Archive for the ‘gifts’ Category

ATCs and Inspiration Boxes

As my mother keeps reminding me, it’s been a while since I posted. Sorry about that. So, remember my post months ago about the artist trading cards I made and the exchange for them? Well here are pictures of the other cards from the exchange!

I managed to miss getting a picture of one person’s cards, they’re adorable kangaroos with Santa hats! Somehow I was thinking that I had one of them in my set so I didn’t take a picture of them at the meeting, and today I discovered I didn’t get one.

The next exchange is this Thursday, so I will post more, including the ones I’m making, sometime next week! (hopefully)

We also exchanged “inspiration boxes”. Somebody found one on Etsy that you could buy, and figured they’d be good for an exchange. So first, here’s the one I put together.

And the inspiration box that I got. I think this one was a lot better than mine!

My inspiration box came from Australia, hence the Koalas and the neat fabrics that I suspect you can’t get here. And I love the sparkly box, but boy does it shed everywhere! I put it in my purse after I got it, and have been spreading sparkles everywhere, even at work, ever since. 🙂


I took some time off from working on my book the last couple of days so I could make my mom’s birthday present. Today is her birthday (Happy birthday mom!) so she has it now and I can post about it! She collects chickens, roosters mostly, so I had planned to make her a needle felted rooster for Christmas. I ran out of time then, of course, that’s always how it goes, so I decided I’d make it for her birthday. I am extremely happy with how it came out, it’s quite a bit different than my original picture in my head, in a good way, and also a lot better than I thought it was going to turn out for about the first 3/4 of when I was working on it. Usually I can see how it’s all going to come together in the end even if it looks really weird to begin with, but not so much with this guy. Glad I kept working though, cause he’s a handsome looking rooster.

Sorry about the picture quality, I almost forgot to take pictures so I took them at high speed as I was running out the door to meet my mom and give it to her.


I found a new setting for the photo galleries, I really like this one. Hover your mouse over the picture to get the caption, and for the long captions if you click on the image it will bring it up bigger and you can see the full caption. It’s so pretty!

Knitted Tie

At the library where I work, one of those coincidences where everybody is wearing the same color shirt, led to all of the employees who work Monday nights declaring that Mondays are now Teal Mondays. About a month after that, the library hired a new employee (really he was already an employee just go hired for a new job) who started working Monday nights, and he didn’t have anything teal to wear! We probably could have found him a teal men’s dress shirt if we really tried, but I can’t see him wearing anything other than a basic white dress shirt, it would be too wild for him, so we all joked that he needed a teal tie. Can you see where this is going? I realized I had some nice teal yarn that would work just great, so I decided to knit him a tie.

So I searched on Ravelry (love that site!) and found this. It is nice and simple and I love seed stitch, so it was just perfect.

Because I don’t work Monday nights, except the occasional time I fill in for someone else, I don’t get to see him wearing the tie, but one of my co-workers took a picture for me!

Ben and tie

Looks pretty happy with the tie, doesn’t he? 🙂


I’ve already got the hedgehogs all over this blog, but I haven’t done a post about them yet. They were one of the earliest projects I ever knit that are more complicated than a scarf. The pattern is a Fiber Trends pattern, you can find it here, and they call them Huggable Hedgehogs. And huggable they definitely are! Also quite fun to make. They are knitted out of wool yarn and then felted, and they’re the project that got me really into felting for a while.

In general the pattern is pretty simple, but I learned a lot by making it because it has lots of little things that are common in knitting but not something you learn right away. First was the idea of knitting just a few stitches for extra rows and then binding them off, which is how the arms and legs are made. For the arms you also have to cast on extra stitches in the middle of the piece which I hadn’t even heard of before, but turns out that comes up in patterns a lot.

