Thursday, August 11, 2011


 A while back I said that I was working on some special projects.  Now, I can talk about them.  Below, is a picture tutorial that breaks down the steps to make an affordable party bunting for any celebration you may need decorations for.
I didn't get the entire bunting in this picture.  It says,
"Caylee ♥ Tucker"

My daughter is getting married in September, and I wanted to make some buntings (pennants) to hang for decoration.  The colors of the wedding are hot pink and black.  I'm a very budget conscience person, so I was on a mission to create them inexpensively.  Mission accomplished!  Here's a list of the materials I used. 
  • scissors
  • razor knife
  • ruler
  • cutting mat
  • glue stick
  • wide-eyed sewing needle
  • long black construction paper
  • roll of hot pink wrapping paper
  • white yarn
Bunting pennants can be created from any kind of paper or fabric you desire. Here are a few alternative mediums that can be used.
  • scrapbooking paper
  • colorful magazine pages (heavier weight pages will hold up best)
  • cotton fabric
  • felt
  • homemade papers
  • brown paper bags or brown wrapping paper
To cut the triangles for the pennants, I used a self-healing cutting mat and a rotary cover.  The same look can be achieved with a ruler, pencil and scissors.

1.  COLOR SCHEME AND BUNTING MESSAGE - Decide what colors you want your bunting to be and what you want it to say.  To determine the number of pennants to cut, write your message down on some scrap paper and count your letters, symbols, and spaces.

2.  SAYING & LENGTH OF BUNTING - Determine how much space you'll have to hang your buntings.  As an example, if your message/saying requires 10 pennants, and you want each to measure approximately 9" at the top, you will need to add the 9" as well as a little space between each pennant.  One half inch between pennants should be enough, but the space can be longer if you'd prefer.  For ten - 9 1/2 " pennants, you will need about 7 feet to hang it comfortably. The swag will cut that down a little bit.   The key is to plan ahead so you don't have a beautiful bunting and not enough room to hang it up.
3. CUTTING PENNANTS - I used 12" X 18" construction paper to create 9" wide and 11 1/2" tall pennants.
  • Measure 10" over from the top left corner of the paper and make a mark.
  • Measure 5" over from the bottom left corner of the paper and make a mark.
  • Measure 15" over from the bottom left corner of the paper and make a mark.
  • Cut (or draw a line) connecting the top left corner to the bottom 5" mark
  • Cut (or draw a line) connecting the top 10" mark to the bottom 5" mark.
  • Cut (or draw a line) connecting the top 10" mark to the bottom 15" mark.
If you didn't use a rotary cutter, it's time to start cutting on the lines you drew. If you're using a rotary cutter, you can cut 4 or 5 layers at a time.  This will save a lot of time.  Each piece of paper is enough for two pennants. 

  • Find a straight edge to create a nice crisp edge when folding over the top of the pennant.  This is done to create a heavier edge for your cording or ribbon to go through.
  • Fold over 1/2" along the top of each piece
  • Clip the little piece of paper that hangs over, so it is even with the side of the flag. You'll see it once you fold the top edge down. 
  • Crease the edge by running something firm, without ripping, over the fold.

  • Head to your computer and find a font for your lettering/symbols
  • Print out some test letters to determine the size lettering that will fit best on your pennants.
  • Write out what you've planned to put on your bunting, and figure out which letters are needed. (You only need to print out one of each letter needed to use as a pattern)  Ex. HAPPY BIRTHDAY - H,A, P, Y, B, I, R, T, D - some letters are duplicates. 
  • Make a list of each letter and how many of each is needed.  Ex. H-2, A-2, etc
  • Rough cut each letter so they are separated, but they don't have to be cut out perfectly. 
  • Put the letter on top of the medium being used for your lettering, and place a couple pieces of take along the edge on the pattern so it is attached to the paper being used.  (you can cut small pieces of your lettering paper and attach a couple together with tape, so more than one can be cut at a time.  Always place the tape where it won't show on the final piece.)
  • Continue to cut all letters

  • Using a glue stick, carefully glue the back of each letter and attach it to the pennant as desired

  • Find a piece of lightweight cardboard, approximately 10" long, to make a template to use as a cutting guide. 
  • Draw a line that's 1/2" down from the top edge of your template paper.
  • Trim edges so the template is the same length of the top edge of the pennant
  • Place a dot about 3/4" in from each edge. 
  • Measure approximately 1 5/8" from each edge, and mark
  • Measure in 1 5/8" from the dots you just made.  You should have 6 marks on your template.  Look at them to make sure they look like they're spaced somewhat evenly.  Make adjustments if necessary.
  • Draw vertical lines at each mark.  They shouldn't touch the bottom or top of the 1/2" space on the template. 
  • Grab a cutting board and a razor knife, and cut through each line
  • Place the template on your pennant, and carefully cut through the two layers of the flag.  Do not cut through the top edge of the pennant. 

