Tuesday, December 16, 2008

FO - Grandma's Knit Slippers

My Grandmother lost her husband this last year.  I know that I can't give her anything to make up for that loss, but I wanted to give her something that would comfort her in her greiving.  I hope she feels that these slippers are like a little hug from me every time she puts them on.

They were made from the Plain of Flowerly Slippery Pattern, which is available as a download from Ravelry as well.  I made them in Lion Brand, Jiffy Solid, an Acrylic yarn, that I knew my grandmother wouldn't have any problem careing for, and was already familiar with (unlike the newer superwash wools, which she is sure to treat like regular wool).  

Even though the flowers will make them slightly harder to care for, I thought they were important to add.  They are my version of my Grandmother's favorite flower, a yellow rose.

~Merry Christmas

Monday, December 15, 2008

Gift Idea #6 - Embroidered Brooch

Another one bites the dust.  Yet one more Christmas present in my queue has been completed. My latest project was this little embroidered brooch, approximately 2" in diameter.  It depicts the Ebola virus, and will hopefully soon adorn the lapel of a young doctor.  I thought it would be a laugh for her colleagues, and a great conversation starter with everyone else.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gift Idea 5: Heated Eye Mask

Christmas keeps comming closer, as inevivible as the passage as, well, time.  With it comes more Christmas presents.  I made this eye mask out of recycled materials for my grandmother who has eye problems.  If you have all of the materials on hand, and hour can see several made.

Materials for One Eye Mask:
1.  Burda Style Pattern Marcel #7997.  This is a free download, and the entire pattern should fit on a standard piece of paper.
2.  Two pieces of soft fabric approx. 9" by 5".  I got enough fabric for 3 masks from the front of a cotton dress shirt (the rest of the shirt had already been repourposed as napkins.
3.  Flat batting in the same amounts as the fabric above (optional).  I used cotton batting let over from a quilt, but fleece, or rescused batting would work well too.
4.  50" to 60" of ribbon, .75" to 1" wide, cut in half.  Deside on the total amount of ribbon you want to use based on head size. I used the ribbon from a kids store's elaborate gift wrapping.  One package yielded more than enough ribbon.
5.  Rice.  I used about 0.125 pounds of inexpensive long grain rice.  You can probably find enough in your pantry.

If you know how to sew, this will probably be a no brainer, but Burda Style has no instructions on this pattern (as of this writting), so....

1.  After printing and cutting out the Marel pattern, pin the pattern piece to your fabric (with the grain of the fabric), mark the side openings noted on the pattern on your fabric, and cut the fabric in pattern.  Do this so that you get two pieces of fabric in pattern shape, then do the same with the batting.

2.  Make the following fabric/batting sandwich; (Beginning on the bottom) batting, fabric (right side up), fabric (right side down), batting.  Then stitch around the edges of the mask with a 5/8" seam allowance, leaving the spaces that were marked "ribbon" on the pattern open.

3.  Turn your "sandwich" inside out.  The fabric should now be on the outside, the batting on the inside.

4.  Insert one of the ribbons about 1" into the ribbon slot, fold the fabric around the ribbon slot inward to that it looks as if it had been sewn with the rest of the eye mask.  Sitich the ribbon in place very close to the edge of the mask. DO NOT SEW THE OTHER RIBBON IN PLACE AT THIS TIME.

5.  The ribbon slot on the other end of the mask is still open.  Use this opening to pout in your rice.  Make a funnell with a spare bit of paper, stick the small end in the ribbon slot, and pour the rice in the large end.  Pour in enough rice so that half of the eye mask is full.

6.  With the rice at the opposite end of the mask, attach the 2nd ribbon as shown for the first in step 4.

~Happy Holidays

Edit:  If you would like to heat the eye mask, place it in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Test it's temperature on the sensitive part of your arm before placeing it on your eyes.  It should be warm, NOT hot.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Crafts in the Attic

Yesterday Mr. Incredible was rummaging around in the attic looking for an elusive box of Christmas decorations.  He found the decorations, as well as two boxes of craft supplies (one rather large) that I had forgotten existed.  I plan to have pics of the loot to follow.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I-Pod Nano Case

My latest project is finished.  It is an i-pod nano case for my cousin.  The tutorial was from Made by Petchy.  All of the measurements she gives are in cm, so if you, like me, live where yo can't find a metric cutting mat to save your life, let me know.  I have already figured out all of the English measure equivilents and can share them with you.

Open, with an "i-pod" inside.  I don't have an i-pod, so I made a paper one to the correct dimensions to make sure the case would work.
Open and Empty.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Back to the Daily Grind

We have been back for a few days now, but I always find it difficult to get back into the swing of things after leaving town.  It is especially hard when we cut ourselves off from all major modes of communication during the vacation.  Thanksgiving found us in the mountains of North Carolina.  There was ice on the ground, a chill in the air, a fire in the grate, and a cup of hot cocoa in my hand.  There we have no TV, no Internet, little cell phone phone connection, and only one radio station.  It is blissfully disconnected from modern life.

