Hello Stanwood Yarn Ball Winder, Goodbye Frankenskeins

My name is Ellen, and I am a yarn-a-holic. My problem isn't necessarily related to buying too much yarn. I am typically a project-based yarn shopper and my skeins do not remain in my stash unworked for very long.

The real issue is that when I finish a project, I simply can not throw away the leftover bits and pieces no matter how large or small they are. I mean, the color is so pretty and someday I might need it for something.

So, I roll the leftovers into a ball and drop them into a bin where they commingle with the other fiber castoffs, eventually morphing into a giant Frankenskein!

Even the cat avoids tangling with this monstrosity of stash yarn.

Hmm... I wonder why I never use my leftovers. Even the cat avoids tangling with this monstrosity.

Then one day in a casual conversation, my neighbor accused me of having every knit and crochet tool known to man. Like that's a bad thing! I immediately went on Amazon to prove my dear friend wrong. Hooks, needles, row counters, stitch markers... Yep, I pretty much have it all.

But wait! What magical fiber related tool do I not yet have? A yarn ball winder. A situation quickly remedied with my purchase of a Stanwood Needlecraft YBW-A.

As soon as it arrived I clamped that bad boy to the table and started deconstructing my giant Frankenskein. Within a couple hours I had a pile of colorful cakes piled across my table.


The winder pleasantly hummed as I wound it all. Cotton, wool, acrylic. I'm not a yarn snob after all.

And now that my yarn is neatly wound and organized by fiber type two questions remain? What stashbusting pattern is next to be designed and what knitting/crochet tool is still missing from my studio?




Why Do You Create Handmade?

Crafters, artists and designers from around the world share why they create handmade.

We live in a world where convenience is often king. Most of us can easily obtain everything we need or want from a local big box store. That may be one reason that a lot of people just don't understand why anyone would invest the time (and often money for quality materials) to create something completely by hand.

So why do you create handmade?

I recently posed this question to my crafty followers on Facebook and Instagram. The varied responses I received were better than anything I could think of alone, although you will notice many common threads woven through the answers.

First, some humor


"It's a practical life skill for surviving the zombie apocalypse." alittlebirdhouse on Instagram

"I create handmade because I can!" kwiltypleasures on Instagram

Well Being


"I do it for various reasons. It's therapeutic, it helps me slow down in a hectic world. It reminds me I have a talent, and that I am very, very lucky to have that. And, I realized that I can make other people smile through my creations. The warm happy feeling when I see that is what makes me create." jacs.studio on Instagram → The Little Welsh Studio on Etsy

"I craft because it gives me an outlet for creativity. It soothes my brain. Knitting/crocheting is a place that I strive for perfection in and to expand my knowledge. Some people learn to play complex pieces of music on the piano. I am learning all about the art, structure, design, and even history of fiber arts. It also gives me opportunities to give a piece of myself to people I love." withsnowinmind on Instagram

"It's a way to relax for me. Others do yoga, I knit and spin. I also love the smile on the faces of the people who appreciate handmade items. It's such a joy to see them wear my handmade hats and shawls and socks. I do feel extremely good and proud when I finally finish a project. It feels like 'look what beautiful things you can create with your hands, out of two sticks and wool'. And of course it's a way of expressing my creativity." kanitterina on Instagram → The Science of Knitting Podcast

It's Who I Am


"Because I HAVE to for one thing. It's part of my makeup. I love the process of creation, seeing where an idea goes. And I love seeing the end result. It exercises my mind--which is important for someone who's suffered brain damage. I couldn't imagine a life that doesn't involve making things." Lin Collette on Facebook

Being Connected


"I love creating it's relaxing and keeps the mind thinking. My grandmother taught me the basic crochet stitches and embroidery at night after dinner she was always working on something. I feel close to her when I crochet even though she has been gone so many years. I don't think there's a person in the world that doesn't feel great when they get good reviews on their work. Makes me smile and we all need more smiles. Just shake your head at that person that obviously doesn't know quality work and keep doing what you do. We crafters know are work is high quality besides it's in our blood!" forpawsandhome on Instagram → forpawsandhome on Etsy

