Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Break

Happy Almost New Year!

So I know I managed to make a post last week, the day before Christmas Eve, while in another state visiting family. Turns out this week is even more hectic than that.

I'll be back next year, though, with an exciting melange of projects including, but not limited to:
Funky Honeycomb Hat and Scarf
WWII Era Hat Pattern Review and Matching Scarf
Patchwork Wall Art
Tea And Relative Dimensions In Stitchery

So have a happy and safe New Year, and I'll see you all next Friday!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Postcard from a Six-Pack

It's Friday! It's Friday!
I am five states away from my residence, having traveled 16 hours in a sedan with two dogs, an eighteen-year-old cat, and three adults. I honestly didn't think I would be posting this week, but sometimes things just turn out that way.
I am also taking my final college course of ever right now, which has been compressed to four weeks and is an online course. Wish me luck.
Now, when I moved so far away from my family, I took up sending mail. I always wanted to get mail when I was a kid and e-mail just isn't the same! So I badgered friends and family alike into sending me letters, and then, because I have no end to my free time, I scrapbooked the letters. When I wasn't writing letters, I was making stationery. I also sent postcards, generally as a cheat to send a letter that wasn't two pages. Then my friend, SarahBee, turned me on to Postcrossing. In case you didn't click that link, it's a magical site where you sign up to send and receive postcards from around the world. So then I had even more use for postcards. So then I made my own. And what did I have on hand? Something with a cool design? Something that I could easily recycle? Something that would return to my kitchen again and again, a
renewable resource, if you will?

Six-Pack Postcard

First, cut the broad sides off of your six-pack. I start by cutting around the edges, then snipping the inner pieces that separate the bottles. You won't use the entire side (unless you want a really huge postcard?) so you can be messy. This is a little tricky, so if you've just emptied the six-pack, you might want to find the safety scissors.

When the piece is safely removed, decide what placement you want for your postcard. I like to drink Blue Moon, and they have a very pretty design that gives me easy to follow lines. The one downside is that it makes for an "oversized" postcard, so I have to use letter priced stamps. If you want a standard size, for the US of A you can make the sides 6"x4.5". I like to use an existing postcard as a stencil to check size, and they're handy for the next step too!

Now that you have a lovely postcard shape, peel any excess waste off of the back from the part of the pack that separated the bottles. This can leave a slight marred spot, but no one will complain.

When you have a nice, neat surface on the writing-side of your card, use your existing postcard to draw a dividing line between the letter-area and the address-area. If it's as impossible for you to write a neat address as it is for me, I recommend also drawing four lines for the address. Your spare postcard which has been so handy till now will also make a lovely straight edge and right angle. Verily, it is the best of tools.

Finally, write a lovely letter and mail it to a friend. Or, you know, sign up for postcrossing and mail it to a stanger. Whatever you want.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Re-sizing Gift Boxes

Well, hello there.
Okay, now that I'm done using a creepy greeting, it's time to tell you what exciting craft we'll get to make this week! For many people, winter is a time of holidays that involve gift-giving. It's a fun, symbolic way to affirm friendship during the darkest, coldest time of year, plus you get cool stuff. The mug cozies and coasters from my previous posts are intended to be presents for just such a holiday, which means I get to wrap them. Unfortunately, as many crafters discover during the wee hours as they end up covered in tape with shredded wrapping paper surrounding them, irregularly shaped or floppy gifts are hell to wrap. Through the years, I have practiced two solutions to this problem: amass a gigantic collection of boxes through the year in the hopes of having enough on hand to cram all of those weirdly shaped gifts into something, and/or buy only gifts which come in neat, rectangular packaging.

This year, however, I moved twice. Understand that I have never moved in my life, not even into a dorm or other temporary situation, so for me throwing away boxes as I eventually unpacked was the greatest joy I thought the year could bring. It wasn't until I began planning out all of my fancy, hand-crafted gifts that I realized I had inadvertently screwed myself. I neither wanted to give all store bought gifts and deprive myself of crafting opportunities, nor did I want to wrap all of these bizarrely shaped items, nor buy boxes from a store when I ought to have had them on hand. Waste not, want not, I reminded myself. Oh, how I had wasted. I suddenly missed all of those cardboard monstrosities which had haunted me from residence to residence.

