2016 Gift Tag Round-Up

It's almost time to put all those knitted, crocheted, and handmade goodies under the tree. So, I'm rounding up a few of my favorite printable gift tags to make wrapping faster and easier. Anything to get a few more minutes of knitting time is a good thing!   

And here's the last gift tag round up with even more goodies!

 Lovely, and simple gift tags for puresweetjoy.com

I love the simplicity of this lovely gift tags from puresweetjoy.com.

 Enjoy these cute fox and reindeer gift tags with Scandinavian flair from  foxandhazel.com

Looking for something cute and colorful? foxandhazel.com has beautiful gift tag printables with a Scandinavian twist. 

 Gift tags with just the right amount of snark from  smallfriendly.com

Need a little snark to go with your handmade gift? smallfriendly.com has you covered. 

 Printable gift tags with vintage flair from  Sew DIY .

Want a vintage touch to your tags? Here are some simple, cuties from Sew DIY

 Sweet and straight to the point gift tags from  masondixonknitting.com

Simple and straight to the point gift tags are great too. Get this free tag from masondixonknitting.com.

Looking Back At 2015

I’m usually not sentimental about the start of a new year, and the beginning of 2016 is no different. But I do like look back over the past year to see what I've accomplished, what to do in the new year, and what to be grateful for. 

 With Wool

I’ve kept a fairly consistent schedule writing, photographing, and designing for With Wool, but I wasn’t very dedicated. I frequently waited until the last minute or just hoped that an idea for something to write about would just fall into my lap - didn’t happen often. It was until October that I finally got serious and made the work a regular part of my routine. My goal was to spend 2 hours a day working on With Wool - be it designing patterns, writing tutorials, editing photos, putting together the newsletter, brainstorming, or learning about social media. Those 2 hours were occasionally hard to fill though they could expand to take up an entire day, like when I was releasing the Mosaic Sisters.

What about the numbers? In 2015, I self-published 2 patterns: The Cuddly Chevron Blanket in January and The Mosaic Sisters in December. Not a bad pair of end caps for this year. Behind the scenes, I also worked on a few others patterns that I’m looking forward to showing you in 2016. Hats! Socks! Color work! Oh my!

I wrote 51 blog posts, including this one. My favorite is How To Knit And Block A Giant Blanket In 47 Easy Steps. 19 posts were tutorials for knitting or spinning. I'm proudest of Mosaic Knitting 101 and of the long-tail cast on video tutorial. In total, I’m only 1 post short of managing 1 blog post for every week this year which sounds like an awesome goal to aim for next year.

2015 was also the year I got serious about sending out the With Wool Weekly newsletter every week. I’ve really come to enjoy putting it together and seeing it grow as the year progressed. Tomorrow, I’m sending out the 50th newsletter of the year, but it’s also the 54th newsletter since I started sending them out. Looking forward to seeing how to grows and changes. You can sign up here or through the sidebar to the right. 

#YearOfMaking

 #yearofmaking was success! I made something on 352 days of 2015. Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

#yearofmaking was success! I made something on 352 days of 2015. Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

#YearOfMaking was my other major project this year. My only intention was to make something everyday, and post a photo of my progress to Instagram. I haven’t kept up with the photos lately, but I have kept making for the entire year. Some days, the only thing I made was dinner, but dinner still counts. There were times when I was sick, tired, or stuck on planes all day. I am proud to write that I only skipped 13 days. If I finish the year strong and I intend to, I’ll have made something 352 days this year which is nothing to sneeze at. 

 After years of being a WIP, I finished my extra large Norma Blanket! Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

During those 352 days, I’ve done more and learned more than I would have otherwise. I finished knitting my first sweater and finished my extra large Norma Blanket. I spun yarn for Tour de Fleece and Spinzilla. I spun my first sock yarn and gained the confidence attempt spinning cashmereI spent a month drawing. I built cairns in the Arizona desert. I’ve hauled my camera all over San Francisco to practice photography. 

 I finished my first sweater for myself, Amiga, thanks to #yearofmaking. Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

Deciding to do a #yearofmaking was a great last minute decision which is why I’m doing it again. While I’m glad I did a lot over the past year, I have one complaint. A lot of the time I felt like I was just going through the motions. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I want to spend this year learning and improving my skills. That’s why, I’m picking one thing focus on this time around.  2016 is about making art - not with yarn or fiber, but with pencils, ink, and markers. Maybe I’ll even learn to paint. There’s still going to plenty of yarn, but the urge to draw and make art everyday is something I can’t deny any longer.  

