Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Survey time!

Happy New Year!  Tonight Steve and I are going out for sushi at Fujiyama in Brookfield, WI - they have the best eel avocado rolls.  Afterward we'll spend a quiet evening at home.  Perhaps I'll finally finish that baby hat for Steve's coworker's daughter.  She was born on November 11th.  Eek!  I didn't realize I was so late with it.  Fortunately I am knitting a 6 month size, so she will have plenty of time to wear it.  We just found out that yet another baby is on the way.  The boy I made the train hat for is going to have a sibling!  I'd better not wait so long this time.

As I mentioned last week, one of my resolutions is to create something new every day and blog about it.  I have a bunch of ideas in mind, but there will likely be many days where I'm going to be floundering on what to make next.  I'd like to know what you would like to see and read about, so I made a survey.  I hope you'll take a minute or two and give me your feedback:

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

You'll notice that I didn't ask if you wanted to see pictures of my cats.  :)  With that in mind...

Happy New Year from



and Frisco!

(from Steve and me, too, of course!)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Tool review - Bamboo knitting double pointed needle set and case

Ever since I figured out how to knit, I love looking at new yarns and patterns.  I think that choosing what I'm going to make is the best part.  Yeah, I love having finished knitwear, and I do like the process of knitting (most of the time), but there's nothing like poring through books, magazines, and patterns on Ravelry (if you missed my explanation of how to search for patterns on Ravelry, you can check it out here).

The one thing that's always challenging is having the right thickness of yarn and the right size needles for a pattern I love.  When I started knitting I had a few different sizes of straight and circular needles.  However, every time I wanted to start a new project, it seemed I had to buy a new set of needles.  My mother bought me a great Boye interchangeable set for straight and circular knitting so I wouldn't have that problem anymore:

In a perfect world, that would have been all I needed, but then I started making socks and baby hats.  You can't use circular needles for such small circular projects, so I had to buy double pointed needles (DPNs).  I have referred to them before as medieval torture devices.

They get the job done, though, so when my stepfather asked me to update my Amazon wish list for Christmas, I thought I'd look into what DPN multi-size sets were available.  My goodness, there are a quite a number of options.  You have your choice of needle size and how many different sizes are in the set, material (wood, bamboo, metal), and length of the needles (4", 5", 6", 7", 8"...).  Prices range from $7.88 (6 different sizes) to $179.33 (15 different sizes).  Interestingly enough, both the low and high end sets are made with bamboo.  After looking at a number of different lower mid-range options, I found this set from Stanwood Needlecraft:

There are fourteen sizes (1-15) and five 7" needles per size.  The sizes are etched onto the needles, which is great, because I have to try to remember the sizes on the metal DPNs I have.  Yes, there are needle sizing tools out there, but it's much more convenient to have the sizes on the needles themselves.  The reviews are mostly very good for the set, but what really tipped me over to add it to my wish list was what was in the "Frequently Bought Together" section:

I had been wondering how I'd keep 70 needles corralled and organized by size.  This case is made specifically for the above set of needles by the same vendor.  This got added to the wish list, too.

And on Christmas day, I was thrilled Mom and John gave me both items!  (Thanks, Mom and John!)  Yes, it takes very little to make me happy.

Each size was individually wrapped in clear plastic bags that are recloseable, so if you choose to get the DPNs without the case, there's no worries about getting the sizes mixed up.

Here's a look at three of the different sizes:

(not actual size)

Here's a closer look at the etching:

For the most part, the needles look completely straight.  The thinnest ones have a very slight bend to them, but I don't think that's going to interfere with knitting.

When I decided that this would be today's review, I started thinking of what I could start knitting to test the needles.  Could I start my new winter hat?  No, the hat pattern I've chosen starts with the brim, and I don't have time to knit the whole thing to get to where I'd use the DPNs.  Maybe I could start a pair of socks?  Duh!  I'm in the middle of a baby hat using size 3 DPNs.

That was a good test because I could easily compare the metal needles against the bamboo ones.  I worked off of the metal and onto the bamboo.  When I was done with one round and all the needles were replaced, I realized that I needed to take a picture with the needles in the case, and I couldn't very well show an incomplete set.  Argh.  Since the next round was a cabling round, which would take me a while to do (I'm not comfortable with it yet), I just moved the stitches back onto the metal needles.

While the bamboo needles do feel smooth, the yarn doesn't move as nicely as on metal needles.  I also think it's a little rough where the etching is.  It's going to take a bit of getting used to, but I've worked with bamboo needles before, and they were just fine.

The one benefit of the needles not being as slippery is that they won't easily fall out.  I have that problem all the time with the metal needles.  When I picked my project up today for testing, I dropped four stitches because the needle moved around too much.  Also, I can't count the number of times that the needle fell out when I was on the last two or three stitches.  That won't happen with the bamboo needles, which makes them well worth any loss of slickness in my book.

