Saturday, October 31, 2015

Planning a Halloween Birthday Party

Halloween is going to take over ChemKnits for the next few months!  I love Halloween so much.  It is really fun to decorate the apartment and to create costumes.  For Lucky's second birthday we decided to have the party on Halloween, which means that all of the decorations we create can be used for years to come.  I'm going to be spreading out many of these crating DIY projects over the next few months.  I can't wait for you to see what I've created!

I'm not sure how long it will take to get through all of the projects I accomplished for this party, but you will see a little bit of everything.   Coloring, painting, sewing, knitting.  I hope that you will enjoy this spooky twist on the blog as much as I will. These projects will enable me to decorate my house for Halloween in style for years to come!  Today I will share a few tiny projects that we created for our Halloween Housewarming Birthday Party.

Painted Bottles

It is fun to create party decorations out of things you have laying around the house.  For weeks we saved up old soda, milk and beer bottles and used our acrylic paint to create some magic.

I painted the beer bottles with two coats of black paint and then turned them into spooky or apothecary bottles.  

The milk jugs turned into ghosts with a little black paint.  I'll put battery powered candles in them to light them up tonight.  With some colored paint and faces, I turned the soda bottles into cartoons of Halloween characters.  Since this party is for toddlers, I am going for fun and cartoonish versus spooky in our decor.  

Finally, while these aren't bottles I also painted a cheap frame and flickering pumpkin stand I found at the local craft store.

Ruffle Streamers

I have a sewing machine now, so I wanted to try to take the crepe paper up a notch.  Two colors of crepe paper through a sewing machine with high thread tension and long stitches = ruffled garland.  This looks easy enough to attempt, and will give me 81 feet or so of sewing a straight line practice.

It works it works!  Stitch length = 5, tension 8 (I'm not even up at the highest!).  I will admit that I tested this a bit on fabric before I went to the paper because I don't know my machine that well yet.  I placed the streamer rolls in a bowl at my feet so they could unwind with ease.  I never had any tangles or major kinks in the streamers.  I only had to stop sewing when I needed a bit of a break.

The streamers basically sew themselves!  This is also my first time using the machine at the fastest speed.  I feel like I'm flying.  I ran out of the bobbin once, but now I know what happens (i.e. what to look for) when you run out of a bobbin (you get a lot of holes in your crepe paper!)

Keith and I liked how the streamers came out so much that I decided to try a three color version with black, purple and lime green.  The purple and green ill overlap each other and the black will be on top of them.  But I am going to sew this wrong side up, so we will not see the black really while sewing but see where the green and purple overlap.  This is really so I can make sure I'm sewing in the right place.

I started with a completely full bobbin and this time I didn't run out, although I am now almost out of black thread.  Time for another trip to the fabric store!

Sticker Goodybags

With the cookie treat bar at my party, I needed to have some bags so people could take cookies home with them.  I found some packages of treat bags that were 5"x9.5"x3" that would be perfect.  I got plain black bags and some fun Halloween Stickers so Lucky could help me decorate

With these stickers there is a little prep work before Lucky can help out because I have to remove the center parts of the stickers.  But I think we should have fun working on this together.

Lucky loved playing with the stickers.  He picked out which sticker he wanted next and I removed the backing.  Some stickers went straight onto the bag, and others first made a pit stop on his belly.   After 8 bags Lucky was begging to do more. I knew that we needed to wait and save some of these stickers for another day so we stopped.

Can you tell which bags Lucky decorated versus which ones I decorated?

Foam Pumpkins

With some 12x18" pieces of craft foam, I sketched out some pumpkin silhouettes and cut them out.  I plan to tape these to the floor with painters tape to create some pumpkin "stepping stones."  This will either be a fantastic game for the toddlers or they will immediately rip them up off of the floor.  Either way, they were cheap and easy to create.  

I'd better stop working on this post and get back to assembling the party decorations!  (Normally I schedule posts in advance, and while I started working on this one a while ago here I am finishing it up the morning of the party!)  I have made so many awesome things over these last few weeks that I cannot wait to share with you over the coming months.  I hope you enjoy Halloween taking over ChemKnits for a while!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Spinning "Moriary"

January is my Into the Whirled Luxury fiber month.  This month I got Polwarth/Tussah Silk (60/40)!  The colorway is called Moriarty and is a really deep tone.  I love deep saturated colors, so this is a great one to have in the upgraded fiber.  (I'm still considering swapping to the luxury club, maybe after I move.)

I split the braid in half in the middle, rather than separating it lengthwise.  The two sections are pretty different from one another, which will hopefully lead to some variety in the fiber.  57 g and 58 g.  Boom!  I schooled this one!  Of course, it is much easier to fold the fiber in half and separate at the center point then it is to try to split the fiber lengthwise.

I have a goal for this fiber.  I want to get more than 400 yards of a 2-ply yarn.  I think I can manage this, with the help of my new faster whorls.  I'm going to spin this with my 1:14 ratio.  I actually like how my "over twisted" 2 ply came out from the cabled yarn I made.  I don't think that I actually overtwisted it enough, but maybe I've been underspinning my plies in the past.  I get wonderful fluffy yarns, but maybe lacking in twist.  It is time to get twisty, people!

