colors, the only changes to the pattern were adding one extra row to the feet and making one cat as a mirror image.

    The final detail to the wedding cake topper ensemble is a heart and that project morphed into an even bigger one which has its own blog post - Wedding Heart.


    Stevie checks out his amigurumi self.


    **Pie and cookies were the desserts for the wedding so Sarah designed and made a special cake form to display everything.

    Hue Shift Afghan

    Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    There haven't been a lot of blog posts this past year but it's not because I haven't been crafting. My daughter Sarah got married in July and both she and I crafted away for the event! The coming series of posts are about my handmade things for this milestone.

    It's a tradition for me to made afghans for big life events like going off to college, first apartment and getting married. When I saw the Hue Shift Afghan pattern I knew that it was the perfect one to celebrate a wedding.

    The Hue Shift Afghan pattern is addictive knitting . Each mitered square took about an hour to knit and every time I finished one square I had to start the next one --"just to get it going". It was often hard to stop. Even though it's a big and time intensive project, it doesn't feel that way while knitting it (until after the first 100 hours, that is).

    There are major pros and cons to consider before starting this project. Consider them VERY carefully before starting , this is a reminder for me as well as a warning for you! Most of the time this pattern has to be purchased but Knit Picks occasionally offers it for free.


    Pros:
    • Stunning and gorgeous looking afghan.
    • The yarn used in the pattern, Knit Picks Brava sport weight, is very economical. If the yarn is bought on sale the total cost for the afghan can be as low as $25.00.
    • The afghan is worked in four panels of 25 mitered squares which break the knitting into manageable sections. There is a sense of accomplishment when each square and block are finished.
    • Easy pattern. How a mitered square is made can be quickly understood and memorized. Also, how the color shifts occur isn't difficult to grasp.
    • Minimal amount of seaming. The mitered squares are started by either casting on stitches or picking up stitches from other squares so the only seaming is stitching the four panels together.
    • There are negligible amounts of yarn left over. Each color uses all but a few yards of the entire skein of yarn.
    Cons:
    • It will take a LOT of total time to knit.
    • Gauge is important with this project. The amount of yarn left over for each color is only a few yards and if there is ANY variation in your gauge or if the amount of yarn in the skein is short by the slightest amount you will not have enough to finish. I ran short by about 10 yards on only one color but that particular color was backordered for months. Luckily, a kind knitter on Ravelry answered a plea for help and I was able to forge ahead.
    • The techniques needed to make this afghan are not difficult but they are fiddly (getting corners just right, picking up stitches, seaming, stretchy bind-off.)
    • Yarn is only available online from Knitpicks.
    • While Brava is an inexpensive yarn, it has a few problems: The plies split easily and the yarn starts to shred if pulled apart and reworked. Some colors felt thinner than others but interestingly that did not translate to a change in gauge (go figure!)
    • Because it's an acrylic yarn the afghan is washable but the ends don't want to stay tucked in after being woven in.
    My Knitting Notes:
    • I worked the sections in this order: #1, #2, #4, #3
    • Swapped the colors C (wine) & D (fairy tale) because I have a preference for the light to dark shift over the red to purple.
    • I started by using a marker for the center stitch but after a few mistakes I also double checked the stitch count before and after the three stitches of the center decrease. After a while, I stopped using the marker and just counted.
    • Used the backwards loop cast-on and considered it the first row. This gave a clean edge when picking up the border stitches.
    • Picked up and then knit stitches from the right side.
    • When knitting the first two rows of each square, I worked the three stitches at the corner tightly . This helped keep the center of all the connected corners flat.
    • Watch for a smooth connection between squares when picking up stitches, especially at the beginning of rows when casting on. It makes a difference when picking up stitches to knit the border.
    • "If square 2 begins with the same color, consider this last remaining stitch the first picked-up stitch of the next square." This instruction from the pattern initially confused me because it only occurs at the first square of section 3. That's a pretty specific general instruction for something that happens just once in the pattern! However, each row has one color that runs its entire length and I carried that color.
    • I knit the panels with size 5, the border with size 6 and bound off loosely with size 7 needles.
    • After I knit the border I took needle and thread and with a few stitches straightened some crooked corner connections.
     Ravelry Project Page - Hue Shift Afghan

    Repairing a "Blankie" -- My Stash Comes Through

    Friday, July 29, 2016

    A dear friend came to me and asked if I would repair the "blankie" of the grandchild of a friend of hers. She said it didn't need to be anything pretty -- "just close the hole and secure everything so the blanket could be used again".

