Monday, November 23, 2015

Dinosaur Nursery Chalkboards

I loved the whale chalkboard I made for Lucky's nursery, and I knew that if I ever had a second child I'd want to do something similar with a different theme.  Well we're expecting our next child and before even finding out the sex of the child I knew that I wanted to have a dinosaur themed nursery.

We chose paint in purple, Campground (green) and Dark Grey for the chalkboard.  The vision is to have a Brontosaurus body on the lowest (green) chalk board and then have the neck go through the purple with the head on the top (gray) board.  The shade of gray is the same one that we used on Lucky's whale, so there is some cohesion on the project.

I couldn't remember what size canvas I used for Lucky's version, but thankfully I had the blog post so I was able to look back at the pictures to discover we used 9x12 canvases.  (See!  The reasons to document everything in my "lab notebook" are really helpful when you want to reproduce something!)

This green is going to need more than one coat.  The Orange and Black from the Halloween display were much thicker after the first coat!  

Funny enough, I'm working on this dino decor exactly one year after I made Lucky's whale chalkboard.  While working on this post I got a Timehop of me painting the backgrounds of the original chalkboards.  I had no idea 1 year ago I'd have such an important WIP on the way!  I'm really hoping that the purple and dark gray are darker than this green, after the second coat it is still super streaky.

It took 3-4 coats of each of the colors to get even coats.  It felt like this took forever because I was running up and down stairs on different days to try to get this completed.  Finally I was able to add the chalkboard paint coats, the first vertical and the second horizontal.  Once this dries I'll be ready to start attempting my dinosaur design!

I know that I want to draw a Brontosaurus (there are other names for this type of creature, some may be more accurate for this sauropod, but this is the one that comes to mind the fastest.)  I want the head on the top panel, the neck extending in the middle and the body on the first.  I just have to figure out how I'm going to line up the silhouette.  This vision of the dinosaur print was the whole inspiration for the dinosaur nursery, an inspiration I had upon finishing up Lucky's whale print.

Chalk can wipe off, right?  How hard can that be?  Well I had a chalkboard for Lucky's first birthday and the chalk pen didn't wipe off as easily as I would have hoped.  Something about the alcohol in it makes it stick more.  I decided to attempt the first outline in real chalk so that I could have an easier time erasing if needed.

Unfortunately I accidentally deleted the first sketch of the dinosaur off of my camera so I can't share it with you, but the normal chalk stick wiped off really easily so I could get the shape I wanted.  The tail took me a few tries, but the head and legs only took one correction.

With these canvas chalkboards, you really do want a chalk pen to do any substantial drawing or writing.  You can't use enough pressure with a chalk stick to make a dark line, let alone fill it in!  I could have extended my brontosaurus head higher up on the purple board but I didn't want the neck to become even more comical than it is.  There is no way this tiny tail could balance that neck!  To help fill out the space I added a sun since this baby boogaloo is my sunshine boy.

Isn't she cute?  I am so happy that I was able to create the vision that I had in my head.  This was much harder than the whale chalkboard because for that project I had something to work from, this image started out in my brain.  I may do some design work, but I wouldn't consider myself an artist so this is quite an accomplishment for me.

I really liked how the hanging ribbon turned out from the Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet! canvas, so I purchased some 5/8" ribbon and cut two 1.5 yard strips and glued them to the back of the canvas with elmer's glue.

Since we're working on hanging things up (finally) in Lucky's room, too, I also added some fun polkadot ribbon to the Whale chalkboards.  This will be MUCH easier to hang up and we won't have to use tick tack to keep it on the walls like before.  

I can't wait to keep working on little Boogaloo's nursery!  Please let me know if you have any fun Dinosaur Nursery ideas!  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I couldn't get enough of snow dyeing!

The first time I tried to snow dye yarn (last February), I had so much fun that I couldn't stop.  Before I knew it I had created THREE additional snow dyeing videos.  I even filmed some of them in tandem since the snow took so long to melt.  Today I'm going to show some behind the scenes thoughts on snow dyeing roving with food coloring.  I chose Wilton's Violet because I was hoping that with the melting action we would get some color breaking.

Some tips before you begin:  Make sure things are cold before you start so you don't shock the fibers, I presoaked my wool in the fridge so it would cool down.  I also cooled down the dye solution so I would not immediately melt the snow upon dye application

The first technique I did (snow dyeing with Kool Aid) would work with ice dyeing, but this wouldn't work as well with ice.  You could get some really cool patterns I suppose pouring liquid dye on top of ice, but by gently applying the liquid to snow, it will take some time to soak through onto the fibers.

