How To Transform Any Mitten Pattern into Flip-tops

I do a lot in a day. I have a word count to hit, videos to make, knitting to get done, food to cook, cleaning to do, a job that actually pays, and oh yeah, kids to take care of. Most days, I don’t get all of this done. And let’s be honest, I throw over cleaning in favor of word count most of the time. Even then, words come in starts and fits in stolen moments between all of the other tasks.

Still, it’s a lot, and I get a lot of, “How do you get everything done?” questions. I usually joke that I just don’t sleep.

Last night, that was no joke.

2am Rufus/Mommy selfie because woke baby is woke

This is a photo I snapped around 2 am when I gave up trying to get Rufus back to sleep (he woke up as we were trying to go to bed) and we came downstairs. We didn’t get back to bed until 4. While I don’t sleep much, I usually get more than 2 or so hours.

You know what I have accomplished today? I got the kids to and from school. I got meals made. I showered. It’s 9pm and I am just now writing a blog post I usually have up and promoted by 11am (and written no later than the day before it goes live, but we’re not talking about yesterday.) The word count hasn’t been touched. Next week’s videos were not filmed, etc.

But I try to count the important things. The kids were taken care of. I get to spend the evening with my husband instead of working. There’s a big batch of soup and some leftover spaghetti in the fridge to make meals easier tomorrow. And Nanowrimo starts in a week. Thanksgiving will come just a few weeks after that, and all of my siblings are coming home. There are so many good things coming.

And then there are flip top mittens.

This is my longest video yet, but I feel like it’s comprehensive.

The pattern I am using in this video is my free simple chunky mittens, but as the title said, you can translate this technique to pretty much any mitten pattern.

If you make a pair of these mittens, I’d love to see them. Tag your post with #simplechunkymittens or take a #mittenselfie. I’ve got a few on instagram myself.

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How To Decrease the Hand of a Mitten


Happy Monday! I am excited for another week of querying literary agents, knitting mittens and writing, writing, writing. What are you excited about working on this week? I mean, I know you’re knitting mittens, and I’d love to see how those are going, but what else?

Here is this week’s installment of the Simple Chunky Mittens knitting tutorial. Today we learn how to k2tog and create an even, round top to our mittens. We even check for fit and weave in an end.

We’re so close to having a finished mitten! Next week we’ll knit the thumb and that’s it!

If you like, here is the written pattern we are using.
And if you need to catch up with the videos, they begin, here.

Don’t forget to share your progress photos with #mittenselfie and #simplechunkymittens. I’ll be searching for your photos on instagram.

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Tie Dyeing for the New Baby

I haven’t made too many things exclusively for this new baby. I still have so much leftover from Felix, that we’re not lacking for much. Still, this new little one will be a person all their own, so a few thing just for him or her seems appropriate.

This past weekend was chilly and drizzly, which is strange for Kansas in July, and I got a Tulip tie dye kit on sale at Michael’s, so I enlisted my 10 year-old’s help in tie dyeing a few things for the new baby. Not only did we get to spend some quality time together, it helped get him invested a little bit in the prep for the new baby. He’s not exactly enthused about having another new sibling at the moment, but this was fun for both of us.

Tie Dyed Osnaburg for the Ring Sling
Tie Dyed Osnaburg for the Ring Sling

We started with three yards of osnaburg done in the classic spiral technique. It came out perfect! I’ll be making another ring sling out of this as soon as my rings come in.

When I was going through our baby clothes a couple of weeks ago, I found more than 10 plain white onesies. While I’m all for the practicality of a neutral onesie, I’m not typically known for dressing my babies practically or along gender lines, so we had a lot of fun tie dyeing some onesies in all colors.

Athrun dyed this one. It might be my favorite.
Athrun dyed this one. It might be my favorite.

This guy was created by rolling from top to bottom and using two rubber bands to divide it into three sections. Then Athrun absolutely saturated it in dye. I love it!

