Wednesday, September 22, 2010

By Jove...

I think I've got it!

There was a nice surprise on my blog this morning - a comment by Adrienne Martini, the author of Sweater Quest, which I wrote about in yesterday's blog post.  She said, "Keep at it. You'll get it!"

I squeed.

I then e-mailed her to ask how she found the blog (and only squeed a little bit in my e-mail to her).  She replied and let me know she sometimes Googles "Sweater Quest" to see what's out there, and that's how she found me.  How cool is that?!?

So, armed with encouragement from such a great author and knitter, I read another chapter or so of her book, and I knit a few more rows.  There was no swearing, so I decided to look up how to purl.

The purl stitch is much easier than the knit stitch.  I picked that one up almost right away.  Then I alternated rows of knit with rows of purl, which I knew would give that "look of knitting" (also called the stockinette stitch).

I kept it up while we watched the season premiere of "Castle" (which we've recently started watching - primarily because of Nathan Fillion and our love of "Firefly") and the series premiere of "Lone Star".  Yes, I know they aired earlier this week.  I couldn't tell you when.  This is why we have DVRs in nearly every room of the house.  TiVo really has revolutionized the way I watch TV.

So, between 5:00 and 8:00 (minus time for eating the wonderful ham dinner my husband cooked), I added a considerable chunk to my test piece, and I think it looks nice:

For all my non-knitters out there, that's all the "V" lookin' rows.

I also joined Ravelry today (I'm taotte, in case you want to be friends there) and have looked through free patterns of bags to use some yarn I bought at a local yarn store when I thought I was going to teach a crochet class there.  Crochet class is out, but a new knit bag is in my future!

Yes, I should be doing something simple like a dishcloth, but as frequent readers of my blog can attest to, I never do anything simple.  The pattern I chose is pretty easy, though - I know my limits!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stop me!!!

I love crocheting.  I have crocheted for years and have made many, many items:  sweaters, purses, doilies, bags, baby booties and bonnets, a halloween costume for a baby (she was so adorable!), and a few more sweaters.  (The links refer to previous blog posts I've written about crocheting.)

So why is it that I keep feeling the pull to learn to knit?  Well, if you look at podcasts through iTunes, there are millions of podcasts about knitting and hardly any about crocheting.  No, there are not millions of knitting podcats - it just feels like it.  I've listened to some of them, and knitters are so passionate about what they do.  Some of them have even learned to spin.  They talk about wool and roving ("A roving is a long and narrow bundle of fibre. It is usually used to spin woollen yarn." according to Wikipedia) and colorways and patterns and OOOH!  Look at that yarn on this Etsy site!!  It's amazing. (drool drool twitch)

Members of the Loose Bead Society frequently bring their knitting to meetings and seem to get a lot done.  A number of the best patterns in magazines I've seen are knit.  There are a number of great crochet patterns, don't get me wrong, but it seems that knitting is just, well, so cool.  It's not just for grandmothers anymore.  The sweaters and socks look comfortable and so trendy.

Then when browsing in Barnes & Noble I saw the book Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously by Adrienne Martini.  She decided to knit a very complicated sweater by the designer Alice Starmore, who I had never heard of, but through reading this book on our trusty Kindle, she's brilliant in her Fair Isle patterns but is brutal in protecting her brand.  I hesitate to even write her name in passing.

Anyway, I started reading this wonderful, funny book, and my fingers started itching.  I have flirted with knitting a few times in the past, including one humiliating experience where I used my mother's dining room table as a prop to get a needle through a loop.  My mother and my Aunt Senta laughed at me.

As a crocheter, I, of course, have spare yarn.  I also have some knitting needles from previous attempts and from finding them on clearance (I can't pass up a clearance price on something there's a remote chance I'll use).  I did have to weed through a large number of long crochet hooks - single and double ended - but I do have a few pairs of needles I can use.

The first thing you do is a slip knot.  No problem there.  Same thing is used in crocheting.  The next thing is casting on.  This is what puts the yarn in loops on the needle.  I found a good website with text and pictures, but for some reason it just wasn't doing it for me, and I was very confused.  I remembered that I used to be able to cast on.  I never had a problem with that.  So I sat back from the computer and just let my hands do what they wanted to do.  They, too, remembered that I used to be able to cast on, and in no time I had 40 or so loops on my needle.

