January 2013 Archives
January 30, 2013
I have been sitting on this blog for quite some time. I really only share it with my closest knitting buddies and I feel that we (you, the reader and I, the blogger) have gotten quite close so I can share. The reason I hardly share this blog is not because I am ashamed to read it. It is not a guilty secret. It is because I love it so, so much and I would cringe and fall into a deep depression should I ever hear anyone disparage it. It is like my baby; I love her so much but don't want anyone to tell me she is ugly (which she is not). But I know you all will love Crazy Aunt Purl.
This blog is a knitting blog the same way lunch with girl friends is about lunch. It is really about chatting and laughing and the eating is a bonus. Crazy Aunt Purl is about Laurie's (the blog mistress) crazy/boring/cat-filled life. I think it is never boring but she might disagree. Laurie is a self described "Thirty-something, displaced Southerner living in Los Angeles with a herd of felines". She is hilarious and an excellent writer. I love escaping with her blog, living vicariously through her adventures whether it be knitting on the bus with all the wonderful humans you can expect on public transportation, LA's wildfires or knitting get togethers. Laurie chronicles her everyday life, dating life and social life in the most entertaining way. I have been a loyal reader since 2007. I never thought I would have a "relationship" with a blog but Crazy Aunt Purl and I are coffee BFFs. Laurie often asks questions so it is easy to feel drawn-in like you are having a conversation (this could also be my wishful thinking). This delusion is furthered by her writing style which is very conversational and filled with giggle-inducing slang. Be forewarned: there is a crazy amount of cute cat pictures on this blog, none of which is unwarranted.
Laurie is also the author of 2 books that combine her life in a fun-filled narrative with knitting patterns. Her second book has over a dozen knitting patterns but it is worth it just for the story alone. If you love knitting, love cats, or love living in Laurie's vibrant world than you will love this blog and her stories. Spoiler alert: one of her cats is out to get her.
January 27, 2013
Decorating for holidays is always fun -- when I find the time to do it. This year, I'm determined to add some Valentine cheer to the house, and I'm starting with pillows. This project is simple and girly, and lets you play with color. I'm using red and pink taffeta on a black antique cotton velvet base, but you could easily customize the color scheme for any time of year or decor.
My pillow form is 14 inches square, so to start with, I cut two 14.75 inch squares. My seam allowances are 1/4 inch, so that leaves a little wiggle room for the pillow to fluff out.
Once my squares were cut, I used a dinner plate to trace a centered circle on the front pillow square. Since I used a black antique cotton velvet, I used a silver paint pen to mark the circle, but any tracing implement will work, so long as it leaves you a clear line to follow when the stitching starts.
Here's my circle traced out. The image is brightened up so you can clearly see the marking.
Once my pillow front was marked, I set it aside and grabbed my taffeta. In the pink, I cut 1.75-inch-wide strips on the bias, and in the red, I cut 2-inch-wide strips, also on the bias. For the 14-inch pillow with a starting circle of about 11.5 inches, I cut roughly 11 yards of bias strips. If your pillow is larger or smaller, you'll need to adjust those amounts.
Once all my bias strips were cut, I set to ruffling the two colors together. I simply set a narrower strip on top of a wider strip and put them under my presser foot stacked together.
I used a seam ripper to ease my strips into gathers as I stitched to create a ruffle. This is one of those things that you get better and better at the more you do it. I tend to make one tuck every three stitches or so, but your rhythm may vary. Note that if your gathers are tighter, you may need to cut more bias strips.
As I hit the end of one strip, I just set the next strip under it with a little bit of overlap and kept going -- no need to seam together all your strips (though if you prefer to do that, feel free). The key here is to avoid having both the top and bottom strips end in the same places. I staggered my pink and red strip lengths so I was never trying to overlap the next pieces for both colors at the same time.
Once all my bias yardage was gathered into a ruffle, I started stitching it to my pillow front, using my circular marking as a guide.
At the end of the circle, I let the ruffle overlap the starting point just a bit ...
... and then continued stitching, moving the ruffle slightly inside my first circle and continuing around in a slightly smaller circle.