The snow was MUCH denser this time.  How could this be if it were from the same snow?  I collected the snow last night and put it in my back hallway overnight which keeps stuff frozen, but it must have been just at 33 or 34 degrees so some melted a bit to make it dense heavy snow, versus fluffy powder.  I put an entire bucket on the two hanks of fiber where I only did a fraction of a bucket last time.  This will take all day to melt!  I hope I don't need to shower later today...

What could go wrong?
  • The fiber could be felted because it was shocked from the cold
  • Not enough vinegar in the fiber, color added but won't absorb, rinses out after setting
  • The dye itself is too pale to show up on the grey fiber
  • I heat the yarn too soon, shocking hte fibers and felting it.  

But ooo, I'm getting excited about being able to do an over dyeing video if this doesn't turn out the way I want.  How exciting!   At 2.5 hours I peaked and I see a litlte pink on one corner of fiber.  Is this hope?  I hope it penetrates!

While waiting for the snow roving to finish up, I started feeling pessamistic about the amount of color that would be depsoited in the roving, and decided that I wanted to take advantgae of the fresh snow and dye some more roving, this time with KoolAid.  I know how well that workd with the first bit of yarn, so I will set up some roving with KoolAid (and some silk hankies with KoolAid) to dye overnight.  (Stay tuned, I'll provide some behind the scenes throughts from these dyeing experiments by the end of the year!)

I started filming at 8:40 AM and the snow had just barely melted by the time I was ready to head to bed that evening. (The bathroom was the coldest room in my old apartment, but still... brrrr!)

When breaking Wilton's violet with snow, I kept saying in the video that this is happening differently than when dyeing in solution, that the blue moves more and the pink less.  This is actually happening the same.  The blue is moving faster than the pink, what is different is that the blue would strike the fiber first.  There was a potential for there to be fewer blue areas on the fiber and the pink to be more spread out, but we actually see pretty even blue/pink distribution over the finished fiber.

This grey is a lot lighter than my overdyeing charcoal grey experiment, but it is still hard to see if any color absorbed.   That definitely took some red hues, right?

I nuked the fiber in the microwave for 3 min in 1 min intervals until hot to the touch.  Then I let it cool down overnight (just because I wanted to go to bed.  It has been a LOOONG day of dyeing!)

What, no picture of the final product?  Watch the video to see where we ended up!  What would I do differently next time? I'd try to use fresher snow. This snow was wet and heavy and therefore took FOREVER to melt.

I took advantage of the massive snow storms in February to try some snow dyeing. We know that we can break Wilton's Violet food coloring into the teal and fuchsia colors through dip dyeing and hand painting, but what happens if we let the dye diffuse through snow before it hits the fiber?

Video Contents (Skip ahead to the part you need!)
[0:00] Introduction & Materials required for Snow Dyeing Wool Fiber
[0:50] Presoaking the fiber in cool water/vinegar solution
[2:13] Mixing the Wilton's Violet Food coloring Solution to apply to the snow
[7:04] Covering the pre-soaked wool fiber with snow
[13:07] Adding dye to the snow
[16:22] 15 min post dye 
[17:27] 50 min post dye
[17:54] 2 h post dye
[18:15] 4 h post dye
[19:15] 5 h post dye - close up
[20:05] 5 h 40 min post dye - is any blue sticking?
[21:41] 7 h post dye
[22:20] 10 h post dye - transferring to plate
[25:23] Microwaving the fiber to set the dye with heat (3 min on high total)
[26:03] Washing the fiber (the moment of truth! Will the color come out?)
[28:11] Reveal of the dry, died roving and conclusions

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sheet Music Flowers

When do you do when your best friend requests a Beatles themed baby shower?  Well you look and try to come up with a bunch of fun Beatles crafts!  When I was looking for music inspired decorations I saw someone who had made origami out of sheet music and knew that I wanted to try to do this myself.  I found some instructions for Easy Origami Kusudama Flower plus a video and decided to give this a try.

I printed out a bunch of Beatles sheet music.  I searched in google images for high resolution files (at least 2 MP) and those were a bit stronger. Ideally I wanted songs with lyrics on them so they could be identifiable (each flower would have 5 different songs), but ended up with maybe 16 distinct pieces of sheet music.  Some of the songs were repeats, but they were visually different so I let them count.