Now, on to the case:

I wish there were different color or fabric choices (you know I'm partial to purple), but the blue flowers are pretty.  I'm more concerned about how the case works.  The pocket sizes are perfect for the different sizes.  They're loose without being too loose.  I like that there's a lining and that it's a solid color so the inside isn't so busy.

When you're ready to close things up, you fold the flap down to protect the points of the needles:

The case could probably work with DPNs up to 8" long.  Longer if you don't mind having the middles of the needles not covered with fabric.

The case rolls up from end with the thinnest needles, and there's a strap to hold the case together.  There's Velcro in the middle of the strap that attaches to Velcro on the case:

Based on reviews on Amazon, I think that the ability to Velcro the strap to the case is relatively new.  People were complaining that there was nothing to keep the strap attached to the case.  I think this will work just fine.

Here's how the case looks all rolled and strapped up:

You can tell in this last picture that the inner flap peeks out.  It does wrinkle a bit when you're rolling the case up, but I don't know any way around that.

All in all, I'm very pleased with this DPN set and needle case (the links go to the Amazon listings).  The quality of the DPN set is great for the price.  At the time of this writing, it works out to $2.05 per size - you can't beat that!  I no longer have to choose the pattern based on the needles I have available because I either don't want to buy another set or just want to start knitting right away.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas and stuff

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and good cheer all around!

This will be a very short post because Steve says dinner will be ready in 10 minutes.  This is my Christmas present for you.  :)

While I was having insomnia last night, I was thinking of what my New Year's resolutions would be.  I typically don't do this, but one thing stuck out in my head: I should create more.  Whether it's adding to my quote book, making simple earrings, stitching, scrapping, knitting, crocheting, or whatever, I need to be doing it more.  So I am publicly saying that I will not only create more, but that I will try to create something new every day and will post it here.  The only exceptions will be days I'm at shows or teaching, but every other day I will do my best to make something and show it to you.

I'd be happy to post things you've created, too.  Feel free to e-mail me a picture at traci@creative-pursuits.biz.

Since Steve says it's 5 minutes until dinner, I'll quickly describe how I made these ornaments:

I was going to take a picture of them on the Christmas tree, but Steve said I can't go into the living room for some reason.

So these ornaments are made completely from scrapbooking supplies.  The green is an acrylic rectangle embellishment, the hanger is beaded wire I bought just like that (although you could bead your own wire), the silver Christmas trees are brads, the background (the Christmas trees) is scrapbook paper, and the sayings are rub-ons (or, as Steve calls them, "dry transfers").

That's it!  Dinner is about ready.  Merry Christmas, and please be safe when you're traveling!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Book review: Paracords - Knots from Beginner to Advanced

A number of months ago I started seeing a new trend of jewelry in the craft stores - bracelets made from paracord, which is short for parachute cord.  According to the Wikipedia article, it was first used for parachutes in WWII, and it's now used for other military and survival uses.  Its main appeal is that it's strong and light.  If you make a bracelet or necklace with it, it can be unraveled if needed, like I guess if someone is stuck down a hole or something.  The most common paracord has a "minimum breaking strength of 550 pounds", so I can imagine it would be very handy in a jam.  My survival skills include never going near deep holes.  :)

At some point the crafters got a hold of it and bright, non-military colors started appearing.  And shortly after that, people started writing books on how you can make jewelry with it.

I found a few eBooks that were offered for free about paracords, and I downloaded them both because I was curious what all the hype was about.  Also, I'm always looking for inspiration for my own designs, and I thought learning some new knots might help.  That was in July, and now only one of the books I got for free is still offered on Amazon.  I was going to review both of them, but since the other one has disappeared, I'm not going to bother reviewing it.  It was only slightly better than this one, and I have a feeling it was yanked for not providing any references for where the source material came from.

So, on to Paracords - Knots from Beginner to Advanced.  Here's a picture of the book you want to avoid:

Yes, I realize (now that my husband mentions it) that the book cover says "Paracord Knots From Beginner to Advanced" and not "Paracords - Knots from Beginner to Advanced".  The Amazon page and the title at the tops of the pages has the "Paracords" title, so I'm thinking the author didn't even bother proofing his own cover.  ::groan::

It's no longer offered for free.  Even if it was, I'd say to save your money and just do some searches online, because that's what it looks like this author did.  He does list sources for the pictures he has copied off of the web, so he has that going for him.

I really hate to completely slam a book, but if you're going to take the time to write a book (or to gather a bunch of information from websites and throw it together), you really need to put in an effort.  With very few exceptions, the only pictures are of the finished knots.  The aspect ratio of the many pictures is off, so the images look distorted like in a fun house mirror.  That's bad enough when you're looking at a finished knot, but if there's a chart showing the steps, there's no way you can follow it.

