2012 Crafts to Do

No, really. I think there’s about 2,012 crafts I want to do.

I’ve been crocheting for about 2.5 years. When I first started, I saw a row counter bracelet that I wanted to make but decided to stick with crochet and not try and do beading/jewelry while learning a new craft. It’s not a difficult project but I would have needed new supplies. I made the row counter bracelet yesterday. A month ago I took a beginning beading class, got all the supplies, and have been picking up beads at about the rate one would expect for a crafter. I also started to make some chainmaille.

Doing something other than crochet has been a lot of fun. So this year I’m giving myself permission to try new things and not feel like I have to conquer or perfect one craft before trying new ones. The only limit I’m setting myself is on getting new materials. I have a lot of crafting supplies already and my mom has more. I’ll need to pick up some stuff but I’m going to going to crazy and get every tool that can be used for a craft.

After I finish up a scarf and a gift that I’m crocheting, I’ll start trying some other things. So far, this is what I want to do.

Embroidery I’ve been wanting to try my hand at embroidery for a few years now. I have some patterns from Sublime Stitching and everything I’ll need to use them. One of my Hanukkah presents was Embroider Everything Workshop which covers all kinds of embroidery and looks fun and easy to follow. I’d like to make a stitch journal for practice and then just do whatever project tickles my fancy.

Beading/jewelry making Going to keep on going with this. Making jewelry is fun and there’s almost immediate gratification. The kinds of things I’ve been making go quickly and sometimes I need that kind of project. I do want to try some stitching and I have a kit for that. I love that it doesn’t take anything complicated to make really nice stuff. There’s a book of earring projects that I love but I haven’t made anything from it. It’s inspirational and right now I need a jumping off point.

Chainmaille Still jewelry, but without the immediate gratification. I love metal. I love chainmaille. I’ve made one bracelet and it was with cheap but big and very pliable rings so it went quickly but I don’t want to use those rings again. Chainmaille will be more challenging for me since it’s more intricate and you have to stick to the pattern. I haven’t looked at how much good rings cost and I’m hoping I won’t be priced out of this craft. I want to make a chainmaille cube.

Sewing but not the kind my mom wants me to do. I still have no interest in using a sewing machine but I do want to make softies and felt toys. Those call for hand sewing. I think I’ll hold off on this until I’ve gotten some embroidery under my belt to try and get my hand steadier. My stitches are loose and messy right now.

Needle felting I’ve got all the stuff for this but never started. Another craft I want to make small things with. I really like the toys and other sculptural things people needle felt and have no interest in using felting as a decorative element. I Felt Awesome is the book I have and what got me to really want to felt. Lots of cute projects and great instructions.

I like crafts that give me lots of room to interpret and experiment while still having plenty of instruction for when I need it. Chainmaille is really the only craft I’m interested in where I’d have to (mostly) follow all instructions. But there’s still plenty of room to play there. I’ve got plenty of things to try and I’m going to do my best to get to each of them, give them the time needed for me to learn them and continue what I enjoy, and not feel like I can’t try something else or switch gears if I want to.

Tea 101

Last month I was in downtown Wheaton for reasons other than knit group (even the crocheters call it that) and visited Serene Teaz. It’s a lovely shop. Bright, inviting, lots of space, lots of teas that are nicely arranged, and friendly staff. You can sample any tea there. They’ll whip it up at the tea bar. There’s no pressure to buy which makes me want to buy everything. It feels more like going to a friend’s house and trying tea than being in a store. The only thing I don’t like is that they’re not closer to me. That’s my only complaint about a lot of places. I can choose any of dozens of places for Italian beef or trendy mall shops within 10 miles, but no awesome tea store.

Serene Teaz offers a Tea 101 class. I signed up right away. I’ve tried a lot of tea but it’s either been stuff made in a Starbucks or Seattle’s Best (*sigh*) or that I brewed at home. I know it’s rarely properly brewed and I wanted to try tea done the right way to see what I really like. In the class, Sarine talks about how tea is grown, picked, what the health benefits are, how to brew it, and more. She and her husband became certified in tea before opening the store and part of that was being encouraged to teach. She says she was very nervous her first time presenting but there’s no sign of that. It was still like being in someone’s home and them sharing something they love. Which it kind of was. You don’t open a tea store–let alone two of them–without love.