"I create handmade because it helps me to express myself as a woman and share artistic images and cultural pride with others. Many hand crafts come from or are influenced by cultural traditions around the world today and from the past as well. It's a type of self-sufficiency and response to the sped up consumer culture that helps to share and foster a sense of community among people. I love and appreciate the art, the craft, and the soul of handmade. We need to keep on with this movement and support each other and keep growing!" joliefemmebydiana on Instagram → joliefemmebydiana on Etsy

Quality Control


"I create handmade so I know nothing icky or bad goes into the products I use/eat." skinfulessentials on Instagram → skinfulessentials on Etsy

Originality


"I started making my own jewellery because I have always loved one of a kind pieces. You will not find these in a big box store anywhere. That's what I love about handmade. The creative ideas and process that translates into these beautiful pieces of art whether they are made out of yarn, stones, porcelain, paint, whatever the medium. They look like they are made with thoughtfulness, creativity and love, and they are! Walmart can't even compete." AudacityWear on Facebook → AudacityWear on Etsy

"People have always crafted--made things with their hands. I think it satisfies something deeply human in us. For me, beading is a time to get lost in colors, shapes, textures, and composition--also to experience a little of the history and culture different beads represent. For my customers, my pieces are more personal than something they could buy at a department store. Each piece is one of a kind. I think they value the difference." catchingwavesonetsy on Instagram → CatchingWaves on Etsy

Lifestyle and Values


"For some, convenience and speed is something they place a high value on. They would rather spend their time in other ways that they find fulfilling. For others, they place value on the time spent creating - whether it's the joy of learning or the sense of achievement with bringing an idea to life. Neither perspective is wrong. It's just figuring out what is important to you - and embracing that path." dellcovespices on Instagram → Dell Cove Spices Shop

"... I must admit though I do get similar comments, even from students who say things such as 'its a bit uneven and wobbly' when they make a pot. My response is always.... 'well, if you wanted perfection you would by it at Ikea. This is handmade and unique and captures the makers mark' and they always get it! Personally I create because it is part of my overall lifestyle - growing food, recycling and making... I can't imagine living any other way." dawnwhitehand on Instagram → deedeedeesigns on Etsy

"I create handmade items because it's fun, because I can earn a little extra money, because handmade gifts and more personal and loving, because it's less corporate consumer culture, and sometimes because I can turn worn out things into useful things or make reusable alternatives to disposable products." beeasinbumbledesigns on Instagram → BeeAsInBumbleDesigns on Etsy

Showing Love


"I create because it's soothing - I'm much less anxious when I'm knitting or crocheting - and because I want the recipients to feel warm, cozy, and loved." agnesmarielovesyou on Instagram

"I design and create because I love to, and I am grateful that I can. Creativity can be the basis for valued friendships. Whether it is from my garden, kitchen or sewing table it is lovely to share. Those who value handmade make the effort worthwhile." arabella_blossoms on Instagram → arabellablossoms on Etsy

Making the World a Better Place


"I create as therapy for myself, a way to make the world more colorful and beautiful. I also hope that in making my creations it brings pleasure to those who receive it, as either a gift or purchase. I create because without it I lose my color." shawnidarling on Instagram → threefatesfiber on Etsy

"What a great question!... I think I create because I enjoy it for sure, and also because it gives me the impression that I somehow contribute to the world, in a tiny way for sure, but in a concrete one. I find it empowering, and I like the feeling that I can combine productivity and enjoyment, so my free time is occupied with something that produces results and bring me joy and pride." HanjiNaty on Facebook → HanjiNaty on Etsy

Sense of Accomplishment


"Because I love to crochet and knit and the sense of accomplishment of creating something beautiful that I can be very proud to say I made it." RonHelen King on Facebook

Thank you to everyone who shared their answers on both Facebook and Instagram. You creativity, beauty and kindness is inspiring.

Happy Crafting!




