Dec 23, 2011

Two-minute candy cane holder

Sometimes, one gets tired of not finishing craft projects. Instant gratification to the rescue! I got tired of the candy canes sitting and taking up space in their original box on the counter, so I took one of the oatmeal cans we saved for occasions just like this, wrapped some of the box around the can, and taped it. Voila!

Two-minute candy cane canister

Looks pretty decent for something that uses two pieces of "trash" and some Scotch tape, huh?

That photo comes to you care of my new iPod Touch, by the way. That was an unexpected Black Friday score, and my way of keeping myself from pining away for an iPad. ;)

Oh, and if you're wondering why our candy canes aren't on the tree, well, this is our tree:

Tiny rosemary tree

I think we could probably fit a couple of candy canes on there, but ... I also think the tree might arguably fit into the candy cane canister. So ... yeah. Not the most efficient candy-cane-holding tree. At least it tastes good, itself. ;)

So how's your holiday setup look? :D

Oct 19, 2011

MAKE/CRAFT Halloween contest 2011 is open!

For all you crafty/DIY types, there's a contest running on the Make and Craft Web sites. You can enter anything you make with a Halloween theme — well, anything as long as it fits into one of the four categories: Costume, Prop, Decor or Food.

The prizes are all crafty/makey things, of course, like a Dremel tool and a Singer sewing and embroidery machine. Click here for the details.

The contest ends at the end of November 8, 2011. If you enter, drop a line and let me know!

Sep 13, 2011

A cool DIY wire coffee table project

I've been on the lookout for DIY coffee table ideas for a while — we have a great glass top, but the curly cast iron base that came with it wasn't made for use by a piratical first mate who likes to rest his feet on everything within five feet of the futon. Right now we have two chairs stuck underneath the glass top as a makeshift coffee table, which ... is functional. That's about all I can say about that.

Anyway, since it's not falling apart or unstable, we're not in a giant rush to spend money on a new coffee table base, but it's pretty high on the list of DIY improvements I want to make to the house, since I prefer my DIY projects to be attractive as well as usable. ;) My criteria for the new, improved DIY coffee table base include that it should:
  • hold the glass top securely enough that none-so-gentle cats and feet atop it won't make the table wobble;
  • be attractive;
  • have storage space beneath it; and preferably
  • be fairly easy to move, since the room in which the coffee table resides doubles as the Wii-playing room.
Today I found a tutorial from Lowe's that looks like it meets pretty much all these criteria — behold! The wire deck coffee table tutorial!

Okay, I'm not sure it'd be that easy to move around, but it doesn't look particularly harder to move around than anything else. And one of the awesome things about this project is that it requires only three things, and no tools: wire deck, cable ties, and acrylic sheet (which you can have cut to measure at the home improvement store). I guess wire deck is what it looks like, which is some kind of shelving component. And even cooler (at least for me)? Technically, I could probably scrounge all the materials for this out of what we have on hand right now — we have wire shelving, cable ties, and that glass table top I keep blathering about.

I am so tempted to try this. But it would require disassembling some of my existing shelves and I doubt they'd make a coffee table of the height we want anyway, so I'd probably want to get some new wire deck to do it with. According to their Web site, my local Lowe's doesn't seem to have the right size of wire deck to make the bottom part (snort — that's a little perverse), but assuming I can find it somewhere locally at comparable prices, it looks like getting the wire deck would cost well under $50, including tax. That sounds like a fairly good deal on a pretty cool DIY coffee table base. So. Tempted.

Yeah, the temptation might be a passing fancy ... but then again, maybe the idea will ferment in my head with some other ones and produce an even better DIY coffee table base idea. Only time will tell. ;)

Aug 22, 2011

In which I acquire an alpaca (sort of), and dye some Florida wool

You wouldn't think an alpaca would fit in someone's luggage, right? Well, this little guy did:

Alpaca on the mountain

He was a gift from the first mate's parents; they picked him up in Colorado. Of course I've already misplaced Ha-HA! I found the card that came with him, from which I gather he comes to me by way of Alpaca Exotic Imports. Thanks, O parents of the first mate, for the pettable furry thing that requires no feeding. ;)

(That "mountain" he's climbing is the handspun I finished/made during this year's Tour de Fleece, by the way.)

I also recently kettle-dyed a sample of Gulf Coast fleece that came from my very own home state, Florida, but which went for a visit to Laura of Dew Dance Farm before it came to me. I dyed it an appropriately oceany color (it's almost like I don't know there are other colors ;)) and am now pondering what to spin it into. Voila, le Gulf Coast!

Gulf Coast fleece

Hope you've all been up to some summery fun — I've been working on a few surprises, myself. ;D

Jul 2, 2011

Tour de Fleece 2011, Day 1

Yep, it's time again for the Tour de Fleece, that annual spinalong so many of us do during the Tour de France. So far I'm off to a better start than I've made for the past two years, and while I'm not in any way reassured that this means the rest of the Tour will go better than it has previously, making a decent start is an accomplishment in itself. ;D Here's what I've spun so far — it's an ounce of Louet wool/mohair/bamboo rayon:

Day 1 Composite

This year I'm trying to track my progress more, so I updated my super-primitive tracker spreadsheet from last year to be a little bit less primitive ... though it's still no NaNoWriMo word count tracker. ;) This is part of it, though there's a lot more to it than just this (including "yards spun" and "skeins completed" columns that are just not in this snippet of screenshot):

There's also a place where you can list your goals and check them off, and an area at the end of the spreadsheet that sums up your progress so far in total time spent, number of ounces spun, yards spun, goals met, etc. I like it a lot better than last year's tracker (which was boring and unpretty enough that I didn't share it with anyone), though I still have visions of charts and per-day summaries and such. (I just need to decide how to balance cool stats capabilities with keeping the daily tracker fairly simple to use...)

