Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Breaking Wilton's Violet on a Twisted Hank of Yarn

I love breaking dyes.  In the past I've broken Wilton's Violet food coloring in many dyeing experiments and I've also broken Wilton's delphinium blue.  I thought it would be fun to try dyeing a whole twisted hank of yarn and see what kind of color breaking I could get.

If you look REALLY CLOSELY you can see that there is some color variation versus just tonal variation.  See the little spots of pink?

Obviously this didn't work out like I had intended, but that is why these are called Dyeing Experiments!  I often don't know how things will turn out.  Sometimes when I play with a new technique I get spectacular results and other times I'm a little underwhelmed.  Check out the new ChemKnits Tutorials Video to see what I did!  

Video Contents 

  • [0:00] Introduction and presoaking 
  • [2:29] Setting up the Dyebath 
  • [5:05] Adding the Yarn and turning up the heat. 
  • [6:30] Reducing Temperature 
  • [7:02] Checking in after another 10 minutes of simmering 
  • [8:13] Untwisting the yarn to wash it 
  • [9:55] The dry yarn and conclusions 

The colors broke... a little.  Maybe this would work better if I started with dry yarns instead of presoaking it.  Well, I have something to try out for another dyeing experiment!  At the very least I have a fun mottled purple and white yarn, even if it wasn't what I set out to create.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Minion Tote Bag

Aunties teach their nephews all kinds of whimsical things.  Things like what squid, giraffes and hippos say.  Things that make nephews giggle with delight when they see her.  It is only fitting that my next project out of 1, 2, 3 Sew be a useful whimsical item for Auntie's Christmas present.  (I'm skipping the quilted place mats project for now because those are for me and there is no impending Dec 24 deadline.)  

Auntie loves minions (I'll let her introduce them to the boys someday) so when I found this small scale blue minon fabric I knew that I had a winner.  I was worried when picking out the lining blue that it wouldn't quite work, but I think the overall effect is really nice.

Like with the craft tote, this project required cutting out from pattern pieces and cutting along the fold.  With the minion quilting cotton and canvas lining I wasn't concerned, but the burlap fabric moves so much that I'm nervous about handling it straight.  I'm also not too sure why this book gives you pattern pieces for things that are rectangular.  In the craft caddy there was one rectangle pattern piece and then multiple rectangles to cut that were just listed in the book.  Seems inconsistent to me!

Even though I wasn't going to sew the pieces together for a few days, I made sure to do the zigzag stitch around the burlap immediately.  I wanted to makes sure that it didn't unravel!

Unlike the craft caddy, this feels like it will be relatively simple to construct.  Just a few seams and learning how to do boxed corners.  How hard could this be?

The minion + burlap fabric is the same size as the lining fabric.  This is step 1 for things to lay correctly! I was nervous about the burlap pressing well but it pressed neatly with my iron's cotton setting.

Pressing the seams open on the put together outer and inner bags was harder than I thought. For the handles it was easy, drape them around the pointy end of my ironing board and iron.  However, how do you press around a corner?  It took a while for me to figure out that I should lay the bag flat, press down one side of the seam and then press down the second side of the seam.  I started with the outer bag which was frustrating since the burlap bottom seam isn't even so it was hard to press open. Pressing the canvas lining was much easier and if I had started with that I think I would have felt more confident.

Since the seam allowance wasn't pressed the best, I was nervous how the squared corners would go.  I started with the canvas bag this time instead of starting with the burlap.  I measured 2" down from the corner and then used my graded ruler (lining up a line with the seam) to make sure that my squaring would be perfectly perpendicular. 

I did the overcasting stitch before clipping the corners.  I guess you're supposed to clip and then do an overcast stitch, but I felt more confident doing the reverse since the burlap isn't very rigid.

I was worried that pressing the outside of the bag handle would be difficult, but it pressed really easily around the curve.  I'm super happy!  I didn't have to cut any notches or anything.  (I might have to cut some around the inside curve, but that will be after the stitching.)

I loved the bag as soon as I turned the right sides out, and it isn't even finished yet!   I thought about waiting to press until I was 100% done with the sewing, but realized that the way that the inside handles are pressed could alter how to stitch up the outside.

The handles lined up much better than I thought.  You would almost never know that I had to press them in advance of the sewing.

I didn't like the edge stitching around the outside of the handles but not also the inside, so I added some to the insides, too.