I'm spinning Z singles and will ply S.  Yes, I am going to start using the twist terminology more in these spinning posts.  A Z single is spun from spinning the wheel clockwise.  S spinning is done from rotating the wheel counterclockwise.  The slants of the letters "S" and "Z" are supposed to help represent the direction of the twist.  I don't have a handy way to keep them apart, other than to write it down a lot!

So far so good, I'm spinning a nice thin yarn easily.  I think the amount of twist is also pretty good this time, although I hesitate to state this when I'm only partially done with the spinning project.

There is some debris that I have to pick out (fiber debris, short pieces that clump and don't draft) that I have to pull out every once and a while.  They're no all silk, but maybe hey are?

I'm not going to finish 2 yarns in March, but I"m giving myself some leeway because I've been VERY sick and we're visiting different cities trying to figure out where to live next year.  Not to mention that this is a project where my goal is to get a lot of yardage out of the fiber.  More yardage = more time spinning.  Yes, I know that is an obvious statement, but this spinning is taking me much longer than normal.

Due to house hunting and our move, it was a while before I could pick up spinning again.  In the middle of May, I started spinning while watching 10 Things I Hate about You.  I may or may not have been a little inebriated, but I was determined to continue my thin spinning to get to my yardage goals. It took me long enough to spin the singles that I think I have a shot here.

Comparing to the first bobbin it looks like I'm pretty close in wpi.  We'll have to measure after the fact to see for sure.

My spinning isn't very even as I move through the second bobbin.  Thick, thin, lots of twist less twist... at least it hasn't broken (so far).  I keep checking to see how it doubles over and I like the way the yarn looks, but I'm not sure how it is going to turn out.  EEE the suspense is huge over here!


By the middle of September I was ready to set Sandry back up and start spinning again.  I had some distraction with my pregnancy and with the purchase of my first sewing machine, but I am determined to finish what I had started in my old home.  I'm so glad I keep close notes but since I've taken such a long hiatus I hope that i"ll be able to pick this project back up where I left off.  

The second bobbin finished so fast! I know why I didn't have the chance to finish before the move, so it is cathartic to be finishing it now.

Plying time!  Cross your fingers for me that I added enough twist to the project throughout these singles.  I didn't take the time to check the WPI of my singles, but I know that there is some variation through the project.

I feel like I've been plying forever and I've barely made a dent in the bobbins.  I just might have reached my yardage goal for this project.

Bummer, I had a break around half way through the project.  I just overlapped and had a mini 3-ply section and carried on.  Fingers crossed that this is the only one.   Drat!  A second break happened as I started to approach the end.  These are few and far between so at least I know that my yarn has some good strength to it.

When I (finally) finished plying, there wasn't much left on the second bobbin.  BUT this gives me the opportunity to check the WPI of one of my singles.  Guys, I did it!  I got some lace weight singles!  And they only broke on me twice!!

SINGLES - 29 WPI (lace!)
2-PLY - 20 WPI (fingering)

Silly enough, I don't yet have a spot in my knitting studio where I can set up my ball winder.  The Expedit shelf is too thick, as is my writing desk.  Once I have a sewing table I should have a spot that can double as a yarn winding station.

Large skein - 294 wraps = 1176 feet = 392 yards.  Weighs 116.5 g.

I am so freaking close to my 400 yard goal!  Let's see how many 2 ply yards I get out of my mini skein.  I only need 8 yards.  Come on 8 yards!

Does this look like 8+ yards to you?

Mini Skein  - 21 wraps = 42 Feet = 14 yards.  Weighs 5.1 g.  

YES!  I did it!  I successfully got >400 yards out of 100 g of fiber!  I am so proud of myself.  Both the large skein and the mini skein are wrapped on the niddy noddy at the same time.  The large skein is a 4 ft skein and the mini skein is a 2 ft skein.  I set the twist with warm water and then let the skeins dry on the niddy noddy.

I am so proud of this project.  Now that I have faster whorls and can spin at higher ratios, I can finally achieve the types of yarns that I purchase in the store.  This 5 g miniskein is on target for the yardage that I would need to make a hexipuff.  Maybe I need to pick up that project out of hibernation, too.

spinning started 3/6/2015
First half of singles completed 3/23/15
5/16 picked up the wheel again
5/21 Put on hold while we moved cross country!
9/17/2015 picked back up
9/17/2015 finished second half of singles.  
9/17 - plying begun
9/18 finished plying and adding onto niddy noddy

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Crochet a Yoda Baby Hat, I will

A new little boy is coming into this world!  (As of this post he is here!  And is amazing!  But this post was written back before he was born so let's go back in time.)  His parents are huge star war lovers, which is part of the reason Keith and I created a Lego Star Wars Wedding Photoshoot for them last year.

Ghost Yoda!  Check out the rest of this wedding adventure!  