  • Lay out the bunting the way it will go together. 
  • Determine how much cording will be needed to string it together.  Add an additional 2 feet (or so) on each end. 
  • Cut your ribbon or cording  and thread one end through the needle. 
  • Mark the center point of the string/cording you just cut.
  • Starting in the center of your bunting, carefully, place your needle in through the back of the pennant and out the front. 
  • Pull the string to the marked center point.  From here on, you will work the remainder of the string up and down to connect the pennants leaving about a 1/2" (or desired distance) between each pennant.
  • Go back to the center of your bunting, thread the other end of the string on your needle, and work the string up and down through your pennants to the end.

Each pennant measures approximately 10" at the top about 12" tall.

The Cake!

Here are a few pictures of the cake I made for my daughter's bridal shower.  I was searching for something that was a little more fun than a store bought cake.  This did the trick, and it was fun to make. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hail Storm - What the Hail?

♪♫ Let it hail, let it hail, let it hail. ♪♫
It's been a while since my last post.  I have many things planned to post, but I thought I'd post some pictures of our recent hail storm.  On Tuesday, July 26th, we had quite a hail storm on our ridge in Acton, Maine.  The hail fell for about 10 or 15 minutes between 5:45 and 6PM.  I'd never seen a hail storm like this.  It didn't spread far and wide, but it hit us hard and killed our vegetable garden.  Leaves from trees and plants were scattered everywhere.  Flowers fell off of most plants.  It was quite a sight. Just days before the temperature in this area hit 106 degrees. Crazy weather!

A good inch to an inch and a half of hail on the deck.

Mr Frog is still smiling

Debris from the ash trees blanketed the lawn.

Potted plants on ice.  The hail took the pedals off the flowers
and broke the leaves off the plants.

The leaves from the plants were knocked to the ground.

Little garden in the hail




Rhubarb - It looks like it was shot with a machine gun.

Squash of some kind.  The leaves are destroyed.

Green and yellow beans

Footprints in the hail

Fortunately, the shade tent didn't collapse.

Look at the picture to the right.
Those pansies were along the stones
They're gone.

The pansies in this picture were in
the garden to the left.  They were
so pretty.

We're having some great weather now.  Maybe our garden will recover a little bit.  I hope.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to Unravel Sweaters - Upcycling Wool, Cotton, Silk, etc.

Knitting with wool, cotton, and silks can be quite expensive.  Acrylic yarn is much more affordable and easy to find.  When knitting for a child, choosing acrylic yarn over specialty fibers may be the best option, because they're easy to launder.  Yet, wool and silk have that special texture and look that feels wonderful slipping through our fingers and catches our eye. How can we achieve all of our fiber wants and not break the bank?  Unraveling unwanted sweaters, blankets, or other items will allow you to use these beautiful fibers for much less. 

Here are some pictures of my very first unraveling projects.  I purchased the brown, 100% lambs wool, J.Crew sweater at a Salvation Army thrift store for $3.49.  It's not pretty, but the wool was great for what I wanted.  After taking the sweater apart, I knitted a Booga Bag.  The Booga Bag was knitted, then felted.  There was plenty of yarn left over, so I made a hat and mittens.  I still have more brown yarn.

Finding recyclable natural fibers is easier
than you may think. 
  • The first thing you should do is rummage through your own closet.   
    • You may have unwanted items waiting to be repurposed/upcycled. 
  • Make a trip to you local thrift store. 
    • Many thrift stores have half off days, which will allow you to purchase items very inexpensively. 
  • Stop at yard sales.
    • Don't be afraid to poke through the clothes table
  • Let your friends know you're looking for wool. 
    • They may have old things they no longer want.   