Closeup when done as written
Extra Stitching - you can barely tell that it is there but it looks great!  
The finished bag!
I'm really REALLY proud of how this bag came out.  It is simple looking but still has the whimsy I was hoping for. From a distance it just looks like a polkadot bag, only when you get closer do you see the minions.  (I would have still made the bag if the minion print were larger scale, but I think this is a cute result nevertheless.)

Project started 11.5.2015

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Gift of Cozy Fingerless Mitts

Back in November, I decided to participate in a gift swap with other alumnae from my college.  It was a fun way to try to track down a little about another Alumna and try to come up with a gift that would fit her interests.  My match loves tea, biking and adult coloring books.  I thought that a fun pair of fingerless gloves would work both for biking and curling up with a nice mug of tea coloring.

I've had two balls of Andean Treasure 100% baby alpaca sport weight yarn in the color Tidepool Heather in my stash FOREVER.  I get a pat on the back for creating a fun gift and using up my stash, right?  I wanted a pattern that would be simple to make (I still had a lot of things to finish by Chanukkah/Christmas plus the baby would arrive in 2 months) but still had some visual interest, so I was excited when I came across the Emerald Fingerless Mitts pattern.  A little bit of cables and bobbles will make these mitts sing.  I used size 4 (3.5 mm) dpn's for this project.

I knit enough of a swatch to double check my stitches/inch.  Row count I can adjust as needed.

Notes from construction (so I make both mitts identical!) 
  • 8 rounds of ribbing
  • 28 rounds stockinette
  • First increase round: place marker before the first and after the second M1.  On increase rounds, the M1's will take place between these markers.
  • After the 18 thumb stitches are ready, K 1 non-increase round before removing thumb stitches.  
  • L mitten - K5, co 4, K 3 (12 sts total) , follow chart then K to the end
  • R mitten, starting at the beginning of the round, knit to the last 26 sts and begin the chart.  Note - I did this following someone else's directions but I think I should have knit until 23 sts remained and then done the chart for this to be even with the L mitten.  It doesn't look bad so there is nothing I can do about it now.  
  • Bobbles (k1,yo,k1,yo,k1,yo,k1,) into 1 st, turn, p all together, turn, k the stitch. 
  • End of hand - p2tog at the end of the round for the one decrease stitch.  
  • 4 rounds of ribbing followed by binding off in ribbing pattern for the mitt body.
  • I knit the fingers in the round using the number of stitches indicated in the pattern. 
I wished that I had some size 4 circulars so I could make these mitts two at a time.  AWE MAN!  Half way through the first mitt I realized that I DO own some size 4 fixed circulars.  I could have avoided the second sock syndrome.  Thankfully I am enjoying this project and making something for a fellow Alumna.  

The design is lovely, but this is not the best written pattern I"ve ever seen.  The following Ravelry project helped me figure out the placement of the bobble stitches without having to do the calculations myself (see notes section above).  Unfortunately I didn't double check the calculations myself and I should have moved the R chart over a bit more.  Thankfully the mitts still look cozy and cute so I'm not too concerned.  

I decided to save both thumbs for the end of the project.  This way I know that all that is left will quickly finish up.  The end is in sight!

This was a fast and fun project.  I spread it out a bit more because I had a very busy week after Thanksgiving, but even with Lucky around I could have finished these up in two days.

I probably could have gone down a needle size on this project.  The thumbs are REALLY big and a little baggy, but the mitts are still comfy and cozy.  Next time I'll either drop a needle size or reduce the number of thumb stitches.  

Nevertheless, these are cozy fingerless mitts and I love working with Andean Treasure.  In the end I used 65 g (143 yards) to complete this project.  It was a pleasure to use up some cozy soft yarn for a fellow alumnae.  

My gift exchange buddy loved her care package!  I hope that I can participate again next year!  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Lucky's Halloween Birthday Party

Seven months ago, Lucky turned 2 years old!  Keith and I decided it would be fun to throw this October baby a Halloween themed birthday party that doubled as a housewarming party.  October 31 became a deadline for a lot of do it yourself (DIY) crafts and to get the house unpacked and put together.  I used this party as an excuse to practice my sewing skills and to try out a lot of fun Halloween crafts.  It took so long to finally share this party post because first I had so may projects to share with all of you!

