Most Christmases I open at least one gift that I'm not quite sure how to react to. And naturally I have to open it in front of M's entire family. They have this little tradition where only one person at a time opens their gifts so that everyone else can 'ooh' and 'aah' and closely watch your face for reactions. Well, the 2008 Grand Prize Winner is my Garden Hopper. At first glance, this contraption looks like something my son used to ride on in his toddler years, minus the handle to pull it. (In fairness, it does have a hook where you can attach one.) It's even made by Step 2. Don't those people make toddler riding toys? But on closer inspection, I think this gift may turn out to be a big winner. It has a little seat for working in the garden - no small thing when you're middle-aged and have more and more trouble just bending over, much less squatting. And notice the cup holder on one end. I can have my beverage of choice within arm's reach. Plus there's a storage area under the seat for tools, although I plan to use it to hold snacks to go with my beverage. I still need to check the weight limit. That's the true test.
What was your 'most interesting' gift this Christmas?
My little garden is still going strong. The lettuces are still alive and providing greens for salads and the cauliflower plant actually has a small head. The basil is long gone but the dill is still alive. The collard and mustard green plants are fine as well. I guess that is the silver lining to a warm Christmas. The newest addition are radishes, whose deep pink is somehow very satisfying.
Don't obsess about the doll head. I know it's a little creepy, but I didn't have a real baby handy to test the fit and I had the urge today to come up with a wool cap for my soon-to-be new nephew. Tomorrow we leave for the soon-to-be new nephew's soon-to-be parents' house to celebrate Christmas and I want to have a little something for the new kid.
In any case, this is what I came up with and I sorta like it! Just the thing for a kid here in Austin. But Ft. Worth? Hmmm...
This is what I aspire to as a crocheter. This is one of the many beauties that can be found in the 'Museum of Useless Objects' over at Etsy. I've loved Sarah's crocheted felted creations for awhile now. Be sure and check out all her other great stuff.
DH gave me his 'I am extremely perplexed about what my wife is doing with her time' look when I showed him these things. I saw something similar somewhere and immediately thought, 'how cute! how feminine! And they look pretty easy to make and don't use much yarn.' They would probably make more sense if I lived where you actually need a coat in the winter. But I still think they would look cute peeking out from under a coat sleeve.
I was searching the web for the pickled onion rings recipe from the Cock of the Walk in Jackson, Mississippi, (and believe me, they are worth searching for) when I came across this recipe for Tomato Cobbler. Not two words I would normally put together, but it rang a bell. My father-in-law, who hails from the Magnolia State, once reminisced about having eaten tomato cobbler. I'm not sure any of us actually believed him at the time, but having found evidence of its existence I had to try it out. So here it is in all its glory. If you can get past my poor photography and even poorer presentation (no, I don't have a nicer casserole dish, and no, I do not have the patience to weave a lattice top out of pastry dough), it is actually quite good. I had DH sample it before telling him what it was and he gave it a thumbs up. The recipe is shown below in case you also feel the need to prove it for yourself. Of course, to be fair, anything with that much sugar and butter has got to good.
Deep Dish Tomato Cobbler
2 1/2 lb ripe tomatoes
3/4 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 T vanilla
1/2 C butter
3/4 C water
pastry dough for an 8" pie
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Simmer all ingredients (except the dough) for 20 minutes.
Roll the dough thin, then cut in half. Cut one half into small squares about 1/2" wide.
Drop the small squares into the pan and simmer 5 more minutes.
Look what my clever friend Erin has done! She explains the the easy way to print designs on your own fabric - she used an old bed sheet, fabric paints and a stamp. Check it out on her blog. This definitely goes in my 'someday crafts' pile...
Here is something I first noticed my 15 year old niece wearing and since then I've seem them around: wrist warmers made from an old wool sweater. This is so easy. Now when DH accidentally runs that wool sweater through the washer and dryer at least something can be salvaged. Here is what you do:
1. Put your hands through the sleeves to see if they fit. I like them kind of snug, so I will run the sweater through the wash a second time if they are loose.
2. Decide how long you want them to be. Just past your wrists? All the way to your elbow? After you've decided, cut them from the body of the sweater.
3. Now all you need are holes for your thumbs. Since these are already felted, they aren't going to fray. Grab your scissors and cut out a nickle size hole where your thumb can poke out.
4. Voila! You have made fingerless gloves!
I added little crocheted flowers (because that is what I do) but my niece is big on buttons...lots of buttons.
