Monday, February 13, 2012

Massive catch-up post number two

DISCLAIMER: The following is a dramatic reenactment of the crafts done in the first week-and-a-half of February. Some of the crafts may not have occurred in the exact order stated here, on account of Nicole’s inaccurate memory. Viewer discretion is advised.

Day twenty-four: So, on the first day of February, I finally ventured into the murky waters of crochet.
I started with a chain stitch jewelry project from another of my kits. (This one was my most recent kit, given to me two birthdays ago.) It’s a book called “Spool Knit Jewelry”, but half of the projects are actually crochet.

I made a ring first, determined not to make yet another bracelet.

Then I made a bracelet. What can I say? I wasn’t done with the technique.

My main problems with crochet so far have been 1) I don’t know how to hold the hook, and 2) Because of that I can barely handle the yarn. But, following the instructions, I managed to get the hang of making the stitches. What helped me the most, I think, was tensioning the yarn around my finger like I do when I’m knitting. That way, I couldn’t shift my hands all over the place to get the hook to work. Also, if you’re starting out with crochet I would recommend trying it with elastic cord. The stretch made it so I didn’t have to struggle with inserting the hook or with trying to pull one stitch through another.
One thing that I found annoying was having to pre-string all the beads. With certain knitting projects, however, I’ve used a different technique where you put a bead on the stitch you’re using, so you can bead on the fly. I didn’t do that with this project because I wanted to follow the instructions and wasn’t sure if it would work, but I might try next time.

Day-twenty five:

I decided that, since I had gotten the hang of holding the crochet hook, I could try a harder stitch. I remembered seeing an instructional video on how to make this really pretty bracelet with silky cord, so I got out some cord and hunted down the instructions.
I had to re-watch the video several times, and it took me a while to get it, but here’s the result:

Here's the back:

I’m not actually sure what the stitch pattern is. The video called it “bracket chain”. After a few frustrating false starts, I started to see the pattern appearing and was able to finish it relatively easily. It turned out as well as I’d hoped. I really like the tightness of crochet – its one thing I miss in knitting. Not as keen on actual crocheted fabric, but I like the decorative look for jewelry.

Day twenty-six started the Epic Cardboard Saga:

My mom decided to show me how to make a cardboard flower ornament. It involves cutting flowers out of cardboard, then cutting slits in them so they fit together. Simple, right?

Apparently, the flowers need to be exactly the same size or they won’t fit together right. The above picture actually summarizes the process of the first three days. The first day, under my mom’s guidance, I traced many circles using a compass. Then, in a dramatic turn of events, my mom realized the circles were too close together to draw petals onto.

Day twenty-seven was (I think) the continuation of the Epic Cardboard Saga. I gave up on the first circles and traced flowers onto different pieces of cardboard. It was an exciting Saturday.

Day twenty-eight:

This was the first day I went to Michaels to get some new craft supplies. My mission was to get wire, a chain, and some thin ribbon. Instead I made the mistake of wandering into the beading section and getting completely overwhelmed. Must…learn…to make…amazing beaded things…
I stared at some wire, but couldn’t decide on the kind I wanted. (Wire comes in gauges, just like knitted pieces! What’s up with that?) However, I did find the chain and ribbon, the latter of which I used that evening (I think) to make this thing:

It’s a bracelet…kinda. It’s supposed to be sewn together at the ends, but my ribbon was a bit too short so I might have to engineer a strap instead. I made it using this.

It’s a simple box knot (a boondoggle stitch), but working with the ribbon makes it feel more like weaving or folding than knotting. I like the result, although I feel it’s too chunky to wear like a bracelet (maybe a bangle, if it were longer). Making it put me in mind of those springy paper-and-hoop lamps you see in Ikea. One day, when I get a huge ribbon…

Day twenty-nine was another boondoggle project. Making the ribbon box stitch, I remembered how fun it was to make these, so I decided to try a harder one. My goal was to make the tornado stitch, but first I decided to try a simpler stitch, the swirl.

I actually only made one or two stitches on this day. I made it with embroidery floss, which splits and is hard to make boondoggle stitches with. I got frustrated and quit after the first knot, and only came back to it several days later, when I made the rest and added the loop at the top (a piece of red embroidery floss knotted around it. I have no idea how to finish the ends without cutting them…any ideas?). Despite the annoyingness of the embroidery floss, I think it looks pretty cute.
Day twenty-nine was also the continuation of the Continued Epic Cardboard Saga: I started to cut out the traced flowers.

