Friday, April 30, 2010

Feature Friday: decorative candles

I have had the pleasure of joining a local crafter's group.  It's a great bunch of ladies that get together regularly and happily share their crafty knowledge.

During our get togethers, I've been fascinated to watch one of the members making beautiful decorative candles.  She has graciously sent me some photos of candles she's made and explained the process.

From Lynne:

I used Mod Podge (non flammable) glue to adhere paper and tissue to the candle and followed with many layers of Mod Podge.

 Experience proved that the candles that had been completely covered in paper burned nicely down the center.

 Candles that had papers glued here and there with spaces in-between burned, but the edges of the paper would bend toward the flame and may not have been as safe to burn.  I'd use those for decorative purposes only.

 Many thanks, Lynne!

(This one's my favorite!)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Feature Friday: Shisha embroidery

Today I decided to feature a craft I haven't done in quite a long time, and am really trying to figure out a project to do to get back into it.

Shisha embroidery is an Indian style of embroidery that incorporates mirrors.  You can see some impressive examples of it here.

I first experimented with shisha embroidery a few years back for my yearly Christmas decorations. 

Here are the two sets of decorations I made using a variety of materials.  The mirrors are stitched in place using rayon embroider thread.  It's incredibly slippery, and I really wouldn't recommend it if you're not used to embroidery! *L*  The effect was lovely, though, with the sheen in the thread complimenting the reflective mirrors quite nicely.

For these I used glass mirrors that can be found at pretty much any craft store.  They're quite different from the mirrors typically used, which are available for purchase online.  They're thicker, for starters, and quite a bit heavier, but they also have smooth edges and are uniform in size.

There is an excellent online tutorial for the basic shisha embroidery stitch available. 

I learned how to do shisha embroidery from a book I found at the library a few years back, but which I can't seem to find online anywhere.  It was published some time in the 70's, and the projects and colour combinations certainly reflect the era!  Thankfully, this is an style of embroidery that transcends fads and fashion whims, and can be easily translated to suit one's personal tastes, with beautiful results.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Product review: Red Heart Eco-ways recycled blend yarn

Product: Red Heart Eco-Ways recycled blend yarn
Net wt 4oz/ 113 g
186 yds/170 m

worsted, medium (4) weight
recommended hook and needle size: 5.00 mm
care instructions: machine wash warm, gentle cycle, tumble dry on low
70% acrylic
30% recycled polyester

colour used: misty violet

The back of the label includes a form to get a deal on a subscription to Crochet Today magazine.

In the last while, there have been a lot of new yarns out labelled green, eco, etc. They tend to be quite a bit more expensive than comparable yarns, so I waited until I saw some on clearance before picking up a skein to try out.

I picked up the Eco-ways yarn at a local Michaels, and I must admit to being surprised to see any eco-yarns on clearance, considering how recently they started carrying them in the first place.

I'll be upfront at the start that, these days, I view products that are labelled green, eco, organic, "all natural" and so on as a point against the product, not for it. Call me cynical, but I'm finding that these buzz words are more about marketing than actual environmental responsibility. Too many turn out not to be any better for the environment than their counterparts, but it's a great way to charge considerably higher prices for them. So off the hop, this product has a point against it.

In its favour, when I picked the yarn, I was impressed with how lovely and soft the yarn felt, and I really liked the colours. I had no real plans for it, though I did end up using it to make a quick gift bag to hold a wine bottle. I made it and gave it away in the same day, so I didn't get a chance to take any photos of it. After going through some pattern books, I decided to work up a lacy pattern with the remaining yarn to test it out.


The resulting item is just long enough to use as a neckwarmer or something like it. This is the finished pattern, before blocking.


A closer look at the pattern, before blocking.


I decided to wet block the piece, soaking it in the sink and rolling it up in a towel to absorb the excess water before pinning it out. It took maybe 20 hours to dry.


Finally, a look at the pattern after blocking.

I like the stitch definition, and there's a decent drape to the resulting fabric. I could see using a pattern like this to make a stole with this yarn. I did, however, have some issues with it.

First off, I quickly found the yarn split easily. This was a considerable issue when doing the bobbles in the pattern (4 dc together). I frequently had to undo stitches because I couldn't untangle the split yarn from the hook in the middle of working a stitch.

A surprise for me, especially considering how nice and soft the yarn felt, plus how open the pattern is, was how course and stiff it felt after it was worked into a pattern.

My conclusion: I'm on the fence with this yarn. There are things I like about it, but with how much trouble it was to work with because of the splitting, I really didn't enjoy using it, which is another point against. The stitch definition is a point in favour. I love the colours and how the yarn feels before being worked, but it was surprisingly course after being worked up, so there's two points for, but another against. In the end, I don't know that I would consider it worth the higher regular retail price, but I wouldn't turn my nose up at it if I found more on the clearance shelf.

