Tag Archives: craftiness

Here’s something I made today

Today, Oldest Friend sent me a link to a photographic tutorial of making rosettes out of fall leaves. A few weeks ago I made a maple leaf glamelia (composite bouquet) but this looked like a fun project for a rainy day. When I was finished, the rain inspired me to style it using a white polka dot umbrella and a tablecloth that matched the dots.

The bouquet includes maple, sycamore, oak, wild grape, and peach leaves with a green fig leaf wrap. I added some aluminum wire accents. Maybe someday someone will want an actual wedding bouquet made of leaves!


Things I made for babies in the last year

I don’t have photos of everything, but here are some of the things I made.

For Ellie

For Minna

For Eli

For Moe

I also made another dragon and two chambered nautiluses (nautili?) but didn’t get photos of those.

Arts and crafts

Here are some of the projects I’ve been working on recently.

Plum and white, cotton/poly blend

I made a blanket for the baby of some friends through whom we found our wedding photographer. Elspeth was born on her daddy’s (and great-grandma’s) birthday, which is also our anniversary. I was touched when, in writing her birth story, Elspeth’s mom chose to include a photo of the little on on the blanket I made.

Guess which one isn't mine?

This one is mine.

I had to lightly pencil in the vines in order to figure out where to put the white flowers

If you guessed this one, you were right! Ain't it a beaut.

On Wednesday, I biked over to Karen’s house and I made two more pysanky. I really like how both of them turned out, but neither holds a candle to Karen’s amazing handiwork. Gorgeous.

Waste not, want not. Or some shit like that.

We tore out two of the three palm trees in one of the side yards, and I didn’t want to waste all those palm fronds. I did some googling and learned how to make palm frond flowers. After an evening of stripping, fiddling, weaving, and fending off curious kitties, I ended up with a wee bouquet’s worth of flowers, which I brought to Leah at her bachelorette party. Traditionally, I guess, the stand-up girl makes a bouquet from the ribbons gleaned from wedding shower packaging and gives it to the bride to be used at the rehearsal. For this wedding, there’s no shower (that I know of) and probably not going to be a rehearsal, but I thought Leah might like a little bouquet anyhow.

A girl and her giant crotch mojito

And oh yeah. I planned a bachelorette party. True to Leah’s wishes, we had a zillion colors of nail polish and girly magazines, tasty food and beverages, with brownies made by Moose and this super-cute banner by Sara and cupcakes from Holly and champagne from Kristin. I made simple syrup and brought mint from the garden for mojitos. We wore comfy clothing, and my wild idea of changing up the movies we might watch at the party from BBC-style costume dramas to traditional sleepover 80s movies turned out to be the least surprising thing about the night. (No, the stripper was NOT my idea. But I haven’t laughed that hard since maybe my own bachelorette party, during which I got a lap dance from a large African-American man named Simone dressed as a French maid.) Alas, neither 80s movies nor popcorn were consumed, but I think a good time was had by all.

I stuck my dollars in her shoelaces, but he didn't remove them with his teeth.


Pretty eggs

One of the benefits of living in the ‘dale for the past six months has been reconnecting with old friends, people with whom I went to high school and maybe kept in touch with via social media but hadn’t actually seen or spent time with in years before we got here last fall. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know some of my old friends as adults, and found at least a few kindred spirits. Two of those folks are Karen and Andriy, who live in the house where Karen grew up along with Karen’s sister Amy and her son. We’ve had them over for tasty meals and games, and they’ve had us over for tasty meals and games, but hadn’t seen them in several weeks due to bad weather and general busyness until last weekend. Karen had messaged me on Facebook, asking if I or we would be interested in participating in a traditional Ukrainian Easter craft that she had started doing since not long after she and Andriy, whom she met when he was an exchange student from Ukraine at our high school, began dating.

