Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Doro-what now?

Dear Shayne,

This week, my friend Jocelyn and I attempted a new (to us) craft called dorodango.

Supposedly, this...

(That's dirt.)

... turns into this:

(This is a photo from Craft:03. Full article here.)

That's right -- dirt turns into perfect, shiny spheres. With just your hands! Whoda thunk it?

For full directions, read that Craft article. Here's my pared down version of the process:

Take wet dirt (AKA "mud") and form it into a ball. Shake and roll it back and forth between your hands for 30 minutes or so until most of the water squeezes out. Think to yourself, "Why am I doing this again?" When Jocelyn says, "Cause it's fun," press on.

Once most of the water is out (more dirt helps), put the sphere in a plastic bag until water comes out, then add more dirt to it and put it back in the bag. More water will come out again, so you add more dirt to it and put it back in the bag. (The time spent in the bag starts at 30 minutes. Towards the end, you're leaving it overnight.) Repeat.

How long do you repeat? Oh, until you die. (That's my fear, at least.)

Then you polish it. Voila! Shiny mud sphere!

(If you want to make one yourself, you really should read the article from Craft. Additional detailed directions can also be found here and here.)

Here is mine at this point:
Unfinished dorodango

Here it is with a beer, for scale (also for passing the time while making a shiny mud ball):
Dorodango w/ beer for scale

And here it is in my hand. Just for the heck of it:
Unfinished dorodango in my hand

It has gone through the bag-n-dirt process about 10 times already and water is still sweating out of it, so I know I'm not yet close to dying. I mean polishing it.

Despite my sarcasm infused report, I will admit that the dorodango feels kind of neat -- it's got a satisfying dense and heavy feel. However, I'm now ready to be done. (I started on Monday. It's Wednesday.)

If it actually turns out looking like the photo above from Craft magazine, I'll show you. If you never see a photo of it again here, you'll know the project failed.

Off to go add dirt to my, um... dirt ball. Yeah.


PS -- To answer the question, "What does it do?" Oh, nothing. It just sits there. It's decorative. I'm nuts.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cross-stitch = Complete!

Dear Shayne,

Remember when I had cross-stitch fever in this post? And then I started my skull cross-stitch in this post and was worried about having the stamina to finish?

Well, guess what? I finished!
Cross-stitch skull

I'm so happy with this -- it was only 4 x 4 inches, but cross-stitch is even slower than knitting, so I'm proud that I stuck with it. Yay!

Now I have to figure out how to frame it. As I mentioned in my first cross-stitch post, I love what Bitter Betty has done with decoupaged embroidery hoops. I think that would look good -- now I need to find the perfect thing to use.


PS -- This pattern is from Skull-A-Day and you can find it right here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Holy soapy cuteness!

Dear Shayne,

I just stumbled upon the cutest soap in the world at Hello Crafty's Etsy shop and I gotta share. Check it out:


You can buy your own custom-made button soap right here -- choose your own ingredients/scents. Nice!

After I flipped over that, I went poking around on her blog and almost fell out of my chair when I saw this:


Not only that, but they're cotton candy scented. Mm-mmm!

It looks like the Peeps are sold out right now (oh, yeah... I guess they're seasonal) but I'll bet she brings 'em back next year. Cause, um, the cuteness!


PS -- These photos are from Hello Crafty's Etsy shop and blog.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Go, Browns! (Quilt-style)

Dear Shayne,

As I have mentioned many times before, I am a big Cleveland Browns fan. I have posted Knucks and yars and even a hat to this effect. I now present: The Browns quilt!
Browns quilt: full shot

I actually completed the quilt top a few years ago, but was searching for the "perfect" back. I found that about 6 months ago:
Browns quilt: binding and back

I love that swirly back and the stripe-y binding is so great! I am so pleased with this quilt!

As I may have mentioned before, I enjoy piecing quilts (that is, putting the top together), but I pay someone else to do the actual quilting. This time, the lovely folks at New Pieces in Berkeley did the honor. They do amazing work -- impeccable. Here is a view of it draped over our deck chair:
Browns quilt: draped over chair

The design is called Tesselating Stars (here's a pattern). I learned to make this through a terrific online resource called Quilt University. They have tons of quilting classes that you can take at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home. The teachers are great and the class materials are well worth the price of admission (which is not very high, compared to an "in person" class.)

I love all of the fabrics in this quilt (to answer the question most people ask when they see it: Nope. No duplicates.) but here are some of my favorites:
Browns quilt: detail

Browns quilt: detail

Browns quilt: detail

Browns quilt: detail

So do they put catnip in quilt batting or what? I put this quilt on the couch and went to get a glass of water in the kitchen. I came back to find this:
Browns quilt: approval

I guess I'll take that as a seal of approval.