Anyway, if you're doing the Tour de Fleece and you want a copy of my progress tracker spreadsheet, the quickest way to get in touch is to drop me a line on Ravelry (I'm Silver) with your e-mail address, or you can leave me a comment here with your e-mail address if you don't mind other people seeing it. I'm planning on adding a download link for it to the Star & Crossbones Web site but I haven't done it yet, and I'd rather have the offer out there right now than delay it till I get around to poking the Web site's freebies page. ;)

FYI, the spreadsheet was created in Excel 2008 for Mac and I haven't tested it on any computer but mine. If you end up with a copy and you find some incompatibility issue, definitely let me know, and I'd be happy to poke at it and try to fix it. :D

Happy spinning of wheels, whichever kind(s) you do!

May 23, 2011

And lo, there was much finishing, and it was good

Who, me? Absent?

Okay, you win. I've been quiet here for a while, but look! I've been doing things, and I have photographic proof!

I finished that gigantic pink scarf:

Gigantic pink scarf — finished!

And I finished knitting my TwitKAL/Wanderheart shawl, which looked like this before blocking:

Finally finished TwitKAL shawl

...and is currently stretched out on the rack floor, drying into its newer prettier shape:

TwitKAL shawl, blocking

And I finally Navajo-plied the second bobbin of Rubies and Sapphires Merino that I spun during last year's Tour de Fleece:

Second skein of Rubies and Sapphires Merino

Hmm. That doesn't seem like much, does it?

I've also been baking and going to the beach, though not at the same time (yet — someday I'll have a solar oven, mark my words!).

Muffins of some kind
Random baking pic

A tiny crab
Random beach picture. Tiny crab waves hi!

And I've been working on my Big Black Socks and on a secret knitting project for my Santosha Swap partner (which I could probably actually post about, since only the organizer knows which partner is assigned to who ;)), but those aren't ready for photography yet. ;D

So ... see. I've been doing stuff. And there is more stuff yet to come. Think productive thoughts at me, 'cause I'm still going strong now ... but I can use all the encouragement I can get!

May 6, 2011

From fleece to fiber art: alpaca like the ocean

A few weeks ago a friend of mine called me up. "Will you spin me some yarn for a Mother's Day gift? Any kind of yarn you want," she said (though, I admit, not in these precise words ;)). "I've never seen you make yarn I haven't liked!"

Once the temporary ego-swelling had subsided, of course, I had to make some decisions. My friend (hello, Ms. Friend! ;D) and her mother are both allergic to wool, so anything but wool would work. Well, I have plenty of alpaca fleeces, so off I went to the stash.

I wanted to pick a fiber good for dyeing, since alpaca doesn't naturally come in blue, green, or purple, the colors I hear Ms. Friend's mom uses the most. ;) This, a fleece from Calypso Farm, from a Suri alpaca named Glass Slipper, seemed perfect:

Undyed alpaca fleece

Suri, by the way, is a rare breed of alpaca known for having silky, warm, lustrous, drapey fiber. Only one percent of the alpacas on the planet are of the Suri breed, so "rare" isn't just hype! ;) (Check out Suri Network for more information on Suri alpacas and Suri fiber specifically.)

So the fleece visited the wash tub and the dye pot, and voila! Oceany alpaca!

Alpaca fiber

Anyway, originally I thought I'd do a lightweight yarn that might work for knitting a shawl, as Ms. Friend mentioned something about a lace book for her mom. Now, maybe you know this already because you have lots of friends who are fibers, but fibers have preferences about what makes them look good and behave well. Some look good in little black dresses, some look good in jeans and a t-shirt — well, okay, I'm really talking about fiber preparation here, like combing vs. carding, but I am so not in a jargony technical mood today, so we'll pretend it's kind of like clothing style. ;)

Point is, since I hadn't worked with this particular fleece before and didn't know its preferences, I experimented with different fiber preparations. I tried preparing it on my hand cards, on my drum carder, and with my hand combs, and I tried spinning yarn from all these preparations as well as spinning the fiber straight from the cloud (meaning without doing more than picking it apart with my fingers a bit).

Some of the results I won't share with you *cough*, but I found that while the different preparations weren't radically different in results, the different processes were different amounts of pain in the butt. ;) (Suri alpaca doesn't look fluffy until you try to run it through a Louet Junior Roving Carder, let me tell you ... and then it flies everywhere. I guess I need a drum carder with finer teeth? Or maybe I need to buckle down and get those cotton hand cards I've been drooling over for years.) Anyway, in the end I end I went with the hand combs — even though I think of them as fairly slow, they seem suited to the Suri's straight, silky fibers ... and they don't make the fiber fly everywhere and stick to everything. ;)

Hand combs
Scary fiber equipment, yay!

I even knit up some of the sample yarn to see how it behaved.