Next I learned about picking up stitches, which was harder than I expected. In the pattern you first knit the front of the hedgehog, including the arms and legs, and then pick up stitches on the limbs to create paws and finally pick up stitches all the way around the piece to  use to knit the back of the hedgehog. I figured that to pick up stitches you just find whatever loops along the edge you can and knit those, and that’s what I did with a few of the hedgehogs, but that often leaves you with weird holes and is more difficult than it seems. I finally did look it up in a book and it turns out there’s a specific part of the stitches that you’re supposed to pick up. Trying to find the right part of the stitch to pick up actually got me a lot more familiar with the anatomy of the individual stitches, which is a useful thing to know.

My fingers poking through the enlarged holes I get when I pick up stitches

    My fingers poking through the enlarged holes I get when I pick up stitches

Picking up stitches on the arms and legs makes it easy to put on contrasting colored "paws"

Picking up stitches on the arms and legs makes it easy to put on contrasting colored “paws”


And then there are short-rows. Pretty much the whole back of the hedgehog is done using short-rows, which are, basically, where you turn the piece in the middle of a row and go back and forth, never quite getting to either edge of the row. I had made a couple of hedgehogs before I was really comfortable enough working the pattern to pay much attention to the structure of the knitting that was being created. But once I started noticing the structure of the knitting I was incredibly impressed at the genius of the shaping! At that point I hadn’t heard of short-row shaping and thought the pattern writer was quite brilliant. As I have learned more about knitting in general I have begun to understand that short-row shaping is not something that was just created for this pattern, but I’m still quite impressed as I don’t know that I could write a pattern using short-rows. It’s just so intriguing how you essentially create a flap of stitches that have been worked more and then you gradually bring in stitches from either side to seamlessly integrate the flap back in, thereby forcing the piece to form a sort of cup shape, brilliant!

That curve to the back is formed by the short-row shaping, so cool!

That curve to the back is formed by the short-row shaping, so cool!


Now that I’ve had my geeky knitting moment, back to the hedgehogs . Once you’ve got the whole thing knitted you have this floppy weird looking creature that kinda looks like a hedgehog, but looks more like roadkill. And then you felt it! I felt mine in the washing machine (though when I went off to college I discovered that front-loading washer do not work for felting) because it’s much easier that way, and I like to go the lazy route whenever possible. Because the back of the hedgehog is knitted by working the wool yarn and an acrylic eyelash yarn together, you get the fuzzy bits to stick up out of what seems to be a solid felt back, it works pretty well. And as the wool has felted it usually has shrunk at least a little and the shape of the hedgehog firms up and suddenly it doesn’t look like roadkill anymore.


The pattern calls for stuffing the piece and then sewing the bottom closed once it’s felted but, due to a kind of random mis-communication, I prefer to leave the bottom open and use them to store plastic grocery bags. It’s a bit funny how that came about. My mom is the one who bought the pattern for me, after she had seen the samples displayed at a yarn store when she was on a trip. She gave me the pattern and told me that they were used for storing plastic grocery bags, and I thought that was a neat idea and had no reason not to believe her, so when I reached the end part of the pattern where it explains felting and finishing the hedgehog I didn’t keep reading because I knew how to felt them and how to sew button eyes on so I figured I was good. Then, after making five or six of them, I finally decided to read the finishing directions and discovered it actually says to stuff the hedgehog and sew it closed and gives directions on doing a little hand felting to hide the seam. At that point I figured it was kind of stupid to change how I made them since they work so well and are quite popular as grocery bag holders, so I’ve never actually finished them like the pattern says. I asked my mom and she has no idea where she got the idea that they are for storing plastic bags, but figures someone at the store must have said something about it or maybe said they had stuffed theirs with plastic bags and she just assumed. So, happy accident!