I'm going to try throwing it in the wash and see how it turns out, though I don't plan to put it in the drier. We don't have anything else that requires tumble drying on low to toss it in with, and putting it in the drier all by itself would hardly be eco-friendly.

update: In the end, I just threw it in with a regular wash and dry. It came out quite beautifully, losing the stiffness and courseness I'd been unhappy with. It came out quite lovely. So the only issue still remaining is the yarn's propensity for splitting.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Feature Friday: Double-end Hook Crochet

While keeping an eye out for a hook I could convert to knooking, I found what I at first thought was an afghan hook.  Then I saw the extra hook at the other end!  The hook I found is a Red Heart product.  It's 10"/25cm long and is a size J-10/6 mm   There were no other sizes available. Some time ago, I'd borrowed a book from the library with double-end hook crochet patterns, but until now I'd never seen a double-ended hook.  So I snapped it up to give it a try.  I figured I could always ignore one end and use it as an afghan hook if it didn't work out.

Here are the initial results. Note that I had to go by memory, as I didn't find the book I'd borrowed again, and will have to put a hold on it.  Until then, I winged it as best as I could remember.


Starting a project is, as near as I can tell, much the same as doing an afghan or Tunisian crochet - neither of which I've actually tried yet, so don't take my word for it! *L*

To start, I worked a chain to the length I wanted, plus 2 ch for turning.  When working back down the foundation chain, the stitches are done up to the last loop, with is left on the hook.  In my case, I decided to work with double crochet, which worked as follows. 

At the start of the row, ch 2 (or if this is the first row, work into the 3rd ch from the hook).  Counts as first dc. *YOH, insert hook into next loop, YOH, pull through, YOH and pull through 2 loops.  Leave last loop on hook and repeat from * to the end.

When reaching the end of the row, it will look like the photo above. 


Turn the entire piece and attach the next colour to the hook at the opposite end.  Pull the new colour through the first loop, YOH, then pull the yarn through the next loop on the hook.  Continue until all the loops on the hook have been pulled off, leaving only 1 loop on the hook in the new colour.  Each loop that was on the hook now has a loop in the new colour over it.  This is the loop you will be working into in the next row.

Do NOT turn.


Ch 2.  *YOH, insert hook into next loop, YOH, pull hook through, YOH, pull yarn through 2 loops.  Repeat from * to the end.


Turn the piece, take up the yarn dropped previously to change colours and keep repeating the pattern.

I'm not entirely sure I'm doing this right.  I'll have to spend some time looking at tutorials and check out some patterns.  Looking at one of the pages now, it appears I'm working into the wrong loop when going back down the row to put all those loops back onto the hook.  It might also be a different stitch.  I'll have to figure it out.

As it stands now... I'm not too impressed with it.  I found myself getting bored with it rather quickly.  It seems rather finicky, and I don't know that I like the look of it enough to bother.  It also seems to use up a lot more yarn.  Maybe after I've gone through the tutorials and figure it out, I'll like it better.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Feature Friday: Playing knooky!

I'd heard of knooking before.  I even went looking for a knooking hook, with no success.  I didn't really know how it was done, though. 

Knooking is knitting with a crochet hook that has a cord attached to its end.  I've attempted knitting a few times and never really got into it.  I like the effects of knitting, but my tension always ends up screwy and it looks a mess.  I'm sure I could figure it out, but I just don't enjoy the process enough to make the effort.  I much prefer the control and convenience of using a hook.

Recently, I visited one of my favorite craft blogs and found this post.  That lead me to this Knooking site.  In checking out the posts, I found some excellent little videos demonstrating how to do it.  It looked so simple!  I just had to give it a try.

Going through my hooks, the smallest, straight sided hook I found was a 5mm metal one.  I ended up taping a cord (just a long strand of Handicrafter cotton) to make my knooking hook.  Here is my very first attempt at knooking.


The yarn is just some left over Handicrafter cotton I had lying around.  The hook was a bit big for the size of yarn, but that wasn't much of a problem. 

I absolutely loved knooking!  It was really quite easy and felt natural to my crocheting hands.  Even working the purl stitches wasn't that difficult - and actually quite a bit easier with a hook than doing them with needles.

One of the advantages knitting has over crochet is that it uses less yarn, and the resulting fabrics are lighter and more flexible, making it ideal for clothing items.  For someone like me who finds manipulating the needles more frustrating than it's worth, knooking is the perfect answer.  As an added bonus, because the second needle is replaced with a cord, dropping stitches is virtually impossible.

The set up I've got with the yarn taped to the hook isn't ideal, but it's more than adequate for small projects like face cloths, small bags, dish cloths and the like.  If I ever wanted to go all out and make a sweater, I'd want to either find a commercial knook or make my own from a wooden or plastic hook, and use something different for the cord, like some of the smooth cords sold for jewelry making.

I've got a few projects I need to finish first, but once I do, I'm going to experiment with knooking some more, and see about doing textured patterns, increases and decreases with the knook.

Playing knooky is fun!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Finished: The Butt Ugly Scrap Buster Blanket!

