Crafty Monday: Time Management Fail

Right here should be a really awesome blog post about making a closet in a weekend. Yep, that’s what I had planned. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Things just didn’t come together, I didn’t have the right materials, and I spent my Saturday doing something else. Not that I would’ve done anything differently on my Saturday, but it was just one of those projects where I had an idea, thought it would work, but nothing. Nada. Zip.

I got one part of it done, but it took me most of the day on Sunday. By the time I wanted to finish it, Sunday was nearly over. We were also dealing with two sick children. I also run a charity similar to Warm Up America, but I try to keep it local. It’s called Warm Up the Boro and if you’re interested, please stop on by our Facebook page and check us out. I spent most of the morning handing out hats and scarves to those that didn’t have any at our local soup kitchen. It was so much fun, and such a blessing. Little kids walking out with warm hats that they didn’t have previously, and adults that wore theirs the entire time they were there. Even here in South Georgia it’s been very cold and the wind chill has been killer. It took a year’s effort and many donations to make it happen, but it did. If you follow anything about knitting, you probably saw the scarf on the statue last week? I think that should be up for “Best Possible Use of Yarn Bombing EVER!”

The post that should’ve been here, that isn’t, should be by next Monday. I did put forth good effort. But, things happen I guess. And it gives me fuel for tomorrow’s Knitting Tuesday post. 🙂 

Saturday Musings: Fostering Creativity

My home is a plethora of papers, writing utensils, paints, and all manner of art mediums. We have sculpted clay pots sitting on mantels, hand drawn cards on the walls and refrigerators, and various paintings and drawings just about anywhere you look. We’re not art collectors, though. We’re parents.

Our kitchen table was purchased used and fairly unmarred two years ago. Now it has permanent marker, pen, paint, and scratches all over it. It very nearly matches the table in the play room that is MEANT for art work.

We have a keyboard, drums, electric and acoustic guitars, and violins. At some point during the evening you’ll hear someone singing and playing one or more of these instruments. And they are playing very well (unless it’s me on the violin).

One twin working macrame

Another twin working on a song mashup

On any given weekend you’ll look around and someone is knitting. Or sewing. Or listening to music and pursuing some form of art. Sound like a mad house? Yes and no.
We encourage our kids to be creative. If they express an interest in some form of art we let them follow it with everything they’ve got. Yes, there’s usually some mess and we have to clean it up, but it’s so worth it. Clay stuck in the carpets or in the cracks of the rolling pin is not unusual.

So why doesn’t this bother me? Other than the fact that my husband and I both love and participate in many different art forms, we’re also preparing our kids for a future with much success. I’m not talking about grades (even though they’re all A students) or a singing career. I’m talking about an ability few will have and which many high-level employers look for: Creativity.

Schools in general have put less and less emphasis on being creative and more and more on passing the tests. Sure, math is important. But what about the ability to think outside the box? The desire to do and create what no one has done before?

In a society that values intelligence and ingenuity, we’re stifling natural curiosity and free-thinking with prescribed roles and standards. I wonder what would’ve happened if someone had told the first caveman that fire was a stupid idea and he (or she) had listened to them. If that same cave person had instead taken a test on the origin of his most recent meal, would we all still be living in caves, eating raw meat, and freezing?

Google offices are set up like playrooms, solely with the intent of inspiring creativity and thought. Why should my house be any different? Did I mention my kids are ‘A’ students? During their toddler years and for 4 years of school, we home educated them. My twins went to pre-k and my son went from kindergarten to second grade in public school. During a parent teacher conference for my girls, the teacher expressed her awe and amazement over the scissor cutting exercise my girls had done. “How did you teach them to do this?” She asked. My response, “They’ve been cutting paper and using safety scissors since they were big enough to hold them. We’ve always encouraged creativity.”

In kindergarten, my son’s teacher told me AND him that he “would NEVER be able to do math well.” Yes. Kindergarten. Einstein’s dad was also told his son would need remediation.

Now I’m not saying my kids are going to be recognized as the smartest people on earth. Or that clay will help you mold your child’s mind to that of a great architect. But people that are not afraid to go after their ideas or think creatively are the ones that will bring us alternative fuel sources and solutions to make life better. They’re the ones that can end wars without bloodshed and incite movement and will in the hearts of others. Let your kids paint. Let them create. Let them make a mess and clean it up.  Let them become the hope for the future.