The craft is called Pysanka, a style of decorating eggs for Easter. The technique involves several layers of dyeing and wax resist/batik to create amazing multicolored designs on the shells of eggs. Traditionally, pysanka is done on raw eggs, but Karen and her family blow the middles to only dye the shells, as they last much longer that way. Karen has been creating pysanky for more than a decade, and she’s saved many of the eggs she and her family have created to display in the spring.

Traditional Ukranian bee motif

I was super excited to try my hand at the pysanka method, as I’ve seen photos of the gorgeous Eastern European eggs since I was a kid and always wondered how they were made. I even went so far as to try to make one when I was a teenager. I got as far as blowing out an egg and painting half of it with watercolor paints before getting bored. So in preparation for our afternoon at Karen’s house, I looked them and the process up on Wikipedia and drooled over the photos I saw.

Image from one of Karen's books

This is how you make a pysanka. First, you blow the raw egg out of the shell, either the two-hole method or a one-hole method that involves some sort of a tool that Karen has. Then, you soak the egg shells in vinegar to make them more susceptible to dye. You acquire the special dyes you need and prepare them according to directions. You also acquire the various tools you need, like wax and special styluses in a variety of line widths. You light a tea light candle, and you put down some paper towels or newspaper, and you’re ready to begin.

All the colors

The important thing to know about pysanky is that you have to plan your design out in advance if you want it to look cool. You have to think about the colors you want to use, and the designs you want to use, and you have to figure out the order in which to make your designs in order to have the colors show up in the right way. First, you fill the stylus with wax and heat it in the candle flame, and you fill in the hole in the shell to seal it. Second, you use the stylus to draw on the egg any part of your design you wish to remain white, refilling and melting as you go.

You can tell it's Dan's hand because he's a lefty

When that is finished, you decide which is the lightest dye you intend to use (yellow, orange, light green) and dip the shell in the dye, turning it and holding it down long enough to create the color you want, and then you pull it out of the dye and wipe it off with a paper towel. Next, you use the stylus and wax to draw any part of your design on the egg you wish to remain that first light color. Repeat as necessary, dying your egg progressively darker colors, adding wax to preserve each color according to your design, and finishing with the darkest color dye (black, dark purple, dark blue, red) depending on which color is the darkest in your design. You can use q-tips to spot-dye areas along the way if you don’t wish to dye the entire egg that color, and there’s always one dye that isn’t made with vinegar (in this case, it was orange) in order to have a neutral dip between colors to help preserve color integrity.

Dan adds wax to preserve the yellow parts of the design

When you’re finished with all of the dying and all of the layers of wax, you have two options. When the egg has dried or rested a bit, you gently scrape or pull the wax plug out of the hole in the egg that you made at the beginning of the process so it doesn’t blow up in the next step. Then, you get to decide: oven or open flame? If you have a board with very small nails sticking out of it, you can prop the egg up on a nail and put it in the oven until the wax melts off. If you don’t, you can use a gas stovetop or a fireplace and slowly turn the egg, wiping it on a rag or a paper towel, until the wax is all melted and you’re left with your pretty design.

Dan's blue/orange, Andriy's Pepsi egg, my two in the back

During our pysanka adventure, Dan and I each made two eggs. I was much happier with my second egg than my first (I looked at the first egg as a practice run, just to learn the techniques), but I still like both of them. For my second egg, I tried to really plan out what I wanted to do, and modified my design because of the few times the stylus dripped wax in an unintended place.

Paper towels used to wipe dyed eggs

Karen tends to follow a pattern in a traditional Pysanky book with traditional motifs like bees, oak leaves, and flowers, while Andriy does similar things but he freehands them out of his own imagination.


Amy made the prettiest egg of all, in my opinion, and she spent hours working on it. Amazing!

Making pysanky is definitely both interesting and challenging, and I’m already looking forward to my next pysanka adventure on Wednesday. I can’t wait to put the designs in my head onto eggs!

