Holiday Knits & Crafts, Quick Knits & Crafts

Quick Winter Knits, Round Two (Valentine’s Day edition)

I’ve been wanting to do a follow up to my 2012 on quick winter knits and my 2013 procrastiknits post for a while now, and here it is! Between getting a cold last week and the 2014 Winter Olympics starting this week(ish), I’ve had a lot of time to whip up some projects. I think any of these would make great Ravellenic Games knits. (As a side note, if you have  qualms about anything having to do with the Sochi Olympics, check out what Leethal is doing on her knitting blog. Pretty genius move.)

One of these projects really is Valentine’s Day themed, but I’m going to say that there’s something for everyone to love here, including a few things for those who don’t care for the holiday whatsoever. So without further ado, here are my finished objects: a racerback tank, neck collar, ear warmer, cowl and chapstick holder. All are free patterns available on ravelry!

Pink Free Fall Tank Top

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This Valentine’s Day, some good friends are throwing a dance party, and they encouraged us to dress for the occasion. Unfortunately, I don’t own any truly pink clothing. But instead of turing to the obvious solution (thrift stores, borrow something), I was like, “I bet I can knit something pink!” So that’s what I did.

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This is my version of Annina Päivärinta’s Free Fall Tank. The amazing thing about this tank pattern is that it only take one skein! This is thanks to the drop stitch in the pattern, which I’d never tried before but loved.

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This photos is probably the closest to the true color of this tank. To get this color, I held together one strand of sport weight red wool I recycled from a thrifted sweater with two strands of a hot pink, lace weight mohair yarn that I have literally had in my stash since my roommate in college gave it to me. I have no idea why I kept it, but I’m glad I did.

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There aren’t a lot of photos of people wearing this tank on ravelry, and I can tell you why—when you knit it in one skein of cotton yarn as directed, the drop stitches make it really revealing. In my version, using three strands of fuzzy yarn, this is not as much the case unless you are looking rather closely.

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There were a number of comments about the chart for this pattern by ravelry knitters, and I’ll admit, it is a tad confusing. I’d say its an intermediate skill pattern. I made a size small with a few mods based on their comments and my own measurements:  stitch makers to mark all of the yarn overs, several extra inches of length, two stitches cast on at the bottoms of the drops instead of three, and an irregular rib at the bottom for three rounds. I’m really pleased with the results!

Pink Kink Collar

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I made this quite a whole ago, but since it uses the same yarn combo as the free fall tank, it seems a good time to share it. The pattern is Kink by Jodie Gordon Lucas, featured in Knitty 2010.

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This in-progress shot gives you a view of what the strands of yarn look like by themselves! It’s a pretty straightforward pattern that works with a variety of yarns and is not too difficult to memorize. You can also wear it in a number of ways, depending on how you attach your pin or button. I’m thinking about attaching another button so I can wear it differently. If you’re not ready to commit to a hot pink top, this is a good way to use a brightly colored yarn. I  mainly wear this with neutral colors, especially black.

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speaking of black…

Black Ear Warmer

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If you’re more the type to wear black on February 14, I’ve got two super easy projects for you. The first is this Ear Band pattern, appropriately titled Beginning Ear Warmer. I wanted the most straightforward pattern possible, and this garter stitch band was exactly that.Photo on 2-7-14 at 4.52 PM #2

With my hair I can wear this two ways. My main reason for wanting a basic black ear warmer is for riding my bike—my ears get cold faster than anything else, and I wanted it to match anything I could possibly be wearing so that would never deter me from using it.

Black Drop Stitch Cowl

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The quality of these photos doesn’t even capture how cool this cowl is (black objects + rushing to take photos = not the best idea). The pattern is Abi Gregorio’s Drop Stitch Cowl, which I became determined to knit after enjoying the drop stitch look on the free fall tank.

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Most of the ravelery reviews insisted that this was a lightning fast knit, and they were right. I didn’t quite have enough yarn for the pattern, so in my version I used size 13 instead of size 15 needles, omitted one of the repeats ,and shortened two garter stitch sections. I would have loved if my cowl was  taller and wider, but I’m really impressed that there was a pattern to use up my leftover, super bulky black yarn!

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I’m thinking I will make this cowl again in a color when I get the chance.

Chaptstick Holder

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This is the only quick knit that wasn’t for me. After showing my sonic screwdriver chapstick holder to friends, I got a request for a basic chaptstick holder that could attach to a harness during rock climbing. So I used Victoria Trauger’s Chapstick Holder pattern and made this. I could tell you about how in my version I made some mods to make it fit better (12 stitches around instead of 16, 6 stitches instead of 8 for the flap), or how I love the elephant button I used at the top. But mostly I want to tell you why this is related to Valentine’s Day knitting. I supposed it could be the connection between chapstick, lips, and kissing. But personally, all I could think when I was making this pattern in this color was, geez, this looks really…phallic.

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Nevertheless, this chapstick holder does its job! I attached a key ring to the side and handed it off to its recipient at the rock climbing gym last night. Here’s a blurry action shot of the chaptsick holder on his harness.

