Tag: tips

DIY Letterboard

I am the proud owner of a letterboard! Am I cool yet?

I have been totally envious of people I’ve seen who have felt letterboards or cinema marquees. They’re just so incredibly neat! However, as a maker who is just starting to make her mark in the online world, these are a luxury I can’t justify having.

On the flip side, as a maker, I have the tools and ability to create my own budget-friendly version! It took me a few failures and adjustments before I was able to come up with something functional, but that’s part of the crafting fun, right?

I started off following instructions I found online for a felt letterboard using dowels wrapped in felt, but I just couldn’t achieve an even layout that kept my letters attached securely. As frustrating as this was, I wasn’t ready to surrender just yet. I set it aside to return to another day. It was actually my also-crafty mother who brought a photo on Pinterest to my attention. Her idea was for a DIY ring holder/display using sponge or foam, but the concept inspired a whole new thought process.

All I had to do was fit a piece of flat sponge/foam batting inside a box frame and slice some lines about halfway deep running across the sponge. I centred the sponge on the back board of the frame and glued it down. I did have to order the letters online, but it worked out perfectly and is super customizable! The pegs on the letters fit inside the slits and can be changed just like a felt letterboard. Aside from the letters, everything I used to make this project could be found in the home and reused, or bought for cheap.

I will totally be using this all the time. Feeling excited to step up my Instagram game, starting with a SALE announcement! I recently hit 200 followers on Instagram, and I’m all about celebrating the little things, so I’m offering 20% off everything in the WWK Shop for the next 2 weeks. Just use the coupon code “hooray200” at checkout! I have also added a few new items which are also included in the sale. Head on over to check it out!

Pender Cardigan (#wip pt. 3/3)

Glad to be getting back into weekly blogs. In the time I’ve been away, I’ve completed quite the number of projects, which you would have seen if you’re following me on instagram. If not, no worries! I will be rolling out new posts for old projects over the weeks to come!

First up is the final post of my Pender Cardigan wip…It’s complete!! I had originally intended to have another check-in post before the final product, but I got swept up with the website move and completed the cardigan without stopping to take photos.

I did take the time to note down my thoughts as I worked through it though, so here they are. To see the final product, skip to the bottom of the page.

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As I get closer to the end of a large project, I start to get nervous as to whether or not it will turn out like I imagined, particularly with knits that need to be blocked. It’s the point where I’ve already committed so much to it, that any changes that need to be made may involve significant backtracking.

After attaching the sleeves to the body as instructed in the pattern, I found it difficult to work with the rest of the garment because it became quite bulky. I have suspicions my sleeves ended up too long for my body, so I removed them and started putting together the collar first. I also ran into some issues with picking up stitches on the collar, so I went ahead and modified to achieve what I wanted (yet again, I have failed to complete a pattern the way it was instructed…oops). After trying it on at this point, I’ve fallen in love with it all over again! The stitch definition is looking so good and it is holding its shape incredibly well.

Here’s how it looked without the sleeves and hem. It looked so amazing I was almost tempted to leave it as a vest instead!

I went on to add the bottom hem, which I also shortened both length and widthwise to give a shorter and tighter look. Halfway through the hemline, I tried it on and got chills!

Full disclosure, I actually finished all the components within 3 weeks of starting, but left it sitting for another month because of my pure hatred of seaming. I found myself more enticed by other knitting projects that I never sat down to tidy up. Blocking was a whole other ordeal. I finally committed to finishing when my custom made ceramic buttons were finished. They really tied the piece together (literally.) so it was a perfect finish.

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Alas, all the coziness in a coat. It definitely turned out to be more of an outerwear style jacket than a cardigan. I’d love to remake the pattern in a worsted weight to see what it would look like. I do also wish there was one more button up top to close the neckline a little more. This just means another Pender Cardigan is in my future for 2018!

Ceramic buttons by One Bear Ceramics.

Get the pattern for yourself on Ravelry and check out Lindsay’s Instagram page for other amazing knits.

The Stitch Marker Revelation

The Stitch Marker Revelation

In my previous post about stitch markers, I thought I was so smart using paperclips to  mark my stitches. I was so genuinely happy with them. I didn’t know what it was like to have any better, so I was satisfied…until NOW.