Sampling the alpaca fiber & yarn

That looks pretty decent, huh? But like I said, different fibers have different preferences, and there was just something about this preparation that didn't seem ideal. Sure, it was functional, but the Suri seemed like it wanted to show off a little more, and not be so traditional. Lots of fibers do traditional perfectly well, and the Suri does have an interesting halo to it when spun like this, but ... well, at the rate I was spinning, it also would have taken me forever and ever to finish the whole batch of fiber at that weight. And I had this possibly odd idea that a Mother's Day gift should probably be ready before Mother's Day, plus, I didn't want to think about pricing a yarn that takes 9 whole hours to spin, not even counting the combing and the dyeing and the washing and, and...

So I decided I'd spin it fatter, since the fatter yarn sample I did seemed to show off the Suri's qualities better. Then I thought again: If I spun it fat, because alpaca tends to be fairly heavy and dense compared to wool, I'd end up with a fat, short skein of yarn, an amount that would make it more of an accent yarn than something Ms. Friend's mom would be able to knit a whole item out of. And that'd be silly, wouldn't it? But the singles alone, with its decent yardage, didn't seem appealing enough — again, it was functional, but I wanted to do something special, not just a plain ol' singles.

Then I remembered thread-plying! And so I went into the part of the stash with the cones of vintage weaving yarn, and I pulled out some white thread, and went to town. Ply, ply you fools! The result:

Alpaca yarn

Ta-da! A little over 100 yards of thread-plied art yarn. (Okay, it's a slightly sedate art yarn, but I didn't want to force anything too wacky on someone I can't remember meeting in person, meaning where she would be in range of my ability to sense wackiness tolerance. ;))

Yeah, I may have fallen victim to making things more complicated than they needed to be, by following my own preferences and treating this project like I would have had it been a present for my mom, but that's not such a horrible thing to do when you're given free rein to make whatever yarn you like, right?

Alpaca yarn

And hey, if the recipient hates it, or if she happens to see this blog post and decides she likes it the traditional, takes-two-gazillion-years-to-spin yarn better than the arty yarn, I do have more of this fiber, and more dye. I can always call a redo! It may even take me slightly less than a gazillion years to spin it next time, since then I'll have had the practice of spinning it this time around. ;)

Of course, I do hope she ends up liking it, maybe even making something out of it that eventually shows up in my inbox in photographic form. That's one of the coolest things that can happen to your handmade stuff — seeing it in happy use, in action.

So here's hoping it's well-received. :D Meantime, I'm off again. There's still more of that gigantic scarf to knit...

May 3, 2011

In favor of hugemongous yarn, and Epic Socks pics

I hardly ever knit with chunky weight yarn — it's not generally useful in Florida weather, and I tend to prefer a slim look to a "fluffy" look, if I can help it, and the patterns that are awesome enough to make me want to use the chunky yarn anyway tend to require massive amounts of it, which is, y'know, usually more expensive than things requiring nonmassive quantities of yarn. ;)

The pound of pink yarn in the last post, though, is for a custom scarf, and chunky weight was an absolute must. (There's no way I'm knitting a scarf of these epic proportions in a lighter weight of yarn — I'd be middle-aged before it was done.)

And this scarf? If anyone needs convincing that knitting with chunky weight yarn has merit — well, lights, please! I present to you my evidence:

This is the scarf partway through day one of knitting it.

BFL scarf, beginning

And this is the scarf on day two.

Giganto pink scarf, Day 2

That's 26 inches, people. 26 inches of 12-inch-wide scarf in two days. I've never knit that amount of fabric in such a short amount of time in my life, methinks. ;) Well, at least not before this week.

So there it is: The perfect argument in favor of gigantic yarn.

And on the far-from-gigantic yarn front, here are some of those photos of the Epic Socks, my first beaded lace socks, that I mentioned I'd take:

Bling socks

Bling socks
Lace close-up! ;D

Giant yarn, nongiant yarn ... We gots it all around here.

(We've even got yarn that isn't yarn yet, she said as she glared at the four ounces of freshly-dyed turquoise-ish alpaca fiber that needs to finish drying RIGHT NOW DANGIT. Pics of that coming once it looks less like pieces of a wet rat with a strange fashion sense.)

May 1, 2011

Coming up for air, plus a pound of wool yarn & a handspun shawl in progress

So tired today, but I finally have the Epic Socks done. (Light shines down from the heavens! Golden trumpets sound! Birds fly picturesquely across the scene!) They're on the drying rack at the moment, so no photos yet, but I'll take some before I send them off to their deserving and angelically patient owner.

And hey, now I know that I can knit a pair of women's lace, beaded socks in 31 hours of knitting time. (I'd have said "women's size X" socks, with X being the US shoe size, except that I can't remember it exactly. Size 9? Off the top of my head I only remember the recipient wears a larger shoe than I do...)

Another thing that looks like it might get done in the next few weeks is that old TwitKAL shawl I started last year. I'm almost out of the blue portion of the yarn, and then there will only be purple left. Yayyyy!

The ol' TwitKAL shawl
Pattern is Liz Abinante's Traveling Woman shawl.

And oh, yeah. I finished spinning a pound and an ounce of big fat fluffy pink hand-dyed Blue-Faced Leicester yarn for a custom order. Behold! A pound of handspun yarn in all its glory!

A pound and a bit of BFL

As I told the person who will be receiving this yarn after its transformation into a scarf, the funny thing about this project is that I'll probably have taken longer to spin the yarn than it will take me to finish knitting the scarf, comparatively huge though it will be. (For reference? I've knit myself a sweater using less wool than is going into this scarf. Which is a reflection that a) I'm small and b) the recipient is somewhat other than small. ;))

I'm going to continue to be a slacker as far as Craft or Bust updates, by the way, since I haven't made any progress on that since my last update — but ever since the first mate and I fixed the washer/dryer, I've been on a cleaning spree, and there's nary a scrap of unwashed laundry left in the house, and I'm coming up fast on the dubious achievement of having no dirty laundry except what we're wearing at the time. Wouldn't that be a trick?