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And that concludes this edition of quick winter knits! ❤

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Holiday Knits & Crafts

Yarn Without Knitting: Wrapped Yarn Objects for the Holidays

With rain and freezing temperatures, it’s finally starting to feel like winter is coming—perfect weather for knitting. I’ve been working on some knitting projects, but I’ve also done a few things with yarn that require no needles or hooks at all. Yarn wrapping items is a great way to use up small amounts of special yarn, large amounts of lower quality yarn, and everything in between. Here’s what I’ve made:

Yarn Words

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materials: bendable wire that will hold its shape, yarn, binder clips, hot glue gun.

I got the idea to do some yarn wrapped words from this blog post. I made this as a a Thanksgivikah gift of sorts for (you guessed it) “the farmhouse,” a house of friends who were hosting a big dinner on that particular holiday. I was excited to finally have a use for the tiny amount of brown handspun yarn I’d made in my craft center spinning class back in Fall 2011!

I didn’t have the wire reinforced clothesline that the blog suggested using, so at first I tried using an old coat hanger. Not bendable enough, it turns out. Then I tried florist wire, which I do have on hand from making wreaths and evergreen boughs out of shrubbery in previous years. It worked! But since it was a little thin and just a bit too bendy, which made me worry that it would lose its shape, I doubled it.

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I strongly suggest writing out the word you want to do in cursive on a piece of paper beforehand—it’s a lot easier to copy from a template than to do it on the fly. And definitely use binder clips to hold letters with a lot of wire overlapped in place. Hot glue the yarn to one end of the word and wrap tightly as you go. Hot glue any spots that seem like they’ll want to come loose. Considering the fact that I got Ds in cursive in grade school (it’s hard to get the slanting right as a lefty!), I’m pretty happy with the results of this project.

Yarn Wreath

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materials: wreath form, yarn, bobble ornaments, florist wire, wreath hanger.

There are tons of tutorials out there for how to make a yarn wreath, most of them using a puffy, styrofoam wreath form. I didn’t look at any of them before I made this, however. Because this is pretty much the simplest project ever: wrap yarn around wreath form. When you are done, tuck the yarn end in the back. That’s it.

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I used this red boucle yarn of unknown origin that was in my stash, which gave the wreath a nice texture. Since my wreath form is flat (it’s the same one I used in previous years to make evergreen wreaths), I added  depth by attaching some bobble ornaments in the same color.

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I described how to attach the florist wire to the top of the ornaments using duct tape in this post last year, and these are the exact same ones so they were already prepared. Here’s a photo of what they look like.

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I added some red plastic holly berries mostly to cover up the duct tape that was still visible. The result was a very quick wreath that is really red. Here’s what it looks like on my door when all of my Christmas lights are working ( a rarity!):

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Yarn Trees

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materials: cereal or other thin cardboard boxes, scissors, tape, yarn, hot glue gun. (optional: llamas or other animals to roam the forest of trees)

Once I did the first two projects, I was really wanting to do at least one more wrapped yarn thing, and I figured it might as well be Christmas themed. So when I saw this blog post, I figured why not? I even decided to do the same colors as the original blogger, though I did make some changes.

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First step is to open your boxes, trim off excess edge flaps and roll them into cones.  To get the come shape, try to pinch it more at one end. I only had one cereal box on hand, but I had two other boxes that were of similar quality and they worked fine. I duct taped mine in place and then trimmed the bottoms until they sat more or less flat on the ground.

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Starting at the bottom, I taped the end of the yarn, wrapped it around to the top, hot glued it there, and then wrapped it all the way to the bottom again, and hot glued it around the very base of the tree. The yarn here is some old acrylic in what seemed like good tree colors.

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Finally, I decided that my trees should have toppers, so I wound tiny balls of this sparkly silver yarn from my stash and hot glued them onto the tops. And, of course, added the Christmas llamas to the forest.

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Costumes, Historical Knits & Crafts, Holiday Knits & Crafts, Nerdy Knits & Crafts

DIY Halloween costume ideas

It’s almost Halloween, and you know what that means: COSTUMES!

If I had my way, every party would be a dress up party. Because when I was a little kid, every birthday party WAS a dress up party, with a theme, and with costumes. Occasionally I have continued this tradition, as I did this year with a reprisal of my Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party:

2nd grade Alice
2nd grade Alice
21st grade Alice
21st grade Alice

Now that it’s October and more people are looking at my Halloween costume post from last year, I figured it was time for another round of crafty costume ideas. Lucky for you, I’ve done my fair share of costuming in the last year! This time I’ve organized them into individual and group costume categories for you. But I realized they could just as easily be categorized as “weird takes on famous individuals” and “characters from well known novels.” Enjoy!

(edit: There’s now a 2014 DIY Halloween costumes post as well!)