The hedgehogs also made me realize that you don’t have to follow the patterns exactly. For the first one I made I tried to use real hedgehog colors but they didn’t have real good colors for hedgehogs at the yarn store I went to, so it turned out a kind of weird orange. Then my mom pointed out that there’s no reason it has to be real hedgehog colors, so I started branching out. That year for Christmas I made hedgehogs for lots of my extended family, customizing the colors to try and match their kitchens or their favorite colors, which is why there’s such a variety. I even made one that is supposed to be a Santa hedgehog for my uncle who always dresses up as Santa Clause at Christmas. And I made one that is the colors of my boyfriend’s college, and one that I tried to make cactus colors for my grandparents who live in Arizona. Trying to find all the different colors in eyelash yarn led me to discover the huge range of them that are out there. There are some that seems nice and fuzzy on the ball but when you spread it out the poor hedgehog looks almost bald, and some are quite scratchy, but then there’s my favorite stuff which is very thick and very soft, that’s what I used on the red one and the one that has a blue body and green fuzz. Sadly, I don’t remember the brand of that yarn, but when I went back to the same yarn shop where I got that stuff they said they think the company quit making it, which is a shame. So now I hoard the remnants I still have of the two yarns and periodically pet them.


I haven’t made any new hedgehogs in quite a while, but I think I may start making them again. I was reminded last week by one of my cousins that I didn’t make them for everybody in the family, as I used to say, by which she of course meant herself. So I might make more for the family members I missed before, and I’ve still got some yarn for ones I had intended to make but never did, guess it’s time to get working on all my unfinished projects!

Grandma’s Scarf and Hedgehog

My grandmother on my father’s side passed away a couple weeks ago. It’s the kind of thing that adds a lot of chaos to life, both by complicating daily life with time out of town and away from work, and with all the emotional grief and difficulty that comes with losing a loved one. What I’m trying to say is, sorry I’ve been gone a while, but I had a good reason.


This post is about a couple of old projects that I recently came across again because I had given them to my grandma and saw them again when we were packing up her things. First is a hedgehog I made for her.



This little guy is one of a whole series of hedgehogs I made for several members of my family. I just realized I haven’t done a full post about the hedgehogs yet, I’ll have to do that as it was a fun and interesting project to make, and I will probably make more. Basically, the hedgehogs are first knitted and then felted, with novelty yarn used along with the wool yarn to make the “spines” on the back. She liked her little hedgehog and I think she would pet him sometimes cause the hair on the top of his head was always smoothed down, made him look a bit squished, but that’s okay.

Second is a scarf I made for her.

I’m pretty sure this is the first full project I made that had cables, I’m not counting the swatches I did while learning to  knit cables, though I made a cabled scarf for my aunt at pretty much the same time. Most of the info I have about it is from memory, which is rather vague, and what I could tell from my pictures and a short examination of the piece itself. I’m pretty sure it’s just three basic 6-wide braid cables. What that means is that while knitting, three stitches are transferred to a cable needle and left to hang alternately in front of and behind the work (the direction the cable slants is based on whether the stitches are in front of or behind the work) and the next three stitches are knitted. Then the stitches that were separated are knitted, which means that the first group and the second group have switched places. It’s called a 6-wide cable because while you’re only moving three stitches at a time, the whole maneuver takes six stitches total.


I can’t remember which project I gave her first, but she liked them both so much she had them both displayed in her room, even after she moved to a new place. She always kept the scarf wrapped around the hedgehog (like in the picture below) and sitting somewhere she could see them. I always loved that about her, she was very definite about supporting me and loving anything I made.



Grandma loved that I knit. She was actually the person who taught me to knit the first two times, of course neither of those times stuck, but when it did stick she just loved to see me knit. She would always say I reminded her of her mother because I was always knitting and never just sitting, and her mother used to do the same. I left the scarf with her, I think she’d like that and I don’t think I’d ever be able to bring myself to do anything else with it. I kept the hedgehog though, he’s one of my favorites of the hedgehogs and a good reminder of her. And as hard as it is, losing her has inspired me more to keep knitting, it’s a tribute to her in a way and a constant connection to her memory, and isn’t that such a big part of crafting, connecting with our past? And creating a future as well, which is what I’m trying to focus on, moving on to the next adventure, like Grandma always did.