We sampled white tea, green tea, oolong, black tea, rooibus, and herbal tea. She talked about puerh and lapsang souchang and said they’d brew up samples for anyone who wanted to try them so I tried those as well. I was surprised about what I liked best. My favorite tea before the class was a lavender Early Grey. I just recently found that I love Earl Grey and I’m a fan of lavender. They work well together. But the black tea we sampled was my least favorite. I loved the white tea. Another surpirse was the rooibus. I’ve had that a bunch of times at coffee shops despite not ever liking it. It was brewed way wrong. Loved it. I knew I was brewing green tea incorrectly and had given up on doing it right. Sure enough, it’s pretty good when you do it right.

I was really interested in puerh. I knew it has a funky smell and is something more than just tea leaves but that was it. Found out it’s sprayed with a bacteria that’s really good for your stomach. That got me interested. My mom has some stomach issues sometimes and I thought it’d be worth getting her to drink stinky tea. The smell of the tea reminded me of the smell at the Children’s Zoo at Brookfield Zoo. The smell never bothers me there. I actually liked the smell of the tea–I have good memories of the Children’s Zoo and found myself sniffing the tea more than drinking it. It doesn’t taste like it smells at all. But I got a blend with caramel in it in the hopes that my mom wouldn’t refuse to drink it. I brewed her a cup without saying anything about the smell. She didn’t notice it and she really liked it. I did tell her about the bacteria and what it does. I’m drinking a cup now for the caffeine and I’m disappointed that the scent isn’t so strong.

Sarine said that when they first started out and were trying so much tea she stopped drinking soda and lost weight. I had stopped drinking soda (for the billionth time) but got headaches from caffeine withdrawal. Now I drink diet soda which isn’t any better. I’m going to try to replace that with tea. One cup of a tea with caffeine a day. No scary chemicals. At least not from drinks.

I got a bag of the white tea we tried (white peony) and I’d like to have a cup of that a day. I’m not in the tea habit yet so I’ve had one cup at night and that’s it. The other tea I got is a tiramisu/marscapone rooibus. There was a customer review next to it that said it tastes just like tiramisu. I don’t think it does but it is nice. I found I need two teaspoons of tea and a longer brew time than I’m comfortable with to get the best taste. If something says 3-5 minutes I think that more than 4 will kill it. It’s the opposite of when I color my hair and will leave the dye on a few minutes past the longest recommended time.

I’d like to try the white tea that’s just the buds of the plant. I also want to get the lapsang souchong. It’s smokey. Really smokey. Very cool. And I’ll probably want the pure puerh. And some double-walled cups. My tea has gone cold already.

Serene Teaz does a Tea 201 class once a year that goes beyond the basics. I think I’d like to take that, too. Tea is pretty fascinating. I was so interested I almost didn’t giggle when Dr. Andrew Weil was brought up. LSD was not discussed.

I had taken a picture of my row of sample cups but it’s all blurry 🙁 So no photos this time.

August Photo Challenge

I’ve never done a blog challenge or a photography challenge. Starting tomorrow, that will change. Oh So Lovely has come up with a 30 Day Photo Challenge for August and it looks like fun. Every day there’s something you’re supposed to take a picture of and then you upload it and share it with your marveling fans. It got me to finally try Instagram. Tomorrow I’ll be ready to take a self portrait and put it up on Facebook and Twitter. I haven’t decided what I’ll do about the blog–probably a weekly recap.

The Knook

You knit with needles and crochet with hooks. Right? Maybe. You can also “knit” with a hook in a few ways. Tunisian crochet has become popular because it allows crocheters to make stitches that look like knitting. There are long hooks that look more like needles and allow hookers to do some unholy kind of hooking that gives different results than the regular crochet stitches. I’ve been casually looking at all the other things people do with a crochet hook but not interested enough to try them. Mostly.

