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Dye seems to be a theme lately. The kids have wanted to do some tie dye and being the end of the year I thought we’d do tie dyed teacher gifts. I picked out some more “grown-up” colors and a new technique I’ve been wanting to try. Arashi Shibori is a traditional Japanese form of tie dye which results in beautiful diagonal streaks of color that are at once graphic and organic. Per usual I am taking a little inspiration and a lot of liberty mixed with make-do tools. I’d say it was a worthwhile attempt and one that I’ll repeat.

arashi shibori on rayon fabric with fiber reactive dyes

I didn’t find what I wanted at the fabric store so I ended up with some lightweight rayon/spandex knit. I cut it into 12″ wide strips that I sewed into long loops in the manner of a current fashion trend—the infinity scarf—which can be worn long and loose or twisted into a cowl. The blue/green one on the right was my first attempt and shows its faults laid out flat but looks okay when worn. The kids picked out the colors on the other two for their teachers. Despite my novice attempts I think the finished products turned out quite nicely.

arashi shibori dyed infinity scarf cowl tie dye blue green

I read a lot about arashi shibori before attempting this project and was most inspired and blown away by the beautiful work and words of Shibori Girl.

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I guess they missed me. : )

A few pictures of things we’ve done over the last few months.

For Valentine’s Day we made corner bookmarks like this lighthouse one I made for our dear neighbor E. I cut 2.5 inch corners off of envelopes (red ones left over from Christmas cards were especially useful) and then attached 2 inch triangles of a different color or patterned paper to each side. The kids had fun mixing up colors and decorating with stamps, stickers and cut-outs from magazines and catalogs. We found the nursery/seed catalogs and the quilting fabric catalogs to be gold mines for this activity. You can find instructions for a similar corner page marker here at Tally’s Treasury.

lighthouse collage corner page marker bookmark

Then we stuck the bookmarks into these Valentine cards. I think I made up this sentiment myself, but it’s possible I heard it somewhere. In any case I found some free clip art online and made this card. I printed out enough copies for all the students in both of the kids classes and they colored and decorated as desired, making each one special for the recipient.

all occasion card for readers books world bookmark earth

I’m including links to the printable pdf version here if you’d like to use it, just print on cardstock or regular paper, fold in half and in half again. original Valentine’s Card. And the write-your-own-occasion card pictured above.

knitting a tapered skinny scarf with novelty yarn

I knit several skinny scarves out of novelty yarn. This is the sort of yarn that looks pretty or fun but you really don’t know what to do with, or at least I don’t. But I finally figured something out that is easy to make and looks good. With extra large needles, I knit loose garter stitch scarves about 3″ wide with a single ball of novelty yarn, about 75 yards, for a long accessory scarf that can wrap around the neck and hang down fashionably. These won’t keep you warm at all but they are fun to wear. Rather than making a blunt end I figured out how to increase and decrease to make tapered ends that give a little extra finishing touch. My construction notes are on my project page in Ravelry.

hand knit skinny scarf with tapered ends novelty yarn

rock candy crystals homemade kitchen science

The subject of gems and crystals came up and on the way to explaining how crystals grow, I decided we needed to do an experiment. This falls under the category of what I call kitchen science—real experiments you can do with stuff you already have around the house. Even though I know I’ve done this before, it took two tries to produce a sugar solution that grew several of these rock candy sticks. I used the instructions from Our crystals did not retain either the flavoring or coloring that we added to the solution. Nobody complained when it came time to eat them.

smashed pansy bookmark flower ink

I cannot remember why we did this but we had fun. The girl and I picked pansies out of the garden to make some smashed flower art. The colored juices from the plant are transferred to soft paper by force. I used some bookmark sized pieces of heavy paper left over from another project. We used a regular hammer, sandwiching the flower face down on the paper between a piece of paper towel on top and wax paper on the bottom, on top of a scrap piece of wood. I cut the green fleshy calyx off the pansy with sharp scissors after positioning it on the paper. You could use this technique to make cards, placecards for a summer meal, or even art to frame. Get more details on how to make prints from botanicals from this great post by Wendy of Build/Craft/Make/Bake. Too bad I read her post after we did this project but there is plenty of summer and plenty of blooms yet to try!