Call me a wimp, but cardboard is really hard to cut (at least with my scissors). Also I have little patience for paper crafts, so there’s that. I cut out rough pieces, but didn’t cut each petal out. No, that would be too much progress. The saga must continue.

Day thirty, one month since I started this project, I embarked on another crochet piece.
I’d come across tutorial not too long ago, and I knew I wanted to try it. I got some chain and made…

A bracelet! Kinda. (Again.) I crocheted it really tightly, so it came out a little short. I had lots of chain left over, and I was getting tired of bracelets, so I tried again and made a choker:

The straps are made from macramé square knots.
I love how the yarn and chain compliment each other. I’ve worn it once to a party, and I’m quite proud of it. I think it’s the first D.A.C. item that I’ve actually used!

Days thirty-one and thirty-two are returns to boondoggle. I still wanted to try the tornado stitch, so first I made a quad knot piece to get used to handling so many strings:

Then, the next day, I switched to the tornado stitch.

I used waxed cotton thread instead of embroidery floss, and I find it works a lot better because it’s stiff and doesn’t split. The texture comes out quite nice too.
Yet again, it’s too short to be a bracelet (the green string has already run out), but a bracelet wasn’t really my intention. I think I’m going to make it into a keychain.
Day thirty-two was also when I went back and added to the day-twenty-nine swirl stitch.

Day thirty-three:
I was getting sick of staring at my failed wrap bracelet from day thirteen, so I undid it, looked up the proper technique, and made a proper wrap-cross bracelet:

I know it’s not that impressive, but I like it a lot. I managed to make the wraps tight and even, and the crosses look pretty cool. Maybe one day I’ll actually try hair wraps.

Day-thirty four was the Continuation of the Continued Continuation of the Epic Cardboard Saga (try saying that ten times). I actually cut out some of the flowers. No picture because it’s not that exciting.
(Can you tell I use this craft as a fallback? My excuse is that Saturdays Are Busy.)

Day thirty-five:
Since it was a Sunday, I embarked on a project of impressive magnitude!

It’s going to be knotted. Fifty-two strings (actually, most of them are doubled, so one-hundred-and-six strings). Made using a “multi-color alphabet” technique, which obviously I’ve never tried before. I spent Sunday reading tutorials and cutting/organizing the strings…before I ran out of yellow.

The next day (day thirty-six) I bought extra yellow, finished organizing, and started knotting the thing:

It’s going to be a while. I’m kind of excited – I’ve always wanted to try a huge project like this, but was afraid of getting tangled. Not to mention the question of what would you do with such a wide…bracelet? Cuff? Wall art? But now…why not? I’ve made big knitted things before (right now I’m making a blanket). This isn’t THAT wide (okay, it is).

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The three last January crafts

Here's how the rest of January went in terms of crafting:
Day twenty-one:

I had lots of purple yarn left over from my bangle project, so I saw this project I got very excited. It’s lots of I-cord (a tube of knitting) sewn together, so I figured it would be a really easy but interesting new thing to make. I’m thinking of making a tea cozy instead of a mug cozy…so, lots of I-cord to make! Here’s how it looks so far:

Day twenty-two:

I (finally) managed to successfully explore a new type of knot.

This is my tiny pouch, made using this video. I found it several days earlier, but I didn’t have any of the recommended cord, and I didn’t want to use polypropylene or yarn again, so I spent the next few days making two long knotted chains from craft thread. Something that is made so fast in bracelet-form feels so much longer when you need to make twelve feet of it! I ended up running out of thread at around six feet, so I made a very short pouch. Technically it isn’t finished, because I’m trying to decide if I should add more thread to the ends.
It’s made from a combination of slip knots, which is really awesome because it’s rarely used as a decorative knot (you often use slip knots at the beginning of knitting and crochet projects). I also liked how fast it was to make, and how pretty it looks at the end.

("Octopus bag will eat you!")

The one downside is that my knotted cord is very bumpy, and doesn’t show off the knot texture very well. Also, like I said, it’s too short to actually hold anything. However…I didn’t want to abandon the idea of a knotted pouch, so…

Day twenty-three:

I wanted another knotted pouch. My problem: I didn’t have twenty-four feet of smooth cord that would show off the stitches nicely. I thought, “What is the recommended cord made out of?” Well, I’m told it has some sort of solid core, but the outside looks woven or braided. Hmm…braiding…didn’t I make a braided cord on day one?

