Summer is for road trips – crafty road trips – and one of the things I love most when a trip is looming is planning the project(s) I'll bring with me.
(Ok, sometimes by “favourite” I mean “most stressful.”)
It's a deserted-island kind of situation, planning a crafty project for a trip. It doesn't even matter if I'm traveling to attend a craft-related conference – during the packing stage it always feels as if I'll never be near a craft store again in my life, and so I must pack everything I might possibly need. And not only for the obvious project I'm already working on, but also for the three or four other projects I must bring in case I get stranded at an airport for seven months and finish my in-progress project on the first day.
At the beginning of summer, with camping trips looming, I feel a special kind of packing excitement/anxiety. Because in addition to the traveling part, there are the very specific considerations of lots of time spent in a cramped moving vehicle and lots of time spent outdoors.
Obviously, crochet and knitting projects are my general jam, and they're great for lots of time in the car. (Also obviously, I never travel with blanket projects. Way too big, way too much stuff, guaranteed to get dirty and/or ruined.)
And so I always travel with my knitting-needle kit and a variety of crochet hook sizes. You never know when you'll need a replacement, or when you'll pop into a yarn shop in a far-off town and simply have to start a project with the locally made yarn you discovered.
If I'm going away for more than a few days, I always get it into my head that I'll want to keep a travel journal, or at least add stuff into my bullet journal. (Do I? Rarely. But I always plan to do this anyway.) So I keep a small pouch with double-sided tape in it, and I always bring a few of my favourite pens and also a variety of markers or gel pens.
This summer, I have it in mind to make some proper friendship bracelets. I was a fiend for friendship bracelets when I was a kid, especially when I was away at overnight camp. They're so much fun to make, so easily portable, and so satisfying to give away.
And since I'm going to bring embroidery floss for bracelets, I'll also prep an embroidery project. Or, now that I think of it, I'll pack up the sampler I started last summer.
I am not a fan of the word guru. Guru is what we call people who know a lot about something but don't have a job title related to it, or who work in or around that topic in a variety of ways but aren't defined by any one. I'm often described as a “crochet guru.” (If I'm asked for input on the matter, I usually request they just go with author or instructor.)
So I especially love that when she wrote about me in the Holiday 2017 issue of Vogue Knitting, Lee Ann Dalton called me “crochet genius.”
I mean, I'm not a genius, but I'm not a guru either. I'll take genius any day.
Which is all to say: You guys, Lee Ann Dalton wrote about me, and specifically about craftivism, in the Holiday 2017 issue of Vogue Knitting. She also called me an “intrepid Canadian craftivist.” I'll take that one happily.
I meant to mention this when the issue was still on newsstands. Um, four months ago. But better late than never, right? Maybe back issues are still available?
I used a 6mm needle for my mostly worsted weight yarn, and knitted the shawl in fits and starts over about a month. I had more than enough yarn to work the called-for number of repeats for the pattern, so I kept going, and then I worked a larger-than-called for garter edging before working the picot bind-off.
Of course, I managed to work one too many rows of garter stitch before binding off, and it became clear to me before I was halfway through the picots that there was no way I'd have enough yarn to keep those going. Rather than undoing the bind-off, I just… stopped making the picots. And managed to get to the end with about 5″ of yarn to spare. The shawl's for me, so who cares if it has only almost half the picots it should have?
When I laid the shawl out to block, I discovered another shining error that I quickly embraced: Somewhere along the line, I misplaced the centre stitch, so the spine of increases veers off to one side after a few repeats. Ah well. You totally can't tell when I'm wearing it.
So… The shawl is fairly dramatically more imperfect than the imperfection I usually embrace in projects like these, but I love it anyway, and have worn it every day since it dried.
Just in time for Halloween (or, you know, any kind of occasion that calls for some spooky fun), here's a super simple stamp project.
I carved some ghastly stamps and used them on small paper bags I'll fill with treats for my kid's friends for Halloween, but you could just as easily use them on cards, banners, posters, or any other kind of decoration.
Get the free halloween stamp template!
What You Need
Here's everything you need to make Halloween treat bags (obviously, sub out the bags for an appropriate printing surface if you're making cards or banners instead!)
Optional: Gel pens or other kinds of markers for embellishing after you've stamped
Make sure you stamp the area of the bag that will be visible once the bag is full and the top is folded over.
Keep in mind that the folds and seams of the bag will affect how the stamp applies the ink. Embrace the tiny imperfections!
Not all light-coloured inks will show up well on dark paper – be sure to read ink labels carefully, and experiment.