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scrunch painted paper washable markers

This is a super easy project for rainy or sunny days. This can be done by any kid old enough to grab a washable marker! (And not immediately stick it in the mouth.) It’s fast so you can work with several kids at the same time and each can do several pieces and experiment with different techniques and colors.

First scrunch a piece of tissue paper into a ball. (You can experiment with other kinds of white paper, we actually used exam table paper in these pictures. Tracing paper works well too especially for younger kids, because it doesn’t tear as easily as tissue paper.)

Pick out a few colors of washable marker and scribble all over the ball, getting as much color on the outside and in the cracks as possible.

scrunch painting tissue paper

Carefully open your wadded paper ball and smooth it out with your hands. See how the color is now randomly distributed all over the paper? Scrunch it up again and color again using the same colors.

tie dye paper

Open, scrunch and color again. About three times gives a good amount of color. (You can also color the whole ball with one color per scrunching.)

wadded paper dyed with washable markers

You can stop at this point and use a warm iron to flatten out your paper. A smaller piece can simply be glued to a little larger piece of contrast color paper and hung as art. A larger piece can be used as wrapping paper or cut up for other projects. Laminate it and cover a book or a journal.

spray water on scrunch painted paper washable markers

If you want to go one step further . . . take your flattened out paper outside. If it’s raining you can experiment with holding it flat on a cookie sheet for a few seconds or holding it vertically and see what happens to the colors! Don’t keep it out too long or your colors will run away in the rain! Bring it inside to dry. If it’s a sunny day, use a spray bottle filled with plain water to squirt your paper, put some rocks in the corners and let it dry in the sun. This project even works in the snow! Lay your artwork on a cookie sheet and let fat flakes fall on it for a few minutes or throw a loosely packed snow ball and then shake off the excess snow. Water softens the colors for a different look, as seen in the first photo above taken before ironing flat.


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For a school field trip, the girl’s class was required to dress in orange shirts. The girl’s teacher was less than thrilled and I do have to admit that orange is not a common color in the girl’s wardrobe. The girl does have a tie-dyed orange tee shirt handed down from her brother that she could have worn but . . . I just can’t leave well enough alone.

So I took apart a tee shirt of mine in a nice pumpkin pie color. I modified a peasant shirt pattern with a little inspiration from a tee in the girl’s closet featuring raw edges. I had no thread that looked remotely suitable so I pulled out a directly contrasting slate blue and stitched away. I used the neckline trim to create an elastic casing for the neckline and empire waist. Having run out of the round cord I stitched some gathers into the sleeves by hand. I gathered strips cut from leftovers into rosettes and sewed tiny buttons to the centers, placing one on each sleeve gather and a grouping of five off-center on the empire waist. It turned out really cute I think. And the girl loved it.

pumpkin orange raw edge peasant tee

raw edge hand stitched gathered flowers rosettes with button centers

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hand-knit pink sweater dress

Over the last month I have been knitting on this project nearly every night after a certain princess went to bed. The free pattern is the Oriental Lily dress by Georgie Hallam and I followed it pretty closely except for using size 3 for the width and size 5/6 for the length. Not only is this the biggest project I’ve knitted but it is has also been one of the most interesting, not because of any detail of the pattern but because of the way in which it came together.

In so many ways this dress (Ravelry project link) was a group effort. Two different members of the Ravelry community gave me the two yarns I knit together for the main color. My dear neighbor E. gave me a huge bag of odds and ends in which was the perfect contrasting berry color. I read through the notes on Ravelry from the other knitters who have made up the pattern before me, allowing me to make the perfect size. When I was done with the bodice but having a mental crisis on whether the dress was hideous or Pinkalicious, so many people on Ravelry responded to my forum post. They gave me the overwhelming support I needed to go on and finish with confidence.

The girl was quite pleased and came bounding into our room this morning full of thanks. She whirled and twirled all day and then proclaimed that she wants to wear it every day, forever!