For some reason, since the washer/dryer's been fixed — and it doesn't leak, which hasn't been true for maybe a year — I've been hugely determined to finish off some of the big projects that have been on hold and taking up space not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. So even though I haven't been meeting my weekly CoB goals, well, I think liberating physical space and emotional and mental energy is a worthy trade-off for a few weeks of slackerdom. No?

Apr 23, 2011

Socks on the beach & crochet of various frilliness

Oh, the puns. But here they are: the aforementioned socks on the beach, because yes, I have made it to the beach twice this spring already. TAKE THAT, evil procrastination monster!

Bling socks

Sadly, one of these socks (the one in the background) will be ripped out and reknit. Right now it's still attached to the same ball as the current, larger sock because, well, it amuses me to have two socks coming off one ball of yarn, and because you never know — I might suddenly be seized by the need to compare the old, too-small sock with the new sock, which I won't be able to do if I rip out the old one. Besides, I don't need the yarn from it until I finish the first sock. ;D

By the way: Socks apparently go faster if you knit at a larger gauge. And I don't mean they go faster because the knitting is looser and each row covers more area than it does at a tighter gauge — I mean that the same number of beaded lace chart repeats goes faster at a larger gauge. Or maybe that's just me...?

My crocheted Tulip Doily is now finished, too, except for the weaving in of tails and the blocking, which leaves me in need of another crochet project. (I've discovered that crochet is waaaaay easier than knitting when it comes to putting it down in the middle of a row and coming back to it in bits and pieces as I have time. So having a crochet project sitting out all the time is a nice way of feeling like I'm always making progress on something ... and also, if I keep crocheting, then I can't forget how to do it again. ;))

Tulip Doily

Oooooh, doily-y. I've never really thought of myself as a doily person, but this one reminded me of a mandala, and it may have given me doily fever. The first mate says I should make a bunch of these and join them together to make a privacy curtain for the front porch, and if he can find something in the homeowner's association agreement that says we're allowed to have curtains on the porch (or at least, that curtains aren't disallowed), I just might. ;D

But while I'm waiting for him to produce convincing paperwork, I need another crochet project. Suggestions, anyone? Something springy and not too frumpy (says the chick who just made a doily)? Maybe I could crochet a bikini to wear while I knit on the beach. But I fear I may have to create my own super-awesome bikini pattern if I do that, and I'm not sure I'm that confident in my crocheting skills yet...

Oh, well. Gotta go put a toe on that sock now, and finish dyeing some fiber. I need to do some finishing of various projects this month or there will be Grumping in my future.

...and yeah, I know I didn't do a Craft or Bust check-in last week. Crossing my fingers for tomorrow. ;)

Apr 15, 2011

Rotary cutters, baking, and the beach

What happens when you have some hoarded gift cards from Christmas and your birthday, and there's a sale at Jo-Ann of something you've been thinking about getting for years, that you've suddenly had new ideas about how to use?

Well, I end up buying rotary cutters and a cutting mat, is what happens to me. I even got the mat in one of my favorite colors; I was walking away from the scissors section and turned around for one last glance, and saw this one hanging on the display on the side of the aisle:

Rotary cutters and mat

It's even recyclable. :D Not that I intend on getting rid of it any time soon, but if I have to have plastic objects in the house, it's nice when they're recyclable. Then I have the option of trying to upcycle them myself or of sending them off so someone else can turn them into something. Options are good. ;D

And look, the other side of the mat has cute birdies on it!

Cutting mat, birdie side

In other news, I baked my first loquat pie yesterday — I failed to take a photo of the loquats while they were still on the branch, but they came from a tree that's been growing in my parents' yard for I think longer than I've been alive. When I was a kid I contrived to only eat the fruits when they were in the tangy not-ripe stage, so I've been laboring under the misconception for most of my life that the fruits are not sweet at all. Yeah, I was so wrong. These were sweet enough that I barely put any sugar into the pie.


Loquat pie

But I burned the crust a bit because yesterday was a Day of Incompetence. (Good thing I didn't try to make loquat jam, which was what I was thinking of doing when I clipped the loquats off the tree. Incompetence plus first-time jam-making would probably have equaled suck.) Maybe also because I've never used white whole wheat flour before, at least not that I can remember, and it doesn't seem to be exactly like all-purpose flour (why would it be? Since it's, like ... a different thing and all ;)). I was even a good girl and used up the leftover cinnamon sugar topping from some French breakfast puffs I baked earlier this week, by throwing it in with the loquats.

French breakfast puffs
The aforementioned French breakfast puffs.

By the way, with the above photo, I now have photographic evidence that my baking technique has indeed changed. Generally it seems to have improved (though not consistently, as I have more Days of Incompetence now than I used to). In this case, the change appears to have made these come out out lumpy, like the ones I've seen on other blogs, but unlike the ones I used to make years ago:

French breakfast puffs
See? Smooth as a baby's butt, but, I dare say, sweeter. And crunchier.

...but this is one of those cases where I actually like the way I used to make them better. I wonder what I did differently — did I over-stir the batter?