Then comes the knit stitch.  All the loops need to move from one needle to the other, then you switch the needles and do it all over again.  There are two basic stitches to do this - knit and purl.  You have heard these terms hundreds of times in your life, even if you've never picked up a needle.  I'm left handed, so I knew I was going to have some problems - most everyone is right handed, so most directions are going to be for the majority.  It should be no big deal - I do a number of things right handed.  I'm pretty sure I've discussed this in the blog somewhere, but I can't remember where.

Through reading Sweater Quest, I found out there are two ways to hold the yarn - in your right hand (the needle you're knitting onto) or in your left hand (the needle you're knitting from).  I tried holding the yarn in my right hand (called English knitting), but I couldn't get it to work.  So then I tried Continental knitting, holding the yarn in my left hand.  According to Wikipedia, this is also called German, European, or left-handed knitting, so maybe it makes sense that I can get that to work.  After a quick call to my mother a few minutes ago, she confirmed what I remembered - she holds the yarn in her right hand, so that must have been what I tried to do in previous attempts.

I am now on my fifth attempt this time around.  I've had problems with yarn splitting, dropped stitches (where you lose the loop and it comes unraveled), and much swearing.  Steve says he can tell how it's going based on the severity of my cursing.  My biggest problem is that I'm knitting too tightly, so I'm having difficulties getting both needles through the loop where I need them to be.

My mother says I've always done things like this too tightly.  Here's a quick crochet story:  My mother and I used the exact same yarn, pattern, and size of crochet hook, and my hat could have fit a child, and hers was nice and roomy.  I wish I'd have taken a picture of them together.

So what I need to do is relax.  (Yes, I am aware that I need to relax all throughout my life, not just with the knitting - no comments necessary from my friends and family, thankyouverymuch!)  My hands will not cramp as much, my arms will not tire so quickly, and, most importantly, I'll be able to get my damned needle into the loops.

I have not yet started to purl.  There's a video online that says, "Once you're comfortable with the knit stitch, you can purl" or something like that.  I instantly stopped the video and started knitting more rows.  I will continue doing this until the swearing stops and rows take less than 5 minutes a piece.  As you'll see, the rows are pretty short, so you can tell how difficult this has been.

I like it so far, though, even through all of this.  I picked up a magazine this weekend, and there are so many neat sweater patterns in it, and there's an article that explains how to knit socks for every size foot!  I have duck feet, and none of the patterns I've seen will work for my fat feet.

At a recent Wisconsin Handweavers Guild meeting (I went as a Loose Bead Society representative with our President Elect - we're joining the Guild for a "Loominosity" sale at the end of October at the New Berlin Public Library) I bought a cone of something in between thread and yarn.  I think there is enough there to make a short sleeved sweater, but it's really hard to tell.  I would love to knit with it, but...

I have a really long, long, way to go.  (This is standard cotton yarn, not my new stuff.)  Fortunately, I found a cute short sleeved sweater in an old Crochet Fantasy magazine.  I think I'll do that instead.

Stay tuned for more knitting drama!  I'll keep the swearing to a minimum (in here, at least!).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I love to organize!

Next to creating something, my favorite thing to do is organize.  If you haven't seen my craft room yet, you can read all about it and see some pictures here.  Part of that is my stamp index, which is the epitome of OCD, and I've posted about that here.

So when Brenda Schweder, author of Vintage Redux: Remake Classic and Collectible Jewelry, Junk to Jewelry: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Found Objects in Jewelry You Can Actually Wear, and the upcoming Steel Wire Jewelry: Stylish Designs * Simple Techniques * Artful Inspiration (who is also the President of the Loose Bead Society and a good friend of mine) asked for some help organizing her studio, I jumped at the opportunity!  She is very eclectic in her work and the objects she has in her studio, and I knew it would be a great challenge.

