Monday, September 18, 2017

Dyepot Weekly - Now on Kickstarter!

I have a really exciting announcement!  I just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first 25 episodes of my new yarn dyeing video series, Dyepot Weekly.  I want to start sharing new and exciting dyeing videos on a regular schedule and expand my arsenal of tools to include commercial acid dyes, natural dyes, and even more varieties of food coloring.  Will you help Kickstart Dyepot Weekly?  

The Dyepot Weekly Kickstarter Video

With your support, I will purchase new dyes and equipment to use in Dyepot Weekly videos.  Don't worry, I won't stop exploring fun and innovative ways to dye yarn with food coloring.  I have a list of over 50 dyeing video ideas that just deal with food coloring!  I want to expand my experiments to other dyes so I can answer more of your questions.  I am frequently asked how commercial acid dyes compare to food coloring.  I know that the dyeing techniques themselves are very similar, but I don't know how quickly acid dyes absorb to yarn, if any of the colors break, or just generally what it is like to use them.  In addition to dyes and yarn, the funds raised will help me purchase new pots and other equipment so I can safely use non-food grade ingredients to dye yarn.  

I'm offering backers of the Dyepot Weekly Kickstarter Project many exciting rewards.  For the first time ever, you can get some yarn dyed by ChemKnits!  The physical rewards include yarn dyed in past ChemKnits Tutorials videos, hand-dyed & handspun miniskeins, tie dyed T-shirts, yarn dyed in future Dyepot Weekly episodes, and more.  You also have the opportunity to select sponsorship credit and potentially creative control over the project in a Dyepot Weekly episode.  

I hope you will take the time to check out the Dyepot Weekly Kickstarter campaign.  Thank you for following me through all of my crafting adventures.  You, my readers, are the ones that have inspired me to design, write, and explore more crafts.  I look forward to all of the beautiful projects we create together.  

Friday, September 15, 2017

Dip Dyeing in to Break Different Brands of Black Food Coloring

I've been on a dip dyeing kick lately.  This technique is one of the best ways to accentuate the way different food coloring mixtures will break apart, i.e. separate into the individual colors.  I realized that Wilton changed their formulation of the black icing color in the last few years.  It used to have a mixture of Red #3, Blue #1, Yellow #5 and #6 to Blue #1, Blue #2, Red #40 and Yellow #5.  We know from experience that Blue #1 and Red #3 break brilliantly (see all of my Wilton's Violet videos).  The McCormick's Black* has a formulation similar to the new Wilton's Black food coloring; containing Red #40, blue #1 and Yellow #5.

*My McCormick's black is the same that I used in the past video, so it is many years old.  I'm not sure if they've changed their formulation.  

I thought it would be fun to redo an old dyeing experiment of mine.  I first shared the video Breaking Black: Dyeing Yarn with Wilton's vs McCormick's Black Food Coloring over three years ago.  Color breaking from kettle dyeing fiber is beautiful, but the results of the breaking can be more exaggerated when you dip dye your fiber.  I decided to take three full skeins of yarn, make three pots of dye, and then dip dye the fiber side by side so you could see the differences.

Did you know that I usually leave a table of contents in my video description? On YouTube (or here), if you click on the highlighted time, it will jump to the relevant section of the video. Sometimes these videos can be pretty long, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to jump around and find the information you need for your own dyeing projects.

VIDEO CONTENTS: [0:00] Introduction and description of the formulation in the different black food colorings [2:22] Mixing the dyes (into 1/2 cup of water) [5:10] Setting up the Dyebaths - 8 cups water + 3T white vinegar + the dye mixed in the previous clip in separate pots [7:39] Presoaking the yarn (3 skeins of 100g KnitPicks Bare Worsted Wool of the Andes yarn) [8:23] Dip dyeing one skein into McCormick's black food coloring [14:17] Dip Dyeing one skein into the old formulation of Wilton's black food coloring [18:10] Dip dyeing one skein into the new formulation of wilton's black food coloring [22:18] Quick comparison of the yarns [23:25] Washing the dyed skeins [24:49] Conclusions and comparison to a dip dyed Wilton's violet skein of yarn

I'm starting to pay more attention to the specific ingredients in various shades of food coloring.  The Chemistry of Food Coloring is pretty interesting.  I also used the term "yarn chromatography" in a YouTube comment today and that is still making me giggle even though it is a perfect term for the color breaking.  

