Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spindle Me Right Round, Baby, Right Round

I recently decided that my yarn addiction would be better served if I could make my own yarn. It might end up being cheaper, or at least reduce my constant itch to go to the craft store. One of my swappers is the moderator for felting and spinning over on Craftster and she's just started a "Learn to Spin in 2010" thread. The timing was absolutely perfect, as I noticed the thread right as I was was surfing Etsy for fiber and spinning kits.

I ended up going with the spindle kit from MaineWoodsYarn, with the Autumn colorway. The kit comes with an ounce of undyed white wool for practicing on and I used it to spin my first ever skein two weeks ago. The entire process wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be and turns out, very addictive. I set the yarn the other evening and while it was plain ol' white and smelled strongly of wet sheep, I was in love.

Tonight I decided to try my hand at another first for myself and dye the yarn. There are several techniques to dye yarn and while a lot of them and get complicated, the easiest is probably too easy. KoolAid is a fantastic dye for natural yarns, and lucky me, mine was 100% wool. Knitty has a fantastic page on how to dye with Kool Aid, including somewhat of a color guide. I picked orange because, let's face it, I'm obessed with it. Also helped that it's the only color the store had that I liked. I went ahead and dyed it while I was making a quick dinner and love how it turned out. It's very.. Cheetos like.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Toy Box


I learned how to crochet specifically for the purpose of making toys. My first experience with yarn was knitting scarves and while that's nice in its own right, I always admired those adorable little quirky creatures.

There are several important factors to making vibrate and lovable toys, the most important of which is the yarn. Colors and texture are just as important as the pattern, in my opinion. I have a box of yarn that I've separated out from the rest of my huge stash just for the purpose of making toys. Most all of it is acrylic and the same brand, no two skeins the same in color. I have a rule that the yarn in that box only gets replenished when it's completely used up, and only the colors that I really need. I try to always buy the same brand for consistency, however, that's not always the case. Below I give a quick break down of my acrylic preference.

Vanna's Choice
This is my favorite brand of acrylic, mainly because of the colors that so perfectly match my taste. Even colors that I normally don't like I can stand with this brand, either because of the shade or the tone of that particular color. Most of my toy box is filled with Vanna's. The yarn quality itself is what's to be expected of Big Brand acrylic. Some of the lots have a different weight, the plys come unwound easily and I've found knots mid-skein. The good things about this yarn aside from the colors is that it's one of the softest acrylics in the stores. Knit or crocheted, Vanna's Choice makes Red Heart feel like sandpaper. Micheals and Joann's usually have a rotating sale schedule on this yarn, typically 2 for $5.

Impeccable
I'm pretty sure this brand is relatively new to the stores, but it's a decent substitution for when Vanna's is out of stock. The colors are just as vibrate, if not brighter, and the plys are wound tighter, but that doesn't mean it's all good. Because the yarn is dyed so strongly and wound so tightly, it's not extremely soft. No where near as horrible as Red Heart, but it's still not as soft as Vanna's. The plys don't accidentally catch as often on the hook or needles as much as Vanna's, so its ideal for quick work. It does leave somewhat larger gaps in the work, though. The same sale that runs on Vanna's is usually on this yarn as well, typically with the two brands taking turns.

Red Heart Super Saver
I know I've bashed Red Heart several times so far, but they do have some redeeming factors. Mainly, they're cheap. Red Heart Super Saver is a great yarn to use for learning new stitches or for projects that texture isn't that big of a concern with. It's a lot of yarn for a small amount of cash, and if you're making something that isn't going to be treated with the respect good yarn deserves, go with Red Heart. I learned with Red Heart and now I generally just use it for dog toys or highlight colors. I still have a good number of skeins that need to be used up, so tester projects where I don't care about colors are perfect to burn it up with. The cost is low, generally under $2 for one of those big ol' skeins.

I've started making toys with yarns other then straight-up acrylic, but for now I'm trying to use up what I have in my toy box. It doesn't make sense to make half cotton, half acrylic toys, now does it?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bike On

There's an event here in San Jose called the San Jose Bike Party, that occurs every month on the 3rd Friday. The rides start at 7pm and depending on your riding speed, can end anywhere from 11-Midnight. Most rides average around 30 miles, though one might be longer if you have further to ride to get to the starting point. The routes change with every ride and explore the entire South Bay area, passing through surprised town after town until they end in some plaza or park in an unsuspecting downtown. I say "surprised" and "unsuspecting" because the amount of riders can be anywhere from 1000 to 4000 people. The police aren't generally notified of the swarm's planned route, though I know that for the ride through Campbell's downtown the police were contacted to help direct traffic (the downtown area is very small). There's nothing like seeing 3000 riders come blazing by in skulls and pumpkins (the rides are themed).

