Thursday, August 30, 2012

No Cost Craft Activity for a Toddler

I have two aims for my son's home art education, the first is that it should be no to low cost, and the second is that projects will be useful in some way. Here is another no cost craft activity that resulted in a decorated box for Father's Day, this is a very good educational activity for this age group.
20 month old Thomas pastes recycled tissue paper to decorate a box
This week, Thomas and I pasted scraps of tissue paper on a cardboard box to decorate it for Father's Day. I save a lot of wrapping paper but most of it is too ripped to use again, so this tissue paper got torn up and pasted on. Thomas loved the feeling of the home-made paste, smearing it with his fingers onto the box, and also using his brush to paint the paste onto the box. I helped him rip up the tissue paper which he found difficult, but eventually he enjoyed slapping the pieces of tissue on top of the paste. This was a really worthwhile activity for him to do, its a great early learning experience (and I used to be an early childhood teacher long ago, so I would know!)
home-made paste made from flour, sugar and water cooked on a stove
Even the glue didn't cost me more than a 1/3 cup of flour, because I made my own. This was a simple clag type of glue made from flour, sugar and water, its perfect for pasting paper onto paper or cardboard. I'm not sure why the sugar is needed and I was out of sugar that day, so I just put in a tablespoon of brown sugar instead, and it turned out just fine.
toddler paintings make useful gift wrap
So far, that's two craft activities that have resulted in something useful. The first art activity I blogged about the other week resulted in some painted gift wrap for Father's Day. There's not a wasted piece of art and craft around here! There are so many things my son and I can do that are fun, productive and cheap - watch this space!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Variegated Yarn made from Felted Scraps

After last week when I tried my first felted join, I then wondered if it would be worth while to make variegated yarn from felted scraps. I have been keeping all of my wool scraps to felt at some time in future, so I decided to start trying it out to see if it was worth the effort.
scraps of pure wool no shorter than 3 inches
At first, I sorted my scraps of pure wool. I decided I would try some of the luxury 8 ply from Bendigo, pieces shorter than 3 inches were obviously going to be too fiddly, so I started with ones from that size up. It was quite time consuming, so the mix of colours should make the extra effort worth while. The pink, green and white was coming up quite nicely. I then spun it using the drop spindle my father-in-law made for me, because some of the ply were unravelling when I was felting the pieces together.
hand-spun felted variegated yarn made from wool scraps
I was short on time, so I only tried a small length of variegated felted yarn, just enough to make a 5 petal flower. I really should have just done a few colours, like white, pink and green, and not the one piece of purple, because one petal is purple while the other four are pink. I then gave the flower an extra felting treatment, to see if it helped the finish. I think when felting flowers in future I'll need to be more vigorous, so will probably pop them into the washing machine.
5 petal flower made with variegated felted yarn
variegated flower after extra felting
There was a small pile of tiny single ply scraps left over from making the felted yarn. These were the 1 inch lengths that I cut to thin the wool to make a place to join. I gave making a pair of tiny felted beads a go, they required a bit of elbow grease and still need more work, but I now have the general idea. I hope my mum can help make them  into a pair of earrings.
tiny 1 inch scraps of wool left over from making felted joins
I just love how I can make things from the tiny scraps of wool left over from other work. This is yet another reason why I like working with this natural fibre. It's more expensive than acrylic, but not a single strand is wasted!
a pair of tiny felted beads to make into earrings

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Red & Blue Ipad Bag

Here is a red and blue drawstring bag I made for our Andriod, which is a cheaper version of an ipad, but quite a satisfactory subsitute.
simple red and blue striped drawstring bag for an ipad
When we went to Stanthorpe recently, we realised we didn't have anything to carry our android in, so I started making this little bag on the way out there, which is a 2.5 hour drive. I used this opportunity to practice on changing the colours, which I have always been unhappy with. Even with this new method I tried, you can still see where the colours change.