Strategies to use when on the hunt for natural fibers
  • Read labels
    • Know what you're looking for
    • 100% wool, or wool blends are great finds. 
    • 100% cotton, Cotton/Ramie blend (Ramie is a natural fiber, which is softer than cotton) 
    • 100% silk or silk blends
  • Search for big sweaters. Large sweaters provide the greatest amounts of yarn.
  • Have an idea of what you want to make, and be aware of the thickness of the yarn. 
    • Thinner ply yarns can be doubled, but they won't be twisted together and may not give you the look you want.
  • Look inside sweaters to see what kind of seams were used to sew the item together.
    • If all the seams are serged, don't bother with it.  The yarn will come apart in many little pieces
    • If it's a hand knit sweater, it will take a little more effort to take the seams apart, because each piece was hand sewn together with a needle.  Stitches will need to be pulled out individually.  If you love the yarn it's made from, go for it.  It will be worth the time and effort.
    • If the seams are machine sewn, the stitching will be in about 1/4 inch from the edge.  This kind of stitching can easily be pulled out without much trouble.  The edges of each piece should be visible and look like the edge of any hand knit item. 
  • Scan for stains, and decide if you can work around them and still have enough yarn left over.
  • Watch for moth holes
    • One or two holes isn't a big deal
  • When choosing wool items, make sure the wool hasn't felted.
    • If you like the color of an item that has felted some, you may want to use that item for a felted craft project.  
  • Natural colored wool, like Irish knit sweaters, can easily be dyed.  
    Sweater used for the yarn below
    • I'm a beginner, and I've had success with Kool-ade mixes, buttercup flowers and paste food coloring.  I'll be doing a Black Raspberry dying in August.  Watch for my blog. 

Yarn being dyed with Kool-ade

Green, blue and tan balls were
dyed with paste food coloring.
Buttercup dyed yarn. 
The swatch on top is
the original  color

NOTE: Before beginning to take your sweater apart, be sure to launder your item/s following instructions for the natural fiber you're working with.

How to take a machine-stitched
sweater apart

    The top of the V is on the right
    Turn the sweater inside out and find a seam
  2.  Look at the way the seam stitching is going.  The stitch should be in the shape of a V.  You will be working with the top part of the V as we move forward. 
  3.  Follow the stitching (top of V) to an end.  Example - edge of a sleeve, bottom of the waistband.
  4. Place a seam ripper, or small scissors, under a V close to the end.  
    Place the seam ripper under the V,
    and clip the thread.
     Lift the thread you just clipped back toward the bottom of the V.  You will see a small loop sticking up.
  5.  Carefully, grab the little bottom loop (it will be laying flat under the loop you pulled bach) and give it a gentle pull.  The thread should start to pull like a zipper and begin to open the seam. 
  6. Sometimes, the thread will get stuck in the fibers.  Don't pull too hard.  Move to the seam that's beginning to open and split it apart.  Then move back to the thread and pull some more. You may need to do this several times as you move along the seam. 

Push the tiny loop to the left, and
grab the piece of yarn that's laying
just beneath the loop.  Take it
out of the loop and gently pull.

If you have a hard time grabbing the loop, you may need go back to step 5 and try again.  It may take a couple of tries to get the correct piece of yarn.  It takes a little practice. 

Serged shoulders
NOTE:  Sometimes, you will find that the top of the sleeves, front and back panels are serged.  I've played with taking the serging out,  but it's not worth fighting.  Grab your scissors and clip close along the serged stitching.  Many short strands of will come off before you get to a longer continuous piece of yarn.  I save these little pieces and wind them into balls to make felted balls.  Some will be little felted balls, and other will be felted into dryer balls, which are a little bigger. If you don't know what dryer balls are, take a look at this link.  Dryer Balls 

Once you're done taking your sweater apart, look for a loose thread at the top of one piece and start unraveling.  The yarn will be rippled from the knitting.  There are ways to straighten it out,  but if you're going to be doing basic knitting, with no big yarn over loops, there's no need to do anything.  Again, knitting with this yarn will help you decide how you want to deal with the ripples. 

Here's a link for more information regarding unraveling yarn and removing the kinks from your new yarn. 

Have fun!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Circular Knitting Needle Case

Last year, I saw someone with one of these circular knitting needles cases, and I had to make one, or two, or three. I'd never seen a knitting needle case that folded up to look like a slice of pie.  I made three of them. I kept one for myself and gave the other two away.  It was a fun project.  I knew I'd be making more of them in the future.

The last week or so, I've been working on making more needle organizers.  I pread this project out over several days.  One day, I  picked fabrics from my stash.  The next time I worked on them, I cut the material.  Another day, I pinned them together and tried to remember how I sewed them when I made them the first time.  Finally, it was time to sew.  Mission accomplished.  Six organizers are complete.  I have more cut, but I'll sew them up another day. 

Yesterday, I decided to try to make a couple of photo prop nests/cocoons out of some yarn I had in stock. Here's what I came up with.  There are two sizes.  One for preemies/smaller babies, and a larger one for babies up to approximately nine pounds.  They're soft, cuddly and have many opportunities for those little fingers and/or toes to poke through the openings.  I love the basket weave look.  Now, all I need is a baby.  :-)

What would you like to see on this blog?  Do you have something you'd like to recycle, but you don't know what to do?  Is there a project you'd like to tackle, but you don't know where to begin?  Post a comment, and let us know what you're thinking.  We can work together. 

Have a great day!