INDIVIDUAL COSTUMES

Historical Women With a Twist: Radioactive Marie Curie and Ballerina Annie Oakley

So I’m a fan of DIY historical costumes, especially for women. Whether it’s one of these bizarre vintage costumes from days of yore, or one of these awesome new interpretations from Take Back Halloween, I’m all for it. The latter website makes a great point that the vast majority of store bought women’s Halloween costumes fall into the “Sexy ______” category, limiting your options. But if you make a costume yourself, it can be whatever you want it to be.

And for me, that means adding a twist to famous historical figures. Like being a glow-in-the dark version of physicist Marie Curie for Halloween last year.

Marie Curie

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Marie Curie was a Nobel Prize winning scientist who did groundbreaking research on radioactivity at the turn of the century. Her papers are still radioactive and she literally described seeing the tubes of radioactive material glow in the dark. Which meant I got to get all kinds of creative with my costume. First, I found this awesome black dress at a thrift store. I have no idea what it was in its past life, but the poofy sleeves and the full skirt were perfect for the time period. Next, I bought an attachable white lace collar on ebay and sewed it to the neckline of the dress. The clothing part was complete.

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I actually wore this costume on two separate nights, and I did the make up and accessories a little different for each. The key was to make as much of me glow in the dark as possible. First, I needed my own test tube—I picked one up from a campus resale store, used glow-in-the-dark paint on the inside of it, and labeled it “radium.” For the rest of me, I used glow stick necklaces, glow in the dark face paint and green glow-in-the-dark nail polish. My recommendation is to get the nail polish at the drugstore if possible and the makeup from a Halloween store—the Halloween store version of the nail polish that came with the makeup in a kit was so clumpy it was unusable.

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Seen here with Melisandre from Game of Thrones (see below for more of those costumes!), you can see that I had a thick line of makeup near my forehead. The make up has to be thick to show up, so I ended up just outlining the circle of my face instead of pasting it all over. I also recommend you have someone help you if you want a design on your body using the paint.

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My dress had a dramatic open back so I had friends do designs there. The first night I went for a skeleton-like rib design and the second night I had the brilliant idea of using the radioactive symbol! It’s quite tricky to photograph these things, but we tried:

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IMG_1870I had so much fun in this costume, especially when I found a blacklight!

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Annie Oakley

Making the Marie Curie costume for Halloween inspired me the next time I was invited to a costumed dance party several months later. I had far less time to make this one happen, but I wanted to keep with my theme. I l also needed something I could dance in this time. So I came up with Ballerina Annie Oakley.

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Annie Oakley was a famous sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the late nineteenth century. But I wasn’t about to bring a real firearm to a party. So I did the next best thing: I found me some gun tights.

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You can get these on ebay for about $5. They totally made the outfit. And since they were tights, I figured, why not wear a tutu? So I borrowed this black leotard and tutu combo from a friend, who found it at a clothing swap. I already had the cowboy boots and the bandana, so all that remained to get was a hat and a western shirt.

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Both the hat and the shirt came from the thrift store, but believe it or not the shirt required a fair amount of alteration. It was the best one they had (it even had snaps instead of buttons!) but it was a size or two bigger than me. So I took it in on the sides and a little in the seams and then tied it above the tutu to get the fit I wanted. It was worth it! And surprisingly I still wear the shirt quite a bit. Perhaps I’m a cowgirl at heart after all.

Lady David Bowie

Sometimes, the clothes simply make the costume. Other times, it’s all about the makeup. Especially when you are invited to a David Bowie themed birthday party. I present to you two female David Bowies.

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This is David Bowie circa 1973, where we recreated the lightning bolt makeup from the Aladdin Sane album cover. You can buy Halloween makeup, but I used bright pink lipstick, dark teal eyeshadow, and black eyeliner. It stayed put really well, but be forewarned that your face may have some residual pink the next day! Not included but recommended: leather jacket and a bad ass expression.

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This is David Bowie circa 1972 as Ziggy Stardust. The key to this look was a really good cream eyeshadow in gold, which I used for the circle as well as my lips. For my eyes I used the reddest blush I could find and some black eyeliner. There was no way I was going to be able to recreate any of Bowie’s amazing clothing from this era, but I did find a gold leggings/shrug set at a thrift store and a gold sparkly top that matched it.

GROUP COSTUMES 

Game of Thrones

If you have a group of people who all want to do the same theme for Halloween, there are tons of great things you can DIY. Earlier this year, my friends and I did a team bike event that required having a group theme and costumes to go with it. We decided to be Team of Thrones.

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From left to right: A wilding woman, Tyrion Lannister, Asha (Yara) Greyjoy, a Stark bannerman (with banner), Arya Stark, Khal Drogo, Danerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Viserys Targaryen, Ygritte, and the Three Eyed Crow.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock/north of the wall this year, you’ve probably heard of the HBO show Game of Thrones, a TV show based on the epic fantasy novels of the Song of Ice and Fire series  by George R. R. Martin. The best part about this show is that there are so many characters that you can get as obscure and outlandish as you want with your character and costume.

We obviously made some adaptations to be able to ride bikes on a rather hot spring day, but I think there were some rather creative costume elements here. To name just a few examples: the crow has little messages tied to her legs, Tyrion has little half shoes strapped to his knees, and Viserys covered her bike helmet with that giant golden crown.

