Category Archives: Making

Cozy Like a Fox

A hot water bottle cover!  I made mine in classic red, for 16th-century warmth (did you know that Europeans believed that red cloth was warmer than other colors of cloth?), although a steely gray fox would be just as cozy.

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This cuddly guy is worked in the round from top opening to tip of the tail.  Legs are picked up and knit in the round from the body, but the head is knit separately in the round and sewn on once complete.

Materials:

  • about 125 yards of bulky yarn in red (I used Cascade Eco+ in 8511, Red/Valentine)
  • small amount of bulky yarn in black or dark brown (I used Cascade Ecological Wool in Ebony)
  • very small amount of bulky yarn in white or cream (I used Knit Picks Cadena in Natural)
  • stuffing (I used natural wool)
  • US 10 circulars, 16″
  • US 9 DPNs

Pattern:

Using size 9 needles and red yarn, CO 44 stitches.  Join in the round.

For the ribbed cuff:

Work k2, p2 ribbing for 3.25″

*k1, kfb* around (66 sts)

For the body:

Switch to size 10 needles and work in stockinette (knit all sts) for 10.5″

*k2tog* around (33 sts)

knit one round

switch to size 9 needles

*k2tog* to last st, k1 (17 sts)

*k2tog* 4 times, k1, *k2tog* 4 times (9 sts)

*k2tog* until only 4 sts remain.

For the tail:

*kfb* around (8 sts)

knit 3 rounds

*kfb* around (16 sts)

knit 3 rounds

switch to white yarn

knit 1 round

*k3, kfb* around (20sts)

knit 2 rounds

*k2tog* around (10 sts)

stuff the tail until plump but squishy with the stuffing of your choice, remembering to add an extra knob of stuffing if you’re using wool or another stuffing that is prone to compacting over time

knit 1 round

*k1, k2tog* 4 times, k1 (6 sts)

knit 1 round

*k2tog* around (3 sts)

Break yarn and thread through remaining stitches, pulling to cinch closed.  Secure the yarn end firmly.

For the legs:

Put your water bottle in your cover and mark the four “corners” of the cover with waste yarn or removable stitch markers.

At one of your corners, use size 9 needles to pick up 16 sts.

Using black/brown yarn, knit these sts in the round for 2.5″

Stuff the resulting tube until plump but squishy.

Divide stitches evenly between two needles and graft together (you can also use a three-needle BO if you prefer).

Repeat at the other 3 corners.

For the head:

The head is worked from the ears down.  Ears begin as I-cords.

Using brown/black yarn and size 9 DPNs, cast on 2 sts.

kfb, k1 (3 sts) do not turn

kfb, kfb, k1 (5 sts) do not turn

knit one row, do not turn

*kfb* to last st, k1 (9 sts) do not turn

knit one row, dividing sts evenly between DPNs to begin knitting in the round.

*kfb* to last st, k1 (17 sts)

knit two rows

Divide sts between 2 needles.

Repeat from I-cord start for second ear.

Using red yarn, knit across the front of one ear, CO 2 sts, knit across the front of the second ear, knit across the back of the second ear, CO2 sts, and knit across the back of the first ear.  (38 sts).

Place marker after 19 sts.

knit 2 rows

k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain before marker, ssk, k1, k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain, ssk, k1 (34 sts)

k2, k2tog, k until 4 sts remain before marker, ssk, k2, k2, k2tog, k until 4 sts remain, ssk, k2 (30 sts)

k3, k2tog, k until 5 sts remain before marker, ssk, k3, k3, k2tog, k until 5 sts remain, ssk, k3 (26 sts)

k4, k2tog, k until 6 sts remain before marker, ssk, k4, k4, k2tog, k until 6 sts remain, ssk, k4 (22 sts)

knit one round

k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain before marker, ssk, k1, k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain, ssk, k1 (18sts)

Repeat this row 2 more times (10 sts).

Stuff head more firmly than you did the limbs, but leave some squishy-ness.

Leaving a generous tail, break yarn and attach black/brown yarn.

*k2tog* around (5 sts)

k2tog, k1, k2tog (3 sts)

Break yarn and pull through remaining stitches to cinch.

Finishing:

With a yarn needle, embroider two French knot eyes on the decrease ridge on your fox’s face.

Using your red yarn tail, sew the head securely to the topmost rows of the stockinette section of your cover.

Secure and weave in all yarn ends.