You can click on some of the source links, but I don't recommend it.  The chart for the Cobra Knot is too small and squished to be useful, so I clicked on it.  The link behind the chart goes to some webpage that has 45 errors.  Yes, 45.  I counted when I clicked on the link that's listed under the chart, which goes to the same place.  The really irritating thing is that when you look at the link and wade through all 8 lines of it, it's supposed to go to a completely different knot.

The book does have instructions on how to do the knots, but there are no pictures to go along with them.  Remember last week I wanted to add a loop and a knot made out of duct tape for my purse, and I mentioned that I wanted to make the Celtic Button knot?  Well, the instructions in this book were awful:  "Make the first over-loop.  Then make a second over-loop."  What?  What the heck is an over-loop?  It just got more confusing after that.  I ended up finding something online that worked much better for me.

All of the instructions are like that, including using the term "bight", which was never explained.  "Take the right end of the strand, form a bight..."  I thought it was a typo.  Fortunately Kindles and Kindle apps have dictionaries.  A bight is "a curve or recess in a coastline, river, or other geographical feature."  That's no help.  Oh!  There's a special usage: "a loop of rope, as distinct from the rope's ends."  Really?  A loop?  That's it?  Why didn't he just say to form a loop.  Everyone knows what a loop is.

I could go on and on about how crappy the formatting is and how there are many grammatical errors and typos, but it's really just enough that the directions are impossible to follow.  The only good thing about the book (in my opinion) is that you can see (sometimes distorted) pictures of the knots.  From there, you know what to search for online.  That is not really worth the current $2.99 price or the space on your Kindle or other device.

I haven't tried to make any of the "standard" paracord bracelets I've seen in the craft stores or online.  I will, though, because I purchased a "Paracord bracelet kit" from Walmart for less than $5.  Unfortunately, I can't find it online to show you.  It has 6 different colors of paracord along with the buckles to make 6 bracelets.  There are also instructions.  I haven't looked at them yet, but they're bound to be better than those in Paracords - Knots from Beginner to Advanced.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Using scrapbooking tools to solve everyday problems

Last night was the Loose Bead Society's annual holiday party.  A bunch of us brought cookies (or fudge or whatever) to share.  It's always nice to see and taste things that I wouldn't normally make.  Someone brought Pizzelles - "Italian waffle cookies".  I like them because they're not as rich as other cookies and because they're very pretty.

I brought cornflake cookies.  They have marshmallows, butter, cornflakes (obviously), and green food coloring.  I don't know where we got the recipe from, but I remember eating them when I was little a long, long time ago.  Not only are they delicious, but they make your tongue green.  I'd say something about other things turning green, but I don't want to get crude.

The best way to store and transport cookies is in a cookie tin, right?  What I've always hated about tins is that you need to line them with wax (or parchment) paper.  For cookies that stick together (like the cornflake cookies), it's best to stick paper between layers.  The tins are nearly always round, and the papers are always square.  That means you have a bunch of paper crowding around the edges taking up valuable cookie space.

Remember that cutting board I used when I made my duct tape purse last week?  That was from my "Curvy Cutter" circle/oval cutting set.  Since I'm a procrastinator, I hadn't put it all away yet.  I decided to try cutting the wax paper with the circle cutter, and it worked!

That got me thinking of all of those commercials where they have the perfect solution to an everyday problem, so I made my own little commercial:

I have to tell you - I recorded the video once (hence the bit of stuttering at the end) and spent 2-3 hours getting it edited and in a format I could put on the blog.  I really should have quit, but I was bound and determined to get it done exactly the way I wanted it to be done.  My ingenuity and "there's more than one way to skin a cat" (catfish, not kitty cat, of course) attitude came through again, and I was successful!  I hope everyone can view it okay.

For those of you who have never heard my voice - that's not how I normally talk.  That's my "perfect solution" commercial voice.  I probably am normally that nasally, though.

To sum up what's on the video:
  • I used the Curvy Cutter template to figure out what size I needed to cut

  • I adjusted the blade tool to the right setting (the widest in this case) and set the cutter in the right track of the cutter tool (the second track)

  • I moved the blade tool around the track to cut the wax paper
  • I put the circle of wax paper in the tin (yes, I know this step is obvious, but by now you all know how thorough I am)

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make a large enough circle for my large tin.  I just did a search to see if there were any larger Curvy Cutters, and I found that they've discontinued the product.  I guess I've had mine a really long time, huh?  I wonder if I'll be able to find a replacement blade if I need it.

I did see that Martha Stewart Crafts has a few circle cutters, and I bet they would work just as well.  The small one cuts from 1" to 5 7/8" in 1/16" increments, and the large one cuts from 4" to 12" in 1/8" increments.