It's also moderately hilarious that that photo from like 4,000 years ago, taken with my old point-and-shoot, is better than the one taken recently with my DSLR. The lighting in the place I lived in Wisconsin was ridiculously perfect for food photography. Now, if I ever get far enough into cleaning and reorganizing around here, there's a possibly equivalently-perfect location in my current living space. But you know, there's that "getting far enough into cleaning and reorganizing" thing.

While I'm on food photography, would you like to see the fresh local yummy eggs we got while we were doing our last CSA veggie pickup?

Local eggs, yay ;D

Local eggs, yay ;D

I love that they're all different colors. ;D The lady who sold them to us says that the green ones (er, not that any of them look very green in those photos, but I promise some of them are vaguely vaguely green, kind of like if powder blue secretly wanted to be mint green) are supposed to have less cholesterol. Weird, huh?

Oh, and did you know that — supposedly, also according to the egg lady — if you store your eggs in the carton with the pointier side down, it will help keep them fresher? I have no idea whether that's actually true, and we'll probably never find out, since eggs never survive our kitchen longer than about a week and a half (we seriously need our own chickens; if I had a yard it would be done already), but maybe you can test the theory and report back. ;)

To cap off this week, we also made our first spring pilgrimage to the beach. (There, I dumped a knitting book and a Folkwear ethnic clothing book right into the sand just before we left. DOH. I told you incompetence abounds lately. But this photo is not of that.)

Sandals at Dunedin Causeway

Last year we utterly failed to go to the beach at all during the summer. It isn't summer yet, but I have hopes that if we train ourselves to go to the beach regularly this spring (I mean, we have a beach right there not ten minutes away, albeit a small and rather rocky one), we'll get stuck in the habit and mindlessly continue into the summer. Then the first mate will be more brown than pale blue ... though I imagine his face will still be pink. Oh, and I need re-confirmation that his hair is capable of instantaneously turning gold, with, like, one full day in the sun. I swear I saw it do that one day, but it was a few years ago, and I need more evidence to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.

Also, if we go to the beach more, I will again have motivation and reason to build myself a little charkha. It's hard to spin with a drop spindle on the beach (wind and a drop spindle are not great bedfellows), but a charkha seems like it'd be more manageable. That's a good excuse for having a charkha, right? So I can spin cotton yarn on the beach that I can then turn into warm-weather clothes to wear on the beach? ;)

Apr 12, 2011

Happy blogiversary to the craft blog!

I almost forgot: Today is this blog's blogiversary! Last year I did forget, though, so to celebrate my lack of brainlessness, I shall post a photo of my latest Navajo-plied yarn. I spun the singles during last year's Tour de Fleece and *whistles innocently* have been a terrible slacker about getting back to plying it. But one bobbin is done, and I have one more bobbin to go. (Not making any bets on how long it's going to take me to get to it, though.)

I love how it looks all round and squishy (and how it is all round and squishy, too ;)), like all the pictures of awesome hand-dyed sock yarn I see on Etsy:

Navajo-plied Merino

Okay, maybe I'll share two pictures of squishy Merino yarn. ;)

Navajo-plied Merino

And heck ... you know what? Through the end of the day I'll offer free shipping on anything in my Etsy shop. Just enter the coupon code BLOGGY when you check out. :D


Apr 10, 2011

Craft or Bust weekly: getting back on track & springtime growth

It's not always easy un-derailing yourself, is it? But I wrote again this week — less than I have been, but the amount isn't what counts. ;) 381 words is better than none.

And I also crafted: mostly on old UFOs that seriously need finishing, Once and For All, but I've also been researching textiles and ethnic clothing and knitted lace. Oh, and I've done a lot more baking — since I've discovered how easy biscuits are, we've been kind of addicted. ;D

The mood to get back on track is kind of in everything right now — Sunday I rewrote a old pattern for personal use, so I can finally finish a charitable project that's been stalled because I seriously couldn't make heads or tails of the pattern; Thursday and Friday I worked on the crocheted Tulip Doily I started not too long ago (by my current UFO standards ;)), finally plied TWO different yarns that have been waiting on it (and both of them were three-plies ... guess I'm going through a phase), reswatched for the above charity project, finished the hairpin lace project and the rough draft of the pattern that I've been working on, restarted a sock-knitting project in which I had lamentable gauge issues, and finally restarted knitting the TwitKAL shawl that I started last year.

So yeah, you could say that getting back on track despite the crap is my theme so far for this month — this year, even. Sure, crappy nonsense keeps interfering (and I swear it isn't minuscule crappy nonsense, either ;)), and it throws me off my stride for a bit after it happens ... but it's time to stop letting it beat me down.

Must. Get. Old projects out of the way!

Must make room for new awesome projects.

Because I'm bursting at the seams with good ideas that need more time and space in which to develop. It's spring indoors as well as out, I guess: and all the new sprouts (figurative and literal) need ample fertile ground and good care and feeding so they can grow and flourish.

Must. Grow!

Sure, and it's springtime. Anyone else out there growing with me? ;D

(Want to know more about Craft or Bust? Check out the tab at the top, or go here to read about it.)

Apr 4, 2011

Craft or Bust weekly: attack of the craziness! & forgiveness of self

This post is a day late. You could say it's a dollar short, too — I didn't reach my CoB goal last week. Nope — didn't write at all. The most important thing I think I can do with that is to be compassionate and understanding toward myself: I didn't reach the goal, but it wasn't out of laziness or disrespect of the goal. It was because goshdarnit, there's a lot of craptasticness floating around right now, and my thoughts and energy have been taken up with those things. (It seems to be going around, a little bit, as the lovely Sarah Marie Lacy wrote about something similar on her blog not too long ago.)

