February 2012

Wool Diaper Covers from Sweaters

Nothing says thrifty like making your own diapers, and wool is hands-down one of the best diaper cover materials out there.  If you are handy with knitting needles, you can make your own wool soaker, but you can skip all the work and make your own out of old wool sweaters.  They look great, can come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and cost next to nothing if you get your sweaters from the thrift store.

What Is "Crimp" In Fiber?

And what's it good for?
When you start reading about fiber types and the specific characteristics of wool, you may run across the term "crimp." Crimp (like scales) is a physical trait of a fiber, from which many of the fiber's characteristics are derived.
If you have a dog or cat, you may have noticed that some of the hairs in their winter undercoat are zig-zag shaped. Alternatively, you may recall the fad for using crimping irons to get the same effect in people hair during the 1980s! These zig-zags are called the "crimp" in fiber, and they have three main effects on the yarn it creates:
1. Bounce
Imagine a length of wire. Now bend it into zig-zags. Now imagine tugging on one end. When you let go, it bounces back - like a flattened spring. The same thing is true of wool fibers.

Tie Dye Shamrock Craft

When my kids were younger, I used to have them make tie dye shapes that coordinated with the upcoming holiday. One of the shapes we use to make was a tie dye shamrock for celebrating St. Patrick‘s Day. They were always a big hit. Of course, once my girls reached the age of 10, they wanted to move on to something a bit more exciting (age appropriate).

You will need the following items to make your tie dye shamrock:
  • Newspaper
  • Coffee filters
  • An iron
  • Scissors
  • Food coloring
  • Water
  • An eye dropper

The Ravelry Library Page

A stealth feature that's incredibly useful


Although I have spent a lot of time on most of the other Ravelry areas (like the Stash and Projects pages) I had completely ignored the Library page until earlier this week. But then a friend told me that when you add a book or magazine to your library on Ravelry, it automatically knows all the patterns in that book, and adds them to a separate tally.
There are four really great things about this:
1. It knows what you have
When you're browsing Ravelry patterns, it will tell you if you already have that pattern. This may sound a little silly to some people. But those people don't have a metric shed-load of knitting pattern books. I can tell you that I don't even have that many knitting books, but last year I managed to forget that I had one particular book, and shelled out five bucks to buy a PDF copy of a pattern that I already own.

KnitPicks Options Interchangeable Knitting Needles

I love Addi Turbos, but I can’t afford to buy each size I need.  They are so smooth and quick to knit with though, that it’s a treat to my fingers to use them.  I also like to switch projects frequently, so having a wide assortment of sizes is an absolutely necessity.  Enter KnitPicks Options. These needles are like the perfect combination of Addi Turbos and Denise Interchangeables, but even better.  You can change your needles out with a quick screw in or out, and you get the benefit of the speedy quickness of metal needles.

Plying With A Drop Spindle

Practice makes perfect! Or "better," anyway.
Once you have finished spinning up a bunch of yarn on your drop spindle, there is still one more step before it becomes yarn: plying. 
The basics of plying yarn are simple: you just take two or more strands of yarn, and twist them together in the opposite direction that they were spun. So for example if you spun your drop spindle clockwise to make your singles, you would need to spin it counter-clockwise to ply them together. (This is a pretty important bit!)
But the practicalities of plying can quickly become a tangled mess. Many sources advise beginners to start with the "Andean Bracelet" technique. This is basically a way to create a loose center-pull ball that happens to fit over your wrist. You ply from the first and last ends, and run the yarn off your wrist and through your fingers to adjust the tension and feed the yarn out.

St. Patrick’s Day Wreath for Kids

My sister loves to decorate her house for each and every holiday. She passed this love on to her children, who decorate their bedrooms instead of the whole house. One craft I suggested they make is a St. Patrick’s Day Wreath. The wreath can be hung from a bedroom window, or outside the bedroom door.