Now, I'm not advocating buying a circle cutter (or two) just for cutting wax paper to line your cookie tins, but if you're a scrapper who wants to expand the uses of your tools, this is one way you can do just that.  I'm sure there are other non-scrapping uses for circle cutters, but, frankly, the video editing has used up all of my ingenuity brain cells for the night.

Do you have any non-scrapping uses for circle cutters or other scrapping tools?  E-mail me at traci@creative-pursuits.biz and let me know!

If you've been hoping that I'd share the recipe for those tasty, tasty cookies, here you go:

Cornflake Cookies

1 stick of butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
30 large marshmallows
3 cups cornflakes
1 teaspoon green food coloring
Red sugar
Melt marshmallows and butter in a double boiler.  Add vanilla and food coloring.  Stir in cornflakes - carefully - and drop in tablespoon-sized blobs on wax paper.   Sprinkle with red sugar.  Wait to cool.  Store in the refrigerator.

The side benefit for me posting the recipe here is that if I lose it (again), I won't have to ask my mother to send it to me (for the 20th time).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Book review - Duct Tape Bags

Before I get started, tomorrow (12/14/2013) is my last show of the season - if you're in the Milwaukee area and would like to check out a fun and rowdy craft show, please come see me at the German Immersion School (3778 N. 82nd Street in Milwaukee) from 10-3 for their Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market).  Come and say hi!  Remember that anyone calling me "Purple Mist" gets 20% off of their purchase at my table!

Also, class browsing for the 2014 Bead&Button Show is open!  You can see all the details for my Cobblestone Path bracelet class here.  You can register for classes starting noon on January 7th.

Like I mentioned on Tuesday, today I'm reviewing Duct Tape Bags, a free eBook I found on Amazon.  I know sometimes I've posted reviews I've written for Amazon, but today I'm going to write the review here then post a modified version on Amazon when I'm finished.

If you want my thoughts on actually working with duct tape or making a bag, please see Tuesday's post.  I do have a slight update to my bag, which I will do after the book review.

This book is a compilation of projects from the Instructables website.  There are many authors and many different styles of writing.  It seems they take a group of projects from time to time and publish an eBook.  I have another one of their books, Manly Knits, which was and is also free.  I'm sure the goal is to bring people to their website, as after every project there are links to other, "similar" (but not always) projects on their site.  Also, there's a full list of links to each of the projects and their authors at the beginning of the book.

The bag on the cover is a little misleading.  The inside of the bag is duct tape, and the outside of the bag is heavy duty fabric.  There are some projects that use fabric or cardboard along with the duct tape, and there are some projects that use duct tape alone.  Some of the projects explain how to make duct tape "fabric" (sheets of duct tape with sticky sides touching), so the cover bag probably could be made using just duct tape and some modifications of the instructions.

The projects in the book aren't organized very well.  I would have liked them grouped by type, maybe by size: camera bags, purses, totes, messenger bags, and other.  That way, when I want to look for a project to make, I'm not jumping around the book.  I did that a fair amount while deciding what I wanted to do for my duct tape purse I wrote about on Tuesday.  I got dizzy, because the names of the projects as seen in the Table of Contents didn't always tell me what the project was.  "How to make a Duct Tape bag" ended up being the one I used, as it was a purse with a flap.

Whoever did the editing made some effort to make the book look like a cohesive unit, with the same formatting for every project, such as red and bold for "Intro" and each of the step numbers ("Step 1:").  However, I do wish there had been more editing of the individual projects.  There are many spelling and grammatical mistakes  If it was my book, I would have cleaned all that up.

Also, there are places where pictures are repeated, probably because that's how they were uploaded to the website.  One or two pictures didn't bother me (much), but there are a few projects where every single picture appears before the written instructions, then each picture appeared again.  A few times I thought there weren't going to be any instructions - just pictures.  I kept flipping pages, and the instructions appeared eventually.

Speaking of pictures...  There were many pictures that were blurry, dark, or both.  I know how hard it is to take good process shots of my jewelry designs, and I spend a lot of time taking pictures, fiddling with the camera, and grumbling.  I won't include a picture in my instructions if it's not clear what's going on.  I know the instructions on the Instructables website are free, as was the book, but why bother doing it if someone isn't going to be able to understand what to do?

Speaking of  being able to understand what to do... There are a number of places in this book where there are little or no instructions, such as, "first make a duct tape box like this."  Yes, that was in step 1.  The instructions I followed to make the basic shape of my purse were great for making the individual pieces (front, back with flap, sides, bottom, and strap), but then I was on my own: "take all of your pieces and tape them together like you would tape pieces of cardboard together to make a box."  Fortunately, I'm a crafty person and could figure it out.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some projects with very good instructions, such as the backpacking pack (including PVC pipes for the frame) and a messenger bag with hardware for the buckles (including instructions on how to make the hardware).  They are very detailed with many pictures on each step of these complicated bags.