This time I tried hiding the start chain behind the last stitch of the round, which is then sl st into the 3rd stitch of the round, this totally covers that starting chain. You have to push the last 2 stitches around an extra piece of yarn which makes them a little bigger than the others, so you can still see the starting place. The only other way to do it is cut the yarn and sew in each and every colour change with a yarn needle, but that method still shows. I guess I'm just too much of a perfectionist! I'm now considering trying felting as a way to hide the starts, but that will only work when I use wool, not like this bag, which is made from acrylic.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Hobby Horse Pa Murphy made

And here is the hobby horse Pa Murphy made for Thomas, isn't it great? Thomas is just the right age to appreciate this, he loved it straight away. He's very lucky to have a crafty grandfather who can make him really cool things!
the hobby horse Pa Murphy made
Other things Pa Murphy made for us are the wooden blocks and toy cars, and the drop spindle I posted about yesterday. Thanks, grandpa!
a cosy scene by the fire

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Drop Spindle Pa Murphy made

When we recently went to Stanthorpe to visit my husband's father Brian and his wife, this hand-made drop spindle was waiting for me!
home-made drop spindle by Pa Murphy
I'm very keen to learn how to spin my own fibre, I've tried spinning plarn, which is made from recycled plastic bags. I had a go making some plarn while still there so we could see how well it worked. We then shortened the dowel and put a notch in the round weight so the yarn can be secured as you spin. It worked quite well then, and I'm really looking forward to doing some more spinning. This is hopefully what I'll use if our attempt at growing potted cotton is successful.
here is Pa Murphy in the garden wearing the green beanie I made for him
Brian loves gardening, and he needed a beanie to wear when he was out in the cold. This green gardening beanie I made for his birthday was perfect! I followed the divine hat pattern which is available free from Rheatheylia.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Best 2nd Anniversary Present Ever

I am sooo excited about this present David has given me early for our 2nd wedding anniversary! The traditional gift to give for the 2nd wedding anniversary is cotton, and last night I was talking about how I needed some cotton seeds that I could grow organically.
the best present ever arrived in the mail and cost less than $5
David got a weird look on his face, went to the car to get a package he had to sign for from the post office that afternoon. He decided he should give me it early in case I started looking for seeds myself! These Upland cotton seeds are the most thoughtful present I could get from my husband! I was so impressed tears came to my eyes and my skin got goose pimples! And, it only cost $3.50. I'm easy pleased, aren't I?
fluffy Upland cotton seeds I will try and grow organically in pots
I can't wait to plant these, we will do more research but it sounds like we could have a crop in 6 months, even if we plant them into pots! The reason I was thinking about growing cotton is because we are reconsidering our decision to be renters. Our rent is going up in the new year, and there are some very cheap houses for sale near where his factory is moving to, so hopefully there will be more to say on this in the next few months. We shall see ...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Grey Mohair Cable Beanie

I bought 2 balls of 12 ply Australian mohair wool blend by Cleckheaton on impulse and thought I would make a beanie. This cabled design is the result, which we wore recently on a winter holiday.
David models the grey mohair cabled beanie
We took it with us to Stanthorpe when we went there to visit my husband's father and his wife. It's a lovely thick beanie that's very warm, but the mohair is a little scratchy on the forehead skin. I will wash it and see if that makes a difference.
Thomas and David in Stanthorpe this winter
For this pattern I used a 7mm hook because I read the label without my glasses. When I checked later it actually recommends a 5.5mm hook! But I had already started so went with this chunky look. This chunky cabled pattern started with a round of 10 dc (9 dc + 3 ch), then increased for 5 rounds on the crown. The pattern down the sides is 2 ch (fpdc, dc, sk 1 fptr, back 1 fptr, dc) repeated. For the brim I switched to a 6mm hook and just did rounds of sc. Perfect for a winter beanie!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Toddler's Comfort Pillow with Slip

