Posted by: mamas2hands | May 19, 2017

Playing Yarn Chicken

Have you heard that term before? It’s a game a lot of us dedicated yarnies play, especially when we are working from our stash and may be cutting it close for having enough yarn to finish a project. As a designer I play this game a lot. Partly because I’m always trying to get the most from the yarn I am using for a design. This week though, I was just being silly.

I thought it would be fun to use up some of the orphan balls of yarn in my stash and make another “2 by 2 Cowl”. I especially wanted to try it in one of the long color changing yarns, and with a fiber content that would be more comfortable to wear with the warmer temperatures. Currently I am wondering about those warmer temperatures since we have been experiencing a record breaking late  May snow storm with below freezing temperatures.

I had come across a ball of yarn that I had lost the label to, but I loved the colors and it felt like it had quite a bit of cotton in it. I was pretty sure I had purchased the yarn at the Longmont Yarn Shoppe, so I brought it in with me when I went there this Wednesday for Casual Crochet.

Jane, the lovely manager at LYS, was able to tell me the yarn right away. It was Plymouth Yarn Company’s “Kudo” a blend of 55% Cotton/40% Rayon/5% Silk {sadly this yarn is discontinued now}. The original weight of this skein according to Ravelry is 100g and 198 yards. I must have used a little bit of it though, my skein was 95g. That number is going to be very important. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the skein before I started crocheting my new cowl.

I started my cowl while at the Casual Crochet meeting. By the time I was back home where I could weigh it, I had worked 9 rounds off the foundation. According to my scale I had used 50g of my yarn. I decided I had better weigh my remaining yarn too, just to be on the safe side. I had 45g left to work with still.

Now it was time for a little math. 95g of yarn to start with, 47.5g is half the ball. That means I had used more than half the ball of yarn to get to the end of 9 rounds.

95g divided by 50g = 1.9 x 9 rounds = 17.1 rounds. That means I have enough yarn for 8 more rounds.

I want to be extra sure, so I crocheted another round, then weighed my cowl again. 55g this time. That leads me to the conclusion that it takes 5g of yarn for each round. More math.

9 x 5 = 45 so 50 – 45 = 5g, which means my foundation round took only 5g of yarn. Making an assumption, my finishing round will take 5g of yarn.

95 divided by 5 = 19. 19 – 10 = 9 more rounds.

After all that math I decided that I should be able to work 17 total rounds in the stitch pattern for the body of the cowl, then one more round for the finishing edge.

When I got to the end of Round 15 I thought about stopping. I liked the width of the cowl and with the edging it would be a nice size for spring/summer wear. I took some photos comparing it to the first sample I had crocheted.

One of the fun thing about working with a long color changing yarn was the way it was striping in this pattern. It is also good for being able to see that you are working the “join and turn” part of the pattern correctly.

I decided to keep going to see how my game of yarn chicken would turn out. At the end of Round 16 I weighed my remaining yarn. I had 11 grams of yarn left, things were looking good.

Then this happened. I was just short of enough yardage to finish. Sigh I pulled it out to the end of Round 16 and worked my finishing round.

I’m actually very happy with how the cowl came out. I wasn’t too thrilled with the mustardy yellow being the finishing color, so removing 1 round actually solved that issue. I really love the striping effect of the color changing yarn in this design. I thought the changes at the join might be too harsh, but I don’t mind them at all.

The question now is, where did I go wrong with my math? I actually don’t think it was my math, it was my tension as I was crocheting. The blend in this yarn has absolutely no “give” to it at all, so as I was working the last half of my project my gauge got a bit loose. It was just enough that it made me use more yarn in my final rounds.

The looser finishing edge actually works out. I like the slight flaring that the cowl has. When it is worn with the foundation round at the top, the slightly larger edging round gives it a graceful fit across the shoulders. If I was working this cowl for a design sample I might be more concerned and would pull it out to rework the loose rows. Instead, this was just for my own entertainment, and will probably be added to my wardrobe.

In my opinion the most important part of playing yarn chicken is a willingness to re-imagine the final project. By eliminating a few rounds I made a beautiful cowl with the yarn I had picked, even though yardage and weight were quite different from the yarn I originally used in my design.

How about you dear readers, have you ever played “yarn chicken” with a project? Hopefully you were happy with your finished project once the race was over.

 

Posted by: mamas2hands | May 16, 2017

2 by 2 Cowl Pattern

Hello my dear readers. May has been zipping by and I can’t believe there are only 2 weeks left of the school year for my boys. This summer is already beginning to look very busy. Between fiber arts conferences and family trips I’ll be on the go pretty much non-stop.

This is my newest design the “2 by 2 Cowl”.  I wanted to start the summer off with a fun pattern for everyone that doesn’t take a lot of yarn and is relatively small to have in your hands or lap when the temperatures start to rise. It uses only 1 skein of Lion Brand’s “Heartland” yarn with a size J hook.