Thursday, April 24, 2008


Dear Kelly,

I decided today that I really like stuff with whales. Here's an Etsy purchase I'm considering by SuperFay:

I *love* the beaded water spout!


P.S. Picture is from Superfay's Etsy shop.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Super cute Etsy purchase

Dear Shayne,

My boss love snails. They're not really my bag, because bugs of all kinds creep me out (I know! I know! They're not technically "bugs," but... close enough). But I love all things tomato and I realize not everyone loves that, so who am I to judge?

At any rate, her birthday was last week, so I decided to do a little Etsy searching and see what kind of snail-y goodness I could find. Once again, Etsy came through for me! I found the cutest little dish at seller Pu Tok Wagner Ceramics' shop:
Snail dish by Pu Tuk Wagner Ceramics

What that photo does not show is the total cuteness of that snail's smiling face! Look:
Snail dish by Pu Tuk Wagner Ceramics

How cute is that? Answer: Totally!

His caterpillar friend up there is also super adorable -- I never thought I could love "bugs," but I just can't get over these guys! So cute!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dyeing knitting needles

Dear Shayne,

I have Denise interchangeable knitting needles that are basically what that name says -- you can put different sized needles on different length cords for, well, different knitting projects. I absolutely love them and recommend them for beginning knitters -- it's a real bargain vs. buying all of those different sized needles for each project!

The only drawback is that all of the needles are the same color (pale grey) which can sometimes make it difficult to figure out at a glance which size they are -- the sizes are printed in a very tiny font on the sides of the needles. "5" and "6" look a LOT alike. So, what to do about that?

Well, I got the idea to dye my needles from KnittingHelp -- an amazing resource for knitters. The video tutorials are incredible and brilliant and will answer any and all knitting questions you may have. She sells dyed needles right here (although it looks like she's currently out of stock) and it's a great deal -- a regular set is $50 and hers are $70. Totally worth $20 to have her do it. If you don't already own a set. Or, um, two.

I already own a set (um, two) and I didn't want to re-buy the needles, so I decided to try and dye mine. I'm a wuss so I first put out the call on Ravelry (awesome knitting and crochet community ... if you're not a member yet, sign up now. You'll get your invite to join in a few weeks) to see if anyone else had done it.

The Ravelers came through -- several people had success and posted directions (if you're a Ravelry member, here is the link to the thread o' explanations). So my friend Jan (Hi, Jan!) and I got together to dye our needles (she also owns two sets) last weekend.

We used everyone's favorite dye: Rit. Here are the colors we used:

According to various directions on Ravelry, the recipe is one package of powdered dye to one quart of water. I had some quart mason jars, so we used those.

Basic steps:
1. Put the dye and enough hot water to dissolve it in a mason jar
2. Add the needles and fill up the rest of the jar with hot water.
3. Put the jar with your needles in it into the microwave for 2 minutes (this part was nerve-wracking).
4. Remove jar from microwave and let sit for 30 minutes.
5. Remove needles from dye and give them a 10 minute vinegar soak.

When we took the first jar out of the microwave, we poked around in there to make sure they had not melted. Yay! They had not! Here are 4 out of 5 of the jars, containing needles stewing in their dye:
Dyeing our Denises: in the dye

The purple and the blue only took one time through the process. Here's the purple after we removed them from the jars:
Dyeing our Denises: Purple came out great

And here are the blue needles sitting in their 10 minute vinegar bath:
Dyeing our Denises: Blue in vinegar

When we examined the orange, fuchsia, and "scarlet" (Oh, Rit!) after the first 30 minutes, they were so light that we put them through another round. Orange and fuchsia were good then, but "scarlet" required a third round.

While waiting for our needles to finish, I wandered into Jan's dining room and found that even her cat is crafty. I give you Interpretive Art (Fang and Claw) by Seamus the Cat:

(Seamus, when you make it big in the art world, remember who showed your work first. Right here, babe.)

Fuchsia didn't really come out the way that I thought it would -- it's a little close to the purple. But it's pretty and you can still tell the two are different, so it works. Here it is, next to its package:
Dyeing our Denises: Magenta a little more purple than expected

And here are all of my needles and Jan's needles together -- four sets o' needles! (Click on through to Flickr if you want to see them bigger):
Dyeing our Denises: All 4 sets

All that's left to do is the [potentially optional] step of using steel wool on them and then polishing them with a soft cloth. I say "potentially optional" because it seems like some people did and some people didn't and it's tough to say if it makes a difference, but I probably will.

Of course, I've already got mine in use on a project:
Dyeing our Denises: Already in use!

Overall, I am very happy with how they turned out. While ours are not as vibrant as the ones from KnittingHelp, they are beautiful and useful, and that's just what we wanted. Also, they did not melt. And that is most definitely what we wanted.