Looking back, 2015 has been a great year on all fronts. Here’s hoping that 2016 is even better! What are your plans for the new year? 

I-Cord Necklace How To

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

While I was shopping for beads for an upcoming project, I found a cute turtle pendant that ended up in my digital cart. It was still cute once I had it in hand, but I didn’t have a way to wear it. I knew if I put it away in drawer that I’d forget about it so it stayed on the table. My kitchen table, AKA my desk, is a jumble of books, yarn, knitting needles, spinning fiber, and tech. It wasn’t long before the pendant and the right yarn ended up next to each other. It be much easier to make a necklace for the pendant instead of forgetting to ever buy one. 

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Materials

2-3 yds Sport Weight Yarn

2 2.75 mm double pointed needles OR a short circular needle

A pendant, charm, or bead

Tapestry needle

Knitting The Cord

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

 Cast on 3 stitches and slide them to the right tip of the needle. 

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Pull the working end of the yarn behind the stitches from left to right. Knit the 3 stitches and slide them back to the right hand tip of the needle. This method allows you to work flat but still get a closed, round cord when you’re done. 

Repeat until the i-cord is 19” long or the length you want plus 2” to tie the knots. I decided how long to make my i-cord by comparing it the length of one of my favorite necklaces. 

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Bind off the 3 stitches and cut the working yarn. Weave in the ends by pushing the needle and thread through the center of the cord for an inch before pushing the needle out and cutting the thread. If your pendant has a small bail or opening, wait to weave in one of the ends. 

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

While not strictly necessary, blocking the i-cord will help even out the stitches and create a nicer looking necklace. To block, soak the i-cord in cool water for 15 minutes. Wrap it in a towel and squeeze out the excess water without wringing. Lay it flat to dry. 

Tying the Stopper Knot

It might take a few attempts to get the knots in the right spot or looking just so. Keep the tapestry needle ready because it’s a big help unpicking the knots. I re-tied each several times to get the right tension and placement.

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Make a loop with one end of the cord. 

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Bring the end of the cord behind both strands of the loop…

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

then pull it around the first loop and into the space between the loop and the wrapping end of the cord.

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Pull the end through the first loop from behind and tighten the knot. 

If the photos aren’t helping, check out this animation of how to tie the Stopper Knot

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Before tying the next knot, string the pendant. If the bail is small, pull the unwoven end through the bail first and use it to pull the cord through. Weave in the end. 

Tying the Slip Knot

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Make a loop with the opposite end of the cord.

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Bring the end over the legs of the first loop and make a second loop. 

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Wrap the end around the first loop’s two legs twice and bring the end out through the second loop. Tighten the knot leaving the first loop open at the end. Done correctly, you’ll be able to shrink or grow the loop as needed. I like the pull the slip knot tight after pulling the stopper knot through to keep the necklace in place.  

If the photos aren’t helping, check out this animation of how to tie the Slip Knot

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Done! Enjoy your new necklace!

   Learn how to make an i-cord necklace that’s a quick gift for you or a friend. | withwool.com

Lessons from 31 Days of #DrawingAugust

#AugustDrawing-Lessons.jpg

There’s been plenty of knitting going around here. I finished a sweater, put a few feet on a scarf, and worked on a few designs. While it feels great to have made progress and crossed a few things off my knitting list, August’s main project was #DrawingAugust. #DrawingAugust is pretty simple - draw every day and show your work. Thanks to the previous habit-building 212 days of #yearofmaking, drawing everyday was pretty easy. When I missed a day, I caught up on the next day which means I have 31 drawings tucked away in my sketch book. 

The hard part of this challenge wasn’t the drawing. It was showing my work. There were a few sketches that I was really proud of, and I couldn’t wait to post them to Instagram. But there were also a few that I would have rather hidden away. I’m a firm believer that once something goes online, it’s always online. The possibility that someone’s first impression of my work might not be the “perfect” one I want is rattling. Even though I’ve posted the less than perfect sketches this month, it didn’t get any easier. Here’s the thing though: I’d didn’t start #DrawingAugust with the intention of creating perfection. There’s no way I could have finished 31 sketches or even started the first if I had. #DrawingAugust was about the process, about learning, and about doing the work. I wasn’t chasing perfection; I was just trying to get better at drawing. 