I've been meaning to do this project for a while, I'm hoping it will help Thomas with his sleeping. But finding an opportunity to drag out the sewing machine when one's major task is to care for said toddler is not an easy task!
toddler comfort pillowslip with bubble minky fleece and flannel for a nice soft texture
I bought the material weeks ago, but only got to make it last Tuesday when Thomas was having a fun day at the day care centre, which we call "Playcare" or "Playschool"! First I made the cover for the actual pillow using a scrap of bright material my friend Hazel gave to me, which was perfect for the job.
a bright cotton sea-theme fabric was perfect for the cushion
When it came to the slip, I realised the stretchy material of the green bubble fleece would not be easy to sew, I had to plan how it would fit with the flannel so it wouldn't stretch. I made up the slip, but it turned out wonky. Oh well, it will still do the job! I made sure the cushion was going to fit inside the slip before stuffing it with chunks of old pillow, then I sealed it up.

In the end, the slip measures 22 x 11 inches, or 56 cm x 28.5 cm (thanks to grandma's tape measure!). I had a pillow a similar size and shape when I was small. I remember I was so attached to it, it was very hard for me to let it go. I hope this pillow will bring comfort to my son as he grows a little bigger and learns to sleep better. And hopefully not for too much longer in our big bed with his mummy and daddy!

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Grandmother's Tape Measure

This will seem like a very mundane thing, but since my mother gave me my grandmother's old tape measure, I've been really enjoying how much more sensible this tool is made compared to others.
my grandmother's tape measure has both centimetres and inches going in the same direction
This one not only has inches as well as centimetres, but it has both going the same way. Nothing else in my house does this, not even my tool shed tape measure. One ruler I have which is my favourite because it also is transparent, that has inches, but they go in opposite directions. If I want to know inches I have to turn the ruler around. My grandmother's tape measure is the best because straight away I can see the conversion to inches.

Is this a case of "simple things amuse simple minds"? Well no, I just like things that are made properly and do the job you need them to do. I wish more things were like my grandmother's tape measure ...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Starting a Granny Cluster Spiral

One night last week, Thomas woke me up, and I couldn't get back to sleep, although he could! So I sat up and gave a granny cluster spiral a go, to see if I could do it.
the start of my first granny cluster spiral in purple, blue, green and bright pink
I just used the principals from my other spirals, but with granny clusters instead. A granny cluster is 3 dc put into the same space, or 3 tr if you speak UK crochet. I think this was slightly less complicated than the other spirals. I'm now making plans to work on a cushion cover which will have this bright purple, green, pink and blue spiral on one side. I can't wait to see it finished!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The best way to join yarns

It's satisfying to learn new techniques that help me improve my work. Knotting a new yarn onto the next produces a bump and ends in the work which can be unsightly. I just learnt a new way to join natural fibres, called the felted join.
here is my first felted join, perfect for working with natural fibres like this grey wool mohair blend
I had an opportunity to make a felted join right away (instructions are at Lion Brand), while working with this lovely grey mohair wool blend which I bought last week on special at Lincraft. Another join I learnt a little while ago was the Russian join. I liked that so much, I was using it all the time, but now I will only use it  when working with acrylic yarns that don't felt. My work just improved a little bit more, Yay!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

5 tips for Painting with a Toddler

Last Wednesday, when Thomas should have gone to day-care, I made extra effort to entertain him. One big reason I'm ok with him going there two days a week is because he gets so much interaction with other children, as well as heaps of early childhood educational activities. So I had a lot to live up to today! I finally felt ready to give the painting thing a go.
recycled art materials and tools
One thing I learnt from my days as a public school teacher is that art materials should not cost a lot of money. Don't throw old toothbrushes away when you replace them every 3 months. Not only are they handy for cleaning, they make great paintbrushes for little kids! I also kept this plastic tray from the packaging of a new set of 6 glasses. Isn't it excessive how much unnecessary packaging there is in everything? Help save the planet and your money but using things like that for blobs of paint. Don't buy fancy cups for your kids paints, that's just silly!
20 month old Thomas painting in the backyard
Thomas loved painting, it seemed like he must have done this before! I would say at the day care centre, or maybe my son is a natural? I used an old piece of plastic that we bought to put over our outdoor furniture as the drop sheet. Never mind that it has some splashes of paint on it now, that's decoration! I set it up under the clothes line. As soon as one piece of paper was painted and one colour used up, I hang it on the clothes line. When I used up the 3rd piece of paper, I got down the 1st one which had red paint on it, to add black to it. By the way, this isn't new paper of course. It's recycled A3 paper brought home from work by Tom's dad, David. And we'll be recycling this paper again now its painted, it will be turned into gift wrap!
paintings drying on the line