One good thing about the Instructables instructions (on the website and in the book) is the ability to have image notes.  The authors can "tag" parts of the images, which in the book show up as numbered yellow rectangles, and the notes come after.  That's helpful if highlighting an area of the bag that needs trimmed or things like that.

All in all, if you're interested in making bags from duct tape, this book is a good place to get an idea of what kinds of bags you can make, or you can go directly to the Instructables website and look for projects there.  If you're crafty, you can figure out the bits that are left out.  I'm planning on referencing this book again when I next see some pretty duct tape.

Now for the update on my duct tape purse.  Here's how it looked when I left off on Tuesday:

If you recall, I was trying to figure out a way to make the flap close.  Since I wanted the whole purse to be made of duct tape, I didn't want to use magnets.  Besides, I didn't have any appropriate magnets.  :)

When reading a book on paracord knots (that will probably be another review at some point), I saw a Celtic button knot that I thought would be cute. I rolled up a piece of duct tape to be kind of like a rope.  It took a few tries (using a picture online instead of instructions in the book, so you can imagine how good the book is), but I was able to make a knot that almost looks right.  The duct tape is a little too rigid for the knot to form perfectly.  I used the excess to make a loop.  I taped both of them down, and:

Voila!  My flap will theoretically stay down.

Here it is up close:

Remember, I want to see any duct tape bags you make!  Send your pictures and thoughts to traci@creative-pursuits.biz.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Making a duct tape bag

Since I've done a lot of shows lately and have made a lot of jewelry, I thought I'd try something new and hopefully fun.  I've been eying the pretty duct tapes they have out now and have been wanting to experiment. I recently got a free ebook, Duct Tape Bags, and I thought that was the perfect opportunity to do my experimenting while I have a little down time between shows.  I'll review the book itself on Friday.

I'm going to write while I'm making the bag.  I don't think I've done that before, and I hope it'll be interesting for you.  I'll try not to make it too long.  :)

Here's the tape I bought:

No big surprise that it's purple.  Each roll was made by Scotch and was $3.99.  The purple is called "Violet Purple", and the cupcake one is called "Sweet Treat".  They're both 1.88" (48mm) wide, but the solid colors are 20 yards while the patterned rolls are 10 yards.  That means that I'll want to use the cupcakes sparingly.  The other reason I'll want to use them sparingly is that the cupcakes are at an angle.  I think they'd match up if I was very careful, but with sticky things I think that's hard to do.  Also, from what I've read in the book, when you make a duct tape sheet (also called "fabric"), you overlap the tape.  That wouldn't work well with the cupcakes.

The next step was deciding what kind of bag I wanted to make.  I have bunches of bags, and I really don't need another one.  I love bags, though, so I'll sacrifice and find room for one more.  I looked through the book (because if I'm reviewing it, I really should try one of the projects in the book), and two of them stood out - a simple purse with a flap, and a round purse with weaving at the base.  I like the shape of the purse with a flap, and I like the weaving, so I'm going to merge them.

Next, I needed to measure my current "casual" purse.  I like it, but I sometimes wish it was just a touch bigger.  So I got out everything needed to measure, and...

 Well, that's not helpful.  

Fortunately, Frisco didn't stay too long.  As much as I love him, I hope he doesn't come back when I'm actually making the purse.  I don't really want to try to cut duct tape off of him.  I should probably shut the doors.

I was able to get the measurements I needed for the purse, so I'm all set to go.  That grid-looking thing in the above picture is a glass cutting mat I've used with circle cutters.  I'm hoping that all sticky stuff will be confined to the mat and not my desk, and I should be able to cut on that pretty well.

And now it's time for... :::looks at clock::: ...lunch.  Crap.  Be right back!

Okay.  Lunch has been eaten, and the doors have been closed.  Back to work!  Oh, no... Pixel wants in.  Not going to happen.

I taped little flags to the bottom of the glass mat to the dimensions I want the front and back parts of the purse to be.  I'm hoping that will help the process go faster and to waste less tape.

Now to make the first piece of "fabric".  The instructions for the purse I'm making say to take strips of tape and put them sticky side to sticky side.  That double-sided strip is built on by sticking tape on either side with most of it hanging off.  I'm not going to take pictures of that whole process - it's in the book.

I can't believe this.  I've hurt myself ripping the first piece of tape off.  That stuff is harder to rip than I remember!  The tip of my forefinger hurts, and I think I bent back my thumbnail a little.  Ow.  I'm going to use scissors to cut the rest of the pieces.  That seems to be working well.  The scissors I'm using are EK Success's Cutter Bee Titanium scissors.  They have a non-stick coating, which is very helpful for a project like this one.  Even so, I do have to clean off some gunk from time to time.