New projects: Circular Baby Blankets

Stripes of leftover yarn bits from other projects

Two of my friends (hi, Nancy!) had babies in October, and I knitted similar blankets for both of them using the same pattern. I forgot to get any photos of the one that went to baby Patrick, since I finished and mailed it during our crazy moving time in September, but I finally finished, blocked, and mailed the one for baby Natalie in Seattle. (She came three weeks before her due date, and so it was only two weeks and not five weeks late, adjusted.)

Patrick’s blanket used the same multicolored speckled yarn, only there weren’t any stripes, and I crocheted a border in blue and green cotton yarn around the outside.


About 38 inches in diameter

I mailed the blanket for Natalie on Friday, and her parents received it today. Yay for the prompt service of the USPS!

(Thankfully, the next baby in line isn’t due until late March, so now it’s time for Giftmas knitting!)

A blanket for Spats Turkey

Once upon a time, my pal Jive Turkey went and got herself all knocked up. This was a long-awaited occurrence, and I was so happy when she told the internets the big news that I wanted to do something for her and for Husband of Said Turkey. So I decided to make a blanket for the baby-to-be that became known on her blog as Spats.

Just after that, a new issue of the online knitting magazine knitty.com went live. In it was an amazing pattern for a baby blanket called Op Art, and the example shown was in black and white. The pattern was designed by someone who had studied infant visual development and was intended to be visually interesting for babies. I found this to be fascinating and decided to make this pattern (albeit in more interesting colors yet maintaining the dark/light contrast) for Spats. I found this gorgeous soft yarn in a pearly white and wine color, not too Christmas-y but still with the visual contrast to make the pattern functional in addition to cool-looking.

Then, one of Leah‘s friends went and made the same blanket for Wombat so the blog world had seen the blanket. That blanket was black and white, so mine would be different, but I was glad that I’d decided on this pattern for Spats and not for Wombat!

When it came time to actually start the blanket, I was, to put it mildly, a little confused by the directions, which say to use two circular needles – something I’d never done before. After about six false starts I gave up and just started the thing on double-pointeds, transfering up to circulars as it slowly got bigger (the blanket is knitted from the inside out, with increases evenly spaced each quarter of the way around). At one point I had over two hundred stitches on one long circular and was running out of space, so I knew I had to switch to two, but I had no idea how. Solution? I scoured the internet for other people who had made the pattern to ask advice. I found some videos on youtube showing a two-circular knitting technique. And finally I had the courage to give it a try myself – and it worked! Yay! It was like wrestling badgers, but it worked. I never did figure out how to knit the pattern mindlessly; I had to count every stitch I knitted to make sure I’d be increasing at the right places and even marked my place verbally to Dan whenever he’d say something to me so I wouldn’t forget and have to recount.

The directions call for much thinner yarn and a smaller gauge needle, so I knew I wouldn’t be making the entire thing according to the pattern. I learned a lesson with Wombat’s blanket; larger blankets might be nice for later but babies need small things if they are really to be useful. I didn’t want Spat’s blanket to get too big, so I finished up at about 450-odd stitches, bound off, and called it a day. Blocking was challenging; the pattern called for wool yarn which I can’t use (allergic) so I’d used a lovely soft machine washable acrylic but acrylic is far more difficult to block into shape (blocking is the process of getting a finished garment or object wet, stretching it out to size, and letting it dry that way). I usually block the things I make even though they’re less likely to change shape because it does help even out stitches and makes things look nice and finished, but unfortunately what was supposed to end up a square will probably be forever kind of an odd shape. Oh, well; I think it looks pretty cool the way it is. What do you guys think?

I took photos in the morning before I mailed it last Thursday. Someone didn’t want to get out of the bed.

Secret Project: A blanket for Oldest Friend

A little over a year ago, Oldest Friend sent me a box of her old t-shirts that she’d collected from high school, her various trips post-high school, college, her trips post-college, shirts from wineries where she’d worked, 2 baseball caps, a pair of boxer shorts and a big-ass piece of soft maroon fabric. “I was hoping you could do something with these for me,” she told me, and I told her that I’d get to it but make no promises as to when she could expect to see her t-shirts back or in what format she might get them.

