Friday, January 27, 2017

Crocheted Vine of Tomatoes

Crocheted Vine of Tomatoes

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My toddler (turned preschooler this week!) has been obsessed with cooking sense he could toddle. He has a toy kitchen that my husband rescued from curbside and then extended by being his handy creative self.  Recently, my preschooler has started to compost his egg shells in his kitchen. This means that he breaks his Play-Doh eggs in half over his frying pan and then throws the two pieces of Play-Doh into a separate container that he has deemed his compost container.

First of all, parenting win! The preschooler is pretending to compost. Hello, environmentally friendly teachings that are now coming to fruition in play! Secondly, I wanted to make sure this continued and grew, so the crocheted vine of tomatoes was born!

I made the little red tomatoes using the book Yummi Girumi which was a pretty great little book of crochet patterns.

The cherry tomatoes were a little bland. I actually made them as part of the preschooler's Christmas gift (which ended up being given to him three days late because I'm an awesome procrastinator), but I didn't think they had enough "cute" to be given along with the totally adorable watermelon, apples, strawberries, and broccoli. The tomatoes rolled around in my desk until this week when I decided I would crochet a vine to connect them and to be thrown in the make believe compost! The tomato tops were partially inspired by the strawberry tops in the book. Since the actual tomatoes came from the book, I can't give you that pattern. You are welcome to purchase the book or look for a simple tutorial on how to crochet a small red ball. They're everywhere! 

This pattern is just for the vine. 

You need:

Medium or worsted weight yarn in dark green
2.5mm crochet hook
Sticky-back velcro coins 

Yarn needle for weaving in the ends
Crocheted vined fruit or vegetable of your choice

Begin Pattern:

Ch 4 and slst together to make a ring
*ch 4, slst into the second ch from the hook, and sc in the next two ch stitches. Slst into the middle of the beginning ch 4 ring.
Repeat from * four more times for a total of 5 leaves. 
**Ch 9, slst into the fourth ch from the hook to make another ch 4 ring. 

Repeat from * four more times for a total of 5 leaves again. 
Repeat from ** to crochet another tomato top for as many tomatoes as you've made!

(Please, say this in your best superhero narrator voice.)

After weaving in your ends stick one side of your Velcro coins to the tops of your tomatoes (or other vegetable/fruit)

Then add the other half of your Velcro coins to your fruit or vegetable.

Put it all together and what do you have?
Beautiful, garden fresh, tomatoes for your little one's creative kitchen play with tops ripe for composting!

What other foods could we make for our kids to practice environmentally mindful cooking and play?

Show me your pictures, let me hear your thoughts, and let's share ideas with one another!

May muses whisper to you always,
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Friday, January 20, 2017

KatKnap How-To: Beaded, Twisted Headband

Beaded, Twisted Headband

A KatKnap How-To

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Last week, in my 5 New Crafts To Try In 2017 post, I mentioned that fabulous headbands could be made with some jewelry making equipment. Well, there was a reason for that.

Boom! I was so happy with how this finished! I can't stand store bought headbands. I have a unreasonable mass of curly thick hair that does not play well with... it doesn't play well! So I set out to make a headband that can actually keep my hair out of my face. Other headbands break during early use, stretch to being useless, or just plain fail. Here's how it's done!

Choose Your String

You want this to stretch, so no wire! I used Bead N'Stretch, and it worked great. Give yourself some wiggle room when you cut your string. I cut 22", and I really wish I had given myself some more slack. Cut three strings for yourself, and then on to the first clasp!

Choose Your Clasp

I went with a Clamshell Clasp. My camera isn't awesome, so I found this video by Stones and Findings so that you can see how to put it on. Put one on your starting end and save the other for the end of the project. 
I chose this clasp because they link together nicely, and it gives the headband a strong base. I thought about going with a classic latch, and although that would have worked, I want to feel like I'm putting on a headband - not making a necklace into a makeshift hair accessory. 

String The Beads

Beauty is certainly an important factor in selecting your beads for this project, but so is functionality. Will bulkier beads overshadow the cute little pearls? Once you twist them together, will there be beads lost in the mix? 

