Yarn Eggs

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These puppies are all over the internet, so I can’t give you any one particular website that gave me the inspiration to try this little Easter craft.  Despite it being warm(ish), we just got another 20cm of snow this week (in one night) and I have had it with winter in the worst way.  So I’m doing Easter things.

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Today we’re making yarn eggs.   What you need for this is a work surface that you can easily clean off (this is a messy project), some brightly coloured yarn, a balloon, and some glue.  In this set of photographs I’m using a 5″ balloon for a medium-sized egg.  You can use a full-sized 10″-12″ balloon but you’ll use more yarn and glue and then you’ll have to find a place for your giant egg.  Water balloons, which are typically around 3″-4″, are probably best for this, though you will have to squish them around to make them a bit more egg-shaped.  I’m also using a papier mâché paste with a flour:water ratio of 2:3 as my glue.

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Start by inflating your balloon.  Tie it off and then loosely wrap it in the yarn of your choice, just to get an idea of how much you are going to need.

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When you have it wrapped to your satisfaction, you can cut the yarn.  I ended up with between 6 and 7 metres of yarn for a 5″ balloon (before you object too loudly, remember that I’m Canadian and we jump back and forth between metric and Imperial measurements with impunity — it’s a cultural thing).

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Loosely wind up your yarn so it won’t get too tangled as you pull on it and dunk it gently into your glue mixture.

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Keep hold of the end so you can find it again.

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Run the gluey yarn through your fingers to squeeze off the excess and start wrapping it snugly around your balloon.  Some people have sprayed the balloon with cooking spray to prevent sticking, but I didn’t find that this was a problem for me. Make sure to leave the tied off neck of the balloon hanging out so you have something to hold on to.

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When you are at the end of your yarn, tuck the edge in so it won’t unravel as it dries.

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It’s best to hang up the balloon overnight so it will be able to dry completely on all sides.

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While I was making breakfast the next day, the balloon decided to contract and it took me a good five minutes to figure out that the crackling sound in my kitchen was the balloon separating from the pasty yarn.

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Then you simply pinch the balloon near the neck and cut a snip in it to deflate the balloon quickly without popping it.

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Pull the deflated balloon out through the hole where the neck was.

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There you have it.   I’m not entirely happy with the way that the papier mâché paste has discoloured the yarn, but this method would probably work best on pale yellow yarn or off-white, to disguise the discolouration.

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For the next one (this was a test run after all), I decided to use Mod Podge “Stiffy” Fabric stiffener, mixed with a wee bit of Mod Podge Fabric Glue.

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This was a lot more slippery to work with, for some reason.  The papier mâché seemed to adhere better to the balloon when wet (though it might have also had something to do with me using a metallic balloon first, and then a regular opaque one next — I find that the metallic ones have a different feel to them).  The fabric stiffener slid all over the place, so I had to hold it with my fingers.  So glue was everywhere.

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The final three eggs I used straight Stiffy, no glue.  You can see that there’s a difference between the paste one, which is more rigid but has bits of goo all over it, and the Stiffy ones, which are slightly more flexible but also less gross looking.

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The finished eggs can be strung up as a garland, or displayed in a bowl, or used as place markers at the dinner table (if you made wee ones with water balloons).  You can also use rounder balloons to make actual spheres for non-Easter related decorating.  I’ve also seen them stuffed with LEDs as indoor/outdoor luminaries (though if you’re going to put them outdoors I would spray them with a waterproofing sealant first). I’ve even seen people use giant weather balloons to make huge pendant lampshades. It’s a very versatile and easy technique.

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Frosty Striped Vases and Pom Pom Flowers

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Baby Boy Blue Blanket

Here is yet another project courtesy of the felted wool sweater.  It’s a present for the newest addition to Kª and Kº’s family.  We shall have to see what young Il Principe thinks of this.  Being an only child is pretty sweet.

Il Principe, in the flesh.

Here I took four sweaters, two gray, one navy, and one black.  These sweaters were of the softer, thinner natural fabrics, such as cashmere and merino.  They felt a bit differently than regular sheep’s wool, with less fuzz.  I cut those suckers up into tons of 3″ squares.

Then I laid them out into a pattern and, like in our other wool patchwork quilt, started sewing them together in long strips.

Because of the nature of the wool I had to do it all by hand, with a needle and thread, using the blanket stitch.

Then I sewed the strips together. 

It looks rather nice, don’t you think?

This is the back of it.  It’s kind of cool, too, but it will be hidden from view.This is the soft cotton I am going to use as the backing.  The blue and the gray match perfectly with the colours of the wool.

Then with great care I pinned the top to the backing.  

The backing is a grid pattern so I was careful to line things up properly. 

I folded over the edges of the cotton to guard against fraying.

Then, with great difficulty owing to the stretchiness of the wool, I machine-basted the two pieces together.  Next time I would probably do this by hand, just because of the way the wool bunched and stretched.

To bind it, I used blanket binding, which I folded in on itself to make smaller.  Shockingly, I had to actually PURCHASE the blanket binding from Fabricland.

It was a simple matter to fold it towards its own centre …

… and then iron a new crease.

My mother was kind enough to sew the binding onto the blanket for me, in exchange for my making of kumquat marmalade.  She has more patience for such things.

The corners are a bit tricky.  You can see here how Mum pins flush across the corner.