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I went as Asha Greyjoy (Yara in the TV series), Theon’s sister. I already had the black top, shorts and boots, all from thrift stores. I also happened to own a studded belt, sailing ship earrings and an octopus necklace…don’t ask me why on the last one but it worked beautifully. The little dirk knife and shield came from the dollar store, and I taped the Greyjoy sigil and motto, “We Do Not Sow” to the front of the shield. Also recommended: putting on the hardened face of a ironborn sea captain. (Showing off the forearm scar you got as a child helps too.)

Gatsby Girls

Not up for fantasy novels? How about celebrating the Jazz Age novel The Great Gatsby with some roaring 20s costumes?

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There’s plenty of inspiration in the new movie adaptation, but there’s actually quite a range of outfits that work for this era. All of the above dresses came from thrift stores, from the light pink drop waist dress with lace (it originally had long sleeves that she removed with a seam ripper) to the bright pink sequin flapper dress.

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Accessories really help make these costumes work: among these four costumes we’ve got gloves, long beaded necklaces, hats, sequined headbands, feathers, flowers and even a cigarette holder (oh and the gun tights yet again!). Equally important is hair! You can’t really see it here but we’ve used two hair tutorials to get the styles of the 1920s, one that shows you how to fake a bob hairstyle if you have long hair and one that shows you how to create finger waves, which is a bit more challenging and works best with hair that already has a curl to it:

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I tried to do the finger waves on myself, and I didn’t quite achieve the full look. I would really recommend that you have a friend who is good with hair do this on you. The nice thing is that both hair styles don’t require much in the way of equipment—for the fake bob you need a clip, a pony tail holder and some bobby pins. For the finger waves, you need gel, a comb, and bobby pins. That’s it! Combine with 1920s style make up, especially the “cupid’s bow” lips, for the full look.

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Alice in Wonderland

Last but not least, we have the Mad Hatters Tea Party!

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Let’s start with Alice. I made this a low key costume since I knew I’d want to be comfortable all night. I used this strapless blue and white dress because it was a hot June evening, and paired it with these thigh high stockings that had card suits on them I got from a former roommate. The black Mary Jane shoes, red rose ring, and bow hair clip are things I’ve had forever, but they added a nice touch. I wanted to make a black bow out of ribbon, but I ran out of time.

I did, however, make the apron. To be honest, I didn’t use a pattern—I just tried on the dress, measured where I wanted the apron to come to, and used those measurements. The most similar free tutorial I’ve seen for how to make one like it is here. I used plain white muslin and a wide white ribbon instead of fabric to save time. I decided it should have rounded edges to match the top of my dress, and I think the effect worked nicely.

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If you’re willing to take it a step further with face paint and/or prosthetics, you can go this route. The Dormouse combined mouse ears and a tail with Halloween makeup crayons to recreate the mouse face. The Cheshire Cat sewed his ears onto a hat, and used pink and purple face face paint for the stripes, but also attached some pretty awesome prosthetics.

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Seen here with the Queen of Hearts, you can tell that this is a much more advanced costume project. But doable if you are adventurous! There’s actually two prosthetics, a cat nose and a grin, that he attached. He used spirit gum to attach the latex prosthetic to his face and liquid latex to blend the seam—you can get an idea for how to actually do this from this prosthetic nose tutorial. The effect, as you can see, is pretty remarkable.

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And that’s all my costumes from the last year! I hope these can inspire you to come up with your own clever ideas—if they do, I’d love to see the results!

Holiday Knits & Crafts, Nerdy Knits & Crafts, Quick Knits & Crafts

Procrastiknits! Quick knitting projects to keep or gift

After my last post, you may have the impression that I am a big-intense-project kind of knitter. It’s actually the opposite! In the great debate of process knitter vs. product knitter, I often fall into the latter category. I like to have a regular supply of finished objects. And when I am slogging through a long-term-commitment pattern (like a sweater), I have to have a small project (or two) on the side just so I can finish something.

I’ve collected eight knitting projects that I have completed in the last three months, all of which take a minimum amount of yarn and less-than-average amount of time to complete. Some of them follow a specific pattern, some of them are my modifications of other patterns, and a few of them are my own original work.  I wasn’t the best at getting quality photos of everything, but you can at least get the gist of how they look. Enjoy.

Washcloths, dishtowels, pot holders

In a category that could alternately be called “small square things knit with cotton,” I made the following Christmas gifts.

Adventure Time washcloth

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For my brother, I made an Adventure Time washcloth of Finn (I was going to do Jake too, but I used up all my yellow yarn on the potholder…) I used this fingerless mitts pattern as a starting point, but obviously I changed many things. I used size 3 needles and both ribbing and garter stitch for the edging. I knit from both ends of the white yarn so that there would be no stranding on the reverse side. I honestly didn’t write down the number of stitches I cast on, it was probably 32 or 36. I had to improvise with Finn’s face, not having a skin color, but I think it still worked ok! I knit the entire thing while my mom and grandma were wrapping presents, so it went pretty quick.