The box sat in my closet for more than a year, during which time we planned the wedding and got married and I knitted lots of projects and I never thought much about the Big Project. Then, when we were doing our big cleaning a few weeks ago I climbed into my closet and spied the Box O Shirts on my upper closet shelf. “Self,” I said to myself. “Oldest Friend has a milestone birthday coming up soon and wouldn’t it be nice to get this box out of here?” So the decision was made, and I spent my day off (President’s Day) cutting the interesting pieces out of the shirts and washing them along with the large maroon fabric. Once that was done, I sorted it all out on the bed to get an idea of how all the bits might fit together. Because they were all different shapes and sizes, I knew there was no way to make it be even or remotely geometric, and I knew that working with primarily t-shirt material would be difficult (that stuff bends and stretches, especially the cut edges). So I had to make a Plan of Action to carry out over the next couple of weeks to make sure it was finished in time for my trip to LA for Oldest Friend’s birthday.

As you can see, rolled edges.

First, I needed to decide exactly how I’d configure the blanket (for I concluded it would be a blanket; it’s not really a quilt since there’s no batting plus my sewing machine isn’t really set up for quilting). My first thought was to use the pieces to cover an old blanket and use the maroon fabric for the opposite side, but the only blanket I had to use didn’t seem to want to cooperate and I thought it might be really difficult to sew together. Instead, I spread an old top sheet down on the living room floor and spread out each of the pieces into a similar configuration to what I’d done on the bed, did my best to iron the edges of each piece, and pinned them down.

Note the uneven border, which later gets fixed with other pieces of fabric.

Then, I had to baste. I hand-basted each piece onto the sheet, making sure that the spots where edges didn’t quite meet up were given special attention so that either they were going to be covered later with something else, or I stretched fabric to make sure it would all look OK. I cut pieces of the boxer shorts and another (non-T) shirt and bits of 2 other fabric swaths she’d sent and fit them into where there were blank spaces in an otherwise mostly-square shape and basted those down as well.

Now came the hard part – tacking the t-shirt-covered sheet to the backing fabric, making a rolled edge, and sewing it down. Out came the pins, and Dan helped me hold down the layers while spread across our dining table and I rolled and pinned the edges. My sewing machine hadn’t seen light since I made the bridesmaid dresses last year and I was nervous about working with so much material, but it seemed to work out OK (though there was a lot more bunching and stretching than I expected). I managed to break a needle while the machine was in the middle of a seam, which was frustrating, and finally Dan figured out how to remove the broken needle. We went out to find new sewing machine needles and I learned that I’m supposed to change the needle every time I do a new project, which was news to me since I’d been using the same one since I got the machine. Oops!

Pinned blanket border
The kitties helped by sleeping cutely on the remainder of the maroon fabric.

Needle successfully changed, I began machine “quilting” over the basting stitches, sewing all the layers of fabric (t-shirt scraps, sheet, maroon fabric) together. This was the most difficult part of the project because the layout was random rather than evenly geometric in any way and I had to change directions on the same seam a whole bunch of times and sometimes I had tons of material gathered up on my right side which made even seams difficult. I decided not to care that it didn’t look perfect, and finally got it all done. After I finished that, I hand-sewed the pieces of baseball cap and one t-shirt bit that was too small/seams too narrow to machine stitch.

I had to hand-sew the baseball cap bits. This is why I do not sew for a living.

Back of the blanket; you can see the seams.

The last step was to remove all the basting stitches and to tuck in the seam ends that were all over both sides of the blanket. This was also tedious but I did it while home sick so it wasn’t like I had anything better to do. And on Friday, I washed and dried the whole shebang and folded it into my suitcase, but I took a photo of the finished product first.

All finished!