I decided not to bring any of my Christmas gifts/projects with me, as this was supposed to be relaxing vacation time.  I intended to relax, at least as much as is possible with two toddlers in tow, and I spent much of my time there curled up next to the warm fireplace with a good book.
My kids spent as much time as they could outside exploring the mountainside.  They were hoping to find snow, but instead found large and small icy pools all over the mountainside (the only ice we see in Florida comes out of the freezer).  The smallest were ice filled ruts in the road which they used as an ice skating rink.  The largest was a lake that they threw rocks at for at least an hour to see which would bounce off the ice and which would crack the surface.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

In this period of economic downturn it is easy to forget what we have to be thankful for, but, if you are able to read this post, you very likely have a lot to be thankful for.  You probably have all of your basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, and safety, taken care of.  There are still many people around the world who do not have these luxeries (but are still thankful for life, family, love, etc.).  So, as we sit down to our dinners tonight, whether lavish or meager, know that you have something to be thankful for.

I am thankful that my family is spending the holiday in one of my favorite places.  We will be back on Sunday, and I will tell you all about it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mini Stocking Advent Calender

The website Burda Style has recently published a free and easy stocking advent calender pattern. They even have a step by step tutorial that makes this project easy as pie for even beginners.

The stockings are small enough to use up scraps of fabric and ribbon, and they sew up quick enough that they could still be made before December. Even if you couldn't make them all in one go, you could make them one per day in December taking only a few minutes per day. Pictures of a few of mine are below.

Not interested in the stockings? You should still check out Burda Style. They have beginner to advanced sewing patterns that are mostly free, and great sewing info, and several quick holiday projects (even a few for ambitious hand sewing).I made all of my stockings thus far out of home dec weight fabric leftovers from other projects (mine, and the leftovers I have collected from other crafters), and scraps of ribbon. I really love the eclectic look.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gift Idea 3: A Gift Your Toddler Can Make

Recently my friend K (a former elementary school art teacher) e-mailed to tell me about Crayola's Model Magic - a kind of modeling clay that doesn't stick to anything and dries to a flexible firmness after being left out of it's bag for about 24 hours. Since we both tend to stick to basic art supplies, like crayons and glue, I took the suggestion of such a high tech medium as high praise. She suggested that Violet - my 3 year old - would be able to work with it, and unlike traditional clay the finished product wouldn't easily crack in toddler hands.

We bought some on our next trip out, and Violet set out to make a present for her Granny. While I suggested what to make and how to make it, she did nearly all of the work herself.

Granny likes butterflies, so she is using cookie cutters to cut out butterfly shapes.
I poked a hole through the tops so they can be strung on ribbon and hung as ornaments.
After the medium is dry it can be painted.
I think they turned out beautifully.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Paved with Good Intentions

I had big plans for this week's blog posts. A whole bunch of quick Christmas projects were buzzing along, nearing completion, and posting, and then.....
And then my very old sewing machine began to sound as if it was working VERY hard. Far harder than it actually was working. I thought that it was high time to do some long over due routine maintenance, before a real problem occurs. It was taken apart, cleaned, and oiled with little incident (the bobbin did give me a few problems - but I was sure that was nothing). I sat down to test out the machine , run the oil through the gears, and get oil on scrap fabric, rather than on anything I wanted to keep.

Within a few stitches it was clear there was a problem. The bobbin tension was far too tight. Despite the fact that I knew the tension was already set low enough for the muslin I was sewing, I adjusted it down, as if I was sewing the most delicate of fabrics. I ran the fabric through the machine, or rather I tried to run it through the machine again, because a few stitches it, the machine simply stopped working. I would not turn over, not even by hand. Even worse, the tiny screw that holds in the bobbin case (the part that I was pretty sure was the culprit), was almost completely obscured. I spent the better part of the next two days simultaneously trying to figure out how to reach the screw with a jeweler's screw driver and stay sane. In the end a stiff piece a wire was able to reach he screw and turn it. I was able to pop the bobbin casing out, and there was a small piece of thread behind it. Fixed, right? Wrong!

The bobbin tension was too high in the next test as well. The only thing that hadn't changed, that had not been fixed, was the bobbin itself. I changed it, and it sewed beautifully. I can't tell you exactly what happened to it, but somehow it had actually increased in width.

Regardless of what happened, I am back in business. I have already gotten a few more projects finished, and hope you enjoy the days to come.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gift Idea 2: Recycled Candles Tutorial

My kids love candles. They take an especial fancy to expensive pillars and delicate tapers, taking chunks out of them with their sharp little finger nails (so they smell nice), or brandishing them as swords while they wage epic battles with one another. However, their favorite thing to do with candles is carry them by their wicks, breaking them off in the process. Needless to say, candles in my house rarely live out their natural lives, turning slowly into stumpy little bits of over used wax. Our candles are broken, nicked, shapeless, wickless, masses of wax that have never been used. I hate to throw it out. The result; recycled candles.