Here's my first piece of "fabric":

There's only one wrinkle!  Considering how impossible it is to separate two pieces of duct tape (sticky side to sticky side, that is), I'm very happy with this.  That wrinkle will go on the inside.  It does need to be trimmed on the left and right sides, but it's just fine length-wise.  Having those little flags helped a bunch.

I next did the bottom and sides.  I reinforced the bottom with a few extra strips of tape.  Some of the bags in the book say to wrap pieces of cardboard for extra stability, but I didn't want that for this one.

Here's what I have so far - the front, the bottom, and both sides:

The hardest part so far has been the sticky factor.  When I'm positioning a piece of tape on the mat, I'm having a hard time getting my fingers unstuck while leaving the tape in place.  I've taken to nudging the side of the tape with my fingernails.  That's working fairly well.

I'm going to switch projects now and weave the flap.  I want about 5 inches so my stuff won't fall out.  Add 2.75" for the top, and I'll have to weave a piece 9" x 7.75".  The instructions say to make double-sided strips then weave them together.

That should be easy enough, except there will be a little math to determine how many strips of each I'll need.  The tape is 1.88" wide.  For the horizontal strips I need enough to be at least 7.75" high.  That works out to 4.12 strips.  Let's just make that 4 strips, so the vertical strips will need to be 7.52".  My handy dandy calculator says that works out to 4.78 strips.  Hmm.  I can't mess with the width now that I've already made all the other pieces.  Oops.  I should have started with the flap and adjusted the size of the bag accordingly.  No big deal.  I'll weave with 4 strips and wrap the edges with tape.  So I need 4 strips of 9" and 4 strips of 7.52".

I made strips, talked to my Dad, wove, adjusted the weaving to make the cupcakes a bit more centered, lined the back and wrapped tape around the edges to tack loose bits down and to give it a more finished look.  Here's my finished flap/top:

All these pictures make it look a lot more blue than it actually is.

Now for the back.  I made another piece of "fabric" with the same width as the first one but a little longer and taped the flap/top to it:

I added a stripe of cupcakes to each side strip then laid everything out for assembly:

Wow.  I should have started with a coin purse.  What I'd like to do is tape everything up on the inside and the outside, but I don't think that's going to work.  I don't think I should try turning it inside out (or outside in), and I wonder if I'll be able to tape on the inside once it's put together.  That might be a bit tricky.

Better stop procrastinating and get going.  What's that sound?  Steve's home already?  Where did the afternoon go?  Oh, that's right - I got distracted a few times during the afternoon with e-mail, Facebook, and listing an item on Etsy before it gets too late in the holiday season.  It's really a wonder I get anything done.

I got the bottom parts all taped up on the inside and outside.  At some point I realized I had the flap with the cupcakes facing the wrong way, but I was able to take the tape off and turn it around.  I hope that doesn't mean that the purse will fall apart with the first stiff breeze.

Here's what I have after taping all the bottom bits together:

We left one of the doors open as I was taping the sides up and...

Well, that didn't take long.  Steve shooed Pixel out, and I was able to keep working.  Not for long, though, because dinner was ready.

After dinner, I finished taping the purse up.  That was really hard.  While the pieces are fairly rigid, they do sag somewhat.  Steve helped me hold the pieces together on a few of the joins, and that helped.  If I do this again, I will make it around a hardcover book.  That should help with this part of the process.

Here it is fully assembled, sans strap:

I was able to tape the insides.  As I figured, it wasn't easy, but I really needed to make sure that everything was reinforced.  I could see light in a few of the corners, so I took little squares of tape and kinda smooshed them in the corners.  Not the most elegant solution, but hopefully it'll work.

The strap was quite a doozy.  I like my purses to go across my body to keep my hands free, so that meant a VERY long strip of duct tape.  No, that meant TWO very long strips of duct tape stuck together with one of the strips on the outsides of the purse body and the other on the insides.  Steve and I had a devil of a time getting them to align correctly, and there are some wrinkles.  I'm not happy with that, but it couldn't be helped.  Since there were many areas of sticky on the edges, I wrapped tape around on both sides, trying to align the cupcakes.  It worked most of the time.

So here's the completed purse, close up and with me wearing it:

It turned out big enough that I can carry my iPad in it plus a number of other things.  I used an entire roll of the purple tape and quite a bit of the cupcakes.  I might have enough to make that coin purse I mentioned before.

I think it's cute, but it will probably be a while before I make anything of this magnitude again.  It gets a little frustrating to have the tape sticking everywhere but where you want it to go, and it was difficult to cut a straight line.  I'd also like some way to keep the flap down.  I have a few ideas.