That said, there was an easy solution for at least two of the gifts I was giving and it sat innocently next to my trashcan, waiting to be seen. A 20 pack of soda! I had considered wrapping one or the other of this pair of gifts in the soda box, but I needed to transport all of my gifts and luggage and pets and additional travelers on a 14-ish hour drive, so wrapping something in a box that was twice as big as it needed to be rankled. So I did what any crafter would do and went all King Solomon on the box.

Recycled, Resized Gift Boxes:

I used a 20-can box of soda to end up with smaller, rectangular gift boxes. This project could be easily adjusted to a 12-can box so the end-product is even smaller and delightfully square.

First things first, cut the box in half. You could measure and mark this with a felt tipped pen or similar, or you could do what I did and just hold the ruler ahead of your scissors. My box was 13 inches long, so I held the ruler in place and aimed for the 6.5 inch mark.

When you have circumnavigated your box, and perhaps named your scissor
s Magellan in honor of this feat, it is time to make the flaps. You want your flaps to touch or even overlap across the end of your box, so it's time to do a bit of measuring again. Measure across your box, the narrow way, then divide this in half. The newly divided number is how long your cuts down the corners need to be. So, if your box is five inches across, you would want to cut at least 2.5 inches down each of the four corners,

Now fold your flaps in, making sure to keep the fold as straight and nice as possible. Isn't that nice? Put a present in it, tape it closed, and wrap it! You just saved the money you would have used to buy a gift-box, the space that a box twice as big as it needed to be would have taken up, and a third thing you saved that I can't think of right now but sure rounds out the list.
If you need to know the exact measurements of the finished box in advance, measure the length of the edge you will be halving and half it. Then figure the length you will cut for the flaps (the shortest edge divided by two) and subtract that from the halved length. For people who understand math, this is (long edge / 2) - (short edge / 2) = Length of finished edge. In my example, the long edge was 13 inches and the flaps were 2.5. The equation would look like 13/2 - 5/2 = 4.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Cork Backing for Coasters

Hello again, crafters and pity-readers! It's Friday, and you know what that means. Blog post day! As a bonus, I want to give you a gift: read this post while giggling at the knowledge that my hair looks like something that would have happened for comedic effect on I Love Lucy. Seriously. It is wider than my head is tall. Also, I have a big ol' grown-up office party to attend with some boy, so I can't just wrap a scarf around my head and refuse to leave the house. Aah, well, at least my bad hair day won't stop me from typing out this easy tutorial for a removable cork backing on all of those coasters I previously posted.
When I was finishing all of those coaster + mug cozy sets myself, I was not looking forward to trying to block them flat in a way that would still look nice after being wrapped up and traveling across five states or so. I hate everything about finishing projects- weaving in ends, blocking, realizing that you made a mistake in the first third of it and it can never be undone. So, instead of making something I hate that much harder, I decided to turn the process into an entirely separate craft project! I sifted through site after site looking at coaster tutorials, but they all seemed to have one thing in common: glue. I loved the idea of cotton coasters because they could be easily washed, even tossed into dish water for a rinse, whenever my coffee dribbled all over them. Aside from being icky and stiff, gluing my coasters to any kind of backing would prevent easy cleanup! I also knew that a cork backing would not last forever, and if I could easily remove the knit/crocheted cover, it should also be easy to replace the backing when it got all chipped and nasty.
Here, friends, is the solution I devised, and partly the reason I started blogging.

Easy Removable Cork Backing:
I know you've seen this picture before, but just in case you forgot what we're going for with the sets, I thought I'd repost.