So far I've only participated in two rides, but each one was a blast. The first ride was just before Halloween and had a Day of the Dead theme. The ride last weekend had a theme of the Running of the Bulls. Not as many people were dressed up for the recent ride, but it was still a lot of fun. Total distance was 28.4 miles. I was very excited to start the ride, almost couldn't get the camera to focus on me. Of course, at the end of the ride I fell asleep on my couch while I had company over, but who's thinking about that?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lemons and Orange

For Christmas this year I declared very seriously that I wanted an orange Kitchen Aid mixer and nothing else. My brother (and mother) verifyed the color with me at least 15 times (and still call and make sure that is in fact the color I wanted), but I was stead fast in my decision. Sitting in my kitchen next to the cutting boards and granola bars now rests a Kitchen Aid that I'm sure drives my roommates nuts with it's cheery tangerine color, but I love it. I've used it twice so far and I'm still giddy thinking of all the amazing treats I'll make with it. My first creation was GIANT homemade Oreos and my second, last night, we're Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies.

My friend Steve recently purchased a house a couple miles from my apartment that has a massive lemon tree in the backyard. The previous owners let it run wild and it's fruits are scattered all over the backyard and driveway. I could barely contain myself when he told me I was welcome to pick as much lemon as I wanted, and that I was welcome to go and pick it whenever. Picking lemons by the light of your headlights at 10 o'clock at night when the home owners are away is surprisingly adventure-like, by the way.

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies use lemon instead of vanilla for their flavor, which is one of the reasons I selected that recipe. My roommate, Ben, thinks that by now I should be lemoned out with all the lemon based recipes I've been making, but I proved him wrong last night when he tasted the final product to find them very un-lemon like. I'm sure when Ben first moved in with me he had no idea that he would be my official taste tester, forever sampling dough and frosting from a spoon while he tries to play Xbox. I don't hear him complaining, mind you, I just think he wasn't expecting such a pleasant assignment. He takes it very seriously, though, making sure to give as honest feedback as he can while he downs his twelth cookie. The good news is that that twelth one tastes just as good as the first, you know, in case I was wondering.

Next on my Lemon List is Lemon Hard Candies and Lemonade, both of which I'm sure Ben will be more then willing to try. The good news is that when I do finally get over my obession with lemons, Steve has an orange tree right next to the lemon that's just as overgrown.  Just think, they'll match my mixer!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Where I Get My Yarn Geek On

So my friend Tim asked me if I knew of any Stitch n' Bitches for his wife in the area and I figured I'd just shoot type up a massive post with all my yarn-related secrets in it. So this is it. This is where I get my amazingness from. Specifically, Ravelry and Craftster.

Ravelry
http://www.ravelry.com/

Ravelry is a community of knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, dyers.. pretty much anyone who likes or uses yarn. It's main purpose is for people to keep track of their yarn, tools, pattern information, as well as look to others for ideas and inspiration. Everything is user-driven. Users can submit patterns for others to download or purchase, either that they've created or bought themselves. There is a large library of patterns for pretty much anything and everything you can imagine, with helpful comments from either the designer or other users. You can view other user's versions of a pattern or project for inspiration or hints (I find the images extremely helpful), and comment on them yourself. You can also rate patterns and yarns and search by that accordingly.

This is where I find most of my patterns and project ideas. I love using the site to keep track of my in-progress, completed, frogged and future projects. They have a very useful queue feature, along with a "Favorites" list. When searching for new patterns there are several filtering options and user comments and images are always helpful. You can even search for comments that other users have rated as helpful! I really like that feature when I'm tackling a new stitch or more difficult pattern.

They have user groups and forums for general chit-chat, tutorials, help, bragging, etc. There's a groups of people from the site that meet on Friday's at the Borders in McCarthy Ranch over in Milpitas.

I highly recommend signing up for the site if you haven't already. Feel free to add me as a friend and flip through my projects, if you like. My username is tar3820 there (and pretty much everywhere).

Craftster.org
http://craftster.org
I'm pretty sure you might already know about Craftster, but if not I'll give you a quick overview of what I use it for.