If You Give a Baron a Cookie

This project is not my usual fiber-y stuff, but it involves both paper and wood which I think qualify as fiber, and it’s the project I’ve been spending all my time on lately. I have mentioned the SCA before, and that I’m a member of the group. One of the things I really enjoy about the group is that participants earn and are given titles. One of these titles is Baron/ness. There are some local SCA groups that are so large they elect to become what is known as a Barony, which means, among many other things, they have a Baron and/or Baroness who is/are a figure head of sorts. They encourage the growth of the group and help to recognize and reward members of the group for their service and efforts.

The SCA group that I started in is a Barony, and I think it will always feel like my home group, no matter how long I live elsewhere. The man who was the Baron of the group for the whole time I lived there (and only a week ago stepped down from the post) inspired me to write a story based on the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” because, well, he was given a cookie and promptly quoted several lines from the book, completely amazing me. Little did I know he works with a children’s theater and they had recently performed a version of the story.

So I wrote the story “If You Give a Baron a Cookie”. And because I am not very good at doing anything small, I promptly decided that I needed to create the whole book, including illustrations, and that the illustrations should be done by woodcut. I had recently learned woodcarving, I blame an overabundance of enthusiasm for a new technique for that particular idea. I managed to get the book all put together, pictures in a minute, and presented it to him at court, where the Baron and Baroness along with much help from the populace, started acting the story out as I read it aloud. It was absolutely hilarious and the story is much more enjoyable when acted out. It seems to have become quite popular, which I am just tickled about. I created a second copy of the book for a friend for just this past weekend, so I was going crazy doing all that. And here are pictures after all my rambling!


It was important to me to make the Baron and Baroness recognizably the pair who had inspired the story, which is why the clothing is how it is. And I have been told they are quite recognizable, so it worked! And here is the whole text of the story, I do have pictures of each page but I figured I’d spare you trying to read the words through each picture and just give a few examples in pictures and type the whole text out for you.


If you give a Baron a cookie

He’ll want a mug of milk.
When he has a mug of milk

He’ll, of course, need somewhere to sit.
When he has somewhere to sit

He’ll want to put his feet up.
Once he puts his feet up

He will want a book to read.

If he has a book to read

He will want a lovely lady

To read it for him.
Since she is reading for him,

her throat will get dry,

And she will ask for a drink.


If the Baroness has a drink

The Baron will want one too.
And if the Baron has a drink

He will want a cookie.

Frilly Scarves!

Recently there’s been a bunch of yarns coming out that you just knit or crochet using an edge of the yarn and it creates a lacy, frilly scarf all by itself. They look wonderfully fancy and intricate but are in fact really simple and fast to make, often not taking more than half an hour, maybe a couple hours if you’re going slowly. One thing I have discovered is that there’s a huge variety in these yarns and they are not all created equally! The first yarn I used (which I don’t have any pictures of because I gave away the final product and forgot to take pictures first!) was essentially a ribbon yarn that had an extra section across the top where you knit/crochet. This resulted in the ribbon part bunching together and looking quite fancy and lush, very neat. This yarn was actually found by my mom’s friend and they couldn’t figure out how to use it (really they were doing everything right but the first few rows look like a mess at first) so I figured it out and just knit the whole scarf.

Then I was out getting other yarn and discovered a similar yarn on sale. “Yarn on sale” is just such a dangerous phrase for us yarn lovers! Anyway, this stuff looked a little bit different but was a LOT cheaper than the first stuff I had used and the first stuff worked so well I figured I’d get several colors of this stuff and voila! easy Christmas presents. You might have guessed by my choice of words, but that’s not exactly what happened. Basically the differences from the first yarn made it a lot more difficult to work with. I will explain with pictures.

