I finally got my package done for the Doctor Horrible Sing Along Blog swap I did for the Odd Ducks Swap on Ravelry. Given how much work I ended up having to put into this package, the absence of inspiration for the first month, and all the paperwork and time that ended up being involved for the deposition and then the hearing that didn’t happen, I’m really pleased it came out this well and only took an extra 5 days to finish! It’ll get mailed out first thing tomorrow morning via FedEx 2 Day. That means I only have to wait and squirm in anticipation of my spoilee opening it until Thursday! I don’t think there is anything more exciting than getting to spoil someone. Yes, it can be very hard to send away all your awesome creations, but somewhere someone will squeal with delight.

One of my earliest ideas was to send some soup from the Caring Hands Homeless Shelter and Soup Kitchen. I also have a history of wood burning spoons, so this seemed like a good, easy handmade to include. My partner doesn’t like really spicy stuff as I found in my stalking, so I got a different flavor soup from what I’d normally buy for myself. I’ve tried the same brand of spicy tortilla soup, but still had to add some heat. I picked up a set of wooden utensils when I was in Arizona at the IKEA, so the total cost of this craft came to 3 bucks for soup and 49 cents for utensils. I used her favorite quotes for the spoons and came up with a design for Caring Hands.

I love the slogan I came up with for them based on Dr. Horrible’s attitude toward their efforts. After all, the solution really is to just put the power into different hands, and not necessarily their caring ones. The date is the year the movie came out.

I did a big sewing project too. I’d seen several people make Wonderflonium knitting bags, but I wanted to be a little more unique than that. No one wants to see everyone make the same projects for the swap, right? So I made a binder to hold patterns and included page protectors to keep the patterns safe from Moist. I’d hate to have him drip on my patterns and smear the ink. I made 4 pockets too. There is one sized just for the Dr. Horrible needle gauge I made, a big pocket with 3 separate compartments each large enough to hold a set of DPNs, and a little pocket for odd bits of yarn or stitch markers. I know for a fact my spoilee made some awesome stitch markers for her spoilee and was talking about crafting them in double to have for herself. Here’s the front inside:

And here’s the back inside with the last pocket for holding circular needles. My spoilee is a sock knitter and I wanted to make sure she had space for all her sock knitting supplies, or at least enough to last a short trip, vacation, or wild stitch-and-bitch session. Even this binder came in under budget. While the actual binder was expensive, all the fabric I used was in the remnants bin at the Hancock Fabrics by my house on a day when all remnants were on sale an additional 75% off! I have plenty to make another binder even. All the remnants were at least a half yard! But, I don’t have the program or card writer for my embroidery machine though and ended up using Sharpie on some white satin I had in my stash for the labels. I also contemplated needle felting black wool on, but that just wouldn’t fit with the sparklie briefcase nature of the project.

I love this binder so much I have to make one for myself. I don’t know what theme I want for mine, but I want this binder. I also want a nice needle gauge. If only I could figure out a theme, I’d have the best set of stitch markers, a row counter, a binder, a few bags, and a needle gauge. I want the finished set, I just can’t pick a damn theme! I may go something earthy, something hippie, or something punk. I have no clue.

Here’s the whole haul I’m sending off. Believe it or not, I came in under the $30 budget. I wanted to do more, but a few little birdies on my end kept saying that I can’t do that much because it makes the smaller swap packages and packages from folks who don’t craft/shop quite as well as me look lame. I certainly don’t want to make anyone look lame, but I want to have the most awesome packages anyhow. I think this will have to suffice.

I like to wrap with clues. My family almost always uses clues on our Christmas presents, and we even do celebrity gifts! Every person gets one gift a year (and usually a big one like Santa’s present) and it’s addressed as from the celebrity. It’s my favorite holiday tradition. I mean who wouldn’t want to get a gift from Hannibal Lector? Then when I checked my wrapping box, I had tissue paper left over from the video game swap I did. There were several bright colors and METALLICS! I love the whole package being wrapped up in the steam punk-ish Doctor Horrible color scheme. Could it be more perfect? Not unless I’d had a shipping box big enough to package it all in a blue, round laundry basket like Penny’s! For the record, I bought one at the dollar store, but the binder didn’t fit inside and I didn’t have a big enough box. The basket is now holding fiber under my spinning stool so the wool doesn’t get icky on the floor.

