Friday, May 6, 2016

Crochet for Days

I was recently lamenting the fact that I haven't done much blogable crafting lately. Then, looking through pictures, I kept scrolling past crochet projects or pictures of me crocheting. I really have been crafting! It's just not especially original work, run-of-the-mill type crochet stuff. I still consider myself a beginner. There's so much to learn. But I decided it would still be fun to show off what I've been working on. I'll post links to the patterns, videos, and tutorials where applicable. 

Crocheting while heavily pregnant with Roz, holiday crocheting and family time, and Roz trying to get in on the action.

Blankets! Top left and bottom right are ripple patterns memorized after watching many different videos. Top right is a fun miscellaneous striped blanket I made along with this video. The edge is wonky, but I'm proud of my first blanket. The bottom left is squares for an afghan I'll finish someday. Solid squares using triple crochet stitches.

Market bags! These were my crafty gift for Christmas last year. I made at least eleven for gifts at the time and have made a few more since. I already blogged about them (here) and did my best to write directions. What a fun project! I'm wondering as I type who I can make one for. Maybe Everett's teacher needs a market bag as an end-of-the-year gift--filled with wine and massages.

I didn't crochet nearly as many gifts for Christmas this year. I made infinity scarves for my mother in law and sister in law. I think this is the pattern I used. And I made disc golf bags for the kids using the modified market bag pattern I used for their dad's disc bag.

And some other little projects. I made many of these dish scrubbies to give as gifts along with the market bags last Christmas. They were beautiful and striped in all sorts of colors, but recently Brian asked me to make a few for our dish scrubbing needs. They are much more plain for our kitchen. But it's so nice to be asked to make something that someone needs. Here is the pattern.

I experimented with making some play food. Cheese, bread, and lettuce. No patterns, just trial and error. That's all I have so far. Pretty pathetic sandwich. But I'm excited to make more!

I made some little slippers. This is the video I watched. I have size 10 feet, so I had to make them larger in every way--length, height on the sides, and depth of toe.

And I added a picture of the market bag I made for my mom. She brought it over, and it was fun to see something I made being used. I had to snap a picture.

Excuse me. I need to get back to crocheting. My rainbow ripple blanket is almost done. Maybe . . .

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Everett's Inventions Party!

It was more accurately an inventions and animals party, with an emphasis on simple machines.

Everett came up with the inventions theme, and it was so inspiring to me. I loved the idea of infusing the party with so many learning opportunities for the kids. Nerd mom!

The animals addition was almost an afterthought, but I love the quirky way he thinks, so I included it. Lydia's second birthday party three months earlier was animal themed, and he wanted what she had. Siblings. A couple of the decorations and many of the favors were animals (sticky lizards, flying fish, gummy bears).

I was pregnant and tired, so I tried to keep my work for the party minimal. Unfortunately for Brian, I piled all that work (and more) on him. I can't believe how much I asked him to do, and really how much I still did myself. But we pulled it off!

His biggest project was this awesome teeter totter (in simple machine terms, a lever) based on this Ana White design. He bulked it up a bit, as he is known to do. The beautiful red enamel paint was left over from Everett's bed.

I hung signs labeling the items and what type of simple machine they represent.

He also made this cool adjustable race track (incline plane). There are two tracks, a very long board and a shorter board, so there's even more variety for the racers. I went through the house and found a bunch of toy cars. There were two baskets, and I tried to make sure they had comparable cars. Even the parents had fun racing!

He made these fun bucket pull stations, one that used pulleys to lift a platform and one that moved a bucket along a rope, like a clothes line.

I used this party as an excuse to make something I'd been thinking about making for a long time: a magnetic marble run! Incline planes at work. Also a lot of PVC, vinyl tubing, tongue depressors, and E-6000 glue.

Beyond providing simple machines for the kids to play with, I wanted to make sure the kids got to invent at an invention party. They got to invent their own marble runs. The catapult and paper airplane making stations (coming up) offered even more creating opportunities. And the kids really ran with it!

I stuck a few signs on existing toys to tie everything together. Pirate ship (from this party) has a wheel and axle!

