Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spinning "Flounce"

I'm not spinning my fiber of the month samples in order, I'm skipping ahead to December 2014.  This was my birthday month, and I got a very Rebecca colorway!   This is my 2nd Into the Whirled spinning project for January, so I am on track for keeping my subscription and reducing my fiber stash (*cough* and increasing my yarn stash while on a yarn diet *cough*)


I've never spun Corriedale before.  The name of the fiber was familiar and I couldn't quite place it.  It wasn't one of the fibers from the single breed yarns experiment, and since it hadn't shown up yet in my Into the Whirled subscription I was puzzled  I then realized that I had some in a batch of fiber I purchased from Webs ages ago.  I got a bunch of different fibers thinking that I would blend them with the chinchilla fiber Keith got me for Christmas, but then discovered that the purchased fiber came as roving already and that I didn't really want to disrupt it.  You might see me dyeing some Corriedale in the future!


My first attempt to split this yielded 51 g and 62 g.  Yikes!  Adjusted 57 and 55 g.  This is close enough!  I know that even when I am able to split the fiber evenly I don't spin evenly so there is only so much you can hope for. The day that I spin two singles that are exactly the same length will be the day that it rains skittles from the rainbow.


Recently I've been spinning on the slowest whirl (5:1) and I've been getting 2 ply worsted weight yarns.  I want to increase my speed and try the 8:1 and maybe I'll spin a thinner yarn.  Hopefully I won't over twist the yarn, as that has been my biggest issue when using the faster whorl in the past.


Teddle slowly, treddle slowly, Rebecca. I have no idea how this will hold up when it is time to ply, but for now it is going really well and I'm spinning the thinnest I've done in AGES.  The predrafted fiber is really thin, almost pencil roving like and I'm sure that is helping, too.  When I first attached the fiber to my leader yarn it spun SUPER SUPER tight and I was worried, but I just drafted out more fiber until there was less twist and continued on.


It isn't the softest yarn, but it is holding together really well.  There is good crimp to the fibers and it isn't slippery.


I'm a little nervous that this will die during plying.  If I pull on the single too hard it a bit it will break.  Although it hasn't broken thus far with the spinning so mabe it will be okay?  Please cross your fingers for me!!


Look at how much of the bobbin HALF of the fiber filled up!  This is a fluffy fiber,  or else I'm wonderful and didn't put too much twist in it.  Let's hope that there isn't too little twist in it so it breaks when plying or knitting!


One yard into spinning into the second half of singles and I got a break.  uhoh....  Soon I got my groove on.  I'm dividing the fiber much thinner this time (like I did at the beginning of round 1) so the color repeats will be shorter on average.  This should look cool when plyed together.


The second half looks smaller on the bobbin than the first half.  WPI #1 = 18  ; WPI #2 = 14-16

When I started plying I had two breaks right near the beginning, but the fiber is sticky enough that they were "fixed" easily.  I'm holding my breath here!  There was one more break later on, but given my fears from earlier on I'm really happy.


There wasn't as much left over from the first batch of plying as I thought.  I wound this into a center pull ball and then used both ends to make a miniskein.


When plying I was surprised how often the long stretches of color lined up.  There is still a ton of character so I'm not disappointed by any stretch.   (When winding the yarn onto my niddy noddy there was less lining up than I thought.)  I'm so glad that I'm not N-plying this yarn.  The singles have so single spin that i think they would break a TON if I was chaining it like that.  I'm not consistent with the amount of twist per inch on the plying, but it looks really cool so I'm happy.

I'm not the biggest fan of the big white patches.  The whites are slightly yellow which doesn't really do much for the purples and blues.  If it were a bluer or pinker white, then it would be really cool.    To my eye, these solid portions stick out like a sore thumb.


Large Skein: 157 wraps * 4 ft/ wrap = 628 ft = 209 yards.  107 g
Small Skein: 17 wraps * 2 ft/wrap = 34 ft = 11 yards.  6 g
12 WPI (DK weight)


200+ yards isn't bad at all, but to quote the little mermaid "I want moooooooore!"  One of these days I'm going to order a second bag of fiber so I can have 200g and spin enough yarn to knit into a luxurious cowl.

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Spinning started 1/15/2015 
First half finished 1/16/2015
Second half finished 1/16/2015
Spinning Completed 1/17/2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Dr. Seuss Baby Shower Banner - FREE PRINTABLE!

My cousin is expecting her first baby, and I was super excited to go to her shower this winter.  She wanted to have a Cat in the Hat themed baby shower, and my mother-in-law asked me to help with the decorations.  I loved Lucky's Chevron Fish Birthday Banner so much that I decided to start with the same basic shape to create a Dr. Seuss Baby Shower Banner.  Here is the PDF of the Dr. Seuss Baby Shower Banner!  (PDF via Google Drive.)  