31 days later I’m happy to say that my drawing skills did improve. I’m certainly more confident with a pen. I’ve also gotten past the idea that all of my sketches had to 100% accurate. That rule had been floating around in my head for years, and it wasn’t until I let it go that I realized how much it held me back. I knew I couldn’t accurately reproduce an object so there was no reason to try. Beginner or not, the idea that you have to chase perfection and achieve it every day can be the biggest stumbling block. You have to give yourself permission to fail so that you can keep trying day after day. 

Also, 20 - 30 minutes every day adds up. The bulk of my sketches took about 20 minutes from start to finish. Some might have only taken 5 and some might have take 45, but 20 minutes was the norm. 20 minutes a day might not seem like much, but that’s over 10 hours of work spread across the month. It’s time well spent.  

Now that it’s September, I’m moving on to a different daily project, but I’m not packing away the sketchbook. I was getting bored doing straight line drawing so I’m going to experiment and try different techniques and styles. Maybe I’ll have a full sketchbook by the end of the year.

223 Days of #YearOfMaking

Read more: Lessons from 50 Days of #YearOfMaking

Way back on January 1st when I started #yearofmaking, my goals were simple. I wanted to make something every day, learn new things, and improve my skills. To keep myself accountable, I’d post a photo of the day’s work to Instagram. Day 223 looks a lot different than Day 1. 

Over the past 7+ months, I’ve spun yarn, knit a lot, cooked many dinners, taken photos, written thousands of words, made videos, baked cakes, and doodled. I have photos and logs tracking everything I’ve made. Seeing those chains grow has helped me keep going. Sure, there are days that I didn’t make anything, but those days are rare. 

Making something every day is now a habit and I get a little fidgety if I haven’t done something by the end of the day. That’s not to say that I’m finishing something everyday. There’s no way I could keep up the pace if a project had to be complete by the time I went to bed. If I only knit 2 rows on sock, it counts. Building the habit of making is what was important. 

I’ve gotten a lot of good from #yearofmaking but it was starting to feeling like I was just going through the motions in June and July. Then Tour de Fleece happened. To get ready I set goals and picked a skill to focus on. After 3 dedicated weeks of spinning, my forward draft and handspun were much improved. I was even able to check “make sock yarn” off my spinning bucket list! Seeing that improvement put the excitement back into daily making. 

When Tour de Fleece ended, I went looking for something else to focus on. When I read about #DrawingAugust I knew I’d found my next goal. I’m now drawing every day and keeping the sketches simple so I can finish them in 15 - 30 minutes. Some drawings I’m really proud of and others I’m embarrassed to show, but they all go up. It’ll be nice to see how I’ve improved at the end of the month. Plus, this project has also been a good kick in the butt to finally watch all those online classes I’ve bought and never gotten around to watching. 

Instead of being separate projects, Tour de Fleece and #DrawingAugust brought intention back to #yearofmaking for me. At first, just making something every day was enough because I was building the habit. Once that intention was “complete”, I was still making things but I wasn’t learning or improving my skills. I needed a new intention to keep going or I was going to find reasons about why playing video games was a perfect use of all my free time. This month, improving my drawing is my motivation. These smaller goals are what’s going to keep me making to the end of the year.  

My Kitchen Table Is My Studio

Abby Glassenberg posted a photo of her work space, her kitchen table covered with legal pads and her laptop. The shot was taken at night and wasn’t styled to be “Pinterest perfect”. The first comment asked, “Where is your inspiration?” Her response and thoughts on the imagined requirement of inspiring studio space are worth a read. What stuck with me most from the entire piece was her closing statement: 

“If [you] believe you need inspiration, or a beautiful space, or just the right environment in order to make creative work, you’ll never begin.”

I often imagine my perfect studio. The room is always well lit and bright thanks to big windows with a lovely view. There are shelves and cupboards for yarn, fiber, books, and every possible tool. There’s a desk for writing/getting lost on the internet and a drawing table with a parallel bar. The remaining wall space is covered in art, including this Alpacalypse! print I’ve already squirreled away. I’ve got the space for every creative thing, both work and hobby, that I could ever want to do. 

Here’s the thing though, it’ll be years before I have anything remotely like the space in my imagination. That Alpacalypse! print is rolled up in a tube waiting for a place on an imaginary studio wall. Like Abby, I do most of my work at the kitchen table. It’s covered in yarn, notions, paper, and notebooks by the end of the day. My supplies are stashed wherever there’s room for them. As much as I want that studio because I have the far-flung idea that it’ll just make working so much easier, I don’t have the luxury of waiting. I have to make and do and challenge myself now for my own sanity. If I don’t, that far off in the future studio won’t need to exist at all. 

 There's a bike in my spinning nook too.

There's a bike in my spinning nook too.