TieDyedOnesie2
This one reminds me of turtles

We dyed everything dry, and this guy was the only one that kind of repelled the dye. It’s a Disney brand organic cotton onesie, and I don’t think Felix ever wore it, so there’s the chance that it had never been washed. I’m not entirely sure, but I love how the dye came out anyway. This was accordian folded then sectioned into four, dyed alternately with lime and kelly greens.

TieDyedOnesie4
I love the color bleeds on this one.

As a contrast the the Disney onsie, this Gerber one was dyed using the same technique (just a different orientation) and really soaked up the dye!

It's a sunburst! Complete with sunspots!
It’s a sunburst! Complete with sunspots!

We used the bullseyes technique on this one, and the colors are so much fun.

The clean up onesie
The clean up onesie

Included in the kit was a sheet of plastic to protect your work surface, which worked great, but we were left a bunch of dye drips all over the plastic when we were done. (The instructions say to cover the plastic with paper towels to soak up drips, but we don’t use paper towels, so we improvised.) I used one last onesie to soak up the dye. Way better than paper towels. Baby will look like they helped dye their own wardrobe.

 

And just for fun, when I went to edit photos for this post, I had a large amount that accidentally looked like this:

wrap fabric plus belly and feet
I can only see my feet because the baby has started to drop

At 35 weeks, the belly is getting in the way of everything.

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Washing Fleece in the Washing Machine

You know what’s really hard? Getting a good photo of raw fleece. Even in a room with good light, it’s just difficult to get take a detailed photograph of bits of fluff.

Tunis Fleece
I give you a Tunis fleece I received as a wedding gift last year. (Yup,pretty much the best wedding gift ever.) This is Tunis from the same farm as the roving I have for sale in my shop. It’s been living in a box since then, first waiting for me to have a place to wash it, and then after we moved in to our new house, waiting for us to get a washing machine. After we got a washing machine, I was too busy preparing for baby to think about washing fleeces. Well, that’s not completely true. I thought about it plenty, I was just slightly afraid to do it for fear of felting, and I always so freaking tired, I didn’t bother to figure out where my fleeces were stored when we moved. (Turns out they were in plastic bags, inside a suitcase, in the basement. I think it was originally to protect them from moths, but it was a really good hiding place from myself.)

I love this wool. It’s a solid medium wool, with a little peachy color to it. I think it spins up lovely and sproingy. Because this was a gift, and the box it came in was unmarked, I don’t really know how much it is, but I do know it’s from the 2013 clip. I’m guessing 3 or 4 pounds before washing. Yes, I could have weighed it, but I’m saving that for after it’s clean and dry. What’s good about this fleeces is that it came very well skirted. I didn’t have to pull out any tags or discard any of the locks for being felted or poopy. It is dirty, and there is plenty of VM in it, but it came from a sheep, what do you expect?

Tunis Lock
What a pretty lock.

I would take a good look at you fleece before you toss it in the wash, and get rid of the parts that aren’t going to be good for spinning. No use washing them when you can toss them straight into the compost. After that, getting the fleece clean is pretty simple.

washing the tunis

Supplies needed:
1. Fleece
2. Dawn Original Formula (theoretically, any dish soap should work, but I stick with the one that really strips out the grease.)
3. Washing Machine

Washing the fleece
-Fill washing machine with hot water and about 1-2 cups of dish soap (Use more soap for heavier lanolin.)
-While machine is filling, loosely pick locks apart. No need to get super thorough, you just want to open them up enough to let the water and soap in.
-Add wool to water, gently pushing beneath the surface. Do not mix it around. Also, be sure to turn off your machine before it starts to agitate. Some machines only do this if you close the lid. If you’re lucky like me, your machine goes straight from filling to agitating with no pause in between, so I have been waiting until the machine is filled before adding any fleece, just in case.
-Let sit 15 minutes
-Turn to spin and allow the washer to spin all the water out.

(Repeat if you have a particularly dirty fleece.)