In addition to the banner, I made the mama-to-be a crochet cat in the hat hat and bow tie for the little boy.  Another cousin pulled out these scarves to decorate the table.  I knit the one on the right for my FIL years ago.  I'm glad that some of my knitting contributed to the decor, too.


Each letter is a full printed page that you can cut out.  These were printed on standard printer paper, which made the light shine through in a really pretty way.  I cut out the letters and then stapled them to a ribbon to hang above the table.  


The mom-to-be is Romanian, and I wanted to have a mini banner in Romanian that said "Welcome Baby."  I hope that I got the translation right! (Turns out I made a minor error when transferring the phrase to the banner but I was able to fix it with a sharpie.  Copil bun venit!) I printed these letters two to a page so I could make a mini banner for elsewhere in the party.


The banner comes ready to print "Welcome Baby" and then there are blank letters in each of the patterns so you can add your own name or own party theme.  I used a Dr. Seuss True Type Font for the letters and Dr. Seuss decals, but you can use whatever font you want. You can even change this to a birthday banner or whatever you want!  

Thumbnail view of the Free Dr. Seuss Baby Shower Banner PDF!  You get the pages to spell "Welcome Baby!" plus blank designs to add your own name or message.  


I wasn't sure how the colors would print out, but the shade of blue and red that we got from the printer matched the tablecloth and cake PERFECTLY!


I've really enjoyed creating these banners for Lucky's first birthday party and now my cousin's baby shower.  The general shape of the banner is the same, but I am super happy with the style.  I hope that I get the opportunity to make more in the future and share them with all of you!  I'm expecting this baby to show up any day now.  EEEE, I cannot wait for Lucky to meet his newest second cousin!  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lucky's Smash Cake Photoshoot

Today Mr. Lucky ChemKnits is 18 months old.  I cannot believe how fast the time has gone on.  I can think of no better time to (finally!) share with you some pictures from his first birthday photoshoot.  This is the culmination of many different knitting projects, baking experiments, practice photoshoots, photography and Photoshop classes.  Let's jump back in time 6 months and see where my head was at.

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Diary of a Mother to a 364 day old.  This is a lot more rambling than some of my other posts, but I'm really reflecting on this past year as I write between steps of cake decorating.  

Tomorrow is his first birthday.  This time a year ago I was trying to focus and keep myself calm because I was already having contractions.  I woke up in the middle of the night (morning) of October 7, 2013 and knew that you wanted to come out.  I just didn't know that it wouldn't happen for another 45 hours!  There are so many emotions swelling through my head as I prepare Lucky's first piece of cake, his smash cake to be eaten on his first birthday.  (There will be cupcakes and another smash at his first party.)


I baked the cake the night before. It took a lot of dye to get the blue that I wanted for his cake.  I wanted a bright blue, not a pastel.  Boy did it take a lot of dye.  I wrapped it in seran wrap so it could completely cool overnight.  There was enough batter to also give us two cupcakes.  Good, the parents deserve to have a treat for surviving the first year of parenthood.  Sometimes we would toast in the evenings for keeping our Little One (LO) alive for another day.  (Celebrate what you can, right?)


Lucky always makes me smile.  He can be a minx, but I love him.  (Thinking of Lady and the Tramp now. This is a good song in my head to have as I'm working on his cake.)

We set up the photoshoot the night before Lucky turned one.  TURNED ONE!  I wanted to make sure we could spend most of his special day playing and having fun (snapping pictures, too) but with minimal set up type effort.  The birthday boy woke up happy and we were ready to go!


We split his photoshoot up in to a few different sections.  First, I took some test shots in his jammies and turned out to get one of my favorite photos of the day (above.)  Then we took a picture of him in a white onesie with a "12 month" sticker to wrap up our picture of the day project.  After a break, we changed Lucky into his hand knit outfit and started snapping pictures with his older brother, Indy.  


We did get some of both boys in their hats, but Lucky was much more interested in playing with his hat than wearing it.


After Lucky's nap, it was finally time for the cake smash.  I took dozen photos of the cake the night before so I wouldn't have to worry about getting too many "before" shots once we put Lucky down.  Keith and I expected that Lucky would go right for the cake, knock it over and devour the sugary treat.  


Well, we were a little right.  Lucky went straight for his vibrant blue cake and planted his hand in the frosting... and then freaked out.  The poor guy did not like the sticky mess on his hand and gave us some crocodile tears.  Keith was worried that I was going to be disappointed (as I'd put so much planning into this smash cake shoot) but I was thrilled.  Of course I wouldn't want my baby to be sad, but he had an honest reaction and we got some GOLDEN pictures out of it.  