Fill with hot water, snuggle and be cozy!

 

 

 

Stocking Stuffer Idea Masterlist

It’s Advent and time to get ready for Christmas!  In celebration, here’s a list to help with your elving.  It’s current as of 2016, and I will update it as necessary in the future.  I hope you find something to inspire you here– enjoy!


If you’re like me, you have no problem coming up with presents to give people for the holidays, but filling stockings is a bit more difficult.  Picking out a dozen appropriate trinkets is much harder than finding a couple big gifts!

As I have filled my children’s stockings over the past several years, I’ve struggled with exactly what belongs.  I don’t want to fill them with cheap junk, or with too much candy, and I don’t want to spend a lot of money or time on stocking stuffers.  I want the things in my family’s stockings to be worth getting, but still small.

So I brainstormed up a list one year, based in part on what I’ve found works and in part on what I predict will work but haven’t had occasion to try yet.  A lot of the things on this list (I’ll use an asterisk * to denote them) can be made at home with only a hobbyist skill level.

Stocking Stuffer Idea Masterlist

For babies and toddlers:

  • fruit— it’s cheap and they love it.  Easy-peasy.  If you aren’t doing baby-led solids, you can always tuck a couple of their favorite *purées into the stocking instead.
  • wooden spools— great for stacking, rolling, even lacing.
  • recycling— seriously: yogurt tubs, the metal lids from frozen juice concentrate, and squeezable condiment containers are all excellent toys for kids this age
  • *playsilks— one of the ultimate open-ended toys
  • *massage bars or food-grade oil— for baby massage.  We use almond, but olive or sunflower would work equally well.
  • wadded paper— not only does it take up a bunch of space in the stocking, but you know they’ll love it.  It’s fine to just use printer paper, but unbleached newsprint is ideal.
  • *crunchy snacks— puffed grains, yogurt puffs, or crackers in a little container are a great treat for a toddler, and they promote fine motor development.
  • hairbrush— a soft goat-hair brush is not only the perfect tool for keeping wispy baby hair groomed, it’s also a good sensory stimulation tool for teaching names of body parts and promoting coordination
  • small board books or indestructible books— Sandra Boynton books are a great size for most stockings.
  • *cake crayons or crayon rocks— this is a great present for older siblings to give a toddler as they can recycle their old crayon stubs.
  • *knot doll— perhaps the easiest doll to make, a great introduction to dollmaking for the giver and to dolls for the recipient.
  • *playdough— a single container of storebought is the perfect size for a stocking, or you can fill a baby food jar or other small container with homemade.
  • *bath toys, bubble bath, etc.— older babies are moving from just getting bathed to actively taking a bath, and that means it’s a great time to make sure they’re having good cleaning fun.  Our favorite brand of bubble bath comes in a stocking-dominating 1-quart size, but it’s still an awesome way to make bathtime more playful.
  • *hat— whether it’s a soft stocking cap for a tiny December babe or a funny animal-eared hat for a toddler, a little warmth is always a welcome addition.
  • *bubble solution— most kids won’t be able to really work out how to blow bubbles at this age, but they’ll love watching someone else blow bubbles for them.
  • *fingerpaint— with art, it’s best to start them young.  A tasty, good-to-eat fruit-based paint is best for this age, because you know they won’t be able to resist.
  • *blocks— whether it’s a thick branch cut into chunks or a delicate, German-made rainbow of fancy shapes, blocks are a great filler gift that even a newborn will quickly grow into.
  • *rattle— soft fabric or shiny silver plate, old or new, there’s a reason rattles are classic.
  • *teether— we prefer silicone here, but natural wood is nice, too.
  • large buttons— to this day, I don’t think I’ve topped the Christmas when I gave my 1-year-olds a collection of 1.75-3″ buttons.  A mix of colors, textures, shapes, and materials will be even more compelling.