Brenda teaches classes in steel wire, resin, and mixed media jewelry, and she needs easy access to all of her supplies.  She's been really busy with shows and classes and all kinds of other events, so she hasn't time to get everything back in order.  The first thing we did was to go through boxes and bags.  We made some piles, threw stuff away, put stuff away, put some stuff aside for Goodwill and to donate to Mount Mary College, and put some stuff in a pile for me to take home (woo hoo!).  We were able to clear lots of space off and under tables.  It sounds worse than it really was - seriously.  Do not envision the TV show "Hoarders" - it's more like Christmas after opening presents.

When we were done, one big pile was for resin kits.  I really wish I had taken a "before" picture, but it's probably best I didn't.  I went back on Friday armed with extra plastic containers, my StazOn inks, and a few letter stamp sets.  We cleared out and consolidated a few of her cabinets (culminating in more stuff for me to take home as well as more stuff tossed and set aside for Goodwill), then we set up a long folding table and started separating, labeling each section with a Post-it note.  Between what Brenda was able to clear up and what I brought, we had plenty of plastic cases to store everything.

Then I set to with my stamps.  The cute doodle font didn't show up all that well, but the brushstroke font and my dark green StazOn worked perfectly.  I stamped on one end and along the side to the left of the end that I stamped for good visibility.  I put the boxes in the cabinet to let the ink dry (it was so juicy!), but I impulsively organized as I went:

While I was stamping, Brenda kept organizing, and she exclaimed, "I can now find where things are supposed to go!  This is great!"  Here she is showing her incredulity:

Now when she's getting ready for a resin class or to work on a project, she can grab just what she needs and (hopefully, time permitting) put stuff back in the right places after she's done.  We're going to keep going on other areas of her studio.  I can't wait!

Thanks for letting me help, Brenda!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A funky necklace

One of my favorite vendors at the Bead&Button show is Priscilla Marban.  The two times I've been at the show she's been all the way at the back of the vendor area.  She's well worth the walk, though.  Some of her beads and pendants are made with sawdust.  Yes, sawdust.  I show one of her pieces in my Matched Set blog post.  The picture doesn't do it justice.

She also has decoupage beads which were very cute and reasonably priced!  One of the ones I kept going back to and eventually decided to get was a long, rectangular bead with two holes depicting an Asian woman wearing a blue and purple kimono.  Almost right away I knew I wanted to do something different with this - one strand of purple and one of blue.

Looking through my trusty Mastering Beadwork book by Carol Huber Cypher I found a netting that I thought would look nice.  I experimented with a few color variations and decided a mix of purple and blue didn't look right.  I ended up using two different shades of each of the colors.  The lighter purple and blue were silver lined so they would stand out more.  I have another light blue that looks great with the darker blue (both of these were used in my butterfly challenge piece for the Loose Bead Society), but so close together you couldn't really tell a difference.

Off I flew to Midwest Beads again (they're the closest bead store to home, in case you haven't figured this out yet, and they have a great supply!).  As usual, they saved my bacon!  They're always so helpful and don't ever seem to mind my rambling.

After talking to Mary at an "artsy get together" that I go to once a month, we decided that it could be even funkier if the colors were flipped then flipped again.  I had never done a fringe before and decided to wing it instead of trying to find instructions.  My friend Michele had my Mastering Beadwork book, and that was the only place I knew for sure had fringe instructions.  How hard could it be, anyway?  The last thing I wanted to do was to go through all of my books and magazines (again) to find something.  I think it ended up okay, but they were sticking out some.  I made a little "ring" to hold them in.  Again, I made it up as I went along.

Wow - that's a lot of talking for one little necklace.  Why don't I just show you what I came up with?

This is pretty different than anything I've done before, and Steve didn't like it at first.  I nearly tossed it in the bin (I don't like making something he doesn't like) but I did wear it over a black shirt to meet Michele (who liked it, by the way).  When Steve saw it on a solid black shirt, he said he liked it better.  I was wearing something busy when I finished it and just put it on without changing.

I like the netting - it's pretty and goes together quickly.  I stitched 2 sections for each side and stitched them together.  I didn't think I could figure out how to start the stitch up again after the bead.  I did taper each of the ends, except where the fringe is, adding 3 beads to each of the ends to help the tapering along.