Cylon dishcloth

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Clean your toaster with a toaster! For my friend Sarah, who introduced me to Battlestar Galactica, I made this Cylon dishcloth.  I love it, even though it came out a little squished because I went too small on the needles (size 2—I knit so loose usually). I followed this cylon potholder pattern but when it became clear that my gauge was too small, I added a new detail to the top. It’s hard to see, but if you look you can just make out the word FRACK. And then of course, I couldn’t resist cutting off the top corners (wish I’d thought of this at the bottom corners!) and adding some duplicate stitch in a reddish yarn to get that eerie Centurion look. These details meant that this took a bit longer than the washcloth, but because of the small size it was still a pretty quick knit.

bright yellow potholder

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This was a gift for my grandma, and while in appearance it is the most simple, it actually took about the same amount of time as the others. I noticed that my grandmother preferred hand knitted and crocheted potholders above all other kinds, but that they were getting worn out and too thin. I used this pattern for mitered hot pads because it was double the thickness. It basically requires knitting a tube on circular needles, stitching up the top in one direction and stitching up the bottom in a perpendicular direction. Worked great for me!

Kitty toys

Pinky and the Brain

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Ok, I’ve already posted about the first pirate mouse I made for my own kitty, which is pictured above on the right. But I’ve made three more as gifts, so I’m going to show you what variations on the orignal pattern I have come up with. The first is the “improved” pirate mouse on the left, which has fully pink ears, a pink tail, and is stuffed with a sock as opposed to batting. The weight of the sock is better and doesn’t bounce too much. I think it looks like the “pinky” to my original “brain” version above. Sewing the little bits on is by far the most time consuming part of the whole thing. Here are the other variants:

blue fuzzy

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I wanted to see what the pattern would look like with a super fuzzy yarn for the body and a contrasting yarn for everything else. The answer is this little guy, who reminds me of nothing so much as a muppet mouse. This mouse went to Leah, who is notoriously picky with her kitty toys, but she seems to have taken to it quite well:

Gryffindor lion mouse

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I made this one as a gift for a couchsurfing host during a research trip. She had two adorable cats, brothers, named Harry and Neville. I decided that as a thank you gift I would make her a Harry Potter pirate mouse in the gryffindor colors of scarlet and gold. (Don’t ask why I had this yarn with me on a trip, I just did!) I also added a mane and a shaggy tail end by adding some crochet loops, using more or less this technique. I forgot to add a nose or whiskers but it didn’t bother Mr. Potter one bit:

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Wrist things

[both of the following are my original patterns, so please respect this and do not use them for profit or republish them without my written permission!]

knitted bangle bracelet

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I’m sure there are many tutorials for making this kind of bracelet out there, but as since this bracelet was just for me, I decided to wing it. I love the results. I used a plastic ring that originally held a scarf on a rack at a store, if that makes sense…I just swatched until I figured out how many stitches it would take to cover the bracelet without being too tight or too lose, knitted for the appropriate length, and stitched it onto the ring. I used kitchener stitch to connect the two ends together, but since I chose a color changing yarn, the seam is still obvious (see smaller photo). I love how this shows off a tiny leftover remnant of an amazing yarn so well.

Madonna Mountain wristcuff

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This is more of a true pattern that I came up with over Christmas. It’s a small version of the Madonna Mountain located in San Luis Obispo, complete with the big white “M” on the face. I made this for my friend Phil specifically, because he has a clothing company in that town and makes t-shirts with unique line drawings of the local scenery. 

I wish I had written down the details for this pattern! I came up with it while playing board games with my family, and it just kind of flowed. I believe I cast on 32 stitches in green, and then after the ribbing I started decreasing the green on one stitch per side, and adding the dark blue at the same rate, knitting from both sides of the dark blue yarn so as not to have stranding in the back. Then I did the mountain in duplicate stitch using white yarn. I originally intended this to be a drink cozy, but he immediately wanted it to be a wrist cuff and I was not about to argue with a guy who sells apparel for a living.

Hat and collar

the ugly urchin

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I named this hat poorly because I ended up liking it way more than I thought I would. I used the urchin hat pattern from Knitty with size 9 needles. I wanted a new hat for myself that was quick and easy and could use up some crappy thickish acrylic yarn I had lying around. Much to my surprise, this short row hat looked lovely even in this kind of yarn. I recommend plenty of stitch markers for the short rows, because not losing track of where you are is key for these kinds of patterns. The shape of this hat is a bit hard to capture in photos, but it is beret like without being too much of a beret if that makes sense. I wear it a lot when my hair isn’t quite dry, as in the picture below.

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not quite blue collar

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The aquamarine yarn from my custom sweater is back again! Since I had leftovers, I went looking for a way to use them up and found this lovely peter pan collar pattern. This was probably the fastest project of the whole bunch!

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My only real modification was more of an accident, which you can kind of see above: my button for the back is off center. I made the collar the same length of the pattern one at first, but I decided that I needed it to be a bit longer. Laziness won out and I only extended one side. It doesn’t show from the front, however. I have another collar in a different color as well, but since that is one gift I haven’t given yet, I’m not going to post it yet so it can remain a surprise for the recipient.