Craft Tutorial: Irish Euro Shamrock Pendant

Transform a foreign coin and shamrock into a keepsake necklace

Ireland is a lovely country. We visited back in 2005 and had a delightful time. The people are friendly, the countryside is green (a stark contrast to life here in the desert), the food was savory, there are plenty of castles and historical attractions, and the woodlands are magical.

After our trip, I had a couple Euros left in my pocket. I didn't really think about them much until this year. Somehow, even though we live in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, I have a large patch of shamrocks that have taken over one of my flower beds. It seemed to me that my Irish Euros would be the perfect background for a shamrock pendant.

Materials




Directions


The first step is to collect and press some small shamrocks. If you are not lucky enough to have a shamrock patch, many nurseries carry indoor shamrock plants in the spring.

The pressing and drying process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks.
Once your shamrocks are ready, tear off a piece of packing tape that is long enoug to wrap around the edge of your coin about 1 1/2 times.

Cut a strip of tape about 1/2 inch wide.
Wrap the tape tightly around the coin. You can fold down a small edge of the tape so it is easier to remove later.
Make sure to press the tape firmly down around the edge of the coin.

The tape makes a sort of bezel that can be filled with resin.
Tiny dried shamrocks are very delicate. Tap a cotton swab on your tongue then use the swab to lift your shamrock.
Place the shamrock onto the center of the coin.
Use a toothpick to slide the shamrock into position if necessary.

Make sure your coins are on a protected work surface before you begin using the resin. I like using parchment paper to cover my surface, although a plastic plate will also work.
Mix the resin in a disposable cup according to the package directions. Stir the resin gently to minimize the formation of bubbles.

Resin is very sticky, messy and hard to clean up so again, make sure your work surface is protected.
Carefully pour the resin onto your tape-wrapped coins.
The resin should be approximately the same thickness as the coin.
After about 20-40 minutes you may see that your shamrock has floated to the surface of the resin. If this happens, carefully use a toothpick to gently submerge the shamrock halfway between the coin and the resin surface.
Now the hard part. Do not move or touch your resin covered coins for 24 hours. The shiny resin surface is irresistible but keep your hands off.

After 24 hours, remove the tape from the coin.
You will notice that the resin is very smooth across the center of the coin, but there is a ridge along the edge.

Use a scissors (at about a 45° angle to the resin) to trim away the excess resin.

Don't worry if it looks a little uneven at this point.
Use a piece of very fine grit wet/dry sandpaper to smooth out the edge of the resin by holding the coin at a 45° angle to the paper and rubbing the resin on the paper.

This process takes a little time and patience, but is well worth the effort.
The coin on the left has been sanded, the coin on the right has not.

There is still a slight lip around the edge of the resin, but we’re going to call that a design element.
Once you have smoothed down the resin edges, it's time to attach the bail to the back of the coin with G-S Hypo Cement.

Again, work on a parchment covered surface.
Fill the depression of the bail with G-S Hypo Cement and wait for about 15-30 seconds. Position the coin onto the bail.

And then, the hard part, again. Do not move or touch the pendant for 24 hours while the glue cures completely.
Once the glue has dried, simply slide a chain or cord through the bail and your necklace is ready to wear.

Transform a foreign coin and shamrock into a keepsake pendant

Happy St. Patrick's Day!




Craft Tutorial: Bottle Cap Pressed Shamrock Keychain

St. Patrick's Day Crafting: Make a simple key chain with Guinness bottle caps and lucky shamrocks

It's the week of St. Patrick's Day, so what better time to share a DIY that incorporates Guinness beer bottle caps and shamrocks. I consider this to be a bit of a hardware store craft, because that's where you can get almost all of the tools and materials for the project.

This is a nice project to make in bulk because it's inexpensive and it doesn't take much more time to make a half dozen than it does to make one.