First, I saw that other people had taken the colored paper clips and bent them into cool shapes that made them more user-friendly. This took me through a Pinterest wormhole of other hand-made stitch markers and I was blown away at how simple they were!

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I definitely had all the tools to make them, and it would only take a few minutes to put some together. I don’t know how I managed to overlook this concept before. With just a few jewelry tools and pendants, I have made new, super cute stitch markers that clip on or loop around the needles. They are so much more refined and leave minimal disruption when knitting or crocheting.

The clip-ons are just little hooks from charm bracelets or necklaces–these are perfect for crochet projects where you need to be able to open and close the marker, and for marking the front/back of a project piece (which I have just realized is incredibly helpful). The circular loops are made from earring hooks wrapped around a large knitting needle. These slip on and off when knitting rows/rounds, but I left the ends open in case I ever did need to pull it out in a pinch. To see if it would make a difference, I put hot glue at the tips of a couple of them thinking it might protect my knitting from sharp edges, though the other ones work fine without it.

I have since gone from being someone who prefers to count stitches and rows than to work around stitch markers, to someone who marks everything she possibly can! Based on my experience with them so far, here’s my verdict:

Pros:
  • Loops are nice and skinny, so they don’t interfere with the tension when knitting
  • Loops also fit in a nice range of needle sizes (up to ~6-7mm)
  • Leaving the loops open allow you to take them out at any time, but the gap is small enough that they won’t fall off
  • No problem with sharp edges getting caught in yarn
  • The clips are more refined-looking, with an easy to use mechanism
  • The clips are also really convenient to attach to bags…etc…until you need them if you’re knitting on the go
  • SO CUTE.
Cons:
  • The clips definitely look better than the loops, which look more “DIY”–if I really wanted to make them nice, I would have bought some actual circular loops instead of trying to curl them myself
  • Some of the smaller clips are difficult to hook on
  • Some of the clips may not fit around bulkier yarn (bigger ones are needed)
  • Heavier charms tend to tug on the stitches a bit, but nothing so severe it doesn’t work itself out when the marker is removed
  • HOW DO I CHOOSE WHICH ONE TO USE?
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The little stego is my favorite!

Nitty grittiness aside, I love them. They do the job, they look better than the paperclips I was using, and I didn’t have to spend a dime. All the materials came from old costume jewelry from when I was a tween, and my jewelry toolbox full of materials I would have used to make myself costume jewelry as a tween (but didn’t).

I was also going to try my hand at using air dry clay to make some charms, but that’s another project for another day. I definitely have more stitch markers than I need right now. Guess this means I either need to start more projects or one big complicated project. New sweater for winter maybe?

Judy’s Magic Cast On

Judy’s Magic Cast On

Gone are the days of seaming sock toes!

Some techniques I’ve learned were used for one project and then lost in the chaos that is my mind. Judy’s Magic Cast On (JMCO) is not one of them. It had such a great impact on me, and I’ve used it so many times on multiple projects. It is most well-known for toe-up sock knitting, but comes in handy for any edge being knit in the round that is meant to be closed shut.

The concept behind it is to be able to cast on a foundation row of stitches and work outwards on both sides (in the round) instead of leaving two edges that need to be stitched shut later on. It leaves a seamless edge (or lack of edge altogether, really), giving your project a neater look both inside and out.

As I have delved into the world of pattern designing and this is a common technique I use, I wanted to write out a step by step set of instructions with clear pictures to use for reference. I have seen a lot of video tutorials that demonstrate the cast on incredibly well, but I realize there are times when you are not in a position to watch a video, and looking at pictures is your only option. I’d also like to note that there are variations on this technique, and this is just the method I have found to be the easiest and best looking.

Here we go!

Set up:

*Note: I am using circular needles and the magic loop method of knitting in the round. If you prefer to use DPNs, you may do so and redistribute the stitches onto 3 needles when knitting the first round.

Step 1: Hold two needles next to each other with your right hand so you have a ‘front needle’ and a ‘back needle’.

Step 2: Place your yarn over the back needle so the tail end is closer to you, between the two needles (make sure the tail is the right length for half of the circumference of what you are casting on).

Step 3: Bring the tail end towards the back, counterclockwise behind the end that is attached to the skein, causing the yarn to form a twist around the needle.

