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Crafty Time!

Just a quick note, I’m so happy to announce that I’ll be selling some of my crochet and candlework at the Lacey United Methodist Church flea market Saturday, July 21. I’m looking forward to a great day and to meeting some fun and interesting people.

Blog visitors who are looking for further information can contact me at jchinique@yahoo.com, thanks!

psst

“psst…tell a friend!”

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Kitchen Sink Soapmaking

I picked up a melt and pour soap kit at the thrift shop a while back; it’s been sitting on the floor of my bathroom closet waiting for me to become inspired. I made these while the kids were playing this morning after breakfast.

"clear" glycerine soap block

I popped some chunks of the clear glycerine base into a glass measuring cup and microwaved it in short, 10 second bursts until it was liquid. First up on the menu was the lemon bar. I’d had lemon extract sitting in my spice cabinet since I bought it by mistake 6 years ago. I think I’ve used it twice since then. Very strong, with a pungent lemon scent. (Not at all Pledge-like.) The few drops of yellow food color I added next were a bit too much in retrospect (my boys and I came to the conclusion that the foamy yellow liquid looked a little too familiar, if you know what I mean…) A little zested rind of a lemon added just the right touch of visual interest.

Cinnamon toast was next – starting with some vanilla extract and ending up with two bars – I added additional product because the brown got very dark and I wanted to be able to see the bits of sugar and cinnamon through the clear soap. These took the longest to dry and distorted the plastic molds a bit when I neglected to let the hot mixture cool a bit before pouring it.

There was still a bit of vanilla-y brown left over so I tried something similar, this time with “exfoliating” coffee grounds and a bit of A&W root beer ice cream topping, because, why not? It’s my 10 year old’s favorite.

Cinnamon Toast, Lemon Zest and Orange Lychee

I did a quick search for some internet soap recipes and found that you can add baking soda as a skin softener. That coupled with some red made a a nice muted pink; and I was thinking of pulling some rosewater out of the upstairs vanity when I found peach fragrance oil packaged with the kit. Unfortunately, the baking soda precipitated to the bottom and caused cracking when I de-molded the soap. (The root beer stuck as well – I’ll definitely use some type or release agent – Pam? – next time.)

Peach Fizz and Root Beer

By now I’m just about done and the natives are getting restless, so I finish up the last bit of pink with some OJ from the fridge (no pulp!) and raid the spice rack again to find an appropriate match for it. No cardamom, and orange-clove smells too much like autumn for me. I guess I could have tried ginger, but I love the look of the black lychee tea leaves suspended inside the orange bar.

I’m definitely going to try some of these again. One of the molds was hexagon shaped and begging to be turned into a milk-honey-almond bath bar. Making soap was a lot easier than I thought, and the kids were able to help a bit too. These will be nice to go along with hand-crocheted washcloths and spa items for gifts or craft shows.

For now though, I’ve got a sink full of dishes to wash. And these delicious smells are making me hungry!

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Halloween Craft Ideas for Kindergarteners

I agreed to do a craft for my youngest’s school party , and they were pretty much covered as far as juice boxes and munchkins (the theme is “Halloween Breakfast”.) It needs to be something quick and easy, plus not messy. So I dug through some supplies in my “studio” and found some large jingle bells.

I figure I can paint them orange at home and have the kids string them onto green or brown yarn/ribbon along with some felt or foam leaves. I probably need to do a test run with my 5 year old at home to see how easy it’s gonna be. Maybe they can crayon a face onto it if there’s time.

Idea two is to have them poke cloves into some clementines and make a nice “pumpkin face” sachet. I think it’s kinda cool because there’s a lot for the senses, the scent of oranges and having to manipulate the cloves. It’s all natural materials, which of course is a plus to me, but the messiness factor may be an ugh to the other moms.

It’s tomorrow morning – what would you do?

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Some Crochet Links for October 2008

Political Puppets by Lion Brand Yarn
Free pattern for each candidate.

10 Gift Ideas For Crochet Lovers

Rachel gets crochet inspiration whilst window shopping.
From her free pattern site.

A Matched Set
Spanish language blog featuring photos of women posed with their dogs and wearing garments spun from pet hair.

Martin makes a crocheted ring bracelet.

Another great holiday (or anytime!) gift idea, Crocheted Nesting Bowls at the design blog Apartment Therapy. Look for the diy links in the comments section.

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Necessities and OCD

After a fairly productive morning (I moved 2 courses of landscaping rocks in the yard, came in, baked a dozen healthy muffins from scratch and started a weightwatchers-friendly cauliflower soup), I looked at the godawful mess I just made in the kitchen. I peeled garlic for the soup and wondered what to do with those few loose cloves that always fall off the bulb. I usually keep them in a cheapie purple easter basket in the pantry with potatoes and other root vegs, but they always fall to the bottom and dry up or get moldy. I needed a little container, but someting flexible that wouldn’t tip perched on toppa the spuds. I suddenly got very excited about finding some yarn and a hook, but composed myself, finished the soup and sort of cleaned up.