What do you think of my funky necklace?  Have you done anything funky yourself?  Send it to me (, and I'll feature it in one of my blog posts!

About Mastering Beadwork... Do you have this book yet?  If not, you should check it out - it has a number of techniques and projects, and I've found it a good resource!  It's spiral-bound, so it stays open while you're working.  Guard it around your friends, though, or you'll be texting Michele when the pictures you took with your cell phone don't give you enough information for a new technique you want to try!

Mastering Beadwork: A Comprehensive Guide to Off-loom Techniques

Friday, September 3, 2010

Our "new" kitchen!

It started well before Christmas, and it's all my Gypsy's fault.  For those who don't remember or who are new to my blog, the Gypsy is a design tool for the Cricut cutting machine that lets you plan out what you want to cut before you cut it.  I show it and my original Cricut (including a video!) in my A Gypsy-rific transformation blog post from June.

One of the benefits (or curses) of the Gypsy is that you can see all of the designs for all of the cartridges, not just the ones you own.  I say it's a curse because the number of cartridges I now have is about 4 times as many as I had before I got my Gypsy.  Now for the various mothers of mine who read this blog, we've found them cheap and/or on sale, so please don't fret.  There are a number of Gypsy owners who have far more cartridges than I have because they go "exploring" in their Gypsy.

I'm (slightly) digressing.  A few months before Christmas I was looking through the cartridges in my Gypsy and looked at "From My Kitchen".  I love scrapping family recipes, so I'm interested in anything I can use for future pages.  One of the features is a set of words relating to cooking such as "bake", "chill", "cut", etc...  They're put together in fun way (as you'll see in a little bit), and I instantly knew what I wanted to do - decorate the soffit or fascia or whatever the hangy-out part of the wall is called.  I showed my husband and explained what I wanted to do.  He thought it was a good idea and got me the cartridge for Christmas.

Fast forward 8 months, and we finally got around to washing the walls (yuck!) and painting the kitchen.  It was pretty boring and off-white, with curtains that had lots of little reddish flowers and leaves and vines and stuff.  We were not going to change the floor (green and off-white), so we picked two shades of green paint - the dark one for the soffit/fascia/hangy-out part and the light one for the rest of the walls.  We also found some easy-to-apply metal-ish sheets to use as a backsplash behind the stove.  I purchased beige vinyl from, which has a lot of colors and is pretty cheap.

So, a few days after we finally finished painting and put up the new curtains (the old ones were dry clean only for goodness sake, and they were dusty and covered in cat fur from Katy sitting on the shelf all the time, so we pitched them), I set to work on the vinyl.  I used the Gypsy and my new Expression (thanks again, Cyndy!) to maximize the size of the words and how many I could cut out of each sheet.  To get the words up on the wall without making a mess out of everything I used transfer tape.  It's still a little tricky, however.

The first step is cutting the words out on the Cricut, of course.  You can set the blade depth and pressure to cut the vinyl and not all the way through the backing.  That makes it much easier to remove the backing from the cutting mat.  I thought I wrote those settings down, but I can't find them now.  Practice first!  Pressure was around the middle, and I think the blade depth was 4, but please don't quote me on it.  I've used my Cricut since and changed the settings, so I can't look it up.

The next step is to take the backing off of the transfer tape and set it sticky side up on the table.  This step can be a bit frustrating because, well, it's sticky.  I ended up tucking a corner or two under to stick on the table.  That helped.

Then, you take the vinyl (including the backing) off of the cutting mat and put it backing side up on the transfer tape.  If you have multiple words or shapes on your mat, I recommend cutting them apart and working on one at a time.  With the tongue-depressor-looking-thing you get with the vinyl or transfer tape (I'm not sure if you get it from, though) or with a bone folder or credit card, burnish the vinyl to make sure it sticks onto the transfer tape.  Carefully peel off the backing.  If the vinyl comes with, put the backing back and burnish some more.  Then pick out the parts you don't need.  I recommend getting off your butt and going downstairs to get your Cricut tool kit instead of just using the scissors you brought to separate the words.  However, it can be done with just the scissors.  The Cricut tools are easier, of course.  You might want to practice first or make sure you have extra vinyl (I'll explain why later).