What kind of dyeing experiments would you like to see?  Most of my favorite videos are inspired by your comments! 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dinosaur Footprint Birthday Banner

When my little "Rowdy" dinosaur tuned one year old last January, I needed to create a splash for his party.  I put a lot of work into his brother's first birthday party and I wanted Rowdy to be able to look back and feel like I did a lot for him, too.  A central part of any birthday party is the "Happy Birthday" banner.  Keith and I created this amazing rainbow dinosaur footprint birthday banner for Rowdy's party and we wanted to share the free printable with you today.

Download the FREE Rainbow Dinosaur Footprint Birthday Banner PDF (via Google Drive) so you can add some fun rainbow footprints to your own party.  The PDF also includes some blank footprints in each of the 5 colors so you can add a name or change the message on the banner.

The FREE Rainbow Dinosaur Footprint Birthday Banner PDF

For Rowdy's party, we printed one footprint per page.  The banner took up a whole wall!  I taped each footprint individually to the crepe paper wall I had set up.  Alternatively, you could attach them to some string and then hang them on wall.  For a smaller banner, you can print the footprints 2/page.

I used a free Jurassic Park font for the letters.  I don't think that anyone noticed the font at the party, but I liked knowing that there was an additional dinosaur connection.  The letters themselves are very narrow and so we used 500 pt font to get them to fill the footprints nicely.

Slowly I'm getting through all of the DIY projects I did for Rowdy's birthday party.  (Very slowly, he is almost 20 months old!) I thought I was almost done but then I keep discovering more projects!  Make sure you check out my Dinosaur First Birthday Party Pinterest Board to see more of my inspiration.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Summary of my first Live Spin-Along!

At the beginning of August, I held a Live Spin-Along on the ChemKnits Tutorials YouTube Channel where I spun an entire 2-ply yarn on camera over the course of 6 episodes.  When I testing out going live I asked you what you wanted to see, and someone asked me to do some spinning live.  In this first spin-along, I spun roving from two different ChemKnits videos, Breaking Wilton's Violet Food Coloring for Speckled Roving and Dip Dyeing Braided Roving with Wilton's Violet Food Coloring.

I have a playlist for the whole spin along, but you can also watch the whole series embedded here in this post.

In the first video, I introduced the spinning project and talked a bit about the tools that I use for spinning.  My spinning wheel is a Kromski Fantasia and I LOVE it.  I consider myself a novice spinner but I found it really easy to learn with "Sandry" as my instrument.

In the second episode, I let the viewers pick which roving I would start spinning.  The dip dyed braid was the overwhelming winner. I spun almost all of this fiber in this episode.  Unfortunately comments during the YouTube Livestream don't show up in the final video. I try to keep track of questions I get during the video and post relevant links as soon as the replay is done processing.

In the third episode, I finish spinning the first set of singles and start spinning the speckled roving. Both rovings have similar colors (although one is a base of Full Circle Roving in Pigeon and the other is Bare Wool of the Andes Roving) since they were both dyed with Wilton's Violet food coloring.  However, the singles are quite different because the dip dyed roving gave us longer color repeats than the speckle dyed roving.  

In the 4th part of this series I completed the 2-ply yarn.  Plying yarn is so much faster and requires so much less attention than drafting.  I find that it is a lot harder to make mistakes.  Of course, when I started doing some N-plying I discovered that I couldn't really talk, focus on keeping my hands in camera and ply at the same time.  I'll try to do another N-ply demonstration sometime in the future.  

Finally, in the conclusion of this series I share the finished yarn and talk about some of the stats from this project.  I spun two Z singles and combined them in an S 2-ply yarn.  I created a few yards of an N-plyed yarn with the leftover singles.

The finished yarn: 
Big Skein - 90 wraps = 360 feet = 120 yards
Small Skein - 20 wraps = 80 feet = 26.7 yards

With over 140 yards of yarn I have more than enough to make a hat!  The 2-ply yarn is ~10 wpi, or worsted weight

The small skein of N-ply yarn - 5.5 wraps (~2 ft/wrap) = 11 ft = 3.7 yards.  This means that I had 11 more yards of the dip dyed yarn than the speckled yarn.  This isn't so bad if you consider how many yards I spun to begin with.