This was all that was left of my skein of yarn when I finished the sample, just 5 grams or a little under 9 yards.

I start this cowl with my favorite foundation: Stacked Rows. If you need a little help with understanding how to work a stacked rows foundation I created a video to help you. You can find it here on my YouTube Channel. For those of you that are ready, let’s jump right into the pattern.

2 by 2 Cowl

Designed by Andee Graves

Skill – Easy

Stitches you need to know: Chain (ch), Double Crochet (dc), Single Crochet (sc), slip stitch (slip st)

Finished size: Approximately 14” wide x 34” around (35cm x 85cm)

Materials

Yarn: Lion Brand Yarns “Heartland”; 100% Acrylic, 142 grams/5 oz, 230m/251 yards. (sample was made with 1 ball of color #147 Hot Springs)

Hook: J-10/6mm, or size needed to obtain gauge

Blunt yarn needle

Gauge:

6 rows and 16 stitches in pattern = 4” (10cm)

Pattern Notes

Foundation is worked in stacked rows to create a scalloped and elastic circle that the rest of the cowl is built off of.

Body of the cowl is worked in joined rounds off the straight side of the stacked row foundation. Look for the hole at the base of the double crochet rows to find the single crochet row to work into when crocheting Round 1.

Instructions

Foundation:

Row 1: Ch 2, sc in 2nd ch from hook.

Row 2: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in sc.

Row 3: Ch 1, turn, sc in first dc.

Rows 4 – 65: Alternate repeating Row 2 and Row 3

Row 66: Repeat Row 2, join strip of rows into a circle without twisting, slip st to base of Row 1. {33 Scallops, 33 sc rows}

Body of Cowl:

Rnd 1: Turn to work along straight side of foundation rows, ch 3 {counts as dc here and thru-out pattern}, dc in side of first sc row, *skip next dc row, ch 2, 2 dc in side of next sc row; repeat from * until work in last sc row of foundation, ch 2, slip st to top of beginning ch-3. [66 dc, 66 ch-2 sp]

Rnd 2: Turn, (loosely slip st, ch 3, dc) in first ch-2 sp, skip 2 dc sts, ch 2, 2 dc in next ch-2 sp; repeat from * until work in last ch-2 sp of previous row, ch 2, slip st to top of beginning ch-3. [66 dc, 66 ch-2 sp]

Rnds 3 – 21: Repeat Row 2.

Rnd 22: Do Not Turn, ch 1, *sc in first dc, ch 2, 2 dc next dc, skip next ch-2 sp; repeat from * until work in last dc of Rnd 21, slip st to top of first sc of Rnd. Fasten off

Weave in all loose tails. Gently block if desired.

Posted by: mamas2hands | May 15, 2017

Well, That was Quick

Some of you may recall that one of my goals for 2017 was to open an Etsy Shop. I did do that in mid-January. Unfortunately it turned out that it wasn’t currently the best place to put my focus, so I closed my shop today.

There may come a time in the future that I will look into doing an online shop for selling my art and craft creations, but right now I want to focus my energy more on developing new designs and classes in crochet and needle-felting. That will include expanding my videos on YouTube.

Just wanted to let you all know what was going on in case you couldn’t find me on Etsy and wondered what had happened.

 

Posted by: mamas2hands | May 12, 2017

Experimenting with Felting Methods

A few weeks ago I posted about making a felting pad to work on when needle felting. If you missed my post about that you can find it here.  My friend Pam and were talking about all the work that went into making my felting pad, and that it might be faster to use some felted fabric in the construction.

That got me thinking about crocheting some wool yarn into fabric that could then be felted in the washing machine. It has been a long time since I felted a crochet project, or “fulled” one as that is the more accurate term for this process. I had forgotten that my fabric would felt better if I had a lot of air in the stitches. The openness of the stitches allow the fibers to move and bind more easily to each other.

Recently I shared about crocheting with pencil roving, the plan being that I would felt that circle to use in making a felting pad. Unfortunately I should have used a larger crochet hook. My finished fabric was actually pretty dense, which did not allow for the easy movement of fibers.

I also have the handicap, when fulling crocheted or knit fabric, of a front-loading washing machine. It’s a great washing machine for efficiency, but not for getting my projects to felt. Of course, difficulties are just a form of motivation for me. Or as my Dad always says, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In this case not so much invention as inspiration.

There is this relatively new product out there called “ArtFelt Paper” from Skacel. I have been watching numerous videos of it and how it is used to make felt. I actually purchased some recently, but have been too busy with deadlines for design projects and all the end-of-school-year activities for my boys, to experiment with it yet.

