Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Warm and Stripey Scarf

I'm still working on posting all the Christmas gifts I made this year, so next up is the scarf I made for my other favorite brother-in-law.

I made this scarf using Lion Brand Jiffy Solids in Wine and Black and a K (6.5 mm) hook. I just wanted a straight forward striped scarf, so rather than use a pattern, I decided to improvise my own.

Ch 191 in first color.
Row 1: Dc in fourth ch from hook, dc across, turn.
Row 2: Add second color, ch 2, sc across, turn.
Row 3: Carrying first color up the side of the scarf, switch to first color. Ch 3, dc across.
Row 4: Carrying second color up the side of the scarf, switch to second color. Ch 2, sc across.
Repeat rows three and four until the scarf is as wide as desired.
To finish, work two rows of single crochet into the sides the stitches on each end of the scarf.

The thing is, once I got started, I realized I don't really know the right way to switch colors like this. So I just kind of made stuff up. Then, I worked two rows of single crochet in black into the side of the stitches on each end to cover up whatever I did. The end result looks nice, I think. Still, I'd rather do what I'm doing intentionally, not to cover a lack of knowledge. So, I've made a New Year's resolution to learn how to (correctly) change colors.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Updated Lip Balm

If I had to pick the bath and body gift everyone seems to love most, it's definitely my lip balm! However, as I mentioned in my post on last year's recipe, I really wanted something a little heavier and more nurturing, since I tend toward painfully chapped lips in the winter.

So, armed with a year's worth of research and experience making this sort of thing, I decided to create my own recipe.

The new recipe has a few more ingredients:

3 tsp cocoa butter
1 tsp shea butter
1 tbsp beeswax
2 tsp sweet almond oil
3 ml essential oil (optional)
1/4 tsp stevia sweetener (optional)

I melted the first four ingredients in an improvised double boiler, then removed it from the heat and added the essential oils and stevia. The essential oil blends I used were:

  • Citrus Spritzer: 2 ml orange and 1 ml lemongrass
  • Minty Fresh: 2 ml peppermint (2nd distillation), 1 ml spearmint
  • The Cranberry Fig was made using a fragrance oil.
I purchased very fine stevia powder sold for the purpose of lip balm, so I don't know it would work to use the grocery store kind.Used in this small amount, the stevia didn't actually make the lip balm sweet, but just counter acted the slight bitterness of using the essential oils by themselves.

I'm very happy with this recipe, and I can't really think of how I'd improve it. I may experiment with using a tiny amount of honey instead of stevia, so I'll let you know how that goes after I order some more tubes.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Candle Making (Part 1 of 2)

This year when planning my handmade Christmas gifts, I decided to give candle making a try. It complements my bath and both products well since I can match the scents, so it seemed like a natural extension. I did some reading on general candle making techniques and materials, which turned out to be more complicated than I expected. There are myriad wax formulations, dyes, scents, and other products to choose from when making candles, which I didn't expect. I figured you just melt some wax and pour it into something, right?! Ha!

Back row (L-R): Two Lilac, Strawberry. Front row: Vanilla, CK Escape, Pink Grapefruit

I decided to start with smallish container candles because these seemed the simplest to make. So, I got hold of some supplies to make soy-based wax candles in scents and colors that would suit my intended recipients. I got most of the containers at thrift stores, and I was able to find plenty of basic candle holder shapes and some designs that I knew would particularly appeal to certain people. For example, I found the perfect strawberry container for my crafty grandmother who collects strawberries.

This photo also shows the biggest issue I encountered making these: there is a circular crack that runs around the entire inside of the candle. According to my after-the-fact searches online, this is likely related to the temperature of the wax when I poured it into the container. Which brings us to confession time.

But first another pretty picture.
While I read a lot of detailed instructions, I found that when I was trying to make just one or two candles in a particular scent and color combination, everything just happened too fast for me to keep up with all the details. Between prepping the containers, measuring and melting the wax, adding the color and scent, and pouring it, tracking the temperature went by the wayside altogether.

