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.