For symbolic functionalists (ages 3-7):

  • magnifying glass— learn about bugs, optics, and the world in general.  A great stepping-stone for kids who aren’t quite ready for a microscope.
  • hand-size ball— nothing too hard or too bouncy for younger kids, just a nice-sized toy for rolling down ramps and off of tables and using as a pretend egg.
  • colored pencils, *crayons, or markers— give good-quality tools that are a true pleasure to use.  Everyone has their favorite brands and varieties; ours are Lyra Super Ferby, Prang, and Giotto Turbo Maxi.
  • craft sticks, large wooden beads, ball of string— open ended and cheap, these are an excellent way to get young engineers thinking about How To Make It.
  • glue stick, *ruler, and paper-only scissors— all great simple tools.
  • flashlight— something rugged, waterproof, and with a wind-up, shake, or squeeze-charge battery will save future headaches.
  • *small dress-up elements  animal ear headbands, fancy gloves, pirate eye patch, false mustaches, domino mask, etc.
  • magnet— a nice, big one is the best plan; something that can be used for testing surfaces and making paperclips dance but won’t wipe hard disks.
  • *paper airplanes— virtually free, this one is easy to underestimate, but a few sturdy pre-folded paper airplanes will give a kid this age at least a full day of play, if not a whole weekend.
  • crazy straws— be ready with a strongly-colored drink for maximum effect (grape juice works well).
  • *stickers— a guaranteed hit.  To save money, buy up a bunch of stickers on clearance after seasonal holidays throughout the year.  Kids this age will love stickers and stickering no matter how strange it is to be decorating with Easter bunnies in December.
  • sunglasses— equally for dressing up and eye protection, a cheap pair of kids’ sunglasses is the perfect size for a stocking.
  • *small soft toy— 90s Beanie Babies are cheap and ubiquitous and the perfect size for a stocking.
  • novelty socks— whether the kid in question loves Winnie-the-Pooh or sugar skulls, you can probably find something.  The bargain section of Target often has great novelty kids’ socks throughout the year.
  • inflatable ball— deflated for a stocking, just blow it up for Christmas afternoon burning-off-energy.
  • temporary tattoos— especially if a kid has an inked parent, this can be a fun addition to the dress-up possibilities.  In our house, we use temporary tattoos as post-bath incentives (because they stick better to clean skin, of course).
  • *hair accessories— the “ouchless” style of hair elastic made from fold-over elastic is best for kids this age.  Don’t shy away from sparkly, glittery, fuzzy, or generally over-the-top– little kids understand exuberance, but have no concept of tackiness.
  • *alphabet or number toys (stamps, stickers, games…)— a set of mini alphabet stamps or a spinny speller, number stickers or a set of dice with Arabic numerals on them, or even place-value blocks are all great learning tools and toys for this age.
  • small notebooks, sketchbooks, or writing pads— some kids will make a single mark on each page, flip through to the end and declare themselves done, while others will fill every blank space and still be trying to cram more in.  Either way, they’ll love it.
  • small musical instrument such as a whistle, ocarina, mini hand drum, maracas, etc. for making noise and (hopefully) contributing to the family band more than to the family headache.
  • *small motion-based toys— paper yo-yos, tops, bamboo-copters, hooey-sticks/whammy-diddles, buzz saws, pinwheels, Slinkys, Jacob’s ladders, climbing bears, etc.
  • non-toxic nail polish— little kids love to dress up and adorn themselves for special occasions, so a tube of Piggy Paint or another kind of non-toxic nail polish can be an awesome little treat.
  • *glow-in-the-dark anything— no really, anything.  Buy some glow-in-the-dark beads and seal them into an old spice jar and call it ectoplasm or toxic slime or magic beans or ghost pills…
  • sunprint paper— as always, a fun little novelty and a good opening to talk about the science of sunlight.
  • small building sets— Playmobil, Lego, etc. often have mini-project grab-bags for a good price around the holidays.
  • *Ostheimer-style figures— look around online or in a natural toys catalog for inspiration, then grab a jigsaw and see what you can do.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, especially if you portray a favorite animal, because it’s driven by imagination anyway.
  • Play house accessories— doll clothes, felt food, dollhouse furniture, play tools, mini spray-bottles, whatever the kid in question is into.

For concrete operationalists (ages 7-10):