Step 4: Tighten the twist around the needle by holding the yarn with your index finger and thumb with your palm facing downwards towards the table/ground. The tail end should be resting on your index finger, and the skein end resting on your thumb (opposite from long tail cast on).

Casting On:

Step 5: Using your index finger, bring the yarn to the front of both needles from the bottom and carry it over the front needle and down between the two needles. That creates one stitch on the front needle. You now have one stitch on each needle (including the twist made when setting up).

Step 7: Repeat step 5. You should now have 2 stitches per needle.

Repeat this process until you have casted on the appropriate number of stitches needed for your pattern, alternating between using your thumb to make a stitch on the back needle, and your index to make a stitch on the front needle. End with a stitch on the front needle. This should result in an equal number of stitches per needle.

For visitors who are here looking for help on one of my patterns (Winter’s Weather Knits), “JMCO” stops at this point, and you can start the first step of the pattern instructions. If you need help with knitting the first round, continue reading below.

Knitting the First Round:

Step 8: Hold both needles with your left hand such that the front needle with the tail end is now in the back. Hold the tail down towards the back.

Step 9: You are now ready to start knitting the first round by inserting your needle into the first stitch that is now on the back needle (the tail end you are holding down). If using circular needles, pull the front needle through to knit with. If you are using DPNs, use a third needle for the first half of the row, and a fourth needle for the remainder (distributing your stitches across 3 needles). Knit across the row.

Step 10: Rotate your work to continue knitting in the round on the other side. If using circular needles, slide the stitches on the wire onto the free needle, and pull the other one through to use to knit. Knit across the row.

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Your finished cast on should look like two rows of stitches between two rows of live stitches. As you continue to knit in the round, it will look less flat, and a tube will form as if you had been knitting in the round and sewed the cast on edge flat.

Please let me know if you are confused at all and I will clarify and provide updates to these instructions!

Good luck with your projects (:

The Stitch Marker Deliberation

The Stitch Marker Deliberation

Since very early on in my knitting career, I have been debating whether or not to buy stitch markers. I like to consider myself a bit of a thrifty knitter…surely I don’t need to fork out cash for little plastic rings…right?

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Fancy stitch markers in the store always seem like frivolous luxuries you don’t really need until you’re in the middle of a project trying to keep count. It’s then that the utility of stitch markers becomes apparent. I have tried to be creative, using things like rubber bands, safety pins, scrap pieces of yarn tied into loops, and little plastic rings from some toy machine I got when I was little (you know…those tempting ones that stole all your toonies). Each of these came with its own problem, and it was becoming increasingly clear that stitch markers are an essential tool every serious knitter/crocheter should have. That is, until I finally found a household object that actually worked!

…paper clips! Colourful ones, in particular. Here’s why: Coloured paper clips have a plastic layer around them as opposed to regular paper clips. This makes them slide smoother through the stitches. They can also be bent to whatever shape you find easiest to slip on and off, and they can hang on loosely, or be looped through so there’s no way they are coming off! My preferred method is just to open the first prong a little to hook on to stitches and leave the rest as is. I have also found the different colours great for colour coding if you are using more than one on a project.

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Turns out it wasn’t about being cheap and not wanting to pay for the real deal, it was just about finding the right tool. I don’t know why I didn’t think of them sooner. They’ve worked wonders for me, particularly since I started doing crochet in the round.

I still think fancy store-bought stitch markers are a luxury, however definitely not so frivolous. Some day I may treat myself and get some cute ones, but in the mean time, my dish of paper clips is working just fine!

Crafter’s Toolkit

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In the few years I’ve been doing DIY projects, I’ve accumulated quite a solid set of tools to use–particularly for yarn and needle crafts. Here is a little glimpse into the tools I have on hand at all times:

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Stackable Toolbox:

(A) Holds extra tools not required for current project or not frequently used (ie. knitting needles in EVERY size, material, length…etc…)

(B) 3 stackable and interchangeable layers

(C) Smaller compartments for little things

(D) Convenient carrying handle

Roll-Up Needle Holder:

(A) Slots of a variety of widths and heights for different frequently used (or currently needed) tools

  • Double-pointed needles
  • Circular needles
  • Safety pin
  • Darning needles
  • Crochet hooks
  • Yarn snipper
  • Pen
  • Notepad
  • Stitch holders

(B) Sealed compartment for small, loose objects (ie. stitch markers, seam ripper…)

(C) Folds and ties for easy transportation when you’re doing projects on the go

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Project Bag:

(A) Holds needle holder and all other materials needed for current project

Did I miss anything?