Monkey from this party played an integral part of the catapult activity. Make your own catapult and try to shoot dry beans through the monkey's mouth! This activity could have fizzled big time, but the kids loved it and got really into making catapults! Check out Julie, beans in mid flight!! And Andy showing off his creative catapult masterpiece!

Part of the catapult activity set-up with some examples of how to combine the pieces provided.

I was also concerned the paper airplane folding station would be a bust, but the kids seemed to have a really good time with it! I found the folding instructions online, printed them out, and taped them to this huge clipboard. I had a harder time than I expected finding colored printer paper for the planes. My mom came to the rescue. She already had some at her office. If I'd felt like it, we could have organized a paper airplane flying contest to see who folded the best plane. I'm not a fan of leading games. But a few of the kids raced their creations on their own.

But I did make Brian lead a game of Pin the Propeller on the Airplane!

And we had our first piñata! I was so happy to find a hot air balloon (you can see we added in some more complicated machines, specifically vehicles: hot air balloon, airplanes). It was a pull string piñata, which I thought would be good for this age. It was! All the kids got a turn, and it was really exciting that the string that pulled the bottom off was pulled last. So much suspense!! Unfortunately, the hole created in the bottom of the piñata wasn't open to the area where the prizes were (what?!?). So a few of the parents had to rip the thing apart! And then the kids got to scramble for the goodies. It was really fun despite the poor piñata design.

We had so many good ideas and put so much effort into pulling everything off, but the thing that made me feel like a total genius was serving ice cream sandwiches instead of cake! I made a "cake" by stacking six ice cream sandwiches (three on top of three) and sticking five candles in the top. But the real winning idea here was the individual ice cream sandwiches that everyone enjoyed (the "cake" was actually abandoned in the freezer). We put out plates of sprinkles and guests patted in the sides of their treats to cover them with sweet colored goodness! So easy. So cheap. So FUN! I wish we could do ice cream sandwiches for every birthday! Too bad we have one in chilly February and the kids will probably have their own confection requests. Oh well! Ice cream sandwiches whenever possible!

For lunch we ordered pizza and the grandparents graciously provided sides.

I'll post pictures of the simpler stations. These HUGE bolts Brian found.

Grandma and Grandpa's Sit 'N Spin is a wheel and axel.

Castle slide is another incline plane. I can't believe I didn't label that ship's wheel as a "wheel and axle." Hm. I guess I couldn't label every simple machine on the property.

In the end we had so much fun with our friends, a lively crew who aren't afraid to participate, create, and go along with our crazy ideas. With three little ones now, we'll see if we ever attempt anything quite so ambitious again.

Happy inventing!!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Crochet Market Bags

My crafty Christmas gifts this year were these market bags. I started well ahead of the holidays trying out many different patterns, and in the end, I came up with this one. I suppose it's a mash-up of elements I found in the different patterns, but they're basic crochet concepts, so I don't feel bad claiming this one as my own.

Overall, I think I made eleven basic bags and then the two other modified bags shown a bit farther down. 

I'll post my directions at the bottom. I don't know how to write a true crochet pattern, but I can do my best to explain how I made them.

The key to this pattern is using a large crochet hook. I used a size P (10mm). I also used cotton yarn (Sugar’n Cream by Lily), which I also consider key to the look and feel of these bags. But the size of the hook is essential. A small hook would make a small bag with no obvious mesh. The large hook also makes the project go really fast!

It was a fun pattern to play around with variegated yarn, see what kind of stripes and patches of color were formed.

I also experimented with stripes. two, three, or four rows, sometimes depending on how much yarn I had.

Before I get to the "pattern," here are a couple variations:

I made this slightly smaller bag for my best friend for her birthday. I realize it doesn't look any smaller. For the picture, I filled it with heavy groceries instead of the yarn balls used with the bigger bags. Oops! These bags stretch!

My husband pointed out his favorite colors at the store and "hinted" that my pattern could make a really nice disc golf bag. I made the bag smaller and the strap much, much longer--longer than I needed, then folded the excess over and stitched around the edge to make a padded strap.