I was really intrigued by the method of felting demonstrated. I’ve never been a big fan of wet-felting because of the excessive amount of physical labor involved in transforming loose fiber into actual felt. Always seemed like a recipe for repetitive stress injuries. The ArtFelt method ends up with wetting the fibers then rolling the whole thing up with plastic and putting it in the dryer to be felted. It’s not the heat from the dryer, but the agitation that promotes the felting of the fibers.

After watching a few videos of this I began to wonder if I could felt or “full” a crocheted fabric this way. If nothing else, it would be a good experiment. My first step was to get my pencil roving circle wet.

I had gathered up my supplies: a plastic bag large enough for my circle to fit inside, an old cotton towel to keep the fabric from crimping when rolled up, and (not pictured) an old stocking.

I drained off the excess water and put the wet circle inside the plastic bag. I was recycling a bag that our bread comes in, so I made sure that all the printing on the bag was not touching the fabric.

Next I rolled up the old towel and set it on the outside of the bag at one end of the circle.

I rolled up the whole thing with the towel in the center.

Then secured it inside the old stocking. I tossed the whole thing into the dryer with a load of towels on high heat. I took it out after 15 minutes.

It had felted a little bit, but I decided it would take too long using that method.

I took the fabric to the kitchen sink and added a little bit of dishwashing soap. I then scrubbed it between my hands and alternated rinsing it in hot and cold water. It began to felt down very quickly.

I returned to the sink and rinsed and scrubbed some more. I rinsed out all the soap.

Next I tossed it in the dryer for a little while, then rubbed and stretched it to get a somewhat squared off shape. It was still fairly damp, but it had felted down to about half the size it started out.

I sat it on the top of my woodstove to dry overnight.

The next morning it was still a tiny bit damp, so I waited until that evening to begin the needle felting part of turning it into a felting pad.

The needle felting method I used was somewhat similar to what I’ve shown here before. I started by covering one side with a thick fluffy mat of fiber.

Then I filled in a few of the more obvious openings that were left in the fabric after the fulling/felting.

Similar to my other felting pad I made, I kept switching between working with my single needle tool and my multi-needle tool to felt down the fibers.

Once I had the first side well covered I flipped it over to work on the second side.

On this side I started out by filling in the hole in the center first.

Then I covered the whole side with a layer of fiber and needled it down.

I liked the way the top of the stitches in my original fabric showed and decided to leave them exposed in the finished version of the pad.

This experiment wasn’t really conducted in the true scientific method. I had too many variables and didn’t do a good job of tracking the measurements of my fabric as I felted it. It did work well to use a felted fabric to give me a good starting point when creating a felting pad.  It was a lot more work to felt/full the original crocheted fabric than I had anticipated.

I may repeat this experiment again if I can get hold of some more plain pencil roving. I would crochet the fabric much loosier and use a different method of “fulling” to get the fabric felted down as densely as possible.

I’m also hoping to create some thick pads of felt using the ArtFelt paper I purchased. I still need a few more felting pads for when I am teaching, that gives me some opportunities to experiment.

Posted by: mamas2hands | May 6, 2017

Sometimes Life Just Isn’t Pretty

I try to keep it real here on the blog, but not be too much of a downer. This week has been filled with things going sideways pretty much everyday. Basically its been one of those weeks that makes you want to build a blanket fort and check out of adult life for a week…maybe longer.

I was planning on doing an awesome post about all my adventures turning my crocheted pencil roving circle into a felted fabric for my weekend post.

Instead this week got especially interesting with my oldest son having a really bad day at school mid-week. Such a bad day that he didn’t go to school the next day. He wasn’t suspended, but things were tense. I guess this is some of the excitement of parenting a teen-age boy in today’s world. There were some important conversations about what had happened and lots of teachable moments in managing this.

Together he and I created a “medicine bag” necklace for him to wear. It’s amazing how much it has already helped him. We also worked on him taking some space each morning to center himself and breathe. Something that the daily rush often doesn’t give us.

Then there was also the crummy snowy wet weather, husband out of town for work, and the looming deadline for a large crochet design sample. It hasn’t been the best week. In a word, exhausting.

But there are always a few bright moments.  Like….

I made this tiny little “pocket” angel using needle-felting. I was pleased that I managed to make this small project without once jabbing myself with the very sharp needle. It is the danger with working tiny in needle felting, the needle can go right thru the object and into your supporting hand if you aren’t very careful.

I also made a fun felted toy for my youngest son. He has named it “Kitty Rock”. It was good practice for working out the shaping for a cat face.

He didn’t want me to add anything to the body, so it ended up being a palm sized oval with a large cat face. He loves it, and with the way this week was going, I’ll take the mom win.

My order from the Woolery came with some new tools for working with fiber. These are little carding brushes for preparing fiber for felting or  to return yarn into loose fiber (I’ll be utilizing that a lot). I actually put them to use when I made my little pocket angel.