I used long thin beads near the clasps, five beads per strand, to make sure that the piece sitting right behind my head wasn't going to dig in or feel bulky. Then I threaded a clamping tube onto all three strands and clamped it so that those fifteen beads would stay put and create a base instead of twisting in with the rest of my headband. 

Make sure you're choosing small-ish beads because this is something that will go on your head, around your ears, glasses (if you wear them), and it's going to be adding pressure to these sensitive areas. That being said, let me show you these rocks I wanted to put around my head!

These stone beads inspired the whole project. I used a number of other strands of beads that I'll show you in a minute, and they came with the smaller seed beads that I used between the stones. I made my strand with three stone beads, and then I used two two tiny amber colored beads on either side of a small, dark brown, glass bead as my spacer. All of the stones jammed together looked like a mess, so the spacer between every three stones really helped make it look more like something to wear instead of just gravel. 

To add some contrast to this rock collection, I used some of these gritty-looking black beads along with some pearlescent gold beads. I laid out a dark one between two lighter amber seed beads, then I laid a pearlescent between two darker amber seed beads. This gave me two spacer beads, a dark and a light, between each of my larger beads, framing in the larger beads with a contrasting shade. The picture doesn't do it justice. It really turned out marvelous. 

Keeping with the "all natural" look, I added some wooden beads. The pattern here was three tiny amber beads, one wooden bead, repeat that pattern until there are three wooden bead sequences together, then toss in a pearlescent gold bead for a pop of shine. I wanted to keep this strand simple because there was so much going on in the other two. 

Then I stuck the three strands through another clamp tube, clamped it shut, strung on some more long, thing beads, and added my last clamshell clasp. 

Now, for a twist!

I love this effect. It makes me think of river beds and cold waterfalls and, quite frankly, my vacation last summer to the Pigeon River which was so fun!

After you twist all of your strands together attach your clasps to one another and enjoy!

May muses whisper to you always,
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Friday, January 13, 2017

5 New Crafts To Try In 2017

Crochet was my first love. I remember sitting in the back seat of my mother's car, her in the passenger's side, me behind the driver, and watching her fingers dance around a strand of yarn as she busily built a crochet classic, the granny square afghan. I was about 8 at the time, so of course, I had to ask, "Mommy, what are you doing?"
She handed me a hook, some yarn, and taught me how to crochet a granny square. Love, I tell you. Love in its purest form. I couldn't wait to get to my dad's house to show him what I'd learned. I spent years after tat perfecting the art, and I still crochet today. I crochet almost every single day! However, I'm an artist, not a just a crocheter. I'm a maker.
My love of crafts are many, and I know others that like to dance outside of the lines of just one craft. That's why I wanted to offer my suggestions for:

5 New Crafts To Try in 2017

1. Jewelry making

One of the first necklaces I made almost 6 years ago.
I still wear it for special occasions!

Making jewelry is my third crafting love. We'll get to the second in a minute. I don't wear a lot of jewelry these days. I'll get back around to it in the future, but right now I have too many tiny hands around pulling on earrings and yanking on anything that I might wear on my neck, but I still love to make jewelry. Shiny, sparkly (no glitter!), and stunning - it's so much fun to play with the beads, the colors, to twist the wires and to test the different clasps. There's a lot to this craft, and it can be pricey to start (check this out for all of the tools you'll need to begin). Also, if you're like many of us and have a yarn "problem" (psh, it's not a problem...) you will also have "problem" with beads. There's so many, they're so pretty, and they frequently go ON SALE! This is also a multifaceted craft ranging from the simple stringing of beads to the intricate art of wire wrapping gemstones or straight making chain mail. One of my intentions with jewelry making this year is to try out this awesome thing called Viking Knitting. Not to mention you can delve into beading other accessories like headbands! 

2. Looming

I get giddy when I watch someone weaving on a weaving loom. What I wouldn't give to have the time and space to create my own fabrics from the threads! Knitting looms like these, though, I've found are a fun way to bide my time while I pine for the tedium of an old school loom. "Knit Quick" is more than just an embellishment, I have to say. It is time consuming, but I love the fabric it creates. It's a great alternative to traditional knitting if you're one of those people that just can't seem to get the hang of operating needles in tandem. You can even make your own socks which is something I dislike doing in the medium of crochet. Sorry, they just feel more like slippers to me.

