Saturday, December 18, 2010

In which I celebrate bling.

Last Thursday was the ChemSoc Christmas party, and as one of the organisors I encouraged people to wear cheesy Christmas jumpers or indeed, fashion their own. Naturally, I had to participate myself. Crafting? Chemistry? Christmas? Oh yes. I decided I didn't want to spend a night out wearing a jumper, so I got a top I'd be happy to go out in and made a patch for it. Hello sequins, welcome to my wardrobe.

The stitches used to sew on the tree were purposely crappy and big - such that I'd be able to easily remove the seasonal foliage and get some more use out of the top. Unfortunately I don't have any action shots - I'd forgotten my camera on the night and in honesty, I'd rather have it take a run through the wash before I put it on again. I'm taking it home (if I get there, what with this snow and all) over Christmas, so hopefully in the next post there'll be some of me looking snazzy.
As you cannot have failed to notice, next week is Christmas and, bus services willing, this time next week I'll be in Donegal. As such, there will be no post. Even if my mom had internet, I plan to spend next Saturday knitting, playing computers games and drinking a truly astonishing amount of beer. When I come back I will post anything I have made over the holidays, as well as some things I made over the last week which I can't share as they're intended as gifts. I hope everyone has a happy, warm and safe Christmas, spent with loved ones.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I was somewhat absently browsing Craftster one evening this week while waiting for dinner, when I saw this post. I myself have been using newspapers as an economically and environmentally way of wrapping my Christmas presents for years, but apart from tying on the a homemade gift-tag with some nice colored yarn, that's about as elaborate as it gets. I was really intrigued by the paper pinwheel decoration - another nice thing to do with an essentially free resource (depending on the paper you're using, of course). I used this tutorial found via Google, and had this guy knocked up before dinner.
This was made using an envelope from the bank - the designs on the inside of those guys can be pretty elaborate sometimes. I couldn't manage to get a decent close up shot of this, but it features a multitude of Celtic style peacocks - not bad for free paper. Another with paper...
I then decided to take this technique into my more usual medium of fabric. I cut squares from some nice fat quarters I was given a while ago, sewing some squares together with some heavy weight interfacing between to make the pinwheel stand nice and stiff. This would be even better if you had pinking shears, my raw edges being as they are, out and proud for all to see.
I didn't really have any buttons that color coordinated with the fabric, but I still think it came out pretty well. This one was made using 6 inch squares, so is rather big, but I think smaller ones would make really cool brooches, and indeed I plan to knock up a few more for this purpose. This one will probably get sewed to a canvas shopping bag to jazz it up. I stuck the paper ones up as decorative touches in my room.
I hope everyone has been having a nice weekend, and is taking it easy with this icy weather. Not that taking it easy means you're guarenteed not to fall, as I know only too well, covered in bruises as I am. Sew it goes.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cold, cold, so cold! This ice is playing havoc with my cycling habits as well as my body temperature, although I will admit the world is quite pretty under its layer of ice and snow.

On with the crafting. As I may have mentioned, this is a busy couple of weeks for me, so even though I've had the sewing machine out this week I haven't finished anything by a long shot. Similarly I also got some new fiber for my spinning wheel, when the driveband gave way. This is basically the string that translates the motion from the the actual wheel to the the bobbin and the flywheel, which are the guys which actually do the spinning. It is literally just a bit of string, which I didn't have in the house - just lots and lots of yarn, which is too slippy to grip the wheel. So you can't say I haven't tried. But I did make up some cute little headbands, which are great for using up ends of yarn, and also for showing off your favorite buttons.

Don't mind the state of me in these photos - I'd just woken up from a nap and could barely operate the camera, never mind look foxy, or even awake.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snowed under.

I was going to post last night, but poor picture quality prompted me to wait until the next bout of natural daylight. This week has been a bit hectic for me work wise, and next week is going to be even busier, so don't be disappointed with my trivial offerings, ok?
These little guys aren't very well executed, but they did achieve my desired goal, namely, bringing some imaginative repurposing of otherwise useless materials into my crafting life. The shallow, clear plastic circles which provided the template for these were formally confetti containers.
The first one isn't too exciting - just buttons and glue, but I think it will make a fun badge, I was more hopeful for the other one, but it isn't everything I wanted it to be, for two reasons. I put a layer of fabric on the bottom to make it more interesting, but my sloppy work with the glue gun means the fabric is bumpy and uneven, while the layer of varnish I put over it significantly darkened the tartan pattern, making it much less discernible. Nevertheless, I am encouraged by this experiment and plan to massacre some appropriately shaped shampoo bottles in the near future.

