Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mom, can I have some more of those screaming alien heads?

I love it when something mundane turns out to be unintentionally funny, it changes the course of my day for the better.

I have a nine year old boy who never eats. He's growing, but I don't know how. I was the same type of child. If I could find a way to hide things on my plate to make it look like I'd eaten them, I would. He is me all over again.

We shop at Big Lots whenever we can. A lot of stuff that ends up at Big Lots is discontinued products or various oddball things. I found some elbow macaroni that are pinched closed on one end, and open on the other, and since they were made in Italy and priced under a buck, they landed in my cart. Pasta that little guys can easily get on a fork is always welcome in our home.

Last night I was dog-tired and disinclined to spend much time in the kitchen, so I went for the pasta. When I opened up the bag and dumped it into the pot, I noted again that they were odd-looking, but I was when I spooned one out of the pot to test it for done-ness that I burst out laughing. The pasta had puffed up into a little screamy-face, like these guys:

The sauce I used with these was rather thin and unremarkable, and didn't look very appealing.
But when I showed the meal my nine year old, he said "Cool! Screaming alien heads!" He cleaned his plate and asked for seconds. That never happens, ever.

This blog post is silly, but alien head pasta wrought an unexpected miracle at the dinner table, and I wish I had bought more.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Some old sweater recons, in time for the cold weather

I actually made these last winter, and I fully intend to make more this year. Due to my sketchy blogging track record, I might not blog about them until July! So here are a couple of basic sweaters I made for my youngest. He was not a cooperative model, but I got him to stay in one area, looking out at the snow, long enough to get in a few blurry shots.

I noticed that many of the old acrylic sweaters in my pile to go to the thrift store were serged together. I had just downloaded some Kwik Sew toddler shirt patterns at that time, so I thought that turning my old sweaters into something warm for the little guy would be a great way to use them. I live quite far from any real fabric stores, and runs down to Joplin for supplies are few and far between.

The lighter blue sweater is made from Kwik Sew 3149

I used the turtleneck collar from the pattern, and made it from the big piece of back section left over after cutting out the front, back and sleeves.
I placed the pattern pieces so that I could use the existing ribbing. No hemming needed to reconstruct this sweater. Awesome!
The seam on the collar was centered in the back. I did not center it perfectly, but maybe next time. This sort of knit creeps a little while sewing on an older serger. I just got a new one with a differential feed, and I think that will help. No matter, it's not that noticeable unless I point it out.

The darker blue sweater with the patterned areas needed to have some wrist cuffs added. I just cut them out of some scraps left from the original sweater, when I cut out the collar. I had to do this so that the design would line up the way I wanted it to. It's very easy to add cuffs with a serger.

The dark blue was made with 2918 view B
This was not difficult, and the sweaters you see here have been washed many, many times and are holding up quite well. When I first made these, I was afraid they would not last, but they are tough enough for an active three year old.

This is a great project if you have too many grownup sweaters. It's also environmentally friendly and very inexpensive. You can use thrifted sweaters, or mix together a few sweaters into a new creation as long as they all have similar washing instructions.

Rooting fresh basil from the grocery store

About three weeks before Christmas, I was in the produce aisle at my local store, and I got to thinking that basil might root easily in water, like the pothos plants that I had just finished potting up. I found a package of nice-looking leaves with a good date on them, took them home, and put them in a vase near a window.

Three weeks later, they had enough roots that I felt I could transplant them into a pot. They seem to be happy enough, considering that they need more light than I can give them at the moment.

So far, so good. They smell heavenly and are a good antidote to the dead of winter. Next time you go shopping, pick up some sprigs of basil and give it a try.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Experiment with craft felt, acrylic paints, and rubbing alcohol

I have a large supply of felt in drab colors or colors I simply don't like, and thought I would see what happens when the felt is painted. This is synthetic craft felt, the cheap stuff. I saturated it, then did a color wash with some very old acrylic paints that I wanted to de-stash. For fun, I took a dropper and added a bit if rubbing alcohol to the wet paint. They took forever to dry, but here are the results.

The fabric is stiff, as one would expect, but not so stiff that I can't sew it. I'm not sure what I am going to make with them yet, maybe brooches or something. When I make it, I'll post it on the blog. Thanks for looking!