Craftster was my default knitting/crochet website before Ravelry came around. It's a forum board site for all crafts, with boards just for Crochet and Knitting. There are tutorials and help boards, as well as a listing of Completed Projects. I used to browse the Completed Projects board for inspriation and the free patterns that people sometimes post. The Users there are generally very helpful with any crafting questions that you might have. I find it is a great sounding board now for trying out new patterns and finding out if something I've thought up would sell, either as a pattern or final product. The users on Craftster are very supportive and positive. It's a great place to post something that you want to have "oooOooo"ed and "Awwwww"ed over.

I mostly use Craftster now for its Craft Swaps, where you sign up for a theme and swap crafted goodies with a partner from somewhere else in the world. There are Craft Swaps for pretty much any theme you can think of and if there isn't, you can organize one yourself. I've participated in 5 so far and I'm organizing my first currently. It's a great way to branch out from what you would normally make for yourself or family members. You end up seeing how other users approach crafts and the different technics that can be used to create a more amazing final product. It's also a great way to branch into other crafts and recieve positive feedback on even the tinyest thing.

There are forums on Craftster for community connections but it's pretty broad and I've never really looked at it. Ravelry is better at giving people the ability to group together by location, so I usually just look there for community stuff.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Late Night at the Office Survival Kit


This year for the White Elephant gift exchange at work, I decided to make something completely from scratch that could be fought over relentlessly. After several brainstorming sessions, I settled on a "Late Night at the Office Survival Kit".

The kit includes various items to help the poor office lacky:
* Starbucks Via for re-energizing
* Candy for keeping sugared up!
* In-n-Out gift card for re-fueling
* Light up sword for protection from creepy sounds

Annnnnnnnd....

It’s the Vice President of the BU, Thomas Wyatt, there to keep the lucky worker company on their long nights in the office.

I am so glad I found the pattern for Dr. Who. Remove the hair, change the suit, and glasses and BAM! It's my boss. I love the way he turned out. This was my first time making anything that was supposed to be a realistic human and I’m really pleased with the results. I worked on him non-stop, pretty much, from about 8pm until 4am. I still needed to make him glasses and a face when I finally passed out. I was baked.

I had wrapped the box rather nicely and it drew attention, so it wasn't surprising it was the first gift picked. The initial response to the package wasn't exactly what I was going for.. the guy that opened it didn't even read the front, he just tore into it and declared Thomas a Voodoo doll. That didn't make me feel awesome at all.. Other people understood the purpose of the gift and their enthusiasm for the doll helped. Once the guy actually read the front, everyone wanted to steal it from him. It was stolen twice and locked in rather quickly, almost within the first 20 minutes of the game. I believe all the goods were divided up amongst the usual late night workers, a tight knit group of guys that have welcomed me into their silly antics since I joined the team.

Thomas Wyatt (the real one) was a good sport about the whole thing and even posed with Lil' Thomas.


Here are some more shots of the goods!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Alex's Wavy Scarf (Christmas Scarf 3 of 5)

My mom wanted me to teach her how to knit this holiday visit and my crafty sister-in-law decided to join in the fun. Scarves seemed like the prefect starting point and so we decided on Christmas scarves for the family portrait. Each one of the five is a different pattern made with Lion Brand Jiffy Thick & Quick cranberry yarn, with either a Fun Fur or other suitable white yarn at the end.

The scarf only have one "end", the other is used to create a loop that you slip the end through to make an adjustable scarf. This is great if you don't want to worry about making a long scarf, or you don't want to deal with two ends when you wear it.

Yarn: Lion Brand Jiffy Thick & Quick - Cranberry & Fun Fur white
Needles: US 13
Gauge: N/A

CO 3 stitches.
Row 1: K1, increase one, K1, Inc 1, K1 (5 stitches)
Row 2: Purl.
Row 3: K1, Inc 1, K to last 2 sts, Inc 1, K1
Row 4: Knit.
Row 5: P1, Inc 1, purl to last 2 stitches, inc 1, P 1
Row 6: Knit
Row 7: as row 3
Row 8: Purl
Row 9:as row 3

Begin knitting in stitch pattern.
Stitch Pattern:
Row 1: K1, inc1 , k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1
Row 2: Purl
Row 3: As row 1
Row 4: K1, inc1 , k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1
Row 5: Purl
Row 6: As row 1.
Row 7: Knit across
Row 8: P1, inc 1, purl to last 3 stitches, p2tog, p1
Row 9: Knit across.