This next thing wasn't really made per say. I've been looking at a lot of recipes for making soap online, but unfortunately, due to the dullness of pharmacies nowadays, have had trouble sourcing some of the ingredients. (Ironically, at work I literally have a cataloge from which I could order all the chemicals I need, but I don't think my supervisor would be too happy about funding my craft addiction). Recently I found myself in possession of an Amazon voucher, and decided to order some Melt and Pour soap. As the name suggests, this soap couldn't be easier to 'make' - you simply melt it the unscented, uncolored base, add any scents, colorings, treats that you want, pour into a mold and let to set. This did necessitate me buying some essential oils for scents, and as I'm trying to avoid actually spending money on craft stuff until I use up some of what I have, this is where I drew the line - the soaps would be colorless. These soaps are lemon scented, and alright to use, though they are a little bland and don't froth themselves into a luxurious frenzy. While I'm glad I got it, and while I will, in future, put more effort and money into jazzing up the Melt and Pour that I have, this really has just emphasized my desire to make the soap from scratch. I'm a chemist, and a craftster - this is what must be done.

Friday, November 19, 2010

So. It's been two weeks since my last post - as I warned you, last week I went home for the opening of the Carbon Footprint Project exhibition, which was a subset of the larger Lovely Weather project. You've already heard about the aims of the Carbon Footprint project, and the whole exhibition wad similarly themed around the notion of climate change, environment, etc etc. How was it? Well.....look. This is my blog. I can express my opinions, my honest opinions, which can sometimes be hard to express in person without being  unnecessarily rude and perhaps hurtful. I thought the rest of the exhibition was pretty crap. With the exception of one piece which had turf samples taken from different areas, different depths, and had some literature discussing how turf is one of our great natural resources and must be protected, I really did not get what the other projects were about, or how they were supposed to be illustrating the given theme. They had no literature or posters discussing the concept behind their pieces, and consequently I had no choice but to take them at face value. And at face value they seemed like not a whole lot for what I'm sure was quite a sum from the Donegal County Council. Some photos of people running around Donegal. Footage of seagulls projected against a wall. Woot.

The Carbon Footprint Project was definitely one of, if I hesitate to say, the most popular piece at the exhibit. As well as large posters telling you what the bleedin' idea was, the touchy-feely nature of the piece really grabbed people's attention, and it also had the benefit of being the very first thing you saw when you came in the door.

I think everyone who attended the exhibition, or participated in the project, or in any of the spinning, knitting or yarn dying workshops which preceded it, would join me in saying a heartfelt 'Thank you' and 'Congratulations' to one Ms. Ruth McCartney. Yes, she is my friend, but I can objectively say she put a sheeee-it load of work into this project, not only by spinning an awful lot of the yarn used in the project, but running the workshops, staying at the drop-in studio to educate any and all who were interested, as well as knitting up a storm. Indeed, upon entering, several ladies came scurrying up to her, gleefully pulling their knitting out of their bags, given that it was she who convinced them to participate, with her natural people talents and obvious enthusiasm for the project. Ruth, you played a huge part in this project, and me and the others you educated thank you!

Now we're entering the danger zone. Don't panic now, all I mean is that it's coming up to the big 'C', and like it or not, people are thinking about it. I, at least, have an excuse at least - given that I make an awful lot of my gifts, I have to get started early. This does mean that a significant portion of what I craft over the next few weeks will cruelly be kept secret, being intended for one of the few (but much appreciated!) people who follow my silly little blog. This does give me a good excuse to do some selfish crafting at least once a week though - heehee! Thank you little blog!

I returned to my heart obsession this week, although you may be relieved to hear not in necklace format. 
My embroidery skills leave a lot to be desired, but I like to have a go at it once in a while. The above piece did inspire and motivate me to have a go at some machine, well, embroidery seems like the wrong word, but artfully placed stitching.
I am super pleased with how this turned out, I didn't think it would work so well. I love how it looks like a pen sketch, I'll have to try and source some more plain white cotton type material to repeat this experiment.