I continued to stitch in ever-smaller circles, slowly spiraling inward. Here's the pillow with three rows of circular stitching:
The stitching continues into the center of the circle. Here's what the stitching looks like on the back side:
As my circles tightened into the center, I finished off the rosette by folding in the raw edges at the end.
To conceal the last bit of stitching and add a little sparkle, I put a rhinestone button in the center. You could put any number of other things here to finish off your spiral -- a fancy pin or applique, feathers, a fabric pouf or bow -- it's up to you!
Once my front piece was complete, I set in a zipper at one side, joining the front and back pieces.
Then, with right sides together, I closed off the square (keeping the zipper open for turning), using 1/4-inch seam allowances. Once the square was turned right-side out and the pillow form was in place, voila! Festive Valentine fun!
The spiraling ruffle technique can be used on many other projects, from handbags to hair clips. What colors and fabrics will you combine to create something totally unique?
January 25, 2013
Granny Squares are the Chevrons of the crochet world. They are super hot right now and go with everything. But they don't have to be the granny squares of era's past; today's granny squares have blended in inspirations from floral, Asian and whimsical aspects of pop culture. Granny Squares rose to stardom in the 1970's where they dominated the knitwear scene. Today they are stars for different reasons: they are an excellent way to use up small amounts of yarn, they are quick and they are comforting. The granny squares look has worked its way into toys, décor and apparel unlike the 1970's though it is only the technique that has been incorporated.
Here are some of my favorite free granny square patterns.
Crochet Spot's Granny Square with a Flower is a very simple granny square with a lotus like flower floating in the center. The look is gorgeous because it is uncluttered.
Yarning has also created a floral based granny square but she has created hers in a more traditional fashion. You can see how this square works into a complete blanket which is incredible.
Hop Scotch Lane has taken granny squares to a new level. One project is a giant granny square blanket worked in beautiful yellow tones and another is an owl with a granny square belly.
But my favorite is Repeat Crafter Me's Owl Granny Square which is a traditional granny square with an owl worked first that stands out from the granny square background. You can work the owl without the background and use is as an appliqué. I made two using the pattern and let me tell you they are fun and easy. I made a girl version (pink, light green and teal) and a boy version (brown, navy, grey) using Lion Brand's Wool Ease. I loved making them and am planning on working up an afghan using this pattern and a traditional granny square pattern together.
January 23, 2013
Eco-Felt (about 1/8 to ¼ of a yard depending on the size of you bib)
Lace (scrape piece, you can even use several pieces)
A piece of Organza at least 20'' long and 3'' wide for ruffle
Floral Stones (available in most big box stores like Target, Wal-mart, Garden Ridge, maybe even the Dollar Store)
One Chain (You can recycle an old or broken necklace like I did)
Fold a sheet of paper in half and draw out half of your necklace shape on the fold of the paper. I used the bottoms of various glasses to create my 3 circular shapes. Once you have a shape that you dig cut it out on the fold and open it up. That is your pattern for your felt.
Trace your pattern onto your felt and cut out 2 pieces. Set one aside. Fold your ruffle in half and on your remaining piece of felt pin your ruffle onto the wrong side of your felt. I placed mine in a very loose fashion, just sort of tucking here and smoothing there. It is not gathered just sort of tucked in places especially where 2 circles meet. It doesn't need to be perfect. Stitch in place
Add your piece of lace over the right side of your felt and stitch around the edge of your felt using a thread that matches your lace (then if your stitches are off it won't be noticeable). Trim your lace to the edge of the felt; it will curl up a bit making your felt visible.
Next, layout your stones in a pattern you like. You can experiment here with different colors and designs. These stones really catch the light, add color and weight to help your necklace hang well (if it is too light it will flop around and look unfinished). Once you have your pattern glue down your stones using your glue gun (Don't worry about glue strings you can pick them off later).
Figure out the length of chain you need (I pinned my chain onto my second piece of felt and slipped it on and then adjust the length). Hand tack the chain onto your felt and then glue your 2 pieces of felt together, sandwiching your chain and ruffle in the middle.
