September 2012

Make your own place mats for kids

Keep messes from spilling onto the dinner table

Kids are more likely to use something that they created themselves. Since my girls can get messy at times, I thought it would be fun if they worked on making place mats for the dinner table.

First, give each child a rectangular piece of poster board. If you buy one large sheet, you can cut out four rectangles to make four place mats.

Second, supply your children with markers, magazines, stickers, scissors, stampers and glue. Ask your kids to write their names in the center of the place mat. They can do this with block letter, bubble letters, or in cursive.

Yarn substitution: Doing the math

It's not very complicated, I promise.

For reasons that don't concern us at this juncture, I recently found myself in possession of a truly ridiculous amount of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport. Eight extra skeins - eight!

Naturally, none of the projects I want to knit call for this yarn. And none of the projects that people have used this yarn for on Ravelry are exciting me. Being a stubborn sort of person, I want to do the project that I want, in the yarn that I want, end of story. Luckily, it's not too hard.

Find the best craft show for your work

Three tips for locating the best craft shows

Selling at craft shows used to be the only way to get your crocheted items or crafts out for people to see and buy. Even now, this is a great outlet for you to sell your products at, but here are three things you need to look for to ensure you have selected the proper craft show to sell your products at. 

The first thing you need to look at is if the craft show is stand-alone or in conjunction with another activity. I have found the craft shows which are in conjunction with other activities often have the most traffic. So you do not have to be worried about your items sitting on your table and not being looked at or even sold. 

Fall coaster craft for kids

Kids are more likely to use coasters that they create themselves.

Kids love crafts. I started having my kids create their own coasters so they'd start using them. The craft is so easy to do that the girls can make a new set with each season.

You will need the following items to make the fall coasters:

  • Newspapers
  • Smocks
  • 2 c. baking soda
  • 1 c. cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wax paper
  • Large circular cookie cutter
  • Leaves
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush

Fall wreath craft

A fun nature craft for kids

Celebrate this upcoming fall season by using nature to create a craft. This is an excellent project for adults to do with their children. My girls love to work on seasonal projects and proudly display them around the house. Gets them off of their electronic devices so that they can focus on nature, which I feel is important in  this age of technology.

Start by taking a nature walk. Bring a bucket so you have somewhere to put the items you collect. You want to look for leaves of different shapes an colors, acorns, and even little holly berries.

Next, cut the center out of a paper plate. This gives you the base of a wreath. You can always purchase the base for a wreath at a craft store that is larger than a paper plate, but my kids don't seem to care about size so I stick with the paper plate.

Knitting an afghan: The long-haul project

I have learned some things along the way.

Have you ever been tempted to knit an afghan? If you are a knitter, I would be willing to bet that you have at least toyed with the idea. After all, knitting is warm! So are afghans! On the face of it, it seems like a match made in heaven. And it is… if someone else knits the darned thing.

Here is the truth: have you ever been halfway through a scarf and gotten cataclysmically bored with it? As in, "If I knit one more stitch on this thing and it isn't done, I will kill myself"? Sure you have. That is why so many knitters walk around wearing scarves that are only two feet long and calling it "a tuck-in."
 
Allow me to blow your mind: an average size afghan is basically like knitting at least eight scarves, one after the other. Maybe more. 
 
I have been working on a knit afghan since July 4th. I am almost done with it. I started it in summer, and it will be well into fall by the time it is finished. And I have devoted my full knitting attention to it. That's not a half-hearted, "I'll work on it tomorrow" knitting rate. I have been giving it my all. And over two months later, it's still not done!

Christmas tree cones

Edible Christmas tree craft

Christmas is coming quick. I already started my Christmas shopping. While I was in search of a few crafts to do with my girls this year, I came across a great idea to turn waffle cones into Christmas trees. There are so many ways to make the Christmas tree unique, which allows the kids to express their creativity. The best part about this craft is that it can be eaten once your finished.

You will need the following items to make your Christmas tree cones:

  • Wax paper
  • Waffle cones
  • White icing
  • Green food coloring
  • Yellow food coloring
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Coconut flakes
  • Skittles

How do you evaluate knitting advice?

Dig out the underlying meaning before you decide.

There is so much advice out there for knitters of every skill level. No matter what project you are working on, some helpful knitter is ready and waiting to give you advice on how to do it better. (Myself included!) But how do you evaluate this advice? How can you know if it's right for you? Much less true?

I started thinking about this when a knitter asked one of the main Ravelry boards about the advice to "knit a top-down sweater, so that you can try it on as you go." Her question was, does this even work? Because if you are knitting in a natural fiber, most of them will change size slightly when they are washed and blocked. How disappointing it would be to knit a top-down sweater, trying it on every few inches to check the fit, only to have the whole thing swell three sizes the first time you wash it.
 
And then there is the issue of weight. Depending on the fiber you use, the longer and larger your sweater, the more likely it will be to stretch itself out as you wear it. Use your own measurements as a guide, and you could find yourself donning a sweater in the morning, and taking off a mini-dress at night.
 
My own puzzlement as a new knitter was over similar advice for toe-up socks. "You can try them on as you go." I found this advice utterly confounding. You can try on top-down socks, too! I have done it many times.

Felt Mr. Potato Head Craft

A great toy for preschoolers

One of my kids' favorite toys when they were young was a Mr. Potato Head. I still remember when my mother bought me one. Mr. Potato Head has not declined in popularity over the years. If your children enjoy playing with this toy, you may want to make a felt version. The felt version is perfect for preschoolers who are learning their body parts.

You will need the following items:

  • Felt in a variety of colors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • Velcro

Follow these steps to make your felt Mr. Potato Head:

Draw what you see

Or don't...

Once upon a time, I had an art teacher whose passive aggressiveness rivaled very few people in my life. She was incredibly supportive one moment—while threatening me with insubordination the next. I’m pretty sure she was on drugs, as she was often pretty out of it. She even had me grade subjective art projects for her, which, as a fellow teacher today, I would never have approved of.

Anyhow, I loved to draw comic book characters at the time; I still do. But while she praised my art, she doubly condemned it, telling me I had to draw real things or else I’d never be an artist, never even be able to take such classes in high school. Can you believe this BS?

She also told me to only draw what you see, which is good advice—if you’re drawing a portrait or a still life. If you’re being creative at all, it’s terrible advice! What you see when you create new things are only in your mind’s eye, a place where you can only “see,” and not visually see—you see?

I started to tell my daughter to draw what she sees the other day, then stopped myself, knowing that I never took an art class again after that teacher. I wonder how my life might be different today had I chosen another path—the one I had originally wanted?

Alpaca yarn for craft projects

Is Alpaca yarn the best variety?

Looking for the best yarn to use for crocheting or knitting can be a good thing. The problem crafters may encounter is the best yarn often is hard to locate. This is when they need to have information on why Alpaca yarn is the best yarn for them to use for getting their crafts completed. 

The main thing people will find about this yarn is everyone comments on how soft this yarn is. Typically yarn is soft, but it has some rough spots. With the Alpaca yarn, the roughness is removed and the products people produce with the yarn will remain smooth no matter what.