I followed the following instructions (the formatting of the page is a little wacky, scroll down and you can see the step by step images) or watch the following video when I wanted to make sure I was doing things die.

Before I got started, I needed to create my sheet music squares.  Since the first origami step was to fold the paper in half on the diagonal with the color side out, this is how I folded the paper to cut a strip off of my squares.

I don't think I've worked with rubber cement since I was in elementary school.  I remember that we would paint our desks, rub it off and make "bouncy balls" out of what was left... boy were we smart.

The folds, right before gluing
The cement is much goopier than I had remembered, and I was bummed to see that my brush started out split and stiff.  However since precision wasn't essential here I easily was able to assemble petals into collections of 5 for my flowers.

I'm sure glad that rubber cement dries quickly!  To assemble the flower itself I would glue two petals together, and then connect two pairs and a single to make the 5-petal flower.

What is sticking out the bottom of my flower?  Why that is a chopstick. I wanted to turn these flowers into centerpieces for the baby shower, so I needed a way to incorporate them into a vase.  While the 5 petals were still recently assembled (i.e. the glue was still wet) I dipped the chopstick tip into rubber cement and stuck it through the bottom of the flower.  It required that I hold onto the flower for a little bit so things would dry correctly, but I think my prototypes turned out really nicely.

When my goal became 16 flowers, I created an assembly line.  I created a pdf of 16 different songs, so I cut these down to squares, folded the petals and then assembled the flowers in batches so I could try to avoid having identical song pages in each flower.

Not that it think anyone will be looking at these flowers too closely.  I doubt anyone would notice a mistake unless they spent time trying to match the flower to the song.  I cut holes in an upside down box to hold the flowers up so they wouldn't get crushed between my crafting time and the shower itself.  

Sheet Music Flowers look amazing in all colors!

Stay tuned to see how the baby shower itself came together.  I'm pretty proud of what we were able to do for a lucky new mama-to-be!  (Happy Anniversary!!)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Knitting Fresh Brioche: Creating Two-Color Twists & Turns

When I was shopping in the Vogue Knitting online store (using up my gift certificate that was part of my conference package last fall), I selected this book just based on the cover.  Okay, so I peaked at the patterns on Ravelry before I completed the order, but I thought that the designs looked stunning.  I don't know much about Brioche knitting but I thought that Knitting Fresh Brioche: Creating Two-Color Twists & Turns by Nancy Marchent might give me insight into a new technique.  

I expected that Brioche knitting would be similar to the Knit one Below technique but the lines here flow and twist to create more than just vertical stripes.  This is a whole new world with new terminology.  Thank goodness the book had a hefty tutorial section with full color step by step photographs for these techniques.  The first 50 pages of this book are teaching you HOW to brioche.  I imagine I will also have to watch some videos but it is not the fault of Marchant, sometimes I personally learn easier when I can see someone do it.  This is super a fantastic resource to have in hand as I attempt to try something new!  Since the charts have completely different symbols, it is helpful to have multiple pages dedicated on how to read them.

Knitting Fresh Brioche is a stitchionary in addition to a learn to Brioche and pattern book.  Each of the stitch motifs are shown with color photographs of the RS and WS of the fabric, written instructions and charts.  The stitches have twists and turns like organic roots flowing through soil.  I am mesmerized looking at the patterns and can't wait to have the chance to try swatching out some of these designs.

I had an epic failure when I tried to make some mosaic mittens.  I am sad to say that I quit working on this project entirely.  I was fine until the increases on the thumb started and I had to keep track of where to put them in my head since the chart accommodated a few different sizes.  It probably would have gone better had I recharted the sections I wanted to make.  With a shawl or scarf I might have better luck trying out a complex slip stitched colorwork design.  Brioche seems much more complex on the outset but I think it only feels that way because I haven't tried it yet.

All of the patterns in this book are scarves and shawls because Marchant's stitch designs really almost design an entire neck wrap themselves.  All of the stitch samples were done in the same two colors, so now Marchant knit samples in different fiber types, weights and colors to show how much variety you can get out of these beautiful stitches.  All patterns have both written instructions and charts.  I really appreciate that there are both male and female models showing off the garments.  You might think that all of these flowy winding patterns look feminine but they are also a much more interesting version of a striped pattern.  I think that Keith might end up with one of these coming his way!  

