January 2012

Spinning With A Drop Spindle

Make your own yarn! Break the bonds of the industrial knitting complex! (Kidding!)
Over the weekend, I took a two-hour course on how to spin yarn with a drop spindle. It was a shock, to be so bad at something involving fiber. It's good to learn new things, if only to shake yourself out of your complacency!
The drop spindle is how yarn was originally made. This device is literally ancient, as ancient as the sheep itself. (Sheep are a domesticated animal, a creation of humanity. In every meaningful sense, there is no such thing as a "wild sheep" in the same way there is no such thing as a "wild chihuaha.")

DIY: Valentine’s Day Wreath

A crafty way to keep kids busy.

My daughter loves to celebrate just about every holiday because it means she gets to make some sort of craft. One Valentine’s Day we decided to make wreaths. This craft is of the paper heart wreath that she made. I made mine out of wire, but felt this was safer for children under the age of 12.

First, give each child a large paper plate and a pair of scissors. Instruct the kids to cut the center of the paper plate out (there should be a natural indent that they can follow). You will now have the frame for the wreath.

Craft for Charity

If you love to craft but are beginning to get overwhelmed with finished projects, one way to fulfill your crafting desires and keep your home free from craft clutter is to craft for charity.  It doesn’t matter what type of craft you do; you can find a way to use it to help a charity.

Make Room for Manga Supplies

This popular style is great for budding artists

Teens and adults just getting into illustration may find manga style is more fun. It’s a casual and humorous look that is less intimidating than, say, architectural renderings or detailed landscapes. With a variety of drawing supplies and some instruction, a new artist can quickly develop a set of skills following a format that still allows room for your own sense of style.

Valentine’s Day Locket Craft

It won’t be long before Valentine’s Day arrives, so my daughters and I are preparing with a few fun crafts. This week we are going to make a Valentine’s Day locket. The craft is very inexpensive, and a great way to recycle old bottle caps. As a parent or teacher, you may even want to work in a lesson on the importance of reusing items when possible.

Take two bottle caps for each child that will be creating their own Valentine’s Day locket, and place them on a sheet of newspaper. You should do this outside if possible. Give each bottle cap a coating of pink spray paint. Set them aside until they have dried completely.

Colored Marker Brands Do Make a Difference

Hundreds of Choices for Pros and Hobbyists

Markers separate into two groups: children’s and professional. For the kids’ group, you’ll find inexpensive sets from brands that include Crayola while the more expensive choices include Pentel, Prismacolor, Prang, Bienfang, Copic and Chartpak selections. They’re pricy, but they’re essential for illustrations of any type.

Professional colored markers are available as singles or in boxed sets. You’ll find many of them grouped according to style or within a certain color range.

Make Your Own Household Items

When we have a need in our home, it is so easy to make a quick jaunt to the nearest big box store to get whatever it is on our list.  This is certainly quick and convenient, but most of the time, mass-produced items just lack that character and unique appeal many of us are looking for in our homes.  For that reason, sometimes it is better just to make your own household items.  Making your own is also a great opportunity to give your kids craft projects too.

When The Knitting's Over: Weaving In Ends

Doing it right can make a huge difference in your finished item
I have heard of knitters out there who don't dread having to weave in ends, but I have never met one myself. Weaving in the ends is one of those final finishing tasks that seems incredibly arduous when you're facing it, even though it really isn't that big a deal in the grand scheme of things!
The problem is worse if you have a project with a lot of stripes or colorwork. Last year I knit a chullo hat and ended up with 172 ends to weave in and clip! (Yes, I counted.) 
Option 1: Don't weave them in
In a situation like that chullo hat, a lot of people opt to simply… not weave in the ends! With some colorwork projects, particularly those involving steeks or seams, you can sometimes get away with just clipping all the ends short. Lucky knitters may be able to hide the fringe of ends under a placket or button band.

Valentine’s Day Mailboxes for the Classroom

I remember the days in grammar school when every student brought in a Valentine card for every other student. Handing them out created a bit of chaos in the classroom. Now that my daughter is grammar school age, the teachers utilize a nifty mailbox craft to keep everything organized.