This necklace looks great with a blazer or over a casual sweater. I love it with my little black dress and a plain white tee. It is my new go-to accessory.
January 20, 2013
If you have cats or have friends who have cats, you may already know that nothing beats a hand-made cat toy. You can so easily transform a few scraps into a sturdy plaything -- and it won't have any pieces that could pop off and be ingested or otherwise cause potential dangers.
Through many years of rigorous testing (I own my crazy cat lady status), I have had the greatest success with simple toys made with fleece and a bit of catnip. Here's one that my fluffy monsters always love: a fake fried egg.
I start by cutting two layers asymmetrical round/oval shapes -- remember, eggs are never perfect circles!
Then, I do the same thing to cut the yolk -- no need to worry about perfection. There are two yolks featured in this photo because I was making two toys at the same time. You only need to cut one per toy.
Next, I cut a single layer of Warm and Natural batting just a little smaller than my egg white, and did the same for the yolk.
I layer the batting between the two pieces of white fleece and stitch all the way around the outside, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch from the cut edge.
Then, I set the yolk, with the batting layer under it, on top of the assembled white section, and stitch it down around the edges -- but first, I tuck a little catnip under the yolk!
And there you have it -- super quick toys to delight your feline friends!
But what do our Siamese reviewers think?
Well ... One stretched to reach outside of his Fabric.com shipping box (it really is!) to pull his toy into his lair.
And the other just pulled his egg toy to his face and kept rubbing his cheeks on it. I'll call that a win.
January 18, 2013
Glitter Twig: To make these clips you will need some small twigs, one package of Martha Stewart Glitter Glue and 2 small hair clips. My inspiration came from this picture I saw in a magazine last year. I loved them instantly and when I heard about our glitter glue I knew it was just the right medium I needed to create my own Twig Hair Clip.
The trick to this hair clip is finding twigs that interest you. Once you have your twigs, clip them into 1'' sections. Cover the twig entirely with 2 coats of glitter glue, allowing time to dry between coats. Once the glue is dry affix the twigs to your hair clips using your glue gun.
Pom Pom: These clips may be the easiest of the 3. I used our extra small pom pom makers to create these 2 pom poms from sock weight yarn and glued them on with a glue gun. Bam! So easy. The difficult part is choosing your yarn colors. I used a Snap clip for one and a Pinch clip for the other. I prefer the snap clips for decorating pony tails and buns and pinch clips for keeping hair out of the face.
Tassel: To make each of my Tassel Hair Clips you will need 2 skeins of embroidery floss (color A and color B). Wrap the floss around your index and ring finger held together about 10 times; you don't want it to be very thick. You can follow my Tassel making instructions here. Once your tassel is made, glue it using your glue gun to the end of your hair clip (you can find more hair accessories for your tassels in our store).
Quick tip for Pom Poms and Tassels: If you want a fun pom pom go for a yarn that runs to the fuzzy side. The fuzzier the yarn that you use for your pom pom the more it will hold the round ball shape and hide the tie holding it together. A smooth yarn tends to be floppy and show the tie, but the fuzzy yarn strands stand straight-out and hold a great ball shape, so look to wools and wool blends.
Tassels are the opposite; you want your strands to be smooth so they hang straight down and have a slight sheen. A fuzzy yarn in tassels will give it a tangled look. An ideal tassel can fall right back into shape after any movement and not require combing.
January 16, 2013
The idea of a giant polka dot wall came to me as I was watching one of my favorite HGTV Shows: Sarah's House. One scene is a glimpse of her office which features a wall covered in circular paint chips. Sarah's paint chips are hanging on hooks but the idea of similar feature jumping into my head for my daughters' room. I set out to make it immediately and all it took was a book of scrapbooking paper, my Fiskars Circle Cutter and a box of thumbtacks (Oh and many hours). Here's how to make your own Polka Dot Wall.