Have you made anything with duct tape?  If so, e-mail me a picture (and what you thought of the process) at traci@creative-pursuits.biz, and I'll post it here!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Best Japanese food ever - Tsukasa of Tokyo

Yeah, I know it's Thursday, and I know I'm supposed to be reviewing books, yarns, beads, tools, and other crafty-type things.  But Saturday I have a show in Waukegan, Illinois (at St. John's United Church of Christ on McAree from 9-2 for those of you in the area).  I'm going down tomorrow to take Mom Christmas shopping and to spend the night.  I don't do mornings well, so there's no way I'd be able to get up early enough to make it to the show early enough to set up.  It's a nice tradition I have - I get to spend extra time with Mom and John, and I get to participate in a nice show.  If you're in Waukegan on Saturday, please stop and say hi.

What does this have to do with the best Japanese food ever?  Mom and I are going to shop at Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, and Tsukasa is very close.  When Mom asked if I wanted to go shopping, I thought for a second, and then I said, "Oooh!"  Mom then said, "Oooh!" and a mutually agreed upon lunch date was formed, and our menfolk looked at us like we were crazy.  Since we had lunch there last year whilst Christmas shopping, this is another tradition I'll be looking forward to.  (Yes, I wrote "whilst".  That word isn't used near enough, like "thrice".)

Mom, John (my stepfather), and I started going to Tsukasa when they were in a strip mall a short ways down the road from where they are now.  You did not need a reservation the first few times we went, but then you did, then they were packed all of the time, then they knocked the wall down to expand, then they built their own building, then they opened another location.  They are always packed every time we go.  You don't need reservations for lunch, but it's still pretty busy.  Mom and I are always astonished at the number of businesspeople who are there for lunch.

Another tradition: we go to Tsukasa for my birthday.  Every year.  I don't remember when we started, but it was many, many years ago.  Mom and John were in Germany in 2004, and I feared that my yearly trip would be canceled.  My friend Dave stepped up and took me and four of our friends.  It was a fun time!  Thanks, Dave!

They're so busy that they lost my reservation once.  I was devastated, and I led my family and friends outside to figure out somewhere else to go (because it was crowded inside, and we couldn't hear ourselves think).  As soon as I said they didn't have our reservation, Dave walked right back in and talked with the manager.  He explained that we go every year for my birthday, and they said, "Maybe she called the wrong place."  Dave said, "She has your phone number in her phone.  Is there anything you can do?"  There was, and they were able to seat us.  I don't know how.  Again, thanks, Dave!

Why do I love Tsukasa so much?

First there's this:

You have to love any place that makes you fear for your life before you eat.

Then there's this:

After they make the fried rice, he flips it around a number of times, hopefully not spilling the contents.

Then this:

A tower of onions becomes a volcano, then a train.  Choo choo!

And then this:

That green blob in the black area at the top is piece of broccoli that I probably missed.

And finally...  Oh, sweet heaven.  Finally, there's this:

(The above pictures were taken in 2011, in case you're interested.)

First you get salad and soup, then the fried rice (which is truly the best fried rice in the entire world - no exaggeration), then the vegetables, then the meats.  If you get a combo like I do, you also get an appetizer and a dessert.  I always get vegetable tempura and pineapple.  In the above picture, the yellowish blobs are golden shrimp, which are decadent and rich and so very tasty.  It's a little bit of an acquired taste, but once you have it... let's just say I'm salivating right now in anticipation.  The meat is a filet mignon, and it's soft like butter.  You get your choice of sauces - teriyaki, ginger, and/or mustard - but I only ask for the teriyaki.  It's the best teriyaki I've ever had.  It's sweet and thick, and there I go salivating again.

So, that's my review of the best Japanese food ever made.  I have eaten at many, many Japanese places, and this one tops the lot, at least at Teppan Yaki (“Hot Steel”) cooking (according to their website).  I've not had much of their sushi, because I'm always stuffed with everything else I eat, so I can't really review that.  It is well worth the trip from Milwaukee to Vernon Hills every year for my birthday, and it's an extra special Christmas shopping treat.  If you are anywhere near Vernon Hills or Kildeer, you have to go.  (The links take you to Tsukasa's location pages.)

Yes, it's a bit pricey, but you get a lot for your money.  I should take some of my meal home, but I never do.  I practically need to be rolled out of there, and that's the best thing I think anyone could ever say about any restaurant.

And now it's time for me to go to bed and dream of golden shrimp, filet mignon, and fried rice.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Keyboard innards jewelry

Before I get started on the keyboard innards, I have an announcement!  The Bead&Button Show class catalog has shipped!  My Cobblestone Path class is on Friday night (June 6th) and is smack-dab in the middle of page 114:

I'm so excited!  Registration starts at noon CST on January 7th, 2014.  If you might be interested in taking my class, please e-mail me at traci@creative-pursuits.biz if you have any questions.

Now for the innards...

