January 27, 2010

The blog will be moving soon!

In the near future, I'll be moving my crafty blog to a new page - a fresh start where I'll be putting more of my daily life into my blog posts and letting you see some of the things that are part of my everyday. You'll see more pictures of life in Alaska as it relates to my crafting projects and I'll show you around my world a bit. Please change your bookmarks and be sure to follow me over on the new site at AlaskaGirl Crafts!

Thank you, and I'll see you over there soon!

January 6, 2010

Stitch Markers for Knitting

Here's how to make some very pretty stitch markers to use when you knit. If you're like me, you appreciate a little something extra to make your everyday activities a bit more special. These stitch markers are an easy way to put a smile in your crafting time!

But they're not *just* pretty - they're useful! They can be used to mark pattern repeats or to mark off groups of stitches on large projects to make counting stitches easier.

The easiest way of all to make stitch markers is to use jewelry toggle clasps (just the round part - we won't need the other half), pre-wired bead dangles, and a pair of needle-nosed pliers.

If you don't have jewelry toggles, you can use cabone rings. The disadvantages to using cabone rings is that you won't have the handy built-in loop to thread your bead wire through, and you won't be able to use the pre-wired dangles because the wire on them is cut too short to go around the cabone ring.

You can use head pins - my favorites are these with a decorative end - and some beads from your stash in place of the pre-wired dangles. You could also use strong sewing thread in place of the wire, sewing through the beads several times for strength. I've done it that way, too, but I prefer the wire.

If you're using the pre-wired beads, simply open the wire pin the beads are on, and thread it through the loop in the round part of the toggle. Close the wire using the pliers, making sure there is no sharp end to catch on your knitting. The packs of dangles I picked out had two styles of dangles on them, so I made two different sets. I can mix-and-match them or use them separately!

Not using the pre-made dangles? Thread your beads onto your wire head pins. Trim the excess wire, but be sure to leave enough to thread through the loop in the toggle (or to wrap around the cabone ring). Close the wire using the pliers, making sure there is no sharp end to catch on your knitting.

Notice there is one marker in this set that's bigger than the rest? That's for when I'm knitting a project on circular needles or double-pointeds. The larger marker marks the beginning of a new round, while the others mark the groups of stitches within the knitted piece itself.

New Gift Tags From Old Greeting Cards

Christmas is over, and the decorations are all down. The last thing to be taken off display for me are the Christmas cards from friends and family. Saving them takes up too much room, but it's such a shame to simply throw them away. That's why I like to use them to make gift tags to decorate my packages next year!

This is my all-time favorite paper punch. It's the large gift tag punch by Marvy Uchida. They make a couple different sizes, but I really like this big one. There are also different shapes of large punches (hearts, circles, etc) that you could use to make gift tags. Use the one you like best.

Once you've got your punch chosen, sort through your greeting cards and select some that have nice pictures without writing on the backside.

Separate the back of the card from the front. Trim the card if necessary to get your chosen image to fit into the punch properly. Check by looking through the window in the back of the punch to see if you like how it's positioned, and if so, punch it out. Use a regular hole punch (the kind you would use to punch papers to fit in a 3-ring binder) to make a hole for string or ribbon to go through.

Now you have a new assortment of gift tags for next year! You didn't waste your cards, and you've saved yourself money by not having to buy gift tags later.

Don't forget to check the sentiments INSIDE the cards, too. Those make lovely gift tags as well.

I make gift tags from all-occasion cards throughout the year. Recycle your used greeting cards, too, for a quick and fun way to save that pretty artwork from the trash pile!

December 30, 2009

A Blanket for Teddy

Here's a nice, quick pattern for a small blanket for your favorite teddy bear or doll. It works up quickly and can be ready for gift-giving in no time flat.

You will need:
*  straight knitting needles size 8
*  small amount of knitting yarn - I used Wool-Ease in the color "Fisherman"

Cast on 54 stitches.

Pattern set #1 is as follows:
row 1: (knit 6, purl 6) until there are 6 stitches remaining. Knit those 6 stitches.
row 2: (purl 6, knit 6) until there are 6 stitches remaining. Purl those 6 stitches.
Repeat those two rows three more times, for a total of 8 rows.

Pattern set #2 is as follows:
row 1: (purl 6, knit 6) until there are 6 stitches remaining. Purl those 6 stitches.
row 2: (knit 6, purl 6) until there are 6 stitches remaining. Knit those 6 stitches.
Repeat those two rows three more times, for a total of 8 rows.

