Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pressing Matters

Just a quick link post this month, to an article I wrote some time ago for the AntiCraft. It's just a simple why-to/how-to about preparing your fabric for sewing, before it ever sees the cutting table.

Ironing Sucks!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Want-to vs. Ought-to

In May, I was gifted with two hanks of Ullcentrum one-ply yarn (the website's in Swedish, but your browser may be able to translate it), one in Denim, the other in Heather. Lovely stuff. I've finally decided what to do with one of them.

I plan to make the Fall Silver Shawl, available for purchase from Ravelry (you'll need a Ravelry account to visit that link, but the account is free.) I have the pattern downloaded, I have the yarn, and my fingers have been itching to start for days, but I need to buy needles for this small yarn, and I have a custom order crochet project that's waaaay overdue, and I owe blanket blocks to seven or eight people from last year's swap, and I have multiple projects to finish for the AntiCraft, and flutter sleeves to make for my formal dress, and and and....


Someone kick me in the ass, please?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Count-free Flat Round Crochet

There are lots of tutorials on the web that show you how to crochet a flat circle, working in joined rounds or in spirals. The problems I have with these tutorials is that they're either too vague ("keep adding stitches on each round" - how many, how often?) or too rigid, requiring careful counting that's hard to follow, especially on spiral work where it's hard to keep track of what round you're working on. When I'm designing my own project, I want to be able to pick up the work and just go, without a lot of confusing counting and fiddling with stitch markers.

Through experience, I have learned that my stitches will tell me when it's time to increase. Once you can read your stitches, you never have to count again to make your own free-handed flat circles. (If you're following someone else's pattern, you'll still want to match their directions, of course, to make sure the stitch count comes out right.)

So, here's what single and double crochet stitches look like, worked in straight rows. I show this as a base comparison:

I know, the single crochet doesn't look like a straight row, but that's just because I wasn't careful enough laying the piece out for the photograph.

Here's what the same stitches look like worked in a flat round, between two increases. See how the single crochet stitch looks like a V at the bottom, and the double crochet stands up straight?

And here are the stitches telling me it's time to increase. See how the left arm of the V in the single crochet is straight up now, and the double crochet visibly leans to the right? If you're working left handed, your stitches will lean toward the left, instead.

When you see that lean, add another stitch in the same place.

Then continue on, placing one stitch in each stitch of the previous round until you see the lean again.

That's it, no more counting stitches to keep your work flat, and no more frogging to fix unwanted curling or cupping. If you need to end up with a certain number of stitches (say, to add a shell stitch edging, or somesuch) just count up how many stitches around you have at the moment, figure out how many more you need, and stop stitching when you've added enough increases to get to that number.

Everybody gets hot pads for Christmas! :D

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

the biggest pinhole omelette since the times of Dadaism

Hatch yourself from an egg, photographically. It's simple, but, apparently, not easy. Is it worth it? Maybe I'll let you know someday. All I know right now is that it's damned cool!

Photo by francesco

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

That Waxy Buildup

There are so many mediums in which painters can express themselves. There’s watercolor:


and oil:

which none of those are.

This is encaustic art, painting done with colored wax. You may not have heard of encaustic art before, but it’s far from being a new technique. Some of the earliest extant examples are Fayum Mummy Portraits, dating from around the second century C.E. Some sources cite the ancient Greeks, who sealed and decorated their ships with colored wax in the fifth century B.C.E.

Modern conveniences, like electric irons and heated styli, have made encaustic art easier to learn than ever, and there is a surprising amount of information and suppliers at your fingertips right now. Just ask your favorite search engine about “encaustic art,” but make sure you have plenty of time to spend surfing the results. :)

Here are a few links to get you started:

Arts Encaustic: This is the source of those lovely paintings above. They offer very nice tutorials with clear photos, and free online videos for beginners to get you comfortable with the techniques. They sell everything you need to get started and then some, including videos, pre-cut cards, and rubber stamps. Be aware that they are in the U.K., so if you’re not, you’ll either need to pay extra for shipping or find a local distributor.