-Rinse the soap out by filling machine again and soaking for another 15 minutes, followed by another spin cycle.

Washed Tunis

What’s really cool about this method, is spinning all the water out in the washing machine really cuts down on dry time. When I was washing fleece by hand and drying it on a rack in a southern window, it would sometimes take days for wool to dry. This wool should be dry later today. (The only downside I can see is if you are a person who really likes to spin from perfect locks, this isn’t going to get you there.)

Obviously, it’s going to need a little bit more picking to get all the vm out, but that’s so much easier to do when it’s not getting caught up on lanolin.

Today I cleaned Tunis and Rambouillet. I’ve never worked with Rambouillet before, so I am excited to get my hands on it once it’s dry. Do you have any favorite breeds?

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Dyeing Yarn with Leftover Easter Egg Dye

easter rainbow

Sunday morning, Easter Sunday, Athrun and Brock and I had a morning full of Easter Eggs. We set up a hunt for Athrun in the yard, we opened them and filled a bag full of candy, and we boiled and dyed a dozen real eggs while the cat spread the plastic shells all about the house. (Seriously, these are her favorite toys. She almost didn’t let us get them filled, she was so excited when we got them out on Saturday night, she kept trying to jump in the bag.)

Every year I get a package or two of the little PAAS egg dyeing tablets, which is enough to do about a million eggs. I know we’ll only eat about a dozen hard boiled eggs in a week, so I try not to boil more than that, or it just seems wasteful. This means we always have a ton of leftover dye stock. This year, we did rainbow colors, at full brightness, and the leftovers got used on sock yarn.

I’ve been digging rainbows lately. Our baby quilt is rainbow, baby and Brock are going to have matching rainbow socks, and it seemed like the only thing to do with our rainbow of Easter egg dye turn it into some rainbow sock yarn.

In previous years, when using up the leftover Easter egg dye, I’ve watered it down, put it in squirt bottles and used it on about a pound of top. This year, since I was thinking yarn, I soaked 4 skeins of sock yarn, still about a pound, but instead of squirting it out, I just dumped the dye out of the cups we used to dye the eggs straight over the yarn in six cross-wise stripes. Since the yarn was wet, the color ran a little bit, which I wanted, then I wrapped it in saran wrap and microwaved it for about ten minutes. (I have a really old microwave that works at about half capacity. If you have a new one, it should probably only take three or four minutes. Also, I only use my microwave on food safe dyes, because I don’t have a dedicated dyeing microwave.) Gave it a quick wash and hung it up to dry.

easter 
rainbow sock yarn
I love the white showing through!

easter rainbow sock yarn reskeined

easter rainbow sock yarn reskeined 2
Reskeined, you can see how short the color repeats are and how each color will just flash a tad when knitted, and that there is a lot less white space than it looks like in the earlier pictures. As soon as I can scrounge up some sock needles, I am totally casting on a pair of socks for myself out of this!

The other three skeins will be available for sale sometime after the baby arrives, so be on the lookout! (If you’re interested now, let me know, and I’ll reserve them for you, but I’m getting close enough to delivery that I am not prepared to make any promises on shipping.)

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Drum Carding From Locks

A few weeks ago, I found a pretty good deal on etsy for some washed Corriedale locks. I love Corriedale. It’s probably my favorite wool to work with (that I’ve come across anyway, I am still trying out new wools whenever I can.) I have long been wanting to play with locks on my drum carder, and while I have plenty of fleece stashed around, I haven’t really had the time or energy to wash it properly. (Horrible, I know I shouldn’t let it sit.)

The locks I got were a bit yellowed and tippy.
corriedale locks
But, the crimp was darling and the strength in them was fantastic. If I had a flick comb, I would have flicked out the ends, but since I don’t, I just picked the locks apart pretty thoroughly. There was still a bit of vm in these locks, but no too much. Most of it came out all over my table in the picking and carding process.

