I know. I know. I have a lot of these. Playing with yarn keeps me from snacking and is an excellent way to relax whilst a young one runs around like a beast.

Totoro Mittens
I love that movie. These are stranded knitted mittens with two colors of yarn at once. I’m getting better at getting my tension right so the colors look nice and the darker color doesn’t show through. It’s easier for me to use thicker weight yarn and make something I’ll use. (I made a purse/little bag once that is awesome but I never use it…I should dig it out). Anyway, both skeins are Lion Brand Wool-Ease. It is a wool blend that is machine washable, woot! The pattern is from brella, her pattern page says “Totoros are the shy forest spirits portrayed in Hayao Miyazaki’s Japanese animated film My Neighbor Totoro. There’s a big one with an umbrella, two little ones, and a bunch of dust bunnies (or soot sprites) who like to swirl out of dark corners. I wanted to capture all of these elements on mittens, which in the Norwegian tradition are wonderful surfaces for intricate stranded knitting designs.” These will be so cute and toasty! I really like them and will probably make more mittens like this.

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Its funny to see them come to life! Since the yarn is thicker they are stitching up very quickly. Once I tried using double points it went even faster.

Tunisian Crochet Ten Stitch Blanket
I just started this last week. Sometimes I get the urge to crochet. This promised to use up some stash yarn and have a cozy blanket. The pattern is from Dedri Uyswho writes a very cool blog. She has done two to three versions of this blanket. It does indeed burn through stash yarn and is indeed very quick to do and addictive! It’s only ten stitches around, worked in a spiral. I’m using a size 9 hook, which is bigfer than recommended for the yarn individually but it makes the blanky drape better (ie: flop around instead of act like a board) and tunisian stitches are tighter. I plan on using purple and white once that skein of blue is finally gone. The middle yarn is cotton and the other stuff is unknown acrylic. It is nice and soft and should be nice and warm. The corners are too fun to stitch!
Tunisian crochet differed from regular crochet in that it is almost a blend of both knitting and crochet. You pick up stitches like knitting, then crochet them back across. I love the texture.

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Hope you are enjoying these. :-)

I thought I’d share how to frame a cute little stitch. As you know, I’m hooked on Wee little Stitches, and most of their stuff is small. Hence, easy to carry around, finish in a decent amount of time, etc. But what do I do with all those stitches I’ve done? Framing those things professionally would be way too expensive. I found the hoop section at the craft store and brought along my stitches to frame. I picked out the ones that looked nice. Each frame is anywhere from $1-4. I chose some bright plastic ones because these projects are going in my sons’ room, but the wood ones look nice too.
Anyway, here are the supplies you’ll need:
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The finished, ironed piece, scissors, good thread, and a hoop. I also use a scrap piece of fabric but you’ll see that in a minute.
Take the hoop apart and line up the back piece behind the stitching-a window helps here. You can adjust it later so right now just get it mostly in place.

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Now place it on a clean surface, or that cloth, and out the top piece on. I love the plastic hoops for framing because they really hug the fabric and hold it in place. Get the piece about where it needs to be, tighten the top hoop a little, then gently tug the fabric around until it is centered.
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This takes a while sometimes, but be patient. No worries. Don’t get too OCD about it or you’ll throw something. Not that I….throw things…ahem.
Now here is the finishing part. Make sure that hoop is on tight as you can (don’t resort to pliers or anything just use your mad sewing finger strength or the plastic may break and things will get thrown) and flip the piece over. I use a scrap from an old t-shirt.
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Pull off a fair length of thread, thread the needle, and pull both end of the thread together and knot the end. Knots are your friend here; the back will face the wall anyway so do not fear the knots!
Gently fold the fabric towards the center of the hoop and start sewing the opposite ends together. Pull fairly tightly, but don’t break the thread. Tone down your mad sewing finger strength for this. You can tighten it later. Go in a zig zag fashion across the back. (I re-threaded two or three times and only broke the thread once-no problem) You may have to trim the fabric a bit to make it easier.

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You end up with a Frankenstein monster type stitching that will keep the fabric taught and secure.

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Ta-da! A work suitable for your wall. :-) This is the free Avengers patterns from the Wee Little Stitches blog. I used DMC glow in the dark tfloss for Iron Man’s eyes and chest. I used silver rayon DMC thread for Thor’s helmet and added a hammer for him (the original doesn’t have one). I also changed Wasp’s   outfit colors to match the cartoon version we like.
I have three more to finish today, plus two that need more attention because they don’t quite fit in the hoops. I’ll go over that hack later.
Have fun! Display those stitches!
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(French knots is from sublime Stitching, also how I overcame my fear of French knots! The other two are also WLS Ferris Beuller and Mystery Inc)

How do you get all that thread and stuff organized before you stitch? I admit that getting all that together is half the fun. It’s exciting to think about the work ahead, the beautiful piece as it slowly comes together. A place for everything and everything in its place. If only I could apply that idea to the rest of my house…oh the closets…yeesh…

I like to use cards to organize my colors. Kits will often come with a card (sometimes they are even color-coded for you, swoon!) but index cards work just as well. I use the index cards for projects in books/non-kits.

I’ll start with a WIP that came as a full kit that came with all the supplies needed. Here is Man’s Best Friend by Dimensions Gold. I consider this to be a large project, because the finished piece is bigger than 5×7.