Joe’s Introduction to Encaustic Arts: This is another excellent tutorial with large, clear pictures. Perhaps the real gem here, though, is the website on which it’s posted, Wet Canvas, which is an online community for painters and illustrative artists of all sorts.

And if that really whets your appetite for wax, here are the “encaustic art” results for and Powell’s Books.

Wax on; wax off. ;)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sticks and Straps

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting back into band weaving lately, but I no longer have an inkle loom, the funds to procure one, nor the space to store one.

Fortunately there are backstrap looms. Made from little more than a warp tied between a hip-belt and a stationary point via some cleverly inserted sticks, a backstrap loom can be made from items you may have around the house. (Got an old broomstick you can cut up?) Even if you don’t have the materials on hand, dowels are cheap to buy at the hardware store. A sturdy scarf can serve as your backstrap until you can weave your own. Because there is no frame, your weaving or loom parts can be bundled into a bag or box between sessions, so it takes very little storage space.

It’s been a while since I did anything with a backstrap loom, and then it was for card weaving, so I didn’t use heddles and such. I needed a refresher course.

I found stunningly clear instructions at WeaveZine. Laverne Waddington’s "Backstrap Basics" takes you step by step through the process of assembling, warping, and weaving on a backstrap loom, with beautifully done photos and videos. There are two projects; a simple band to get you familiar with the weaving process, then a strap to replace the pillowcase she recommends using in a pinch. There are links to Laverne’s own blog, where you can learn more advanced weaving techniques, like stripes, warp floats, and supplemental wefts. And look through the comments, too, for a few more tips.

Now, what did I do with that broomstick I stashed away...?

The photo above is used here with kind permission of "Ursula in BKK," from her photoblog of her travels, Weekly Wanders. This photo is from her post about visiting with the women of Taliang, Laos, who have made a cottage industry of their exquisite weaving. It's a wonderful read; go take a look!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

This One's Letterfu is Strong.

You're at your computer printing out thirty party invitations when you discover you only have 3 envelopes. What to do?

Run those invites through the printer again and print a design from Letterfu on the back. Five folds and a tuck turns the invitation into its own envelope, sealed with the postage stamp. There are 4 designs available on the Letterfu website, links to several other folks' designs, and all the tools you'll need to create your own vector designs.

So, when's the party?

Monday, January 31, 2011


I have long hair, and I’ve decided to grow my bangs out. They just haven’t looked as good as I’d like for a few months. About the only way to grow one’s bangs out at all gracefully is to wear hairbands, but I have a problem.

I have a fat head.

On top of that, my head is really pressure sensitive. Oh, it’s not changing weather that gives me a headache, it’s anything squeezing my head that does it. It’s instant - I can feel the headache coming on within a minute of putting on too small sunglasses, which is all of them. I can’t use headphones that are connected to a band, only the ones that clip over your ears individually. (Earbuds are excruciating to me, too, so they’re no help.)

So buying hairbands is hard for me. Most of them are too small, which means they squeeze me into an instant headache. Sometimes I can stretch them out enough that they work for a while, but doing so inevitably pops some of the stitches, and they don’t last long after that.

Clearly, the solution is to make my own. Clearly I have to make them using my most recently acquired crafting skills, in this case, knitting. Clearly I can’t follow someone else’s pattern, because then it wouldn’t be all about me, and I would seem less cool as I told you all about how I did it.

Tell me, do I seem narcissistic, or am I really that good? ;)

Design Notes: The sizing for Narcissity is determined by actual length, rather than by stitch gauge. (You’ll need to keep a ruler or measuring tape handy.) It can be made in any yarn with needles appropriate to the yarn, however, the thickness of the yarn will determine the width of the band. Sock yarn will produce a very narrow band. A thick-and-thin yarn will give you an uneven band. A band made from bulky yarn will serve as an ear warmer, too.