So after my experience painting with my 20 month old, I've made a short list of things to remember for next time I do this.
1. go to the toilet before we begin!
2. and get the camera ready, too!
3. have the 3 colours in screw top plastic jars ready to go before you start
4. 3 pieces of paper and 4 colours worked well for a 30 minute activity
5. do it before snack time, so when the toddler is snacking you have a chance to clean up

another fun activity is this lentil box
Another activity we did that day was this lentil box. You can use lots of different materials as the earth for the little cars and trucks to push and move around. I used old lentils from the bottom of my pantry that had expired. Of course, I wouldn't use a packet of fresh lentils suitable for eating, that would be a silly waste. Just use any dry food you might otherwise chuck out like rice, lentils or beans for older children. You can even colour rice with food dye. But we very rarely have rice to throw away, we always eat and it's Thomas' favourite food!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Knitted Red Bonnet

Here is the knitted red bonnet I wore as a small child, my mum has just given it to me. I remember wearing this hat, even though it was nearly 40 years ago! This was not made by anyone I know, I think my mum bought it from a shop.
a red knitted bonnet that inspired me to make another bonnet
It was the memory of this hat that inspired me to make a bonnet for Barbie in the same shape. Its simply two squares sewn together with a tie to hold it under the chin. Very simple!
the pink bonnet I made for Barbie

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Grandmother's Mandolin

We lost our grandmother a few years ago now, so her very special mandolin came to be in my possession.
my late grandmother Beverly's old mandolin, which she played as a child
Apparently someone did some work on it for her, but I don't think whoever it was did a very good job. The wood is clearly split. I have no idea who I could possibly trust to restore it properly. So it currently sits in my piano stool, as I have no where else more appropriate to put it.

I hope one day someone will know what is the proper thing to do with it. It's a very special thing.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Very First Paycheck

When I was 14 years old I got a job packing grocery bags at Woolworths. My very first paycheck was spent buying this flute, with help from my mother.
the flute I bought with my very first paycheck when I was 14 years old in 1985
I was only allowed to work for them for 2 weeks, apparently because I was too young, but it was money well spent on my first instrument!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pink Princess Crown Headband

I was going to make my cousin's daughter a headband for her 1st birthday, but decided this Princess crown would be more appropriate. She's not the only one year old Isabella Rose that I know, its a very popular combination of first and middle name! This one is made with lotus pink luxury 8 ply Australian wool from Bendigo in Victoria, and a 4mm hook.
Princess Crown Headband
I was inspired by a photo of a crochet crown on pinterest. This was really easy to make, the most difficult part was deciding on a width that was most likely to fit a 1 year old. I finally decided it should 8.5 inches, so that's 17 inches circumference. Plus an extra inch for stretch means the head should measure around 18 inches, I hope that's right! If not, I'll just make another one!

this is how the headband looks when worn, with the pointed crown sitting up like a tiara
This was really easy. The beginning chain needs to be a multiple of 3. I did 2 rounds of sc, then a round of (dc 1 ch dc) sk 2. The last round has sc for 10 clusters, and 12 clusters have points into them. There are 22 clusters in total around the entire headband. The 12 points are (2 hdc 1 ch 2 hdc) twice, (2 dc 1 ch 2 dc) 8 times, (2 hdc 1 ch 2 hdc) twice. Simple!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Warm & Cool Twoway Teacosy