While churning out these words, some of which came easier than others, I’ve realized how silly it is to put a print away for a studio wall that hasn’t been built. I’m getting it out, putting it in a frame, and finding a spot for it now. Also, while that imagined studio would be amazing, all I really need is somewhere to keep my supplies in one easily accessible spot. Wandering the apartment and shuffling boxes to look for one specific thing is already old. I can get shelves and keep working from the kitchen table. 

Lessons From 50 Days Of #YearOfMaking

During the last few months of 2014, I started hearing about #yearofmaking from Kim Werker. As I become familiar with the one rule behind the project - just make something everyday - I started seriously considering taking on the 365 day project. The only thing holding me back was my previous attempts at a daily projects. I’ve tried daily drawing and photography projects that topped out at 31 days but rarely kept up. 

So, why commit to 365 days of making then? Besides from reading about Kim Werker’s creative adventures, I also read about Crystal Moody’s. Her blog, documenting her daily attempts at drawing and making art, was the only one that I went back through the archives and read from the first post. Over 2014, I saw her art steadily improve and her thoughts about making art mature. I wanted to gain similar improvements for myself. I also just wanted to make stuff since I spent way too much of 2014 distracted by video games and stuff on the internet. I needed to knit, to spin, to draw, to make, and to learn again. 

On January 1st, 2015 the only rules I set for myself were to make something every day and post of a photo of to Instagram to keep myself accountable. I could make anything I wanted. On Day 1, I blocked a shawl. Day 4 saw me stacking cairns at a park in Arizona. Over the past 50 days I’ve knit socks, added inches to a cabled scarf, started doodling again, made lots of tasty food, practiced photography, and spun yarn. I haven’t missed a day so far, not even while I was sick, and it’s been an amazing part of my year.

Besides from making stuff, I also wanted to learn new things. So, what have I learned?

  • Making stuff is awesome and I rather like it. Simple? Yes, but I forgot during the funk that was 2014.

  • Accountability is key. If I wasn’t tracking my progress with Instagram and my Bullet Journal, I’m sure I would have slacked off and skipped a day here and there. Since I’m creating that record and making it public, I’m always thinking about what I’m going to be making which has been liberating instead of stifling. I’m not waiting for inspiration to find me, I’m going looking for it.

  • Variety is the spice of life. Looking through my photos, there are long streaks where I just knit on a pair of socks for a week at a time before getting bored. I don’t feel tied to any one project or craft. When I was bored of the socks, I switched over to spinning and got some lovely alpaca handspun when I finished. A few days ago, I felt like pulling out my sketchbook and doodling so that exactly what I did. Not tying myself to a specific craft is why I’m going to be able to make something 365+ days in a row. 

  • Keep learning. Once finished, that new pair of striped hand knit socks is going to be great. I’m also rather fond of the meditative process involved in knitting ribbing for that long but I’m not learning anything new. After the sock knitting excitement wore off, it felt like I was just calling it in. Tired? Don’t want to do anything? Knit on the sock, post a photo, done. Sometimes you need that but it gets boring day after day. Push yourself to try a new technique or a new skill. Doesn’t matter if that day’s making isn’t perfect. You still tried, made, and learned something new. 

  • Making is more than you do with your hands. Most of what I see when I search for the #yearofmaking and #yearofcreativehabits tags are physical items. There’s painting, knitting, soap making, scrapbooking, dinner, crochet, pottery, and the list goes on. What I don’t see are word counts for essays & stories, photography practice, or other less physical things. Are those things lacking because they’re harder to photograph? Is it because there’s a different group of people doing them? Is there a hashtag I haven’t heard about? I don’t know. What I do know is that making is an intention and a thought process. While the end result is different, whether I’m spinning alpaca or fiddling with the ISO and aperture on my camera, the creative drive is the same.

What am I going to learn in the next 50 days of #yearofmaking? No idea, but that’s what makes it exciting. 

2015 is the #YearOfMaking + Resources

I started seriously thinking about what my theme/word would be in 2015 last week. I can stick to a theme/word much better than I can to individual resolutions. (Learn more about the word idea here.) A few weeks ago I was pretty sure that 2015 would be the Year of Handspun but I wanted to do more than spin yarn, fun as it is. I also want to write, draw, knit, take photographs, and whatever else comes to mind. I want to become a better photographer. I want to learn and use my hands. 