Repeat the pattern 10 times (or for the desired length).

Here's the tricky part: You want to create a loop at the end of the scarf to pass the other end through. You can either cast off and then sew the end (that you just cast off) to the beginning of the 9th repeat of the pattern, or you and pick up stitches from that row and k2tog with those on the needle as you cast off.

On this one, I crocheted the white fuzz on the tip after I had cast off. I sc across and then double crocheted back, then tied off. Use any hook that best fits, or pick up and knit a few rows.



Questions? Comments? Feedback?

Ichi's Cabled Scarf (Christmas Scarf 2 of 5)

My mom wanted me to teach her how to knit this holiday visit and my crafty sister-in-law decided to join in the fun. Scarves seemed like the prefect starting point and so we decided on Christmas scarves for the family portrait. Each one of the five is a different pattern made with Lion Brand Jiffy Thick & Quick cranberry yarn, with either a Fun Fur or other suitable white yarn at the end.

The scarf only have one "end", the other is used to create a loop that you slip the end through to make an adjustable scarf. This is great if you don't want to worry about making a long scarf, or you don't want to deal with two ends when you wear it.

Yarn: Lion Brand Jiffy Thick & Quick - Cranberry & Fun Fur white
Needles: US 10 (or whatever you prefer for this yarn to get the width you want)
Gauge: N/A

Cwyif:
s3 onto cable needle and hold in front
K2, then s the purl stitch back onto the left needle and P
s2 back onto left needle and K2

Fringe:
[Note: If you want to crochet the fringe on after, just cast on 10 cranberry and work the pattern as directed.]
Row 1: Cast on 10
Row 2-11: K across

Beginning Pattern
: (in cranberry)
Row 1: K2, *P1, K2, repeat from * two more times
Row 2: K3, P2, K1, P2, K3
Row 3: Repeat Rows 1-2
Row 5: K2, P1, Cwyif, P1, K2
Row 6-12: Repeat R1 & R2
Row 13: K2, P1, Cwyif, P1, K2
Row 14-18: Repeat R1 & R2

Repeat pattern for a total of 10 times (or to desired length).

Here's the tricky part: You want to create a loop at the end of the scarf to pass the other end through. Work however many rows of R1 & R2 as needed to create a loop from the end of the last pattern iteration that is just big enough to pass the end through (for me it was 6 repeats). You can either cast off and then sew the end (that you just cast off) to the end of the last pattern repeat, or you and pick up stitches from that row and k2tog with those on the needle as you cast off.

Weave in ends and you're done!

Bailey's Checkered Scarf (Christmas 1 of 5)

My mom wanted me to teach her how to knit this holiday visit and my crafty sister-in-law decided to join in the fun. Scarves seemed like the prefect starting point and so we decided on Christmas scarves for the family portrait. Each one of the five is a different pattern made with Lion Brand Jiffy Thick & Quick cranberry yarn, with either a Fun Fur or other suitable white yarn at the end.

Bailey's Checkered Scarf
Yarn: Lion Brand Jiffy Thick & Quick - Cranberry & Fun Fur white
Needles: US 13
Gauge: N/A

Fringe:
[Note: If you want to crochet the fringe on after, just cast on 10 cranberry and work the pattern as directed.]
Row 1: Cast on 10
Row 2-11: K across (we only did up till row 6 of white because we were running out, the rest we did in the cranberry)

Pattern: (in cranberry)
K5, P5 for 5 rows (or however many on your gauge to get what looks like a knitted and purled square)
P5, K5 for 5 rows (or, again, however many your gauge requires to get squares)

Repeat pattern for a total of 11 times.

Here's the tricky part: You want to create a loop at the end of the scarf to pass the other end through. You can either cast off and then sew the end (that you just cast off) to the beginning of the 9th repeat of the pattern, or you and pick up stitches from that row and k2tog with those on the needle as you cast off.

Weave in ends and you're done! All in all, this took my sister-in-law about two hours from start to finish. Next she wants me to teach her cables.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Panda Bear Hat

So one of my friends wanted a pedobear hat for his son, and he wanted it crocheted. I'd yet to crochet a hat, so I wanted to make something as a test pattern. I only had white and black yarn with me when I started this endeavor, so thus: Panda Hat!

