Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Daily Ramblings - That's handy!

I hope you all had an enjoyable 3-day weekend.  I would have some pictures to share of the delicious hummus, and honey-wheat bread that we made yesterday, but the app I was using on my phone decided not to save any of them (which I didn't realize until I'd started eating, and half-eaten food isn't all that appetizing in a photo).  Seeing as I have no food photos, here's a photo of Deuce taking a stroll in the courtyard. 

I'd also decided to check out some Memorial Day sales, which I found to be pretty disappointing overall seeing as I returned home pretty much empty-handed.  The one thing that saved the trip to the stores was learning that Michaels can now scan coupons straight off your smartphone!  I have been saying for a while that it would be awesome if stores could do that.  Think of all the paper being saved, and not having to print out coupons that you end up losing somewhere in your purse/car/couch, just to rediscover them two days after they've expired.  The guy at the register simply asked me to enlarge the one that I wanted to use, and scanned it straight off my phone.  Brilliant, I say. 

Considering I use coupons at Joann's more often, I hope that they adopt this policy.  I believe that you can get the coupons sent to your phone but you have to enter your phone number, which many folks are [understandably] wary of.  It would be so much better if they could just scan the coupon straight off the e-mails we receive. 

Do you know of any other stores that are now accepting electronic coupons straight from your phone?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Daily Craft - Grin and bear it!

Excuse the super-cheesy title of this post.  Sometimes I just can't help myself.

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased some yarn from a lovely lady who was offloading some stash on behalf of a family member.  She had several balls of Berrocco Chinchilla, which screamed "stuffed animal!" at me the second I saw it...ok, so it didn't literally scream it (because that would be seriously freaky), but if you were to feel this yarn, you'd know exactly what I'm talking about.  Now that I've used it, I'm actually incredibly sad that the yarn is discontinued because for the purposes of making cute little teddy bears like this guy, it's pretty much perfect.

I've not made a ton of stuffed animals before, a couple of amigurumi pieces for a friend's baby shower aside, so I was thrilled to finish this bear (even if he did sit in a bag with only one eye-ball for a week).  It's impossible to see your stitches when knitting with this yarn, so it definitely required going slowly so as not to make any mistakes.  I also had a good time at Joann's trying to find the buttons that most look like eyes and nose.  It has to be said that I'm really happy with the end result and, without closely inspecting him, you'd never know he was knit.

The good news is that I have enough of the Chinchilla yarn, in a few different shades of brown, to make another 4 or 5 of these bears.  I'll have a whole family of them by the time I'm done!  Any suggestions for a name?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Daily Craft - I-loom-inating!

I am a total slacker for not posting earlier. I'm going to blame it on preparations for Judgement Day, although as rapture's go, it was a total disappointment.

So, my new loom arrived last week and I was thrilled to start playing with it. Deuce gave it a good sniffing while I was building it, just to make sure he approves. This picture makes it seem as if he's being helpful, but it's a lie. On account of trying to make him stop, I wasn't able to get the shots of him chewing on the apron strings or trying to steal the screwdriver.

Despite the cat, I was able to get the loom warped and ready to go pretty quickly.  I decided to work on some basic dishcloths to get started, figuring I won't really care if they're crooked seeing as I'll be using them for cleaning dishes and counters.  I'm already seeing a huge difference between the first one and where I am now (which is about cloth #6).  I have a couple more to go before I can remove them from the loom and share the finished product, but here's a preview.  Once I'm done with this, I'll probably try a scarf.  The stash busting possibilities seem as if they may be endless...which is a good thing!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Daily Craft - Being patient

According to Fed-ex, the birthday gift that I bought myself is somewhere around Pheonix, AZ.  It's supposed to be here on Thursday (which coincidentally is payday, so good things all around).  I'm being patient, I swear, and repeatedly checking the Fed-ex tracking info online doesn't count as stalking. So, what did I order?  In typical fashion, I ordered the tools to yet another craft to distract myself with - a weaving loom!  

I actually purchased a vintage toy loom from eBay a couple of years ago.  It was older than I am and functional, but definitely needed a little work done.  I did weave a scarf on it before shoving it in the cupboard with the best intentions to take the time to deal with the necessary modifications (which I apparently never got around to).  I should add that I was actually really happy with how the scarf looked.  I used 2 yarns that I'd recycled from a sweater and dyed with Kool Aid in complimentary shades.  I was even pretty happy with how my edges looked! 

I have been wanting a better loom to work with as I definitely saw the potential of how much fun I could have; so when I found a great deal on a Schacht Cricket Loom from a Ravelry member, I snapped it up!  It doesn't have a super wide weaving width (10") but that's pretty perfect for me so it doesn't take up too much space. 

While patiently waiting for the arrival of my new toy, I shall sit and dream of scarves, bags, pretty blankets from well designed panels, and oh so much more.  Is it Thursday yet?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Daily Tutorial - Recycling sweaters

For the last couple of years, I've been aware of a movement that is perfect for those of us on a budget but with a yarn habit - harvesting yarn from used sweaters.  There's plenty of discarded sweaters out there with luscious fibers, from merino wool to cashmere, that can be bought for a couple of dollars.  Buying enough yarn to make a sweater could easily cost $50 or more, whereas you can reclaim that same amount of yarn for under $5 by recycling that yarn from an existing sweater.  What you aren't saving is time, but many have said that they find the unraveling of sweaters to be quite soothing, so I guess you're also saving money on a therapist.