Loops & Threads Yarn

If you’ve been following my knitting and crochet posts or looking at my tags, you’ll notice that I use Loops & Threads yarn in practically everything. It has become my go-to yarn of choice for my projects.

I am a big fan of Loops & Threads for 3 reasons: convenience, quality, and cost.

Convenience:

I stumbled upon this yarn at my Michaels craft store when looking for yarn to make a chunky sweater. They have a whole range of colors and varieties to choose from. The options are enough to make your eyes roll as you pace back and forth down the yarn aisle. Any gauge, any color, it’s all right there.

Quality:

Prior to this, I was using bulk sized, super saver, cheap brands to make things, and I found I was never really satisfied with my final product because it was always stiff and scratchy. It was important to me that my sweater hung downwards to give a slouchy look, so I splurged a little bit for some Loops & Threads Impeccable. I was so impressed with the results, I chose this yarn for the socks I make for the homeless. I have since received many compliments about how soft and comfortable they are, particularly after being washed and dried with a dryer sheet, which makes them extra squishy and stretchy.

Loops & Threads also produces different types of yarn for different projects. I have not tried them all, but if they are up to the same standards as their Impeccable range, it should not disappoint. One of my favorite ones to use is Loops & Threads Woollike, which is a very fine gauge yarn that is meant to simulate wool, but is actually 100% acrylic. This is the softest yarn I have ever used and is great for thinner projects where you want more wrinkles and folds. It also has some weight to it, which sets it apart from the cheaper thin yarns. I have used this to make scarves as well as a cowl-neck sweater. The scarves are thin and comfy to wrap around your neck, but they are SO warm.

Cost:

In terms of prices and value, you can anticipate spending a little more than getting the bargain brand, however I don’t think it is too outrageous and I believe it is worth it.

One skein of Loops & Threads Impeccable sells for $4.99, but sometimes they have 3 for $12 deals. I like to stock up on these during the Christmas/Boxing Week sales, where they are usually on sale and I can get a 20% off sale items purchase coupon, bringing the price down to about $3. They also sell a Loops & Threads BIG! option, which is about 3 times the amount of yarn for $11.99. I never buy these at regular price–I always go in with either a 40% or 50% off coupon. I was fortunate to have my Michaels location be on the way home from my typical commute, so I would stop in quickly once a day with my coupon to pick up a skein. If you are not as crazy as I am, I suggest bringing a friend who can use the coupon to get you a second skein. Whatever works.

Loops & Threads Woollike is usually $4 for a skein, but unlike other brands that sell the same gauge yarn, this one is good value for your money. The ball is quite large and dense, and just one ball can go a long way. I often over-buy what I need for my project (but hey, I’ll just use it for the next one!) These also go on sale from time to time for $2, again, particularly during Boxing Week.

I’m anxiously waiting for the Winter season to roll around again so I can stock up my yarn shelf. It’s feeling a little bare…

Grafting with Knitting Needles

A knitting technique I feel is underrated is grafting.

Many patterns I have seen tell you to make pieces separately and then use a darning needle to mattress stitch pieces together. While this works well, I love grafting pieces together where possible, as I think it leaves a cleaner finish.

Grafting is a technique whereby pieces are joined with a row of knit stitches, so you cannot really tell where the join is. I use this technique to close off the toes of my socks, and it works wonders.

To take this one step further, most of the instructions I have seen online teach you how to graft using a darning needle, but I prefer doing so with knitting needles! When I am knitting socks in the round, I have my double pointed needles with me, though I don’t always have my darning needle handy. I’d like to share with you the step by step instructions on how to graft using only knitting needles.

Set up:

Step 1: cut yarn leaving a long tail and line up pieces with purl sides facing together (equal number of stitches on front and back needle)

Step 2: in front needle, insert another needle as if to knit; yarn over and pull through

Step 3: in back needle, insert needle as if to purl; yarn over and pull through

Begin grafting:

Step 4: in front needle, insert needle as if to purl; yarn over and pull through; slip the stitch off the needle

Step 5: in front needle, insert needle as if to knit; yarn over and pull through

Step 6: in back needle, insert needle as if to knit; yarn over and pull through; slip the stitch off the needle

Step 7: in back needle, insert needle as if to purl; yarn over and pull through

Repeat steps 4-7 until only one stitch remains on the front and back needles.