And now. It is Friday. I am tired. But I have some delicious wine by my right, much adored company by my left - I am happy. I hope everyone has a wonderful week.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Spun into a frenzy

I really have to work on those titles.
This Monday I was delighted to receive a ginormous box of lovely. I didn't encounter the courier - my housemate did - and consequently I only saw the box when I was running out the door to work. And even worse, I work late on Monday evenings, so I couldn't tear into the happiness until close to 9:30pm. So what did I make this week? Well, my spinning wheel for one thing.
Unfortunately I didn't take a picture before I started but here's some 'Under Construction' shots.

And the finished article.
I bought my Kromski mazurka from the lovely people at Wingham Wool Work. No, I did not suddenly come into some money or decide to take out a high interest loan - just a bit of luck. The Wingham Wool Work website features a special offers page where, among other things, they occasionally sell wheels, discounted due to their previous status as display models. So they might have some evidence of usage, but apart from that they're all fine. This one in particular had been used for some time, but the page included this information, noting that they were technically classifying it as 'Second-hand', rather than 'Ex-display'. So it needed a tiny bit of attention - oiling the joints, sanding down the flyer to get rid of a bit of rust - but apart from that it's just perfect. Now all I have to do is practice my spinning so that I can do it justice. My first is shown below, along with the lazy kate which was included with the wheel. 

Not dreadful, but could use improvement.
Apart from my wheel (squee!) I finished my Carbon Footprint Mittens. In order to interweave the required concept of carbon emission and climate change, I made them decidedly quirky, with one mitten being longer than the other and the shorter one being fingerless, to hint at the fact that as our carbon emissions have increased (as illustrated by the longer glove) we have become warmer. Forgive the pictures - as I was taking them myself I could only take on action shot at once.

The exhibition opens next Friday in Letterkenny, so my being in attendance there will consequently mean I will not be attendance here. Yes, it's true, there are still some people out there sans internet, and my mother is one of them. I'll be sure to take loads of pictures at the exhibition (which you can find out more about here) - I'm really looking forward to seeing how different people interpreted the theme.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Double (mitten) trouble.

This week I cast on some mittens for an exhibition that's to take place in Donegal as part of the Carbon Footprint Project that I mentioned in this post. I won't rattle on about the ethos behind the project again - I give a brief, maybe too brief, synopsis in the linked post. As part of the project there's to be an exhibition of items knitted/crocheted up using the Inishowen wool that Tallulah and Seema have spun up, and these are to some way represent or suggest the notion of climate change. For example, you might knit a hurricane hat to represent some of the more dramatic effects carbon emissions are having on our climate. Right now I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to weave the concept of climate change into my project, but I enjoyed knitting on double-pointed needles so much when I made these mittens that I figured I'd just cast on and let the inspiration flow.
As some of you may know, my enjoyment of making things also extends to cookies, cakes and all other manner of baked delights. (I cook as well, but I don't enjoy it as much). I made a conscious decision not to include my baking on this blog, given that the majority of the time I'm not making anything that unusual, and I can't see anyone really caring that much. By this rule though, maybe I should include things which are a bit different, when and if I make them. Last week was my house-mate's birthday, and rather than a cake I decided to try my hand at his favorite biscuit - namely, fig rolls. I found a recipe here, and while mine certainly didn't look as pretty as theirs, but I personally thought they tasted pretty good. The pastry used both white and wholemeal flour, which I thought made them quite more-ish. There's also not much sugar in the recipe, so as biscuits go - fruit, not much sugar - they're probably far from the worst thing you could be eating.
As I say, mine are far from tidy looking, but I really wasn't taking any care at all to make them look nice. Devoting a few more minutes to their presentation would probably make all the difference, if you were bothered about that sort of thing.

A big monster one for the birthday boy!
Happy Halloween everyone.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Do you ever feel like you're incredibly busy and have no spare time, but you don't seem to be doing anything? I've been feeling like that a lot lately, and that is most of the reason my posts have been so brief. Come Friday evening or whatever it may be, I find myself so mentally and physically exhausted that I can't seem to write more than the bare facts i.e. Here is what I made, fin. In some other respects though, this may be a good thing. I know that on my Google Reader I follow a bunch of blogs, all good, but these days I inevitably end up skimming over them and looking at the pictures more than anything else. So maybe my lack of time for wordiness is a good thing? Anyway, on with the show.
This week I was playing with more of the charms I bought along with those featured last week. Coupling these with some black Shrinky Dink resulted in a couple of tacky necklaces, featuring the inevitable heart motif. What a surprise.
I'm not sure exactly what resulted in the shape of the following - I must have been feeling particularly 80s that day.
I particularly liked the Singer sewing machine charm I'd bought, and decided to make it into a brooch instead. But seriously, I have to get over this heart obsession
Have a lovely bank holiday weekend everyone.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm highly unoriginal this week - some of these projects may seem a little familiar if you've looked at this blog lately.
More facecloths - now with color.
More quilting - now with wonky corners. We have now achieved pillowcase size.
More necklaces - now not heart based. I don't know if this qualifies as making a necklace. I basically just put some charms I bought from this seller on DaWanda, which is a lovely site, similar to Etsy. For those who don't know, these are online marketplaces speciailising in handmade items and supplies for making said items.
Have a lovely weekend everyone. I'll be taking a much overdue trip home to Donegal. And you? Your plans?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Quilting quandry