One word just didn’t seem like enough to cover all of those things. I was wrong though because the perfect word, MAKE, snuck up and smacked me upside the head. Make will let me write, draw, spin, knit, or whatever. It’ll let me do things with my hands. It will help me research and learn. It will prod me get stuff done. It’ll make me happy. Mix all of that together and MAKE is a wonderful thing.

In order to get myself making January 1st and keep on going through December 31st, I’m going to do the #yearofmaking challenge. The only rule is to make something everyday whether it’s cooking a tasty dinner or updating my site or knitting a single row on a scarf. All are perfectly valid. To keep myself accountable, I’ll be posting a photo of the day’s progress to Instagram. Please call me out if I don’t post anything! There will also be the occasional blog post and, #yearofmaking will be the first thing on my to-do list. 

Resources To Start Your Own Year Of Making

#yearofmaking didn’t come from nothing. It’s been something that I’ve been thinking about for months since I came across Year of Creative Habits by Crystal Moody. Everyday she made something and everyday she posted it to her blog. I looked forward to reading about her journey and seeing her art so much that I went back to start from the very beginning. Her thoughts and questions on creativity and daily making are thought provoking and worth reading. 

Another resource that helped me make the final leap was Kim Werker’s new ebook, Year of Making. Werker recounts her own reasons for doing a Year of Making in 2014 and gives tips for starting and maintaining the making habit. Also included are several worksheets to help you figure out what your passions are, what you want to do during the year, and what you want to try. She also details an example spreadsheet to track your progress which I’ll definitely be using.

Shoot for progress, not perfection. - Elise Blaha

I also picked up this wonderful progress tracker from Elise Blaha which will give me get the pleasure of crossing out boxes and seeing a year’s worth of daily progress at a glance.

MAKE in 2015! 

11 Wonderful Gift Tags For Your Wonderful Hand Knits

Christmas is just 5 days away! If you’re still stitching away, I hope all your patterns are error free, you’ve got plenty of yarn, you’re binding off before 1 AM on Christmas morning. To wrap all that wonderful knitted and crafted goodness up right, here are 10 printable and DIY tags. 

And may all your gifts be met with just the right OOH’s and AAH’s!

Labels for Handmade Items from Little Monkey Crochet

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Colorful Gift and Care Tags from First Pancake Studio

Fair Isle Bookmark Tags from Eat Drink Chic

Minimalist Typographic Gift Tags from Montgomery Fest 

hats-and-mittens-wallpaper.jpg

12 Days of Christmas Gift Tags from Year of Creative Habits

’Tis the Season Gift Tags from Abigail Halpin

Warm Wishes Knit Tags from 100% Rain

Up for a little cross stitch? Make these cross-stitch mitten tags from Design*Sponge.

Ugly Sweater Gift Tags from Love vs. Design

Keep it simple with my own Make A Bow Gift Tags

P.S. If you don’t want to stay up till the wee hours of Christmas morning binding off, here are some IOU tags to put under the tree instead. 

Relaunch!

Good news! The radio silence is over. I’m back with a new site and a new name, With Wool. I’ve got lots of new things - patterns, reviews, tutorials, you name it - planned for 2015. One of those new things is a weekly newsletter about knitting, spinning, interesting links, and plenty of wooly goodness. Sign up below!

 
 

With the new name, I’m taking the opportunity to take this site in a slightly different direction. Don’t worry. There’s still going to be knitting, spinning, and more wool than you can shake a knitting needle (or crochet hook) at. Over the 5 years (!) I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve wanted to talk about playing and about enjoying the process of making be it wooly or not. Most importantly though, I wanted to focus on kicking the fear of failure to the curb; of making and starting something even if you don’t know how to do it perfectly the first time. I’m not sure how well that’s shown through during the past few years but it’s coming to the forefront now.  

If you follow my posts through an RSS reader, click on over on check out the new site (the feed shouldn’t be affected by the switch). Let me know what you think!

Take A Stab At Needle Felting

One of the local yarn shops is closing down and having quite the clearance sale. Looking through was little was left, I found some felting needles. My first stab at the craft was over a year ago. That first project was a heart and it even looked like a heart, but not the cute puffy heart, like these, that I imagined. The disappointment of not being immediately good at needle felting has faded and I’m ready to try again. 

I have wool and enough needles to last me though several projects. The only thing I don’t have to a foam mat to work on so I don’t destroy my fingers or the kitchen table. While I gather up the rest of my supplies, I can’t help thinking of what I want to make. The only wool I’m willing to sacrifice to the learning process is a combination of blue, yellow, and green. Besides from felted balls, fish seemed like the only thing that would look good with that mottled combination. My mind went blank after fish. To the internet! 