Materials

  • flower press
  • ICE Resin
  • 7/16" small screw eyes
  • shamrocks
  • bottlecaps
  • transparent tape
  • parchment paper
  • hammer
  • wire nail
  • 2 small pairs of needle nose or round pliers
  • scrap piece of wood
  • small disposable cup
  • disposable plastic utensil
  • toothpicks
  • key ring

Directions


Surprisingly, even though we live in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, I have a fairly large patch of shamrocks that randomly appeared in the backyard. If you are not so lucky, you can also buy them to grow as a houseplant at many nurseries.


To prep for this project you will need to press your shamrocks. It can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks for your shamrocks to be ready to use.
For crafting purposes, when removing a bottle cap from the bottle, use an opener to evenly bend the edges around the cap just enough so the cap comes off. You want the cap to retain its shape as much as possible.
Poke a small hole in the edge of the cap using a hammer and thin wire nail.

I recommend placing the hole above the bottle cap branding image.
Place the cap on a piece of scrap wood. Hold the nail with a pair of pliers and position the nail into one of the grooves at the edge of the cap. Tap the nail to create a small hole.
Make sure that the hole is not too close to the edge of the cap.
Twist a small screw eye into the hole.
Use two pairs of pliers to bend the screw into an "L" shape. You do this so the screw will be nearly invisible after the shamrock is placed.
Next, tape the screw eye into place, so it doesn't wiggle around.

It is very important to press the tape firmly against the cap near the hole or a tiny bit of resin will leak out. (I learned that one the hard way.)
Set your bottle caps on a protected surface. A sheet of parchment paper works well or even a plastic, disposable plate.

Place your shamrocks into the bottle caps.
Mix the resin according to the package directions in a disposable cup on a protected surface. Do not stir the resin too vigorously. You want to blend the resin without creating a lot of bubbles.

Resin is very sticky, messy and hard to clean up, so be careful.
Pour the resin into the bottle caps.
The resin should be slightly higher than the edge of the cap.
After 20-40 minutes, you may notice that your shamrock has floated to the surface. If this happens, use a toothpick to gently press the shamrock back down into the resin so that it is submerged about halfway between the cap and the resin surface.
Now the hard part. Do not touch or move the bottle caps for 24 hours. It's so tempting because the resin is irresistibly shiny, but keep your hands off.

After 24 hours, remove the tape. insert a ring into the screw eye and your lucky shamrock key chains are ready to use.

St. Patrick's Day Crafting: Make a simple key chain with Guinness bottle caps and lucky shamrocks




Clover Mini Weaving Loom Purse Tutorial

Learn how to weave a simple mini purse with the Clover Mini weaving Loom.

Weaving has been on my crafty bucket list for a long time. Every time I go to the yarn store I am tempted by the row of rigid heddle looms, but the price tags and time commitment to learn how to use the contraptions have always made me keep on walking.

So, I was very happy to start my adventures in weaving with a simple project on the Clover Mini Weaving Loom. I decided to make something practical for my first project, a small, phone sized purse.

I felt pretty bold when I searched through my stash yarn for the project. I chose three contrasting colors of a basic, worsted weight acrylic, but you could easily use a different type of fiber and more or less colors.

Many thanks to my friends at Clover USA for providing the tools for this post. They are also sponsoring this month's giveaway so you could win the tools needed to make your own woven purse.

Materials




Directions


The loom comes with great directions for how to set up the warp and start weaving. Familiarize yourself with the basic weaving instructions.


First, set up the warp on a single loom frame.
Next, you will wind the weft yarn onto the shuttle. The first time I did this I put waaay too much yarn on the shuttle making it very difficult to weave. There's a simple way to get almost exactly the right amount of yarn on the shuttle.
Wrap the yarn around the width of the shuttle and make sure there are no gaps between the strands. Set the shuttle on the loom and count how many times the yarn was wrapped between the two edges of the loom.

I wrapped the yarn 60 times, so the weft yarn will go across the loom about 60 times.
The shuttle is about the same width as the loom, so I need to wrap the weft yarn from one end of the shuttle and back to the other 30 times (that's 60/2).
Make a figure 8 abound one side of the shuttle, then the other, then wrap once around the middle. (That counts as 3 wraps.)

