Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Kindness of Neighbors

That's a busted skylight if you can't quite tell what my photo is. We had quite a hailstorm a few days ago. Here's a pic of some of the pea, nickel and quarter size hail we got.

But this post is really about a very nice neighbor down the street. M is out of town on business so it was just The Kid and me. After staring at the broken skylight for most of the next day, it occurred to me that I probably ought to tape some plastic over it, especially since more rain was forcast. So I headed down the street to borrow an expanding ladder from a neighbor I thought might have one. He ended up doing all the work of getting up on the roof and taping down plastic. And then the next day he came over and swept all the leaves and broken tree limbs off the roof (and there was a LOT of green up there.) I'm so thankful for his kindness, which reminded me that no one can go it alone - we all need help once in awhile.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Non-Euclidean Geometry meets Crochet

Ever heard of Hyperbolic Geometry? Apparently it is the geometric opposite of the sphere. On a sphere, the surface curves in on itself and is closed. On a hyperbolic plane the surface curves away from itself at every point. In other words....
In Euclidean geometry, as a circle gets larger, the length of the circumference increases linearly. But with a hyperbolic plane, we're talking EXPONENTIAL increases. Got that?
Oddly enough, the concept of a hyperbolic plane can be physically modeled using crochet.

Yes, you can impress your family and friends by making your own hyperbolic surface! All you do is increase the number of stitches in each successive row or round of a crochet project. That's it. Here's how to make a 'pseudosphere' (like the one I made pictured above):

1. CH 2. SC 6 in the second chain from the hook (6 SC total).
2. SC 2 in each stitch all the way around (12 SC total).
*BTW, I like to crochet in a spiral and not worry about ending rounds and starting another. So just keep going with step 3 - don't worry about making a SL ST to the last stitch in the round and all that stuff.
3. SC 2 in each stitch all the way around (24 SC total).
4. SC 2 in each stitch all the way around (48 SC total).
5. SC 2 in each stitch all the way around (96 SC total).
I think I stopped after step 5 but feel free to keep going!

You'll get a kinesthetic feel for what 'expanding exponentially' REALLY means. Early rounds go quickly, but each successive round takes longer and longer (and also eats up exponentially increasing amounts of yarn.)

If you want to learn a little more about the mathematics involved, check out this article or just google 'hyperbolic crochet.'

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Felt Food - A Mixed Baby Greens Salad

Yum, yum. I wish I had thought of making this. What a great idea for kids AND grownups. So much more fun to play with than plastic food from the big box store, don't you think? I found this handmade felt salad at dashingBean's shop on Etsy. Her stuff is currently all sold out, but hopefully not for long. I'm hungry for more (sorry, couldn't resist...)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Free Felted Coasters Crochet Pattern

I saw something similar to this somewhere and thought it might be fun to make up a set. The coasters and their case make an easy project for the beginning crocheter - they work up fast and make an unusual gift. You'll need:
  • about 3 oz of 100% wool medium weight yarn. (Make sure it's wool - otherwise it won't felt.) I like Lion Wool Brand and Paton's Classic Wool. If you are using 2 colors like I did, a couple oz. of each color should be enough.
  • a size F or G crochet hook
  • a 28-30 oz can of vegetables (say, a 28 oz. can of tomatoes)
  • a zippered mesh laundry bag (like the kind you wash delicates in)
  • a tennis ball or a pair of jeans
You're going to do all the crocheting in a spiral rather than end each round and start a new one. I think working in spirals is SOOO much easier, plus it's going to be felted in the end anyway so who will know?

THE COASTER (Make 4 of these):

  1. Make a circle of 6 SC. You can do this one of two ways. You can CH 2 and then make 6 SC in the second CH from the hook. Or, you can use the 'Magic Adjustable Ring.' Check the video I have for this if you don't know what I'm talking about.
  2. Make 2 SC in each SC around (12 SC total.)
  3. (SC 1, 2 SC in the next stitch) all the way around (18 SC total.)
  4. (SC 2, 2 SC in the next stitch) all the way around (24 SC total.)
  5. (SC 3, 2 SC in the next stitch) all the way around (30 SC total.)
  6. (SC 4, 2 SC in the next stitch) all the way around (36 SC total.)
  7. (SC 5, 2 SC in the next stitch) all the way around (42 SC total.)
  8. (SC 6, 2 SC in the next stitch) all the way around (48 SC total.)
  9. SL ST to next stitch and finish off.


  1. Repeat steps 1-8 of the coasters.
  2. (SC 7, 2 SC in the next stitch) all the way around (54 SC total.) If you want a two-toned holder, here is a good place to switch to your second color.
  3. SC in each stitch all the way around (54 SC total.)
  4. Repeat step 3 for 9 more times.
  5. SL ST to the next stitch and finish off.


Now you are ready to felt this stuff. Put everything in that mesh laundry bag and put it in your washing machine with that tennis ball or pair of jeans. The tennis ball (or jeans) will help agitate the wool and get it to felt up. Set the wash on the lowest water setting, the highest agitation setting and use hot water. Run it through a wash and rinse cycle. If the pieces aren't felted enough to your liking, you can wash 'em again. Trim any loose ends. Now to shape everything. It should be pretty easy to get the coasters flattened out - just stretch with your hands, if needed . As for the case, put it over the end of the vegetable can and tug it into shape. You make have to pull a bit on this one. It should look something like this (can you tell I live in Texas?):

Once you get it evened out, let everything just sit until it's dry. This could take up to 24 hours but overnight usually does it for me. That's it! Here's my set going for a test drive.

Let me know how yours turn out!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Don't plant a Southern Magnolia

This is why.