Monday, April 21, 2008

WiP: Cross-stitch skull

Dear Shayne,

Do you remember this post when I said I had cross-stitch on my mind? And when I said I wanted to cross-stitch this skull from Skull-A-Day?

Well... I have begun!
WiP: Cross-stitch skull

I don't think I've ever actually completed a cross-stitch project before, so let's keep our fingers crossed for my stamina on this one!


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pretty Little Books

Dear Kelly,

I had a Barnes & Noble gift certificate to spend the other week and got two books from a new series called "Pretty Little..." from Lark Books.

I chose Pretty Little Patchwork and Pretty Little Potholders. You can also get one on pin cushions and purses & pouches.

The projects look super cute and simple, which I definitely appreciate in a sewing project.

From the back of the books:

"Potholders are perfect canvases for showcasing fabulous fabric, using simple embellishments, and trying out novel ideas—as these charming, nostalgic projects prove! They’re easy, beautiful, and great for anyone looking to stitch something small but wonderful. All that’s needed are basic hand or machine sewing skills to complete a darling butterfly-shaped potholder with rickrack antennae. A playful oven mitt, in bright red with embroidered flames, sports the word 'caliente!' to remind the wearer to be careful. An introduction presents the vast range of textiles and embellishments available, and beginners will get the lowdown on batting options and guidelines for what makes a successful, functional potholder. All projects are showcased with full-color, close-up photography, and with any necessary templates and patterns."

"Patchwork—the piecing together of many different fabrics—is back! And it’s making a splash on fashion runways, in the hottest magazines, and on the coolest indie craft blogs. No wonder, because patchwork gives stitchers an exciting way to make use of their old fabric scraps; in effect, they’re designing new material by creating original combinations of patterns. Thanks to a pool of talented designers and this new entry in the popular Pretty Little series, anyone can pick out some fabrics and get started. Thirty projects showcase a variety of creative ideas, including funky ornaments, a silk scarf, star pincushions, a yoga-mat carrier, and much more. An introduction teaches the basic techniques, and all the projects appear in full-color, close-up photos."


Friday, April 18, 2008

Dangerous trend

Dear Shayne,

As a fellow reader of craft blogs, I'm sure you've seen the recent trend of re-using security envelopes turned inside out -- so that the interesting "security pattern" is used either to make a new envelope or just cut up and used for various paper crafts.

I first saw this in a tutorial by Curiosity Shoppe owners Derek and Lauren on design*sponge. Here's a photo from that tutorial:
(Image from this tutorial at design*sponge)

There is even a flickr photo pool for security patterns. It's pretty neat -- there are a lot of super cool ones. Like this one. A this one -- wow! I've never seen one like that!

So why am I calling this trend "dangerous?" Cause I'm a packrat. I inherited this trait from my mother (Hi, Mom!) and grandmother. I've been fighting an uphill battle with clutter/packrattiness for several years now. Trends like this encourage me to carefully open my junk mail and see what's inside the envelope, rather than just shoving it through the shredder as I have trained myself to do in my many attempts "de-junkify."

Since being alerted to the potential coolness that lurks within, I have been looking at my junk mail, despite myself. Honestly, though, I haven't really found any good ones.

Until yesterday. I found a pretty good one yesterday.

Now I'm screwed.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ooh! Sale at Subversive Cross Stitch

Dear Shayne,

I think you might be done with cross stitch, but I am still entertaining the thought. If you think you can handle going back to it, you should know about the sale at Subversive Cross Stitch this month -- get a free pattern with every $10 you spend. Since just the patterns are $5 each, it's basically a "Buy 2, get 1 free" kind of sale which, hey, me like-y!

What are your favorites? I like Bite me and #@%&!! Also, I like the bunnies in Whatever.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Not just a river in Egypt

Dear Shayne,

I've been knitting some little fingerless mitts for myself (yeah, that's pretty much all I knit. I'll admit it.) and I've been in denial about them since the thumbhole. I am already to the wrist -- it took me that long to admit the problem.

The thumbhole is too small. I've been trying them on along the way thinking, "Oh, they'll stretch. [knit, knit, knit] Oh, it's not so bad. [knit, knit, knit] Oh...[knit, knit...] crap."

So I've got to rip them back. I've also been suspicious of the method described in the pattern for making the thumbhole, so I'll take this opportunity to do what I usually do in that area, since it's tried and true. For posterity, here is what they look like right now (pre-rip):
Little Blue Wristlets

I am using some awesome yarn I bought at the big Yarn Show. Alpaca + pima cotton = soft, which I like.