    Here's a picture of the damage:


    And a close up:



    I knew I could do better than whip stitching everything together. The hole looked big but it mainly involved only two rows of a fairly simple crochet pattern. Most of the yarn from the damaged area was still usable for the repair but I needed just a little bit more to complete the reconstruction. When I went to my stash -- wonder of wonders -- I found I had the exact yarn used in the blanket!

    Except in the small area where the new yarn was used the repair is barely detectable.


    Ready to be a blankie again!


    This project was a nice exercise in picking out a crochet pattern and seamlessly repairing the damage.

    However, now whenever I try to pare down my stash and get rid of yarn, I will remember this project and how an off-beat color of acrylic yarn was the PERFECT match to make a stellar repair of a blankie.

    I'm doomed. My stash will only continue to grow and will never decrease.

    My five most used tools

    Thursday, July 14, 2016

    I love gadgets that help me craft with precision and get the job done right. Through the years I've accumulated a few that have been used so frequently that they've been worn out and replaced and some that are new favorites. All of them get used over and over for many types of projects. Here are my top five favorites*:

    1. The seam ripper and I have had the longest relationship. When I first started sewing I used one of my dad's razor blades to rip out seams! My very first seam ripper was a pretty pink one that lasted most of my adult life but I had a horrible habit of putting it in my mouth and chewing on it while I worked. By the time it finally broke that seam ripper looked pretty disgusting. I now have two seam rippers. One that resides next to my sewing machine and another in my work basket.

    2. The ruler I use is a very unique one and it replaced my standard sewing gauge ruler a long time ago. It's the Dritz Super Seam Ruler and what makes it so unique are these special features:

    • The ruler's transparency makes it easy to see what's underneath and make accurate placements; no more having to lift the ruler to double check.
    • The ruler is 1/2" wide by 1/4" thick. Next to 5/8" these are the measurements I check the most. Nowadays I can mostly measure those amounts by eye (students thought I had magical powers!) but when I need to be quick or completely accurate this makes it easy.

    It took a while, but the markings wore off the first ruler and I'm now using my second.

    3. "Invisible" thread is my gold. I use this thread when it's crucial to have an exact match or I don't want any stitching to show.

    4 & 5. Accurate markings are often crucial to a project and my two favorite marking tools not only make it easy to mark but the markings disappear easily and cleanly. I like the chalk wheel by Clover best because with a brush of the hand it's the easiest to remove but sometimes the chalk marks wear off before I need them and for those projects I use the disappearing ink pen. Those markings fade away over a day or two or can be quickly removed with water.


    Runner up:

    My blocking mats are foam boards for a children's alphabet puzzle and I got them from a toy store. They work exactly the same as foam rubber mats sold exclusively as blocking mats at knitting supply sites but for about the same price you get three times the number of mats!

    *I have no product affiliation with any of these items. They are just things I love to use.

    Valentines - 2016

    Tuesday, May 24, 2016


    This Valentines project evolved over a couple of years and it is one of my favorites.

    I'm a crafty person with a needle and thread/yarn but I do not have a green thumb. Almost all of my attempts at gardening end with bugs or some disgusting form of rot resulting in the inevitable death of a plant. So when I tried growing spearmint a couple of years ago the results were no surprise. The first year of mint farming ended with an infestation of the biggest and greenest caterpillars I have ever seen and the second year was a battle with mint rust. Undaunted, and with faith in the power of "third year a charm", I managed to keep the mint healthy for an entire summer. I was finally able to harvest and dry a crop of mint leaves.

    I did not start growing mint with a valentines project in mind. That came about when I was researching how to make mint tea and remembered this "Muslin Heart Tea Bag" pin on my "Crafty Hearts" Pinterest board. Valentines 2016 was born!



    Notes on making muslin tea bags:
  • Using the FISKARS X-Large Squeeze Heart Punch I made a cardboard template. This was the perfect size for a tea bag.

  • I traced hearts onto a doubled piece of muslin with a fine point air and water soluble disappearing ink pen (my new favorite toy!) making sure to leave room for a 1/8" seam allowance between tracings. I did not cut the hearts out before stitching.

  • I machine stitched around the traced lines leaving a small opening. I cut the hearts out and stuffed them with tea leaves but now there was too much bulk and I couldn't machine stitch along the line so I finished stitching the bags closed by hand. If I make these again I would hand sew the entire tea bag for stitch consistency.

    Notes on packaging:
  • The container is a 2oz round steel tin from Papermart.com.

  • The labels are Avery #22961. Avery has an incredible online site. It used to be so difficult to design and print labels. Now it's easy peasy.