The clues I used are:

  • for the ice cream flavored candy and chapstick, “what a crazy random happenstance”
  • for the black and white thread she had on her wish list, “for that classic battle of good and evil”
  • for the chair, “we all need somewhere to sit while we dream about the keys to a shiny new Australia”
  • for the Otterpops style soda pops, “the freeze ray needs work…may I recommend your freezer?”
  • for the needle gauge, “It’s ok, he won’t feel a thing”
  • for the soup, “From the Caring Hands Homeless Shelter and Soup Kitchen”
  • for the odd duck, “Steampunkin’ up the Odd Ducks”
  • for the pop rocks mad scientist set, “Materials from the E.L.E. for your next horrible experiment”
  • for the Wonderflonium binder I included a message in the front pocket about why I’d made the pockets the size I did and that this binder, like wonderflonium will include what you need to finish your next horrible project and to keep knitting those awesome socks because you have to remember, “Even in the darkness, every color can be found.”
  • for the page protectors, “to keep your patterns safe from Moist”

Fingers crossed she loves this package at least half as much as I loved putting it together for her. I hope she feels very loved and very spoiled. I hate sewing with satin. Doing so is a sign I really, really like someone.

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I love the odd ducks group on ravelry’s swaps. The topics are often off the wall and inspire the best and most creative crafting from all the members. I’m trying to get a package finished to ship out. It’s due at the end of this month, but it looks like I’ll ship in the first week of July. I hate being late, but I am one of the best spoilers out there and it takes a while to properly stalk a person and craft a package that will leave them breathless.

The swap I’m working on right now is the Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog swap. Everything has to be themed around that movie. For starters, I decided to make my partner a needle gauge. She knits socks constantly and most store bought needle gauges don’t go small enough for sock needles. I’ve noticed most gauges stop at size 0 and I’d like them to go to 000 or smaller. Conveniently, guy pal has a great set of drill bits and a drill press AND was willing to help me.

I first cut out a shape on my scroll saw pulled from the outline of a man on a restroom sign. I just added a little neck in before cutting it out of craft plywood from Michael’s Arts and Crafts. I sanded it lightly and started figuring out what size holes I would need. Knitting needles are measured in mm and the drill bit set I have access to is in inches. So I spent quite a while with a calculator and digital calipers trying to decide if I wanted to go with a .072 or a .068 inch bit for a given hole. I drilled all the holes with a little help from guy pal. His drill press and I aren’t good friends. He and I got holes drilled to make this needle gauge go from size 000 to 10.5 and tested the holes with my own needles to be sure they were just right.

Then I took the cutout shape with holes home to draw a Captain Hammer on it. I figured that it would be great. I could include on the gift tag that it was from Dr. Horrible’s knitting bag. He does seem like the type that would have a voodoo Captain Hammer as his needle gauge if he knit.

Then a few weeks later, I saw a new forum post by my partner indicating that she didn’t really want anything Captain Hammer. So I erased the Captain Hammer drawing and started drawing on a Dr. Horrible. I figured this too would be ok. The tag could just reference the last line of the film by reading, “It’s ok, he won’t feel a thing.”

After finally being satisfied with the new drawing I pulled out the box of acrylic paints and set to work. After finishing painting the Dr. Horrible needle gauge, I ended up re-drilling all the holes because the paint had closed some in just a little bit. Next time I may drill all the holes after painting so I’m not doing the work twice…or be more careful with the paint.