I did craft this past week, though, which is something. There's proof that I didn't do nothing worth talking about last week — so this week I'll do an old-style check-in with all the crafty things I did last week. Because you know what? Things won't always go exactly as I plan, but if I do something worth doing, then my time wasn't wholly wasted.

So, this week...

Cream biscuitsOn Sunday, I made griddle scones, a hairpin lace strip for a pattern I'm working on, a new fork-style shawl pin, a spiral charm pin, and a heart charm pin, and I wrapped a beaded shawl pin. Monday, I made cream scones. Tuesday, I didn't do any crafting, but I did some crafty research. Wednesday, I phtographed the shawl and charm pins from Sunday, took some photos of yarn, did some more research, listed the pins in the shop, joined two hairpin lace strips for the pattern, and made some mini notecards using the yarn photos I took. Thursday, I made some more griddle scones, rewrote part of a knitting pattern I need to use for a charity project (because it really wasn't making sense to me the way it was written ;)), and spun a skein of pink BFL yarn for plying, for a custom order. Friday, I photographed all the yarn plies for the custom order. And Saturday, I made cream biscuits.

So there it is! What'd you do this past week that was definitely worth doing, whether or not you met your goals?

(This post is part of Craft or Bust, a weekly creative endurance challenge with a sense of compassion and fun. Check the Craft or Bust tab at the top of the blog, or read more about it here.)

Mar 27, 2011

Craft or Bust weekly: keep on keeping on (& decluttering to free creative energy)

The word count rises apace! Well, okay: not quite apace, but it does rise, anyway. ;) 658 words written this week. So far the word count is going up an average of 160 123* words a session — and I've been thinking more and more frequently of writing in between the necessary "oops, gotta absolutely do this to meet my CoB goal" sessions, which pretty much follows the pattern of last year's Craft or Bust project. The more weeks I met my easy minimum, the more I felt capable of exceeding the minimum; and then I did exceed it regularly and by far. Cross fingers that it works that way this year, too — though I'm not even going to whisper in the back of my mind the words "finished" and "novel" consecutively right now, lest I break the fragile confidence that's trying to build. ;)

Anyway, since I've been thinking more about writing, I've also been thinking about why, if I'm thinking about it, I'm not doing it. And the answer came easily this time: I have unfinished business. I'm like a ghost who can't move on, who stays hanging about places where I should have been done long ago.

Believe me, I can put up with some amount of loose ends, for quite some time — but the thickness of loose ends cluttering up my brain is hugely greater than the amount of loose ends floating around my yarn stash. (Har har.) I've been collecting loose ends longer than yarn, after all. I have a staggering amount of loose-endage; no shock that it makes it hard to move, much less move on. But the way through, I know now, is slowly and step by step, like through quicksand.

So I'm stepping and stepping and stepping.

What about you? Taken any steps toward your creative goals lately? :D Please do share — having company on my slow journey makes it seem less lame. ;)

*Average word count increase revised to include the first week I wrote for CoB 2011 ... which I totally forgot to include because it was on a different project than I'm currently writing on. Doh.

(This post is part of Craft or Bust, a weekly creative endurance challenge with a sense of compassion and fun. Check the Craft or Bust tab at the top of the blog, or read more about it here.)

Mar 22, 2011

Free knitting pattern: Heel Flap Scarf

I've been working on it since November, but it's finally out — my Heel Flap Scarf pattern! Woohoo! It's freeeeee, and it's a nice quick knit that you can make using pretty much any yarn, to make any size scarf you like. Just watch out: it curls, so you'll probably want to choose a protein fiber yarn that will let you block out some of the curly curling. ;)

Heel Flap Scarf

Check out the pattern page on Ravelry, or go right ahead and download the pattern by clicking here.

I'd love to hear what you think of the design and the pattern, and of course if you knit it I'd love to see pictures, so come back and share! :D

Mar 20, 2011

Craft or Bust weekly: the importance of stories

Today is World Storytelling Day. Since my Craft or Bust goal this year is about writing stories, you might have guessed storytelling is important to me.

When I was younger, I saw the stories in everything. Not only imagined stories based on "What if?" but also true stories that started with "I know why." Everything has a story — has multiple stories; every moment is part of a story.

Some people told me that to think this way is a sign that I couldn't distinguish between reality and fiction; I knew they were wrong, and that telling and listening to stories sharpened my ability to see both truth and fiction for what they are — including truths that people don't want to see and fictions that people believe are true.

But then I lost the thread of my own story because I started listening to the stories other people imagined for me. Little by little I forgot that a story doesn't have to make sense to anyone to be true; and I forgot that a story that convinces everyone is not necessarily a good story, especially for the characters. I forgot that stories speak most to those who need them most — that the goal is not to make sure all people understand, but to allow the right people to understand.

I am now, little by little, reawakening to my own story. This is part of why my goal for CoB this year is to write: I need back my ability to see stories, to feel them, to craft them — and to live my own story truthfully and centeredly and consciously.

It isn't easy to relearn something forgotten when one has also forgotten oneself. At least, it's not easy for me. Progress is still slow ... but progress is progress. And I wrote 482 words today. Still not above the "wimpy" threshold, but more than last week. So yes: it's still progress.