When I saw Super Mario blocks done in Tunisian and how smooth the color changes were, I knew I’d have to try it.

Tunisian Mario pillow

That’s gone into my “when I have time, nothing that needs to be finished now, or am bored with everything else” list. I thought I’d eventually learn Tunisian. But then I went to and found afghan hooks for a quarter. Afghan hooks look like long knitting needles but with a hook at the end. I got two and tried a bit of Tunisian and it hurt my hand the way knitting does. Enough of that.

Then I heard about The Knook. Knooking is another crochet/knitting crossbreed but this one actually produces knit stitches. Right now it’s only available at Wal-Mart. I went out the day I found out about it and picked it up. The instructions aren’t bad but I needed the videos to really figure it out. This stuff doesn’t come naturally since I’m used to crochet stitches.

I should talk about knitting here. I know how to knit. I learned my senior year of college when some friends who knit decided to gather knitters and wannabe knitters to make things to send to people in need. Someone taught me, we all went to Wal-Mart to get supplies, and I was fine as long as my knitter friend was there. When she wasn’t I was lost. The college library had knitting books for kids and between that and Martha Stewart’s website I could get through. I went to a retreat that weekend and spent every spare moment knitting. I had issues. Trying to remember where the needle goes and how to wrap the yarn was a challenge. I never made anything. After college I picked it up again and did slightly better but I was so tense that it made my back and shoulders really hurt. I don’t need help being tense so I dropped it.

When amigurumi started becoming popular in the US, I got sucked in. Amigurumi is typically (though less so now) crocheted. I figured I could handle a hook. And I can. The creative void in my life was filled and I’m a happy hooker now. Crocheting doesn’t hurt me, I’ve got the stitches figured out, and I’ve made things that make me happy. My one and only complaint is that there are millions of knitting patterns and only about five crochet patterns. I’m not exaggerating at all. I’ve looked into how to convert knit to crochet but I have problems visualizing things and I still can’t tell how many rows I’ve crocheted so this is something a bit beyond me right now.

I’m really excited about The Knook. I have a little swatch made and it looks unlike anything I’ve ever knit. It’s even. It’s not tight or really loose. I still need to figure out tension. Making it didn’t hurt me. I’ve started a swatch of stockinette and I think I’m doing knit and purl correctly. Theoretically you can knook any knit pattern. I’ve seen knooked cables. People have knooked socks. This could be awesome.

It’s not that I want to knit–I don’t. But I want those other patterns. We’re finally getting more crocheted sock patterns but there’s still so many other things that have no equivalent. And as I’m working on my shawl I’m wondering if it feels so thick because it’s crocheted. I love my hook and don’t want to give it up. But I’m okay with learning new ways of using it. Especially if it opens up the possibility of so many things to make.

Keep Cool and Crochet On

I’ve got projects and ideas building up again. For once it’s not stressing me out. We’re at the start of a heatwave and having plenty of things to work on will keep me indoors and cool.

About two weeks ago I finished a project I started in March. If you’re on Ravelry, you can view it here. If you’re not, you’ll have to wait since I haven’t uploaded the pictures elsewhere. It’s a set of five baskets and each one is a different color and holds four food items that are the same color. There’s red (apple, tomato, watermelon, strawberry), orange (orange, pumpkin, popsicle, carrot), yellow (squash, banana, lemon, sunny-side up egg), green (green pepper, broccoli, celery, pear), and purple (jar of jam, grapes, eggplant, turnip). I had some issues with parts of the pattern and I’m not thrilled with the shaping on some of the parts but overall it’s cute and I’m happy with it. It bothered me that there’s no blue basket. The set went to 18 month old twins who shocked me by totally getting the idea. Now they’re putting other things in the baskets and they don’t have a blue one. I need to fix that.

Stitches Midwest (yarn/knit/crochet show) and Wizard World Chicago (used to be a comic con, now more of an entertainment and sleezefest) are next month and I want something to wear. I came up with the idea of a shawl with the Batman logo on it. I figure a black or purple shawl with a removable applique. I found a shawl pattern I like and I’ve got purple sock yarn that should work if I use black yarn for the edging. I can wear it to both events and probably die of heat because of it. Woo!