The pattern is called "Little Green Wristlets" from the book 101 Designer One Skein Wonders and, as you can see from this photo from the book, they will be really cute someday:

I've been making both mitts at the same time which is great for a couple of reasons. One, when I make pattern modifications, I don't have to remember what I changed on the first one when I come to it much later on in the second one. Change something on one? Just change it on the other right then! (I'm not very good at writing down what I've changed in a pattern... I say, "Oh, I'll remember!" And then, sadly, I do not.)

I am also a victim of "Second Sock Syndrome" (SSS). Even though these aren't socks, the principle is the same: after finishing the first one of something, I am not too excited to start another one just like it. When making them both at the same time, I'll be done with the project when the knitting is done -- so satisfying!

The negative of knitting two at a time? Yeah. Now I've got to rip back two mitts instead of just one. Sigh.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Yarn Farm

Dear Shayne,

I am a shareholder in a Fiber CSA called Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm. I originally read about it at not martha, when she was giving away a share of the spring harvest. I did not win, but I loved the idea, so I bought a share anyway. (Shares of the fall harvest are available here.)

(Photos taken from Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm.)

With this purchase, I not only support an independently owned and run fiber farm, but I will also get a share of yarn this Spring -- shearing day is April 19 (there will be a big festival, but I cannot make it) and the yarn will be processed sometime after that. There's also a blog that's a sort of newsletter for shareholders, but anyone can read it -- it's fun to see goats born now and know that I'll be knitting with their wool at some point in the future!

I'm telling you about this now for a few reasons. This is a craft blog, of course, so I will be reporting on my yarn winnings as soon as they arrive. Also, I know you love cuteness and the baby goats and the farm dogs are the frick-frackinest cutest things you've ever seen (Look! Cute dog and baby goat together!) And, finally, the lovely lady who is behind this CSA is having a contest and she is trying to drum up interest.

So consider this a drumming up of interest -- you don't have to be a shareholder to win. Here are the details (from her site):

"This giveaway is for one two-night, three-day weekend for up to two people ... on the beautiful Island on Martha's Vineyard on a mutually agreeable date. The trip includes lodging and three meals a day and all the farm work you can stand. The winner will spend the weekend at our townhouse ... and on our farm, getting to know the flock, doing morning and evening chores with us and learning everything you ever wanted to know about the gentle animals that grow your yarn. Of course, if you want to spend some of your time at the beach, that's okay too."

Okay, the "doing chores" part probably sounds a little strange, but I think it would be neat to "play farmer" for a weekend, knowing that I can go home to wildlife that consists of two cats and a dog. If it sounds at all interesting to you (or anyone reading this), go ahead and enter here.

Tiny Goat 1: Psst... if we win, we have to do chores!
Tiny Goat 2: We're too cute to do chores... ppffthht!


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bill!

Dear Shayne,

Tomorrow is Bill's birthday. I didn't make his gift, but I did make his card. And it is cracking me up!
Bill's BD card

Hee hee. That Biscuit -- he's a punk!

Of course, I also made the envelope. It doesn't technically "match" the card, but I loved this paper so much that I had to use it:
Envelope for Bill's BD card

Biscuit hilarity + awesome stripey skulls. Gotta be a great birthday, doesn't it?


Sunday, April 06, 2008

When in Canada...

... buy yarn? Why, of course!

Dear Shayne,

As you know, I traveled to Canada this week for work. While I didn't get much time to see the sights, I did carve out a few minutes (literally -- I got there 10 minutes before they were closing!) to visit a yarn store that is 100+ years old. Wow!

It's called Beehive Wool Shop and it's a lovely shop that I wish I had had more time to browse. Fortunately, they were very sweet and let me stay a little past closing. I had a hard time deciding on a "souvenir yarn" (it is so such a thing!) but then I found this:
Souvenir from Canada: Yarn!

I cannot resist this color combination -- yellow + orange + red + purple = must have. It's a delicious sock yarn called "Casbah" by a Canadian company called Handmaiden. Check out the label:
Souvenir from Canada: Yarn!

Love that it says "Hand dyed in Canada" -- perfect for a souvenir yarn! No idea what I'm going to make with it yet. For now, I'm just admiring the lovely colors.


I wish I had thought of that

Dear Kelly,

I've been browsing Craftster a lot lately, looking for cool stuff to post on (shameless plug!). Today I found ATCs that I just fell in love with from crafty_dame. This one is my favorite, but clicky on the link to see the others she made. She's also got a blog and an Etsy shop. Sparkly and vinyl-y!


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I like this tool: Candle Carver

Dear Kelly,

With my renewed interest in baking, I was browsing the 17,000 different kitchen items on Amazon and found the coolest thing ever! It's called the Candle Carver. Basically, it digs a hole in an apple (hmmm, what other fruits and veggies would work?) that is the exact size to drop in a tealight candle. I need this tool. And then I need to have a dinner party so I have an excuse to have little apple lights. Wouldn't a row of Granny Smith apples look awesome?


P.S. Get it here.