Repeat the process the necessary number of times. I did one extra repeat just to make sure I wouldn't run out of weft yarn.
Let the weaving begin!

Use the shed stick to lift every other strand of warp yarn so the shuttle can pass through.
Use the weaving comb to pull the weft yarns toward you.
Tuck in the tail as directed and keep weaving.

Over, under, over, under, back and forth.

The concept is pretty simple.
One thing that is very important to remember is not to pull the weft yarn, too tightly. This takes some practice.

If you are not paying attention, your weaving can very quickly become too tight and misshapen.
At a certain point, the weaving gets so close to the end of the loom that the shuttle will no longer fit between the warp strands.
Simply remove the weft yarn from the shuttle and use the needle to weave the rest of the piece.
For the record, my weft yarn passed across the piece 58 times in the first section, which was awfully close to my prediction of 60.
Pull off a spacing bar and carefully lift the first motif off the loom.
Before attaching the first motif to the second you need to cut a piece of yarn to set up the next warp.

Since there are 27 teeth on the spacer bars, wrap the yarn 27 times around the shuttle, then 3-4  more times just to make sure you have enough. No need for the fancy figure eights here because you are just using the shuttle to help you measure the yarn.
Cut the yarn, remove the yarn from the shuttle and use the needle to join the first motif and wind the warp yarn as directed.
Once the warp yarn is on the loom, wind the weft yarn onto the shuttle.

If you are using the same type of weft yarn as for the first motif, you can use the same approximations you did when wrapping the first shuttle full of weft yarn.
Weave the second motif.
Remove the second motif from the loom.
Measure out the warp yarn for the third motif.
Attach the second motif as directed and wrap the warp yarn.
Wrap the weft yarn onto the shuttle and finish the third motif.
Take the entire piece off the loom.

At this point, things may not look great.
Use the comb to even out the weft yarns.
Before evening things out, it looks like there are big spaces between the motifs.
Gently combing the weft yarns makes those gaps virtually disappear, but there are still a lot of loose ends.
Use a yarn needle to weave in and conceal all of the warp and weft tails as directed.
Things should be looking much better now.
Now it's time to make the strap. Figure out how long you would like your strap. Cut nine strands of yarn (three of each color) 1 1/2 times longer than the desired strap length. Braid the strands together and knot each end.

It's better to make your strap too long than too short. You can always trim it down later if you need to.
Decide which end of the weaving will be the flap of the bag. If one end is a little wider than the other, that's the end that should be the flap.

For me, the blue end was slightly wider than the white.
Fold the flap in half and place a locking stitch marker around the side warp yarn, between to wefts, at the fold.
Follow the weft yarn across and place a stitch marker on the opposite side of the flap.

It is very important that there are the same number of weft strands between the stitch marker and flap edge on both sides of the bag.
Cut a piece of yarn about 4-6 feet long. With a yarn needle, you will use this yarn to finish the side of the bag and attach the strap.

Fold your weaving, wrong sides together, so the end of the weaving is even with one of the stitch markers. Pull the yarn around the warp yarns along the side of the bag.

Pull the yarn through the same spot a second time to secure the end.
Slide the needle around the warp yarns under the next weft strands.
Position one side of the strap so the knot is at the bottom of the bag.

As you pull the needle through, make sure the yarn wraps around the strap to hold it in place.
Continue whip stitching down the side of the bag.
When you get to the end, pull the yarn tail up through a few of the whip stitches to conceal it and trim the end.
Now that one end of the strap is attached, double check the length and adjust it if necessary.
Attach the second strap and join the sides of the bag as before.
Turn the bag right side out.
Cut three strands of yarn 9 inches long and weave them together.

Use a yarn needle to pull each side of the braid under three weft yarns on the wrong side of the flap near the center.
Knot the braid ends and trim.

Use a needle and thread to sew a button onto the front of the bag.
Your mini weaving loom, mini purse is ready to go.This purse is a nice compact size for those times you just want to carry the necessities.

Learn how to weave a simple mini purse with the Clover Mini weaving Loom.

Happy weaving!