We got some spoons and let Lucky eat some of his cake off the the spoons.  Suddenly he discovered what a wonderful treat he had, and the tears stopped and we even got some smiles!  (Even if he refused to actually touch the cake again.)  

Face planting on the spoon of cake.  YUM!

What you don't see in these pictures are the dozens of time Lucky tried to walk off of the backdrop paper and Keith had to "reset" him in position.  I was laying on the floor to get the best angle, and I would NOT have been able to take so many pictures if I were by myself.  


Months before the shoot, I was so worried how this was going to come out.  I was worried that I wasn't going to "get the shot" or that when I put the pictures on the computer the exposure would be way off on all of them.  I only needed to make minor editing adjustments and I couldn't be more thrilled with how this came out.  Thank you for joining me in this journey as I shared all of the things I did to celebrate Lucky's first birthday!  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Free Birthday Knitting Patterns

Birthday Themed Knits

The best way to give a gift from the heart is to make it yourself. People most commonly think of knitting gifts for Christmas and other winter holidays, but knit gifts are applicable year round... which includes birthdays! When I talk about birthday knitting patterns, you may think that I'm crazy because you can create anything for someone's birthday. In this lens, I have collected knitting patterns that contain a birthday theme in the resulting item or were designed with someone's birthday in mind.

Free Birthday Themed Knitting Patterns

  • Jacksons Birthday Cake Candle
    A stuffed birthday candle appropriate for a large birthday cake. You may need to create a free Ravelry account to download this free knitting pattern.
  • Felted Birthday Crown
    This may have been designed for a toddler, but it could be adapted to fit any size head. Now you have a crown that is sturdy and could last for many years!
  • Felted Halloween Crown
    So what if this crown was named for Halloween? It would work for Birthdays, too!
  • Knitted Bunting Flags
    Spell out Happy Birthday or just create colorful flags as a party decoration. (Letters aren't included in the pattern, but I have assembled numerous alphabet knitting charts for you to choose from.)
  • The Birthday Box
    A dishcloth that spells out "Happy Birthday" (There are other birthday themed knit dishcloths on this page, but "The Birthday Box" is a free download.)
  • Celebrate-Knit (Birthday Hat Knitting Pattern)
    Create the classic birthday hat shape out of yarn. Go crazy with novelty yarns to make a special crown for the birthday girl/boy.
  • Let Them Knit Cake
    How about knitting a slice of birthday cake? If you love to bake, but cannot be with someone on their birthday, send them a knit slice to celebrate.
  • Birthday Cake Cloth
    This dishcloth has a silhouette of a birthday cake on a cake stand.
  • #28 Birthday Present
    A colorful knit afghan square that contains wrapped gifts.
  • Celebration Charts: Birthday Cake, Birthday Champagne, Birthday Balloons
    Colorful Birthday themed knitting charts.

Free Birthday Knitting Patterns for Women

  • Renates Birthday Socks
    Hit above the ankle and have cute beading detail at the cuff.
  • Emma's Birthday Bag
    Would work for a child too, or would make cute gift wrap.
  • Mom's Birthday Hat
    A cabled skull cap. You may need to create a free Ravelry account to download this free knitting pattern.
  • Birthday Shrug
    A simple, elbow length shrug to keep her warm and cozy on her birthday. You may need to create a free Ravelry account to download this free knitting pattern.
  • Jess' Birthday Sweater
    A stylish cabled raglan sweater that worked in the round from the bottom up. You may need to create a free Ravelry account to download this free knitting pattern.
  • Birthday Pi
    A stunning circular, lacy shawl. You may need to create a free Ravelry account to download this free knitting pattern.
  • Birthday Cowl and Mittens
    The cowl buttons up on the side and the mitts are fingerless. You may need to create a free Ravelry account to download this free knitting pattern.
  • Mom's Birthday Cowl
    A lacy cowl with a wavy stitch pattern.
  • Birthday Cowl
    Who knew that cowls were such a popular birthday design?
  • Birthday Legwarmers
    Classic style, from ankle to knee.
  • Ingrid's Birthday Scarf
    A lacy zigzag on this elegant and simple scarf.
  • Birthday Cowl
    I really don't understand what the fascination is with naming cowls for birthdays, but here is another one!