What, two posts in one day? Could it be the End Days? No, I just discovered all the great how-to videos on the Make website. I can tell I will be adding LOTS of these videos. (Note to self: use this blog to file all the crafts I want to try someday....) First up - flower pins made from recycled wool sweaters. Aren't these great?
I had to make a stop at the local Hobby Lobby to pick up some tapestry needles and found this beautiful multicolored yarn. It is so soft and has the perfect colors for welcoming in the (eventual) cooler weather. I found an interesting edging pattern from my collection of vintage crochet patterns and tweaked a little here and there to come up with this scarf. Now all I need is a cold snap.
I am exceedingly proud of myself. I finally put together a Square Foot Garden. And I did it all myself since DH is not exactly the outdoor type. When asked to help, his comment was, "but I'm a city boy..." Actually, neither of us is very good at growing things, which is pretty obvious if you look closely at the grass in the photo. I've had the Square Foot Gardening books for years (decades?) and I pull it out and look it over every few years. This time I took it to heart and even tracked down coarse vermiculite, which according to the NEW Square Foot Gardening book is absolutely de rigueur. I had to drive waaaay down to south Austin (I'm a northie) to a place called Brite Ideas, which I'm thinking might have hippie roots. ( I'll try out their hydroponics supplies one of these days.) I've got several kinds of lettuce, spinach, mustard and collard greens (I lived in Mississippi for 3 years where I developed a taste for leafy green things cooked in bacon fat and doused in vinegar), a few herbs and three strawberry plants. The strawberry plants are a sneaky attempt to involve The Kid, who's generally not interested in putting something in his mouth unless it comes out of a Chef-Boy-R-Dee can. If any gardening pros out have any advice, I'm all ears...
I had a blast at the Maker Faire this past weekend. It was pure heaven for anyone with craft and/or geek tendencies. I was volunteering for the Texas Etsy Street Team, but it didn't feel like work. I helped with demos and learned new ways to recycle ordinary objects - like making gift boxes out of greeting cards, and making a tote bag from a t-shirt. I even got to try making a shrinky-dink out of plastic from a clamshell container from the grocery store thanks to Claire at poopscape.com. The whole experience inspired me to tackle a old pair of red keds with a sharpie and fabric paints. They obviously need a second coat of paint. Next time I'll start with white shoes...
I found a vintage crochet pattern that spoke to me about my favorite holiday. I lightly modified an old pattern labelled 'A Pretty Spider Insertion in Torchon Effect.' I didn't know what 'torchon' meant, but I did like the spider-like image in the middle and decided it would make a great black scarf for Halloween. And I couldn't resist looking up torchon online - come on, you're curious, too, right?
I sold a breast cancer awareness scarf pattern to Nina in Elk Grove, Illinois. It turns out she and a group of crocheters are going to use it to make pink scarves during the month of October to send to the American Cancer Society. We should all be so generous with our time and skills. Here is an excerpt from an article about this group:
What started out in 2005 as a lunchtime group with a common interest in crocheting and knitting, has steadily turned into a passion for providing a measure of warmth and care for those in need. “We started out making gifts for our family, friends and co-workers, but then collectively decided to extend our reach to charitable projects, such as creating lap robes for the elderly
To date, the Happy Hooksters have completed several projects, including: 79 baby blankets and 22 newborn hats for Project Africa 72 lap robes for the elderly at the Meadow Brooks Nursing Home, 75 hat and scarf sets and 25 baby hats for the Primo Center—a shelter for homeless and abused women and children.
The team shows no signs of stopping. They have made baby blankets for babies born to fellow employees, as well as lap robes for sick co-workers. For their future projects, the group has their sights set on creating: Chemo caps for cancer patients, Squares for Warm Up America, Hat and scarf sets for a shelter, Lap robes for veterans, and Other projects submitted by members or co-workers (cancer awareness scarves).
Their passion has not gone unnoticed. Their work was highlighted in the book, “Open Your Heart with Art," published in 2007 and written by David L. Wilson. In his book, Wilson, interviewed several of the group’s members and even included the crochet pattern for their lap robes.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I wanted to to make something special for a relative, who is battling breast cancer, and came up with this scarf design. I originally was planning to save it for Christmas but maybe I should give it to her in October. Only it ususally doesn't cool off here in Central Texas until November. What do you think I should do?
My friend Erin got me making these little flowers. She wanted something small and felted to go on a project she's working on. They turned to be so easy and so much fun to make (probably because they are so easy) that I ended up with way too many. No bother. I took a picture and entered them into the 'Flower Power' contest over at Craftstylish. So there is no need to feel guilty about making so many, right?
