Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hearts and Diamonds in Dishcloths

I love knitting dishcloths. I'm not big on long, drawn–out projects like afghans or sweaters. I much prefer the instant gratification of a 9½–in. square that I can produce while watching a bad movie on TV.


I like practicing interesting patterns. About the time I finish a dishcloth is the time I get terribly bored with a pattern. ADD much? The diamond pattern is just knits and purls. The heart pattern is made up of increases and decreases. I'm constantly amazed at how few stitches produce such different patterns.

While I've never worried about matching gauge when knitting a dishcloth before, I realized I was creating veritable sheets instead of neat 9½–in. squares. The pattern calls for size 7 needles, which I just blindly used. So I tried the diamond pattern again with size 5 needles. The resulting cloth is still wider than the pattern by almost an inch. Apparently I knit loosely. Like, really loosely. How can anyone get 5 stitches to the inch using size 7 needles? It's time to figure out this gauge business.

I know enough to know I need to move down to even smaller needles to make gauge. But how small can I go? Off to find out, even though the thought of swatching for a dishcloth gives me the shakes. Does anyone really like swatching for gauge?


Monday, August 27, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 34: Knitting for Dishes

The kids aren't the only ones back in class. In one month, I will teach an intermediate knitting class. I'm the emergency teacher as the original teacher bailed. I only found out about it two weeks ago, and I haven't knitted in six months. So, my SSK's are a little rusty.

I've found that the best way to practice my stitches is to work on fancy dishcloths. I get to practice my knits and purls without the major commitment of a sweater. (P.S. I'm supposed to teach new knitters how to knit a sweater, and I've never actually made one myself. I was upfront with the college about this, but they were desperate!)

The best thing about dishcloth patterns is the variety that is available. I have the two pamphlets pictured. By the end of the week, I should be ready to knit a sweater and wash hundreds of dishes. At least I won't feel like a total fraud when I teach the class.

Off to SSK & PSSO*!


* SSK = slip slip knit and PSSO = pass slip stitch over (They're easier than they sound, but I still had to look them up.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 33: Back to School!

My daughter moved back into the dorm this week. She was happy to go (and we were happy to send her). Before she left, we made her a new bathrobe using another vintage pattern and a new sheet.

Make it with Mademoiselle was published in the 1970s. Mademoiselle magazine for "smart, young women" ceased publication in 2001.

The trick to using a pattern from the '70s (declared the ugliest decade ever by my dad) is to look past the questionable patterns and colors and look for classic shapes. A bathrobe usually always is a bathrobe. Only the decorations change.

from Make it with Mademoiselle
So we grabbed a cheap $5 twin flat sheet from Wal–Mart and started measuring, marking, and cutting out the simple pattern shape. The original pattern called for a full–size sheet. Using a twin sheet yielded a shorty bathrobe instead of a full–length bathrobe.

Wal–Mart sheets come packaged in a fabric pouch, so we sewed the pouch down to the body of the robe for an instant snap pocket for her keys.

My daughter loves her new robe. If we had had time, I'd have set her loose on the sheeting fabric with some fabric markers before we sewed it together. She's been perfecting her renderings of rhinos and octopi. In the meantime, we're just going to enjoy the measure of silence around the house.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Yarn Dolls for Boys

When the big cousin busts out the yarn, the little cousin comes running.

Back in the day, my daughter made hundreds of yarn dolls. She'd stuff the leftover yarn bits into their bodies, turn the ceiling fan on high, and toss the poor dolls up to see how far they'd fly. My kids are mostly normal adults now.

Time to pass the torch to the younger generation.

To make a yarn doll, wrap yarn around a book about 70 times. Tie a snip of yarn at the points in the above picture to make the body. You can make a dress if you don't tie the legs. Give him some hair, a house, and a cape and you're set.

This guy didn't get a cape at my house, but I know he got one when he got home.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 32: Kid Crafts

Wow, I missed my Monday book pick. I do have some lame excuses about inch–wide holes in engine blocks, getting trapped by a flood, agreeing to teach a knitting class when I haven't knit in months, and other nonsense, but I won't bore you. Suffice it to say that I watched my nephew this week, and we needed some entertainment that didn't involve a game system.