Hobby Lobby I Love This Yarn Hot Stripe #792, better than potato chips

I'm trying to eat less and craft more this year, but in the evenings, which are my munching downfall, I'm too tired to take on anything challenging. So I'm whipping up some basic garter stitch scarves. If visitors come to my house and look cold, they may go home with a scarf to keep the chill off. I'm really liking striping yarns and will probably not rest till I've tried them all. I wanted to knit more of this one before taking a pic, but the daylight was fast disappearing. Anyhow, you get the idea what this yarn does from the above image.

This yarn is so much nicer than Red Heart! The price is slightly higher that Red Heart, but comparable. The skeins are also a little shorter, so buy more than you think you'll need.

I am not wild about this colorway as an accessory, but at least it isn't boring. There's nothing wrong with these colors. I'm just remembering that they (except the blue) could be found in 1970's kitchens, and I'm old enough to remember those vividly. But it's growing on me, as is this yarn.

I Love This Yarn is softer and springier, and less likely to split than Red Heart. Definitely an improvement. And a skein costs less than a bag of Doritos. Maybe I will lose some weight this winter! I'm going to try.

I'll show you what some other striping yarns look like this week. I bought a few of them to get me through the latest cold snap.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Funkelnde Perlensterne by Ingrid Moras

This is my new favorite beading book. I got it in November, with the hope that I would make all new ornaments for our tree this year. I got this one (above) done. Just the one. But it was a blast to make, and the diagrams were very easy to follow. Everything is in German, but it does not matter if you have some beading experience.

I used 28 gauge galvanized wire to make mine. I got it from a hardware store, rather than a craft supply store. The 26 ga. wire you can buy at the craft shops is a little bit too thick for multiple passes through glass beads.

This is the book:

I was able to get my copy from Amazon Marketplace. Sometimes you can find German beading books there, and if you are lucky, you can get one that is being shipped from a U.S. address and pay a lot less for the shipping. Look up Ingrid Moras on Amazon, and you will turn up a few books like this one. Someday I'd like to have them all.

I can't show you the inside of her book for copyright reasons, but I am very happy with it. I'm hoping that now that the holidays are over, I will be able to find the time to make more of the patterns from her book. Her method of constructing stars is quite different from the way I learned it, and it's very fun to do. I highly recommend this book.

Why I don't knit with wool (yet).

I have a helper. If anyone takes off any garment and sets it down for more than a moment, my three-year-old housework assistant takes it to the washing machine and drops it in. Sometimes I find it there before I run a load, but not always. One time not long ago a lovely and soft gray wool beanie found its way into the laundry thus. When folding that load, I found a tiny gray thing that might fit my cat, but no longer would fit any of the humans around here. Other wool objects have avioded that fate so far, but it's been a near thing.

I love wool. It knits like a dream and does not feel squeaky or rough on my hands, or split on the needles. But until my helper knows wool does not go in the machine, I'm sticking to the washable stuff. That said, I am very happy to have a helper.

I have not tried super wash wool yet. I imagine it would survive a trip though the machine, but I'm afraid to find out just yet.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting about various brands of acrylic yarns, as I try knitting with them.

Red Heart Peruvian Print 0946. I hate loving this yarn!

Now, I am still a beginner at knitting, but I wanted to share this colorway with you.

We just went up to visit family in the Chicago suburbs, and on the drive up I bought some Red Heart yarn in the colorway Zebra (black/gray/white) to make a scarf for my oldest son. He picked the color to go with his new black pea coat. I worked on the scarf periodically while we were there, and on the way home I decided I'd need more of the same dye lot, so we stopped at the Walmart in Springfield IL to try to find a match. Luckily, they had it, so I went on to finish that scarf.

While there, I noticed what looked to be a striping yarn called Peruvian Print. I bought a couple skeins to work on while in the van. While I don't care for the squeaky feel of Red Heart, this colorway is so fun that I almost don't mind. I knitted about two feet of scarf before I ran into a repeat of the pattern. I think that when I get out and try my Bond knitting machine, I'll have to make a throw or an afghan in this yarn.

I think that self-striping yarns could be my new addiction. I have a few other kinds of acrylic yarns to try, and I'll post how they work up in scarves, in case you want to see the colors before you go yarn shopping. I'm sure you will do something much prettier with them, but it's nice to see what a yarn does before you order it online or grab some in the store.

This simple scarf is 28 stitches wide on number 9 needles.

This year, I'll post what I'm up to more often. With a three year old, the crafting becomes sporadic, but I think I've figured out ways to keep crafting incorporated into my daily life. I'm eagerly looking forward to this year's round of Thing a Day.

Happy New Year and happy crafting!