After much searching through the halls of the internet, I’m still not sure what else to make with that wool but I do have plenty of ideas for other projects. Tutorials were easy to find and the best ones were usually videos. They made it easy to see just how to wrap the wool and where to stab it to make the right shapes. They showed how and where to join different pieces to make larger pieces. Watching the tutorials and seeing people actually make something got rid of a lot of the mystery of needle felting. 

The following videos are three of my favorites because of how informative and just plain cute the finished pieces are. 

A nice overview of how to make different shapes and how to combine them to make sculptural pieces.

Simple tutorial for making a cute little felted mushroom. Seems like a good beginner project.

Another simple project that combines a sphere and some logs to make a cute little bunny.

Pom-Pom Gone Wrong

Pom-Pom-Gone-Wrong.jpg

This isn’t what it looks like. It’s a disheveled pom-pom that doesn’t quite look like a house. Okay, so it is what it looks like. Let me explain. I saw a tutorial for these adorable little house pom-poms over on the Mr Printables blog. Seemed like an awesome idea to make a few as Christmas ornaments. 

Before I committed myself to making 5+ of the things, I decided to whip one up as a test. The wrapping diagrams were pretty easy to follow and the step-by-step photos answered the rest of my questions. Once the pom-pom form was loaded with yarn, out came the scissors. The resulting pom-pom looked nothing like a house. Since I spent at least 10 minutes cutting the thing open, it was abundantly clear that my scissors just weren’t sharp enough to trim it to shape. So, I cut my loses and chucked it across the room. It doesn’t make much of a house but it does make a cushy projectile. 

With the right yarn, sharp scissors, and some practice, I think these pom-poms would actually look like a house. When I have all 3 of those things and a complete lack of mailing deadlines, I’ll try again. 

Balding-Cyclops-Pom-Pom.jpg

Occasionally, I can see the house that it was supposed to be but, most of the time, all I see is a balding cyclops.

Cardboard-Pom-Pom-Form.jpg

What did work surprisingly well was the DIY pom-pom maker also from Mr Printables. I cut it out from a cardboard box and held everything together with rubber bands instead of alligator clips. If you can’t get your hands on an actual pom-pom maker, this version will definitely work in a pinch.  

Marble Dyeing

MarbleDyedHandkerchief2A.jpg

The second Saturday of April came and went while I spent the morning at my favorite fiber guild, The Greater Birmingham Fiber Guild. This month we played around with marble dyeing silk handkerchiefs. I’ve never tried marble dyeing before and was looking forward to learning something new. To dye the cloth, we dropped dye on water thickened with methylcel and then swirled the colors before laying the handkerchief on top. The treated water had the consistency and feel of slime so everything floated.

MarbleDyeBath.jpg

The process was pretty fun and there were some great results after a bit of troubleshooting. Sometimes the dye wouldn’t spread and just fell to the bottom of the pan. Sometimes the dye spread too much. Other times the dye wouldn’t stick to the cloth at all. The secret to marble dyeing might be holding your jaw just right. 

MarbleDyedHandkerchief2.jpg

My first attempt came out pretty well even if it doesn’t look like traditional marbling. I’m going with surrealist peacock feather. The second try was only half successful since only one of the colors really shows. Stare at it long enough and you’ll start to see things. I’ve noticed a few faces, an alien, and an epic fish. What do you see?

Now to figure out what to do with two silk handkerchiefs and stare at marbled paper with new found appreciation. 

MarbleDyedHandkerchief.jpg

Tricolor Elephant

CrossStitchElephant1.jpg

Have you ever seen something and instantly thought of someone? The first time I saw the elephant cross stitch from Red Gate Stitchery I thought of my friend Cece. My second thought was that I absolutely had to make this for her. She loves elephants and I enjoy cross stitch so everyone wins. 

The stitching was easy once I choose the colors and seemed more like moving meditation than handwork. After concentrating on one small segment of stitches and than another, my eyes would zoom out to see the pattern and the elephant slowly forming. Almost seemed like the thread was stitching itself. Almost.

Part of the reason this project was so easy was because of the chart. It was easy to read and took up most of the page. Also helpful was the 4 pages of tips, tricks, and tutorials that came with the pattern. I’m still pretty new to cross stitch and those pages answered several nagging questions I didn’t even know I had. Plus, the whole thing arrived quickly to my inbox. What’s not to like?

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Presented for your inspection, the wrong side of the piece which I think is just as interesting as the front. The back is messy with ends sticking up everywhere but the pattern is still visible.