 

 

 

Holiday Knits & Crafts

Festive decorations that cost almost nothing!

Last weekend I had nothing but lots of work stretching out ahead of me—so to take breaks, I did a bunch of craft projects. And since it’s December, they all ended up being Christmas related. Now my apartment is decked out in a bunch of homemade and repurposed decorations. The best part of all this is that I literally spend $2.50 at the thrift store, total. Let me show you what I did.

Outdoors: wreaths, garlands, and bobbles

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Since my cat eats anything green and growing, all my seasonal greenery has to go outside. Last year I made a wreath out of boughs from shrubbery. This year I already had a grapevine wreath on the door, so I decided to just alter it by weaving in some branches from a nearby evergreen and berries from bushes in my complex. Here’s the result!

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Yes, I left up my “no solicitors” sign because it does seem to deter some of them. Also, it’s also homemade, so it fits right in. I’ll probably have to replace the berries in a week or so, but so far they’ve been holding up.

The next project took more work. I decided to make a garland for the top of my front door using more evergreen branches, mistletoe, and red bobble Chirstmas tree ornaments I got at the thrift store for $1.

IMG_1898IMG_1907I started by wrapping up branches of evergreen and mistletoe with twine. From talking to several people recently, I realize that the source of mistletoe may not be common knowledge. It’s a parasite, and it grows on a lot of deciduous trees around here. If you see a green bush like thing growing straight down on a tree branch on a tree that has lost its leaves—congratulations, you’ve found mistletoe.

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Anyway, I wrapped three separate bundles—one leaning left, one leaning right, one that was just straight.

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Then I attached them above the door frame using what I had on hand. For the left and right leaning bundles, I used cup hooks. I suggest using a nail of slightly smaller size to make a pilot hole, then twisting the cup hook into the hole.

IMG_1899IMG_1900Here’s what that looked like once they were up. Kinda weird without the middle part to connect it.

IMG_1901IMG_1902For the middle part I used what I think is called a fencing staple—basically a U-shaped nail with no head but two points. For some reason I had one lying around. I just hammered it in over the middle part of the bundle and then pulled the greenery over it to over it.

IMG_1905IMG_1906Finally, I added the red bobble ornaments. I was seriously winging it at this point, but I ended up removing the top wire portion, jamming some floral wire into the opening, then securing that with duct tape. I know, duct tape! But the silver looked a lot like the top of an ornament would, I think.

IMG_1908IMG_1910Repeat for both ends of the floral wire, wrap it securely around a branch, and there you have it! I would have done three bobbles but my box of ornaments was missing one and I needed three for the last outdoor project. I still like how it looks! After this photo I trimmed the branches to make the sides a little more even.

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Finally, I decided that I really enjoyed the bats in the window decorations I made for Halloween. So did basically the same thing, but this time, with red bobble ornaments.

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While this was easy to set up (I already had yarn to tie onto the ornaments and nails installed to hang them from), it is also one you have to be careful with. If I did not have a small apartment and a cat that chases all dangly things, I would put these inside. Because when it’s windy, these ornaments tap against the window. If there is a crazy windy storm, I will have to bring them inside because they are ancient and would probably break. But for now, they are looking great.

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Indoors: paper chains and advent calendars

Ok, first of all, I do have some non-paper decorations up on top of my bookcases, pretty much the only free spaces in my home.

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This little tree and ornaments came from my family’s massive stash of Christmas decor. It goes on the tall bookcase every year, where it is hard for my cat to find it.

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I also added some pine cones and a really old copy of A Christmas Carol to the top of the small bookshelf. I was hoping I could find my own pine cones, but no such luck, so these were $1.50 from the thrift store. The book was my grandfather’s—writing in the inside says “Christmas ’44” and the book itself is from 1938. It has some beautiful illustrations.

On to the paper crafts!

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First up—a paper chain. For some reason I loved making these in elementary school. But I decided to ditch the red and green construction paper for strips from magazines and catalogs.  It was a lot more colorful this way. I did try to get some red and green in there though. I didn’t really measure the strips—they were all about an inch by 6 or 7 inches, but it didn’t really matter.

IMG_1889IMG_1888I ended up making 24 chains, because I had this idea that it could be an advent calendar paper chain. But then I decided I didn’t want to put numbers on them or break one of them off everyday, so it’s more of a decoration. I hung it on the entryway to the kitchen. It was surprisingly hard to photograph.

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But the paper chain inspired me to make a real advent calendar. On a whim. With no plan. And so I did. Below are most of the tools and supplies you need (except for the exacto knife and cutting mat, which I also ended up using).

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I started out with an old calendar that I liked and the magazine and catalogs from before. I measured the size of the box under each number, made a template, and then cut out lots of little rectangles for each day and glued them to the calendar. It would be super easy if you had a glue stick, but I used elmer’s glue and a paintbrush.