  • glow sticks— whether they save them for the next summer’s drive-in movies or make a Boxing Day alien autopsy movie in the living room, there’s always a use for glow sticks, and you can buy them cheaply at the dollar store!
  • field guides— look at your local used book store or library book sale for a field guide to wildflowers, butterflies, minerals and gems, or whatever the kid in question always seems to need to know more about.  Pocket field guides are the perfect size for a stocking!
  • temporary tattoo paper/*henna kit— a great gift for the kid who is already planning their 18th-birthday tat or needs even more ways to dress up for parties.
  • Japanese puzzle erasers— you can get them for about $1/each, and they are cute and functional.  Kids this age love to collect and trade, too!
  • *small notebooks or journals— for secret thoughts, big plans, or just writing notes
  • stapler and staples, tape, scissors— the age-appropriate upgrades to the creation station, art table, or mini home office.
  • craft kit— a basic sewing/mending kit or an intro-to-knitting kit are great for this age, as are friendship bracelets, pin looms, beading kits, etc.
  • *tote bag— some kids this age are defined by their stuff– they need to organize it, secure it, travel with it, whatever, and a tote bag is a great, basic way to do all that.
  • pocket microscope— for the kid who wants to identify sub-species of ant or is always wondering what the inside of leaves look like, this is a perfect, stocking-sized upgrade to the magnifying glass.
  • magic trick— see what introductory tricks your local magic shop recommends– kids this age are finally ready to start learning some showmanship and they love feeling like they’ve outsmarted others!
  • book— “pocket” paperbacks are a great fit for most stockings.  Kids this age usually love adventure novels, sci-fi, and fantasy.  A book of jokes or a foreign language phrasebook could be great for the right kid, too!
  • origami paper— it’s pretty and versatile (it’s good for much more than origami), and it will spark creativity.
  • watercolor paints— the nicer kind that comes in little tubes is ideal for kids this age, and they’re still usually pretty cheap.
  • *jewelry— kids this age love fancier stuff, and a lot of it can still be affordable enough to be practical, such as a pendant on a ribbon, birthstone earrings, or bangles.
  • *pinback buttons— whether they have favorite characters, are themed for favorite holidays/seasons, or are just a cute typography of the child’s name.
  • *novelty keychains— tiny flashlights, a decorative initial, a pony-bead animal…so many possibilities here.
  • card/dice games— whether they play by themselves, with friends, or at family game night, this is a great fit for both stockings and older kids.
  • *coordination toys— yo-yos, diabolos, jacks, marbles, and jump ropes are all great for kids this age.
  • Mad Libs or single issue of kids’ magazine— a great way to make reading fun and approachable, even for early readers.
  • clay or modeling clay— for kids who have graduated from play-dough.
  • collapsible or transforming anything— collapsible drinking cups can be found with camping supplies.

For tweens and teens:

  • earbuds— easily lost or broken over the course of a year, and pretty cheap to replace.  Older teens might be ready for a high-quality pair that’s meant to last.
  • temporary hair dye/hair color spray/hair chalks— tweens and teens are all about decorating themselves, and this is a fun way for them to experiment without committing.
  • washi tape— a versatile and fun craft supply that makes great décor and personalization touches, it’s ideal for teens and tweens
  • *clothing embellishments— iron-on patches, hot-fix spikes or rhinestones, or just a pack of big safety pins can delight a punk-aligned teenager, although they will probably be too cool to show it.
  • *zip-up pouches— whether for makeup storage or organizing pencils, somehow young adults never have enough smallish, zip-up bags and containers.
  • *makeup and makeup tools you can make simple makeup at home, but even the most sensitive-skinned brand snob will need supplies, and the local beauty supply store can have great deals on brushes, eyelash curlers, sponges, etc.
  • gel pens and black paper— tweens love novelty school and office supplies for sending notes to each other and personalizing their spaces and belongings.
  • small journal or diary, preferably with lock— it doesn’t matter how cheap and easily-defeated the lock is, a tween will still appreciate it.
  • embroidery floss for friendship bracelets— even jaded, consumerist tweens love doing little crafts like friendship bracelets, and most older teens would be happy to continue exchanging little handmade tokens with their friends.
  • polymer clay or cold porcelain— for the tween or teen who has outgrown modeling clay or wants something easier than natural clay.
  • *amigurumi— there are free patterns for virtually any character, animal, or interest.  If you’re not crafty, you could still put together a kit for your teen or tween to make it themselves.
  • *accessories— a teenager’s need to play the fashion game can be met with a minimum of expense and trouble if they have a sizable and frequently-refreshed collection of accessories such as belts, hats, fashion jewelry, hair accessories, infinity scarves, etc.
  • *personal care products— teenagers are all about grooming.  Indulge them with moisturizer, bath salts, lip balm, shave soap, or whatever they might need.  Trial or travel sized goods are perfect for stockings and will help young adults figure out what works for them.
  • *favorite snack foods— if there’s any particular treat they love and you don’t like, or can’t understand, or normally refuse to pay for/make, slipping a few into their stocking is a great way to show that you love them.
  • novelty flash drive— for transferring term papers from home computers to school computers, sharing pics with friends, downloading movies to take to grandma’s 20th-century historical re-enactment (aka her house), or whatever, a fun flash drive is a must-have.
  • *monogrammed stationary— a fun, grown-up present for a teenager who loves all things personalized
  • calligraphy supplies— some teens pride themselves on the beauty of their handwriting, or the sophisticated ease of their doodling, or want to feel more connected to their Asian heritage.  A couple pens and some ink is a great way to try out calligraphy before committing to a big expensive set.
  • CD/DVD/iTunes gift card— used CDs and DVDs are cheap and a great way for a young adult to start building their own media library.  If you can’t find anything they like in a physical copy, you can put a little money towards their own digital purchases instead.
  • nicer, “grown-up” supplies for their handcraft of choice— whether it’s a nice pair of bamboo needles for a knitter, a little book of watercolor paper for a painter, a few remnants of silk for a sewist, a multi-needle punch for a felter, a couple fat quarters for a quilter, or something else entirely, a little investment in their interest now is a message that you believe in their talents and skills.
  • office/art/craft supplies— whichever ones they are always borrowing and forgetting to put back (sticky notes, nice sharp scissors, novelty hole punch, etc.)
  • gift cards to local food shops— ice cream parlors, smoothie stands, pretzel stands, candy shops, or whatever you have in your area, in small denominations.  Check the mall food court for ideas if you’re not sure.  This one is great because you’re basically giving them a chance to hang out with their friends.
  • *phone accessories— headsets, cases, car chargers, plugs/dust excluders, charms–we all know how teenagers live on their phones!
  • public transit passes/all-day-fare tickets— the gift of transport and independence, great for tweens and teens in a metro area
  • car wash vouchers— really a gift for you (if your teen doesn’t have their own car), but most teens are desperate for any chance to drive the car, even through the car wash, so they’ll like it, too
  • books— most teens have a favorite YA/pulp paperback author or series, such as Discworld, but if not, this is a great opportunity to introduce them to yours.  Teens also like banned books!
  • grown-up coloring book— this is a great trend, whether your teen likes it or “likes” it