How to Make Recycled Candles:


1. Broken Candles (feel free to mix colors, but be warned, mixing complementary colors like red and green will make muddy brown)
2. Wick (salvaged, homemade, or store bought)
3. Pretty Heat Safe Jar that the finished product will reside in
4. Something stiff that is longer than the jar's opening - like a pencil
5. A small heavy object to attach to the wick -like a washer (may not be needed if using a store bought wick)
6. A disposable, microwave and heat safe container to melt the wax in - like a paper cup or something from the recycling bin
7. A Microwave
8. A knife and cutting surface

Using your cutting board and knife, cut your wax so that it go from resembling small rocks, like this.........to small pebbles, like this.
Place your small pieces of wax in your microwave safe container, and microwave on high until the wax obtains a liquid texture. Make to to check that the wax has not escaped it's container every 30 seconds to one minute.

While you are waiting for your wax to melt, prepare your jar to receive it. First attach your heavy object to your wick. As you can see, I simply tied a square knot around a washer. This is to make sure your wick stays in place while the wax is poured in the container.

Next, place the wick in the jar with the heavy object in the bottom of the jar, and the other end wrapped around something stiff covering the opening of the jar (I used a wrench because it was on hand). Be sure to center the wick over the middle of the jar, unless you would like an avant guard and likely shorted lived candle.
When the wax reaches liquid state, pout it into the jar.....
.....and let it cool.Once it is cooled, snip the wick to 1/4th of an inch.An your beautiful candle is ready to go.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Preparing for winter: Chopping Wood

During the past summer's hurricane season our neighbor lost a few trees; a water oak, a live oak, and a black oak. All of them make good fire wood, and all of them have been laying in the neighbor's pasture for months. A few weeks ago Mr. Incredible helped them cut the tree into pieces, in return for hauling some of the wood home. Today Mr. Incredible and my father-in-law used a rented wood splitter to break the logs into usable firewood.

Here is the family observing Grand-dad at work.

Mr. Incredible stepped in to help with the big logs. Manual labor looks good on my man.
Then my little man helped out with the big guys.
They grow up so fast.
Almost all of the dogs helped process the wood.

Here is my boy. See the intensity and determination.A little less determination.
This is my husband's boy. He is a very efficient wood processor.
My SIL's girl. The kid's dog was the only one that wasn't helping with the wood processing. He was too scared to go near the wood splitter.

This is what the stall in the barn that is used for wood storage looked like about half way through wood chopping.
We are not worried about any of the wood walking away. We have a "guard" dog.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gift Idea 1: Melt-and-Pour Soap tutorial

I have a huge family, and as a result I am constantly trying to find or make nice gifts for lots of people at low cost. This year my mother's sisters will be receiving melt-and-pour lavender soap.

Unlike soap made from scratch, melt-and-pour soap is quick, easy, fairly safe, and can be made in small batches. The following is a quick tutorial on making melt-and-pour soap.

1. Buy melt and pour soap base. It can be found at Michaels, Joann's, and most other craft stores. I got mine from Brambleberry.com which has great prices for large amounts. I am using an opaque goat's milk soap.
2. Find a heat safe mold. You can buy these at craft stores, but there is no need. I used paper cups left over from a party (this was their 2nd use, and they have at least 1 more use in them if not more).
3. If you would like to add anything to the soap, like herbs, put them in the bottom of your mold. I used dried lavender grossa, a non-flowering version of lavender that grows well in my Florida garden. Other herbs or flower petals also look nice, but some discolor in heat, so you may want to test whatever you use before you make a large batch.
4. Melt your soap base in the microwave (on high checking the soap every 30 seconds) or a double broiler (being careful not to get any water in the soap). Add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice after taking the soap off the heat. I melted about 14 ounces of soap base, and added 8 drops of lavender essential oil for a mild lavender scent.

As soon as your EO is mixed in, pour the soap base into your prepared molds. The herbs will rise and mix on their own, but you can mix it yourself while the soap base is still very hot.
5. When the outside of the mold is cool to the touch you can squeeze the sides gently and pop the soap out. The soaps seen below are about 2 ounces each, and about half the size of the bars of soap you get at the grocery store.

Alternative method: You can also weigh the amount of soap you want in each bar, place that amount in your mold, then microwave the mold to melt the soap.

How much? I already had all of the materials I needed on hand, so I didn't spend anything. However, joann.com has 2 pounds of olive oil soap base for only $9.99. That is enough to make 16 2 ounce bars. If you gave 2 bars per person, that would be only $1.25 per gift. Not too bad!

Note: Melt-and-Pour soap does not have to cure like soap made from scratch, but it will sweat for a few days after it's made (due to it's high glycerin content), especially in high humidity. So, it is a good idea to wait a few days before wrapping it in plain paper - although wax paper does a good job.