On to the "pattern" . . .

chain 4, connect

chain 2, make 11 double crochets into the center, so it’s 12 posts counting the chain 2.

connect, chain two and turn piece (I’m not sure if this is necessary, but I read it in at least one pattern, and I did it for all my bags—too nervous to experiment with that aspect, I suppose).

The next two rows are increase rows, so the very next row you do two double crochets in each space (you'll have 24 stitches, turn piece). The row after that, you do every other. So, two double crochets in one space, one double crochet, back to two, and so on (you'll have 36, turn piece).

Put a double crochet in the first space of these two rows (with the chain 2) but not the first space of any other row. At least one pattern I read suggested putting a double crochet in the first space of every row (if I was reading the pattern correctly). This looks a bit weird. It creates an obvious seam down the side.

The next eight rows are simply double crochets in each space (turning piece every row).

Then I started adding in a few decrease rows. This was very unscientific and I’m sure there’s a better way.

But . . . I put two decrease stitches in each decrease row, equidistant from each other. In the first row, I chained two, did one double crochet in the next space, then did one decrease stitch—where you start doing the stitch in one space but half way through skip to the next stitch and finish it there. Double crochet until the next decrease. With my design, I’d count the spaces till around 17, then do my second decrease stitch. Double crochet till the end, and there should be another 17 spaces. I wasn’t super strict about the counting. If I counted 16 and 18 spaces on either side of the decreases, that was fine (turn piece).

The next row is regular double crochet (turn piece).

The next row is another decrease row. This one is even less scientific. I wanted to space out my decrease stitches—I didn’t want them to line up vertically—so I’d start the double crochets and try to place my decrease stitch in between the decrease stitches two rows below. I’d count 7 or 8 spaces after one decrease stitch and place my decrease stitch in my new row above. I’d do the same thing for the next decrease stitch. between 7 or 8 stitches of the first decrease row, or 16 stitches from the other decrease stitch in this row. I wasn’t too strict about counting on this row either, but it worked out to 16 and 16 spaces if I was careful to make it even.

The next row is regular double crochet (turn piece).

One more decrease row. This one’s easy because I do my decrease stitches directly above my first decrease stitches. If even, there will be 15 spaces on both sides of the decrease stitches (turn piece).

One last row of double crochet stitches and you’re done! . . . with the bag part.

For the straps, it’s important that the opening of the bag has an even number of spaces between crochets so the straps will be even and the space between the straps is even. My bags ended up with 30 spaces around. If I ever messed up and had one less or one more stitch (I never had more, only less, but I suppose this could happen), I’d just add another stitch. It looks better to have a stitch crammed in at that point than to have unevenly spaced straps.

Stripe: I always went back to the main bag color for the last two rows, so if I wanted to do 4 rows of stripe, my first decrease row was the beginning of the stripe color. If I wanted to do 3 rows of stripe, I’d change to the stripe color after my first decrease row.

Straps! I liked this style of strap most because it looks so well integrated into the body of the bag. They also add a bit to the total capacity of the bag, so take that into account. I always centered the seam in the middle of one of my straps, but I’m wondering now if having the seam in-between the handles might look more natural. It’s a personal choice.

So, if you center your seam, attach yarn with a slip knot, chain two, and make a decrease stitch. If you start from the seam, you can continue from where you are (no extra ends to weave!), chain two, then do a decrease stitch. Double crochet along and finish with another decrease stitch. The number of spaces filled needs to equal half the total spaces available. Unless you want a bigger gap between your straps. I was happy with very little gap and a wider strap.

chain two and turn, decrease stitch, double crochet until the last two spaces where you will do another decrease. Do this until the strap is the thickness you’d prefer for the rest of the strap. I liked mine to be 9 crochets or 8 spaces wide.

chain two and turn, 8 double crochets and do it again.

I like 8 rows of double crochet for the strap. Make a knot and leave a nice long end.

Do the second strap exactly like the first starting directly in the next open space.

I joined the straps by tightly wrapping the ends through the crochet spaces. I liked to do it tight, so when I threaded the ends through the wrapped yard, they’d be held there tight.

And, we're done! Sweet market bag.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lydia's Animal Party!

Lydia turned two! So we threw our little animal lover an animal party! Everyone had a blast, and I wanted to share the details of our decorations and craft projects. Maybe they will inspire someone else!