Then go back to Pattern set #1, and repeat these two sets over and over until your blanket is as long as you like. I did four repeats of the two pattern sets, plus one additional repeat of Pattern set #1 so that my blanket was square.

These two pattern sets together give you rows of squares, rather like a quilt.

Block to size when you are finished.

My teddy's quilt is 10 1/4" inches square. If you'd like a larger or smaller blanket, simply change the number of stitches cast on. As long as you cast on a multiple of 12 stitches plus 6, the pattern will work.  (For example, 12 stitches x 4 = 48, plus 6 gives you the 54 stitches I worked this blanket on.) You could make it narrower and longer for a lovely scarf!

December 23, 2009

A Quick Bath Set Gift

Christmas is two days away as I write this, and if you are like me, you always wish you had just ONE more gift to give someone on your list. Here's an inexpensive idea that you can do quickly and easily at the last minute. And these are great not just for Christmas, but whenever you have saved enough of those mesh bags that fruit comes in and want to make something useful from them.

Here's all you'll need:
* Mesh produce bags. I used a total of six for this gift set. Some mesh bags are softer than others. I'm using the softer kind so that it will feel good and not too scratchy on skin.
* A crocheted cotton chain loop about 12" long for the bath pouf handle. Make a second one if you want soap-on-a-rope.
* A bar of soap. I make my own soap, but I like the minty green color of this bar, so I'm going to use it for this project. Although if you have access to some nice handcrafted soaps, that would make the gift even more special!
* Strong sewing thread.
* An optional soap dish.

To make a soap sack for the bar of soap, simply wrap a mesh bag tightly around the bar of soap, and tie it in a knot at the top. (This is why you want to be sure to use the softer kind of mesh bag!) If you wanted soap-on-a-rope, tie the crocheted loop into the knot. Trim the ends of the mesh bag close to the knot. Now your soap will gently exfoliate as you use it!

Now, to make the bath pouf, make sure your mesh bags are the same length, trimming if necessary. Mine were eleven or twelve inches long. Fold these remaining five mesh bags in half, with the cut ends overlapping slightly in the center.

Stack all five folded bags together. Using strong sewing thread, tie the bundle of folded mesh bags and the crocheted loop very tightly together. Take a few stitches through the center for added security if you like.

Fluff the loops of the pouf, being careful not to pull them out of the thread in the center.

Add an optional dollar store soap dish, and you have a lovely gift in a matter of minutes!

December 22, 2009

Fruity Breakfast Cookies

While looking online for something completely unrelated, I found a recipe on WalMart's website that looked like it had potential as a breakfast-worthy treat. I tweaked it according to the ingredients I had on hand, and my, those cookies turned out delish!

Fruity Breakfast Cookies
3/4 cup softened (not melted) butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup old-fashioned long-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups dried fruits (I used a mixture of cherries, cranberries and blueberries)
2 ripe bananas, sliced
1 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In electric mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar on low speed. Beat in egg. Beat in flour and spices. Now using a spoon, stir in oats, dried fruits, banana and pecans until thoroughly combined, but not so much that you smush your bananas.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. They'll still look a little pale on top. Let cool briefly on cookie sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 3 dozen small cookies. You can also use a scoop and make larger cookies, but increase the baking time accordingly.

We ate most of ours as soon as they were baked, but we did save a few for eating with some eggnog ice cream. YUM!

December 15, 2009

Candied Orange Slices are totally worth the wait!

The interwebs are a dangerous place for my waistline, indeed. I've discovered that my new life here in The Great White North seems to have brought me closer to the cyber world than I ever imagined I'd be, and hunting up new recipes has been part of the hours I've spent in front of my monitor. The profound love for potluck dinners in this neck of the woods (sometimes three a month! And that's just the ones I go to!) keeps me scrambling for new treats to bring along.

And I found this recipe for The Best Candied Orange Slices In The World over at Brownie Points.

So pretty with the light shining through them.

I made 5 navel oranges' worth of slices in one and a half recipes of the sugar syrup. By the time the three-week candying process was complete, it was evident I should have made more. We were eating them before they were even finished, so once they had dried and were dipped in chocolate, the love story could only continue. They weren't done in time for the last potluck of the year (phew!) so I thought I'd give them to friends for Christmas.

And I did package up a few for friends, but only a few. We ate most of them, as you might guess. Son tried an undipped slice on a piece of toast and said it tasted like marmalade. Now I'm seeing the potential as a very fancy backpacking food. Or maybe that's just an excuse to make more!