The other tool from that order is a big sheet of ArtFelt Paper from Skacel. Not real exciting looking, but I’ll hoping to have a lot of fun with it once I have a chance to experiment with it.

I also got 2 packages of commercial felt sheets. One of the packages contained felt sheets that were 30% Wool and 70% Polyester. The other package the sheets were 100% wool.

I’ve played a bit with the sheets from the first package. They are very difficult to pierce with the felting needles, so I’ll be sewing with those instead. The colors are gorgeous and the quality of the fabric is really nice.

These are the sheets from the second package. They are a bit thicker than the other sheets and only 5 x 5 inches. Other than taking this photo I haven’t had time to experiment with them yet.  Depending on how my experiments go, I may be getting some more colors in this felt. I’m hoping to be able to incorporate commercially available felt sheets into my needle felting creations.

For the moment, I need to buckle down and get a lot of crocheting underway to finish the sample and be ready for shipping my samples off by Wednesday at the latest. How did May get here so fast?

Hopefully I’ll have some pretty crochet to show you next week, as well as my felting adventures with the crocheted pencil roving.

Posted by: mamas2hands | May 3, 2017

Crocheting with Pencil Roving

I’ve been spending about half my crafting time with needle felting lately and discovered that some of the fiber I purchased from Brown Sheep looked like pencil roving. I’ve crocheted with pencil roving before, and thought this might be a good way to create some felted fabric that could become part of one of my felting projects.

The last time I felted crocheted pencil roving I made this little bowl. After felting it I embellished it with some novelty yarn around the opening and added beads.

It was crocheted in the round with single crochet.   For this experiment I wanted to make a flat piece of felt.

I used one of my favorite crochet stitches, the Half Double Crochet (hdc), with my largest Clover Amour hook (size P/Q 15mm). I’ve found the hdc to be one of the best stitches in crochet to felt. I decided to work it in continuous rounds to allow for the fabric to contract evenly as it is felted.

I like the way the hdc looks from the back as well. In the continuous rounds the back bar on the hdc stitch creates a pleasing spiral. The size hook I was using worked well with the size of roving that I had found in the bag of fiber. But I had to create a bit more “pencil roving” to finish the fourth round as I was crocheting. My finished circle was just a little under 10″ in diameter.

This is the ball of wool top pencil roving that I was working with for the bowl. I used about half this ball to make the bowl. That gives you an idea of how quickly you can use up your pencil roving.

Crocheting with roving is an interesting process, there is no twist to the strand so the act of crocheting actually creates the twist. If  you are wanting to crochet with pencil roving and not felt it, I recommend that you use the smallest hook you can comfortably crochet your fiber with.

Working with a smaller hook when crocheting roving means that your finished fabric will be more durable. If I didn’t felt the circle I had made it would not have stayed nice for very long. I loved the squish factor of the finished fabric, but the twist I had created would not have stood up to normal use.

I do have a dream of making some really cushy house slippers crocheted from pencil roving. Just need to acquire enough yardage of roving to experiment with. I think with wearing, the roving would felt a bit, so I might need to make the soles double or even triple thickness. I may need to make the first pair of slippers for one of my great nieces or nephews, they have much smaller feet than anyone else in my life currently.

I’ll share a bit later with you about my experiments with felting my crocheted pencil roving circle. Things got a little bit messy and a whole lot of crazy.

 

Posted by: mamas2hands | April 29, 2017

Is it a Rock?

The other day I saw a really cool video on FaceBook of rugs that looked like river rocks. I love river rocks. I have five medium sized ones that sit on top of my woodstove in our living room. They act as heat sinks as well as looking pretty. A heat sink is a solid or liquid filled object that retains heat and slowly releases it as the air around it cools. Occasionally I put one of my river rocks in a thick cotton towel to warm my feet on when the temperatures really drop up here on the mountain.

The rugs in the video were made with felted wool rocks by the artist/designer Martina Schuhmann from Vienna, Austria  (you can see the video on YouTube here). I was very intrigued since I’ve been playing with needle-felting so much. I decided to find out as much as I could about felting wool rocks or “stones”.  I first went to the artist’s Etsy shop to see if there was more information. You can check her shop out at: FlussDesign

In the video there is a close-up of one of her rocks being squeezed and it bounced right back.  That made me wonder how she was felting her rocks, were they solid wool or was there something else? Looking at Martina’s shop got me part of the answer. She stated that her rocks were made with a foam core.

I had the video on my facebook page and stated that I was wondering how she felted her rocks. My friend Angela sent me a link to a video on YouTube where they were felting around actual rocks. That got me wandering around YouTube looking at a variety of felted rock and other wet felting videos. I decided it was time to try felting my own wool river rock.

I dug out this piece of 1 inch thick foam that I had leftover from another project. It was a little dusty, so I gave it a good wash and hung it up to dry overnight. You can see in the photo above where it was clipped to my drying line. It wasn’t a very pretty piece of foam, but it was going to be enclosed in wool anyway. I drew an ovoid shape for my rock.