3. Knitting

Speaking of knitting, it;s my second crafting love! My 8th grade West Virginia History/English teacher taught me to knit during lunch. (She taught me in both subjects in the same year AND she was my homeroom teacher!) I ran into a bit of a bully problem during lunch that year, and she, being the amazing woman and educator that she was, offered her classroom to me as sanctuary. She even cleared it with the principal for me to eat in there! Together her, two other friends, and I all started the Barboursville Middle School Knitting Club. Yeah, I'm a founding member, and yes, I'd love a cookie ;) All you need is a ball of yarn and a pair of  knitting needles (go for a size 7 if you're buying one pair). If you're already a yarny crafter, you're halfway there! You can make anything with knitting that you can make with crochet, and if you're looking to add some high-dollar items to your business's shelves, here's your niche.

4. Felt Crafts

Felt crafting is not something I have endeavored on yet, but it's on my list of things to try out very soon. It's not just for daycare craft projects, everyone. I have seen a dear family member create sheer beauty with felt. You can make anything from iPad covers to activity books, and American Felt and Craft Blog would be a great place to start and look for inspiration. 

5. Sewing

In today's fast-paced and commercialized world sewing is beginning to join tatting as a lost art. We can't let this happen! Even if you only adopt it for sake of repairing your favorite clothes, please, take the time to learn this! I've fallen in love with the PBS show Sewing with Nancy, and have also taken to teaching my children who have all been very interested in learning. So far the oldest two have made their own pillows, and my oldest has made our dog a bed out of up-cycled blankets.

And my toddler has become very good at... Well, he's interested :D Personally, I've thoroughly enjoyed making our curtains, and repairing all of those pants and button-ups that would have otherwise been tossed, donated, or sat in a pile somewhere, unused. This is even a trade that, with practice and proper marketing, you could do at home to make an extra buck. 

If you're someone that subscribes to only one craft, I encourage you to extend your repertoire this year. Let me know what your favorite crafts are! What new crafts do you plan to add to your maker's arsenal this year?

May muses whisper to you always,
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Friday, January 6, 2017

Lion Brand Yarns' Baby's First Yarn Review

Lion Brand Yarns' Baby's First Yarn

Hello all, and I hope that you have had a fantastic start to the new year! I don't know about you, but 2016 was a hell of a year for me. I graduated with my A.A.S. I had another beautiful baby boy, I laughed, I cried, I yelled at the kids some (and have made a resolution to do that less!), and I decided to give my blog another swing at a home run. Let's kick it off with a yarn review.

My new baby boy needed a new baby blanket, and my dear grandmother gave me a metric ton of this Lion Brand Baby's First yarn. Okay, so maybe not a literal metric ton, but it was enough to make this very large, and what turned out to be an overall gorgeous baby blanket. 

This is my first review. I gave it a lot of thought, and I had the realization that when I'm shopping on Amazon, one of the first filters I apply is the stars filter. You know the one?

It's a great way to make sure you're getting a good deal instead of a hunk of junk when you're spending your hard earned cash. I figured if this is the way that I shop, it should be the way that I review - the one exception being that I'm going to be cute/corny and use paw prints because "Kat" "KatKnap" haha, punny... ugh.

Let's get to it!

Name: Baby's First
Manufacturer: Lion Brand Yarns
Made in: China
Fiber content: 55% Acrylic, 45% Cotton
Measurement per skein: 120 yd (110 m) or 3.5 oz. (100 g)
Recommended HOOK size: K-10.5 (6.5 MM)
(9 sc and 10 rows for 4x4"/10cm x 10cm square)
Recommended NEEDLE size: 10 (6 MM)
(12 sts and 18 rows for 4x4"/10cm x 10cm square)
Care and wash: Machine wash and machine dry. Do not iron.
Project recommendations: blankets, play mats, bathroom rugs. Personally, I think the yarn works up with a bit too much bulk for "wearables" i.e. hats, jackets, sweaters, etc. but the label recommends scarves.

  • Availability

This yarn gets one pawprint for availability. Ouch, right? 