There are several ways that the students can make their own mailbox, but I’m going to just focus on two of them-the shoebox method and the cereal box method.

Organizing a Jumble of Art Supplies

Eliminate Clutter in the Studio or Hobby Area

If you're a member of a multi-artist family, you already know the challenges of organizing and storage. Even if you're the only one who paints, draws, sculpts, or engages in any artful activity, the clutter of supplies can quickly get out of hand.

I'm lucky enough to have a studio with a dedicated closet, but even that's not enough to keep all those small items, including brushes, pens, pencil leads, and other items easy to find. That requires my multi-drawer treasure chest. It's small, yet can pack in a load of stuff. It doesn't require much space, either.

You may have already spent a fortune on tools and it's just as easy to spend gobs of cash for organizers. Head straight to a hobby and art store and you'll find the latest in boxes, baskets, and totes.

However, there are a few ways to save money while still keeping all your gear in one easily accessible place.

"Why Do I Need A Yarn Scale?"

A surprisingly handy tool for knitters!
My yarn scale recently died on me, and it has really brought home how useful this tool really is! I resisted buying one for years, but I finally had to pick one up for a specific project I got involved with, with a friend. Once I had it, I found all kinds of uses for it.
I bought a model which was small, pocket-sized, extremely precise in small measurements, and with a fold-away display. I'm pretty sure the scale is made for drug dealers. I would be a little nervous if I got caught with it by the cops, because I bet it would take some explaining if they dug it out of my purse.

Five-Minute Nursing Pads

I’ve said it before, but I simply cannot stand to buy something that will be used once and thrown away.  It nags at my anti-waste sensibilities so much that I will obsess over it.  So with a new baby on the way, I got to thinking about those boxes of disposable nursing pads and knew I had to do something to avoid using them.  With a few minutes of research online, I undertook perhaps the easiest sewing project I have ever completed – making my own nursing pads.

Homemade Valentine’s Day Cards for Your Classmates

My daughter doesn’t have a big class, so creating homemade cards for each of the other eight students on Valentine’s Day is doable. It not only saves us money from having to purchase store-bought Valentine’s Day cards, but it also ensures that my daughter’s cards will be unique.

Start off allowing your child to choose a sheet of construction paper in the color of her choice. For Valentine’s Day, however, you may want to stick to shades of red and pink. I have my daughter cut each sheet in half so that one piece of paper makes two cards. That means she needs four sheets total to create cards for her class.

Fold each of the half sheets to form a card. You can make the card open on the side, or from bottom to top just by the way you position the card in front of you. Now it’s time to decorate the outside of the card with the words “Happy Valentine’s Day.” Your child can also place the name of the student who will be receiving the card underneath of these words. The words can be painted on, colored on, or stuck on with letter stickers.

My New Favorite Tubular Cast-On

It's not as complicated as it sounds


There are a ton - seriousluy, a ton - of different cast on methods. There are even a fat handful of different kinds of tubular cast-ons. But I recently found one which strikes me as both innovative and convenient. I don't know where it originally hails from, or if it has its own technical name. I encountered it in the pattern for the Grace Lace Beret, so I call it the "Grace Lace cast-on." (If you know if it has a different name or source, leave me a note in the comments!)
The traditional tubular cast on gives you a nice, professional finished edge on something. Ideally you will use it to lead into 1x1 ribbing, since that is what it melds best with. In the traditional tubular cast on you cast on about 2/3rds the final number of stitches, knit three rounds in stockinette, increase to the right number of stitches, and knit together with the cast on edge. This creates the eponymous tube, which makes a lovely and flexible rounded edge.

Macaroni Necklace Craft for Kids

Boxes of pasta are fairly inexpensive to purchase, and can accommodate a number of children at once when used for craft purposes. Creating macaroni necklaces is one activity I am happy to allow my daughter and her friends to participate in when they get together, since I know it won’t hurt my pocketbook.

The first thing you should do is cover your table with sheets of newspaper. This will protect the surface from the paint the kids will be using. Next, you should issue some type of smock to each child. It would be a miracle if the kids got through the entire project without getting paint on themselves, so it is just best to be prepared.