Sorry for the blurriness. I was trying to show the pattern, but my camera was having none of it. You get the idea, I hope.

I'm making it using an easy kumihimo pattern I found online. It’s similar to the first one I made, but it uses fewer threads. Since I’m using full skeins of craft thread, I should have enough to make twelve feet.
As you can see, I went all high-tech and used bobbins. I practically need a wooden stand, like all the professional kumihimers.
It’s only about a foot and a half so far, so I’m going to need to make a LOT more (and then I’ll have to do it all over again to make the second cord). It’ll be a while before you see it again, but I think the pouch is going to look awesome. The cord is exactly what I need. It’s really fun to be resourceful about this, instead of having to wait to buy paracord. See? My artisan dreams are already coming true!

And that concludes the January edition of the daily artisan challenge! I feel it was a good establishing month. I've gotten into the habit of making stuff, and I know how much time it takes me to make a blog post. Over the next few months (hopefully when I'm more free), I want to try to make more diverse crafts more often, instead of falling back on the "new technique" thing every day. I was also thinking of writing some more wordy posts, where I either explain/discuss a technique, or philosophize about crafts or life in general. And...who knows...maybe even a video at some point?
We shall see how the project progresses from here! Watch this space.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The bangle that was so awesome that it warranted a seperate post (and not because I'm too lazy to take photos or anything)

January 28 – Day twenty:

Look familiar? It’s the cable from day twelve! Day twenty’s project was to furiously sew it onto its bangle, and deliver it to my friend on the same day. Not a super new technique, since I can make cables now and I’ve sewn knitting before…buuuut…I’ve never sewn a knitted cable onto a bangle, so there!

I’m really happy with how it turned out. I was afraid I’d made it too narrow (the cable caused it to pull in. Guess what, guys? Cables are ribbing! Except they pull in even more!), but it stretched perfectly over the bangle.

I was sad to give it away! Now I need to make some more bangles.

The pattern I used, by the way, is the awesome Swatch Bangle.

Sorry for the short post today. I'm trying to post every day so I can catch up, but I always start writing posts too late. Hopefully I'll be caught up in the next few days!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

D.A.C.: Eighteen and nineteen existentialism

After all the paper stuff from the past few days, the next week was a return to the “fiber arts” area. It was fun to put a new spin on familiar stuff.

All this crafting makes me wonder…

Why am I doing this challenge at all?

(Day eighteen: “plarn” = yarn from a plastic bag. It turned out quite pretty! If anyone knows what one would make from plastic bag yarn, I'm open to suggestions. I think making a bag defeats the purpose.)

I don’t mean to be existential here. It’s not like I’m starting to doubt the project. I’m more trying to answer the people that think it’s too much work for little result (you know who you are).

(Day nineteen: “Box” finger-loop braid. Made from five strands and a similar technique to the day two braid, but the turnout is much tighter and three-dimensional. Weird how passing one loop through another changes everything so much!)

Here’s the thing. I’ve never really seen myself as “crafty” despite going through phases of making stuff. To me, a crafty person is the kind of person who can solve problems by making things instead of falling back on “I’ll just buy a new one”, making something awesome and new out of an unwanted thing, or making presents and cards for friends. You can do a lot of that by just knowing how to knit, or crochet, or macramé, but the Ideal Crafty Person has an arsenal of all sorts of different crafts and is able to call them up when it suits the occasion. The Ideal Crafty Person can make the wrapping paper as well the present.
I want to be that kind of person. Learning different crafts is, I think, a step in that direction. Having to do it every day forces me to think laterally and always keep my eyes open for new crafts, and to do research. It’s like writing a novel in a month – you have to make progress every day to keep your momentum, and by the end of it you will have learned some things and achieved something awesome.
That’s why I’m doing this.

(Normal posts resume tomorrow.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Days 15, 16, 17: the Paper Days

I never was a fan of crafts that involve paper. Either they're too fiddly and precise, or else they involve glue (sometimes both). But I knew that if I was going to be at this for a while, I would soon come across things like origami. Which, I figured, is a good opportunity to get better acquainted with paper (and glue).

So, first of all. Day fifteen: Paper beads.
I found instructions in one of my craft books for rolling pieces of paper and making jewelry with them. On day fourteen, I picked the paper I would use (an extra copy of a Knit Picks catalog), then cut the paper intro triangles. Picking the pages I would use and cutting the colorful yarn pictures was probably my favorite part of the process.
The next day, I glued and rolled up the triangles to get these elongated beads.