The mother-to-be grew up a husband and is like a sister to us.  I crocheted a panda hat for her new little one as soon as I found out she was pregnant.   As I'm writing this post, I am in the process of planning her baby shower and want to give her something I know she wants.  When she showed me some adorable pictures of babies in crochet yoda hats I knew I wanted to make her one for her shower.

In the end I selected Tory Feyko's Yoda Hat Crochet Pattern.  I am always nervous when I purchase a pattern that has very few Ravelry projects, but I've crocheted enough baby hats at this point that I should have a reasonable feel for the sizing.  Wish me luck!

I had some KnitPicks Wool of the Andes worsted weight yarn in Avocado which seemed like the perfect color, but thinking back to the yardage consumption of other baby hats and the rather large Yoda ears I was concerned that there wouldn't be enough yarn.  I really wish the pattern had yardage information!  This is the reason I take the time to weigh my yarn before and after projects so I can help others know if they'll have enough yarn.   I ordered two more balls from KnitPicks.  If I can't finish this project for a 3 month old baby in 150 g of wool then there are bigger issues here!

Some of the sizing in the pattern is achieved by using different sized needles.  The instructions for the yarn and needle sizing is a little flexible, so I decided to go with a size H hook and the 6-12 month size.  I made a mickey hat for a newborn with 40 sts around on a H hook with WoTA and I need this hat to fit an older baby (the 3-6 month size is only 40 sts around which is why I'm sizing up.)

I'm starting with the yarn I purchased versus the yarn in my stash so I can try to keep this all in one dyelot if I can.  The stash yarn can always go into the hat ties if needed.

The pattern is written as a spiral, but I decided to finish each round to help with counting so I wouldn't need to use a marker.  After round 6 I finished the increases for the 6-12 month hat.  Next, I had to crochet 5 dc rounds for this size, reaching round #11.  (I have to note this so I know how far to go!)  

"I sometimes add additional rounds of SC at the end if I misjudged the gauge/size of the hat until it gets to the desired size." - This sentence sums up my problems with this pattern.  It seems like the real benefit is for the yoda ears, but I also really liked the multiple SC rounds at the bottom of the hat!  I wish that some measurements were provided here, I'm really bad at gauging how to place ear flaps with the height of a hat.  After one SC round the hat measures 5.25" from the crown and 7" wide.  (Hey, I'm on target for my measured hats that fit Lucky around 8 weeks!) I decided to add 2 more SC rounds  (3 total) before starting the earflaps for a measurement of just over 5.5".  Ultimately, the hat being a little large for Blue Harvest's Halloween is better than a little too small, right?

When it came to the earflaps themselves, the instructions were a little loosely written.  Sizes were designated for Toddler and Adult (and I'm assuming baby) without designation for the sizes that fall in each category. Eek!  This is driving me crazy.  I turned to Repeat Crafter Me and used her owl earflap hat pattern to figure out how big to make the flaps.  48 sts is between the 3-6 and 6-12 sizes so I used 10 sts (SC) to start the first earflap.  I followed the yoda hat instructions to make the flap itself.  For earflap #2, I counted 16 sts across the front of the hat and attached the yarn to create a second 10 sc earflap.  (12 sts are between the earflaps ont he back of the head.)  I did 1 sc round around the entire hat.  18 g remain from the first ball of yarn (30 g consumed).

Wahoo!  The base hat looks super cute.  I want to wait to do the ties after I've finsihed the ears so I can help balance the hat.  I wanted to use a smaller hook for the ears to make them stiffer.  I would have used a 4.5 mm hook if I had one with me, but since I was using my move-in-progress kit I only had a G hook to use.  I think it will work great.  Especially since there is only one size of ears given for the pattern, I don't want these ears to totally swamp the baby!

After row 8 of the first ear, I'm wondering if I should have used HDC's to make it longer.  If I'm not happy with the final length that this is exactly what I'll do for a second earflap.

Why did I think this might take 3 balls of yarn?  Oh right, there was no yardage information with the pattern and the other projects on ravelry used a lot of yarn.  Of course, they could have been making hats for older children, but I had no way of knowing.  This is why I take the time to weigh my yarn before and after projects. Not only will this information help myself if I want to make a pattern again, but it can also help others.

I was really happy with the scale of the ear.  Phew!  I didn't want to have to redo it!  I did a sc border around the ear but skipped the slip stitch edge and fastened off at the ear tip.  I'll be able to hide this I think.

I finished both ears and I was still on the first ball of yarn.  I could finish two hats with the amount of yarn I have here!  Whoops, so much for busting up my stash!

I was a little nervous about how to fold the ears.  I think folded over at the top, a wrinkle in the middle and then sewed on slightly curved is the answer. As I was stitching it together to practice, I actually gathered the base rather than curving it so it would be easier to stitch on to the hat.

The leftover yarn next to the hat

Final Measurements: 5.5" crown to brim, Just under 7" wide (13-14 inches around).  The hat and ears without ties used 46 g of yarn.  With the ties I used a total of 55 g (121 yards) of yarn.

This little boy is going to look so cute! I cannot wait to see him in the hat.  And the costumes of the rest of the family.  Lucky has an R2D2 sweatshirt, maybe he can join in the photo.