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pastel pink purple handspun yarn

It began with the rather anemic looking light purple/pink handspun yarn above which has languished about the house for months, swatched and frogged more than once. The camera does lie, it looks worse in real life. The yarn started as an even less inspiring roving I received in a trade. Apparently I neglected to take a picture of it then. No loss.

30 minutes simmering in the pot exhausted the completely haphazardly mixed purple dyebath. I did throw in a little mini-skein towards the end there, you can see it floating on top.

dyeing wool yarn purple

A trip through the dryer in a net lingerie bag—I’m so impatient—and voila! This is yarn I want to knit!

hand-dyed handspun purple lavender yarn

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It just goes on and on and on . . .”

A slight change from a silly little song that used to get tossed around in the music department in college.

hand-spun yarn merino/silk light blue

But really, this started as 50/50 merino/silk mill end fiber that I bought for a great price from Susan at the Elegant Knitter at Goose Pond, a yarn and gift shop not far down the road. I bought a pound at New England Textile Art‘s SPA weekend in February 2010 and then visited the shop for another pound a few weeks later after deciding that I wanted to try spinning for a sweater.

Thereupon followed a serious of minor disasters of which there may be photos but it has taken such a long time to get to this point that I don’t even know where those photos are. Dyeing, carding and carding and carding, test swatching, etc. I decided that I would have the best chance of getting a relatively even yarn by just spinning what felt the most comfortable for the fiber which, not surprisingly for me, turned out to be quite fine. That was okay, my plan was just to fill all the bobbins and then ply three or four strands to make up a fingering weight. I made it through about three bobbins before I was ready to quit. Just not loving it. Fortunately I had traded for a jumbo flyer and it arrived about the time I was ready to give up spinning the singles. I usually really enjoy plying but it took forever! And there are quite a few knots, much to my dismay since the jumbo bobbin was able to hold the entire plied contents of the three regular size bobbins.

The result was nearly 800 yards of three-ply light fingering, about 16-20 WPI weighing only 5.8oz. I have not washed or swatched yet so those numbers could change a bit. I was actually surprised at the yardage, I could probably eke a sweater out of that. Or I could spin some more of the fiber and have more choices. Or I could spin it differently and/or overdye and make something completely different since there is still more than a pound left. At least the color is pretty much what I was attempting, a very light variegated icy blue. I’m reserving judgement on whether I really want to knit a sweater out of this yarn until after it’s washed and swatched.

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I am so proud of the girl. She has been making a list of all her favorite people and making gifts for them. Some of her choices have been interesting but I’ve done my best to help her carry out her plans. This faux leather wallet is for one of her boy friend/heroes. Though he is nearly 6 years older, he has always been kind to her and she looks up to him like another brother.

pleather faux leather wallet with contrast stitching hand made

I was a bit dismayed when she said that she wanted to make him a wallet but after a bit of thought I pulled out this remnant of black vinyl. She sat on my lap at the sewing machine and chose one of his favorite colors, red, for the thread. We then turned the dials of my simple machine through the different stitch patterns and sewed parallel lines of red stitching against the black. I folded the rectangle wrong side out and sewed; her eyes danced as we turned it right side back out revealing the simple pouch shape. She chose a matching red resin snap to close the wallet.

hand sewn pleather vinyl snap wallet pouch

It didn’t photograph so well, and it’s a bit on the bold side, but I think he will actually like it. She seemed matter-of-factly pleased with the finished project and immediately wrapped it and wrote the label. I had to retrieve it after she went to bed and carefully unwrap it to photograph it!

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melt and pour soap handmade

Last week I pulled out the ingredients for melt and pour soap. My crafty double boiler, some clear soap base, various fragrance and essential oils, a stone shaped mold previously used for plaster, a silicone mini muffin tin and regular old food coloring. Soap molding isn’t something I do regularly but I’ve done it a few times and some of the ingredients overlap with other crafts such as candlemaking. The girl and I started on this project one morning and once the boy saw what was going on I ended up having to get more soap base, creamy white shea butter. The boy ended up making most of the different combinations but the girl enjoyed making the labels, which I cut from full sheet label paper I had on hand.

handmade melt and pour soaps with kid made labels

Purple glittered gentle rain, light blue clove, light brown clove with actual ground cloves mixed in, clear green peppermint, pink jasmine, clear orange bergamot, natural white cinnamon with cinnamon sprinkles, and maybe a few others that didn’t make it into the picture.