Along with these series, I made a bonus Time Lapse video.  Thank you, Jake for making this request!

 What would you like to watch me do live?  I leave most of my videos pretty long and unedited so you guys can see more of the dyeing process, but there are certainly some moments that I leave out.  Make sure that you subscribe to the ChemKnits Tutorials YouTube Channel so you can get notifications for when I go live.

This post contains some Amazon Affiliate links. None of the product selections or opinions were solicited.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

Star Wars R2D2/BB8 Mickey Ears

It was time for me to make the first pair of Mickey ears for myself.  I planned to make myself a pair of Little Mermaid ears, but I still needed to track down the supplies.  I had all of the felt that I needed to create some adorable droid ears, so this became my next project.

Last year, Lucky and Rowdy were R2D2 and BB8, respectively, for Halloween.  These are the best costumes I've ever created, in my opinion, and I wanted to bring that essence into my ears.  My plan was to cut shapes out of felt, sew them down with invisible thread and then add a few more details with puffy paint.

I wanted to put a little more effort into this set and make the ears two sided.  They're not exactly reversible, but people should recognize who the ears represent from my back.  I also made the bow removable so that I could be more or less feminine depending on my mood.  (The bow obscures some of the cutest details, but I do love the black sparkles!)

Materials for R2D2/BB8 Mickey Mouse Ears

I used the patterns I created with my first sets of ears to cut out four pieces of thick white felt.  (I was in a Star Wars mood so I was also working on Keith's Boba Fett ears at the same time.)  The felt I used is the more expensive $1.99/large sheet felt at craft stores.  It has enough stability to stand up on headbands without additional reinforcement.  My plan was to decorate all 4 flat pieces with the sew-on felt sections, sew the ears together, add pufy paint, and then stuff and attach the ears to the dollar store headband with hot glue.

I looked around Pinterest for BB8 and R2D2 inspiration, and then took a deep breath and started cutting shapes.  I cut these pieces by eye and then adjusted them to be the size that I wanted.  Rather than cutting the shapes to fit the curves of the ear base, I let them overhang and would trim them after the ears had been assembled.  This gave me some allowance should the pieces slip during sewing.

You don't have to use Invisible Thread to sew down the felt embellishments, but I like not having to change out my thread colors as I switch felt colors.  I stitched around all of the shapes, including along the outside curved edge.  I knew that I would sew over this again when I attached the front and back pieces together, but I wanted to make sure that the colored felt pieces were secure.  

With wrong sides facing, I stitched around the outside of the ears and along the bottom notches.  I left the tabs section open so I would be able to stuff the ears before securing them to the headbands.

Once I trimmed the ears, you could really see the droids.  The hand cut shapes aren't perfectly matched, but I think that helps give R2D2 and BB8 a cartoonish vibe.  

I waited to add the puffy paint until after I had sewn the ears together because I remember how hard it is to sew over puffy paint when I made Rowdy's BB8 costume.  I used an air soluble marking pen to plan out where I wanted to add some of the white accents on BB8's face, and then freehanded the paint embellishments on the rest of the droids.  

When I started putting the puffy paint on the BB8 mickey ear, I wasn't sure if I ruined it.  The lines were so much cleaner before I tried to add the ridges.  I like how the ones on the back of the ear came out, and I think R2D2 looks AWESOME.  I know that I will wear this with pride no matter what.

To add some more dimension to the ears, I lightly stuffed them before attaching them to the headband.  After I added the stuffing, I placed a line of hot glue along the bottom edge to join the pieces of felt together and to secure the center point to the top of the headband.  Next, I glued down the back tab along the bottom of the headband.  Once that was secure, I glued down the front tab towards the back and trimmed off any extra.

The R2D2/BB8 Mickey Ears are the fourth set of ears  that I worked on, and the first that I wanted to have a bow.  The black fake sequin fabric is really drapey.  Initially, I wasn't sure if I should reinforce the bow with some felt triangles inside either side.  Ultimately I loved the drape of the fabric so I didn't reinforce the bow with any kind of stabilizer.

