March 2012

Drop Spindle Problems: The Answer Is Probably "More Twist"

Let's do the twist! Like we... oh, sorry. Gets stuck in my head.


I am far from being a master of the drop spindle. But I recently got to the point where I am finally feeling pretty good about the yarn I produce. Out of many problems I was having, it turns out that several of them could be solved by adding more twist. 
In fact, "add more twist" is apparently an all-purpose fix-it for hand spinning with a drop spindle. This is NOT the case when you are spinning with a wheel, because it is much easier to over-twist on a spinning wheel. But with a drop spindle, you can go a long way before you really get over-spun.

Create an edible bird’s nest for spring

Fun kitchen crafts for kids

Craft projects don't always involve paper, scissors and glue. Sometimes I like to construct something that reminds my children of the change of seasons with food items, such as the recent arrival of spring. My daughters think that it's just as fun to do this, plus they get the joy of eating the craft afterward.

To make an edible bird’s nest you will need the following items:

  • Paper plates
  • Graham crackers
  • Coconut flakes
  • Food coloring
  • Vanilla frosting
  • Egg shaped candies

Buying Yarn at Discount Stores

More ways to get cheap yarn!
In addition to signing up to receive the famous Joann's "50% off" coupon and haunting yarn discounters like and WEBS, there is another resource for cheap yarn: discount stores. These stores only sell yarn as an afterthought, and the supplies are usually inconsistent at best. 
Your best strategy here is that if you see something you want, you should buy it. You can't count on it being at another store, or even being at this store tomorrow. And you may literally never see it at this store again.

Bristol Board is a Heavyweight for Artwork

A versatile choice for many art mediums

You might think that thicker paper for illustrations is a no-brainer, but it’s not. Bristol board can accept a variety of mediums, but it also comes in a variety of “finishes.” This heavyweight can handle pencil, pen and ink, colored markers and even acrylics. Premium archival finishes are also ready for more permanent works.

Bristol board is a multi-ply sheet comprised of paper. It’s a bit different from illustration board, which can be made of cotton fibers. Also, Bristol allows for illustrations on both sides of the sheet, which is ideal for beginning artists.

Fake Flower Centerpiece Craft for Kids

I love floral centerpieces, but I am highly allergic to flowers. For this reason I encourage my kids to create centerpieces with fake flowers. They have so much fun creating them. I still let them pick outdoor flowers, but they must keep them in a vase on the porch.

You will need the following items to make your centerpiece:
  • A Styrofoam cup
  • Floral foam
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Markers

Piggy Bank Craft for Kids

I hate paying money for things my girls and I can make ourselves. Once they became old enough to start saving money to make their own purchases, I decided to help them make their own piggy banks. Not only is this craft easy enough for younger children to complete, but it is a great deal of fun as well.

You will need the following items to make your piggy bank:
  • 2-liter soda bottle
  • Tempera paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Large push-pins
  • Construction paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Pipe cleaner

The Afghan Pattern Selection Process

Knit one big thing, or many little things?
At some point in your career as a knitter, you will probably find yourself with the urge to knit an afghan. (You may curse your inability to crochet. After all, crochet works so well for afghans! But fear not; knitting an afghan is a perfectly normal thing to do.) But how to choose which pattern?
One way to start the decision process is to decide if you want to knit the whole thing at once, or do you want to knit a bunch of smaller pieces and turn them into an afghan at the end?

Watercolor Paint Trays

Basic Accessories for Artists

When it comes to watercolors, artists will need paint trays for adding water and for mixing. These are small to medium sized and are available in metal and plastic. Some watercolor sets come with trays, but it’s always nice to have extras for an expanded palette.

The best thing about having separate trays is you can place them anywhere. If they’re built in to larger boxed sets, they may be awkward to reach. Lightweight plastics are the easiest to clean and are also great for holding inks. In a range of sizes, they’re inexpensive so you can select several. Metal trays aren’t quite as easy to clean, but they offer a sturdier base. Rounds with a center mixing surface are nice, too.

Knitting With Cotton Yarn

Cotton yarn is great, if you choose the right project!
When the weather heats up - or even if you just want a change from "the usual" - cotton yarn provides an interesting knitting experience. Many knitters will attempt to swap in a cotton yarn for a pattern that calls for a wool yarn, but without using the appropriate precautions and judgment, this can make for a real disaster.
Cotton has a lot of great qualities. For one thing, it is endlessly durable in the laundry machines. Unlike superwash wool, which even though you CAN wash it in the machine, my experience is that if you wash it very often, or in hot water, it will felt and pill like crazy. 

Get the Lead Out with Mechanical Pencils

Specialty Tools for Realistic Drawings

Pencil drawings are among my favorite to produce. They may be a bit old-fashioned, but working from photos that I’ve taken, they offer wonderful realism. Mechanical pencils are generally used for traditional drafting, but smaller sizes are the preferred choice for detailed drawings. Also, a variety of leads is needed to create different types of illustrations or works of art.

They Didn't Used to Be Called Crafts

As I was thinking about topics for this blog the other day, I started thinking about all of the crafts that people like to do these days, and how much money we collectively sink into supplies for these so-called craft projects.  The very things we eagerly look forward to doing in our free time used to be common practice in every household.  In a time that seems so disconnected from today, people used to knit their own socks, crochet doilies to be included in valuable dowries, and sew their own clothes from start to finish.  A jeweler was a skilled tradesman, and scrapbooks weren’t called scrapbooks – they were stories.

2012 Trends in Scrapbooking and Stamping, Part Two

As stated in my previous post, I have no insider knowledge of the scrapbooking and rubberstamping industry, but it is fun to speculate on what trends will continue to be hot and will take off this year.  Please note that references and links to products, websites and online stores in no way represents an endorsement of them. I am not affiliated with the products, websites or artists mentioned in the article.

Homemade Bird Feeder for Kids

Today the sun was shining, the birds were singing a sweet song, and the air seemed warm enough to be considered spring time. It got me thinking about the crafts I have completed with my daughter in the past. One of them was a homemade bird feeder made out of pine cones that we had saved from the previous fall. I thought it might be a fun project that you could plan on completing with your child.

Getting Smells Out Of Yarn

Just how badly do you really want that yarn?
One of the questions that always seems to pop up on knitting forums is, "How do I get this smell out of my yarn?" A lot of people seem to end up with smelly yarn, whether it's a gift from your great aunt's musty basement, or an unwise eBay purchase that reeks of cigarette smoke. 
The first thing you have to do is weigh how much you want the yarn, how bad it smells, how much the smell bothers you, how much the yarn is worth to you, and how much time and effort you are willing to expend on it. For a lot of the cases I see online, my personal opinion is that it's not worth it and they should probably just chuck that yarn in the trash. (Why not take it to a thrift store? Because it hardly seems fair to dump stinky yarn on the unsuspecting populace.)

St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Craft

I love creating decorations with my two daughters to celebrate each holiday as it comes along. This year, I’m going to have the girls each make their own handprint rainbow craft. Not only is this something that a child of any age can make, but parents can also save the completed craft as a keepsake. Children will love looking at how small their hands were years later.

First, you’ll need to make sure your children are dressed in old clothing. I don’t know any child I would trust to stay completely clean around paint. You can then cover your workspace area with plenty of newspaper sheets.