Detail of “Myrellen’s Coat”

I get jazzed about being able to make something that I need, and not having to wait for it. It makes me think of colonial times or maybe the great depression, when the tenet was to make do or do without. I occasionally go overboard with hoarding (my basement “craft space” holds way more than just my yarn stash) and I freely admit to being an active thrift shopper (making new buttons for an old coat in my Ravelry queue) and sometimes, when I need to clean out the closets, I recall a trip to the John Waters-esque American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore.

The museum of “outsider”/self taught art was closed for renovations save one gallery. I saw the embroidery of a woman named Myrellen from Knoxville, TN. Her husband committed her to a psychiatric hospital in the 1940’s, there she saved tiny pieces of thread from clothing, sheets, etc. to stitch artwork and messages, her entire autobiography onto a denim coat.

Though the coat was similar to the long dusters that the burnout girls in my 8th grade class wore in 1981 (you know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth between classes), more memorable to me was the frame of mind this woman was in to unravel rags to obtain materials for her work.

Myrellen was later treated with electroshock and thorazine and retained no memory of her work. She denied ever making it.

Now how can I throw out that old sweater with the hole in the neck that is under a pile of workout clothes in my closet? Because I’m not insane, you would answer.

I crochet, therefore I have therapy. I spy a nice big addi turbo hook and some jewelry making hemp sitting in a drawer in my coffee table, waiting for this moment to come along. I used hemp once before for a coin purse and that stuff hurt like a mothertrucker in sc at a small gauge. But this I could handle.  I had previously toyed with the idea of fashioning a little catchall for the bathroom sink or dresser like (a. recent. pattern. I. saw. that. I. can’t. find. now. that. I. need. it. the. story. of. my. life.com), so I had a maybe 2’x3″ dc patch started. Boy was I like the wind. You have to understand, my 4 year old’s favorite pastime is climbing all over my lap the instant I plant my butt on the couch, yarn be damned; but I persevered. Tadee tadah, lookee here!

the garlic nest…

I hdc’d around the edges of the bottom, adding an increase in each corner on every row. After about four rounds, I wanted to tighten it up so I went 2 rows sc, then a sc with decreases. And since I just learned crab stitch edging, I finished it off nice and purty, ‘n even wove my ends so I could show it off  fill it up and put it back in the cabinet.

So I got’s me a garlic nest, in about 20 minutes or less. The kitchen will probably look the same after 2 hours, though. One thing I’m not obsessed with is cleaning, unless you count my obsession about not doing it. My husband often tells me he wishes I had the “good OCD”. Like him.

Britney hooked.

“Oh, this old thing? Just part of my “creative rehabilitation”, ya’ll!”
* Link over to Extreme Craft’s photostream for images from the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, MO or check out a gallery of works by Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching fame for a modern “outsider” look at traditional embroidery.

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Rabbits, rabbits


Crocheted easter bunny magnets for goodie bags at my 1st grader’s school party. They took a lot longer than I thought (I made 24 total).

Acrylic worsted with an E hook, 2 round sc circle and ch 6 up and sc/hdc down for each ear. Dimensional fabric paint with rexlace/gimp for the nose and whiskers; glued-on eyes and a ceramic magnet.

I started them on Monday morning and thought, “Great, these should be a snap
to finish in time for the party on Thursday!”
Famous last words.

The crocheting was easy enough, I could do them watching tv; and I was able to play with the ear length and spacing until I was happy with the last dozen or so. The ears were curling, but I quickly decided that was part of their charm. I could have done them a lot faster if I wasn’t experimenting with the faces in the middle of things.

My original plan was teeny pompom noses with pipe cleaner whiskers. But try looking for pink pompoms and white chenille 3 days before school lets out for Easter. Luckily I brought one of the little guys with me to the local craft emporium so I could size up my supplies (and let me tell you, I felt like a princess there, proudly clutching my own creation as I wandered the store.)

Since the faces are less than an inch and a half across (imagine a slice of pepperoni), the bigger poms were definitely out, and black whiskers were not going to make the cut on these cuties. I knew I didn’t want to do any sewing or embroidery for the features – just weaving in the ends makes my eyes ache. I don’t know how many times I crossed the aisles before I hit upon the magical combination of modern plastics that would make for a suitable bunny snout.

Features in hand, I put the first one together.
I found out that I’m not so much a fan of the whole assembly process – Elmer’s school glue was not “making the grade” (heh). Too much slipping and sliding and general unpleasantness. I had used Aleene’s tacky before, but I must have been traumatized by some kind of Christmas bazaar nightmares involving googly-eyes popping off their ornaments before I got them home to my mother, because I did not want my son’s friends to think he had the Mom who made crappy gifts that fell apart in their backpacks; I wanted some industrial strength adhesive, one that wouldn’t let the magnet backs pull off and stay stuck to the refrigerator either.