I love finding new crafts and techniques to experiment with.  I cannot wait to try out Knitting Fresh Brioche and am super excited to use Marchant as my teacher.  I know that with her book I'll create something beautiful.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Trick or Treat; Smell my Feet

Handprint and footprint art is all over pinterest, how hard could it be to recreate?  Well we tried to take some foot prints and hand prints when Lucky was 10 days old, and we ended up with ink everywhere and never got a decent print.

I found a picture of a three tiered wall hanging that I really wanted to recreate.  The set featured footprint ghosts, handprint spiders and footprint Frankenstein monsters.  (It can often be hard on Pinterest to find the original article featuring the craft versus someone who borrowed pictures from a bunch of different sites.  I try hard to link back to the original.  In this case the original source was not linked.)  

Of course, the first step is to paint the canvas background.  I planned to do two coats of the color on each creating one Orange and two Black canvases.  Looking closely at the original I realized that I was missing some yellow paint, I will need to pick that up on my next trip to the craft store.

The first coat of paint went on nice and thick.  I've found that some of the craft smart paints can be pretty thin so certain colors may need multiple coats but with the black and Orange I should be fine with two coats total.  I am doing the painting on packing paper on my carpeted third floor because the toddler and puppy rarely come up here and this way I don't have to lose my dining room table for hours waiting for things to dry.  Hopefully I got no splatter on the carpet!

When it was time to to do the handprints and food prints I was nervous.  I thought it was going to be a messy disaster with a crying toddler.  Boy was I wrong!  We started off with some tests on construction paper to get a sense of the paint thickness I should paint onto Lucky's feet.  We had Lucky in the high chair and Keith was present to keep Lucky from kicking me with a painted foot.  Lucky LOVED having his foot painted and kept saying "foot foot" as we were practicing.

The practices were helpful to see the pressure and how we had to align his apendages.  For his hands we painted them and Keith held them from behind to keep him from panting everything.  Lucas LOVED making hand prints and seeing the results after touching the paper or canvas, and kept requesting to do more.  I know that this is only the beginning of the hand/foot print art that we will do in this household.

LAB Hand and foot prints at almost 23 months old
Now I just have to adorn these like the cute pinterest picture.  I let the prints dry before I started my decorating.  I was nervous about my penmenship, but figured that I could always paint over and redo any mistakes.  I plan to decorate the canvases exactly like the pinterest images, but maybe taking it a little further if I have more blank space.

For the final embellishments, I started with the decoration types shown in the original photo and then became more confident and branched out a bit on my own.  I love my mini pumpkins surrounding the ghosts, even if my spacing isn't quite so even.  I added a date about the monster feet so that in 30 years we'll know which child created these prints and how old the munchkin was.

Finally, I had to add the ribbon ties to the project.  This is the last step, and I'm surprisingly a little nervous.

I cut the 5/8" x 3 yard ribbon into two equal pieces.  I wanted to make sure there was enough ribbon on top to trim to the bow/hanger I wanted.  Then I spaced the canvases and used Elmer's glue to secure the ribbon to the canvases ~2" away from either end.  I was more concerned with the ribbons being taught between the canvases versus on a canvas itself.

It was so hard to wait for the glue to dry.  I wanted to just flip over the canvases and see how the ribbon looks but I didn't want to mess it up.  Patience is not one of my virtues, but I'll try to wait it out.  

These are so adorable!  I cannot think of a better way to commemorate the celebration of a 2 year old's Halloween birthday party!  It will be so fun to pull this out of storage year after year at the beginning of fall.  I wonder what other fun holiday themed hand and foot print projects we can come up with.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Monkey Woobie

Over the last few years, my circle of friends that I consider family has expanded considerably. This past summer I had to prepare Woobies for two babies set to join us in this world, Lucky's Godmother's first born and Lucky's baby brother or sister.  (I've known what woobie I wanted to make for my second child for a very long time, but that is the story for another post!)  For Laura's baby, I selected the monkey woobie.  I thought this woobie was adorable plus it sort of looks like an ewok.  What do you think?

I haven't knit a woobie in over a year now since I last made the Giraffe Woobie for Pals Baby #9.  I don't really remember the nuances of the pattern, but I kept really detailed construction notes from each woobie in case I was ever going to make one again.  This helps me keep track of rounds without having to count my stitches quite so much!

I used KnitPicks Shine Sport in Mongoose (Brown) and Cream and knit the woobie on size 3 (3.25 mm) needles.