One box of Silver Thumbtacks (I purchased a box of 200 from Amazon)
First work on all of your paper with the wrong side facing up, it is easier to cut this way and if you are working with glitter paper or shiny paper the cutter slides though it much better with the wrong side up.
Tape down your paper to prevent it from sliding while you cut and draw lines down the center of your paper vertically and horizontally, this will make a grid of 4 on the back of your paper. Set your cutter to 5.5'' and place it in the center of one squares of your grid. Cut your circle following the directions from my previous blog: Notional Notions Circle Cutter. Cut 4 circles from each sheet of paper and continue until all sheets of paper have been cut or you have enough polka dots for your wall (Mine has approx. 140 dots). Cut one final dot from a piece of scrape paper as your thumbtack guide (see pictures below). This will help you place the thumbtack in the center every time. Fold the guide in quarters and then open it back up. The 2 fold lines meet in the middle at the exact center, place a thumb tack there and remove. Cut a small wedge out of the guide, like a piece of pie. To use the guide you will place it over a dot, insert a thumb tack in the center of both the guide and dot then remove the guide by sliding it off the dot and thumb tack.
Next, layout your dots in small stacks of color and pattern so you can easily grab the next dot. You can start either in the center or one of the bottom corners and begin randomly placing your dots allowing at least 1'' between dots and no more than 3'' (this will give you a nice saturated look without looking over-crowded). You can layout your dot on a grid pattern by using a clear quilting ruler and chalk lines. I preferred a random layout because it reminded me of bubbles rising to the surface.
I placed my Polka Dot wall right above our crib to give my newborn an interesting piece of art to study when she is playing or (hopefully) putting herself to sleep in the upcoming months. The scale is much grander than a small mobile and will keep her entertained for hours. The patterns are sophisticated enough to grow with her. My 3 yr old also loves the wall and decides each day which dot is her favorite. This is wall art that can stay with them through the years.
January 13, 2013
I really like mixing patterns, and I had some black-and-white Michael Miller scraps on hand that I was yearning to find a use for. But I wanted to do something different than piecing. So, I decided to try weaving a couple of them together with a little help from Heat'n Bond.
First, I cut two pieces of Heat'n Bond to the size I wanted my finished bag, plus seam allowance, and adhered them to the backs of my two fabrics, then trimmed the fabric down to the size of the pieces. Next, I peeled the paper backing off.
For the next step, I cut a piece of backing fabric (mine's a lightweight twill) bigger than I needed to use as a base for my fusibles. Then I arranged the longer set of pieces on top of it, abutting the edges.
And then, one at a time, I wove in my shorter pieces. After each shorter length piece was in place, I gave it a quick touch with a hot iron to keep things in place, being careful to leave all unwoven areas free.
Once all pieces were woven together, I went over the whole piece with my iron to make sure it was all thoroughly bonded together, and then I cut away the excess backing fabric.
After my front piece was assembled, I put together the rest of my bag as normal. In this case, I just went with my old standby boxy bag that I make over and over and just switch out the strap for, but you could use this technique to make almost any bag. Just overlay your woven design on any pattern piece. The only thing to think about as you go is the fact that this will significantly affect the thickness and stiffness of your fabric.
I like using black and white fabrics so that I can accessorize with pops of color. In the photo below, I have one of my hair clips pinned to my bag.
Do you have small pieces of favorite fabrics that need a project to call home? A woven design like this could go in so many directions. You could combine more than two fabrics, use a combination of prints and solids, switch up your weave-ins, or add embellishments like appliques or decorative stitching. Anything goes -- it's your design!
January 11, 2013
Using Double Pointed Knitting Needles (AKA: DPNs) is akin to learning to drive a stick. It is not just steering, gas and brake like knitting and purling. It is multiple needles balanced and held by both hands while knitting and purling. It sounds daunting and it can be very tricky until you learn your way. Each knitter has a slightly different way of holding the needles. Keep practicing if you really want to get it and rest assured that it will come to you just as knitting and purling did once upon a time.