While painting the needle gauge, I also painted the awesome chair that Dr. Horrible has in his lair. He sits in it holding a picture frame with a picture of Penny in it when he sings about handing her “the keys to a shiny new Australia.” Everyone in the swap group seems to really love this chair. When I was out shopping at a local thrift store, I found a picture frame shaped like the big chair! It was filthy and the paint job was really bad–not at all Dr. Horrible.

I cleaned it up and painted it to match the one in the film. It combines the picture frame he’s holding AND the chair he’s sitting in. I think it should score me some mad creativity points. It’s really a shame for the sake of photographing them that he’s not smaller and the chair’s not bigger. That chair is really HUGE in the movie!

Remember, while I may not be able to duplicate the chair frame due to the strange find at the thrift store, if you need a custom needle gauge, leave me a comment or send me a message on etsy! They are a time consuming task, but the result is totally worth it! I’m sure I’ll be making another one for each swap I’m in and a few more generic ones for my store. It’s so unique while being sturdy enough to handle getting tossed about in a knitting bag and functional enough to please even the most difficult swap partners. It’s also super easy to make them fit different themes if you’ve got scroll saw skills!

I decided I need to see how well cake yarns sell on etsy compared to my soda pop yarns. The most obvious way to do this I figured was to make some and see how well they sell. So I dyed this one tonight. I’m not dyeing cake yarn with the same speed as soda pop yarn because the hand-painted dyeing process takes much longer than the kettle-dyeing process AND I really like to contemplate my colors when I paint.

For this yarn, I took a light blue soda pop yarn and over-dyed it with Wilton cake colors and acid. All color added to this once natural color yarn I bought is food-grade. I let the colors blend a bit and cooked them in. The finished product has been washed several times, including one soak in Woolite to be sure it’s ready for you to use.

Dyeing of yarn is a learning process and why I try out a hank of each new technique to make sure the yarn is nice to work with, clean, and colorfast. I learned the hard way on my hippie cake that incomplete rinses after cake dye can lead to very pink fingers that leave pink smudges all over the house. Now I’ve implemented a 3 part hand-wash cycle after every dye, regardless of what dye is used. Now there are no more pink hands. I have noticed that yarn turning hands and even wooden and bamboo needles fun colors is not a problem unique to hand-dyed yarns. One of my dear friends showed me her discolored bamboo needles a week or so ago. The color was caused by some bigger box commercial yarn! I would have thought that big companies would have developed a 3 stage wash cycle like I have. They’ve been dyeing yarn for longer than me.

Anyhow, I love this finished yarn. I still need to get it packaged up in a proper cake with a candle, but I’m quite hung up on what to call it. Does anyone have any ideas for this colorway? I think it looks like a candy, taffy or cotton candy. Maybe something like Cinderella colors or some other combination of the Disney princesses. Do any of you have ideas as to what to name this fantastic colorway? While it is one of a kind, I would like to have a proper name should I create a similar yarn later. I am keeping a ‘dye book’ with rough recipes for each yarn along with a small sample. This way I’ll get more predictable results as I gain experience. Check back on my etsy store to see the first cake yarns starting to appear! I’ll be rolling out cake yarns in addition to my soda pop yarns in the month of July!

A new goal in spinning

June 25, 2010

I’ve gotten good at spinning a bulky yarn, and just wound a ball last night of more than 150 yards of hand-spun, single-ply lace weight, which while a little over spun to maintain strength, has a very consistent thickness. I’ve got some stunning Merino that I’d like to spin into sock yarn, but I’m not quite sure if I can pull of that just yet. I’m considering getting some nylon thread and trying to spin around that as a core, or maybe spin close to a sock weight single ply and ply in the nylon thread. I’m not sure, but not that eager to spin it yet either. I’ve just been too into dyeing and contemplating some very unique colorways. All my dedicated readers should anticipate a sweepstakes in the near future to enter by voting on which lines and colorways of yarn will be released next!

Then today while looking across ravelry.com for an exciting project to try using my Hippie colorway on, I found this yarn from insubordiknits and I feel the intense urge to pull out my spinning wheel, some dye, varous fibers, and of course my needle felting supplies!