I started picking up these seed pods this morning. The count is up to about 150 with no end in sight. And these things are about the size of a hand grenade. So you can't just mow over them. You have to pick. Them. Up. Not to mention the leaves, which are bigger and also (according to my husband) cannot be mowed over.

So. Think twice before you plant one of these things. But if you still want one, here's a very important tip: never trim up the branches. Leave the lower branches low (as in close to the ground.) That way this mess stays hidden.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Make a Bean TeePee

You know how people say that as a woman gets older, she gets more like her mother? Could be. I find myself more and more interested in things appropriate to a farmer or even a pioneer. And guess what my mom's nickname is? Pioneer Mom. As in the old pioneer days when you did everything yourself. I actually have a long way to go before meeting her high standard of self-sufficiency, but I'm working on it. I checked out The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series)
from the local library. I highly recommend it for those who really don't have a clue as to where to get started (and that would be me.) It's full of easy and inexpensive ways to dig in. Hence, my new pole bean teepee. I scrounged some bamboo poles from the garage and a large tree branch I had been meaning to throw away, lashed them togther with some of the t-shirt yarn mentioned in a previous post (didn't see that application coming) and instant teepee! Once I clear the grass and make a trip to the local nursery for beans I'm set.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Everyone needs a pincushion, right?

I found a cute set of tiny (3" high) pottery mugs while junking and couldn't bear to leave them behind. So they sat on a shelf at home for a few weeks while I awaited inspiration. Sure enough, I came across a similar item made into a pincushion. Eureka! Funny how that works, isn't it? Here's one of the mugs in its new incarnation as a sunny holder of pins.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How to Make T-shirt Yarn

I looked at a lot of instructions and videos on the net and here is my take on how to make yarn from old t-shirts:

  1. The t-shirt must have no side seams, otherwise it's not going to work.
  2. Wash the t-shirt in hot water and dry on high to make sure it's shrunk as much as it is going to.
  3. Get out your ironing board. (no, not to iron the t-shirt.)
  4. Slide the t-shirt on the ironing board. This will make subsequent cutting much easier. (BTW, set up the ironing board opposite how you usually do it. If you are right-handed, point your ironing board to the right. If you are left-handed, point it to the left.)
  5. Cut off the bottom hem of the t-shirt.
  6. Cut along the bottom edge at an angle until you have about 1" in width. Then keep cutting in a spiral round and round, keeping the strip approximately 1" wide. This is where the ironing board makes it easier - just rotate the shirt around as you cut. And don't be OCD about getting it exactly 1" or exactly straight - just guesstimate. Or make it wider than 1" if you what. Your call.
You will eventually hit an obstacle - either the armpits or a print on the t-shirt. This is the end of your yarn-making adventure (at least with this t-shirt.) Let go. Cut it loose. Now, hold about a foot between your two hands and pull apart. The strip will naturally curl on the purl (or is it knit?) side. Whatever. It will curl on it's own if you pull it hard enough. Work your way down the strip pulling for the entire length.

Voila! You have t-shirt yarn! This bright green t-shirt was a size XL and I got about 32 yards from it. Now I just have to figure out what to do with it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Eco friendly dryer sachets

Ok, ok. I was supposed to explain how to make t-shirt yarn this post. I'll do it tomorrow - I promise. But for now, look at these great eco-friendly dryer sachets filled with lavender from ReFabulous. I bought some of these a few months ago and LOVE them. We are a family of allergy sufferers, just like most families living in Central Texas, so I've always stayed away from the dryer sheets. But these are sooo wonderful! Lots and lots of creatively upcycled products in this shop. Go look!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

T-shirt Yarn Purse

Isn't this cute? I found it in Lifesanadventure's Etsy shop. She made it from old t-shirts that she cut up and knit together. I've noticed the t-shirt yarn for sale on Etsy and of course I immediately wanted to know how to make it. Turns out to be pretty easy. I'll explain next post...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Curly Q

I saw a scarf somewhere that was filled with these spirals. I tried to make something similar but it just took too darn long (and used too much yarn.) So I went for a lariat instead. Still get the fun spirals but you can make it in an evening with much less yarn.

Pattern available in my etsy shop.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My New Favorite Crocheted Rose Pattern

I have been meaning to post this picture for awhile. Rarely do I find a crochet book that I really, really like. Well, I really, really like The Crochet Bible: The Complete Handbook for Creative Crochet
by Sue Whiting. These three roses were made from a pattern in the book and I love how they turned out. (That's the same pattern as the red rose in the upper right corner of the book's front cover.) I used a slightly larger yarn than called for so these came out about 5" across - hooray for big flowers! I tend to think of them as camellias rather than roses but who cares what you call them. There are a couple more projects in the book calling to me - always the sign of a good crochet book.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Slip Stitch

The slip stitch (abbreviated 'SL ST') is very easy. You will see it in lots of patterns, especially when you have to connect pieces or move along the edge without adding any height. Just slide the yarn under the next stitch, YO (yarn over) and then pull through the stitch and through the loop on the hook.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Help Baby Ike!

This is Isaac, nicknamed Ike-a-saurus by his big brother. Ike’s mama is the author of Haiku Mama and the amazing blogger behind Haikuoftheday, where you can read a lot of their story in her own words. Ike was born 13 weeks early and spent a lot of time in the NICU. Ike finally got to come home but then his dad got laid off and their insurance was cut off the same day.

Now baby Ike is back in the hospital and is very ill.

Many mamas from the Austinmama community are rallying together to organize fundraising events to help with mounting medical bills. You can help by donating at Ike's website. You can also help by going shopping! Some Etsy sellers have offered to donate proceeds from designated items to help Ike. Rachel Hobson, over at the AverageJaneCrafter blog, has all the info on the shops involved. Go check it out and see if you can find something you can't live without. And help baby Ike at the same time.