Free Birthday Knitting Patterns for Men, Children and More




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This pattern search was previously published on Sqiudoo, however with the migration of Sqiudoo to Hubpages at the end of 2014 some of the pattern searches don't work for Hubpages's model.  I have reposted the former lens/hub here.  All the research finding the free knitting patterns is my own and I wrote all of the descriptions of the patterns unless otherwise noted.  Please let me know if any of the links are broken, I am working on migrating multiple pattern searches over here at once.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Practicing for the Perfect First Birthday Photos

I recently posted about Lucky's Under the Sea First Birthday Party.  For months I've been talking about the preparations and different crafts I made to make the day special (admittedly mostly for me and Keith.) The party took place on the weekend after Lucky's birthday.  For his birthday itself, I had a whole cake smash photoshoot planned.  I scoured Pinterest and Etsy for the best backdrop ideas, looking for things I could do myself inside my home.  I even took a photography class (although mainly because I wanted to learn how to use my Canon EOS 70D Digital SLR Camera) and got tips on how to add more light to no natural light, practically a basement aparment.  I purchased three clamp lights from Home Depot (I think they were around $7 each).  I this post, I will share the physical setups I used to achieve different shots.


Now I want to add a disclaimer that I am not a professional photographer.  Not even close.  There are probably better photography tutorials out there, but I thought that it might benefit some people to see how I set up the cake smash photoshoot, and the trials along the way.  

Photoshoot Attempt 1: Balloons

As soon as we moved into our apartment last June, I knew that I wanted to start prepping for this cake smash photoshoot.  We picked up a bunch of balloons in blue and white, comparing colors and metallic versus regular colors.  I pointed the clamp lights directly at my subject.  I slipped a piece of poster board behind the balloons to see what a color backdrop might do.  (I knew that I didn't want to photograph against the white wall.)  


Indy is a trooper, and he always helped me set the scene.  Indy was a valuable asset in these practice shots.  I would check my exposure the white balance on Indy before bringing the baby into the shoot.


When Lucky woke up from his nap, I tried to sit him down and take some shots.  Now he was newly mobile at this point, and I quickly realized how hard it would be to shoot a moving target.  I would especially need to make sure to have some width to my backdrop.  It was a lot easier to shoot Lucky before he was mobile.  I used to be able to just sit him in position and then click away until I got the shot.  Now that he is a toddler (gasp!  he is still my baby!) I have to employ other tactics to get him to stay and look at the camera.  It really helps to have another adult on hand to stand just behind you and the camera.  My husband, Keith, will talk and sing to Lucky, making him smile and look at the camera.  Keith also functions in the "put the baby back in position" category.


Lucky also enjoyed the balloons so it was hard to keep his attention.


In the end, I didn't like the shadows the lights created on the balloons.  I decided to test out some pennants.

Attempt 2: Pennants


A few days later I set the scene with two different sizes of pennants on the wall.  I did learn that I liked the smaller pennants better than the big ones.  


Once again I pointed the lights directly at my subject, but I was still not a fan of all of the shadows I created. I ordered some Pacon Fadeless Art Paper 48" x 50 ft in Light Blue and decided to retry the pennants on a smoother surface to see if that made a difference.

Attempt 3: Paper Backdrop with Pennants


I attached the paper to the wall and floor using painter's tape.  While testing with Indy, I made another decision.  Instead of pointing the clamp lights directly at the subject, I would point them up.  This gave the room more light (allowing me to use a faster shutter speed to capture my toddler) PLUS eliminated the shadows.  



I'm much closer to what I wanted to achieve.  Suddenly I am in a set up that is starting to look more professional.  

 

The light blue paper worked amazing for a background.  I also ordered a roll of black paper to use in a Halloween shoot.  The black was much harder to work with because wrinkles showed up more and it was hard to photograph "true."  In post processing it didn't matter if the blue was slightly off, but you could really tell if something wasn't right with the black.  If you want a black backdrop I would try to find some matte fabric.

Attempt 4:  Lucky's Birthday


The big day was here!  The night before Lucky turned 1, I worked to set up the pennants and backdrop.  There are three pieces of paper on the wall: two overlapping and a third in the center which ended up being extraneous.  I was hoping to minimize the amount of seams that you could see, but I ended up not removing any in post processing.  (With the black paper you really see where the paper overlaps.)   The pennants were created out of scrapbook paper hole punched and threaded onto some ribbon.


Lucky was walking by this point, so I needed to make sure that we would have plenty of light.  I used all three clamp lights, a tall floor lamp and the overhead chandelier.  


Another benefit of the paper backdrop - when Lucky smashed his cake it would be really easy to clean up!  We made sure to break up the picture taking so we could also do some fun things like play in the park and nap.  We did a few sessions of Lucky in different outfits in front of the backdrop before any cake was served.  

This shoot would NOT have been possible without Keith.  I really needed another adult to keep putting Lucky back in the center of the room while I lay on the floor shooting as many frames as I could.  I think I took almost 1000 pictures this day!  Remember, you can always delete but you can't go back in time and take another shot.  


Indy was, of course, a trooper through the whole thing.  Next week I'll share with you more pictures from his photoshoot.