This project is so easy and fast that it is fun to do with kids and I think I have mostly done it with kids other than mine until this time. You can even use a glass mixing bowl in the microwave to melt the soapbase and any plastic container can be a mold. Clean up is a breeze of course!

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Girly Socks

pink gray white hand knit socks

Girly socks. Plain knitting, nicely colored commercial yarn. This is a wool/cotton/nylon/elastic blend from Patons, available in chain stores. We’ll see how it holds up. Quick knit done in short bursts mostly in the car or while waiting for something/someone. It’s getting easier to make plain socks as I go. And I’m glad that I do not apparently suffer from second sock syndrome – the difficulty of finishing the second sock in a pair. Soon I think I’ll be able to make plain socks without consulting my charts and instructions. Next pair is mine.

The girl wore the first sock mismatched as soon as it was off the needles. I finally finished the second sock so she wore them together today over her tights. I only used half the skein so I could either make a pair of mitts, another pair of socks or maybe a doll sweater.

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or alternately: How to get your kids to joyfully destroy a pound of Halloween candy in an hour without eating any of it

My friend Krista mentioned a website,, that gives suggestions for using candy to do simple science experiments with kids. (Check out Krista’s pictures, she must have been a lot more organized than I was.) The catch of course is to get your kids to willingly give up their candy right? We’ve done some household science experiments before so I knew that would be a good draw. I explained to the boy and his sister that they could each pick out 5 pieces of candy and then we would do science experiments with the rest of it. The boy looked thoughtful for a moment and then readily agreed. Sister followed suit.

I pulled out several heavy clear glass bowls, a bunch of spoons, cold water, hot water, baking soda, salt and lemon juice. The best part is the stirring of course. We tested to see what temperature of water dissolved candy faster. We used baking soda to test which candies were acidic (acid plus baking soda equals bubbles.) We dropped hard candies into boiling water to watch them crack. We all made a guess on which candy might float and then tested to see who was right. The girl picked Charleston Chews, because they are white in the middle. I don’t know about her logic but they did indeed float! We were also surprised to find that the addition of salt to one of the bowls of candy made the candy corns pop up to the top.

We also put a bunch of candies on a cookie sheet and watched them melt, crack open, and even change color in the oven. We were surprised to see that candy corn melts, bubbles and then turns transparent and cools into a hard glassy puddle. It was all rather chaotic, and the candy disappeared faster than I would have guessed.

candy melting and cracking in the oven

I managed to save some M&Ms for one particular experiment found on I started with a clean bowl of water and very carefully dropped in different colors with the “m” face up. It was hard to be patient but we were rewarded with a rainbow of colors as the candy shells dissolved and the neatest trick of all: the white “m” floated up to the surface of the water!

m&m candies dissolving in water letter "m" floats


Some pics of recent spinning. Or not that recent. Apparently I started on this post almost a month ago. I somehow did not size down the photos, thought I double checked that, still couldn’t upload the photos, gave up for a while. Finally asked guru husband, then realized the photos were huge… I’m not computer illiterate. In my other life I was a graphic designer, really.

Anyway, both of these are around 4oz. The first is lavender and pink unknown wool that I received in a trade. To be honest it didn’t look like much before I spun it. I think there’s hope for it now. I don’t know what I’ll make with it though. Suggestions welcome.

handspun wool yarn

And the other is 4oz. of Neapolitan hand-painted Shetland wool from Spunky Eclectic spun to about sport weight.

handspun Shetland yarn gradient progression dye

This second yarn was intended for the 4! Ounce! Challenge! on Ravelry but was plagued with problems from the start.
I did choose the colorway and I did want to try Shetland for this project. I even had an idea for what I wanted to make with it. It did not occur to me until after I received the wool that I probably should have ordered the progression dyed fiber instead of the regular handpaint. Oh well, I decided I would just separate out the colors and lay them out in a progression and spin from there. That way it would have a little more variety to it anyway. Right. Well, that did work out okay except that I spun the thing into one two ply yarn of 400 some yards that goes from unnaturally pink on one end through cream to chocolate brown on the other. That’s when I realized that what I really needed was two balls of approximately 200 yards each going from pink to brown in each ball. Hmm. So that set me back awhile. I thought about other designs. I did end up thinking a lot about all the different ways you could spin a handpaint or a progression dye and how the plying and eventual knitting could take many different turns.