Once I had cut out the foam rock I trimmed up the edges to soften them. I figured wrapping the wool fibers and felting them around it would likely soften any hard edges, but I wanted to make this first rock as easy as possible.

Remember when I purchased that wool fiber from the Brown Sheep Company at the Loveland Yarn Fest last April? There was some interesting striped fiber in one of the bags. I had taken it out and placed it aside in another bag because I knew it would be great for a “special” project someday. It’s day had come, I thought it would be ideal for giving some “rock” texture to my felted faux river rock.

Before I started with that fiber though, I wanted to add a bit of my plain wool to the flat sides of my foam rock. Of course, my handy felting needle came out for this part of the project. I used the felting needle to tack the wool to the foam, just enough that it wouldn’t come loose.

I then did the same to the opposite side of my foam shape.

Now I had a little wool and foam sandwich to wrap with my special fiber. I set that aside for the moment.

It was time to lay out my fiber that would be the outside of my rock. I first pulled out drafts of fiber laying them out lengthwise on my work surface.

Next I laid out a second layer perpendicular to the first layer.

I was ready to wrap my little foam sandwich. If I do this again I will make my strip of wool fibers wider, I ran into some small challenges getting the core wrapped well.

I rolled the core up as snugly as possible with my strip of loose fibers. Then I was ready to use my felting needle to tack the fiber down well to the core.

At this point I had covered the entire core with the fiber and secured it well using the felting needle.

It was time to submerge the rock in my bowl of hot soapy water.

Now it was just all about working the wet felt to shrink it snugly around the foam core. This is the really wet and messy stage of this project. I also think I had a bit too much soap in my water. I alternated going to my kitchen sink and rinsing my rock with cold water to shock the fibers further, and working with the hot soapy water.

I also used my felting stone when I started getting the rock closer to the shape I wanted. The felting stone helped me smooth the surface of my “rock”.

I had finally gotten it felted well and I set it out to dry overnight. It was still a bit furry looking and had some odd shaping issues on the “bottom” side. I knew I would be doing a little “fixing” with my felting needle once it was dry again.

The next afternoon my rock was dry and I was happy with the squish factor of it.  I wanted to correct some shaping issues on the bottom and ends. Especially this odd little flap that had formed at one end. Of course, real river rocks do sometimes have cracks and little protuberances, but I wanted my rock to be an “ideal” river rock.

Fortunately this was easy to fix, I just added some bits of fiber and needle felted them until they were smooth. No more flap. I continued shaping and smoothing my rock with my various needle felting tools. All of them joined the party; single, 3 and 5 needle tools. The 3 needle tool was especially useful for smoothing the surface of my rock with lots of shallow needling.

Before

After

I am pretty pleased with how this rock came out. You can see how much the fiber shrank from the starting size to the finished size in the Before and After photos above.

The finished rock is only a little bit bigger than the foam core. You can get an idea of the relative sizes by looking at the shape in the remaining foam.

The patterning on the rock from the “special” fiber actually came out very well. I definitely have a side I consider the “top” of my rock.

This is my finished rock from the bottom.

And the side. Any way you look at it is pretty “rock like”.

I learned so much making this rock, one of the most important things was how much work it is felting a rock. I’m sure with practice I would get faster and have better results. But I would say it would be worth every penny to purchase a rug or other item from Martina. There is an incredible amount of labor in her pieces.

I may make some more rocks, but I think they will become a pillow for the sofa and not a rug. I was thinking that I could crochet the backing for the rocks to be sewn to, or I might even needle felt the rocks to my crocheted fabric. That would be the ideal marriage of both my current favorite crafts.

 

Posted by: mamas2hands | April 26, 2017

Another Experiment with Plarn

Plarn Spring Basket

The last time I wrote about crocheting with plarn was nearly 7 years ago. I had made the basket pictured above using the green bags that our local newspaper was delivered in. That was my first experiment with working with Plarn.  Then life got busy with designing crochet patterns for magazines, books and yarn companies and I didn’t re-visit the Plarn experiments I had hoped to do.

For those of you that may not have ever heard of Plarn, it is yarn that is created by using loops or strips from plastic shopping bags. But it can be created or upcycled from other plastic materials.

This past weekend was super busy at my house. My youngest son was celebrating his birthday by having a bunch of his friends come up for a Nerf Gun Battle on our property. For those of you that are visiting my blog for the first time, I live in the mountains of Colorado and our property is about 2.5 acres of vertical land with lots of Lodge-pole and Ponderosa pine trees. A great place for a bunch of 11 year olds to romp and play.