Here's the story:
My original plan for this blanket was to do the entire piece with that lovely colorwork that you see along the bottom edge. However, I quickly realized that I was way short on the green yarn that I would need to finish the entire piece. So I got on my favorite shopping site, Amazon, to buy some more, and that sucker was $30 a skien! 

Upon further research the color is no longer being made, so it sells for a hefty price. I settled for buying the yellow (Honey Bee) and finishing the blanket as you see it above. Again, it's a beautiful blanket, and I'm happy with it, but even the yellow was $6 for 120 yards. Bye, bye hard earned cash!

  • Cohesiveness

The general continuity of the yarn also gets one paw. Harsh, I know, but when the yarn is split before you can even get it on the hook, it's hard to justify calling it credible in this regard. 

Every skien that I worked with was split anywhere from 4-12 inches at the start and/or end of each skien. To add insult to injury, the yarn was frequently frayed, knotted or both smack dab in the middle of at least three out of the six skiens I used for this project. It had a pretty gnarly effect on the final product. If I had been making this to sell, I couldn't have given it to my customer knowing full-well that they would never appreciate the integrity of the product or my work. Sloppy!

There are snags like this throughout the entire piece because frayed ends of the yarn were tied together or knotted up in the middle of the skein. Needless to say, I would have been mortified to sell this to anyone. Because I intended to review the yarn and wanted to know the effect this would have on the overall project, I didn't preimptively fix the snags; however, if you run into this yourself, cut out the knot, retie the ends with long tails, and weave them in just as you would if you were beginning a new skein, and you will be able to avoid these nasty hiccups. 

  • Color

We'll start with the positive here - this yarn has some gorgeous colors. The pastels are perfect for anything baby. It also works up true to the color of the skein. The work-in-progress doesn't begin to appear lighter or darker in color than the ball from which you're pulling the yarn. Another thing that I appreciated about the colors of this yarn was that they would have all worked together very well. 

With some other yarns, it has been my experience, that just because the color wheel says these two yarns should compliment one another, it isn't always the case, but with the Lion Brand's Baby's First, all of the colors could have been worked together in most arrangements within the same project and it would have come out looking very nice. 

Why only three paws, then?
Because the labels don't tell you the color. That makes it almost impossible to shop for more of the same color to finish or replicate a project. Especially when there are little snakes in the grass like this:

Discerning between these two was terribly difficult unless they were side-by-side. I'd have to use both hands to count how many times that "bright white", as I began to name it, almost ended up in the blanket instead of the "eggshell". 

  • Feel

This is definitely where this yarn shines. I mean, you can't get much better than the luxurious texture of this yarn.

This yarn is so SO soft, you guys. It also has a nice "bounce" to it. To the point that I would highly recommend its use in things like Tummy Time Mats or a nice squishy rug to stand on while you brush your pearly whites. The feel of the yarn is what inspired me to make a baby blanket with it in the first place. I've washed and dried the blanket a few times, and it retains its softness and springiness very well. This yarn is also SUPER warm, so it's perfect for babies (or adults) in the cooler fall and winter months. 
  • Workability

The "workability" of this yarn had me huffing several times over how it split, but the stitches that it forms are so easy to see that it will show off your stitch work like a modern marvel if you take your time. That's why it has three paws.

For someone who is just learning their way around a hook, this yarn is not for you, I'm sorry. You have to be very ginger with your tension and place your hook with precision, or you will end up with split threads. Not only does that damage the integrity of your product, it makes the entire project look just a little.... off. That being said, if you know where to put your hook, the yarn is so thick that with a proper sized hook it grabs well. I never had a problem with it slipping off mid-stitch, and the stitches that it creates have some outrageous detail. I could see this being so beautiful as a Catherine's Wheel - you know, something really showy, maybe even a Star Stitch. 

Overall, I love the blanket, and so does my baby. If you're an experienced hooker, you could definitely make this yarn work for you. Especially if it's already sitting in your stash or if it is gifted to you. However, I have to say, that Bernat's Blanket yarn (which I used for my toddler's baby blanket) is just as luxurious in feel, it's competitively priced, not to mention it's much easier to find in your local craft shop. 

May muses whisper to you always,
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