IMG_2879 IMG_2887

This yarn is a mesh rather than a ribbon yarn with an extra border. Doesn’t seem like it would be a big issue, but when it’s wound into a ball the mesh is all collapsed down, and it has a tendency to twist. To knit just the top row of the mesh you have to spread the mesh out enough to find the top row and when the yarn twists on itself that’s even more difficult. That slowed me down considerably and was quite frustrating. So rather than the three scarves I had planned to make for Christmas with this kind of yarn, I made one. The other two may still get made for later occasions but when I make those I’m going to unwind the yarn and flatten out the mesh all the way through before I start knitting, a co-worker has told me that makes it much easier to deal with. The resulting scarf is quite pretty though, and wonderfully fun to pet and play with.

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The other two self-ruffling yarns I’ve worked with are rather different from the first two and are much fancier. I actually discovered these two at a great little yarn shop in the Twin Cities called Unwind Yarn Shop, and, of course, they were on sale, so I just couldn’t resist! One is essentially a machine knit tube which you are supposed to knit or crochet along one edge of, I crocheted, and the other is pretty much impossible to describe but is worked in the same manner. Pictures will help.

Both of these yarns worked like a dream. I don’t think they would have been all that easy to knit with, it just seems like things would get bulky and really tight around the needles, but crocheting them was very easy. And to crochet them you are basically just chain stitching right up the side, so you don’t even need to have any experience crocheting! These also turned out just beautifully. I gave one to my mom, but the blue one is mine and I’m not letting go of it!

That’s my exploration of self-ruffling yarn. It’s some pretty cool stuff. I’m not usually that into yarns that have a specific purpose (like eyelash yarns) but these work just great and are pretty cool. You definitely get what you pay for in terms of ease of use though.

And on a completely different note, this is my thirtieth post! And, I need to learn not to write posts late at night, especially when I plan to be productive the next day! Ah, procrastination.


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

It’s that time of year again, time for making Christmas presents! The smart crafter starts working on Christmas presents in June or July of course, but that would just be too easy for me. These are the yarns I’ll be using to make several Christmas presents including a few scarves, possibly a hat, and a chess set. The chess set may not be a Christmas present, I’m still not sure about that. But I’m going to make it no matter what. Several years ago I crocheted a chess set and created patterns for the chess pieces, so I’ll be crocheting the chess pieces to match a wooden board I made recently in a woodworking class I took. I will definitely post those patterns later, in their own post. I’ll also post pictures of the presents I make, but probably not until after Christmas as a few certain people I’m making gifts for happen to read this blog… No spoilers for you!


Embroidery Re-awakening

When I was a kid, my mom got me started on embroidery a little. I learned basic back-stitch and made one embroidered tea-towel and did some of a motif with pine trees (that’s really all I remember about that piece) but never got overly interested. I did a little more embroidery again in highschool when she got me and a friend to do some crazy quilting, but it still didn’t stick. Then several more years later when I was in college I did this awesome course we called Philosophy Camp. The course involved living in southwest Minnesota with the other students and instructors for a month and as part of that we did a lot of sharing of interests. One of the other students decided to do an embroidery project for her final project in the class, which was inspired by a story one of the instructors told about his grandmother, and I went with her into town when she bought the supplies for the project. Looking at the embroidery floss just really inspired me so I got the stuff to do it and had no idea what to embroider! Then I got one of the other students to draw a simple line drawing for me which I traced onto a tea-towel and off I went.

And so began my rediscovery of embroidery. And this time I’ve gotten pretty well hooked. This bit of the story is best told with pictures.

This is the piece I had my friend draw for me. It’s also the first piece I had embroidered for a long time and I’m quite proud of it. You may notice there’s some dirt on it. That’s because I use the towels I embroider and I feel strongly that they should be used. I make some fiber art just to be art but I really like to make all of my stuff tough enough to be handled and interacted with. And if I make something that has a purpose I want it to be used.

At first I felt constrained to pre-made patterns like this one. They’re very pretty and can be quite fun. I made one that was a man with a turnip for a head playing a string bass made of an eggplant which was neat. I can’t seem to find that one at the moment so I will have to post a picture later if I find it.