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The hardest part of this project was making myself iron the piece and figuring out how to frame it in a hoop. I managed to cheat my way out of ironing with warm water, a sponge, and colorfast thread. As for finishing the back, I did a little research and then promptly did my own thing with some leftover thread and wool felt.

Now that the elephant has arrived at his new home, I’m on the lookout for a new project or I could just finish the last one I started. Decisions, decisions. 

Little Things: Starting Out

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Little Things: Celebrating the tiny, sudden joys in life

I love starting new projects. I love researching ideas and variations and all the little details that make up the whole. I love picking colors and gathering supplies. I love finally committing to something and jumping in with both feet. I love casting on, drawing the first line, making the first stitch, and taking the first step.

In the thread, the pencils, the yarn, and the paper, I imagine all the potential just floating around in the ether. When I make that first step, it’s like plucking a bit of that wonderful possibility from the air and solidifying it with my actions and my intent. Doesn’t matter if I’m going for a walk or knitting a new hat, acting on that potential is an great and happy thing.

My latest project is some covert cross stitch. There are just 3 colors but this checkered pattern will be the largest cross stitch project I’ve attempted. Can’t wait to see it finished because I like finishing things just as much as I like starting things. 

So, have you started anything new lately?

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Swatches

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I may or may not have watched a few video tutorials about crochet on CreativeBug.com. It started innocently enough. The hour was late. I was bored and looking for some entertainment. Yes, I watch how to videos for fun because I like learning and knowing how stuff works. Anyway, up to this point I had watched tutorials on making soap, double knitting, thrummed mittens, stamping, book binding, and whatever else looked interesting. One thing I hadn’t watched were the crochet videos. The first time, I had one eye on my knitting and one eye on the video. Something sparked my interest and, the second time around, I had a hook and cotton yarn in my hands.

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Previously, all I knew about crochet was how to make a chain for a provisional cast on to use with knitting. I soon figured out how to hold the yarn and hook and set to working swatches. I practiced single crochet, double crochet, triple crochet, and even half double crochet. On other swatches I made spaces, increased, decreased, finished with a few rows of fan stitch. Thanks to this tutorial from The Dapper Toad, I got that whole Magic Circle thing to work but I’m sure I’ll still have look it up every time.

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Crochet intrigues me because the resulting fabric is so different from knitting. Crocheted fabric is thicker and more structural. Crochet and knitting look nothing alike. After knitting for years, every row of crochet seems like binding off. It’s a fun thought even if it’s not necessarily true. With crochet, I want to make things that I would never consider knitting: sturdy baskets, trivets, mandalas, and cute little embellishments. The Bearded One is particularly excited about durable crocheted slipper soles. 

Surprisingly enough, I think learning to crochet has made me a better knitter. Crochet has given my hands a little extra training that should make continental knitting and two-handed color work much easier. If only knowing how to read a reading knitting pattern meant I could read a crochet pattern. They’re still greek to me. 

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Incremental January: Week 4

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Last week was all about clearing up the digital clutter - no more unnecessary emails, unsubscribing from overwhelming RSS feeds, and gaining more hard drive space - but I’m back to the physical world this week. I’ve sorted and donated and trashed a lot of stuff to meet my January goal of de-cluttering and prepping for the rest of the year. Lots left to do but the list is shorter.

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Now that I have less stuff to worry about, I’ve started thinking about how to hack the stuff I have to work better for me. I encourage you do this too. One, you get to make things. Two, you can personalize and upgrade your space. Three, you get to have some fun. 

Over the course of a day, I spend a lot of time in front of the computer which means I spend a lot of time at my desk. It’s a nice desk with lots of drawers, space for all my tech, and enough room to make something when I feel the need. There’s even a raised section with two more drawers and two open spaces that I barely use because they are not drawers. Well, I’ve fixed that.

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I’ve made drawers for my “Things” and for my “Stuff”. The drawer of things holds all the crafty stuff I need on a regular basis: scissors, buttons, a knitting needle gauge, a tape measure, and random tapestry needles. The drawer of stuff keeps pens, pencils, hair ties, lotion, lip balm, and a needle felted heart. You know, the necessities. Everything I need is at hand and easy to find.

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To make the drawers, I measured the dimensions to be filled and adapted this handy stiffened felt box tutorial from How About Orange to fit. Next, I drew up the cross stitch charts, stabbed the necessary holes in the felt, and got to stitching. The last step was gluing the sides together to finish the boxes. As a bonus, whenever I move to a new desk, I can just make lids for the drawers and use them a boxes instead. Win win. 