I made this simple granny square two way tea cosy to show my friend Lisa how it would look when finished. She's learning how to crochet and would like to learn how to turn her granny squares into a tea cosy. If she likes this one, I'll show her how its done.
"cool" & "warm" two way tea cosy, design by me
If anyone else would like to know how to make this, please just leave a comment here and I will post a photo tutorial. This is my own design, but its really easy. I already have an idea for the colours and name for the next one, so if I get a couple of comments, it will go to the top of my list of things to do!
top flower detail of my two way tea cosy

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Jug Cover my Great-grandmother Made

This beautiful white jug cover with delicate real shell weights was made by my maternal great-grandmother, Mary Margaretta Davis. She is the  great-mother that made all of the delicate crochet doilies, some of which I have already blogged about. My other maternal great-mother Elizabeth Jackson also could crochet, but she did more work with thicker yarns like baby jackets. I don't think I have any samples of her work, but she is my mother's grandmother who's parents owned a tailor shop.
A beautiful white jug cover made by my great-grandmother Mary Margaretta Davis
When my mother gave this to me a few weeks ago, it had an awful stain on it. Mum said I could try and wash it out with lemon juice. I did a search and found a site that recommended how to wash cotton in lemon juice so I gave it a try. The doily spent a couple of hours in the sun sitting on this glass and the stain has definately faded. I was worried it would deteriorate the cotton, but it doesn't seem to have and is still holding together strong.

I hope one day to have the time to copy my great-grandmother's pattern. She has swirled it, instead of starting new rounds with chains. One of the many things that is on my list of things to do!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Turquoise and Apricot Granny Square Laprug

My mum has a compulsion to give a home to homeless things she finds, like stray pets and precious things at garage sales. She came across these 13 apricot coloured granny squares and just had to save them
a lap-rug made of salvaged granny squares
I was helping my mum sort out some yarn a couple of weeks ago, and we came across these squares. She thought to save these granny squares from being thrown away by someone who didn't recognise their value. My mum thought she could join them up for a rug and I said it would be quick! It was quick, but not as quick as I would have liked! We decided some turquoise coloured acrylic from South Africa matched the white flowers in the apricot squares nicely enough. 

I started joining the squares with a chain lattice. I've never done this before and never read a pattern on how to do it, but I have seen a photo of joining lattice on pinterest, so gave it a go. The joining lace is simply (5 ch sk 2 sl st) repeated. When a square comes to sit alongside another that has its lattice, the pattern becomes (2 ch, sc into 5 ch sp on other square, 2 ch, sk 2, sl st). The edge starts with into sl st (dc 1 ch dc) sc into ch sp, repeated, then the 2nd round is (2 dc 1 ch 1 dc) into ch sp, repeated.
a pocket made with the 13th square
I hope this can be put to use somewhere. Maybe it can be donated to charity to cheer up someone's lap. I even put the 13th square on top, into a handy pocket! You never know, maybe someone will like it ...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cabled Spiral Bunny Rug in lavender, leaf and stone

It might not be the largest of projects, but if anything takes me weeks to make it really drags on and seems to take forever! This swirling cables spiral bunny rug was made for the friend of an in-law who is expecting a baby, they even paid in advance! Thankyous!

swirling spiral bunny rug in 4 ply baby wool
I started this on Tuesday 17th July, and finally finished sewing in the ends on 5th August. Because I used a 3mm hook and 4 ply baby yarn from Bendigo this took a lot longer than a bunny rug in thicker yarn using a larger hook. But the spirals look so effective I had to do it, and I'm a real glutton for punishment! The spiral is not easy to do, the yarns can get tangled if I don't carefully swap them over every time I change colours. One thing I improved this time is, to change colours less often and therefore create less opportunity for them to tangle, I now go with one colour all the way around instead of a quarter. The three colours meet up at the same place, and I don't even them out again until the end.
lavender, leaf and stone are colours suitable for a boy or girl
So I am able to pick up the project where I left off (I always have to take an extra moment to find my place and untangle the yarns), I have to leave an extra large loop. I even started securing the two unused colours with a safety pin to stop my work unravelling.