I like that it looks like an abstract pattern, and you can't tell what the original page was. They're also really solid for paper and glue. I still wish they were more bead-looking, but I think that's more down to my technique than anything else...they started to look a lot better once I stopped squishing them with paperclips and started to puff them out. I've also heard that coating them with nail polish makes them look really glossy, so I might try that.
I haven't made enough beads to actually make jewelry yet, but I'll let you know when I do. I'm thinking earrings or possibly a hair clip.

Day sixteen was my first origami project: petals for a kusudama ball (thank you, Dot, for the suggestion!). You make individual petals, then glue them together into flowers, then glue the flowers together to create this fancy ball. I like this style of origami, where you make lots of little segments and then attach them. It feels much less fiddly than larger-scale folding.

I'm in the process of slowly gluing the petals together, so it doesn't look like much so far. More on this front as well.

Day seventeen was the Day of Many Stars. I learned how to fold these little origami stars from strips of paper. It's super easy and super fast, and I couldn't stop making them! I'm envisioning making a billion and putting them in a vase.

Those are all my paper projects so far. I don't think I'm done with origami (and similar stuff) yet, so expect to see more in the future!

Before I go, I have two questions: one, how much skill do you have to acquire before you can call yourself a [insertcrafthere]er? I've been knitting for over a year, and I could definitely say I'm a knitter, but I've been into macrame for far longer and am not sure I'd call myself a "knotter" or a "macrameer"...maybe because most of the knotting I've done falls into a very small niche. No real right answer here...I'm just curious.
Question two is: what crafts would you like to see me do in the future? I have a few ideas still, but I need some suggestions before I descend into "and today I did this kind of braid, which is totally different from my previous five thousand braids".

Monday, January 23, 2012

My week in D.A.C.

...Wherein I discover that it's not a good idea to let a week pass without posting.

I have to admit: I'm not totally sure I remember everything I did since my last post. Making a big catch-up post is, it turns out, not very beneficial to my project, mostly because I don't have time to focus on each craft in my attempt to catalog everything.
I'll give it a shot, though:

Day eight: The Suspended Mitten Cuff

I have this thick blue yarn that's leftover from a hat, and I always wanted to make mittens from it. Unfortunately I don't think I have enough for mittens, so instead my plan is to just make cuffs from the blue yarn, while the body will be made from something similar. I figured that now was a good time to get on it, since I could learn a new stitch pattern and complete my project for the day.
Because the yarn is fuzzy, it's pretty much impossible to unravel, so I had to use a totally different yarn to test the pattern. I tried to double the substitute (to simulate bulky weight), but using my size 7 needles and the "twisted rib" stitch pattern I ended up with an impenetrable fortress rather than a swatch. So I used a single strand and tried again:

I know, it's kind of hard to see. Trust me, there is a (new) stitch pattern there. I need to get bigger needles before I can work on the real yarn, so call this one a suspended project. I'll get back to it after I get those big needles.

Day nine:

I made a ribbon rose!

I saw a video online on how to make these a while back, and thought it looked totally adorable but really hard. I had some grosgrain ribbon (the recommended kind), though, so I decided to try it. I got so into following the video that it didn't occur to me until several minutes in that the technique isn't as precise as I was making it out to be. Basically, you wrap the ribbon around itself and make folds to create the flower petal effect.
My rose didn't turn out as well as the video's, but it was my first. I didn't glue it together, either, so it kind of falls apart if you handle it too much. I think I'll sew/glue/attach it once I figure out what to do with it...maybe a bouquet?
Oh yeah, and grosgrain ribbon is really the only way to go when you make these (at least, when you first start out). I tried it with other ribbons, but they were just too slippery.

Day ten:

I made a braid.

Not too exciting, but I ran out of time. I kind of like the woven reminds me of a friendship bracelet. And it totally counts as a new craft, because the other braids I did were finger loop and kumihimo, while this was the classic "single strands hanging down" braid! Totally different.

Day eleven: Linen stitch number two

Remember that neckwarmer-cowl-scarf thing I started on day four? Yeah...I kinda unraveled it. I had a new and exciting idea for this yarn: why not make a kerchief thing (Baktus, more specifically), in linen stitch? The "new" part of this project would be figuring out how to make increases on one side while keeping with the linen stitch pattern. I did a lot of scribbling on paper, but it didn't really click until I actually tried it with a test yarn. Don't ask me how it works...I couldn't tell you. It involves slowly including the extra stitches into the pattern, and...yeah. Maybe I'll actually write it down sometime.