Maybe it's a little early to start getting excited about Halloween. But it was always my favorite holiday growing up - who doesn't love dressing up in a costume and then getting rewarded with candy? Of course, I also enjoy admiring the costumes and passing out the candy. Maybe that's why this little pumpkin bowl popped into my head yesterday and I had to stop everything to make it. Or maybe it was just an excuse to stop everything? (Nahhh...)
I saw some 'scarflettes' (never heard this word before, but it makes sense) online that I thought were really cute, so I worked out this pattern. Turns out I used hyperbolic crochet in its' creation! Such a high tech sounding word. It's actually a bit frilly for me, but I guess deep down I am a bit of a romantic because I do love ruffles. The pattern is available in my Etsy store if you want to whip out a few before the weather changes. Unfortunately around here that won't happen for 3+ months....
If you are feeling adventurous, you can use the technique I described in my previous post to 'tie-dye' your yarn. The only difference is the order you put stuff in the crockpot. After the yarn has soaked in the bowl for an hour, add it to the crockpot (which is already filled with water and 1/2 cup vinegar). Now you get to mix up your colors. Mix up each kool-aid color in it's own little bowl with a small amount of water. Be sure you don't choose colors opposite each other on the color wheel - like red and green - or you will get brown. I'm guessing it's safest to select colors that are next to each other, but then I am no color theorist. Anyway, pour each color into the crockpot in its own spot, being careful not to mix the water. The colors will spread a little and mix but pretty much stay in place. Cover your crockpot and turn it on!
It is surprisingly easy to dye wool yarn using only vinegar and kool-aid. The photo above is my 'before' picture of Lion Brand 100% wool yarn that I bought at the local Hobby Lobby. Here is what you need: a crockpot, a bowl, a salad spinner (not absolutely necessary, but comes in handy), white vinegar, and several packets of kool-aid in the color you want to use. And the process is:
Fill your bowl with enough water to cover your loosely wound skein of yarn.
Add 3/4 cup vinegar to the water, then add the yarn.
Let sit for 1 hour.
Fill your crockpot with enough water to cover your yarn.
Add 1/2 cup vinegar to the crockpot.
Add the kool-aid packets to the crockpot (the more packets the darker the color) and stir well.
Move the yarn from the bowl into the crockpot.
Turn the crockpot on high, cover and wait until the crockpot water runs clear. (The yarn will eventually soak up all the dye from the kool-aid.) This may take a few hours.
Turn off the crockpot, uncover and let the water come to room temperature.
Rinse the yarn a few times with water.
If you have a salad spinner, spin the yarn a few times to get out excess water. Otherwise gently wring out the water and then wrap tightly in a bath towel to help dry it out.
Drap the yarn on a clothes hanger and hang it somewhere to air dry.
Voila! The picture below shows how some of the colors turned out. The kool-aid flavors used were lemonade, orange, grape, pink lemonade, lime, and berry blue.
Ok. ok. I know I haven't posted in awhile (has it really already been a month?) but things have been very busy at home. Plumbing problems in the middle of getting ready to have the extended family in town for a 'family vacation', 100+ degree heat that makes me want to do nothing except hibernate until October, and a few other less urgent problems. That is the reason I haven't posted lately. That and the fact that the wrist warmers didn't turn out so well. In fact, I threw them away before I weakened and took a picture to show you how truly awful they looked after dyeing them orange. So just take my word for it. But, there is a silver lining. I am getting great colors dyeing new cream colored wool yarn with kool-aid. More on that once I get a few pics to show you....
Well, the larger bowl was a little too floppy. (Note to self: alpaca is soft and pretty, but doesn't felt that well...) But the wristlets were kind of fun to make. And they are very soft thanks to the alpaca in the yarn and running through the washer to full them a little. My 15 year old niece is in town for a few days and I'm thinking it might be fun for the two of us to dye these things a more interesting color (like maybe - bright pink?) I found this great tutorial at www.knitty.com on how to use kool aid and a crockpot. We need the method that is: 1) easy, and 2) least likely to produce stains all over the kitchen if you are the mess type (we both are.) This method sounds like the winner. And we can use kool aid, which is non-toxic and I'm guessing will leave the wristlets smelling nice.