Cork Sheets- My coasters were 4"x4" so I bought square foot sized sheets in an office section of an unnamed big store
Hot glue gun and sticks
Buttons- 1 per corner of coaster (match the buttons on your mug cozies for a fancy set)
Craft scissors
Flat-faced thumb tacks, with smaller faces than your buttons. Same amount as buttons.
1. Cut your cork sheets into squares to match your coasters.
2. Hot glue buttons onto the heads of enough tacks for each corner of each coaster
3. When everything is cool, try tacking your coaster to the cork backing at each corner. If the cork and coaster together are thick enough that the push pin does not peek out the back, you are finished! If, like mine, your pin peeks out a little bit, that's okay. You have two options for solving this.
Option 1) Use the hot glue to simply glue two cork squares on top of each other for double thickness. This is the fastest fix, but I found it was harder to make it look nice. I made a set like this before discovering Option 2, but didn't want to give them away because they looked less awesome. They were still completely awesome enough for around my apartment though, so I kept them for myself.
Option 2) I googled "parts of a thumbtack" to make this easier to explain, but couldn't find anything helpful. For clarity and hilarity, I will now refer to the flat part you push with your thumb as the "base" and the long part with the pointy end as the "shaft." Oh, yeah. Turn your button covered thumbtacks shaft side up. With your hot glue gun, which you have totally not left on over night like I did, make rings of glue on the base, circling the shaft. These should be thick enough that they, in effect, shorten your shaft. This may take a bit of practice, but I did it on 48 thumbtacks, so I think you'll manage. Let them cool completely, and they should be just shortened enough to prevent your coaster scratching up whatever surface you were trying to protect.

And, voila! Now when you slop your fancy Irish Coffee all down the side of your mug, you can simply unpin the cover of your coaster and toss it in the wash, with only a minor break in drinking! And isn't that what everyone wants?

One last thing before I go: I have revised my opinion on my hair. Instead of a hilarious Lucille Ball antic, I now look like watching a Shirley Temple movie during a bad acid trip.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Half-Double Granny Cozy and Coaster Set

Another week, another project! I promise that this is the last mug cozy and matching coaster set for a while. Fo' serious. After making the previous two sets, I was a little weary of knitting. Also, almost all of my other crafted presents this Christmas are knit as well. I kind of pigeonholed myself and was looking to break free! Of course, as I was making the sets for a gift exchange and needed a present that would be obviously equal to the others, I wanted to stick with the theme.
I really, really want to make a Captain Hook joke whenever I talk about crochet. Unfortunately, I've only had three cups of coffee and I'm watching Jumanji: The Animated Series, so I'll just ask you to pretend that I made a spectacular joke in there somewhere.

Half Double Granny Mug Cozy and Coaster Set:

I managed to wrap this set without taking any pictures, but luckily I had enough yarn to make a set of the coasters for personal use! Please excuse the dribbly coffee mug, as I was out of coffee yesterday and am gulping it rather enthusiastically today. Of course, my camera seems to hate both the lovely mossy green cotton yarn I used, and the cloudy day making lighting awkward in my apartment. So there you are.

Mug Cozy:
Foundation: With a size H crochet hook, chain 28 (or whatever even number will wrap around your favoritest mug.)
Row 1: Turn, chain 1. Single crochet in back loop of each chain across.
Row 2: Turn, chain 1. Half-Double crochet twice in every other st
itch across, skipping the first stitch.
Row 3-6: Turn, chain 1. Half-double crochet twice in each space between pairs of half-double crochet on the previous row.
Row 7: Single Crochet across.
Finishing: Stitch on buttons, positioned to slip through the gaps of the imitation-granny stitching.

Foundation: With same hook, chain 12.
Row 1-2: Same as Rows 1-2 on cozy pattern.
Rows 3-9: Same as Rows 3-6 on cozy pattern.
Row 10: Same as Row 7 on cozy pattern.

Because you're using half-double crochet instead of an actual double-crochet, this will be thicker and more heat-retaining than your traditional granny-square type pattern. I like a fun pattern like this in a soft, natural tone, but my sister suggested using fun, bright colors, and it wouldn't be too difficult to toss in some stripes as well.
Next week I'll explain what the hell those buttons are doing on that coaster.