Just in case you feel like labeling any of your possessions with a bit of cross stitch, here’s “Stuff” and “Things” to the rescue. 

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Needles and Wool

Normally, whenever needles and wool come up in the same sentence, knitting is the first thing that comes to mind. I carry around knitting in my purse. There is an untold number of slightly finished project sitting around my house. Don’t even get me started about yarn. It’s safe to say that I have knitting on the brain. So, at 2013’s first fiber guild meeting, I was presently surprised to learn about a different crafty combination of needles and wool - needle felting. 

To needle felt, you really only need 3 things: a foam pad, wool roving, and a needle. It’s that simple but you can’t use just any needle. The necessary needle definitely isn’t a knitting needle or sewing needle but a thin piece of metal with barbs and a sharp point at one end. Once you have a small ball of roving and the foam pad to work on, just start stabbing. It’s vicious. It’s cathartic. It’s occasionally a bloody experience if you spear one of your fingers.  When the original ball is compacted, add more fiber, keep stabbing, and slowly sculpt the wool to it’s final shape. Then you can add color, embellishments, and numerous details.

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I got to experiment with needle felting by making a heart shaped pincushion. Other guild members made hearts that looked sculpted and delicate. My heart looks like one of those chalky, valentine candies that I eat every year because they are inescapable. I’m tempted to add some sort of abbreviated and completely inappropriate message. 

Repeatedly stabbing a defenseless ball of wool was pretty fun. Plus, I only pricked my fingers a few times and didn’t draw any blood. It was really interesting to watch wool transform from something soft and fluffy to compact and solid. The finished heart is still soft and definitely wooly but very different from the cushy yarn I’m used to working with. FYI, sculpting wool is definitely harder than it looks. The felting process is easy but requires patience, an eye for detail, and practice. It’s not that different from knitting after all.

When I left the meeting, I knew I had fun but wasn’t sure if I wanted to try needle felting again. The heart’s been on on my desk and I keep coming up with all these things I could make. Cool, geeky things. Plus, I’ve got lots of roving leftover from finished skeins of handspun. Looks like I’ll be getting some felting needles soon. 

Origami Stars

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Now that my Christmas cards are in the mail and winging their ways across the States, it’s time to show off the goodness inside: origami ornaments. I like to make ornaments every year for the tree and add them as special touches with friends’ gifts. This year, I’m taking a break from knitted leaves, birds, stockings, mittens, and pom-poms for origami. There’s no lack of holiday knitting around here and origami is a nice change. The ornaments are much faster to fold than to knit, easy to make, and just the right size to mail to friends across the country.

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There are tons of instructions for origami stars across the internet and I fell for the Robin Star by Maria Sinayskaya. This video helped clear up some of the more complicated parts of the folding and assembly. I used 3” foil origami paper and the completed stars came out 4” across. The only thing I changed was to tuck the “triangle”, that is normally folded behind all layers, under the last layer to hide the paper’s wrong side.  Once all the stars were folded, a hole punch (an awl would work too) and some craft thread quickly turned the bunch into ornaments. 

After folding 20 of these stars I have a few tips :

  1. Don’t wait to the last minute. The stars are quick to make but won’t just appear in your hands. I made mine over the course of a week. 
  2. Assembly line the process. Once I’d picked the paper for a particular star, I worked the same fold on all the pieces before moving to the next step. Seemed to make the whole process go a lot faster.
  3. Practice first. Before I started using the small, foil squares, I practiced making the stars from larger paper. I was able to memorize the steps and make sure the process wasn’t too finicky before making the real thing.
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A Happy Diversion

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I have grudgingly come to terms with the fact that Christmas and all the deadlines associated with it are less than a month away. All of my knitting, spinning, and general crafty time has been dominated by holiday making. My needles are full. My spindle is heavy. My hands keep cranking out ornaments. As all consuming as it is, I’d rather be working on all this now when I’ve still got some time to spare than waiting till the last minute. Still, my brain rebels every once and awhile and I make something for myself just to take the edge off of the ever looming deadlines. 

Say hello, again, to the little robin cross stitch. He’s not an amorphous blob this time and actually looks like a bird. No name yet but he’s been great at keeping my hands busy during audiobook and podcast sessions. Best of all, no deadline. If I finish him in December, great. If he doesn’t end up on the wall until January, that’s great too. So, if you’re like me and already feeling a bit burned out by the holidays, do something fun for yourself before diving back into the mess. A happy diversion really helps.