When I read and reviewed Recycled Crafts: Crafts Made Using Recycled Materials, I got inspired to do something with keys from a computer keyboard.  The book showed making keyboard necklaces and word magnets, but my ideas were for making earrings with the keys turned backward - either with beads or with the little figures I have leftover from my My Milwaukee: A Triptych bracelet.  Unfortunately, I had taken a number of keyboards and other electronic devices to the electronic recycling center before deciding to do this, and we could only find one keyboard in the house that was not in use.  It was a newer one, and the keys are too short for me to do what I want.

However, I found something much, much more interesting:

I said, "What on earth are these things, and why are they so cool?"  Steve said that keys on modern keyboards press into silicone sheets (shown on the right) to press the two layers of circuit boards (shown on the left) together to tell the computer what key has been pressed, and that's why the keys are shorter than they used to be.

Well, I flat out fell in love with the silicone sheet.  It's stretchy, and I like pushing in the nubs.  I decided that I must make jewelry with them.

Here's the silicone layer close up:

Because of the layout of the keyboard, the nubs are understandably somewhat far apart.  There are also holes in various places.  It takes a little bit of planning to determine what you want to cut, and it takes a lot of patience to actually cut it, since the sheet is stretchy.  It likes to move around on me.  Until I can find modern keyboards at Goodwill or somewhere like that, this is my only silicone sheet, and I need to be judicious with it.  I got a whole box full of keyboards from my mother's basement, but those are all old and have no magic silicone sheets.

I knew I'd need to stitch the sheet onto something so it wouldn't just flap about in the breeze, so I trotted off to Knot Just Beads to get some Ultrasuede.  I wanted bright colors so they'd show through the silicone, and I chose pink and light blue.  I also picked up a brass cuff and a tube of mixed purple seed beads that Kim said would look nice against the blue.  I'd been eying those purple beads for a few months, and I was glad to have an excuse to buy them.  She didn't have to suggest it twice.

I was a little nervous working with the silicone sheet for the first time on something large like a bracelet.  I didn't know if it would work at all, so I started out with earrings.  I cut out circles of silicone with a nub in the center because I like things that are symmetrical and because the nubs were too far apart to have more than one on each circle.  I had some metal blanks with a hole at the top, so I sandwiched one of those in between layers of pink Ultrasuede and the silicone.  So I had Ultrasuede, metal blank, Ultrasuede, silicone.  I stitched a beaded whip stitch like I did on my Milwaukee bracelet (you can see how that looks "in action" here), and it went together pretty well.  I did have to make sure the silicone stayed where I put it - it tended to want to pull away on the edge that still needed to be stitched - but that wasn't too bad for the earrings.

I stitched a loop where the hole of the metal blank was, and when I was done I realized that it wouldn't hang correctly from an earring wire.  I twisted the loop of the earring wire, and that worked just fine!

Here are my finished earrings:

Oh, geez.  I made boobs.  I really didn't plan on them being boobs, but with the pink and the nubs in the middle...  Accidental boobs.  Oh, well!  I'm definitely not taking them apart, so I have them up on Etsy celebrating the fact that they look like boobs.

Now that I'm afraid to make more silicone jewelry with the pink Ultrasuede, I turned to the blue and the brass cuff.  I wanted to do the same type of technique but also to incorporate mini petals stitched around a few of the nubs to look like flowers.  I cut the silicone sheet at a diagonal (at Steve's suggestion), and stitched the flowers and a few rings of seed beads around some of the nubs before I stitched the layers together.  I had the silicone-shifting thing a lot more on this bracelet than I did on the earrings.  If I do this again, I'll cut the silicone a bit bigger and trim if I need to.  Better to trim than to not have enough.  As it is, I was able to stretch the silicone enough to make it work.

Here's the final bracelet:

I think it's very cute, and I hope it finds a good home.  I've listed it on Etsy, too.  Update!  My bracelet did find a good home with my Aunt Nancy.  She saw it at my show in Waukegan on December 7 and adored it.  Thanks, Aunt Nancy!

After the holiday selling season, I'll be working more with both the silicone sheet I have left, the circuit board sheets, and maybe even the keys.

Speaking of the holiday selling season,  I have two more shows:

Cookie sale and craft show
December 7, 2013
9a - 2p
St. John's United Church of Christ
1520 N McAree Rd, Waukegan, Illinois

I have done this show a number of times, and it's always a lot of fun!  There will be many different kinds of cookies, sweets, and other goodies as well as a number of vendors.  I'll be there with my finished jewelry, vinyl decals, and magnets.

December 14, 2013
10a - 3p
German Immersion School
3778 N. 82nd Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This will be my third time at this Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market).  There will be many vendors selling a number of different items, and there's a lot of hustle and bustle up and down the school's halls.  I'll be there with my finished jewelry, vinyl decals, and magnets.

If you can, come by either show and say hi!