Many thanks to Ashley Martineau for her online recycled yarn tutorial. As usual, I am way behind the curve in trying new things, but this is something I am excited about. I have gotten more and more interested in recycling and upcycling as I find all the creative things that artists do with old and used materials. Just go to etsy.com and search on 'upcycle' to see what I mean. Repurposing all those old sweaters that would end up in landfills seems a very worthy effort indeed. This sweater pictured is a wool/alpaca blend and the yarn is slated to become a bowl (I am going to try a bigger one) and a set of wrist warmers.
This is the cutest use of my felted bowls yet - as a nest for two little hand felted mice. These mice were made by talented fiber artist Barby Anderson. You can purchase one of her creations, as well as kits and patterns if you want try hand felting yourself, on ebay or at her etsy store.
Some wool yarn just refuses to felt. This pink 100% yarn is apparently one of them. Yes, it has felted a little bit, but this was after THREE passes throught the washing machine. I hate seeing the little holes in the crochet. I noticed the same thing with a white yarn that I had. Is there something about pale colors?
I saw a cute little tote/wristlet and decided to try to do something similar. The result is this little bag which measures about 7" tall (not counting the straps.) I tried to work out a strap solution that didn't involve any separate sewing. This closure is close, I think but still needs a little tinkering. I am not much of a handbag person, but this may be just what I need for carrying around some yarn and a crochet hook. The yarn felted much fuzzier than usual - not quite sure why that happened.
After about 5 versions, I finally finished the oven mitt crochet pattern. DH had the most suggestions/complaints - the crook of the thumb was too tight, it didn't reach long enough up the arm to protect him from the heat of the grill, and (most problematic) it was in the wrong color. There is only one acceptable color for a graduate of the University of Texas. So here it is in all it's burnt orange glory. Now it's DH's turn to stress-test it on his manly grill. (Note to self: put steaks on the grocery list.)
I recently crocheted and felted this little mouse from an amigurumi pattern I bought on etsy from thebirdsandbees. She has lots of great little crochet animal patterns. It was surprisingly easy (although I think I overstuffed him.) Made with worsted weight Lion Brand Wool Yarn in the 'natural' color. If you've never heard of amigurumi, it is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures. I especially like that this one is felted.
My good friend Ellie suggested that I try making an oven mitt. Here is my first attempt. (Note to self : stop using purple yarn for prototypes - too hard to photograph!) The thumb is a little too long (ok, way too long) but I can fix that. Haven't tried it out yet on a hot casserole dish, but Ellie assures me I will be pleased.
This little scottie pillow was made from a worn out Old Navy brand wool sweater (they have the prettiest colors...) I washed it in hot water to felt it up, then drew a little scottish terrier pattern. My mom is extremely fond of Scotties, so I added a little red felt heart....
I'm a little off the crochet/felting topic lately. I had an old quilt that was falling apart. My husband hated it and was hiding it whenever he could. So, inspired by some the things I've been seeing on etsy.com, I decided to haul out the old sewing machine and see if I could salvage at least part of it. I've been working on pillows of different shapes. This little pig is one of them and measures about 8" across.
I saw a cute pair of felted 'elf' slippers online and since then I have been kind of obsessed with figuring out a crochet pattern to make them. Here is how far I've gotten. (The only reason they are gray is I was using up some extra yarn. The finished product HAS to be in a bright jewel tone, yes?) Anyway, close but no cigar. Still a few refinements needed...
I think this is really neat. When crocheting something round, most patterns say something along the lines of 'chain 4, sl st together to make a ring, then sc x stitches in the ring.' Instead, you can use the magic adjustable ring, which allows you to tighten the ring as much as you want. No more hole in the middle if you don't want one.
I have seen so many cute crocheted felted purses lately that I thought I'd take a shot. This one came out kind of nice - it's small, can hold a cell phone, keys and a few other things. The gray yarn really felts up nicely and I love the color. I'm not totally satisfied with the shape, though. I'm going to take another shot at it. Maybe in a more bold color, too.
These coasters were made with the same wool yarn I used for the bowls. Since they are wool, they are great insulators and I would think they would be perfect for protecting a surface from heat. Plus, they are pretty cute.
I've always enjoyed crocheting in the winter when it's cold and dark outside. Usually I'm working on yet another afghan to give to someone. But I recently discovered wet felting and love the way the finished object feels. What got me started is crocheting and felting small bowls. Then, after advising several artist friends to check into selling their items on etsy, I decided to list a few bowls myself (just to find out how etsy works, of course...) Now I'm hooked - there are so many creative and wonderful handmade items there.