July 2012

Celebrate National Watermelon Day with this watermelon craft

According to A Kids Heart.com, August 3 is National Watermelon Day. I can't think of a more deserving fruit to get its own day during a hot summer month. Watermelons bring back fond memories of sitting out on my aunt's porch with my siblings and my cousins seeing who could spit the watermelon seeds the farthest. I don't advocate kids spitting watermelon seeds all over. Instead, you can lead them through a watermelon craft.

Materials needed:

1 sheet of white construction paper
Red paint
Paintbrush
Green felt
Scissors
Glue
Black felt

Knitting Doilies: Dumb Thing, Or The Dumbest Thing?

"I was only dimly aware that you could knit a doily in the first place."

 

I kid because I love. This week as I browsed the rules book (called a Premium Book) for my local county fair's hand-knit section, I despaired. The rules-makers have seen fit to toss all manner of desirable items into the same bucket, which means that hats, gloves, mittens, shawls, scarves, and anything else deemed an "accessory" are all competing against one another. Norwegian stranded mittens versus Estonian lace shawls. Colorwork tams versus laceweight cabled gloves. What a nightmare.
 
Obviously the winning strategy is to pick a category that few other knitters will be submitting works for. Level the playing field. I browsed the other categories and my eye fell on "Doilies." 

The Summer Airing of the Yarn Stash

"You will be surprised at the yarn you find which you had forgotten!"
 
Every summer in the Pacific Northwest we get at least one week of decent, if not downright hot (meaning 85-90 degree) weather. I look forward to it for the annual Airing of the Stash. This has become one of my knitting rituals, and I plan ahead for it every year. 
 
It requires at least one full day of sunny weather where I will ideally have at least the entire afternoon free, if not the whole day. I make sure I have gone grocery shopping ahead of time, with something easy to prepare for lunch and dinner. And cold beverages are a must. In past years I have had yarn to photograph to update my Ravelry stash, so I needed to have my camera charged and ready. (This year I have been a lot better about photographing yarn before it goes into the stash.)

Why do animators always get knitting wrong?

Knitters don't hold their needles like pencils!

Why is it that any time a character is knitting on screen, they are always doing it wrong? Is it so hard to look up "knitting" on YouTube or Google Images?

It's one thing when it is a live action commercial or movie. I can't count the number of times I have seen a character supposedly knitting who is actually just stabbing at a finished afghan with a crochet hook. But I understand that knitting is a complex physical action, and you can't necessarily teach an actor how to do it right in a few minutes. 
 
Remember how slowly and awkwardly you knit, the first few times after you initially learned how? No one wants to see that on screen. And it's not like horseback riding or jumping from an airplane, where you can just cut to a stunt knitter for key scenes. 
 
But animation! Animation is different. An animated work can show you anything you want, without silly limits like the ability of a human to learn how to perform a complex series of actions with their hands. Furthermore, someone (or more likely a team of overpaid, underworked someones) had to meticulously draw every single frame of that bad fake knitting. 

Identifying mystery yarn

I love a challenge! If you have ever bought a bag of mixed yarn bits off eBay or Craigslist, found a box of intriguing yarn in a relative's attic, or been handed a sack of random yarn as a gift, you will have eventually found yourself faced with the question of identifying it. What IS this stuff, and what can I do with it?

The first step towards identifying mystery yarn is making a detailed examination:
  • Snip off a few inches and pluck at it: how many plies does it have? 
  • Does it have a "halo" of longer, finer fibers that haze off of it? 
  • What kind of texture does it have - is it smooth and shiny like an artificial fiber, or rough and grippy like a classic Shetland wool? 
  • Is it a novelty yarn with odd bits of texture, or a thick-and-thin sort of yarn that might have been hand-spun?
  • Is the yarn in a hank, a skein, a center-pull ball, or was it hand-wound into a cake or ball?
  • Take a good long sniff. What does it smell like? (Don't laugh! There are 100% wool yarns that smell so much of lanolin, you might think you were smelling a sheep itself. On the other hand, a 100% acrylic yarn will probably smell like nothing at all.)

Knitting mitered corners

I am currently working on a Rambling Rows afghan, which is knit up of squares and rectangles made from mitered corners. I love a good bit of mitered knitting! It can be used to create fascinating effects, seamless afghans, interesting stripes, and is easy to knit to boot.

A "mitered corner" is a fold where the two halves meet at a perfect 45 degree angle. Imagine the way two sides of a picture frame meet at a corner. This pleasing geometry is easy to achieve in knitting. It looks best in garter stitch, both because the garter stitch rows show off the corner to its best advantage, and because the garter stitch helps to hide some of the imperfections that can otherwise come from the decreases. However, there are plenty of examples of wonderful mitered corners knit in stockinette, as well!

Summer fan craft

I love to take advantage of the many summer crafts that my kids can take part in, such as kites, wind chimes and butterflies, but this heat wave left me with only one craft on my mind: a fan. Staying cool is tough when it remains above 90 degrees for a long period of time. The air conditioning units in my house don't get it as cool as a central air system would. A homemade fan surely couldn't hurt.

You will need the following items to make your fan:

  • Scrapbook paper
  • Stapler
  • Colored duct tape

Palate-cleansing knitting projects

Sometimes when you are working on a lot of big projects, it's nice to stop and take a break to knit a small project. It gives you that dose of "completed item" that can be so rewarding. I also like to do this in between larger projects, for the same reason. Knock out a few little things, just to keep the juices flowing, so to speak.

Dishcloths are one of my "go-to" palate cleanser projects. The simplest dishcloth is simplicity itself: using dishcloth cotton and the right needle for gauge (for me it's a #3 but for most people it's a #5) cast on about sixty stitches. Knit in garter stitch (knit every stitch) until the item is square - about 80 or 90 rows.
 
A simple dishcloth is also a great palate cleanser because it is so mindless. This is valuable if you are working on really complicated projects. It's nice to be able to relax into a project without charts or line-by-line instructions. Just let your hands knit away, and poof: you've got yourself a dishcloth!

The finer points of picking up stitches

Picking up stitches is one of those things that almost all knitting patterns assume you already know how to do. Most of them will just say "Pick up N stitches" (where N is whatever number the pattern requires). I know that I was frustrated by this instruction when I was a beginning knitter, and I know that I am not alone in that!

One common misperception is that there is a difference between "pick up and knit" and "pick up stitches." Many new knitters think that "pick up stitches" means that you stick your needle through the existing fabric, and that "pick up and knit" means that you stick your needle through the fabric AND make new loops. But this is not the case. Both of these phrases refer to the same thing: you stick your right-hand needle through the fabric, loop yarn around it, and pull it back through to create a new stitch.

Jazz up your summer flip flops

In my house, no one wears shoes during the summer months. We all wear flip flops. We even have fancier flip flops for church. After strolling through Michael's (the craft store), I got a few ideas on how we can jazz up our flip flops. My oldest daughter loved the idea. She is the one that insists on wearing unique items. She's my little fashionista.

Fabric

Most craft shops also sell fabric, but you can certainly pick up cheap fabric from a thrift store. There are several ways you can use fabric to jazz up your flip flops. You can cut it to fit the top surface of your flip flops, or you can cut strips to fit over the straps of the flip flops.

Attach the fabric with a hot glue gun, or use a non-toxic adhesive for a more permanent solution. Make sure you wait for the glue or adhesive to dry before wearing the flip flops.