Along with all our awesome friends, Everett and Lydia's "stuffies" were invited to the party! 

It was quite quick and easy to make party hats for them using half circles of scrapbook paper taped into cones. I hot glued pom poms to the tops and taped the hats on the animals with twine (taped the twine to the insides of the hats).

We also decorated with our flags and balloons. The kids love balloons (of course). I usually buy a small helium tank at Michael's using a 50% off coupon.

Everett thought his pirate party could have used more traditional party games and activities (a treasure hunt alone didn't cut it!), so I planned some "classic" party fun.

We played pin the tail on the fox! I thought about making my own, but the price of pin the tail games on Oriental Trading Company is unbeatable, $3.99! I had to get more tails copied onto card stock because the set only came with 8. I used 3M putty to attach the tails to the wall and then to the game.

It's funny how some kids were excited to participate and others just wanted to watch, maybe half and half. But everyone had fun! 

A monkey/banana beanbag toss! I sewed the wonky bananas using thick yellow cotton, filled them with rice, and painted the ends brown. I put tape on the carpet every 2 feet. We didn't lead a game. The kids did their own thing, and I saw some tossing beanbags and having a good time.

Brian helped a lot with this project. He cut the plywood and designed and built the stand (two strips of plywood attached with hinges).

I painted the monkey with acrylic paints, leftover house paint and craft paint. We sprayed it with clear matte spray paint for protection and to even out the different sheens of the paints. 

Individual pull-string fish piñatas!

Since it was a two-year-old's birthday with lots of little kids, and I'm not a big fan of traditional piñatas anyway, I thought it would be nice to do individual pull-string piñatas. It was a bonus that they were great decorations! 

But I bit off a tad more than I could chew with this project. There were lots of little steps, and it was very time consuming. I'm not going to say I regret making the fish piñatas (they really did look awesome), but I will try to avoid projects like this in the future.

In our collage box I found a deck of animal flashcards (pretty thick card stock). I cut the animals out in circles and punched two holes in each. I glued these circles on larger tissue paper circles.

I poked holes in the bottom of large drink cups and strung ribbon through. I'd recommend tying a knot at whatever point makes sense to you. You don't want the ribbon coming out. We (Everett helped) filled the cups with gummy bears, suckers with a dog and cat on the wrapper, butterfly party horns, animal stickers, tattoos, stamps, finger puppets, and probably some other stuff.

I strung ribbon through the circles (again, tie a knot) and packing-taped the tissue paper circle to the cup. After a test run, I found out the tissue was too strong (the ribbon ripped through the cardboard circle instead of detaching the circle from the cup). So I made little cuts with an x-acto knife around the circle, perforated the tissue basically. To make the scales, I cut circles of tissue (in as thick a stack as possible) and then cut the circles in half. Starting from the opening of the cup, going around and down, I attached the scales with white glue. I spaced out the scales as far as possible to save time and materials. I tied my knots close to the openings and glued the tails over the knots. The tails were four scales made into a "V." Two "V's" glued together. I curled all the ribbon.

I had envisioned having the kids open the piñatas one at a time, so they could collect all their loot individually. But Brian convinced me that 16 or so kids going one at a time would take too long. One adult stood at one end of the rope and another stood at the other end, and all the kids went together. Some of the bigger kids rushed to get as much as they could off the floor, but the little kids seemed happy with the stuff they collected, and they all got to pull their own piñata!

I had Everett write the kids' names on brown paper lunch bags (to hold the piñata goodies) and decorate them with animal stickers. As you can see, Lydia decorated her own.

On to the baking!!

Just some fun/easy Pinterest ideas. Vanilla cupcakes, cream cheese frosting, circus animal cookies, marshmallows, and sprinkles make everything more fun! 

I even did the sprinkle cake thing for Lydia. Sprinkles everywhere!! 

I didn't take a single picture of the delicious turkey chili my father-in-law made. We had chili dogs--hot dogs for an animal party, right?! And all the salads and sides my parents and in-laws made. Oh well. Imagine delicious food. We're always so grateful for their help at our kids' parties. 

That was a lot of fun! Thank you for reading!