For grown-ups:

  • gift card— for their favorite coffee shop or other small indulgence
  • *consumable goods— especially nice soap or shave soap
  • *hair accessories— everyone always needs more hair elastics, bobby pins, etc. because the little stuff like that is always getting lost
  • *keyrings/fobs or luggage tags especially with their monogram or a favorite character or theme
  • *artisan chocolate— the Thanksgiving or Halloween clearance is a great way to pick up a couple little things that are still delicious, even if technically the snowflakes are would have been more seasonally-appropriate than the acorns.
  • *bottle of micro-brew beer or gourmet soda— Jones or Dry soda are my personal favorites, but check your local supermarket and ethnic stores (Jarritos come in some pretty wacky but delicious flavors!)
  • *cold-weather accessories— most adults suck at self-care.  Make sure they have a warm hat, gloves, mitts, scarf, cowl, slippers…
  • socks or underwear— if you know their favorite kind, it is perfectly acceptable to buy socks or underwear for the stocking of an adult
  • *photo art or memory art especially featuring their kids, grandkids, or pets
  • *shot glasses— plain glasses are cheap and it’s easy to DIY them into something amazing and personal– but it would be tough to fit most stemware into a stocking. A shot glass or two, or maybe a single tumbler, is the way to go for stockings.
  • liquor minis— if their favorite alcohol is too expensive to buy often, you can still likely get a mini of it for a very reasonable price.
  • *coin purse or pouch— especially people who carry purses or handbags tend to get a bit disorganized and could use more little secure containers, regardless of their system for coins.
  • *billfold or wallet— even the perfect wallet wears out, and you can easily and cheaply replace them with DIY options
  • sealing wax and signet— a great, low-cost present for the antiquarian, the anachronistic, the steampunk aficionado, or just the perpetual host or avid papercrafter
  • multi-tool— some people need all the help they can get perfecting their EDC.
  • *small puzzle or brain teaser— everyone likes a challenge, and everyone likes a toy, no matter how old or “grown up” they are
  • novelty standard card deck— whether they love flowers or baseball or Star Trek TOS, you can probably pick up a card deck that caters to them for a reasonable price.
  • *desk toy or fidget— mini zen garden, stress ball, worry dolls, paper construction set, or a magnetic sculpture of paper clips, everyone needs something to play with to help them work
  • old photograph of them— choose one from 10+ years ago that evokes a special memory or looks like it has a story behind it.  This is especially great for elders, because it’s basically an opportunity to reminisce for an audience.