Saturday I found afghan hooks for 25 cents. Got two. They’re really long crochet hooks that can be used for Tunisian crochet which is kind of like knitting with hooks. There’s a couple ways to kind of knit with a hook. Another is knooking. Found out today that Wal-Mart has a knook set that’s a good deal so I got that. Will try that out soon.

There’s a pattern for a necklace that looks like chunky chain links. Love it. Got crochet cotton in grey with a silver shiver to make one out of.

I’ve got another pattern for the twins but it’s by the woman who did the Learning Colors set and I’ve already have issues with it and size so I’m in no rush to work on it.

I want to make a rainbow scarf. Nyan Cat attachment optional.

I’ve been working on a version of the Noro variegated scarf that’s crocheted using the much more reasonably priced Bernat Mosaic and uses the Ninja colorway that I love and have wanted to work with since it came out.

When I’m done with the blue basket I really should work on the shawl so I can have that figured out in plenty of time for the things I want to wear it to. Then I’ll probably want to work on my toys. Toys are just fun. How old should a little girl be before she gets her first Cthulhu?

need moar yarn

I’m bummed. I want to crochet a case for my NookColor. A friend sent me some handspun and it’s super thick and squishy. I don’t have much so I thought I’d use it for the front of the case, and make the back from something else. Then I remembered that I have a bag of wool from Lorna’s Laces and it’s the same colorway as the handspun. It’s not spun or even carded. Still curly. But I figured I could needlefelt it anyway. I ran out to JoAnns to get a needlefelting tool. After finishing what I thought would be the front of the case, I took out some of the wool and pieces of grass fell out. The wool hasn’t been cleaned. It’s like it was shorn off a purple sheep. If I want to use it, I’ll have to figure out how to clean it and probably card it.

I kept working up the yarn and it isn’t enough to cover the NC. This may be a good thing. Yarn will collect all kinds of hair and lint and I don’t want that to get in my NC. There’s a bunch of patterns for sewing a case so I’ll probably hand one of those off to my mom. I thought of making felt fabric from some roving I have but I’m afraid that’d be too thin.

Still don’t know what I’ll do with the handspun 🙁

Knit & Crochet Week, Day 1

Yesterday started Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. Oops. Here’s the prompt for the first day:

Day One: 28th March. A Tale of Two Yarns.
Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.

Tips: It is a good idea, if possible, to choose a yarn that you adore and a yarn that just didn’t work for you. You do not need to be critical of any yarn if you do not feel comfortable in doing so, but perhaps you came to realise that one yarn wasn’t suitable for a particular project, if possible you could blog about what you have come to learn about choosing the right yarn, or your love of experimenting with fibres.

Noro Matsuri. This was my first nice yarn. I found it in a sale bin and got it because the colors are pretty and I had heard about Noro. Was really amazed at the colors and it took me a long time to think of something to do with it. Matsuri is mostly cotton with some wool. It’s not the typical Noro with plant matter and whatnot in it. Very soft and easy to work with. I eventually made a mesh scarf with it that I like putting under my jacket to fill the gap left over my neck and chest. It doesn’t match, but it’s close enough.

I don’t have a picture of my least favorite yarn, but I can see it in it’s protective bag. It’s Red Heart Pomp-A-Doodle. When it’s worked up a bit, it makes a lovely, dense, supersoft fabric. But getting it to that point is a trial. It’s not easy to work with and I don’t have the patience for it. So of course after discovering this I got another skein. That one was never opened so I returned it. The first, pink one I got is still here. Taunting me with possibilities of lovely softness. Red Heart has published patterns that use it and mostly it’s trim. A hideous, terrible looking trim.

I have learned not to buy yarns because they look fun. Fun often means difficult to work with. Since I mostly make amigurumi, I don’t need goofy yarn.