IMG_1914IMG_1915Once that dried, I worked on the overlay part. I measured an even smaller square for each day, and traced three sides of it onto some strips of nice green stationery paper I had. Using an exacto knife, I cut the three sides of the rectangle out so that each day would have a little door flap to open. When I had enough for all 24 days, I glued them over the calendar boxes, being careful not to glue the flaps down!

IMG_1917IMG_1916IMG_1920Finally, I covered up the days of the week and the year on the old calendar…and it was done!

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I was quite pleased with the results, especially because this was the one craft I did not make for myself—it was a gift for a friend. Because the only thing more exciting than opening those little calendar doors as a kid was not knowing what was behind them.

IMG_1924I think I’m done with Chirstmasing for a while now…at least until my yarn comes in the mail and I can start knitting little gifts.

Costumes, Holiday Knits & Crafts, Nerdy Knits & Crafts, Quick Knits & Crafts

More craft, less witch: Halloween costumes and creations!

It’s almost Halloween—aka the I-get-to-make-a-new-costume holiday! Dressing up has been fun for pretty much as long as I can remember…

Yes, that’s me as Rainbow Brite, a homemade costume! More about those below.

Anyway, in the last week I have been stumbling across some creepily good Halloween crafts on the internets and

drawing inspiration from my previous Halloween creations as I come up with a costume for this year. Have a look!

 

Bats! Spider webs! Ghosts!

I don’t usually do Halloween crafts, but when I found this bat pattern I had decided I wanted to make it. It’s quick, it uses up cheap yarn, and it makes me giggle when I look at my window.

I think they look best from a distance, but here they are next to another bit of seasonal decor (i.e. my door stop).

If I had even more time I would probably be making a few other items. The first is this spiderweb scarf. I don’t do much crochet, but with this video tutorial  I think I could remind myself how to wield a hook. But what I’d really love to try is just about any pattern out of a ghost-inspired knitting book I heard about on this blog post (really like that blog btw).  It’s called Ghosts: historiographies, cultural manifestations, and the knits they’ve inspired. First of all, how could I not love a knitting book with “historiographies” in the title? Also, the patterns look really lovely, especially Calavera Catrina. The weather has just turned chilly here and a spooky bonnet would be really nice right about now.

Costume Creations!

But of course, what I’m most excited about are costumes!

I realized that when I posted about the top ten nerdiest craft I’d made, three of them were actually Halloween costumes: Ash Ketchum gloves, Bjork’s swan dress, and Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon Drogon:

Guess what? Those are not the only homemade Halloween costume photos I have. And since I love looking at the costumes other people make, I’m going to share a few of mine with you, along with their pros and cons about things like how comfortable it was to wear and whether or not others recognized what I was. For your convenience I’ve also divided them up between costumes I planned and costumes I put together at the last minute. Hope you get some ideas!

Costumes I made in advance 

If you have at least a week or two and you are willing to put in some effort, you too can make bizarre homemade costumes!

1. A Carrot

Pros: Orange top and skirt were easy to sew—Just two tubes with elastic at the top. Repurposed a hula skirt from an older costume, so I didn’t have to buy anything for the carrot top part.

Cons: No one knew what I was! Ok, granted, the green top didn’t stand up all carrot top like, but still. One guy thought I was asparagus. Also, I was with Edward Scissors hands at the time, which is admittedly an even more awesome costume to look at (I didn’t make that one, but I did do his makeup). Weight of the green “hair” became uncomfortable after a while.

Unrelated downside—I was sick that year, and so the only thing in my cup was saltwater to gargle. I don’t like missing an opportunity to dress up.

2. Holly Golightly 

Pros:  People recognized my costume right away (well, at least “Breakfast at Tiffany’s!”). Worked great with my hair when it was long enough to put up. Already owned the black dress (thanks concert band!) and the costume jewelry (thanks grandma!). Very comfortable to wear.

Cons: Not many! I suppose you may want to nix the cigarette holder if you’re dressing up around kids. Since I don’t smoke I had to borrow a cigarette to get the above photo.

3. Patti Mayonnaise 

Pros:  No sewing required! I found the blue shirt and some pink sweats at the thrift store, cut the pink sweats into circles, and used a steam iron and double sided fusible webbing to stick them to the shirt. Nice and warm to walk around in. Also works as a couples or group costume if you have a Doug Funnie, Skeeter Valentine, etc! (Not included—woodland fairy friend or dude who photobombs you pictures)

Cons: Only a few—wigs are not usually cheap (this was a man’s wig which was somewhat less expensive) and I could not truly mimic her orange skin tone. The dots were a bit stiff. And I suppose you need to watched Nickelodeon in the 90s to know the show Doug. Still one of my favorites!

4. Gadget Hackwrench

Pros: I got to wear a purple jumpsuit, a wig, mouse ears AND goggles! From my face you can tell it was a fun get up to wear. I got a purple sheet and the sewing patterns from the thrift store, and the goggles from the clearance aisle at the end of summer (yes sometimes I start planning my costume early).