Oh, and happy equinox, too, whether yours is vernal or autumnal. I'd love to hear your stories, true or false, new or old, good or bad — so leave me a comment if you have something to say. :D

(This post is part of Craft or Bust, a weekly creative endurance challenge with a sense of compassion and fun. For more info, check the Craft or Bust tab at the top of the blog, or go here and do a little light reading.)

Mar 14, 2011

On creativity as an anti-negative force; and just a little bit (of tawashi)

In an example of using craft as therapy, lately I've been using quick, instant gratification projects like emotional salve. Things have been stressful for the past few days (or more, depending on where you want to count from) — in a Murphy's Law, "Why am I even bothering?" sort of way.

I found myself in the contradictory position of wanting to craft to counteract the destructive powers of all the negative feelings flying around here, but knowing that if I work on anything complex, or anything that requires a fair amount of thinking or paying attention, I'm likely to create more mess — more destruction.

So rather than jump into anything and mess it up, I sat for a while and thought about why I was thinking of crafting to counteract the crappiness. And it occurred to me that while I think of (fruitless) negativity as destructive, crafting is creative — not just in the sense of "imaginative," but in the literal sense: It focuses on creating something rather than destroying something (even if technically some "destruction" is kind of necessary for creation ;)).

Once I realized that, it seemed kind of stupidly obvious, that of course people naturally turn to crafting — or to any creative pursuit — when suffering from an overabundance of negative feelings. Duhhh. ;)

So anyway, my solution to being stuck in a universe governed by Murphy's Law was these little crocheted tawashi — basically, dish scrubbies:

Tawashi: round 1

The back:
Tawashi: round 1

And one that reminds me of a sea urchin:
Sea-urchin-esque tawashi

They're made with old acrylic yarn that refuses to leave my stash because even though I hate knitting with acrylic, there's some sentimental value attached to this yarn — it was pretty much the first yarn I bought (yes, I fell prey to the bizarrely common idea that the best thing to start beginners with is potentially squeaky, unforgiving acrylic yarn) and I have it in a wide array of colors that I really still love. That is, it's refused to leave the stash until now. Now I can expand my crochet skills and make a bunch of scrubby things!

Of course, I'm a bit iffy about the idea of scrubbing dishes I'm going to eat off of with probably non-food-safe plastic (and I don't particularly want to put more synthetic chemicals into the water supply). Then I started wondering: What the crap is the green side of a standard scrub sponge made of, anyway? Are my acrylic scrubbies better or worse than the mysterious green scrubby side of the sponge?

Ultimately I'd like to make scrubbies out of yarn that's both scrub-friendly (i.e., not overly smooth) and natural — hemp and nettle come to mind. And then I'll be left with this darn acrylic yarn again, waiting for some other non-frustration-inducing application.

Anyway, at the very least, my little acrylic tawashi helped me fight the destructive negativity monster. And hey, that's pretty good for cheap acrylic yarn from 10+ years ago.

Mar 13, 2011

Craft or Bust weekly: doing a little bit more (and: who won the giveaway)

First off, a little announcement: If you entered the giveaway for a mini shawl pin and a hand-sewn pouch, the winner is ... Silvina Leonnetti! ;D Woohoo! Congrats to her!

Now, on to Craft or Bust. ;D

This week I wrote 320 words of fiction — that's 31 more words than last week, and on a novel project I haven't touched since last year, since before the Debacle (though I didn't realize it had been that long until I looked at my writing log for that project). Last week's writing was also on a random writing prompt, not on an in-progress piece of long-form fiction.

So even though it's still a small number of words written, I did a little more this week than I did last week, and on something a little more personally important. I'd say that's an improvement that counts — more signs of good progress, no matter how small.

Did you make progress on your creative goals this week, even just a tiny bit? Did you work more or less this week on your crafty goals, and how are you feeling about them? I want to hear about how you're doing, so leave me a comment if you feel like sharing. :D

(This post is part of Craft or Bust, a weekly creative endurance challenge with a sense of compassion and fun. Find more info on the Craft or Bust tab at the top of the blog, or just click here.)

Mar 8, 2011

Crocheted flower, Blings, and a pair of mystery scissors

Still scratching the crochet bug's bite here. I made a double-layer crocheted flower the other day — my first ever! ;D (Instructions from The Ultimate Sourcebook of Knitting and Crochet Stitches.)

Crocheted flower :D

And I've started a Lily Go Tulip Doily that should be done fairly soon. The crochet hooks and yarn are getting rapidly smaller and smaller around here. Guess I just had to take years off crocheting and work on knitting to be able to understand crochet — ha. ;)

Also still working verrrrry slowwwwwly on the Bling socks.

Bling socks, still in progress

And while organizing sewing supplies the other day, I came across this pair of scissors, inherited along with a bunch of other sewing supplies from the first mate's grandmother:

Mystery scissors

Anyone know what they're for? They look awfully familiar, but I don't seem to remember ever owning a pair of scissors like this before now, so I'm not precisely sure what to do with them. They do look like they were designed for something pretty specific. ;)

Mar 6, 2011

Craft or Bust weekly: taking small steps

289 words. That's what I managed to write today — but it counts. It counts toward my Craft or Bust 2011 goal of writing a piece of fiction every week.

That sounds to me like a wimpy amount compared to how I used to be — but as I said last year with my "wimpy" sounding goal of crafting just one time every week, it's a vast improvement on nothing, which is what I've been doing for a while. So it's a step in the right direction, and that's all I ask of myself, because right now, treating myself with compassion and understanding works better than treating myself like a mean old boss. All I ask of me right now is a step, and then another, and then another — one step every week, and more than that if I feel like it. Which I very likely will once I get my balance again. :D

So what about you? Did you take any steps this week toward a goal you've been putting off? Did you do anything that was hard for you? Did you work on any crafty goals that gave you a sense of accomplishment?