I finally started knitting today. I have a plan to still complete my original project and have it look pretty much like I intended. I have a schematic, I have a swatch, I have WPI, SPI and I’m not afraid to use them. And I’m trying to take notes as I go along so hopefully if it turns out well, I can repeat it. Yes, I’m intentionally not saying what it is I’m making. I haven’t seen anything quite like it, even slogging through the vast patternland of Ravelry. It is historically inspired so I can’t claim the idea as my own but, designing it for handpainted handspun fiber, that I will claim. If it works that is. If not, well, I’ll just come back and delete this post. Oh yeah, nothing you publish to the internet is ever really gone.

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strangling vine lace scarf

One skein of Spa acrylic/bamboo yarn in a color they call rose bisque I think, a free pattern from Ravelry, and a few minutes here and there over the past few weeks resulted in this scarf (Ravelry link). The name of the pattern is Strangling Vine which hardly seems appropriate for such a pretty pattern. The pattern is easily memorized but I kept wandering off track so it took me longer than it should have. I also added a made up border to each end. By the time I was done the whole thing was curled up in a ball but flattened out nicely with a little stretch and steam. The scarf is light, soft, not too long and should make a nice accessory for the boy’s first grade teacher who seems to favor this shade of pink. Too bad I didn’t finish it before the end of school last year.

detail of strangling vine lace knitting pattern

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And this is where random meets charming. Or something like that.

handmade sou'wester hat on bobble head doll

Cute huh? So here’s the story. Because you know I didn’t do this project completely for the fun of it. It’s Clam Festival weekend here in Yarmouth and a friend of mine was somehow involved in obtaining the prizes for one of the clam shucking events. So she ordered these cute bobble head trophies. The style reminds me of Precious Moments or Joan Walsh Anglund. I don’t know who’s idea it was to put sou’wester hats on them but I got the call to make it happen.

bobble head trophy with hand sewn yellow fisherman hat

Making the pattern took some doing. I had hoped to find a pattern online that I could shrink down but I could find no such animal so I ended up looking at pictures of sou’wester hats (thanks to google images) and drafting the pattern myself. I also couldn’t find the fabric I wanted to use but this yellow nylon served fairly well. Luckily I’ve discovered the use of freezer paper which served as both a pattern for cutting and a guide for stitching around. I ended up making four of these little fisherman rain hats, so we have an extra one which happened to fit one of the dolls. I suppose now she needs a rain slicker to go with it. Sigh.

I think I’ll size this pattern up and make a sunhat or two for the kids in canvas or twill. It ended up being a fairly easy construction.

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We’ve had several rainy days in the last week. While the girl does enjoy a good puddle walk, our time outside was still cut down considerably. One of our projects was to wash some rather old and musty random balls of yarn I was given. A burn test and the presence of bits of VM (vegetable matter) confirmed the yarn was indeed wool. And therefore worth the time to skein, wash, dry and rewind. I think it was about nine cakes in the end. Some pinks, some blues and some neutrals, all about worsted weight. I have a sweater in mind for the boy that I think I can eek out if I combine the blues and greys. I should probably start on something for the girl first however since she did patiently help with as much of the process as she could.

miscellaneous balls of wool yarn

skeining yarn on a yarn swift washing wool yarn skeins of wool yarn drying

and after:
cakes of wool yarn wound on a ball winder

Oops, a ball of handspun crept into that last photo. That IKEA folding towel rod thingy is not so great for hanging towels but it makes a great rack for drying skeins of wool!

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