My nephew is five and will be starting Kindergarten next week. I asked him what he was going to learn. He said, "Not much because I always forget." He's a super smart kid, so he should keep his teacher on her toes this year. Both his parents are artists, so he is always up for some crafting.

We pulled out my old copy of Disney's Family Fun Crafts, which really has withstood the test of time. My nephew found the marble roller project, and we got our craft on.

All toilet paper tubes must be decorated before construction.

We discovered we could add bends to the tube if we cut crescents into the ends of the paper tubes. I just wrapped each connection with clear strapping tape to secure each join. We had great fun deciding a tortuous route for the marbles. We even added a double join that would send the marble out into thin air if it chose the wrong path.

Will the marble choose wisely?
We talked about Johnny Appleseed while he ate his lunchtime apple and looked up where Johnny Appleseed lived. Funny thing is, he remembered everything we talked about and told his mom. I think Kindergarten will teach him a thing or two.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Turn your Eye Shadow into Watercolors

watercolor eye shadow gum arabic iridescent paint water color

Every time I walk past the makeup aisle at the dollar store, I ooh and ahh over the shiny eye shadow. It's all about the color and the shine. Wouldn't those colors that look dreadful as makeup look fabulous smeared all over paper? Yes, I thought so too.

I mentioned yesterday that paint is essentially pigment and binder. The pigment is the color, and the binder makes it stick. We all know how fleeting eye shadow is when painted on our eyelids. Mine is usually gone by lunch. Eye shadow has no sticking power on its own.

Adding a water soluble binder, such as gum arabic, to crushed eye shadow yields an iridescent paint. Remember, pigment + binder = paint.

I added 15 drops of gum arabic to each color of eye shadow after I scraped it out of the pan. Basically, you want to add enough gum arabic to make a paste of the eye shadow. You then transfer the paste back to the eye shadow pan to harden. You can find gum arabic in powdered or liquid form in the fine art aisle of your local craft store.

The gum arabic is water soluble, so a paint brush dipped in water is all you need to carry the shiny pigment to the paper (just like traditional watercolor). In fact, the eye shadow has become iridescent watercolor paint. The gum arabic prevents the pigment from smearing when the paint dries.

Again, this is not archival paint. I wouldn't add it to a great masterpiece. It's just fun, and there is nothing wrong with that. The pigment is dense enough to be used alone or swirled with commercial watercolors to add a bit of shine. 

You're headed for the makeup aisle, aren't you. 


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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Make Watercolors from Kitchen Supplies

Paint is simply pigment in a binder. The pigment provides the color, and the binder keeps the pigment in place. And, it's rather easy to do yourself.

I followed the recipe for watercolors in Home Made, although the recipe is the same in other books, so I feel okay sharing it here.

1 tbsp White Vinegar
2 tbsp Baking Soda
1 tbsp Cornstarch
¼ tsp Glycerin (or Corn Syrup)
Food Coloring

Mix the vinegar and baking soda. When the mixture stops fizzing, stir in the cornstarch and glycerin or corn syrup. Carefully add more vinegar if your mixture is crumbly. Scoop the mixture into lids from plastic bottles or an ice cube tray. The binder mixture will be white. Stir in several drops of liquid food coloring or food coloring paste into each container until you're happy with the intensity of each color. Let the paint harden overnight.

To use the watercolor paint, just add a few drops of water to each color to moisten the paint.

I used a paste food coloring set, so all my colors coordinate. I didn't measure the food coloring as I mixed it into the binder. I kept adding food coloring until the mixture seemed dark enough.

Food coloring is meant to mix with food, so you can't expect the same results as you'd get even with a student box of drug store watercolors. Instead, the paint gives you unpredictable color variety with a slight texture after the paint dries.

Purple and black food colors are notoriously unstable. They want to separate out into their component colors. The Delphinium Blue is a purplish blue. If I make a blue wash and then drip clean water into the wet wash, the true blue wants to separate out, leaving the mauve, which can provide a pretty effect. Black also moves into blue and red, which can add variety to a flat color.

Are these paints archival? No way. Food coloring was meant to be eaten not to endure (thank goodness). A food coloring painting most likely would fade away if displayed in bright light. However, these homemade paints are useful to put together a quick card or when you want to give the kids a science lesson followed by an art lesson. Or, you can make them for fun, which is the best reason of all.