Our property is bounded on 3 sides by the county road, but our wooded boundary is a little less defined. As a courtesy to our neighbors in that direction we put up a “Caution” tape barrier to remind the kiddos not to pass that. The birthday boy and I spent the morning putting up the tape. After the party I went out to take down the tape.

As I began walking along unwrapping it from trees and winding it into a big ball, I found myself looking at it and thinking, “This would be interesting to crochet with.” I also hated the idea of putting it in the trash to be more plastic in the landfill.

Part of the party set-up was that my husband purchased a bunch of the Nerf “Elite” darts for everyone to use. We now have a LOT of darts at our house. During the party I had tossed all of them into a 5 gallon bucket from a construction supply store. Frankly it’s a lot more container than is really needed. Lightbulb moment… I could crochet an awesome container for them from the used “Caution” tape. You saw that coming, didn’t you?

The tape is 3 inches wide and very thin, just like most of the plastic shopping bags out there. I have 2 pieces of it. One from the long stretch in the woods and a much shorter strip that was used for marking off a hazard area on the property that we wanted the kids to steer clear of.

I’m planning on working with the shorter strip first to see if I want to split the tape lengthwise. It will add a lot more work to the project, but may save my hands in the long run. In my first experiment with plarn I found the thicker strips to be more challenging to crochet, partly because of the larger hook size needed. I also discovered that I did better with a wooden hook, as the metal or plastic hooks I had tended to “grab” the plarn.

Looks like I’ll be doing some “swatching” with my plarn before I am neck deep in this experiment. I want to create a wide bottomed tote with large handles integrated into the top edge. The kids can then carry it easily, or even hang it up by one handle as a “target”. The best bit about that? They will be putting the darts away when they hit the target. Maybe that will make them want to clean-up more? Well, a mom can dream.

Experimental Swatch #1

I worked with the tape 3 inches wide, the size it comes off the roll, and crocheted with a 10mm size wooden hook (Uncle Cy’s Woodshop hook). I loved how cushy and thick this fabric came out, but I really felt like I was fighting with the plarn and the hook. I was only working 3 rounds for these swatches and by the time I had 3 finished for this one I was wiped out.

Experimental Swatch #2

I split the tape to 1.5 inches wide and used my size 6mm metal hook (Clover Amour). This hook worked great with the plarn and cutting the tape to half its original width definitely made it easier to crochet. The metal Clover Amour hook is so smooth it was like Teflon, it slid thru the plarn with ease.  But…I felt like the fabric was too thin for what I want the tote to be. It was also really tedious to cut it in half.

I used scissors to cut the bit I used for the swatch.

I also experimented with the idea of cutting the tape while it was on the cardboard roll that it came on when I purchased it. There was some left-over on the roll. I used a utility knife to cut thru it. That worked okay, but re-winding all the tape in the big ball did not hold a lot of attraction for me. I might play around a bit more with the left-over tape to crochet a wearable pouch that the kiddos can use to carry extra darts in when they are running around.

Experimental Swatch #3

Went back to the wider tape again. This time I used a 10 mm plastic hook (Clover Amour). I was hoping the larger Clover Amour hooks in plastic might have a similar smoothness to the smaller metal ones. The hook was much less “grabby” than some of the acrylic hooks I had worked with in my first plarn experiment. Unfortunately it was still a bit of a fight. I really felt I was having the best result with the metal hooks or maybe it was the smaller sized hook?

The photo above is Swatch #3 and Swatch #2. You can see the difference in size for these 2 swatches. I really wanted to work with the tape at it’s original size. For one thing, it would mean fewer rows to crochet the size of tote I had in mind. The thicker fabric would also be more durable with the amount of use I’m figuring this tote will get.

I messed around with trying to crochet with my J/6mm metal hook and the wider tape. It was a lot of work and I had to keep reminding myself to pull all my loops out bigger than the hook shaft size. I tend to be more of a “rider” style crocheter so I keep my loops pretty close to the size of the hook shaft and it’s a hard habit to break. I really needed a metal hook in the larger sizes, like 9mm or 10mm. This is when it comes in handy to be an avid collector of crochet hooks.

Back in 2014 I took a trip to visit Jan and the 2 of us met up with a bunch of friends at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in NYC. Both of us purchased sets of the Hiya Hiya crochet hooks there. The majority of the hooks in the set are metal including the larger sizes: 8mm, 9mm and 10mm. I dug this set out of my “hook drawer” and decided to give the 8mm and 9mm a try. Metal and smaller, but not so small it would be a fight.

Experimental Swatch #4

Well the 9mm size hook was good, but the hook shape was still a bit of a fight. The bulb like point and tapered throat of the Hiya Hiya hooks is very similar to the Boye hooks, but not ideal for this project. I did like the size of my stitches and the metal was definitely easier with this plarn.