I got the idea to make a removable bow when I was testing out the bow size I wanted for these ears.  I secured the center of my prototype bow with a pipe cleaner and I loved the ears with and without the bow.  Unlike the other ears I plan to make for myself, in this case the bow really does cover up part of the droid faces. Why not sew the bow and then keep the pipe cleaner so I could wear the bow as needed?

For the bow, I cut two pieces of fabric; 9" x 10.5" for the main bow section and 0.75" x 9" as a ribbon for the center section.  I folded the fabric in half (4.5" x 10.5") with right sides facing and stitched a 1/4" seam.  I had never sewn through sequins, but it came out of the machine okay.

I turned the bow right side out, and then hand stitched the last edges together.  I could have machine stitched this but I wanted some control. After stitching this edge closed, I didn't cut the thread.  I centered this second seam in the back of the bow, and used the thread to wrap around the entire bow to cinch the middle together.  This gave me the chance to manipulate the shape o the bow and the gathers to the way I liked it.  I made a knot but kept the thread connected.

I sewed down one edge of the skinny piece I cut above and then wrapped this around the bow a few times and then trimmed the edge.  In retrospect, I wish that I had used a folded over piece with no raw edges.  I'll do this next time.  I tacked down the edges of some of the center piece to help keep it straight.  I finally tied a knot and cut the thread.

To make the finished bow removable,  I cut a pipe cleaner in half and inserted it into the back of the bow.  TIP: if you are having trouble feeding it through fold down one of the pointy edges so it doesn't catch on the fabric.  I twisted the pipe cleaner so it would be perpendicular to the bow and then twisted it around the top of my headband.  I tucked the remaining edges around the headband and my detachable bow was ready to go!

What do you think?  Do you like this headband better with the bow or without?

I think that this is the only set of Mickey Ears where I will want the bow to be removable.  I plan to glue the rest of the bows I make onto headbands.  I think that the other bows I have planned I will want to be attached.

When I was trying to photograph the Droid Mickey Ears, Rowdy want to get in the pictures, too.  (He climbed in my lap and said "CHEEEEE")  I decided to throw a pair of ears on him, too, and mix the worlds of Star Wars and Frozen.  I'm not sure he'll keep the ears on at Disney World, but he sure is adorable at home!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.  None of the product selections were solicited.  I selected all of the products in this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own.  

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Glow Stick Mickey Ears

When I was researching fun Mickey Mouse Ears for my upcoming Disney World Trip, I came across the cutest idea!  DIY Glow in the Dark Mickey Ears made out of glow stick bracelets.  Wouldn't these be perfect for New Year's Eve?

As far as materials go, I think that I beat the pricing from the original blog post.   $1 for glow sticks (8), $0.25 for a headband (four pack from the dollar store) and "free" electrical tape and hot glue we already had in the house.  I think that the best part is that these ears can be used over and over, as long as they stay together and you have extra glow sticks.  

For the first set of ears, I cut the the bottom two bracelet connectors at angles as suggested in the tutorial.  However, I wasn't sure if this cut was really that important.

I hot glued the tubes to the headbands and then wrapped them with electrical tape.  At first, I wasn't sure if the tape was just aesthetic or if it served a stability purpose.  In the end, I decided that it helped keep the tubes in place against the tension of adding the bracelets so it is worth doing this step.

For my second iteration, I skipped cutting the tube before gluing it on.  The ears were still super cute when I added the glow stick, but I think that I made the tubes a little too close together.

Ears #2

Third time's the charm!  I moved the bottom tubes a little lower on the third headband and was super happy with my ear placement. Having the ears this low on the headband meant that the headband got pulled out a little bit.  This was a bonus for adults with larger heads as it made the headband more comfortable.  I followed this wider placement for all of the other ears I constructed.

Comparing Headband #2 to Headband #3
This project was so fast and easy!  It took very little time to make and should pack super easily for our Disney World vacation.

The ears don't look half bad in the light, either.  