She calls her colorway vitreous humor and sells them for $50 a hank of 75ish yards, with a total of 10 eyes spun into each hank. I’m a fine needle felter, so I think I need to make yarn with needle felted items spun in! I want eye ball yarn so badly, but she’s got a waiting list of 125 people according to her store. I’m thinking I could do my own! Then I might have to figure out what other creepy handspuns I want. Do I just want eyes, or do I feel some skulls (which I’ve needle felt before) or maybe random vertebrae and a kidney. I sure hope if I ever find a Mr. Hairballz that he’s not going to mind a scarf made with anatomical heart yarn! I can already see that being a huge seller. I do tend to fall for the geeky guys, so maybe a hat out of keyboard yarn would be more appropriate. Think of the geeky hats that could make! I’ve never really thought much of art yarns before this (though I’ve admired the creativity and look of my fellow Odd Duck swapper, studioloo’s art yarn, but never considered using any, much less spinning it myself. So big kudos to insubordiknits for finally getting me to take the dive into art yarn!

A terrible week

June 22, 2009

I ended up allergic to the medication that had been making such a difference in managing the pain recently and allowing me to do so much crafting. Quiting that messed up everything. I’ve pretty much spent the week in bed with short forays out for class, physical therapy, and a few for trying to complete the rabbit hutch that’s been a work in progress for a few weeks now. The good news is that Mike, my physical therapist, has been working extra hard, and I’m starting to find my feet again.

I can’t wait to have the rabbit hutch done. Removable poop trays with machine washable liners and removable, hose-able cages will be a real improvement over the current situation. Since the rabbits came quite unexpectedly (I was thinking August), they’ve been living in their cages propped up on 2x4s to allow waste to fall through to the concrete below. I’m very sick of scrubbing concrete. The bunnies can’t even keep their mess under control though. Somehow, Jessica managed to do this to the top corner of her cage. She’s the bunny with attitude and some odd ways of showing it, but poop on the ceiling? I don’t even know how she managed it. That’s 18 inches above the floor of her cage.

 

As I couldn’t sleep over the past couple nights, I’ve spent time preparing the raw wool. Friday night, I took a stripping comb to the bunnies and fluffed out the shedding undercoat. They’re cooler in the summer heat and I’ve got tons of wool. What a deal. Here’s what the wool collection looks like after two weeks of bunny ownership. All the wool in the box is cleaned and carded with an average staple length of over 4 inches and virtually no guard hairs.

In addition to prepping the wool, I’ve been looking into other ways to use it. There is no way I can possibly needle felt this much angora as fast as my rabbits produce it. I grabbed a couple of wooden toy wheels and dowels to make drop spindles and experimented with using them the past few nights. Here’s what I’ve got.

                     

The white is 100% angora from my own rabbits. It breaks if you aren’t careful while spinning, but the finished product is quite sturdy and intensely fluffy. The purple/green fluff is acrylic. I recycled old yarn scraps of purple and mint green Red Heart yarn (the really cheap stuff) and carded the 3-5 inch long scraps into fluff and started spinning it. I’m amazed at how nice it looks. Talk about a trash to treasure story! As for the spindles, if you catch a sale at Hobby Lobby, you can make 4 spindles for $2.50. Not bad at all. I learned how to use them from a YouTube video. Many people use cup hooks on top, but one video I saw suggested using a half hitch knot at the top. It’s more economical to not buy cup hooks, so naturally my spindles are hook free.

As for me, I’m off to do the reading for my psych class. These first few chapters have been quite dull. The history of psychological assesment and theoretical perspectives are quite lame as I’ve had to cover those in high school psych, general psych, and developmental psych. Seriously, by the time you hit abnormal why can’t they just assume you know it and not require homework over those sections in the book? Tonight I get to finally start in on mood disorders. Way more fun than the general foundation stuff.