Felt Food: Strawberries

This very easy method makes realistic, conical strawberries, resembling the prized Hood variety grown in Oregon.

Supplies:
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  • wool or wool-blend felt in red and green
  • thread or embroidery floss in yellow, green, and red
  • stuffing
  • hand-sewing needle(s)
  • scissors
  1. Cut a freehand half-circle from the red felt.  I find that a radius of more than 1″ but less than 3″ makes a convincing strawberry.  It’s preferable if it’s not perfect– strawberries aren’t perfect!img_3980
  2. Using yellow thread, cover the red felt piece sparsely with tiny stitches.  Try to orient all of your stitches so they point to the middle of the straight side of your half-circle.img_3982
  3. Fold the half-circle in half, right sides OUT, lining up the straight edges.  Sew JUST the straight edges together with a small whipstitch using red thread to make a cone.img_3984
  4. Stuff the cone nearly to the top and pretty firmly.  If you’re using wool stuffing, remember to add another pinch after you think you have enough to allow for compacting over time.img_3987
  5. Sew a small running stitch around the top edge of your cone.  It doesn’t matter what color thread you use for this because it won’t show in the finished product.  Gently but firmly pull both ends of your thread to gather this seam as tightly as you can and fasten securely.img_3989
  6. Cut a five-pointed star from the green felt.  The center of your star needs to be big enough to cover the gap left in the top of your gathered cone.  Again, it’s preferable if this shape isn’t perfectly regular.img_3990
  7. Using the green thread, sew a ring of stitches to secure the center of your green star to the top of your cone, covering the gap left in step 5.img_3991
  8. Bury your thread ends and admire your strawberry!img_3992

I made 20 strawberries to fill a punnet, varying the size, the yellow thread (I used butter yellow and goldenrod), and the green felt (I used a tightly-felted grass green sweater and a sheet of apple green felt) to give each of my berries individual character.

Felt Food: Blueberries

Super-easy blueberries for a play kitchen: seriously, it doesn’t get easier than this!

Supplies:

img_3994

  • blue felt (a heathered indigo felt– if you can find such a thing– would be ideal)
  • blue thread (it doesn’t have to be a good match as it shouldn’t show much in the end)
  • hand-sewing needle(s)
  • scissors
  • stuffing (optional)
  1. Cut a small circle (1″ to about 3″ in diameter) from the blue felt.  It’s better if it’s slightly irregular.
    img_3995
  2. Sew a small running stitch around the edge of the circle, leaving both ends unfastened.img_3996
  3. .Place the trimmed scraps from cutting your circle into the center.  On larger berries, you may want to put a little pinch of stuffing behind the scraps for more plumpness, but for small berries, the scraps are likely all you’ll need.img_3999
  4.  Pull on both ends of your thread to gather as tightly as you can around the stuffing.  Fasten off.img_4000
  5. Bury your thread ends and use a finger or a small tool to neaten the appearance of the blossom end, if necessary.img_4002

I made 35 berries in two colors– a navy blue 100% wool felt sheet, shown here, and a smoky royal blue felted wool sweater– to fill my mini-punnet.  I found that the wool felt sheet was much easier to cut and gather, but the thicker felted sweater makes a more convincing blossom end.

WIP Wednesday

img_4004start date: 14 November 2016
time elapsed: 2 days
completeness: 40%

After finishing Númenor’s coat and hoodie, I needed some color in my hands.  Normally I love gray and black and have no issue with working with them, but with everything happening in the world lately, I needed a bit of a boost.

So I’m putting together a cupcake-making kit.  In felt.  Cheery and colorful felt.  Scraps of felt from other projects.  Bits of old sweater waiting for a new life.

And between the bright colors and the small, modular pieces, I started to feel a bit better almost right away.  Now that I have more of the elements finished and can play with decorating cupcakes and making whipped cream and frosting, the whimsy is giving me life, too.

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As you can see, I made cylindrical cupcakes.  They’re obviously easier to make, but they’re also more versatile– it’s easier to imagine them as tiny cakes, or cheesecakes, or soufflés, instead of just cupcakes/muffins.  I’m making one white, one yellow, one light brown, and one dark brown, for a variety of flavors.

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My muffin cups are made from sweater ribbing.  With the edge cuffed a little, they look like ramekins.  With it at full-length, they look more like paper baking forms.

This will be a great addition to the smalls’ play kitchen.  I’m excited to finish up the layer cake for them as well– add in a couple cookies, some bread, and a pie crust and we’ll have a full play bakery.

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100% wool felt in various colors from Material Evidence (closed) and CraftyWoolFelt.  Natural cream 100% wool felt from JoAnn.  Barnyard Red 20% wool felt from JoAnn.  White 35% wool felt from JoAnn.  Various cashmere and wool sweater scraps from DoDadChick.  Various vintage threads, stuffing scraps, and bamboo polyfill from my stash.

WIP Wednesday

We haven’t had one of these since July!  I missed them!

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start date: 15 September 2016
time elapsed: 34 days
completeness: 50%

Several weeks ago, I mentioned that Númenor once again needed a new hoodie and coat for the winter.  I don’t know how this happened, because he JUST got new ones last year, but during the Dance of the Hand-Me-Downs, I noticed that his wrists and forearms had made a break for it and replacements were urgently needed.

We talked about his hoodie, and he described this fantastical vision for a T-rex skeleton costume piece, complete with tail and functional teeth and glow-in-the-dark bones.

I said, hmm.  And uh-huh.  And yes, that would be super awesome.

And then I said, here’s what I can do: fuzzy appliqué bones, full ribcage, upper limbs, and skull.

And he said, “Oh, okay.  That will be easier to sit down in the car and play on the playground.  Plus then I can sneak up on people in the dark.”

Such wisdom, from one so young.

So now I’m studying the skeletal anatomy of the T-rex in astounding detail, and desperately trying to adapt what I learn to a hooded sweatshirt for a human-shaped child, because it turns out that if I had wanted to buy this garment in a store, I would have been totally SOL.

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It’s been an interesting process.

And the end result will be imperfect and definitely homemade-looking, but pretty cool, I think.  If nothing else, Númenor and I can look back on this project and laugh, and he will at least know that I love him, and I’m willing to try audacious things to make him happy.

Here’s hoping that’s what counts.

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Organic black sweatshirt fleece from Organic Cotton Plus, white bamboo rayon/organic cotton velour from Etsy, the pattern and technique are my own and not recommended.

10 Things I Need to Make this Fall

Now that we’re mired in the part of summer that’s too hot for much of anything– certainly unseasonable for having a big pile of flannel in my lap– but about to leave the last heat wave of the season, I’ve been looking forward to some cool-weather crafting and giving some thought to what needs to happen.

Here’s my list, necessities and fripperies in no particular order, of the top 10 things I need to make in the coming season:

  1. Tea towels.  The flour sack towels that wrapped a few of our favorite kitchen gadget wedding gifts are finally sprouting holes and wearing out.  I’m thinking the new ones are going to be mid-weight natural linen, but the same dimensions as the old ones.
  2. Coat for Númenor.  Another year, another coat.  This one is definitely going to be lined with some of that gorgeous Portland bridges fabric I picked up a few years ago, but I’m not sure what the outer fabric will be like or what pattern I’m going to use.  I might draft my own pattern.
  3. Hoodie for Númenor.  Something fun and slightly funky, as usual.
  4. Twin-size comforter for Ithilien.  In the depths of winter, the nursery gets pretty cold in the middle of the night.  At the moment, we have only one twin-size comforter, and that can cause strife.  I’m planning to whipstitch together a couple of old flannel top sheets, fill with some fluffy recycled fiberfill, and tie it down to quilt it.  The only trouble will be that the sheets I have are green and green-red plaid, and Ithilien is a red-loving kid who might object to the forest tones.  But it’ll be warm regardless.
  5. “What Lives Here?” picture book.  This is one I’ve been puzzling over for some time.  The smalls are always asking what kinds of animals live in our area, especially when we go on drives.  I’m currently working on a collage-style picture book showing different ecosystems and settings and filled with the different animals that might live there.  It’s a huge undertaking, even limiting myself to a 20-mile radius around our house, since we live in a transitional zone between at least three climates.
  6. Toy ankylosaurus for Ithilien.  I made a stegosaurus for Númenor a while back, and Ithilien demanded an ankylosaurus.  How one knits an ankylosaurus I am not sure (possibly with lots of bobbles?), but I’ll figure it out.
  7. Autumn leaf babies.  If you’ve been around a while, you might remember my spring raindrop babies.  I’ve been trying to work up to a whole four-seasons set: snowflakes, raindrops, fruit (or maybe sunshine?), and autumn leaves.  I love dollmaking, and these little felt-and-wood sweeties are downright addictive in their simplicity and appeal.
  8. Altoid tin boredom busters.  We recently inherited a big box of mint tins.  They are the perfect size to tuck in a pocket or purse and you can fill them with anything.  So I’ve been trying to develop a set of toys and activity kits inside Altoid tins for when we travel or waiting at restaurants.
  9. More petticoats for myself.  Hopefully at least two more cotton ones (black, I think) and if I can find room for it in the budget, I would love a woolen flannel one for winter wear.
  10. Halloween costumes.  This year the smalls have both decided on light-themed costumes, which means getting creative with LEDs and possibly wearable circuitry.  Númenor’s might yet be merged with his hoodie, but we have yet to have our first formal design meeting, so it’s very much still TBD.

 

 


 

What about you?  What are you looking forward to making as the weather changes?

WIP Wednesday

Lately I’ve been stuck.  Overwhelmed by the world around me, unable to concentrate, mired in several long and intricate projects at once…generally in a funk.

This week, though, I hit upon a bit of a solution.

I took this fancy new linen bag my mom found for me at the thrift store, stuck a couple little balls of scrap yarn in the bottom, and went on a baby sock knitting adventure.

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When I first learned to knit, I swore I would never be a sock knitter.  The tiny yarn, the slippery double-pointed needles, the complex technique, the repetition (because you have to start all over to make the second sock…) and the need for a fairly accurate fit made a seemingly insurmountable barrier to my ever taking up that particular craft.  But after a couple years, when I had to be knitting for a baby anyway, I finally decided to give it a try.

That first pair of plain Jane worsted-weight cotton (!) baby socks may not be anything special or even particularly beautiful, but they represented a major victory in terms of facing my fears.

As a cripplingly anxious person, to have attempted something so far out of my comfort zone and met with even modest success was a major testament to what force of will could do for me.

In the few years since then, I’ve knit cabled boot socks for Robert, basic socks in shockingly bright colors for the smalls, tube socks I invented myself, intricate socks as gifts in tiny yarns and grown-up sizes, and even a selfish pair of gray show-off lacy socks for myself.

And my baby sock collection has slowly grown to cover most sizes and most needs, because the best way to try out a new sock style or technique or color combo is to make a pair of tiny trial socks, and because baby socks are such an excellent way to use up leftover bits of lightweight yarn.

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This week, I’ve tried roll-top socks, plain socks, and snuggly winter socks (which Ithilien promptly lost somewhere in the nursery), and now I’m working on a second pair of socks knitted lengthwise in a cheery self-striping yarn.

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From here, I’m going to try the really adventurous stuff: manual vertical pinstripes (I’m thinking gray and purple) and Victorian socks on two needles.

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And hopefully, by the time I’m done with all those, the mental fog I’ve been in will lift, the world will be a little kinder and safer, and we can all carry on doing our real work.

WIP Wednesday

IMG_3824start date: 13 May 2016
time elapsed: 5 days
completeness: 30%

Spring in Oregon is usually overcast.

Most of the time I like to tell my out-of-state friends that actually, Oregon is mostly desert.  That the majority land use is ranching.  That there are gulches and canyons and lava beds dominating the southeastern third of the state.

But you know, something about this stretch between March and June always makes me feel like that’s untruthful.

It’s gray.  And cool.  And rainy.  And misty.  Fog covers the highways at night, and the stretch from Corbett to Cascade Locks is perpetually underwater.  Tree frogs sing in the downs, and ospreys stand a stoic, drenched vigil over their nests along the river.  Streams swell, rivers rise, and waterfalls roar and thunder.

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So of course, in my hands this week I have a little patch of still water or maybe even sunny sky to balance all that out.

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It’s the skirt of a dress, toddler-size, that I’m more or less making up as I go along with a pattern for inspiration.

I was a little sad about the yarn when I first saw it in person– I do most of my yarn shopping online, and I was expecting a deeper, richer set of blues.  What was described as just “blue” and looked like it might be royal, cobalt, and marine turned out to be robin’s egg, turquoise, and pool.

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But I’m warming up to it.  Especially, I think, because of the season around me.


The yarn is Araucania Rinihue, the pattern I’m borrowing from is Picot Dress from Special Knits by Debbie Bliss.