This is what you have when you're done and ready to put it on the wall:

If you're anal, you probably want to figure out the center of the wall where you want to put it, horizontally and vertically.  With the playfulness of these words, I didn't want to do that.  I wanted there to be some variation, and I'm just not that anal when it comes to stuff like this.  About other things, yes, but not this.

Stick it on the wall and burnish it again:

Then very carefully peel up the transfer tape.  If any of the vinyl comes with, put it back down and burnish again.

Before the big reveal....

One of the things we love about our house is its retro look.  It was built in the 50's and looks it.  There's light wood throughout and has lots of built-ins and cubbyholes.  The kitchen phone is still a rotary phone.  Steve wanted to replace it, but I thought it was too cute to remove.  The "From My Kitchen" cartridge has a retro feel to it, so when I planned out what I wanted to cut out of the vinyl, I included a number of images to go along with the words.  I could have used other cartridges, but I wanted to have everything "From My Kitchen".

However, images look better with more than one color, and I had only purchased beige and purple (Of course!  One can never have too much purple vinyl).  Steve had given me a lighter shade of purple and black vinyl, but none of those would go with the kitchen colors.  In my "I don't even want to go downstairs to get my Cricut tool kit" laziness, I did not feel like driving 25-30 minutes to Brookfield to get another color of vinyl.  I thought about where else I could get vinyl and remembered a sign store a block away on Appleton called Signs & Banners - Today!!.  I called them, and they had vinyl!  I walked over there after lunch and picked out a nice contrasting color.  While chatting with Neal, the owner, we discussed the possibility of me working on his website.  How cool is that?!

Armed with two colors, I now can cut and place images!  Here's one view of the kitchen with a number of words and images:

You know I mentioned before that things can get tricky and that you should practice or get extra vinyl?  That's supposed to be a strainer next to "strain":

I was going to piece together beige and brown so the beige would be prominent, but everything's so darned sticky, and I couldn't get it to lie right.  I was out of beige, so I cut another strainer out of the brown, but it had to be smaller based on the brown I had left.  Argh.  I used the "holes" from the original beige strainer, and it looks okay, kind of, but I'm not that happy with it.  I am going to get more beige and try again.  I thought I had bought plenty of beige, but I would have been happy with 2 more sheets.

Back to the reveals.  Almost everything indicates what that part of the kitchen holds.  It's not complete, of course.  That would look overloaded.  Besides, there's not a "Kraft Mac 'n Cheese" shape in the cartridge.  But I hit the basics.

Working around the kitchen to the left, next to the stove ("bake" and "cook") we have where the aprons are stored and a potholder (because I could not think of a thing from the cartridge that could go over the doorway to the rest of the house - anyone have any ideas?):

I think the apron's adorable:

Again - this is tricky because everything sticks to everything else.  The lace isn't perfect, and the pockets could be straighter, but unless you're going to look closely like you are now, you don't really notice it much.  I added the embellishments after it was on the wall - something else that's tricky, especially if you're short like I am.

Next to the doorway is the refrigerator, etc...

Yes, I labeled the clock.  Isn't that a cute retro clock?  It works with the rest of the kitchen so nicely!  Next to the toaster oven:

Now visitors can find the dishes and the silverware and the phone (as if they could miss it!).  Around the corner is the last of the vinyl:

The second color really makes a big difference!

One final picture for you - the other part of the kitchen with the new Katy-fur-resistant curtains and Miss Katy herself:

She'd really have to stretch to get her fur on those curtains!

All in all, even with the so-so strainer, I love the new look of the kitchen.  Yes, just painting and getting new curtains would have looked nice, but the vinyl accents make a huge difference in making it OUR kitchen, not just A kitchen, if that makes sense.