Lucky's Lion Costume 
I made Lucky's Halloween Lion Costume myself by embellishing a sweatsuit with a looped yarn fringe I sewed on my new sewing machine.  I wanted a costume that would still be cute even if my toddler refused to keep the hood up.  I'm glad that I did since Halloween 2016 in Massachusetts was a warm and lovely night and Lucky wasn't cold enough to keep the hood on.  Lucky wore a "TWO" tshirt from Lil Threadz Clothing under his sweatshirt so he would still be party ready if he took his costume off.

When you entered my home you could immediately tell we were ready to party.  The entry ceiling was adorned with a fun balloon garland.  We blew up black and orange balloons to the size of a cantaloupe and then used a needle and black thread to knot them at intervals.  We hung these garlands on the ceiling with painter's tape.  On the back wall you can see the Trick or Treat Smell my Feet hanging.  I use this spot of my entry to rotate holiday or season specific homemade art work, and this particular footprint art inspired me to create more for other holidays.  On the left shelves I had the painted soda bottles, the trick-or-treat candy bowl (plus a non-food bowl for kids with food allergies or who don't want candy) and the sewn storage cube holding extra paper goods.  

The main party tables were set up in the dining room.  Construction paper bats are flying to hang the Chevron Pumpkin Birthday Banner over the table of Halloween themed sweets.  I wrapped the table top in Black Pacon Fadeless Paper so I could write on it with a chalk marker to label each of the sweet snacks.  

We set up a Spooky Cookie Bar with treat bags Lucky made himself in place of traditional goodie bags.  This allowed me to bake WAY too many Halloween themed cookies without having too many leftovers.  I think our guests really enjoyed getting to take some treats home with them.  

Even the M&M's were on theme.  The 3 opening bowl was filled with pumpkin spice late M&M's, Halloween colored normal flavor M&M's and pumpkin shaped candy corn.  

The table was sprinkled with mini pumpkins my mom grew on Mackinac Island, MI.  These pumpkins traveled from Michigan to Colorado (where my mom handed them off to me while we were at a wedding) and then back to Massachusetts.  Talk about well traveled gourds!  

In the back corner you can see the cake stand that I made for Lucky's first birthday.  This stand is so sturdy that I know we'll be be able to use it for many birthdays to come.  

For more information on the tasty Halloween treats I created for this birthday party (including links to recipes) check out the blog post I published yesterday.  

Of course, the star of the sweets treats was Lucky's Pumpkin Birthday Cake that I created using a bunt cake pan to create the layers.  

Although this was a Halloween party, not everything needed to be sweet.  We offered a number of different savory Halloween treats on our dining room table we pushed back against a wall.  All of the windows on the first floor were decorated with ruffled streamers that I sewed out of crepe paper.  

We had a few different Halloween themed plates, but most of the plates and cups were from the Boo Bunch themed set.  Lime green silverware (leftover from Lucky's first birthday party) was held in the sewn pencil holder I created from my learn to sew book.  

The table was dazzled with the chevron table runner I created and some painted beer bottles.  I found the pumpkin bouquet at a local craft store and thought it made a snazzy centerpiece.  

For Lucky's first year, I took a picture of him every day.  In his second year I still took a lot of pictures, but the only project ones were pictures I took every month to show how he was growing.  He wore a white onesie in each picture with a sticker on his chest.  I hung these up with some of the photoshoot I did on Lucky's second birthday.  Unlike the pictures I took during the first year I was more relaxed with months 13-23 and just tried to get a happy picture of my first born.  The pictures are held up with Halloween themed mini clothes pins (found at Michael's) and some more construction paper bats.  

The main party area was the dining room, but I still wanted to decorate the rest of my house.  The fireplace was decorated with more of the chevron jack-o-lantern banner, the cheese cloth ghost, and some pumpkins that my mom, Keith and I helped blow at the Corning glass museum.   We saved most of the decorations to use for future Halloweens but I threw the Cheesecloth ghost away after the party.  He was so delicate that I knew one wrong tip of the storage box and he would become a pancake.  

Since this is our first house we don't have enough artwork for all of the walls.  This means that I had plenty of wall space to decorate for the party!  I taped pictures from Halloween Photoshoots of years past to the wall with painter's tape along with some handprint spiders and footprint ghosts.  I wasn't excited to make the pillow covers in my sewing book so I created the circles floor pillowskyline pillow, and concentric squares pillow out of Halloween fabrics.  I intended to replace these pillow covers with something else after the party but these Halloween pillows are still out in my living room and have become integral to many pillow forts.  