I've been curious to try quilting for some time now. Not to make a big-ass heirloom quilt or anything, but more just to have a go at the technique of it. On and off over the last few months I've browsed various tutorials and such online, and to be honest they put me off. From measuring out the pieces to cutting them, laying them and sewing them, it all seemed like it had to be so precise and exact - I was led to believe that if you were a quarter of an inch off in any of these steps the whole thing would be a disaster. Now, I don't know if you've gathered this from my blog thus far, but that is not my way of doing things at all. In my sewing career thus far, I've never attempted to use a 'real' sewing pattern, and frankly I wouldn't know where to begin with one. I really should learn, I'd be a a much better sewer for it - but the fact of the matter is that so far I've been winging it completely. This never really mattered yet, as I've only ever sewed things for myself, but I was afraid my laissez-faire attitude rendered me ill suited for quilting. I was pondering this while browsing on Craftster last week, when I came upon this thread discussing quilting advice for beginners, and the running theme seemed to be that you should just jump in and give it a go - I mean in honesty, what's the worst that could happen? So that's what I did.

I really enjoyed piecing these little guys together! I sewed two together at a time, then sewed them together lengthwise, and pressed open the seams to help it lie a little flatter. The points where the corners join aren't perfect - they're a little crowded on the wrong side of the fabric, but maybe I'll improve at that over time.
I realized the bit that was taking me the most time was cutting out the pieces and pinning them together, so with the help of my awesome fabric scissors I did a bunch of them at once, which I plan to add to the piece above. I reckon I'll keep this around and add to it when I have little bits of fabric spare. As someone who detests waste and hangs on the scraps 'just in case', I'm delighted to have found something I can constructively do with them.
As well as this I've been continuing with Christmas preparations with an old reliable - face-clothes, served with a side of soap. These clothes were crocheted with two strands of Rowan Milk Cotton held together, and an 8mm hook. I improvised each one as I went along as the mood took me, so some have ribbing, some have double crochet rows, some have a border - hopefully the recipients won't dislike this touch of randomness.
 I think I go nap now. Hope you're all having a lovely weekend - I know I am. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Masterclass mittens

A little early this week - have to get a bus at 6am tomorrow to go to a 'Carbohydrate Masterclass' in Dublin over the weekend. Yes, it really is as exciting as it sounds. Nah, in honesty I think it'll be pretty good, if work related. I knew I had to finish my made-up mittens before I went though - otherwise they'd languish, literally minutes from completion, like so many other Unfinished Objects that pollute a craftster's life.

Hope everyone else's weekend is as exciting as mine is going to be! 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Flu increases productivity.

I've realized with a start that it's September. When did this happen? A few weeks ago it was July! I've decided to start preparing myself for October form today so I don't suffer this shock to my system again. Along with September came the realization that I should start preparing myself for - you guessed it - The big C. The big hypocritical C and all the gift giving implied therein. At all costs I want to avoid the manic crocheting of cowls that ensued last December - I very nearly sprained my wrist. I was off sick for a day this week so I idly picked up some double pointed needles which I recently bought on the best website ever. A couple of episodes of Doctor Who and Murder, She Wrote later and I nearly have one present sorted.

I plan to add thumbs when I'm finished the second one. I'm hugely pleased with these as I made up the pattern with the decreasing and such as I went along, and they've turned out, well, certainly wearable, so that's something.
 As well as this I whipped up a quick kitty hat for my niece, her birthday also falling in December, typically enough. I made this in some Big Softie I got on sale and as you might imagine, it knit up incredibly quick on 10mm needles. I would definitely recommend this yarn and hat combo when you need a quick gift for a child - or a playful adult.
Have a good weekend everyone. I'm going to give my hungover head a little snooze now.