Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Measure, Cut, Sharpen, Sand---and Knit!

Long after I'm gone, my house will probably still be giving up all the yarn needles, dpns, crochet hooks, and various other small needlework implements that have disappeared over time. It's hard to believe that I've brought many, many of these things into this house, yet, when I need something specific, I've never got the right thing. The ducts, the moldings, the window wells, the radiators, and those dark and dusty slits under the bookcases and dressers must all be full of small, pointed things.

For a while, I've been down to three #3 dpns, and have been using a #4 to make up a set. Moreover, the 3's are aluminum and just not very nice. I've gotten spoiled over the years, and my hands have also deteriorated quite a bit. Now, I want bamboo or wood needles. Luckily, there are a lot of blogs out there written by people who make their own needles from dowels, so I decided to give it a try.

I took my needle gauge down to Tru-Value Hardware and went through their bin of dowels. The 1/8" dowel corresponded to our US#3. I was also able to buy a dowel to make a set of #8's, and one to make some 10 1/2. The smallest dowel was 80 cents for a yard. The others were slightly more.

The 36" dowels yield four 7" sticks and one 8". I measured, marked each length with a black marker, and sawed through the dowel with an old bread knife. Then, using a little plastic pencil sharpener, I sharpened each end into a point. I only had one size of sandpaper (most other needle makers use two or three different grades), but it was a very fine grade. I rubbed the sticks between the folded paper, then scraped the points against the paper quite vigorously, to blunt them a bit.

Again, most other people rub the finished sticks with waxed paper, or use some sort of beeswax or other polish. I decided to give the needles a test run first, and they were as smooth and silky as could be. Perhaps the larger needles will need more finishing, but these work great! I can't believe all the money I've spent on dpns, when all I needed was an 80 cent dowel (this one is made of birch wood). I'm addicted! Of course, you can also make single point needles in any length desired, by sharpening only one end, and gluing a button or whatever to the other end.

Honestly, making these took about half an hour (not counting the trip to the store). And I'm not handy with tools.

Back to frantically finishing my Christmas projects. Hugs.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Pattern: Fun and Funky Eyeglass Cases

Eyeglass Case
Materials: One ounce of worsted weight yarn; four yards of fun fur in coordinating color.
Size G crochet hook.
Ch 25. Rows 1 and 2: Sc in each ch space.
Row 3: Sc in first 2 sc *ch 4, sc in next 4* rep to last two stitches, sc in last 2. ch 1, turn
Row 4: Sc in each sc across, pushing ch 4 loops to back of work and pulling stitches together at the base of each ch 4 loop. 24 stitches and 5 bobbles made.
Row 5: Sc in first 4 sc *ch 4, sc in next 4* to last four stitches, sc in last 4, ch 1, turn.
Row 6: repeat row 4.
Repeat rows 3-6 for pattern. See picture above for how the diagonal rows of little bumps should appear.
Repeat pattern for 6 inches (6 pattern repeats). Sc in each sc for two rows. Fold case in half and work a row of Sc down side and across bottom. Fasten off main color.
Attach fur to top of case and work two to four rows sc. Fasten off.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Updates: Gifted Projects, Books, and Whatever

We've had a number of birthdays recently. The MIL received the pink cone-yarn vest, and I was a little disappointed that the bottom button was pulling a bit. It could have used another inch around the hips, even though she is very small. But, the following day she called and said she'd worn it to church and loved it, and it was stretching a bit. She called the day after that to say she'd worn it out to lunch. So I'm calling it a successful gift item.

This weekend it was about 9 degrees here, and snowing, so I was more than happy to be the babysitter while our kids went out to buy toys for their kids. Then they took us all out for pizza on the way home. Dominic was wearing the bobble hat featured a few posts back, and a woman at the next table asked me if I'd knit it, and asked where she could find the pattern. So, I got to discuss my two favorite things--knitting and grandchildren--while eating pizza.

I haven't finished anything too terribly interesting. My daughter bought my MIL a pair of pewter colored metallic gloves for Christmas, and I made a scarf that matches pretty well from one orphan skein of Patons Carmen. It's fuzzy and soft yarn, so I was able to stretch it by using big needles and making it somewhat narrow. See picture below, right.

I also made a cloche and mitten set with the afghan yarn, and added some jingle bells that were kicking around in my button box. It's a gift for a teen girl. See below, left.

One of the lacy scarves shown earlier went to my son-in-law's sister last month, before she left to study in France, and Ricardo decided that the farrow rib hat would be perfect for the co-worker whose name he got in the gift exchange at his part time job. And I didn't wait until Christmas to give daughter 1 the coin purse, as her old one tore along the side and she was about to buy one. (She loves the flower bouquet purse.) So the gift drawer is somewhat depleted.

It's time for reading around here, until the ice melts and makes it safe to walk again. I finished the Faith, Hope, and Charity trilogy by Len Deighton last week and started reading the Isabel Dalhousie mystery series by Alexander McCall Smith.

Hugs to all! Stay warm.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Crafty Gift Ideas!

I've got a very simple photo program I bought a few years ago for about $5.00, but it has some fun special effects that I used to make a few gifts. On the left is an enhanced photo of Alex, and on the right I used the "sketch" effect to make it into a pencil sketch. By isolating the head and then turning it into a sketch, it makes lovely little drawings of a pet or baby, etc. I did pictures of people's kids and put them into simple black frames from the dollar store. They really turned out nice! The only trick was getting the heads the same size in two or more pictures, so they look like a balanced set.
I also made honey butter last year, and I'll do it again this year. You just take half honey and whip it into slightly soft butter (one cup of each makes two gifts). You can put in a little cinnamon or some grated orange rind. This goes so well with corn bread or on french toast. I put it into small plastic containers and made little labels on the computer, with holly leaves, and a bow on top. Another thing I've done is make polenta mix, with rough ground corn and some herbs and dried onion, with a recipe tied to the lid of the jar, but this is not for everyone, obviously.
Of course, there are many similar things that people do to make low cost, but very nice, gifts. These are just a few of the things that have worked well for me, in case anyone needs a fresh idea that can be made up the night before one needs a gift.