DPNs come in sets of 4-5 needles and are great for small diameter knitting like socks, the tops of hats, sleeves and cording. If you have a set of 4 than your live stitches are on 3 needles and the 4th is your working needle. If your set contains 5 DPNs then you are working your stitches on 4 needles with your 5th as your working needle. As you knit onto your working needle, it becomes a holding needle and the needle you just worked stitches from becomes your working needle. For bigger circular knitting use 5 needles. For smaller diameters use 4 needles.
First, cast on all your stitches onto one needle. It is much easier to cast on to one needle and then transfer those stitches to your other needles than to cast on a few to each needle as you balance the remainder.
See, just letting them hang.
Next, slip the correct number of stitches purlwise onto your second needle. Then cast on the correct number of stitches onto your second and third and fourth(if you have a fourth). Allow the needles with stitches to hang down as you slide your stitches onto the next in line. Then pick up all your needles and orient all your stitches to face the inside holding your DPNs in a small-ish circle.
Hold two needles in your left hand and 1-2 in your right hand as well as your working needle. It helps to keep your stitches at the center of the non-working needle. This helps for balance as well as preventing them from sliding off. As you work each needle, slide your stitches to the center as you prepare for the next needle.
DPNs are also great for other odd knitting jobs so if you want to purchase a set of DPNs to try them out but worry that they may not be for you, fear not you will use them regardless. I am not a DPN lover but I use mine all the time. I avoid using them for small circular knitting but they make great stitch holders, cable needles, row markers and serve as the occasion 3rd needle for 3-needle bind offs.
January 9, 2013
Tassels have hit it big this season, though not as big as the chevron or pom-pom, I think they will grow in popularity even more in 2013. Like Pom poms making your own tassels is the key to a hot look this season. Making your own ensures no one else will have your look, color or texture. Tassels are very versatile which is why they are so hot right now. Their many uses includes necklaces, bracelets, earrings, curtain tie backs, trim, blanket fringe and pillow tassels just to name a few.
To make your tassel select your yarn and cut a piece 8-10'' long and lay it perpendicular to the direction you will be wrapping your yarn (see pictures for examples); this will be your tie. Begin wrapping your yarn around your tool and continue until you have half the thickness of the tassel you want (then wrap a little more just to be sure). Clip your yarn off the skein opposite of your tie and then knot your tie around all your wrapped yarn and knot if again. Slide the tassel off your tool and cut the yarn directly opposite of your tie. Pull on the tie and grab all the yarn about ¾'' to 1'' below the tie and begin wrapping your tassel with your yarn (or other if you choose). Wrap until you get the look you desire and knot of your yarn and clip a long tail. Thread a tapestry needle with your tail and feed the needle into your tassel and down to disguise your knot and tail. Trim your ends and use your tassel.
January 6, 2013
My first pair of 2013 slippers was made with some leftover zebra minky. I used this fab Kwik Sew pattern (which I reviewed previously here on the blog). I love it because it goes together quickly and you can color block your slippers if you want. I made one small addition to the design by adding a Mary Jane strap out of Riley Blake elastic lace.
For my second pair of slippers, I actually used a pattern I made a while back from an old pair of slippers that were falling apart. I just went at them with my trusty seam ripper to pull them apart, laid the pieces flat, and traced around them to create the pattern.
For this pair, I once again hit my scrap stash and found a sweet green knit. I have fairies on the brain lately, so I added little puffballs at the toes for some Tinker Bell style. (I am totally taking these on my next Disney trip!) This pair is lined with fleece to be ultra cozy.
There is no way these will be the only slippers I make myself this year, though. I have a major urge to test out the Pigs in a Blanket pattern from The Quilted Fish, maybe in a pretty damask print.
January 2, 2013
Now that I have kids I have embraced a new love for appliqués. I used to think of them as cute little additions to bags or pillows but now I know them for disguising stains (or worse bleach marks), holes in play clothes or to cover up old and ugly appliqués on otherwise cute clothing gifted by grandmothers, cousins or random ladies that my mom knows from work whose daughter hasn't had kids yet so they have no other outlet for their baby clothes indulgences. I love appliqués and probably sew about 3 a week onto various garments. Last month my daughter's tricycle seat kept snagging her knit pants so I used some cute handprint appliqués over the holes. For Christmas she was given a few plain t-shirts so I added a snowflake (project below) and dinosaur appliqué to jazz them up. And don't get me started on all the plain white onesies I have for my new addition. Appliqués are part of my daily life so I was very excited to write about our Janome Appliqué foot.