starting the spiral in leaf, lavender and stone 4 ply baby wool
Its a tricky pattern, but here is a rough idea of how it starts.
1. main colour, 2 ch, 6 sc into 1st ch, sl st
2. 1 ch 2 sc into same, 2 sc into next, start new colour on next sc, 2 sc in same, 2 sc into next, start 3rd colour on next sc, 2 sc in same, 2 sc into next
3. change hook to 1st colour, 2 dc in next, 2 dc in next, 2 dc in next, 2 dc in next (8 dc), repeat for each colour
4. continue with 3rd colour of previous round, (2 dc into next, fptrb around next) repeat for a total of 4 times, change to next colour and repeat for each colour
5. cont. with last colour, (1 dc in ext, 2 dc in next, fptrb in next) repeat for a total of 4 times, repeat for each colour
From then on, do the increase (2 dc) just before the cable (fptrb), otherwise put 1 dc into every dc, change colours as you come to them. To change colours less often and save time, catch up the colours to each other, then go all the way around, with each colour.
the beginning looks like a shell when all three colours catch up to each other
In a round, cables marking the increases from the centre out can be straight or swirled. I discovered this when making my latest spiral rug when I decided to mark the increases with cables instead of chain spaces. To make the cable straight, a stitch goes into every stitch, the increase occurs in the stitch before the cable. The treble is around the front post of that stitch, the next stitch is in the next stitch. Alternatively, to make the cables swirl, the increase occurs right after the stitch around which the cable will go. If no stitch is skipped then there are no gaps, and the swirl is slight. For a more prominent swirl, the stitch after the cable could be skipped and the increase can go into the stitch the cable goes around, then the cable goes around that same stitch as well. Some small gaps might appear in your work, but the swirl is more pronounced.
blanket edge pattern free from Lion Brand
Finally, after what seemed more like months than mere weeks, I came to the end and decided on an edge I found on pinterest. It turned out to be a free pattern from Lion Brand, just the trick! Although I changed it slightly by doing a dc instead of tr and 2 ch instead of 3 ch.
overview of the special bunny rug
The last thing to do was carefully sew in the ends, I did so that the ends can not be seen by either front or backside. Then I washed the bunny rug flat on my kitchen table, easing it into a 12 sided star shape. Gorgeous!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Isabella's Flower, free pattern

I just made this flower this morning based on what I did to make a flower for Isabella's headband in March.I can share the pattern for the flower easily enough, but the 3rd round I'm not sure of and will have to ask my crochet friends to pattern test it for me. I have a lot to ask of them!
Isabella's Rose by Teena Sutton Murphy
Isabella's Flower - free pattern in US crochet
- the flower is the 1st 2 rounds of the rose, seen in purple here
- UK crochet sc = dc, hdc = htrb, dc = trb, trb = dbtr

1. 3 ch (counts as 1st dc throughout), 11 dc into 1st ch, sl st into 3rd ch (12 dc, seen here in light purple)
2. * (sc, hdc, dc, 3 trb, dc, hdc, sc) into next, sc in next repeat from * for a total of 6 times, sl st into 1st sc (6 petals seen here in dark purple)
pinch and turn petals inside out so they puff and furl

The 3rd round is seen here  in white, and the 4th round is seen here in green. I hope to share the pattern for the 3rd and 4th round very soon.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Spiral Cotton Coaster

I just made this coaster as a template to sell on my madeit shop. I wonder if anyone will like it enough to buy or want the pattern? If anyone does want the pattern, I'll have to add it to my list of things to do!
spiral cotton coaster

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Blue Cotton Dishcloth

August is my husband's birthday month, and already I've given him a couple of presents, included a red and black basket he asked me to make for his desk. Here is another present that he asked me to make for him, a generously sized blue cotton dishcloth.
generously sized blanket stitch dishcloth in Australian made blue cotton
 I used a vintage blanket stitch I saw on crochetspot, and edged with sc. The dishcloth measure 9.5 inches by 8 inches. I've made this dishcloth to test how well this stitch and size holds up in our busy kitchen. If I have some of these for sale in my online shop by Christmas, you'll know it did well!
blue cotton dishcloth, folded
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