This one's cracked too. Also, lotion spoiler!
 I'm kind of a perfectionist, so this doesn't sit well with me. In the end, I couldn't find a good fix to get rid of this crack after the candles cooled, so I had to accept them as they are flaws and all. A life lesson perhaps.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ruby Princesses

While reviewing the craft photos I have saved for future blog posts, I realized that I had skipped a project from last fall. As I've mentioned before, I designed a number of fantasy tiaras for my friend Heather to use in her fairytale photography work, which you can see on her site Fairyography. As her collection of princess dresses grows, she occasionally asks me to create new pieces to complement them.

In this instance, her client expressed that the princesses-to-be would also love it if they could deck themselves out in jewelry, as well as tiaras, to get the full princess experience. I had a pretty short time frame to create these pieces, and they needed to be small child friendly, so I decided to go with something simple.

As all my tiaras are, I made these using color-coated copper craft wire and a variety of glass beads, pearls, and Swarovski crystals.

Heather likes a magical organic look for her photo accessories, so I developed this wire branch tiara design with her input for her very first crowns, and we've used it repeatedly since.

For the coordinating necklaces, I decided to go with large, faceted glass beads and a simple bead cap. I like how these ended up looking like crown jewel-sized ruby necklaces on the little ladies who wore them.

Finally, I made bracelets using smaller faceted glass beads knotted on stretchy gold cord. I wasn't sure these were up to my (and Heather's) standards, but in the final photos they look great, and the stretchy cord is very child friendly.

You can view some examples of the photos taken using these accessories in the Fairyography blog post featuring this photo shoot.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sturdy Fingerless Gloves

Let's get started on all the handmade Christmas gifts! I made these gloves for one of my two favorite brothers-in-law, who both DJ's and does grading and tree removal throughout the year. Since he works outside using his hands, I thought he could use a pair of sturdy gloves that would still leave his fingers free to get things done.

The pattern for these is from the blog My Recycled Bags, which as the name suggests, has a number of great free crochet patterns using reclaimed plastics and other materials. The Men's Crocheted Fingerless Gloves pattern uses standard yarn, and I made these using Caron's Simply Soft Solids in Black.

One of the best things about this pattern is that it explains a simple technique to end continuous crochet in the round with a smooth edge. This is something I've struggled with because I greatly prefer this method to ending each round with a slip stitch to join and a chain to start the next round. However, I've ended up with a bump at the end of the final round because of how it steps up over the last few stitches. The technique described in this pattern, which uses slip stitches to replace the last few stitches in the final round, completely fixes that!

The pattern suggests crocheting tightly or doing a decrease in the last couple of rounds to make sure the hand opening is snug. I decided to do a decrease on row 32 (second to last row), then just crochet tightly for the final row:

Row 32 - [Sc in next seven sc, sc2tog] four times, sc in next three sc (34 stitches)
Row 33 - Sc around using instructions to end with a smooth edge.

The thumbs on my gloves lay at an odd angle when they're not worn, but fit and looked normal on. I assume this is related to something about how I worked the first row of stitches to add the thumb, so any tips on how to fix that would be welcome.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy New Year!

I've been so busy crafting Christmas gifts that I've had to take a pretty long hiatus from posting. Now I'm back, and I have a big stash of holiday craft photos to post over the next few weeks! I'll start with the elf hat that I made for my brand new niece, who was born a little ahead of schedule on November 20.

I made this hat using I Love This Cotton! in Bright Green and White Sparkle. The pattern is the Newborn Elf Hat with Braided Tassel pattern by Sarah McPherson (this is a link to Ravelry; the pattern has been taken down since I used it). I should note that I changed the tassel and that I did something drastically wrong while changing colors. There's a reason this picture only shows the back of the hat. It also turned out to be a little too small, so overall, not my most successful project.

On the other hand, I have quite a few that turned out much better including a lot more crochet, some body products,

and, something new I tried this year, candles.

I hope everyone's enjoying 2013 so far!