The Janome Appliqué Foot is a clear sewing foot attachment that has a wide opening for your needle to accommodate zig zag stitches off all sizes. The clear foot lets you see your path and helps with steering. My appliqué world just opened up when I started using this foot. It was like taking a ride on a glass bottom boat. I could see my path before me and a little bit behind which is important for making sure your stitches are even. My stitch path has greatly improved and my stitches look more finished though it does take some getting used to.
Print out the Snowflake Appliqués downloaded here: Snowflake Applique1.pdf *Fold a sheet of 8.5 by 11'' piece of Heat n Bond 3 times into a triangle and trace the large appliqué onto the wrong side your folded Heat n Bond. Apply Heat n Bond to the wrong side of your fabric according to the directions and cut out. Center your appliqué on one of your t-shirts side seams and iron in place. Install your appliqué foot and coordinating thread into your sewing machine and using a medium stitch length zig zag stitch around the snowflake. Repeat the above from the * for the inner appliqué using either white felt or other fabric you prefer for your snowflake.
My New Year's Resolution is to glam up my wardrobe a little bit. I am not talking about changing diapers in 4'' heels but I would like to break the "mom mould" just a little. This makes me feel good and means I always have a project to work on. Most of my glam projects are inspired by pricey versions from my favorite stores so I feel better by saving money and adding some pretty to my closet.
I decided my first glam project would be a clutch for a date night I have coming up so I choose Noodlehead's Gathered Clutch (you may remember this blog from my Bike Basket Project). I have always loved Dupioni Silk and knew it would be my main material for my glam clutch. I love our selection of colors and elected for a caramel brown. Dupioni Silk can be pricey when used in apparel and home décor projects by using it in a small project like this clutch you can save money while indulging in silk. It also makes a very luxurious gift for friends, hostesses or teachers.
As Noodlehead's tutorial mentions this is an easy project though it looks so posh that you may think it difficult. Anna is right again when she discusses how the most difficult part of this project is picking out the fabric. Since I had already chosen a jewel-toned silk for my exterior I decided the perfect compliment would be the jewel-toned Denyse Schmidt quilting cotton collection that I used for Create Kids Couture Millie Schoolhouse Skirt. This collection has the same brown tone but also some brighter yellows and pinks to really pop against the brown. What I was most excited about, however, was Anna's zipper technique. She covers the ends of the zipper in fabric and sews them in a certain way that gives the zipper a very finished look without the weird pucker that seems to occur in zipper pouches. Be warned to not go by the pictures in the tutorial. You want the zipper to be 1'' shorter that the width of the clutch. This means that the zipper width on each end will be ½'' shorter than the clutch. You will not sew over the zipper ends just right next to them. I got a bit confused by this but eventually worked it out. I modified this clutch very little because I wasn't really set on what I would use it for besides the occasional (I cannot stress occasional enough) date night. So I decided on eliminating the interior pockets because I have never used interior pockets on any bag with the exception of my diaper bag. It must be said that I loved making this bag from start to finish. There was just enough cutting to not drive me crazy and at each step the clutch became prettier and prettier. I also ran out of fusible interfacing so I ironed on some Heat n Bond to some canvas to make my own fusible interfacing.
I also planned some modifications for the future:
· Add gathers to both sides
· Increase size to fit my Kindle
· Add wrist strap with a snap so I can snap it to my diaper bag strap to make it easier to find in the blank hole that is my diaper bag
· Make more because they are so fun and cute.
This is now my go-to friend gift because I can't think of anyone who wouldn't love it made in the right fabrics. It works for any age and the size is easily adjusted for other uses. You can omit the zipper and turn it into a tote bag, enlarge it for a diaper clutch or monogram the front band.