I ran the picked and opened locks through my drum carder sideways. I didn’t weigh them out first, as I had 8 ounces and was planning to give the whole lot the same treatment. My first batt ended up being about 2.5 oz.
first round
It’s a start.

Then, I pulled the batt apart and ran it through the drum carder again, this time pulling the batt apart in strips and fluffing out the strips and getting some more air between the fibers.
round two
This batt looks much smoother and fluffier than the first, but the fibers were still not quite blended enough for my tastes, so I repeated the process again.

round three
After a third time through the carder, I was really pleased with the texture of the batt and the distribution of the fibers. This is a super spinnable little batt. However, I am not all that pleased with how peachy it is because of the yellowing of the wool. My plan is to slowly card up the rest of the locks in this manner–slowly because it’s really hard to turn my drum carder without standing at a funny angle so I don’t hit my giant belly with the handle–and diz it all out into roving, and then dye the lot.

Besides the yellowing, I really like how this came out. It makes a girl feel a little powerful, turning some dirty looking locks into usable, perhaps even pretty, fluffy spinning fiber. I’ll keep you updated as I continue the project!

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How I Made My Muslin Baby Blanket Set

Today, I have exactly what you all wanted out of knitting blog, more fabric printing and sewing! Seriously though, I’m having a lot of fun sewing simple things on my sewing machine and learning how to print on fabric. Thanks for sticking around to read it.

meadowlark muslin
I started off with some simple natural muslin from fabric.com. This is the kind of muslin your supposed to make, you know, a muslin out of. It’s not the traditional guazey baby blanket muslin, but since I wanted something that was more tea towel consistency to begin with, I am perfectly happy with this fabric–except for the wrinkles. I can’t tell you how long I spent pressing, and it would still be wrinkled. We’re going to blame it on my ancient iron and then move on.

babyblankethemming
After washing all 6 yards, I cut it into 3 45×45 inch squares. I still had about a 60 inch length of fabric left over for another project. I always press my hems and pin them. I’m not the neatest sewist out there, so whatever I can do to help keep my final product looking nice, I try to do.

babyblankethemmed
I gave these blankets about a one inch hem, partially because of my sloppy cutting, and partially because that’s an easy amount for me to eyeball. Also, I completely charmed with how well the thread matches the fabric.

sheep on a blanket
On the first blanket, I stamped out the sheep using a linocut I made last year and some yellow acrylic paint and a fabric paint medium. This helps the acrylic adhere to the fabric more permanently. You’ll notice when you first do you printing, after the paint dries, the paint is very stiff. This will soften up when you wash it (follow the directions on the fabric medium.)

I’m still learning how printing on fabric with paint is different than printing on paper with ink. So far, I feel like paper and ink are easier, but I feel like paint on fabric is cuter.

baby blanket painting
On the other printed blanket, I used the tiny paint roller to put on my silly stripes. I used three colors, printing the stripes one color at a time. I wanted the stripes a little funky, so I just eyeballed the spacing and didn’t worry myself with keeping the lines straight. Also, I did put an old beat up cardboard box between the blanket and the table top, because the paint will bleed through a thin fabric like this. If you don’t want the texture to your stripes like I have, choose a pristine piece of cardboard and pin your fabric down so it doesn’t move at all.

baby blankets
For the third blanket (in the background), I dyed it with Rit on the stovetop. It was pretty quick and painless, but I’m not sure how much fabric yardage I’ll be dyeing in the future. I really like the natural color of the cloth peeping through between my printing. I do love this sunflower yellow color though.

Stripey Baby Blanket
An above view of the stripes.

muslin blanket set
And here is the finished set. Three unique blankets that are perfect for swaddling and won’t be too heavy as the weather warms up.