I love the way the colors change for this one, but I'm starting to freak out because IT'S TOTALLY CURLING. Will it block, or is this like stockinette stitch in that it just curls and can never be fixed? Should I knit on a border? Do I just leave it, because it looks kind of cool? Many questions that will hopefully be answered once I get the needles back.
By the way, the reason this project doesn't have needles is...

...Day twelve:

I'm making this bracelet for a friend's (very belated) birthday present. Part of the reason for the delay was my fear of trying cables, which look Too Professional To Be Easy. Have you started to notice a pattern with my crafting? I'm always afraid something is more difficult than it is!

In this case, doing the cable was a LOT easier than trying to figure out the "mock cable" rib. And it looks soooo good with this yarn. I love it.

Day thirteen:
Saturdays, I'll warn you, are usually the days where I have no time to craft. Saying that, I made a valiant effort and made...

A wrap bracelet. I've tried them before, but this time I tried to do this crisscross thing with the yellow craft thread. It kinda failed, but at least I tried. And shortly after I made this I found a pattern that suggested wrapping embroidery floss around ear-bud cords to decorate them. I must try this!

Day fourteen (yesterday):

I wanted to try something new. If I'm going to get stuck in my quick-braided-or-wrapped-bracelet-world on Saturdays, I need something interesting to make up for it on Sundays. I went and dug around in my craft books (of which there are many. I was a really crafty kid, surprisingly. More on this topic in a less catch-uppy post), and found instructions on how to wrap beads from pieces of magazine paper. So last night I cut up lots of paper into triangles:

That's as far as I got, though, because I went to bed after that. However! Today I will actually roll the beads and try to make some kind of jewelry out of them. I know, I know, the same craft in two days sounds like cheating. I have two responses to this: One, nobody reads this blog anyway, so I can do whatever I want. Two, cutting up paper and rolling them into beads are totally different skills. This is my defense and I'm sticking to it! Maybe I'll start themed weeks where I do one step every day. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE THAT, VOICE IN MY HEAD?
Sorry. I've been writing this post for...a while. I was going to philosophize today, but this post is already long enough, so it'll have to wait for another day.
See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

D.A.C. Days six and seven

...Also known as the Beading Expedition.
On day six (Saturday), feeling slightly demoralized from the previous night's failed knotting, I decided to try something new. Since I was pretty busy last week I never really branched out from my "fiber artist" sphere of crafting, and what's the point of this challenge if not to branch out?
So, I dug through my closet of kits and craft stuff and found a pack of beads. I used to be really into beading when I was eight, but I dropped it at some point and never got back to it. So on day six, armed with a craft book and a teeny needle, I decided to try making a beaded bracelet.

I made several attempts at this triangle bracelet: one with fishing line that wouldn't go through the seed beads, a second with beading thread that tangled horribly, and the (successful) third with really thin fishing line, as well as several attempts in between where I experimented with the beads and was unsatisfied/got tangled in the thread.
It's really weird how similar beading is to sewing. You have a needle and thread, and you have to insert it in the correct way or it'll mess up. And it's so. Fiddly. Beads are so pretty, but seriously...yarn doesn't scatter and disappear if it falls on the ground!
Despite all of the mess, though, it was surprisingly fun. I remembered why I liked beading in the first place - you get to play with colors, and the end result looks really good. It's also a lot faster than knotted bracelets.

On day seven (the first week of the project!), I continued with the beading thing. I remembered receiving a bead loom for a birthday present. I had used a shoebox loom before, but by the time I got the "professional" one I had stopped beading, so the loom waited patiently in the craft closet.


I was afraid it would be too complicated, but I actually like bead-looming more than normal beading. I guess it's more like weaving than sewing, but I've never tried weaving (or sewing, for that matter) so I'm not sure. The pattern is mostly from my beading book, but I added the little center diamonds in my version.

Bonus craft from days five and six:

I made an amazing discovery: you can finger-loop braid with polypropylene cord. (You still end up having to knot the ends, but it's some progress). This is a harder finger-loop braid that involves putting the loops through each other while trading them on your fingers. It took me a couple of tries to get it, but the result is worth it - it's all twisty and looks like some sort of complicated knot. I'm really liking finger-loop braiding...I'm glad I decided to try it. Apparently it was popular in Medieval Europe...who knew?