Pokey pokey pokey pokey

I’ve been interested in needle felting for a while. What you do is take some wool that’s all loose and you poke at it with a needle until it becomes dense. You can make it flat or into any shape you like. The first time I tried it I poked myself. Felting needles are barbed. I knew it would happen. A little over a year ago I visited Chix With Stix for the first time and they carry some needle felting supplies. I left with a pack of needles, a pack of plain wool, and a pack of colored wool. Since then all I’ve done is lose the needles a bunch of times.

Recently this came out:

I Felt Awesome

There have been a couple of needle felting books and most of them have a cute project or two, but nothing that got me excited. Because none of them were by Moxie. I love this book. The projects are cute and fun. There’s a pretty huge variety of stuff and it’s a dense book. And the book is funny–even the part on tools is fun to read.

To prepare for the book I got

Sea Monster Fiberccino

and one of these:

Eco-Friendly Foam
Eco-Friendly Foam

I figure I’ll want to make something seamonsterish and I love green. I don’t have anything to felt on. You can get brushlike pads from JoAnns but they’re expensive and strange. I could use foam from JoAnns. I like what Moxie offers, though. It’s not petroleum based. You use one side and then the other when the first is all poked out. When both sides have given their all, you put the foam in water and it desolves. How cool is that?

I Felt Awesome starts with basic shape-making that newbies should work on before jumping into projects. I don’t want to use my nice new wool and there’s a project that I want to make that I don’t have the right colors for. Went to JoAnns this morning for wool and got a couple of packs. Came home and figured out (after much math and surprisingly figuring out what I needed to figure out) that wool from JoAnns is more than twice what it is from Moxie. I haven’t checked other sellers on etsy but I’m sure Moxie is in line with most of them. So I’m going to practice, see what I can make with what I have on hand, and then plan out what I want to do next and get my wool online.

I think I’ll like needle felting. It has a much greater chance of injuring me than any of my other hobbies and I’ll get to sit and go “pokey pokey pokey pokey.” Crochet just isn’t dangerous enough. Carpel tunnel is not a very metal injury. Multiple tiny stab wounds are pretty brutal. Maybe I’ll get the first two seasons of Metalocalypse to watch as I murder some wool.

I haven’t done any spinning. I’m not too bummed since I can needle felt with the roving I have. Then I don’t have to worry about plying variegated threads together and if the colors will get all muddy. I can just make really pretty felt!

All the pictures are linked the related parts of Moxie’s etsy store HiFiber Kits. The images are all copyright and whatnot her as well.

Obligatory Resolution

I don’t usually do resolutions because I know I won’t keep them. But I have one that I should really keep.

In 2011, I resolve to allow myself to stop reading books I don’t like. None of this “oh, I’ve read this far already” or “I’d have to find something else to read” or “but I should like this book” and especially not “but it might get better” allowed. If a book is making me angry, I will put it down. I will not come back. I will not regret it.

Too many books I’ve read have a female protagonist who is a compete victim. I read a lot of urban fantasy and there always has to be something to motivate the hero to do things. Fine. That can be done without the hero having watched their entire family including their beloved pet murdered brutally, spending a few years in a psych ward, having one good friend they can depend on who betrays them, and someone or everyone who has power over them hating them and spending every resource at their disposal to take down the hero.

No more heroines who are built to be abused. The ass-kicking, tough-talking, weapons/magic expert woman with a dark past is only all those things so she can overcompensate for her dark past. It got old. Character development rarely happens to these characters so they stay incredibly flawed for the sake of everything they do being more emotionally charged and impressive. It’s bad, cheap writing. And I’m sick of it.

The book that finally broke me is sitting on my bed with a bookmark. I think it’s a little older than the current urban fantasy crazy but it’s got the same issues. And then some. The protagonist is built from the ground up to be a weak victim. Her current situation enables her to keep going on like a shadow. Bad things happen and she goes quiet and shaky. She’s in a mental hospital and everyone thinks she’s crazy. I hate that trope. It’s painful to read and it’s almost always milked for easy sympathy. No surprise that the protagonist was raped before she was sent off to the crazy house. Just to make sure she’s well and truly hurt.