A yarn with some elasticity will fit and stay on your head better than 100% cotton, linen, or silk.

You should be able to get at least two Narcissity hairbands, possibly more, from one average sized ball or skein of most yarns.

The main decoration in Narcissity is a simple 2x2 cable, so you’ll need a cable needle, as well. This is a good project for your first attempt at cabling since the cable is so simple, and the project is small enough to not be heartbreaking if it doesn’t come out well the first time.

NB: I don’t care for the purl bump that the standard knit-front-and-back gives, especially in a project this small where every detail makes a difference. I have discovered that knitting the back loop first, then the front loop, gives me a smooth front surface, with the increase looking more like natural growth than cut-and-paste. The notation I have used for this increase is kbf.

Terms and Stitches Used:
co = cast on
RS = right side (front of fabric)
WS = wrong side (back of fabric)
stockinette = fabric that shows only knit stitches on the right side of the fabric. When working back and forth on flat fabric, this means that you will alternate rows of knit and purl stitches.
k = knit
p = purl
kbf = knit back and front (see NB above)
p2tog = purl two together

If you don’t know how to perform any of the stitches, just do a search for them on Google or another search engine. There are lots of good tutorials for knitting on the web. Searching for “knit front and back” should help you understand my “knit back and front.”

Measurements are given in inches. To convert to metric, remember that one inch is approximately equal to 2.5 centimetres.



Co 4.
Work in stockinette for 6”, finishing with wrong side (WS) row.


Row 1:(RS) k1, kbf twice, k1 (six stitches)
Row 2:(WS) purl across.
Row 3: k2, p2, k2
Row 4: p2, k2, p2
Row 5: k1, kbf, p2, kbf, k1 (eight stitches)
Row 6: p2, k1, p2, k1, p2
Row 7: k2, p1, k2, p1, k2
Row 8: repeat row 6
Row 9: k1, kbf, p1, k2, p1, kbf, k1 (ten stitches)
Row 10: p2, k2, p2, k2, p2
Row 11: k2, p2, k2, p2, k2
Row 12: repeat row 10
Row 13: k2, p2, kbf twice, p2, k2 (twelve stitches)
Row 14: p2, k2, p4, k2, p2


Measure the length of your Increase Section. Subtract this length from 20 inches. Work Rows 15 through 18 until your Increase and Main Sections combined measure this amount, or as close as you can get, finishing with Row 17.

Row 15: k2, p2, slip next two stitches from left needle onto cable needle, and bring to front of work. K next 2 stitches on left needle. Return stitches from cable needle to left needle, and knit them. P2, k2.

Row 16: p2, k2, p4, k2, p2
Row 17: k2, p2, k4, p2, k2
Row 18: repeat row 16


Row 19: p2, k2, p2tog twice, k2, p2 (ten stitches)
Row 20: k2, p2, k2, p2, k2
Row 21: p2, k2, p2, k2, p2
Row 22: k3, p1, k2, p1, k3
Row 23: p1, p2tog, k1, p2, k1, p2tog, p1 (eight stitches)
Row 24: k2, p1, k2, p1, k2
Row 25: p2, k1, p2, k1, p2
Row 26: k3, p2, k3
Row 27: p1, p2tog, k2, p2tog, p1 (six stitches)
Row 28: k2, p2, k2
Row 29: purl across
Row 30: knit across
Row 31: p1, p2tog twice, p1 (four stitches)


Work in stockinette for 6”. Bind off. Block as needed, but leave the ties alone to curl.

Thanks go to Rogue at Rogue Knits for testing my first ever knit pattern. You rock, Girlfriend!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

If at first...

Okay, so I didn't meet my 2010 goal of one post-of-substance per month. Oh, well. As my husband says, "If at first you don't succeed, keep on suckin' 'til you do suck see-" uh, er, maybe I should paraphrase that: just keep trying.

So, yeah, what I said back here? Ditto for 2011.

Wish me luck. :)