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Christmas in July Giveaway Results!

Thank you all for entering my first giveaway!

The winner of the eight Susan Branch stencils and embossing tool is #2 Anne Kelley.

Anne, shoot me your address and I'll get your stencils out to you.

Thanks for playing everyone!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 31: Crafty Potions

Before we get started, have you entered the Christmas in July Giveaway?

Do you ever sit down with a cook book and dream of the culinary delights you could make if only you had the time or ingredients?

I do that with craft recipe books. The idea of making my own lotion, paint, clay, etc. is exciting. You say I can make oil paint without oil? Well, let's go!

I'll be messing around with Home Made: 200 Creative Concoctions and Practical Potions for Craft, Beauty Aids, Household Products, and Gifts from Your Kitchen this week. I need a break from large–scale crafting so I can put some paint cans away.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Strippin' off the Paint (and keeping it off)

Have you entered the Christmas in July giveaway yet?

As I was baking in the sweltering garage, applying water–based Citristrip paint stripper to anything that didn't move, my "Puttin' on the Paint" project quickly became "Strippin' off the Paint." I did not prime the table originally, so the green paint soaked into the pine, giving me a beautiful green wood grain. I was planning to do a blue and white rosemaling pattern, but how could I cover up free wood graining?

green wood wash pine grain

Leaving the wood naked meant I had to creatively cover the dog gnawing damage on the table's trestle. I could have used wood putty, but I didn't have any. Instead, I mixed up pink wall spackle with a touch of honey colored paint to give the mixture a base wood tone. I globbed it on the damage with a paste spreader.

paint spackle wood repair

The spackle mixture sanded beautifully after it dried. Since I had mixed the honey color into the spackle, I didn't have annoying white patches to deal with.

wood repair paint spackling spackle

I found a fairly close match to the original paint in my acrylic paint stash: Sage by Apple Barrel. I used several washes of the sage paint to give the patch a grained look.

faux grain wood repair spackle spackling paint

After all the whining about stripping the wax on the original table, I went ahead and rewaxed the wood grain with Johnson's paste wax. I really do like the soft sheen wax gives to paint.

For the tabletop, I gave it light sand and touched up the dings with the same water–based stain I had originally used. I then gave it three coats of water–based Minwax Polycrylic in satin. I had originally used these products, so I thought I had better be consistent to avoid the heartache of incompatible products.

I also painted the benches with a creamy Valspar oops paint called Candle Wax in gloss. I really wasn't looking forward to prepping the benches, so I tried wiping the wood with Krud Kutter Gloss–Off followed by at least two coats of water–based Bulls Eye primer. I waited 12 hours and did the scratch test to see if the primer was sticking before I painted on my top coats. I painted on two coats of the Candle Wax. I even bought myself a quality paint brush to complete the job. It was a great experience NOT to pick brush hairs out of the finish.

Krud Kutter gloss-off remover Bulls Eye primer water based valspar oops paint bench
I like to live dangerously. Drop cloths are for wimps.
So how did my fast and furious table revamp turn out? Here's the before:

wooden pine table painted stained benches

And here's the after:

Revamp refinish table benches paint stain wood grain cream

While not a huge change, the table set looks more modern. I really like the texture of the green pine wood grain.

green wood grained trestle table wood wash

I always thought the heavy brown benches were dated looking and made my little dinette area look crowded. Now the table is the centerpiece of the room. I may paint the big oak TV stand in the background with the same oops paint.

paint bench cream refinish

I didn't strip the table top down to bare wood because I like the history the little dings show. My kids and I homeschooled at this table for seven years. I can see the ghostly impressions of math figures and essays in the soft pine top. I gave the old finish enough of a sanding just to remove the paint splatters from many art projects. The tabletop looks like I completely refinished it.

refinish table top tabletop stain water-based polycrylic

Since the whole purpose of this project was to reclaim my dining room table, here is the table set up for it's new purpose. My husband telecommutes to his software company, so he mainly needs a place for his laptop.  He likes the idea that I can sit across from him on my laptop while he works.

dinette table home office refinished paint

The dog will probably hang out in her little cubby underneath the printer with a bone. No more table legs for you, Suzy Q.!


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