Cons: Fewer people recognized my Gadget costume as being from  Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers  (I didn’t think about the fact that the show was not on TV for that long). And many things to wear=more things to buy. I wanted to make more of the things like my ears but I ran out of time because of the sewing (see work in progress shot). Sewing was tricky because I combined two patterns (sleeveless jumpsuit + collared blouse) and then I altered that further to make the legs slim, etc. Final result: I could not lift my arms above my head without giving myself an extreme wedgie. So not exactly the most comfortable costume!

Costumes that I put together at the last minute

If you have a day (or maybe just a few hours) to figure out a good costume, you can still come up with something interesting-ish.

1. Cheshire Cat

Pros: Yet again all I had to sew was a shirt and tube top—you can sew fabric into tubes very quickly! In this case I was going to an Alice in Wonderland themed party and remembered that I had some fabric that looked like the Cheshire Cat’s stripes. Too bad you can’t see the tail here! Ears are made from origami paper. Pictured with the Queen of Hearts.

Cons: Besides the fact that I only have terrible photos of me with my eyes half closed, the only real downside was that I was cold. But I am usually cold.

2. A sad hipster

Pros: Our friends got such a kick out of this! At the time I owned the black wig and had a roommate whose accessories were perfect in that oh-so-emo kind of way, so nothing was bought or altered, just repurposed. Of course, sad hipster boy is wearing girls clothes too…the tighter the better.

Cons: No one else besides our friends knew we were dressed up for Halloween…everyone else just thought we were a real hipster couple. Now that should really make you cry.

3. Gender Bender

Pros: Don’t normally dress as a man? If so, you may be surprised to find you probably have everything you need minus an accessory or two (the tie was mine but the pipe was not). Can be super comfy.

Cons: Don’t normally dress as a woman? Good luck finding a dress than fits, putting on nylons without ripping them, applying  makeup, and/or walking in heels. If you can do all this and be comfortable, you must let me know how!

4. Princess Peach

Pros: You know how brides say you can totally wear that bridesmaid dress again, but you totally can’t because it always looks like a bridesmaid dress? This is one instance where I did figure out how to wear it again—at a Ninetendo costume party. Crown and necklace are made out of construction paper.

Cons: No cons! It was the perfect last minute costume for the party.

Food & Garden, Holiday Knits & Crafts

Spring part 1. April fools baking, Easter decorating

This is what happens when I put off posting on this blog: too many things to write about! I narrowed it down to just these two topics for the moment.

April fools baking: surprise sugar cookies

I’m a fan of (harmless) April fools pranks.. In my elementary school diary, I kept track of which jokes worked and which didn’t (turning on the windshield wipe and turning up the car radio in my parent’s cars before they went to work: yes getting anyone to drink the “lemonade” in the fridge that I made without sugar: no). So apparently I have always celebrated this holiday.

This year, April 1 happened to coincide with the season premiere of Game of Thones: Season 2. I was already thinking about making cookies to share for those of us watching it. But for some reason I remembered these cookies my mom made for us one summer: I remembered them as sugar cookies with a “mystery” center, usually something delicious like chocolate or peanut butter. So I set out to recreate these cookies, upping the ante. I would make ALL THE FLAVORS. Well, at least every flavor in my cupboard:

I used this recipe for the sugar cookie part, mainly because it makes a ton and I was going to use one cookie on the top and one on the bottom to make them. Coming up with mystery ingredients wasn’t too hard: I made most of them “good flavors,” as you can see: blueberries, chocolate, jelly beans, etc.

But I also made a few “bad/weird” flavors, like carrot, peas, and mustard.

The hardest part about doing this was rolling out and cutting the chilled dough (with a drinking glass) before it got too warm and sticky to work with.

The results? It really is hard to tell which is which! the responses I got were mixed, but personally, I liked the surprise factor. I ended up with extras, and I’ve been including a cookie with my lunch this week.  I had the mustard one yesterday…I can’ t believe I’m saying it, but that was a good cookie! Who knew?

Easter decorating on the cheap

I was cleaning my apartment the same day I was making the April Fools cookies, and I was inspired to do a little spring/Easter decorating when I came across a plastic Easter egg. Unfortunately, that was the only decoration I found. So I decided to get creative. I pulled out a grapevine wreath and decided it looked like a nest. Which meant that it needed some eggs:

Those are two of the eggs I used while making the sugar cookies. I had never blown the insides out of an egg before without using specialized tools, but after  googling how to do it and reading the first tutorial  I came up with, I found out that it was pretty easy. I used two different sized sewing needles to make the holes at either end, an unfolded paperclip to break up the yoke inside, and a regular plastic straw to blow the inside of the egg into a bowl. The eggs didn’t break.

After that, I decided I wanted something inside as well. As it happens I have some old calendars that I keep for arts & crafts purposes, and one of those was a Peter Rabbit calendar. So I cut the front and back cover off together and made a little standup rabbit to guard my one plastic egg.

I don’t know why, but I like having him on my coffee table. There was a little stuffed lamb there to, but Jo decided that was her new toy.

Ok, next post will be Spring Part 2: gardening post!