Then I branched out a bit to more custom patterns. This is one of a series of pieces I did of cocker spaniels that some family friends own. I had my same friend who drew the flowers for me draw the outline of the dog based off a picture and I traced the outline onto the fabric to embroider. I wanted to do several different dogs so after she did the first outline for me I changed the coloring outlines myself for each dog. This one isn’t finished yet but I already gave the one (or was it two?) pieces that I have finished to a friend for her wedding. I will be asking her for pictures but, again, I’ll have to post those later if I get them.

This is another of the dog series but this is one that I traced off of the picture myself. I don’t consider myself much good at drawing so I was iffy about trying this but I like how it turned out. It’s based on the more adorable picture that I’ll post here too.

Aren’t they adorable? I love dogs 🙂

This is one of a pair of cuffs I am embroidering for another friend. He and I are members of a medieval recreation group and he took over as president for the local chapter of the group so I decided I wanted to embroider something for him. In the group the symbol for the president is a key and the symbol for our specific chapter is a white snowflake on a blue background, hence the colors and design. This design I made myself. I found the basic shaped I wanted for the key online and then used that to make the pattern of interconnected keys. I haven’t actually finished these yet cause I decided I wanted the keys to shine so I’m using nice shiny nylon thread which is quite difficult to work with and does not cooperate.

This is sort of the culmination of my progressively increasing confidence in embroidery. I feel comfortable now not using a drawn out patterns and just using fancy stitches to embellish the existing design on the fabric. I just love the little sheep on this fabric.

My embroidery work has followed a progression of sorts from using commercial patterns to creating my own to working free-hand. Of course I will still gladly use commercial patterns, but it’s nice to be able to make my own and be confident enough to just improvise. I have lots more pieces than I’ve posted here but this post ended up much longer and more in-depth than I expected, so those will wait for other times. I do plan to do a tutorial post of sorts about creating my own patterns both by modifying commercial patterns and copying photos. I have several tutorial posts I’m thinking about so I may do one of the others before I do the embroidery tutorial.

Well, that went well

Blog Stuff!

You can tell just how well I’ve been doing with posting regularly. It’s been almost exactly a year since the last time I posted, but it has been a crazy year. Not long after my last post I got a job working nights at Target, which really throws the schedule off, then the BF was diagnosed with Leukemia which totally took over my life. He is in complete remission now and has been back at work full time for about 3 weeks, so that’s awesome! But that ate up 9 months or so of my life, and in that time I quit my job at Target and got a job at the West Fargo Public Library, which is such an awesome place! I am loving the job, and now that life is settling down again a bit I have decided to try this again. 

Fiber Stuff!

I can’t seem to find the pictures of stuff I’m looking for and I really wasn’t prepared for this post, it’s more to get myself going again so it’s mostly just gonna be writing this time. I finished the Earth From Above challenge piece called Chocolate Hills but never did start the cathedral project. I will post final pictures of the Chocolate Hills once I find them *guilty face*. The project itself is with the other pieces from the challenge and they’re on display somewhere, I’m not totally sure where at the moment. I think they’re at Aunt Annie’s quilt shop in Avon, MN but I know they were going to be somewhere else as well, so I’m not certain.

I’ve also been working on a needle felted version of Serenity, the ship from the TV show Firefly and the movie Serenity. It’s moving slowly but I am crazy excited about the project!

And so that I don’t leave you completely without pictures here are some pictures of a present I made for my BF for our college graduation. He volunteers with Salvation Army EDS in our hometown to help with rehab for first-responders (usually at fires) and with disaster relief. So I made him the EDS shield in needle-felting. I didn’t manage to get it as detailed as I wanted because of the size and I discovered that lettering with needle felting is quite difficult! I was very grateful that I didn’t felt the letters down really hard right away as I ended up pulling most of them up at least once to re-position and change the size of them. Overall this project was a lesson in the importance of pre-planning a project.

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