Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fun Handmade Knitting Needles

I think my biggest problem as a crafter is that I have too many interests. Sometimes I find myself pursuing so many craft projects or trying to learn about new ones, that I sometimes neglect the things I really like to do. Making knitting needles is one of those things. I haven't made a new pair of knitting needles since this summer, but as I finally sold a few pairs on Etsy, my inventory was suddenly dramatically low.

The first thing I realized is that I was not happy with the wooden dowel rods I had bought most recently and wanted to find a better quality wood. Why put all the effort into making a quality handmade pair of needles if the wood is not great? I looked at several different web pages that discussed wood types and decided to start working with birch dowels. The dowels I've bought at the craft store previously were never labeled with a specific wood. They just said "hardwood", but I found the quality varied. I bought several sizes of birch dowels from Woodworks Ltd. this week and immediately noticed a difference. The 3/16th birch dowels had less "bend" than the last batch I had worked with and definitely made me more confident that they wouldn't break easily. Also, the dowels had a smoother, even texture and I didn't need to sand them as long. I was very pleased.

So here is another pair of needles I finished this weekend. I've made smiley face needles before and they are fun to work with, but decided to paint the needle shaft this time, instead of just the bead. Looking at the finished product, I think I won't do that again, unless I change the color. Just a little too much yellow I think.

My favorite are the Froot Loop knitting needles. I made a bunch of the polyclay "cereal" beads several years ago and kept the extras. I've used some as needle toppers before and made buttons for a baby sweater out of some. Here's a picture I kept of the baby sweater from a few years ago (I donated it to a infant resource center).

I thought it was too cute, but a friend warned me about making more, because children might be inclined to try to eat the buttons... True, but it was still cute.

Anyway, I'll post more on my process for painting the needles soon, something I have recently started doing more. Painted needles are a lot more work, but the results can be quite striking.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring Break Service Project

My daughter and I have spent part of our spring break working on a fun service project to help animals at our local shelter. She is a animal lover and wants a dog SO badly, but that's not going to happen right now for numerous reasons. We decided she can do something to help dogs though...make homemade dog treats!

I actually got the idea from the education director of our local shelter on a recent trip there with my students. She actually had a recipe ready for us to make, but we ran out of time for the activity. She said they love to get homemade treats for the dogs. It makes the pets happy (which make them more appealing for prospective pet owners) and gives them a chance to reinforce behavioral training (the dogs must sit to receive their treat).

We had a blast with this activity and after looking at many online recipes, we made up our own in two varieties. Check out my new Squidoo lens Great Treats for Good Dogs for the recipes and other info about helping shelter animals.

I got another great idea from Kelly Medina on her blog about making a Dog Bone Label. In the spirit of recycling we took an empty peanut butter container and put some of the treats in it to keep at home for our hamster Twyla. Dog biscuits are great for hamsters anyway and she really likes our peanut butter variety. My daughter helped me design our own label for the jar and voila...a recycled dog (ahem..hamster) treat jar!

We are heading to the animal shelter tomorrow to drop off our treats and spread some love to these great animals.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

On My Needles....

I thought I would do a quick post about what projects I have in progress right now. From my sidebar you can see that I just finished a baby hat using sock yarn (modeled on one of my daughter's dolls).

I used Lion Brand Magic Stripe yarn to do a quick preemie hat that I will donate soon. I like self-striping yarns for baby hats, because it makes it look like you did some thing complicated, when it really isn't any big deal. The gauge of this hat is a little looser than I would like and next time I will use the next size smaller needles (I'm not sure if these were 6's or 7's). The hat is a variation of the Ann Norling Fruit Cap pattern that I have practically memorized. I cast on 60 stitches, worked until it looked "deep" enough, then gradual decreases ending in a i-cord top. Cute and easy!

My big challenge right now is to get the baby blanket I'm working on finished. It's one of those projects that has dragged on way longer than it should have. Normally, if I'm knitting a baby blanket for someone, I choose something quick and easy. This time because the recipient is a close co-worker (first time grand-dad), I thought I do something a little more complicated. Ughh! Well, I started this in September, the baby was born in October, and at the rate I'm going, he'll be 6 months old before I finish! Oh well, I know it's the thought that counts and I'm determined to finish. I'm just so use to mindless projects, that anything that requires counting rows and stitches carefully is like work. It'll be pretty when it's finished though.

So that's what I'm up to on the knitting front right now. I got a gift certificate for Christmas to my favorite LYS, so I can't wait to see what trouble I can get into there!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Year...New Start!

Life hasn't stopped my crafting, but it did derail my blogging for a while. Actually, I did manage to keep my other blogs more up-to-date than this one. Check out the activities of my middle school knitting group, Stitch for a Cause. I've been really proud of the girls this year. We just completed a scarf project for our local women's shelter and delivered 110 scarves just before Christmas.

I'm still trying to decide what we'll start with after the holidays. I have a few of them working on squares for blankets and we'll continue that, but I always like to do something fun in the winter to keep the enthusiam up. This year we don't have any boys in the group and in past years I've had as many as half the group made up of boys. That makes me think I need to come up with a guy-challenge this month... One year, we had a "Real Men Knit" challenge with boys knitting against some male teachers (mostly just one) to see who could complete more squares in two weeks. They beat him by one square and were so excited. Since I don't have any guys coming right now, I think I will start with an "Eye Spy" challenge. Any boy I see knitting each day will get entered in a drawing for something cool. Got to work out the details, but that's my idea for now...

Another new crafting endeavor for me was started by "Santa" this year. Santa brought us a hamster for Christmas named Twyla. My daughter adores her and loves to play with her. I have been reading a lot about hamsters on the web and noticed some people have been making little pouches for them. You can put the hamster in the pouch for some lap time or even put them in cages for a sleep bed. Oddly, you can't find these pouches in stores. I'm pretty crafty, so I put my minimal sewing skills to work and came up with my own version of these pouches and have been calling them Hammy Sacks!

I have put a bunch on Etsy and have supplies to make more. I even made a little logo featuring Twyla. I've seen other people expanding the idea to rabbits and ferrets, but right now I'm sticking with hamsters. Hopefully I'll sell a few! If you are interested in one, visit my Esty store. I'm open to custom orders and am posting new sack patterns (for boy and girl hamsters and owners), so hopefully you'll see something you like.

So, my New Year's Crafty Resolutions are:
  1. Increase my completion percentage for my projects (aka, finish what I start)
  2. Blog at least once every two weeks
  3. Put more time into my Esty shop and hopefully increase sales (so I can buy more craft stuff!)
  4. Inspire others to be crafty too!
Happy New Year's everyone!