Let me at the rest of the house!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Challenge necklace

During a trip to Midwest Beads a few months ago, Steve decided to pick out a few pieces for me as a challenge.  I got nervous that he'd pick yellow or orange or gold or something else I would have difficulties working with, but he's a good husband and would never do that to me.  He picked a large, dark blue stone bead and a pack of mixed beads.  He also included a magnetic clasp:

Because I've been on a bezelling kick lately, I chose these seed beads to go with the large bead:

Due to having a number of other projects I wanted to get done first, these pieces sat, waiting, looking at me questioningly every time I opened the case.  I knew I wanted to bezel the large bead, but I didn't know what to do for the rest of the necklace.

As you may have picked up from the rest of my projects, I'm more comfortable with symmetry and solid colors than with mixed sets.  That was part of the hesitation.  Another hesitation was that I've been really into stitching lately and haven't done much stringing.

But this week I sat down with the beads and stared at them.  I had thought to have the bead hang vertically with some dangly bits off of the bottom.  But then I turned it 90 degrees and the ideas started popping.

I bezelled the crap out of that bead on Sunday and Monday.  No, I don't know what "bezelled the crap out of that bead" means, but it sounds good, doesn't it?  I did have to fight with it some, especially after the bead went sailing out of the half-finished bezel at Alterra coffee shop Monday night.  I had difficulties getting it back into the bezel, which did not make any sense to me.  It slipped out easily enough, so it should slip back in easily, right?  Yeah.  Not really.

But the bezel finally contained the bead, which is its purpose.  Then I realized that I had to thread 2 wires through the holes which were now all covered up by the bezel.  With a long flexible needle and my trusty needle-nosed pliers, I was successful!  There was one casualty, however.  The needle did not survive.  The pliers snapped it in two while I was forcing the second wire through.  It was able to finish the job, and I gave it a little mental salute as I threw it into my empty Chamomile Lavender tea paper cup.

Tuesday night I sat down to string.  A normal person would have just grabbed beads and strung, but I am not a normal person.  If you haven't figured that out by now, you don't know me at all!  When I was looking at the mixed bead collection, I noticed some dangly kind of beads.  I thought it would be neat to have some dangling off of the bottom strand of the necklace.

I set to work separating all of the beads in the mix.  I decided that some of them were too shiny for this project and set them aside.  After I got partway through, I determined that I wouldn't have enough beads to continue both strands all the way to the back, so I joined them after 4 inches to have a single strand to finish the necklace off.  I still didn't have enough, and I didn't want to put the shiny beads in, so Steve and I raided my stash and found something that "would do".  None of the pictures show these beads, though - they're okay, but not spectacular.  My hair covers them, anyway, and they'll remain hidden unless one of you comes up to me and lifts my hair to check them out.

Here's a close up of the finished necklace, sans the hidden stash beads:

And here I am with it on:

I think it turned out well, and I look forward to future challenges!  I encourage you to challenge your friends, whether it be with jewelry or scrapbooking or any craft.  Trade some pieces from your own stash with a friend and see what each of you can come up with!  Take some pictures and send them to me ( and I'll post them here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ummm... oops?

I don't know what happened, but the summer has flown by, and it's already September 1st!  I have heard from a few people about the "100 happy things" and that they're not finished yet.  They still want to do it, but they couldn't get it done by the deadline (which is today).

Well.... I'm not done yet, either!  I had completely forgotten about it until my Mom mentioned it on Monday.

So, instead of canning the contest completely, I'm going to extend it.  I still think that it's a worthwhile thing for each of us to do, and I definitely intend on finishing it.

While we're at it, why don't we make it a bit easier?  If you think 100 is too large of a number, and you can't squeeze any more things onto your list, just make what you have pretty and send a picture over to me (  Anything over 50 things, I think.  Mom has come up with 70, so if she can get that many, anyone can!

Remember, these don't have to be earth-shattering revelations here.  It can be as simple as hearing your cat purr (as my Simoon is doing right now while she's resting a back leg on my keyboard and left arm) or a chocolate bar with caramel in it.  Your husband cleaning the litter without being asked is a good one, too!  Yes, I'm pretty much working on my own list here.

New deadline?  November 1st.  That way we can procrastinate for a bit more then get to work.  Who's in?