Tell me about what you did this week that nurtures your creativity, and let's celebrate little steps together. ;D

(If you didn't know already, Craft or Bust is a weekly creative endurance challenge with a sense of compassion and fun. Find more info on the Craft or Bust tab at the top of the blog, or just click here for this year's relaunch post.)

A quickie giveaway: Win a mini shawl pin + Eleven Hills hand-sewn pouch!

It's time for another giveaway! Woohoo! ;D

This one's a quick one, compared to my usual: The deadline is Sunday, March 13 at 5 p.m. Eastern time — or rather, that's when we'll be doing the drawing for the winner, so get your entries in before then.

I'm happy to announce this is my first joint giveaway, with the lovely Agnes of Eleven Hills! Yayyy! One winner will receive a lovely hand-sewn sun, moon and stars pouch from Eleven Hills, and one star-shaped handmade copper miniature shawl pin from Star & Crossbones. Here they are, in all their celestial goodness:

Joint giveaway photos

A close-up of the star charm pin (a.k.a. the miniature shawl pin):

Joint giveaway photos

And the front and back of the pouch:

Joint giveaway photos

Joint giveaway photos

How to enter the giveaway:

  • Visit both the Star and Crossbones Etsy shop and the Eleven Hills Etsy shop and pick a favorite item from each shop — then post your picks in the comments on this blog post for one entry!
  • You can also enter by posting your picks as a comment on the giveaway announcement here on the Eleven Hills Facebook page.
  • And you get extra entries for posting about the giveaway on Facebook or on Twitter. Just post a comment on this blog post saying you tweeted or posted on Facebook. :)
  • Don't forget to leave contact information with each entry so we know how to reach you if you win. :D

Remember, the drawing for the winner will happen at 5 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, March 13!

And feel free to share this with your friends ... Maybe you can split the winnings if one of you wins! ;)

Mar 5, 2011

Craft or Bust Redux: Now in even less formal flavor

Craft or Bust 2011: BUST!

Until now. Rarrrr! I re-declare Craft or Bust season open. (I was waiting to get used to the Year of the Metal Rabbit, or until spring sprang, or something. Yeah. Sure. That's it. ;))

Anyway, here's the deal: Rather than be a slacker any longer — because that is Against the spirit of Craft or Bust! — I hereby declare that CoB check-ins from here on out are open to anyone who wants to check in. No sign-ups necessary (but if you want to sign up, you can do it on this post, how about that?). And I hereby declare that my personal 2011 CoB goal is to write a piece of fiction every week.

If you're new to the Craft or Bust thing, here are the official rules from last year, and I will excerpt the most relevant part:

The Craft or Bust Project is a weekly creative endurance challenge. The rules are simple:

1. Join whenever.
2. Stay as long as you like.
3. Create, check in, be inspired, show off your craftigoodness, feel good.

Any art or craft (with one exception) counts: knitting, sewing, wire wrap jewelry, mail art, writing ... Heck, if there are creative bakers, gardeners, or sky-writers out there who want to play along, join up! If you have something creative you'd like to do every week, I'd be happy to have you. :D

You can work on any art/craft projects you want. You can work on a different one each week, or the same one the entire way. The heart of this challenge is to learn to craft regularly; finishing stuff is icing on the cake (and a fairly likely side effect even without trying too hard, I think).

The exception to "any craft counts" is blogging, by itself. While blogging can be a creative act, my intent is not to turn the weekly update into a list of who posted what to their blogs. ;)

You can find more info on CoB 2010 on the relevant tab at the top of the blog, if you so desire. ;D

Starting this coming Sunday (March 6) I will be checking in once a week with my own progress. If you want to play, come and tell me about your progress on my check-in post. The next Sunday, I'll mention you in my weekly post.

If you want to be kinda formal about it and sign up somewhere, you can do it using this form. (You may be able to avoid checking anything at all for the "What kind of stuff do you want to hear about?" question, though I haven't tried it.)

Other than that, if you want to play, please please please do join the Flickr pool and add photos (I am Seriously Not Amused by having to stare at my own crap there all the time ;)), and you can leave your name, a relevant Web link, and your CoB 2011 goals in the comments on this post, if you want.

Sound good? :D

Mar 2, 2011

New shawl pins in the shop!

Did you see? I finally listed some new shawl pins in the Etsy shop! Yayyyyy!

Spiral shawl pin in copper

I really wanted to share pics with you guys earlier — not so much because of the pins themselves, but because the new camera takes photos that are So. Much. Better. than the ones I have of all my previous shawl pins. OMGcameralove. I mean, look:

Flower shawl pin in copper

Star shawl pin in copper

Anyway, go check the new shawl pins out, if you like, and let me know what you think. The new designs are refinements of past one-of-a-kind designs, so they may look familiar ... but what's neat about these is they're part of a permanent line of shawl pins that will stay in the shop and be made fresh with every order. Do you like? ;D I know I like.

There are more shawl pin ideas bubbling in my brain, too — and a new shawl-pin-related giveaway is coming up Very Soon, hint hint. Keep watching, 'cause it's going to happen in the next couple of weeks, and it'll be a quicker one than my normal month-long giveaways, with extra goodies, too!
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