Encouraging and fostering creativity is just as important as winning the next little league game or passing the big test. Perhaps more so.

Check out these links for further information and study.

http://www.parents.com/kids/development/thrive-in-2025/inspire-creativity/?page=1
http://www.babyzone.com/kids/preparing-for-preschool/inspiring-creativity_73550?page=3
http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED312835 

Friday Tutorial: Knitting Two Hats at a Time, Part 2

 Last week we left off on finishing up our ribbing for the brim of our hats. We discussed how to cast on to four double pointed needles using two different yarns and how to keep the stitches divided so that we end up with two separate pieces of fabric. This week we’re going to take a look at how to make stockinette stitch so we can work on the body of the hats.

Stockinette simply means that we knit every stitch on every row. To do this with our two yarns in double knitting, we will have to bring the front yarn forward and backward, but leave the back yarn in the back. The difference is that we no longer have to worry about moving the back yarn to the front.

Now, this CAN be done without moving either if the yarns and working a reverse stockinette in front (purl every front stitch) and a regular stockinette in back. However, when I did this with my first pair of two-at-a-time socks, I ended up with horrible ladders where the joins were. This method seems to work better.

Following Rachel’s pattern, we start knitting in stockinette for the body. To begin, make sure both yarns are to the back and you are starting with your front color (blue in my case) to make a knit stitch.

Make the knit stitch, then move the front yarn to the front of the work.

Make the second knit stitch with the alternate color (orange).

Now move the first color to the back of the work to make the third stitch. Continue in this manner until you have knit you’re hat to the length specified for the body before making the decreases.

Knit in stockinette the hat starts to take shape

For part 3 next week we will finish the hat by learning how to decrease the stitches for the top of the hat. 

Sewing on Thursday: An armrest sling for crafty projects

I have a mess in my living room. It’s not from the kids, or the dogs, or even the husband. It’s me. All mine. It’s globbed up in piles in various areas. I have organizers and bags filled to the brim with tools and accessories, yet none of them seem to be able to give me the rapid availability I require for my projects? It’s a conglomeration of yarn, threads, sewing needles, knitting needles, crochet hooks, patterns, scissors, stitch markers, and coffee cups.Try as I might to keep it tidy, I get back in there at the end of the day and start working on my projects. Before long, everything is right back out again. After 2 days, I’ve given up trying to put it away when I’m finished with it, because rarely is there a point where I say, “Ok, I’m done for the night.” Nope. What usually happens is that I work up until I send the kids to bed around 8. Then we go in, read or tell stories, say goodnight prayers, and drift off to sleep. Yes, me included sometimes. They’re just so warm and snuggly. It’s difficult.

I want all of my tools right where I can easily grab them, without having to undo an organizer roll or search through the bag at my feet. They need to be ready instantly and be able to drop right back into place. So I created: The Armrest Project Organizer

Materials:

Approximately 2 yards of top fabric for sling top and pockets
1 yard muslin or backing fabric
lightweight interfacing
thread
ruler

First things first, measure your couch. I went from outside in, first measuring the drop on the outside of the arm, then the top of the armrest, the drop inside the armrest, and across the bottom of the couch under the cushion.

Also measure the distance front to back for the depth you want.

My measurements were 10″ outside drop, 8″ top of armrest, 13″ inside drop, and 21″ across the bottom. The width was 18″ across. Add 1/2″ to all of your measurements. I’ll be referring to my measurements throughout, but please substitute your own measurements for mine.
Cut from top fabric

1-18.5″ x 21.5″ (bottom)

1 – 18.5″ x 13.5″ (inside drop)
2 – 18.5″ x 8.5″ (top of arm/pocket)
2 – 18.5″ x 10.5″ (outside drop/pocket)
1 – 18.5″ x 5.5″ (pocket)