Finishing:

When you reach the last stitch on each needle, you will have just finished purling into the stitch on the back needle. Insert needle into front stitch as if to purl, yarn over and pull through. Slip the stitches on both the front and back needle off. Pull tight and tie off.

I learned this technique by watching this video. If you need additional instruction, check it out!

Weighted Rice Bags

In high school, I took a sewing class where I learned how to use a sewing machine and follow patterns. While everyone else hated it and shifted to cooking (where you actually got to eat your projects), I found I really enjoyed it.

Sewing to me is an essential skill that everyone should have at least some experience with. Many times I have had clothing seams come undone or needed to hem a pair of pants (short people problems haha). I was so thankful I knew how to use a sewing machine to quickly fix the problem.

I got into sewing stuffed animals from scrap pieces of fabric leftover from my projects. In these cases, I could fill them with rice and stuff them directly. When I got into knitting and crochet however, this was no longer the case. The rice needed to be sealed in some form before being put into the toy, otherwise they would fall out of all the holes. I took the easy way out at first and used ziplock bags taped around the borders for extra security. This sufficed, but was not optimal as they would make crinkling sounds inside the toys. The way to get around this was to pull out my sewing skills again and make some little beanbags with scraps of fabric!

I always keep even the tiniest squares of leftover fabric swatches for times like these. I stitch 3 sides together, and about 2/3 of the last side, leaving a hole to add the rice. I add the amount needed to get the weight I want, and then sew up the rest. The smaller the hole you leave, the more difficult it is to add the rice, but the easier it is to finish sealing the bag. If you leave the hole a little wider, it is easier to get the rice in, however it takes a little more skill to keep the rice in as you stitch up the hole.

Don’t worry about making them look nice, or sewing each side evenly and pushing out the corners. Since they will be hidden inside your project, a strong seal is more important than aesthetics. I would also recommend using larger pieces of fabric rather than smaller, as this makes it easier to fill and sew. It is okay if the bag doesn’t feel very full provided it is the weight that you want. It is very difficult to make a beanbag that is stuffed too tight though!

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Tip: if you are struggling with adding the rice and don’t have a funnel, a rolled up piece of paper works wonders! I am using a receipt I found on the table in the picture above.

These are great to have around for making stuffed animals. I highly recommend taking the extra time to do this, especially if you plan on making a few things and can prepare a few rice bags at once.

Even if you do not know how to use a sewing machine, these can be made by hand stitching. There might even be a no-sew option that would work (ie. tying knots using tails all around the borders to seal the bag rather than stitching the pieces together).

*Reminder: if you are using rice, you cannot wash your toy! Just imagine all the rice soaking and growing inside their bellies… If you anticipate your project needing a good wash from time to time, you can buy plastic beads from a craft store that are washable (read labels).

Ravelry

For those wondering, the website where I get most of my knitting/crochet patterns from is Ravelry. I have an account which allows me to look through patterns and save the ones I like, though I believe you can still access (at least some) patterns without an account. Some patterns cost money, but many are free!

I love it because it has a very user-friendly set of search filters for finding the perfect pattern. It also has descriptions, tips, and photos left by others who have tried the pattern and made their own projects.

Another feature I use often is the yarn search tab, where I can research a type of yarn to see what others think of it and get project ideas based on the type of yarn I have. I usually have balls of yarn sitting around waiting to be made into something because I bought it without any specific project in mind. Sometimes when shopping you just see nice things you love so much you have to have it, right?! I have also become labelled as “the knitter” among my peers, so it’s quite common that people will see yarn in a store and buy it for me knowing that I will create something with it.

My crafting process goes something like this:

  • Get inspired by something//Have a cool idea
  • Look up pictures of similar ideas or concepts
  • Go to Ravelry to look for pattern
  • Adapt pattern to suit my needs
  • Google or Youtube any specific techniques listed in pattern that I don’t know how to do
    • Youtube is really a lifesaver when it comes to all things DIY. I find it super helpful to be able to see someone doing the step rather than just reading about it or looking at pictures.

Hope you found this little post helpful! Good luck crafting (: