Finger Knit Basket

Finger Knit Basket 8

I know, it’s been a long time coming.  I promised to show you what I ended up doing with those long felted strings of finger knitting I made back in October.  Well here it is.  So my carpal tunnel in my wrists right now is so bad I can’t actually do real knitting for longer than ten minutes before my fingers go completely numb.  I’m getting massage therapy for it and it’s helping, but the road to recovery is slow.  As a result of this, I still haven’t finished the Atlas blanket that I was making for Krystopf and Atlas for their wedding.  I needed a sort of stop-gap present to keep them appeased (not that they even care) until I was ready to present them with the real thing.

After I felted that one ball of finger knit merino wool, I went on to do five more; in total, I had two black strings, two maroon strings, and two olive green strings.  The Pie actually finger knit one of the green strings all by himself, grumbling and complaining the whole time.

Then I felted each one by chucking it in the washing machine — and then the dryer if it was needed.  The green ones felted differently from the rest, despite being the same wool — so there was a longer string of green than anything else.

Finger Knit Basket 1

I tied each matching string to its partner and rolled it up in a giant ball.

Finger Knit Basket 3

Then I braided them all together.  This took a very, very long time, because I kept having to move the balls around while I was braiding.  I found it was easier to keep the balls from rolling all over the place and unraveling if I put them in saved produce bags from the grocery store.

Finger Knit Basket 4

Finally I had a huge thick braid. The idea is to coil it all together, like so.  This would be the bottom of the basket.  Then sew the braid to itself, like you would a braided rug, or that doily I made last year.

Finger Knit Basket 5

When I got enough of a base going, I started to loop the braid on top of itself, to form the sides of the basket.

Finger Knit Basket 6

I kept the basket relatively narrow, not letting it get too wide (though that would be neat, too), and so I was left with a lot more braid once I’d gotten the basket to a size I liked.  I just tied it off and sewed it down and that was that.

Finger Knit Basket 10

And that leftover green string?  I actually finger knit the felted finger knit, forming this tight little braid, the perfect length for a handle  Tada!

Finger Knit Basket 7

I sewed that into the top of the basket and now we’re good to go!

Finger Knit Basket 11

Finger Knit Basket 13

Frosty Striped Vases and Pom Pom Flowers

Striped Vases 23

Neon seems to be the big thing these days.  While I’m not the hugest fan of neon colours (having grown up in the 80s and 90s when it was overused and used badly), I do like what designers are doing with it as an accessory colour.  I like the pop of these striped vases here, and the ombre finish of these ones here.  So I thought I would try out the effect of the rubber bands and the ombre, but with a different colour more suited to the taste and decor of the person to whom I am giving the things.

Striped Vases 1

I cut a bunch of glass bottles I had lying around down to size and ground down the sharp edges (for my tutorial on cutting glass see here). You can of course use any glass you have lying around, vases, tumblers, stuff you pick up from the thrift store.

Striped Vases 2

Before I really got into it, I thought I might do a test, first, on a piece of glass I wasn’t intending to use.  I have learned from many, many, MANY mistakes to always test a new effect first.  And you know what?  I hated it.  From a distance, I guess it was okay, but up close you could see all the places where the paint had bled under the rubber bands and/or peeled off as the elastic was peeled off.  I checked around the internet and it seems that others have had this problem as well, so I gave it up for lost.

Striped Vases 4

I am, however, still a fan of the IDEA of the rubber bands, at least, and I’ve become quite proficient at frosting glass.  I still have a jar of Velvet Etch left over from last Christmas’s present run, and while I don’t like it as much as Armor Etch, it’ll do perfectly for this project where I just want a light touch.

Striped Vases 9

So.  Take your glass.  Take a bunch of rubber bands, of different widths, and slap them on your vases, however which way you would like.  Mine are rather haphazard, which will go well with the fact that this etching cream likes to leave huge swaths of unfrosted glass behind.

Striped Vases 6

Then, wearing goggles, gloves, and a ventilator, slather on that etching cream (for my tutorial on etching glass see here).

Striped Vases 10

Leave the stuff on for the appropriate time, and then carefully rinse it off, making sure that your rinse water is mixed with some form of base (like baking soda) to neutralize the acid before it eats your sink.  Exercise caution when pulling off the rubber bands, as they tend to spit bits of acid at you if you snap them off too quickly.  Slow and steady wins the race here.

Striped Vases 12

Striped Vases 24

Now you can stop there, and just enjoy your vases as they are.  Or you could add a touch of whimsy so your receiver can put them to use right away: add flowers.  Fresh flowers are pretty expensive in these parts, and in the winter months it’s unlikely that they’re going to be locally sourced, so most of the people I know hem and haw over the idea of wasting money on a fresh bunch of flowers that will last only a few days and has come from who knows where.  Silk flowers are all right, but I find they get dusty really quickly.  But if you take flowers to the abstract, and make them from paper or fabric, I think they have a bit more pizazz.

Striped Vases 18

These ones I made from pom-poms.  Now, there’s a bunch of ways to make pom-poms floating around the internet.  The most popular method for trendy crafters seems to be the practice of wrapping the yarn around your fingers a million times and then simply tying that bundle together in the middle.  While that is certainly the quickest way, I find you end up having to cut off a large amount of excess yarn in order to make your pom-pom anything close to spherical.  The pom-pom method I used when making my touque-tastic tea cozy may take a while, but it’s worth it in the end.  What comes out of it is almost perfect from the get-go, and you can be happy with just a little bit of trimming.

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I modified the method a bit, in that I cut a slit in my paper double-donut and then folded back the edges of the slit.  This way you can run your winding yarn through the slit rather than having to feed it through an increasingly smaller hole.  Of course, you can’t keep winding around and around on this one; once you reach the edge of the slit you have to turn around and go back in the other direction but the results are more or less the same.

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These pom-poms I made from various tail ends of wool I had lying around.  Some I made really tight, some loose, and I wasn’t too careful about trimming them too precisely, because I wanted them to look natural (or as natural as flowers made from pom-poms can be). That one in the front left looks kind of like a wool celosia (brain flower).  Or we’ve just made a visit to Whoville and Dr. Seuss sent us home with a bouquet.

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Then you just need to find yourself some twigs that are to your liking.  If you feel around in your pom-pom you can usually feel the loop of yarn holding everything together.  If you give your stick a careful shove and get it inside this loop, the tension should hold it there.  If you’re worried about it falling, add a dab of hot glue.  The bonus of not gluing, however, is once you tire of the arrangement you can pull the pom-poms off and use them for something else.

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Then you arrange your “flowers” any way you like.  Like all in one big vase:

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Or in three small ones.  Whatever floats your boat.

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Have you tried Finger Knitting?

Finger Knit

Seriously, have you?  It’s fun and super easy and you get some really quick results.  Definitely something you can do with kids.  It produces a long chain of stockinette-like loose stitches that remind me of what used to come out of that weird plastic crochet-tube thing we were given as kids.  Remember?  Maybe not.

Finger Knit

Anyway, if you’d like to try it, get yourself some yarn.  A huge chunky knit will give you the best results, but I am planning on felting my strings so I’m going with some merino wool.

Finger Knit

Find the end and drape it over the space between your thumb and forefinger.  You may need your thumb to hold that tail in place for the first few rows, but you can let it go after that.

Finger Knit

Take the yarn and bring it in front of your index finger, behind your middle finger, in front of your ring finger, and around behind your little finger.

Finger Knit

Then bring it in front of your little finger, behind your ring finger, and so on, until you’ve woven it back to the beginning.

Finger Knit

Then pull it around your index finger and do that again, so you end up with two loops of yarn on each finger.

Finger Knit

Now take the lower loop on your little finger and pull it up and over the upper loop.

Finger Knit

Repeat that with all your other fingers until you’re left with one loop on each one.

Finger Knit

Take another full pass with your yarn, in, out, in, alternating on the way back.

Finger Knit

Then pull the lower loop over the upper loop again on each finger. Keep going. Eventually something like this will start coming off the back of your hand. It will look a bit different depending on the size of your fingers, the tension and thickness of the yarn, and all that jazz.

Finger Knit

If you get tired or bored while you’re doing this or you need to do something else, just jab a pencil through your loops and put it down. Come back to it later.

Finger Knit

Finger Knit

When you’ve got a chain as long as you want it to be, you can cast off. After doing your last row of loops, leaving you with one row only of loops on each finger, take the loop on your little finger and put it above the loop on your ring finger.

Finger Knit

Pull the lower loop on your ring finger up and over the one you just added.

Finger Knit

Take the loop that is left and put that onto your middle finger.

Finger Knit

Hook the lower one up and over, and put the remaining loop onto your index finger.

Finger Knit

Hook the lower one up and over and then you’re left with one loop!

Finger Knit

Then it’s a simple matter to thread the end of your yarn through and tie a knot.

Finger Knit

This is a finished chain. You’ll note I’ve reinforced the knots at both the beginning and end. Next to it is one that I felted by running through the wash and then the dryer.

Finger Knit

Here’s a closeup of the loose weave of the chain I made versus the tight string after it’s felted.  Dog hair may or may not be included.

Finger Knit

Here’s a very long chain I made as well. You can see how easy it would be, especially with a chunkier yarn, to sew the chain together to form a block, a blanket, or a rug. Or whatever. I’m still debating what I am going to do with mine, but I’ll keep you posted.

Finger Knit

Progress Report on the Summer of Blankets

As you may know, the Pie and I are hitting up two weddings this summer.  In June, Doodle marries the Cyclist, and in July, my big brother Krystopf weds the indomitable Atlas.  Both are getting home-made blankets from yours truly as a wedding gift.

Progress Report

The Atlas blanket is coming along well, though it never ceases to amaze me how many times I can screw up a simple knit/purl design.  As much as I try, I doubt I will ever be a practised knitter, though I am getting better at going back and fixing my mistakes.  And fortunately this is something that I can bring with me when I’m traveling, and something I can do while I’m watching television at night.

Progress Report

With these two strips you can start to see the sort of “patchwork” effect that I was going for, with the alternating colours and alternating knit and purled sides.

Progress Report

The place where I bought this gorgeous wool, A Good Yarn, has closed the doors of its physical business and the owner has moved to Halifax to focus on the internet side of the show, so I had to order the next batch of skeins online.  Fortunately, Tanis Fiber Arts has a really comprehensive website and such beautiful colours.  The new skeins I ordered just came in yesterday.

Progress Report

In biodegradable packaging, no less!

Progress Report

If you are curious, this is the Yellow Label DK Weight, which is good for pretty much anything, and the colours I have used are Plum, Olive, Deep Sea, and Midnight, from left to right.  If I knew how to use them properly and/or could afford them, I would buy the whole stock.

Progress Report

Doodle’s afghan is also progressing.  That huge box of seamless sweaters has been reduced now to a blue recycling bag full of carefully cut out oblongs, and a green garbage bag full of scraps of wool.  I don’t know if I will be able to find a use for all the scraps, but I will try.  If you have any suggestions let me know.  I also have a small pile of cardboard cutting templates I need to find a place for.

Progress Report

I have learned that when cutting felted wool with a rotary cutter you end up with a tremendous amount of static-charged wool lint.  Which ends up everywhere.  And doesn’t go away.  I also learned that you can loosen the blade on your rotary cutter so it rolls more easily and you don’t have to press as hard.  Of course I didn’t discover that until near the end.

Progress Report

I may go in a slightly different direction with the afghan, now that it’s all cut out.  I will still do the colour progression on the “right” side as originally planned, but, depending on the number of oblongs I have, I might just randomly sew the rest of them together and have that go underneath, as a sort of double blanket, rather than sewing the wool blanket to a fabric backing.  We shall see.  As well, given the scale of this thing, I think it might be a better idea to sew the whole thing by machine instead of using the by-hand blanket stitch, which, while very secure, takes for-freaking-ever.  The question will be if my machine can handle it, as some of the wool is super thick.  I will keep you posted.

Progress Report

The Atlas Blanket

Happy Leap Day!

The Atlas Blanket

As I said last week, I’m working on two blankets for two weddings this summer.  This one is for my eldest brother Krystopf and Atlas, his wife-to-be.  Depending on how you look at it, it’s going to be both easier and more of a challenge than the one I’m making for Doodle.  Easier, because it just involves knitting, and more of a challenge because I really hate/suck at knitting.

But there you go.

I bought these beautiful hand-dyed, Canadian-made wools at A Good Yarn downtown.  I had jewel tones in mind for this blanket (Atlas likes purple and blue), and Tanis Fiber Arts had exactly what I was looking for.  They’re just gorgeous, and totally worth the price.

The Atlas Blanket

Now, those are skeins, which means that I had to wind them all into balls before I could start knitting.  There is an art to winding wool by hand, but I haven’t yet perfected it.  Mostly I swear a lot as I constantly drop my misshapen ball-in-progress and it goes skittering off across the floor.  Anyway, these ones aren’t bad.

The Atlas Blanket

When you’re knitting with balls of wool, it helps to put the ball in a bowl while you knit.  This keeps it in one place, and not rolling all over the place and getting tangled.  You can even get special bowls designed for knitting, but I haven’t yet reached the apex of ability that means I deserve such a thing.

The Atlas Blanket

I know my limitations when it comes to knitting, so I’m keeping this as simple as possible, and hoping that the simplicity ends up equalling elegance when I’m through.  So I’ve got four colours, and I’m just doing two columns of alternating colours.  This one is green and turquoise, and the other one will be purple and navy.  Then I will stitch the columns together to form the blanket. (FYI, those panels are each 30 stitches long and about 36 rows tall.)

The Atlas Blanket

And I will offset my knit sides and purled sides so that it forms a patchwork when I’m done.

The Atlas Blanket

I will of course need to figure out something to do around the edges.  I’m open to easy suggestions (please no i-cord or anything like that).

The Atlas Blanket
But that’s what I got so far!

Phone Cozy

Phone Cozy

This is another felting project, but a quick one.  I know.  Two felted things in one week.  It’s almost too much to handle.

The last time I purchased a cellular (mobile) phone, nobody spoke of phones in terms of 4G, 3G, or even 2G.  Not even just G.  Blackberries were phones for people who had trouble leaving their work at the office.  And the iPhone, and its subsequent smart phone progeny, was just a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye.

At the time, I bought a Motorola Razr, which was, back then, the thinnest phone you could buy and the height of fashion.  Mine was pink.  I loved it and used it faithfully for several years.  Unfortunately, at my going-away party before I left Ottawa for Newfoundland, my boss’s husband picked me up and threw me in the pool, and my phone was in my pocket. And that was the end of my phone.

For four glorious years here on the Rock, the Pie and I have lived without the constant connectivity of a cellphone.  Once we got used to it, we came to relish the freedom it afforded us.  Recently, however, we have come to discover that not being able to reach our friends (or each other) when we are out is more of a problem than it used to be.  So last weekend, we both bit the bullet, and with the friendly and knowledgeable guidance of Rick T. at the Telus store in the Avalon Mall, we both purchased our first cellphones in several years.

Phone Cozy

Mine is an HTC Amaze, a rugged little smartphone that uses the HTC Sense Android operating software.  I can blog on it, check my email, the weather, the news, and send messages to people all over the world.  It’s also like a Swiss Army Knife: it gives me cooking conversions, has a flashlight, a bubble level, a metronome … I haven’t actually used the real PHONE part of it yet, but Cait tells me that that’s not what phones are for anymore.  It’s a little odd to think that I have more technology in the palm of my hand than was on the first ship that landed on the moon.

Phone Cozy

The thing I like best about my new phone is actually old technology: if I plug a pair of headphones to it to act as an antenna, I can get FM radio!

Anyway, as you know, I am the world’s clumsiest person, which was why I picked such a durable little phone.  Because of its construction, there aren’t a lot of cases out there for the HTC Amaze, but I do still want to protect the extra-thick glass screen from unfortunate scratches.  So I thought I’d make it a little pouch.

Phone Cozy

I made one for the Pie’s iPod Touch two years ago.  It has a little extra room in the top of the fold-down flap to hold headphones.  You can make these as quick and easy gifts.  They don’t take long.

Phone Cozy

You will need a rectangle of fabric that is a little bit wider than the object you want to cover and a little bit longer than twice the length of it.  Felt is a good one to use, because you don’t have to hem it, but you could use any fabric.

Phone Cozy

I prefer felted wool here, because it’s thick enough to provide a bit of a cushion, and the stretch of it makes it easier to get the phone in and out of the pouch.

Phone Cozy

Place your object on the fabric and shift it around until you have it where you want it.  You want it to be wrapped up so that when it’s all sewn you end up with an overlapping top flap.  See my clever use of the sleeve ribbing here?

Phone Cozy

Pin that in place and remove the object. I left plenty of room on the side for my headphones.

Phone Cozy

Now you can sew.  If you are using felt, you don’t have to worry about seaming or seam allowances, so you can just sew on the outside.  This means that you can use a contrasting thread, which will look pretty. I used a thick embroidery floss here.

Phone Cozy

Feel free as well to add embellishments, like buttons or badges or ribbons.

Phone Cozy

Whatever you like.  It’s so easy you can just go crazy. This may very well be the girliest item I own.

Phone Cozy

Doodle’s Felted Wool Afghan

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I feel kind of bad.  Here I am, third-place winner for Best Blog About Crafting and I haven’t put up a crafting post in an age.  Sorry about that.  But rest assured I’m working hard on two major projects.  They’re just the sort of long-term ones that don’t make for exciting blogging.

Two people who are very dear to me are getting married this summer.  My eldest brother, Krystopf, ties the knot in early July, and my high school best friend, Doodle, gets hitched in mid-June.  I am making both of their wedding presents, and both of them are blankets.

Doodle and her soon-to-be husband, The Cyclist, live in Portland, Oregon, a place with weather very similar to what it is here in St. John’s.  By that I mean, windy and rainy.  So an ideal present would be one that encourages cuddling and coziness, right?  And we know from previous experience that felted wool is the coziest of them all.

When we were in Ottawa over Christmas, the Pie and I scoured the local second-hand stores to acquire as many genuine lambswool, merino, and cashmere sweaters as we could, in a specific range of colours.  Doodle and I agreed on red, white, blue, and black, as sort of a combination of Canadian and American colours (and black goes with everything).  I wanted to do something a bit different with this blanket, and have the colours sort of blend into each other, rather than have a pattern of alternating coloured squares.  So it’s going to be a bit trickier than normal.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Here you can see our initial haul (and Gren).  This is the colour scheme I am going with.  You can see that the main colours are represented at the corners, and then they blend through the other colours in the middle.  Like a square colour wheel.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Now, if you feel like undertaking a similar project, I just want to give you a heads-up first.  A lot of up-cycling and recycling projects are economical and a good way to save money.  This is not one of them.  A 100% wool or cashmere sweater, even second-hand, will run you between $9 and $14, depending on the quality and size, and for this project, we will be using approximately 25 sweaters.  So you can do the math there.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I felted all the sweaters while at my parents’ house (to take advantage of the fact that they were footing the power bill), and we mailed the sweaters back to ourselves in St. John’s.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Then I dismantled them.  I carefully cut out all the seams, so all the pieces of sweater lay flat.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I’m saving the seams.  I think they would make good toy stuffing material.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Here are all the sweaters, officially laid out in their colour wheel.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

The sweater in the middle will serve as my keystone, if you will, and then I’ll use the rest of it to construct some baby toys for some wee ones I get to meet this summer.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Now I have to start cutting out the pieces.  I want to do it more as a puzzle or interlocking oblongs than as simple squares, so I’m going to have to work out some ratios so that all the pieces will fit together nicely.  I will keep you posted.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1