First thing I do is scan the pattern and print out a copy. This leaves the original clean in case I lose the pattern and I can also print out as many copies as I need to if mark-ups make it hard to read. I often scan the pattern and enlarge pages, making them easier to read. Here’s where my mapping skills come in. I so love this. Make one copy for the main stitches and another one later for the backstitching and other details. Mark up that paper as much you want to. No worries! You can print another one! I keep the original pattern and the picture of the piece in a folder. I cut out the picture from the cover of the kit as a reference. I like to attach it to a tin with a magnet (handy for lost needles too) or just stash it in the box.

Maps, patterns, they're all the same principle.
Maps, patterns, they’re all the same principle.

For this particular pattern I separated it into 4 parts to form a square. It helps me to have a plan like this on bigger projects, to help break it into smaller parts that are easier to tackle. It’s much easier to read now that is is bigger. I began in one corner, and plan to go mostly counter-clockwise. Once I’ve started stitching, I tend to pick something out and finish it. You can see I’ve done the dog, then spread out to the grass, now I’m into the forest in the background. Once I finish that, I will even go through and put in the details (backstitching, couching, french knots) before heading to the next section. This is the first project where I have done the details so soon. I usually wait until the end, but this split into 4 squares so nicely, that I think it will work. Plus, that dang forest is pretty daunting, and by getting finishing it once section at a time, it won’t be so daunting anymore. The more I get into it, I may not want to do more green half stitches for awhile, but at least I’ll know that the bottom right section is done, you know? It can be maddening to go so long stitching away, then remember, zomg, I have to freakin detail this guy too.

Anyway. Next I separate the thread and organize it onto the card, where my Sharpies come in! I mark on the index card, or the card provided, the color names of the floss and their symbols, matching them as best I can with the actual pattern. Hence, I use blue, red, black, and green markers. The kits always come with nice instructions on how to organize the thread. I love drawing the little symbols. I recommend sorting the floss in a very well lit room; sunlight is best. Being in a sunny place with stitching is a bonus anyway. Backyard tables are great for this. I let the kids meander and get dirty while I get to sit at the nice table with a cuppa coffee. But watch out on windy days-a box or bag comes in handy. I’ll get to that.

This card came with the kit.  made the colors/symbols match the original. Coloring is fun!
This card came with the kit. made the colors/symbols match the original. Coloring is fun!

Anyway, again. I mark where I have stitched with a highlighter, typically yellow because I can still see what’s going on. Compared to say, blue, which pretty much covers everything. I may need to refer to a finished area again if I mess up, so yellow works best for me. Those highlighter pens are amazing. I know, I totally have pen crushes.

I use the markers again for detailing (backstitch, french knots, etc), but on a fresh copy. I just trace where I’ve been for the outlines, and make dots for the french knots, etc. Man, it made it a lot easier when I just started printing out more copies like that. Now I don’t worry about messing up the pattern. One less thing to worry about is always good.

Here is my progress so far:

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and what my WIP looks like as a whole:

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(yes, that’s a cigarette tin. No, I don’t smoke but those tins are fab!)

I like keeping this one in a metal binder. I used these in school a lot for field exercises, and I use them at work too. They’re fairly indestructable and I love the clip to hold the pattern in place. I like using the colored tabs to mark out a section, like this:

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There are fancy pattern holders out there that are very nice, too, but this has worked for me since about 1999. It ain’t broke, I won’t fix it. These aluminum boxes are available at most office supply stores. I use a lot of different boxes or bags for projects. Whatever is available or the right size will do. I keep most of the supplies I’ll need with the WIP, like scissors, highlighter pen, scrap tin, etc. Everything is there if I get the urge to work on it.

Back to planning: even though I had planned on going counter-clockwise, I think once I’m done with this section I will go clockwise, and stitch the man. Then I can finish the bottom left.

Who knows when I’ll finish this? I got it on sale at a well-known craft store, back when they had nice kits like this. I think this retails for about $30 and I found it for $7. WOOT! I’ll give it to my folks when it’s done and they’ll frame it. I have already done two or three lab projects for them. I have a weakness for labradors, especially tubby yellow ones.

I hope this helps you if you are thinking about getting into something a little more challenging than the tiny ornament sized kits or little charts from a book.

Who knew I could run and enjoy it? Who knew I’d look forward to those weird fun runs with the maniacs all dressed up and, like, -gasp-, running?

I was in the Color Me Rad run last Sunday and it was ridiculously fun. My buddies and my guys showed up to cheer me on and it was… just… really something. I never ever thought I would do these kinds of things, even Ben mentioned that, just after he said he was proud of me. <3

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Next up is the Dirty Dash in August, then another color run in September (with Penny and Will!! squee!), then Day of the Tread sometime in October. AWESOME.

Who is this girl? Who knew? :-)

P.S. If you are curious, I was 200lbs in Dec 2011. I finally decided to do something about that in January 2012. I’ve lost 25lbs so far. The main goal isn’t to fit in a certain size or even be a certain weight, I’m going for healthy and using a weight goal as a basic boring guideline. I know I’ll be much healthier if I keep going to that weight goal (150 based on my doc’s suggestion). I guess my ultimate goal is to see the person in the mirror look the same as the person in my head.