Then folds the fabric over the pin as a guide.

Then pins it in place before sewing it down.

Its pretty slick.

You can see at the end she just folded it under itself again before sewing it down.

Embellishments are always important when it comes to babies, but you have to be careful.  No buttons, or anything that babies can eat.  Colourful yarn is a good option.  I thought the orange would look great next to the gray and blue.

The yarn here also serves to anchor the top of the quilt to the bottom so it doesn’t shift around.

I threaded a tapestry needle with the yarn.

Poked it through and back out again.

Here it is back through.

And tied a double knot.

This is what it looks like on the back.

I did that at random points all through.

Here is the finished product.

All ready to be gifted away!

Knitting with Four Needles, for the second time

So two weeks ago we learned how to cast on and create a ribbed cuff on four needles for a mitten.

Today we are going to learn how to increase our stitching in order to accommodate for the thumb.

When we cast on, we did ten stitches on the first needle, ten on the second, and then eight on the third.  The third is where this thumb will go.  The unique thing about these mittens is that the thumb doesn’t stick out the side — it comes in front, like it actually does with your hand.  So when you’re making the mitten for the other hand, you would want to reverse the order of your needles, and have it go eight, ten, ten, instead of what we’ve done here, which is ten, ten, eight.  Sorry, I know that’s confusing.  It makes sense later.

Try your cuff on to see if it’s long enough for your liking.

So in the next row, you want to start with the plain knit stitch.  Apparently I knit upside-down, according to my grandmother, so I have to do it in purl.  As you are knitting, you want to increase two stitches on each needle.  I can’t really illustrate this properly, so for good diagrams on increasing your stitches you can look here or here.

On your third needle, the one with the eight stitches, knit the first four stitches, and then purl one, knit two, and purl the last one.  The reason you do the purling here is to mark where the thumb is — it creates a line as it gets bigger and makes the thing easier to find.

So now that you’ve increased you want to knit an entire row (that’s going around the needles twice).  Make sure to keep purling those two stitches to keep the line going.

When  you get to the thumb marking, increase two more stitches inside the purl stitches, and purl the last one as usual.  Knit two rows plain again, remembering to keep up marking those purl stitches.   You can see here what my increased stitches look like.

Next row increase two more stitches in the thumb area and then knit two rows plain and so on until you have 8 stitches between your purl markings.

Continue knitting rows, keeping your purl markings, until you reach the place where the thumb meets the hand.

You can see our thumb line here (from the purling).

More next time!

Knitting with Four Needles

My grandmother makes the best mittens of all time.  There is no question.  And it was her maid when she was a girl who taught her.  Sounds pretty fancy, doesn’t it?  Well these mittens are anything but fancy.  They are comfortable and last for ages.  I still have a pair that belonged to my uncle when he was a child and they’ve held up remarkably well.  My grandmother is also the only person who can make mittens that will fit my tiny carnie hands.  Unfortunately, due to growing pain in her hands due to arthritis my grandmother is no longer knitting, and so my mother and I have taken it upon ourselves to learn all her secrets.

This post is part of the process of learning the magic mitten “recipe.”  First we had to learn how to knit with four double-ended needles.   Easier said than done.  Though she makes it look pretty easy.

You have to keep track of not two but FOUR slippery slide-y needles that will get in your way and cause a ruckus. If you think you can handle that, then we can move on.So you start first with two needles, and you want to cast on ten stitches.Then you want to start to cast on an eleventh stitch, but stop just before you get to the point where you put the stitch on the first needle.Just like that you’re on to the next needle.  Stick another needle through that one and start casting on again.Cast on another ten, and then an eleventh and start again on the next needle.On the third needle we’re just going to cast on eight stitches.This next step is very important.  You take the dangly bit of wool from the first knot you tied when you started casting on and you tie that firmly to the strand of wool you are working with.  What you will see in the below image is incorrect.  As you can see, the cast-on rows are all twisted and higgledy-piggledy, and the knot should be flush with the stitched rows so you have a tight triangle.Make sure the rows on all your needles are facing the same way before you tie a nice tight knot.
Now you can start your knitting, and, because your needles are all connected now you can start where you left off and end up in a circle.  Start knitting, knit two, purl two, switching from needle to needle as you go through, and you will see the cuff of your mitten emerging.It’s hard at first to adjust to the other two needles just sitting there and getting in your way while you work on the first one but you get used to it.  Keep going until the cuff is as long as you’d like it to be.And that, so far, is all I have learned.  Stay tuned!

Knit This

Do you have knitters in your family?  I do.  I am one.  Though not a very good one.

In any case, knitting needles are a remarkably easy thing to make (according to Martha Stewart) and they make a great little gift.

You can get doweling of several different thicknesses at any hardware or craft store. 

Saw the dowel to the desired length (my dowels were all 36″, so I cut most of my needles to 12″ lengths, though I did make a set of four 9″ double-ended needles).  Use a pencil sharpener to create a point.

Sand the dowels down to create a smooth surface that won’t catch on the yarn.  Make sure as well to dull the points a bit.  It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.  You can rub the needles with a bit of warm beeswax, just to protect them and let the wool slide a bit easier.

Then all you have to do is use a glue gun to put colourful buttons at the ends. 

And there you have it.  Tie them with some pretty ribbon and give them all away!

Or keep some.  Your choice.