You will need the following items to make your wreath:

  • Paper plate
  • Construction paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Hole Puncher
  • Yarn

Getting Started with Colored Pencils

Pencils are a Flexible Drawing Medium

Colored pencils aren’t every artist’s cup of tea, but they can produce beautiful results in the right hands. They come in a variety of composites - from soft or waxy to hard - so you can mix and match to achieve just the right levels of color on paper. Over the years, I’ve collected several brands and types as each has different qualities. Also, I like to “layer” when working on illustration projects, which means I lay down a base of watercolors, then add greater definition with colored pencils.

Enjoy Craft Blogs

We all like things that are free. Free is good.  Free means no money taken out of my wallet.  If you live far away from a major urban center or simply do not have a lot of time to spend on art and craft classes, the blogs of your favorite artists can be a great way to learn new techniques and organizational tips as well as become inspired.

Woolen Vs. Worsted Spun Yarn

The nitty gritty of yarn classifications!
I'll be honest with you: no matter how much I read on the topic, I still get a little confused about "woolen" versus "worsted" spun yarns. The difference is not particularly relevant to knitters, but it becomes a very big deal if you (like me) begin learning how to spin your own yarn.
To make things more confusing, this is not "woolen" as in "made of fibers from a sheep." Nor is it "worsted" as in "worsted weight yarn." In the context of spinning, there are secondary definitions of both woolen and worsted - definitions that you are not likely to have encountered before you start learning to spin.

DIY Clock Ideas

I came across a clock tutorial on Pinterest, and can’t wait to try it out myself.  Who would have thought that a simple paper plate could look so sleek with a couple of simple hands on it?  I have never ventured into that world, but I guess I didn’t know you could make a clock so easily, either.  This opens up so many possibilities!  So many things can be made into clocks, it will be fun to experiment. 

St. Patrick’s Day Pot of Gold Craft

Now that I have my Valentine’s Day crafts all planned out, it is time to turn my attention to St. Patrick’s Day. I like to plan these activities ahead of time because I homeschool my oldest daughter. I enjoy adding a few crafts into her lesson plans, and she enjoys the break from her book work.

The first craft I plan to make with my daughter is a pot of gold. This craft reuses an old flower pot and makes for a perfect gift for a parent, teacher, or friend.

Tile Coasters

Thanks to my newfound addiction to Pinterest, I discovered this nifty tutorial on making tile coasters.  These little guys are great to make for gifts – think housewarming or wedding gift – and can be customized to match any décor you can think of.

Dipping into the Ink Well

Old-Fashioned Techniques to Create New Works

Leaving the modern world behind in drawing and illustration means putting down those cartridges and re-discovering bottle inks. Used with dipping nibs, they can either bring flair to your work, or become your greatest nightmare with a single spill. Being creative is fraught with danger! But if you dare to dip a steel-tipped nib in a bottle, you may soon discover the outright joys as well.

Adding Your Own Touches To (Someone Else's) Pattern

As you become more proficient, you start picking up little tricks to improve projects
Over the weekend I knit up a quick pair of fingerless mitts. The pattern couldn't be simpler - just knit in K2P2 ribbing for the arm, make a four-stitch buttonhole for the thumb, then K2P2 ribbing for the palm and bind off. This is a great pattern for novice knitters! And as you become a better knitter, you start finding your own little nice touches to add when you knit something.
One of my favorite things to do is add a selvedge edge to a scarf. I like a slipped-stitch edging, which gives any scarf pattern a nice, finished look. Just add 2 stitches to the stitch count. Slip the first stitch of every row purlwise with yarn in front (WYIF) and knit the last stitch of every row. Presto: a lovely detail that is simple to add.

Fiber For The Beginning Spinner

Coarser wool fibers (like Romney and Corriedale) are best for the novice spinner
If you are just learning how to hand-spin yarn, your best bet is to find a yarn store with knowledgeable staff, and ask them to help you choose a roving that is suited to your skill level. Not all yarn stores stock roving, but those that do will usually stock at least one kind of fiber which is good for beginners.
If you are ordering online, look for phrases like "easy to draft" and "suitable for beginners." And if you aren't sure, just ask! My experience is that people who sell fiber - whether online or at a bricks-and-mortar store - are incredibly kind and helpful, particularly when it comes to newbie spinners.