The kitchen and back hallway also got some DIY decorating love.  Our floor was covered in foam pumpkins to step on.  We secured them to the floor with painter's tape so they wouldn't slide around or damage our floors.  

Lucky loved stepping on the pumpkins!  

Eleven toilet paper bats flew on the wall.  Next year this might be a fun craft project that Lucky can help me with.  Since I struggled to save up the toilet paper tubes for this project I have since saved DOZENS of tubes that I can use in future crafts.  

We decorated the kitchen cupboards and oven door with hanging napkins and ghost footprint towels.  I've come a long way since these first sewing projects!  Lucky is still requesting to make "more footprints!"

When a party store offers a high flying solution to add do your helium balloons... take it.  We purchased these white balloons the day before the party and by party time they were no longer flying high.  I did like the "hoverloon" quality to them since I had already drawn ghost faces on them with a sharpie. 

Meanwhile the bat balloon and orange balloons lasted for WEEKS after the party.  It is sure worth the extra charge to have the balloons last!  

The bat balloon and pumpkin family (that my Mom also grew on Mackinac Island) added some more oomph to my decorations.  You almost can't see it but there is also a large Jack-o-lantern mylar balloon that had been flying for almost a month in the dining room.  We had intended to refill it before the party but it was still flying strong!  

In addition to some more footprint ghost hand towels, the bathroom cupboard held the glitter web and Toilet Paper Pumpkins.  No one needed to open a pumpkin during the party but this was a clever way to hide extra toilet paper in plain sight.  

Since it was Halloween we had to decorate the outside of our house, too!  We had our Brown Family pumpkin sign, a number of pumpkins and some milk carton ghosts with flickering lights in them (and some sand to weigh them down).  

We also displayed our teal pumpkin to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project so kids with food allergies would know that we were offering some non-food treats.  Lucky even decorated one of the pumpkins himself!  (Toddler tip - give your toddler some sharpies to decorate a pumpkin and save carving for when you can trust a little one with a knife.)  

Lucky really liked to play with the ghosts.

Finally, I wanted to set up a photo backdrop so guests could take pictures of their kids.  Our old falling down fence with some fall leaves made a perfect backdrop for Halloween pictures!  

The Jack-o-Lantern banner is created from the same font used in the Chevron Pumpkin Birthday Banner that Keith and I created.  This banner was used all over our house and yard for the birthday party since I loved it so much.  

The ChemKnits Family (minus Indy who went to Doggie camp during the party.) 

I wore my little pumpkin maternity Tshirt with a homemade mini pumpkin fascinator to be a "Pumpkin Patch".  Keith dressed up like Owen from Jurassic World.  Guests showed up in all kinds of costumes... even my parents!  It was wonderful to have our house full of friends and family whimsically dressed.  

Lucky's "TWO" Tshirt from Lil Thredz Clothing 

After the party ended we took Lucky trick-or-treating for the first time.  (Well, door to door trick-or-treating.  Turns out that there are many trick-or-treating opportunities all through October so we had already gone at a mall and a zoo in previous weekends.)  My brother took over the camera so I could be in some pictures, too.  

We marched around the neighborhood with all of Lucky's grandparents.  Talk about a lucky boy!  

"Just take one" became Lucky's mantra of the evening.  He loved putting things in his bucket but I still don't think he knows that there is candy inside these brightly colored wrappers.  Something tells me that he won't think these are just tiny fun items to collect next year and we might not get to eat it ourselves.  (Don't worry, Lucky filled up on awesome treats at his party so he was not deprived sweets on Halloween!)  

I hope that you enjoyed reading about all of the projects I made for this party as much as I enjoyed creating them.  I don't plan to have a huge party for Lucky's third birthday but this one was special since we moved back to Massachusetts and would be able to invite a lot of family who live nearby.  However, Rowdy will turn 1 at the beginning of 2017 and I'm already starting to think about what I can do to give him an epic party.  Do you have any suggestions for me?  

Free printable Halloween Birthday Banner by ChemKnits

For a different view of Lucky's Halloween Birthday Party, check out my Halloween Birthday Party Pinterest board.