My woobie collection

I had to use a new set of size of knitting needles for this project.  I accidentally snapped my last pair when I put it in the top of a soft sided suitcase on my way to Boston!  I know that KnitPicks would replace my needles if I wrote them, but this was a user packing error, not a fault of the needles.  One of the cables was a little loose so I had already ordered a pretty Caspian Wood set when I discovered the cracked pair.  Lucky me!

I realized that my size 3 and below dpn's were packed in with my stuff headed into storage rather than in my "while in limbo" kit.  I'll be able to complete over 50% of the woobie using a magic loop, but at some point I'll have to stop and wait until I have access to all of my needles.  This is only a bummer because although I don't NEED to finish this before the baby shower at the end of June if I were able to finish it then I could include it with the other shower presents.  I hope I will still finish as much as possible while this is one of the only projects I have access to.

Notes from Construction - I took a ton of notes on previous woobies, but since it has been a while since I've finished one and my notes are spread out over 4 different posts I decided to consolidate some of my notes that I kept looking up on this woobie so I can have it in one place for next time.  
  • I'm so glad for my previous notes!  With 300 stitches to cast on I'd be tempted to use a backwards loop cast on, but I see that I did a longtail cast on in the 4 previous woobies that I knit.   With the longtail caston and skipping the first knit round I'll be ready to go.  I made sure to do 4 arm lengths for my long tail before casting on.  Nailed it!  Over one arm length of yarn left over.   
  • Mongoose Ball 1 weighs 52 g.
  • As with the other woobies, I do my decreases differently than is written in the pattern.  Slip the first stitch of the round, knit until 2 sts before marker and make a cdd.  The first slipped stitch becomes part of the last cdd.  
  • Ball 1 completed near the beginning of round 16.  Brown Ball #2 weighs 53 g.  
  • CC2 (cream) weighs 30 g.  It weighs 22.5 g after the 3 cc rounds.  
  • Each time I knit a woobie I forget how long it takes to combine the CO edge with the live stitches.  Things will speed up after this round, because the decreases will make things smaller and smaller and smaller!
  • Brown Ball 2 completed on round 39 (15 rounds past the 3 round cream contrasting stripe.)  Brown ball #3 weighs 52.0 g.  
  • In past woobies, I had some counting errors with my decreases, and this caused me to count my stitches frequently.  I haven't counted heavily, except to check whether I was close to 35 sts between each marker to begin the extra decreases.  I decided for good measure to check them all and got (41, 41, 41, 41).  Woot woot, I'm on target!  
  • When I hit 35 sts between markers, I knit 1 round without decreases and started adding the extras.  
  • Next round, S1, K 15, CDD, K14, CDD around.  
  • Brown ball 3 completed after round 71 was completed (60 sts remain), 47 rounds past the cream stripe.  Brown ball 4 weighs 51.3 g.
  • After I hit 28 sts, I knit 1 more round before the next set of decreases.  (52 rounds total past the cream edge)
  • During the crossing for the bottom of the head I accidentally dropped some stitches.  Ugh, but with an extra needle things were quickly back to normal.
  • I haven't had to do colorwork on the face of one of these woobies yet.  Well, I've done a color change but that doesn't really count.  This monkey has some stranded colorwork!   The floats are rather long, but I don't think they should be too noticeable.

Less than 2 months after casting on for this woobie I've closed off the head.  Just the ears to go and then this cute little monkey man will be ready for Mr. Blue Harvest!

I lost my yarn scale in the middle of this project, so when you see weights with decimal points then you know I'm weighing on my new, more precise scale.  My old scale (MIA in the move) is +/- 0.5 g and this scale is +/- 0.05 g (although I'd really put it closer to +/- 0.1-0.2).  In the grand scheme of things I might round the numbers but we'll see how things go.   This scale is smaller than my old one, maybe 4" across or so.  I may have to use bowls more frequently to weigh yarns and other projects, a ball of yarn hangs over the edge and makes the reading less accurate.

After I finished the embroidery, Lucky (now 22 months old) kept stealing the monkey from me "Aaaa aaa aa aa" so it was really hard to take a picture.  Each time I got the woobie set up he would snitch it from me!  Soon he was carrying around both the monkey and the zebra like a proud little guy.

I mean, who can resist this face?

In the end, I had 36.6 g left of Brown Ball #4 and 16.9 g left of cream ball #1.  This project required 29 yards of cream (13 g) and 379 yards (172 g) of the brown.

These woobies are going to be great friends.  I can't wait for our little boys to meet and play together!