Experimental Swatch #5

Time for a bit more digging in my hook drawer. Ah ha! I found I had some of the larger metal hooks in the Bates Bamboo handled style. I even had a 9mm one. We have a winner! This hook worked the best with the plarn and gave me the size stitches I wanted without fighting.

It’s still a bit tiring to my hands to crochet with the plarn, even with the best hook for the job, so I’ll be working on this project a little bit each day to save my hands (and my sanity). Once I get it further along I’ll show you what I came up with. I’m just hoping I’ll have enough plarn to finish the job. I do have a back up plan if I run out though.

Posted by: mamas2hands | April 21, 2017

Making Your Own Felting Pad

You may recall when I took the needle-felting class back in January 2016,  the teacher introduced me to the idea of using felted wool pads to work on, instead of the usual foam rubber option. The wool pads don’t break down like the foam ones, and they are better for the environment.

One of the first things I did after returning home was make my own felted pad for working on. You can see my adventures with creating it in my blog post “Playing with Sharp Objects Again”. I also knew that I would eventually be teaching needle-felting classes, so I started making small felting pads that I could loan my students during classes.

I had someone ask me the other day if I would be making the pads to sell to other crafters. I won’t say a definitive “no” to that, but currently it isn’t at the top of my list. I would always rather teach folks how to make their own.

I had made 5 or 6 of the smaller pads during my last big needle-felting spree. I had attempted a number of different methods for creating my pads and wasn’t really pleased with any of them. During my needle-felting hiatus, while crochet took the front seat in my attention, my subconscious must have been chewing over the problems I had encountered.

When I decided to make more felting pads I realized I could use the “framing” method for at least getting my basic shape started for each pad. The question then was, what to use for the frame? In my house there are always lots of recyclables waiting to go to the recycling center in town. I dug thru what was in there and found an empty box that was just the right size.

I cut the sides that I wasn’t going to use and folded them over the sides I was keeping, then strapped the whole thing in place with clear packing tape.

The final box was a bit floppy and wanted to turn into more of a rhombus shape than a rectangle. How would I keep it from deforming when I was working on the pad?

My solution was to use some of my T-pins that I use for blocking. I squared up the box on top of my working pad, then used 2 pins along each side to hold it in place.

I didn’t place the pins at an angle to the sides, instead I slid them straight down the side of the box into the pad. Once the box was sitting securely on the pad I was ready to add fiber.

For this pad I decided to work on keeping the corners as squared as possible. To do this my plan was to fill the corners first to increase the density.

I placed 2 strips of fiber along the long edges and needled them a bit with the single needle to secure them.

Next I filled in the space between, tucking some of the fiber under the edges of the 2 pieces already in the frame. I used the single needle to tack this all down more.

Then I filled the whole frame to overflowing with additional fiber, concentrating it around the edges and corners. Time to do more needling to felt down this fluffy fiber especially around the sides and corners.

Next I used the 6 needle tool, that my friend Pam gave me, to felt the fiber further. The great thing about a multiple needle tool is for every strike with the tool it’s like making the same strike with the single tool 6 times. This speeds up the felting process a lot and is a bit easier on your body.

At this point the pad was felted enough that I was ready to flip it over and work from the other side. It is important to keep flipping the pad as you work on it, otherwise it can become firmly felted to the working surface.

I slipped my fingers along the side of a long edge and gently peeled up the pad of fiber from the working surface. Then I flipped it over and re-inserted it in the frame with the bottom on the top.

The fiber that is facing upward now is still pretty loose, I used a combination of single needle and multi-needle tools to felt it down.

These are the corners and edges after some single needle work.

Next I added more loose fiber to the edges and corners.

More work with the single needle to secure this new fiber.

Then I felted it further with the multi-needle tool. The pad is formed enough now that I’m ready for the next stage.

The next stage of making the pad starts with removing it from the frame. You can see in the photo that there was a little hole in my fiber in the lower right-hand corner. I solved that by needling a loose ball of fiber into that spot to fill it in.

Next I wanted to shape up the sides and corners of the developing pad. I used my single needle to felt them. I use a diagonal strike when working the edges, that way I’m not working straight toward my hand holding the project. When the fiber is still relatively loose the needle can come thru deeper than expected and you’ll stab yourself. I’m speaking from the voice of experience unfortunately.

For the pad to be useful it needs to be at least 1 inch thick and dense enough that it takes some force to penetrate the full depth. To that purpose I continued to add more fiber to increase the pad height and density.

I would switch off between the single needle and the multi-needle tools to compress the fibers of wool.

Once I felt like the edges were dense enough I switched my focus to increasing the density of the center of the pad.  This is the section that will get the most action when the pads are in use. Fortunately, with a felted pad it is simple to add more fiber to areas that are getting too worn.

I added loose fiber laid in the same direction and overlapping the edges. I did some rough shaping and tacking of the fiber with the single needle.