These stamps are cute on their own, if I do say so myself, but I love them even more when I use them as a starting point. In the photo at the top of the post, you can see how much more awesome the bags look with a little bit of gel pen and marker thrown into the mix.
At Knit City a couple of weeks ago, I tried on the Veronika Cardigan and immediately fell in love. I'm not usually keen to knit garments, but I was powerless against this one.
I knew I had enough yarn of one kind or another at home to make it, so I bought the pattern and dug out my Rubbermaid. In it, I found this gorgeous navy yarn I bought a million years ago – maybe at my very first Rhinebeck?
It was intended to become a sweater for my husband, but I didn't buy enough yardage and the yarn has been sitting in this bin for over a decade. To be honest, as the yarn is unlabeled it's entirely possible I don't have enough to make this sweater, either. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
The yarn is perfect for Veronika. The stitches are flying off my needles, and this project has been my constant companion, in addition to my kid, as the Yankees have progressed in post-season baseball.
My kid had a big growth spurt this past summer, and by the end of it, most of his pajama pants fit him more like capris. (Or, as we like to call capris in our family: shpants.)
As we went through his outgrown pajamas and made a pile to donate, he grabbed one pair of pants and announced he loved them so much he didn't want to give them away – he wanted to make a pillow out of them.
(At some point when he was a toddler, we made a pillow out of a shirt. I don't remember the project, and I don't think we even have it anymore, but it's stuck in his head that we make pillows out of old clothes we love, and I love this idea so, so much.) (Also, I have a growing pile of his old clothes I want to make a quilt out of someday.)
So here's what we did:
First, Cut Off a Leg
Since these pants were made from a stretchy knit fabric, I held them taught while my son wielded my fabric scissors. We cut the leg off as near to the crotch of the pants as possible, to make for the longest/biggest pillow. We also cut the elastic off the cuff, at the ankle.
(I took this photo later on in the process [scroll down for notes on adding an appliqué], but below you can see one of the cut-up ends of the pant leg.)
Next, Sew Up One End
We could have simply sewed the ankle end shut, but it was way more fun for the kid to decide on a design for felt scales to sew in there, too. So he took a sharpie to some felt, then he got frustrated trying to cut felt with safety scissors and my fabric scissors were too big for him to use for detail cutting. So I cut out the design.
Then I sandwiched the felt inside the ankle end of the pants leg, threaded some embroidery floss onto a sharp embroidery needle, and taught the kid how to sew a running stitch through the three layers of fabric.
You might think a running stitch – and not a terribly tightly sewn one – wouldn't be appropriate for eventually keeping stuffing from coming out of the pillow, but (spoiler) it's worked great.
Maybe, If You Want, Make an Appliqué
The kid didn't particularly want to make this pillow into a monster, but when I suggested he could cut out a shape of felt and decorate it however he wanted, he decided that would be a grand thing to do. He drew a big triangle, I helped him cut it out (mental note to get him scissors that are sharp enough for cutting felt or fabric), then he took a Sharpie to it.
At this point, he'd lost interest in the slow part of hand-sewing, and he expressed zero desire to sew the appliqué on. No big. I sewed it on, for I love the slow part of hand-sewing. While I did this, he went outside and tossed a baseball against a net.
Now Stuff It
We used basic poly-fil as stuffing. You could, alternatively, use scrap fabric or yarn, or a mixture of scraps and poly-fil, for a more eco-friendly (though lumpier) stuffing. (I love eco-friendly lumpy stuffings, FWIW.)
Use as much or as little stuffing as you or your small friend wants.
Finally, Sew Up the Other End
We again cut out some felt humps to sew into the second and final seam at the crotch end of the pant leg.
Because of the stuffing, I used pins to keep things together, with the humps sandwiched between the halves of pant leg as for the ankle end.
The kid did the sewing after I got it started, and I held things together for him as he went, obviously removing pins as he progressed.
And there you have it: a pillow made out of old, outgrown pajama pants!
The kid's slept with it in his bed every night since we made it.
What do you do with outgrown-but-beloved clothes?
PS You can see bits of a book in some of these photos. It's a great book called Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make, by Andria Lisle and Amie Petronis Plumley. We didn't follow instructions from the book to make the pillow, but even starting from a place of the kid flipping through and saying he didn't like any of the projects for pillows was a great launching point for figuring out what he did want to make. And the book assured me running stitch was a totally age-appropriate skill to teach him. Also, I love this book because the projects are made by actual kids – there is zero room for comparing what you or your kid makes against any sort of “perfection”. It's all gloriously age-appropriate. And therefore absolutely what it should be!