I made enough for the whole family!  At this point everyone in my family has a daytime AND a nighttime set of ears for our trip.  I'm still catching up on all of the ear posts and I know that I still have some more that I want to make.  Some of them might end up being left behind as I run out of space packing, but I know that I'll have space for these glow stick ears!  

Monday, August 28, 2017

End of Year Teacher Thank You Craft from the Whole Class

At the beginning of the last school year, I signed up to help with the end of year thank you craft for the teachers at my son's preschool.  I love doing crafts, surely I could come up with something fun to do with almost no budget.  We wanted to do something that would allow participation from the kids but also could be useful for the teachers.  The previous year, we made the teachers custom tote bags.  We ironed on a class photo with a sentence from each student "I love XX because..."  The teachers loved the bags, but I knew that I would need to come up with a new idea for this year.

I polled my friends who are elementary and preschool teachers, and they all had similar responses.  They all said that they appreciated cards and thank you notes more than any other gift.  They didn't need more mugs or picture frames to clutter their homes, but cards and pictures from students were things that they held onto.

The sample folder I made to share with other parents.  
Lucky's preschool has 5 classes with over 22 teachers, specialists, administrators and staff.  We wanted a project that would be simple to execute, inexpensive (so most of the money we collect can go to gift cards for the teachers), useful (not clutter),  and something the kids can participate in.  Simple, right?

When I came across a Thank You Flower Card, I knew that I found a winning idea.  We would let all of the kids decorate petals for their teachers, and then assemble them together onto simple file folders.  I always need more folders and personalized ones would be super fun and potentially useful.  Decorating the petals didn't take very long, and I quickly whipped up a sample to share with the parents.  I knew that if I needed to, I would be able to decorate all of them myself.


For the first petals, I folded a piece of construction paper in half and free cut a petal like shape.  This length was a bit too long for the file folder, so I trimmed down the edges to make the petals a bit shorter.   I used my hole punch to make a hole in the edge of the petals and secured them to the folder just about where the pocket ended.  

I planned to send home 5 petals with each student.  Most classrooms had 3-4 teachers and there were multiple specialists. The teachers helped distribute the petals in the kids backpacks.  Since I knew that some might get lost on the way home, we sent a petal template in an email to the parents.  This way, parents could create their own petals out of whatever they wanted.  

Since I already did the hard work of figuring out the petal size, here is a printable template of the flower petals.  This is the exact template that I emailed the parents of the preschool.  

When I was preparing to distribute the petals, I realized that I needed to make enough to send 5 petals to about 60 students.  I didn't want to count the petals as I was counting.  I weighed 25 petals and then used that to calculate the total weight of petals I would need for this project.  It worked great!  I stuffed the petals plus a simple instruction sheet into envelopes to go home with the kids.  

End of Year Teacher Appreciation Craft Instructions (This is what we sent home with the envelopes.  A longer explanation was sent to the parents via email.)  

  • Please decorate one side of one petal for each of your child’s teachers. (Draw a picture, write a note, etc). Please note that we will punch a hole near the pointy end when we assemble the flowers. The finished petals should be flat so please don’t use bumpy stickers or glue. Make sure to sign your child’s name on the petal! 
  • Please also write the teacher’s name on the back if their name isn’t part of the decoration. 
  • Return the petals to Rebecca Brown (Lucas’s Mom - Dubim) by MONDAY JUNE 5. 
  • Extra decorated petals are welcome for non-classroom teachers and staff.

While I waited for the petal submissions, I started decorating the folders for teachers.  I added their names to the top and "Thank you for helping our children grow!" on the inside pocket.  

Lucky had a blast decorating petals.  He even started making petals for teachers in other classrooms!  I was nervous that we wouldn't have enough petals submissions, but the students and parents delivered.  I was able to make flowers of at least 10 petals for each of the teachers and staff we wanted to thank.  (Some of the specialists that see every student had a lot of submissions.)

Finally, we finished off these cards by adding Amazon gift cards and handwritten thank you notes from the parents into each folder.   We presented these cards to the teachers at the end of year portfolio breakfast and they were so excited!

I'm so glad that this project worked well... and now I'm already thinking about next year.  What kind of projects have you done to thank teachers?

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.  None of the product selections were solicited.  I selected all of the products in this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own.