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How I Made My Own Custom Ring Sling

a handmade ring sling

With my first son, I had a Maya Wrap baby carrier that I simply adored. Between him turning about six months old and now, I have no idea what happened to it. When I found out I was pregnant last August, one of the first things I did was browse through the Maya Wrap website to see which fabrics I liked best. Slowly, over the last several months, I convinced myself that surely I could sew one myself. One of the reasons I wouldn’t let myself do that much sewing when we were living in the apartment, was because I was already getting the hankering to decorate fabrics myself, and I knew that if I was going to sew anything, I knew I was going to have print my own design onto it first. There just wasn’t room for any more stuff in that apartment. No more fiber crafts could fit, so I just focused on woolly things. But in the new house, I have a whole room to cover in wool and fabric and dye and paint…and I have done a pretty thorough job of filling it up in just two months.

osnaburg
I started out with 2.5 yards of natural osnaburg from fabric.com. I washed and dried it as soon as it came in. The edges frayed a bit in the wash, just a warning.

stripey baby wrap fabric
Then I ironed and pressed and spent a long, long time re-flattening my fabric so the paint would go on as evenly as possible. (For the record, the not-straight stripes and sometimes thin paint was on purpose.) I used acrylic paint and a fabric medium fixer (link below) and a tiny paint roller I bought at Joann for $.99 to apply the stripes.

I allowed the fabric to dry for at least 48 hours and then ironed it front and back (on the front with a piece of scrap fabric over the paint) to set the color and then threw it in the wash with a load of laundry. I made sure I took it out of the dryer as soon as it was done so I wouldn’t have to spend an hour ironing it again, and then I spent a few minutes cuddling it.

Next I trimmed all of the big unraveled pieces from the edges, and then zigzag stitched around the perimeter of the piece so that it wouldn’t fray anymore. (Warning: you will likely have to refill your bobbin at least once during this project.)

Then I hemmed three sides: the two long sides, and only one of the short sides. Leave the top of your sling, the part where the rings are attached, unhemmed unless you have a really powerful sewing machine. You’ll have quite a bit of fabric to sew through at the end.

I followed the sewing tutorial on the Maya Wrap website from here about where to sew and how much–which at this point is really just three or four quick seams, but over a serious amount of fabric. Make sure you watch the videos about how to properly thread and use your wrap.

handmade ring sling rings

What you’ll need to make this project:
Sling Materials
-2.5 yards of a 45 inch fabric
-A set of Sling Rings
-Coordinating Thread

Printing Materials
-3 to 5 colors of acrylic paint (I used Americana)
-1 bottle Fabric Painting Medium (follow instructions on the bottle)
-Paper plates and disposable spoons for mixing paint with fabric medium
-1 inch foam paint roller

My total cost for the project:
fabric $9.95
sling rings $3.79
thread $2.99
paint $5.94
roller $.99
Total: $23.66
(Even rounding up for tax and shipping, the project comes in at under $30)
That’s a fraction of the cost of an name brand wrap, and I was able to completely customize it to my tastes. My colors, a wider shoulder and smaller rings, than the original. Now I just need a baby to put in it!

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Love and Mending

I wasn’t always a knitter. Nobody in my family really taught me how to knit. (I think my grandmother tried once when I was seven. It didn’t take.) In fact, I only started knitting not long after I started dating Brock. He would meet me in Lawrence after my knitting class let out of the Yarn Barn and we’d go eat noodles at Zen Zero. Even then he was asking me if I would knit him a sweater. I started with a scarf, a little reluctant to commit to a whole sweater so soon.

Brocks Sweaters

I did finally knit him a sweater in 2011, ignoring all the boyfriend sweater jokes everyone made as I worked on it. The classic Cobblestone turned out really great! So great, that last year, I decided to knit him another, The Ishmael Sweater. He has worn one of the these sweaters every day the weather has been less than balmy for the last two years. I take it as the deepest, most loving of compliments that he wears them so much. He understands that when I knit for him, it is an act of love.

And he has just about loved these sweaters to rags.

Holy Sweaters
The elbows on both sweaters look like this. I have patched the green one multiple times. He has only just worn through the elbows on the red one.