After a great deal of time and a lot of help from my younger daughter, we've finished the Butt Ugly Scrap Buster blanket.

The blanket has two purposes.  1) Since getting the van, we're back to making spontaneous exploratory trips.  I discovered that this has left us with the need for a good, sturdy blanket to keep in the van.  One that can handle a lot of abuse, and that I realy don't care if it gets stepped on, muddy, or dragged through the bush.  And 2) I wanted something that would use up the balls and balls of cheap, bulk acrylic yarn we've got, but weren't using.  There's only so many pairs of slippers, etc. I can made, and the colours weren't the sort I'd use for amigurumi.

Butt Ugly Scrapbuster Blanket

I started off by gathering a few balls of the yarn we'd been accumulating (more were found later).  Since the purpose was to use up all the yarn, I decided to work in the round and just see how big it would eventually get.  I started the centre using a method I found on Ravelry, but I can't find it again, or I'd like directly to it.  I had a couple of false starts before settling on dimensions I liked.  The base chain is whatever you want.  The pattern I got started from suggested either 40 or 60 ch, but I ended up going with 38 (35, plus 3 to turn).  I wanted something slightly wider compared to the length, so I started with a shorter base chain.

To get the centre, dc were worked down the length of the foundation chain.  At the end, rather than turning, a sc plus ch 2 (counts as first dc), then 3 dc, was working into the end (the very last dc of the row).  ch 2 (corner), then dc along the other side of the foundation chain, working the stitches in between the dc of the other side, not into the chain itself.  At the end, ch 2 (corner), 4 dc into the last dc at the end, ch 2, then dc to the other end, again working in between the dc's of the previous row.  At the end, ch 2 and slip stitch into the top of the ch 2 that counts as the first dc of the round.

Each round is worked without turning.  The corners are all (2 dc, 2 ch, 2 dc).  I changed colours at the end of the rounds, though with some, I was so close to the end of a round when I finished, I just switched to a similar colour and finished it, rather than undoing the whole thing.  When changing colours, I usually finished off the previous colour, then restarted the new colour in a corner.


Changing colours at the ends of rounds left me with lots of little balls of yarn.  Especially as the blanket got better, since it took so much more yarn to complete a round.  When we got to the end of the last big ball of yarn, my younger daughter decided to just tie the end to one of the little balls, then started rolling them into a new centre pull ball, tying new colours to the end of each colour she finished.  In this project, we really didn't care if there were knots in the yarn.

We were rather surprised by how large a ball of little scraps we ended up with!

At this point, I decided to make a sort of edging.  Instead of working dc in between each dc of the previous row, I started doing shells of 5 dc, skipping 4 dc and working the shell into the space after the 5th dc.  The numbers didn't add up, so at the corners, I did a group of 3 in the last bit before the corner (which may or may not have been the 5th space), then 3 dc between the dc of the corner, (ch 2, 3 dc) in between the dc of the corner, a group of 3 dc into the space that matched the other side of the corner, then continued the shell pattern.  In the next rounds, I worked the shells into the top of each previous shell.

Much to my surprise, we had enough yarn to do several rounds of shells.

When the yarn started to look pretty low, I stopped going the shells and did a round of 1 sc into the top of each shell (the centre stitch I would have been doing  shell in), ch 4 to the corners.  At the corners, I did sc into the last 8 dc, plus (1 sc, 2 ch, 1 sc) in the corners.  When the round was finished, I worked sc into the back loops only of the sc and ch stitches.  At the end of this round, I didn't bother slip stitching at the end of the round, but just kept working into the back loops of the sc.  For the last foot or so, I let my younger daughter finish it off.  She was so thrilled! *L*


The finished blanket!  Isn't that just a marvelous piece of fugliness?  Truly eye-wrenching.  It's quite heavy, too.  I had no idea I had that much scrap acrylic lying about the house.  I raided my own storage cubes, my younger daughter handed over her stash from her room, and then I found even more in a couple of boxes tucked under the couch. *L* 

With a great many objections from my daughters, it is now in the van, waiting for the next time we head out exploring, or have an impromptu picnic somewhere.  And it's big enough for them to both wrap themselves up, the next time they decide to cross a river, fully dressed. :-D

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's finished!

The Butt Ugly Car Blanket is officially completed, and it is glorious in its fugliness!  Tomorrow, I'll be getting the girls to hold it up so I can get a picture of the whole thing, in all its eye-wrenching glory.  My younger daughter did a lot of work on it, too, so I let her have the honour of doing the last foot or so of stitches.  She even wants to sleep under it tonight. *L*  I can't believe how much the girls love that horrifying thing!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Wishing everyone a glorious and joyful Easter!

Friday, April 2, 2010

No Feature Friday this week

As today as Good Friday and our family is focusing on our Easter activities, there will be no Feature Friday this week.  Next friday, I'll be back to highlighting a new craft or craft artist for you to enjoy.