It turns out that “Craft Bond” takes quite some time to dry, which led me to my patented makesixpiecesatatimeandgluethembetweentwoheavybooks system. The nose/whisker combination took on a life of its own as well. Since the gimp has a slight curve due to the way it’s packaged, it wasn’t “behaving” on top of the bumpy crochet. The fabric paint is pretty viscous when wet, so globbing on a dot wasn’t really sticking the two crossed pieces to each other. Ultimately, I made them separately on waxed paper and affixed them with another dollop of paint once they dried.

Home stretch: Wednesday evening, son helps me fill the eggs and make a few sample goodie bags. Some buns are eyeless, others smushed under weights, and I have a whole tray of twitchy noses mocking me. Not to mention I didn’t have enough circle magnets and have to switch to that flexible adhesive magnetic strip that comes in a roll. My anxiety swells because all I can think about is the curling magnets coming off, or worse, not even sticking to anything. Which of course defeats the whole purpose of a fridge magnet, and I certainly wasn’t planning on making bunny pins.

We forego the traditional treat bag (holiday shortage again. Note to self: please plan ahead – these things should be 75% off or more by next week…) in favor of a big square of saran wrap which I wanted to use up because I bought it at wal-mart and the dang box is too wide to fit in my kitchen drawer. Yes, a real bargain that was.
It’s already after midnight by now and some of the poor things are not even started. I know some of the glue isn’t dry yet, but I put them in the bottom of the bags anyway, hoping that no toxic gas will be released once they’re in an airless environment, and tightly pressed up against plastic pastel easter eggs containing candy…

Whew. 3am and the last bag is wrapped, everything looks sturdy enough and the haz-mat team hasn’t paid me a visit. There are no extra bunnies. I wanted one for me, one that he could give to the teacher, plus some that I wouldn’t have to give out, like Mr. Bigface on the left up there who ended up with a few extra stitches somehow and some friends who were either crosseyed, fish-eyed or similarly out of proportion and who wouldn’t have won me a blue ribbon for consistency in design. I no longer care. Thank gooodness I didn’t volunteer to do this as a craft for the class because I’d be NUTS if they didn’t turn out right and someone got upset. The good news is that I actually did actually get one back. My darling boy had made a bag for himself, so one of the sweeties made it’s way back home to me.

The last I saw it, it was at the bottom of the toybox.

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Stripes The Long Eared Bunny

Is he or isn’t he?
Is He or Isn’t He?

So I picked up my first Rachael Ray magazine last night. My husband and I used to enjoy her old $40 a Day show way back when. (Yeah, we’re cool, we were into her before she sold out and went mainstream, man.) I’ve always thought she was a bit too “chummy”, like your goofy friend that the boys make fun of but secretly like. But hey, that happens to everyone, right? No? Well, nevermind then…I know she’s quite in vogue these days with all the tv and the Oprah and I’ve read the amusing net backlash as well. (“Raytard”. Enough said.) I only bought the issue because cooking is not my forté and I’ve been hearing that a lot of her recipes are simple, and, for lack of a better term, man-pleasing. Superbowl steak sandwiches. Chili. She wrote a book called Guy Food, for goodnes sake, And since my beloved will barely eat what I do prepare, I thought she deserved a chance.


Enough of the backstory. I’m surveying the mag after a late night grocery trip and finding nothing simple nor manpleasing. Since it’s a bit of a lifestyle magazine as well, there are cute tablesettings and household tips and such. I reach the “Everyday Faves” section, which showcases the current must-haves in fashion and home items. And what to my wandering eyes should appear? A forlorn little bunny with floppy striped ears! As surprised as I was to see crocheted toys advertised in a hip mainstream magazine, I was immediately saddened by a mental picture of the poor sweatshop workers having to mass produce them. It looks like all single crochet with color changes every three rows…I get a blister just thinking about it.

I halfheartedly closed my new useless recipe book and dragged the kids to bed alongside my sickly (and possibly malnourished) husband and fell asleep without further thought about cooking or sweatshops. So, imagine my surprise this afternoon while surfing some blogs when I saw this post pointing to a “cute, snuggly knitted bunny”. I know there is enough polarization in the fiber community, and may the great Skein in the Sky forgive me if I am wrong, but I do not believe in my heart of hearts that this animal is knit.

Rachael’s got it listed for sale at apartment48.com, a site which gives no indication of the thing’s construction. A quick google reveals he’s (and let’s call him he for the sake of argument, shall we? I’m sure no one is questioning the gender of a stuffed toy) made by Schylling and sold by dozens of progressive Ikea type boutiques online. Some sites, including Amazon, say he’s knitted, while others have been saved by the don’t ask, don’t tell policy popularized by today’s military. Notice also that he can be “long eared” or “long earred”, which only serves to add more fire to the stew. Though what really caught my attention was the total lack of copywriting originality. Each site seemed to be remixing each others’ descriptions like I did when I copied my term paper out of an encyclopedia in the 7th grade.

Down and Dirty in the trenches

Listen, I know it’s tough enough to crochet in a world that caters to knitters, so let’s set the record straight if we can.

By passing over all the rhetoric, maybe we can out this bunny and bring a peace unto a nation of crafters.

Perhaps it’s true, by Stripes we can all be healed.

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