Upon coming across a box containing a couple of sweaters that I had purchased for the purpose of unraveling, and admittedly forgotten about, I wanted to share some guidelines.

First thing's first - how do you pick a good sweater?  The most important thing to be aware of is the seams.

This is a bad seam. You can see that it's been serged, which means that any attempt to unravel it will generate short pieces of yarn the width of the sweater.
This is a good seam. You should be able to unravel a super long piece of yarn with this type of seam. If you inspect the seam by pulling it to one side, you should be able to see the thread used to sew the seam together.

The sweater that I used for this tutorial was a women's XL hoodie and actually had both good and bad seams.  The bad seams, however, were only at the shoulders so I was only going to lose a little bit of yarn during the unraveling process.

Another factor that I like to keep in mind is that the larger the sweater, the more yarn it will yield.  I highly suggest checking out men's sweaters too, because if you can score a men's XL in a nice fiber, you'll have a ton of yarn!

You should also carefully inspect the sweater for holes (in particular anything that looks like moth damage), stains, pilling, felted sections, etc.  

To start unraveling, you'll want to separate the seams for the sweater.  I usually start by separating the long side seams, then take off the sleeves, and moving up to the shoulders.  Starting at the bottom on one side, you should carefully locate and cut the thread that's holding the two seams together.  The very bottom is always the most fiddly in my opinion, seeing as that's where the yarn tails would also be woven in.  If you're lucky, once you've cut the thread, you'll find that it was a crocheted seam and pulling on it will unravel easily along the seam.  I often use scissors but also find that having a seam ripper on hand, for the more delicate cuts, is helpful.

Having separated all the seams, you can now start unraveling the yarn - and this is the fun part!  Most sweaters that I've found start unraveling at the top.  So, find where the yarn starts and just start pulling.  I tend to wind by hand into a ball, but you can also use a swift, ball winder, niddy noddy or whatever you find most convenient.

One thing I have found with commercial sweater yarns is that what looks like a worsted weight yarn is actually a collection of thinner yarns plied together.  As you can see here, this yarn was actually made up of about 8 strands of thinner yarn.  This makes no difference in terms of how you knit with it.  On occasion, I've gone nuts with my drop spindle and re-plied the threads back together or, if the sweater has produced very lightweight yarn, I've plied to create a denser yarn to my liking. 

After a while, you end up with this.  I made this gigantic yarn ball from the front of the sweater, which came apart in one single length of yarn.  The beauty of it being that I still have the back and the sleeves to do!

To finish off the processing of your yarn, you will now need to wash it and "unkink" the yarn.  To wash it, it needs to be wound into hanks.  You don't want to wash it in the ball because it's best to clean all of the yarn evenly.  I usually soak the yarn in warm water with soap.  If the yarn is dirty, I'll do a couple of rinses to make sure the water is clear, but remember not to agitate the yarn as this may cause it to felt.  Once the yarn has been washed, it can then be hung to dry.  Some suggest putting a weight on the yarn to help stretch out the kinks, but I've found that this isn't necessary and prefer not to do it because I don't want the yarn to lose the elasticity and the kinks really make no difference to knitting with the yarn. 

Of course, there's nothing wrong with just buying cute sweaters at thrift stores with the intent to wear them as they are, but once you start looking at them with the purpose of unraveling, you may never look at sweater seams the same way ever again. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Daily Craft - Knitting fail!

Last night, I was happily knitting and had the "only a few more rows then I can bind off" anticipation going.  I could tell that I was coming to the end of the ball of yarn, but was still hopeful that I could make it.  I finish up the last row and this is what I see....

Yup, a 2 inch tail.  I actually had to start a new ball of yarn in order to bind off those 25 stitches.  Talk about a serious knitting fail.

What are you craft "fail" moments?  Please share.  :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Daily Art - A birthday visit to the Observatory

Yesterday was my birthday and what a beautiful day it was - nothing wrong with clear blue skies and warmth to celebrate!  I hadn't taken my camera out for a ride recently, and decided that I wanted to take a trip up to the Griffith Observatory.  The Observatory is one of those treasures, overlooking the city and free for visitors to explore.  I'm determined to make it up there during the evening sometime when I can check out the telescope and the Los Angeles lit up at night.

One of the first things that you see when hiking up toward the building is the obelisk, an homage to the greatest astronomers of all time - Hipparchus, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Herschel.

From there, it's fun to take a walk around the rooftop, and outside of the building.

It's got a pretty sweet view of the Hollywood sign....

....and, in the other direction, Downtown L.A.

The pendulum swinging inside the lobby of the Observatory, demonstrating the Earth's rotation.

Such a nice relaxing way to spend my birthday!  I hope you all had a chance to enjoy the weekend too.  :)