Next I concentrated on using my multi-needle tools for compressing the fiber. I used my Clover 5 needle tool (finer needles with more barbs) as well as the 6 needle aluminum tool.

Once the fiber on the flat surface was felted down fairly well, I gently and firmly folded the loose ends around the sides of the pad and secured them on the opposite flat surface.

This is the pad after that step. I needled some more along the sides and on the flat surface to finish incorporating the rest of the loose fibers.

This is the flat surface view at this stage of work. It is getting firmer, but I still have a ways to go.

You can see looking at the edge that the felt is still fairly porous. To complete the pad I continued adding loose fiber on the flat surfaces and wrapping the loose fiber around the edges. I worked both vertically and horizontally with how I lay the fiber down. I also added fiber to both sides as I went along.

This is the finished pad, I will likely continue to work on it with the multi-needle tools to firm and smooth the surfaces. My pad in this post took 3.2 ounces of wool fiber and is 5 1/2 inches x 5 inches x 1 1/4 inch in dimensions.

If you are making your own felting pad and want one side of your pad to have some color, making it easier to see natural colored projects, you can felt in some yarn ends or colored fleece. To see an example of how I did that on my pads check out my blog post: “Deconstructed Yarn Painting”.

Posted by: mamas2hands | April 19, 2017

Gypsy Wools and Clover Felting Tool

I spent a good part of my Tuesday running shopping errands before picking up Thing 2 from school. Right before I headed over to his school I decided to make a quick stop at Gypsy Wools. They are a fun shop in Boulder that carry a variety of yarns and fibers, as well as embroidery supplies. They also have a marvelous selection of fiber crafting tools.

My main reason for stopping there today was to acquire a few more felting needles and 2 of the Clover Single Needle felting tools.

I’ve been doing a lot of single needle felting work lately and my hand gets a bit tired. Since finding ways to craft without injury is one of my touchstones, I kept thinking that I needed to create some sort of ergonomic handle for the needle. Then I realized that I had such a tool already. I purchased one of these Clover tools about a year ago and have used it primarily when I am doing details like adding yarn embellishments to a needle felting project.

It comes with a 40 gauge needle, which is one of the thinnest.  All the Clover Needle Felting tools recommend that when replacements are needed you use the Clover Needles. I do love their needles, but I have lots of other felting needles, and I decided to see how well they would work in the tool.

The tool breaks down into 4 pieces: the handle base, the locking handle top, the clear needle cap, and the needle.

What makes this tool so effective is the little notch on the top of the handle base.

That notch holds the needle in place, so the needle won’t twist in the handle and break when you are working. The top of the handle has a metal disc that is firmly held against the top of the needle when the top is locked in place.

This is the whole handle reassembled with the needle in place. The needle in this photo is 3″ long, so it fits perfectly in the handle and the clear cap can be placed over the needle when the tool isn’t being used. This is a handy feature as it prevents jabbing oneself when fishing around in your tool kit for what you need.

The cap can be moved to the back of the tool when felting, but I’m not a fan of using a pencil hold when doing single needle work.

The photo above shows my preferred position to hold my felting needle when working.

Using the Clover tool works beautifully with my preferred hold, I simply leave off the cap and the shape of the handle allows me excellent control of the needle with a much more relaxed grip.

I have found that I prefer to use the 3 1/2 inch long needles when doing single needle work. This means I can’t place the clear cap over them in this handle. I just have to be a bit more aware of where the sharp ends are when I’m reaching for a tool in my kit. Though, I am finding with the additional length from the handle top, I may be liking the 3 inch needles better when using the Clover tool.

I am using my Clover handle much more now, and decided that I needed more of them. This way I can have a different gauge needle in each handle. Which is what motivated my trip to Gypsy Wools today.

Now, you remember at the beginning of this post, I said that I had planned a quick stop to just get some needles and tools? As you can see from the photo below, I ended up with a bit more than tools. The very helpful (one might say enabling) Barb said, “Have you seen all our loose fiber we have on sale? It’s 50 cents per ounce” Whoops.

I now have 8 ounces of some wonderful dyed and natural colored fibers to play with. There was even a bit of fiber that was a partially felted sheet that intrigued me. It is probably a good thing I couldn’t stay longer or even more may have ended up in my basket. Some of the green stuff is a combination of wool and silk. I’m really looking forward to experimenting with needle felting it.

Despite all the running around today I did manage to get a little crochet time in. I’m still working on my “super secret” projects for a magazine, which means I can’t share photos of my progress on those right now. Of course, my crochet design brain never sleeps, so I also came up with an idea for a new project this evening.

I’ve been wanting to do something with this beautiful linen yarn from Juniper Farms for ages. I have 2 balls of it and have made a couple of tries that I ended up pulling out.  I’ll be crocheting some swatches with it tomorrow to see if this latest brain storm is going to come out as nicely as I hope. More on that soon.

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