Cut from muslin or backing fabric

1-18.5″ x 21.5″

1 – 18.5″ x 13.5″
1 – 18.5″ x 8.5″
1 – 18.5″ x 10.5″

Cut from interfacing for pockets

1 – 18.5″ x 8.5″
1 – 18.5″ x 10.5″
1 – 18.5″ x 5.5″

  1. Using 1/4″ seams, match the sections to each other, right sides facing. Outside arm to top of arm, top of arm to inside arm, and inside arm to bottom. You’ll have one long piece of fabric x the width you chose. Iron all seams open.
  2. Do the same with the muslin or backing fabric. I chose to cut these in sections so that they would hang better on the couch. You could also do one very long piece of each fabric if you choose.
  3. Iron on interfacing to the 3 pocket sections. Turn the top edge of each pocket under 1/4″ and stitch down to create a narrow hem.
  4. To do the pockets, decide how many sections you’d like. You’ll only be able to section one of the pockets in this, and I chose to do the middle pocket. I made one 6″ section and three 4″ sections. I matched the edges of the bottom and sides to the longer (10″) inside section and sewed straight lines from the top of the middle pocket to the base, then sewed a 1/4″ seam around the sides and bottom.
  5. Layer the bottom pocket to the other two pockets and sew around all three thicknesses.
  6. Match the main fabric to the muslin, right sides together, lining up seams and edges, and sew 1/4″ seam all around, leaving an opening for turning.
  7. Clip the corners and turn the piece right side out. Iron flat and top stitch around seam allowances.
  8. Attach to armrest by laying long piece under cushion and over the top of the armrest.
TADA! You now have a beautiful, one-of-a-kind armrest project sling. You can use this for any type of craft such as knitting, crochet, needlepoint and much more. You can also use it as a handy remote control holder or a candy bar stasher. I hope you had fun with this and as always, if you make one, please post it to our Flickr group! 

Quilting on Wednesday: Using Alternative Stencils and Templates for FMQ

Free motion quilting (or FMQ) is my favorite type of quilting. It’s like drawing on fabric! Very often, I like to create my own templates and stencils. Leaves, flowers, drawings, and internet images are all great sources of inspiration. Recently I finished a quilt for a young couple that had attended the same college and participated on the rowing team. They are now engaged and the girl’s mother had me make a quilt for them using their rowing team tees.I put a lot of effort and time into this quilt, adding things like half square rectangles and half herringbone borders. I also had to figure two different dimensions – one side using her tees and the other side using his. Of course, none of the tees were the same size and most of his had small images for the chest or pocket. I also bound the edges using long strips of blue and orange. This is what happened:

Her Side
His Side

The sun was shining full on that day, so I got show through, but I did use a nice cotton batting between the layers. The quilting on this didn’t settle in my mind until the very last minute. I couldn’t do stitch in the ditch because it wouldn’t look right on the other side. I also didn’t want to do a basic lattice design because I’d done that on the last 3 quilts and was sick of it.

I wanted to do something that represented the waves or ripples in the water when rowing. I also needed a stencil but didn’t want to go to the store to get one, being disappointed when they didn’t have one. I was two days from deadline, so ordering one was out of the question. Printing one out, tracing it, marking with the pounce – all took too long. So I started looking around the house for something to use. I was thinking something like a birthday banner.
Going into my kids’ room, I found an old paddle ball paddle that the ball was detached from. That was it! I traced it out, matching top to top and bottom to bottom, turning it back and forth to get a wave. I spaced it a couple of inches apart, and repeated the marking.
I think it turned out very well and my customer was extremely pleased. There are so many possibilities for making quilting stencils our of everyday household items. I hope this inspires you to come up with some too!

Tuesday Needlework: The difference between crochet and knitting

Have you ever been quietly enjoying your coffee (tea, latte, frappe, insert beverage here) in your favorite coffee shop while working on your current crochet project, dressed in your awesome asymmetrical cardigan and slouchy hat (that YOU made, btw) only to have some person obviously uneducated in needle arts come up and ask you, “What are you knitting?”

As the hair on the back of your neck raises and you feel your blood start to boil, you ever-so-patiently take a sip of your beverage with the cozy on it that YOU crocheted, look up and say, “I’m not knitting. It’s crochet.” And inside your head you’re thinking, “If it was knitting I’d have two needles to jab you with.” Yeah, don’t act like you’ve never thought this a time or two.
I pursue both knitting and crochet because I find they have their purposes for different items. I don’t necessarily like to make clothing such as sweaters from crochet, but that it is great for scarves and hats.It is too bulky for my taste preferences.

Crochet stitches for a hat
Knit stitches for a hat

I have made cardigans and such, but as for sweaters, gloves, and socks I just think the stitches are too big and it looks too “homemade.” Before you string me up, remember, this is just what I feel about it and that I have nothing against homemade. I think knitting has a smoother look and the closer stitches make for a much more appealing fabric for clothing.