Yarn: Vanna's Choice Worsted, main color (white), secondary color (black)
Hook: 3.75 (F)
Gauge: ?? (Gave away the test hat, though pattern testers say their versions of this hat turn out small)

Hat Body
(worked in spiral):
R1: With main color, sc5 into ring, place marker on last stitch. I suggest the Magic circle (http://crochetme.com/Dec_Jan_0405/reads_round.html)
R2: 2hdc in each st (10)
R3: 2hdc in each st (20)
R4: *hdc, 2hdc in next st, repeat around from * (30)
R5: *hdc 2, 2hdc in next st, repeat around from * (40)
R6: *hdc 3, 2hdc in next st, repeat around from * (50)
R7: *hdc 4, 2hdc in next st, repeat around from * (60) [If you want a smaller hat, skip R8]
R8: *hdc 5, 2hdc in next st, repeat around from * (70) [If you want a larger hat, do another round with increase following the motify.]
R9: hdc in each st except at the halfway point and end where you do 2hdcs [So st 35? and 70 do 2hdc] (72)
R10-21: hdc in each st.
Tie off yarn, leaving the stitch marker in the last stitch.

Earflaps (make 2, one in each direction from marker, main color):
Count 10 from the marker & reattach yarn.
R1: Ch1 (this counts as your first hdc), hdc 11, turn with a ch1. (12)
R2: hdc 12, turn w/ ch1 (12)
R3: hdc2tog, hdc 8, hdc2tog, turn w/ ch1 (10)
R4: hdc 10, turn (10)
R5: hdc2tog, hdc 6, hdc2tog, turn w/ ch1(8)
R6: hdc2tog, hdc 4, hdc2tog, turn w/ ch1(6)
R7: hdc2tog, hdc 2, hdc2tog (4)
Tie off.

Edging:
Attach secondary color at marker & hdc around hat & earflaps. Do 2hdc in the corner stitches where the earflaps attach to the hat body. For a cleaner edge, also do a round of ss stitches around ontop of the hdcs, then tie off.

Ears (make 2 in secondary color):
R1: sc 5 into ring
R2: 2hdc in each st (10)
R3: 2hdc in each st (20)
R4: *hdc, 2hdc in next st, repeat from * (30)
R5-R6: hdc around
R7: *hdc, hdc2tog, repeat from * around (20)
R8: hdc2tog around (10)
Fold the ear in half and ss the bottom together, then tie off. Leave a long tail for sewing the ears to the body. Attach the ears where you see fit.

Tassels (do one for each earflap):
Cut 6 3-feet sections of each color. Pull 6 strands through 6 stitches on the bottom of the earflaps in alternating pattern (M,S,M,S,M,S). Divide strands into 3 sections and braid to desired length, then knot. Trim if necessary. To get the effect I managed, make sure to hold the strands without twisting.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions/issues. Pattern not for distribution or resale, hats made with pattern are also not to be sold. kthxbai.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Challenge: Accepted

So I know it's New Year's and tis the season for setting crazy goals and resolutions that I would feel silly setting.. but.. I've wanted to do this for a while. What "this" is, is an afghan. I'm going to knit, though I had debated making it knit or crocheted, an afghan. Four, to be exact.

My inspiration comes from Julie and Julia, and the idea that someone could set a goal to work through a recipe book within a year. While I know my cooking skills need some improvement, cooking doesn't really hold my attention as well as knitting. I've always toyed with the idea of knitting an afghan, but I was always a bit overwhelmed when I looked at just how many stitches that is. I've bought books in the past of sampler afghans (blankets made of patches of knitting, each patch a different stitch), but I've honestly said I've never started a single patch. I currently, however, feel inspired to create not 20 or 30 sampler patches.. but at least 90. Maybe even 120, if I really feel up to this. No, scratch that, definitely 120. One hundred and twenty twelve inch square knit patches, which I will sew together into four 6 foot by 5 foot afghans.

The stitches that the patches will be completed in come from Super Stitches Knitting, a book my grandfather bought me one day after I practically drooled all over it. There are over 300 stitch patterns in the book, but I'm skipping the super basic stitches, lace and eyelet patterns. The basic stitches for obvious reasons, and the lace and eyelet because I don't really want holes in the afghans. They're meant to be gifted to family in colder climates, so lace isn't really suited for that.

One year, 4 afghans, 120 patches, and probably way too much yarn to justify. Julie, eat your heart out.