I stopped reading as much urban fantasy because so much of it just piles bad situation on evil characters on impossible odds on mental anguish that the heroine has to slug through. Often she’s on her own or she doesn’t trust the people who help her because the poor dear has been though so much and everyone hurts her in the end. It’s painful to read. So I stopped. There are series that I love because they don’t do that. I don’t post reviews on Amazon because I can’t without comparing the things I like to the things I hate. There are books I like more than I would otherwise because they’re unlike the ones I used to like and that turned into angst fests.

I think last year I resolved to read more Lovecraft and classic horror. That didn’t last long. But HPL will be my backup this year. If I don’t want to put a book down because I have nothing to replace it, I’ve got plenty of Lovecraft. He didn’t write about women so I don’t have to worry about that. Ah, blessed old-timey misogyny.

Books in 2010

I hate year end book lists. Most of the ones I see are aimed at librarians, booksellers, and other literary types and I’m actually not all that literary. Nor do I need to be since I select popular fiction books. I don’t think anything of the most circulating books I selected made it on to any of the well-known lists.

This isn’t a year end list. It’s a “holy crap, I actually read a few books and now I’m going to record it!” deal. It’s a year since I was done with my last graduate class. Grad school was odd in that I didn’t read a ton. I used to read like crazy when I was supposed to be doing school work but then I had to read like crazy for school work and then I just kind of stopped reading. I read around 30 books this year. Ouch.

I started the year with H. P. Lovecraft’s Book of Horror. Lovecraft wrote an essay called “Supernatural Horror in Literature” and this volume contains 21 tales mentioned in the essay. I didn’t finish. I did find that Dickens wrote a weird tale and it’s pretty good. But Mme DeFarge isn’t in it 🙁

Not many graphic novels this year. Usually I go on a month or so binge of them. I read How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less most recently after years of waiting for it to be published. Worth it. No trite conclusions, just honest reaction and ruminations. Great art, too. Another one I’d been waiting for is Batwoman: Elegy. More amazing that I thought it could be. The art is really stunning in places. As is the story.

I discovered Lucy A. Snyder this year. She writes urban fantasy and SF (and poetry) that’s very geeky, very enthralling, and funny. Good to read with Charles Stross’ Laundry series. Good balance of humor, Lovecraft, and spy/British things I have very little reference points for. Both authors reference and use things that are outside my tiny areas of knowledge but not in a way that detracts from the stories. I like that.

Read some urban fantasy. Jim Butcher is still great. Patricia Briggs is pretty awesome. Justina Robson is a lot more fun that I thought but that’s okay because ignoring the Quantum Gravity books for years meant I could dig in without waiting for the next one. And then there’s some stuff that’s fun to read and makes me worry about myself when I’m done and I’ve enjoyed it despite all the glaring problems in the writing.

My least liked book this year was Devil’s Garden by Ace Atkins and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by that dead guy. Read both for a library book group. The latter book made/makes me angry and the former disappointed me. The book we read between those was good and something I never would have picked up on my own. But then I saw the movie based on it and Leonardo DiCaprio is in it and I really don’t like him.

I use LibraryThing to keep track of what I read and there’s only one children’s book listed this year. It was easier to read kids’ books when I worked in circulation and saw them all the time. The one I read and listed I requested. I’ve read a few more in Borders but forgot to add them. I do miss seeing all the picture books. And all the patrons, but that’s another subject entirely.

I can’t blame leaving circulation for my lack of reading. That is totally the fault of Nintendo DS (I’m lookin’ at you, Picross 3D), the iPhone, and the NES. I like being able to play games without feeling guilty that I’m not studying. I’ve been a little burnt out on reading for a while now thanks to reading almost entirely within one small genre. I still think I should be reading “higher caliber” novels than I do, but I can’t get myself to. Oh well. Maybe someday there’ll be a Kafka/HPL mashup and I can get a few things off my To Read list that way.

I’m finishing up another Lovecraft-inspired book now and then I’ll be moving on to Dashiell Hammett and the sequel to The Maltese Falcon. That will close out the year for me. Assuming I even get that far. Mario is calling.