However, if you want something done faster, your best choice is crochet. I can work up a crochet piece in half the time it takes me to knit something. This is also because the stitches work up about twice the size of a knit stitch. I think it may have a lot to do with only using one hook as opposed to two needles, too.
So what is the major difference? Well, if you do one or the other you probably already know the answer to this. I’m hoping to reach out and educate those that may not know, and hopefully one day the world will be a much better place when the two are not confused, inciting violence in the mind of an otherwise peaceful needleworker.
If you take the time to notice, crochet is performed using a single needle with a hook on the end of it. The crocheter is usually in a very rhythmic trance with yarn in one hand and a hook in the other. Knitting uses TWO needles. These needles DO NOT have hooks on the end of them, but are rather sharp and pointy. The knitter will also have a rhythm down but it will not be the same as the crocheter’s.

 

 

Interrupting a crocheter usually means you will interrupt their counting. This is not a good thing. If they sigh audibly and visibly start counting stitches with a louder voice (not the voice inside their head) you had better back away slowly and never, ever speak to them again. To repeatedly ask questions is not wise.
The same could be said for a knitter, except that for some reason they have a tendency to use stitch markers more often and once they are sure of their stitch count, rarely have to repeat counting. This is not a guarantee, though. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to mess with or upset someone that can use sharp, pointy objects with obvious skill and grace and how much does she/he really value that yarn they are using? Would they mind a bit of blood?”
If you feel you MUST talk to the knitter or crocheter while they are working, it is best if you sit patiently and watch them work. You may pick up a thing or two in the process. When they stop their hand movements to take a sip of their beverage, it is probably safe to talk to them. Hopefully you are intelligently armed with the correct question of, “What are you knitting/crocheting?” If you get it right, the needleworker is usually more than happy to speak with you about their project.
I hope this has reached someone in time to avoid serious injury. If, however, you are sitting in a hospital bed with puncture wounds and reading this, I hope that at your next encounter you will be better informed. Cheers, and quick healing…

Crafty Monday: Recycle Plastic Thread Spools

The Internet is full of functional and crafty reuses of vintage wooden thread spools. Let’s admit, these things are cool. We certainly don’t want to throw them away because they are vintage. And they don’t make them anymore. Now we have plastic thread spools. But what do we do with them?

I hate throwing them away because they take up room in landfills and leave a horrible carbon footprint. To put it lightly, my 4x great grandchildren could come across a discarded thread spool in the remote future. Hopefully people are still sewing by then and they will know what it is. Or at least have some idea what it is. But it will be in near perfect condition without any signs of disintegration. Wow. Ok, now back to the post. 
So I need to put those things to good use NOW. I was on Pinterest the other day (surprise, surprise) and came across a post where someone was selling fabric covered vintage wooden spools. I thought, now why can’t I make something like this with the plastic ones? And how would I do it? 
Answer: Decoupage. 
I really love decoupage. It’s quick and always turns out great. Well, almost always. 
So here’s what I did: 
Materials: 
scrap of fabric (hey! great way to use up scraps too!)
Mod Podge or something homemade
scissors
thread spool
foam brush or paint brush

Directions: 

  1. Measure the inside distance of your spool. Mine was about 1 1/8 
  2. Cut a piece of fabric the width of the spool
  3. Wrap the fabric around the spool and trim so that it overlaps by about 1/2″. You could also wrap a fabric tape around the middle making sure it overlaps and cut your fabric to that size. 
  4. Using the foam brush, apply Mod Podge to the spool
  5. Smooth your fabric over the top of the Mod Podge and pull it around. Apply a little more Mod Podge where the strip overlaps to secure it down. 
  6. You can choose to let it dry or go ahead and cover the fabric with another layer of Mod Podge. I just did mine, because I’m not real patient. 
  7. Let everything dry for a few hours. 
  8. Go back, marvel at your new creation, and then use it as a decoration is your sewing room. Hang it from some jute cording or ribbon to make a banner. 

I only had the one to use, because sadly I have been throwing mine out. Now that I see their potential, I’m thinking of other uses for them. Like wrapping unused elastics around them and securing with a pin. Ribbon, binding, cording, piping, and so many other things that end up scattered around in piles or boxes could also be wrapped onto these. They make adorable decorations, too. As a quilter, I generally have many empty thread spools at the end of a quilt. You could also Krylon paint the spools to make them look more like wood or any color you want before adding the fabric. You could use scrapbook paper instead of fabric! The possibilities are unlimited. 
If you make something, would you please consider uploading it to our Flickr group? I’d love to see your creations, as I’m sure many others would too! 

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