Armpit Hole
He also somehow managed to completely rip out the kitchener stitch from one of the underarms. I was hoping this year’s sweater would be finished before the red one gave out, but no such luck. It’s also still January, so he’ll be needing something warm to wear for at least the next two months, but I managed to sneak these away for the afternoon.

Knowing that all my careful elbow mending only lasts a few weeks, this afternoon I finally purchased some of these at JoAnn:
elbow patches
Leather elbow patches. Let’s see him wear through these!

I started with the red sweater, because the mending was simpler. I sewed up the holes on the elbows (though perhaps not as neatly as I would have done had I not been intending to cover them up) and then I closed up the underarm again. I gave the whole sweater a good rubbing with the sweater stone, and then sat down to sew on the arm patches.

The nice thing about these patches, is that they already have holes poked in them, which I think is why they cost so much more than just a regular old swatch of suede. However, the holes were the perfect sewing guide, because I am a lousy hand-sewer with no patience.

But after about an hour’s worth of work, I had a smartly repaired sweater.
Repaired Ishmael

You’ll notice the patches aren’t in the same place on each sleeve. While aesthetically, I would have liked to have them match up perfectly while the laid on my work table, I decided centering them over the most worn parts of the sleeve would be more practical. And sure enough, as soon as Brock tried it on, the patches didn’t look at all lopsided, but covered his elbows perfectly.

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How We Made our Wedding Invitations (and how you can too)

Our wedding invitations all went out this week–which means a week ago Brock and I spent a lot of time putting them together. We’re throwing this wedding on a super tight budget, so every bit of money saved is a good thing. We discussed what we wanted to do a little bit, and spent a lot of time browsing etsy debating whether we should buy a downloadable, printable package or find a local artist to design them for us. We even debated making them completely from scratch ourselves. In the end we compromised a little bit. I was able to score the base of the invitations themselves in a clearance at Michael’s. Finding them was complete serendipity, but I was able to get all the stationary and stickers for the whole shebang in one day for a fraction of what you would pay a printer. Plus, we were able to include some very specific information for our guests regarding the pot-luck dinner and food allergies with no added costs.

The outside of the invitation, which, I think, was meant to be a birthday invitation, is fun and kind of quirky. The bright yellow envelop sets a cheerful mood and the elephant balancing on a ball is the perfect metaphor for putting on a wedding, but in a fun way, because he’s wearing a party hat! Plus, Circus. The inside, however, was completely blank. Stark white invitations are no fun at all, so I gathered my supplies and with a little design help from Brock, we were able to put the invitations together in one afternoon and evening.

makingtheinvitations

A little colored paper, a glue stick, some free fonts, a little time writing, and some funky scissors were all we used.

Here’s the whole experience from start to finish, just imagine the detritus of making them isn’t there.

weddinginvitationenvelope

weddinginvitations

invitation open

weddinginvitation

We glued the actual invitation into the card and included three inserts: a note concerning gifts and explaining why the wedding is gluten free, the call to action with the URL for RSVPs, and a label for whatever food dish they choose to bring listing common food allergens outside gluten so there’s no guessing and no accidental sickness.

My favorite part was probably going through the sticker book that matched the stationary. There are some creepy stickers in there.

creepy mustache sticker
What’s that all about?

So here’s what you really want to know, how much did all this cost and can you do it yourself? The cost breakdown is below and you can absolutely do this yourself.

Stationary: $15.00 (for 10 sets of 6)
Stickers: $3.00
Ticket-Edge Scissors: $1.99
Colored Paper: $15.00
Shipping Labels: $2.00 (estimate because I purchased a giant package of printable shipping labels ages ago)
Stamps: $20.70 (About 1/3 of our invitations have been hand delivered)
Fonts: Free (from here)
Design and Labor: Time

Total: $57.69*

All that, and the invitations are exactly how I want them to look. It’s pretty brilliant.

*I did not include the cost of ink in my accounting, because we have a laser printer, and the toner it takes for a job like this is negligible. However, if you are doing a project that involves color, please do not disregard the cost of printer ink.

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