Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Minecraft birthday party

C is a huge minecraft fan so he asked if he could have a minecraft themed birthday this year. I agreed but I ran into a problem - the party store doesn't have any minecraft decorations. So I had to come up with my own. Luckily all of the shapes in minecraft are very blocky so they are easy to draw and cut out. Plus others on the internet are full of ideas for inspiration.

I found some cute invitations at Catch My Party (there are other printables available but I didn't use them). For games I found a few websites that had ideas and decided to play two - pin the tail on the pig and creeper bean bag toss.

To make the pig I bought a large sheet of pink poster board. I wanted the head to be square and the body rectangular so I cut a 10" x 10" piece and a 10" by 12" piece. I overlapped the corners and glued together. Then I took a piece of white paper and cut two 1" by 2" pieces and cut 2 1" by 1" squares out of black construction paper. I glued the black squares to the white rectangles then glued the whole piece to the face. I cut a 4" by 5" piece from the pink poster board and glued it on to the face. For the tails I just cut strips of pink paper for the kids to use.

For the bean bag toss I took a cardboard box and cut it open to lay flat. The benefit of using a cardboard box is I was able to take advantage of the existing fold the make it stand up. I painted the box green and then cut the face shapes out. I modified the creeper face slightly - the creepers in the game have their eyes touching the mouth, but that would have left me with one big hole. So I cut out two squares for the eyes and then cut the face out an inch or so lower. I labeled the points with a black marker and the game was ready. This was by far the favorite activity at the party.
I kept the decorations mostly simple, except for the creeper wall. For the table I used a brown table cloth covered with a smaller green one to look like the dirt and grass. I hung green streamers and balloons that had either an animal face or creeper face drawn on them.
The creeper wall was a little more time consuming. I took 20 pieces of green construction paper and glued on 20 faces. Well let me be a little more specific. I had to cut out the eyes separately from the mouth because of the shape of a creeper face and then glue them back the right way.
I'm super pleased with the way it turned out. And it wasn't a waste of my time too badly. We ended up decorating C's room with them after the party!
I was tempted to label the food with minecraft style labels but to be perfectly honest I ran out of time. So decorations for the food ended up being green plates and forks.i did manage to decorate the cupcakes though. I tried to make them look like grass boxes so I made chocolate cupcakes and dyed my buttercream green. Then I piped the frosting to look grass-like.
I think the birthday boy liked his party. Happy birthday C!

 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sewing a knitting needle holder

My double pointed knitting needles have been driving me crazy lately. I absolutely love knitting with them but until now I had no good way of organizing them. Instead they were all thrown in a bin together, which meant a lot of digging and using my needle gauge any time I wanted to use a set. So I started thinking about a way to organize them.

Another one of my goals was to get better at using my sewing machine. So for this year's resolution list I decided to join my ideas/goals and sew a knitting needle holder. I figured it would be a fairly easy project as it is pretty much all straight lines.

How did it go? Well...I sort of winged it. I think it looks pretty good for one of my first projects. There are some flaws but I can live with them. Here's how I got there.

First I had to figure out what size I needed to cut the fabric. I wanted a spot for all of my current needles plus a few spots for the sizes that I'm still missing (and will hopefully acquire some day). I figured 2" for each space would work - big enough for one set of the larger sizes and multiple of the smaller sizes. I also wanted to give myself a seam allowance so I went with 32" wide - 15 holders plus my allowance. I decided to cut the main piece 16" tall. My tallest needles are 8" and I wanted to be able to fold the top down so the needles wouldn't fall out the top. I'm pretty sure I cut more than I needed to but I'm still working on my precision. My smaller piece - the pocket piece a was going to be the same width but only about 5" tall (my shortest needles are only 6" tall so I didn't want it to come up too high)

I raided my fabric stash to find some fabric to use and ended up with a gorgeous turquoise blue for the big piece and a purple, blue and pink striped fabric for the smaller piece. To make my life easier (so I thought) I cut each piece twice as tall so I could just fold it over and hem. This was mistake number one - by doing it this way the stitching on my pockets was going to be noticeable on the outside of the holder.

So anyway I pinned the right sides of the fabric together on the smaller piece and sewed around the three unattached sides, leaving a small opening to turn it right side out.

Then I did the same for the bigger piece. (Mistake number two - I sewed all the way around the three sides. I had to get out a seam ripper to cut the opening so I could turn it the right way.)

Next I pinned the two pieces together and top stitched around. This step went rather smoothly until the very end. About two inches from the edge, my bobbin ran out of thread. No big deal, I'll just wind some more. Except the bobbin winder on my machine chose that moment to break. I know it worked earlier because I wound thread onto the bobbin before I started the project. I was so frustrated! Mere inches from the edge and I was stuck. So I did something I wouldn't have done if I were giving this away - I switched to a thread that matched a bobbin that I already had wound. In my defense I was using a really light gray and switched to white so it's not super noticeable.

My next step was to mark out every two inches on the striped fabric to mark out where to sew for pockets. Then I sewed them down. Here's where I would have been smart to only be sewing through one on the big pieces of fabric and then sewing the other down.

I'm really not too bummed though because even with all the trial and error here's what I ended up with - a very functional and rather pretty needle holder.

My flap idea even worked!

Then I grabbed a pretty ribbon and tied it together.

Ta da! Another resolution ticked off the list and a functional project to come out of it!

 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vanilla Extract Part 2

About 2 and a half years ago I made some homemade vanilla extract. Homemade vanilla extract is the easiest thing in the world to make. It only has two ingredients - alcohol and vanilla beans. Most people use vodka because it has the cleanest flavor but any alcohol over a certain percentage can be used. The beans are steeped in the alcohol for about two months before use but the longer it sits the richer it becomes. So at this point my vanilla is a really rich brown color and imparts a great flavor to my baking.

Recently I decided to try something new. I am currently making a vanilla extract with Seagrams 7 as my base. Why Seagrams? Because I'm competitive. For the last three years my family has had a friendly competition on Christmas Eve. The first year was salsa (I lost), the next was fudge (I won), and this past year was mixed drinks (I came in second). This coming year will be cookies but we decided to put a twist on it. Everybody wrote down an ingredient on a piece of paper and we picked two that need to be included in the cookie. We ended up with Seagrams and peanut butter. I figured if I treated the Seagrams the same way I treat any vanilla extract, the peanut butter should be easy to incorporate.

I found the cutest bottles to use at a store called Home Goods. Since they had two bottles I picked up both and decided to do another batch of vanilla extract with a vodka base (I think it may end up divvied up into Christmas gifts.)

Hopefully this plan works for my cookies. I can't wait to start experimenting in a few months

 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Work in Progress Wednesday

My work in progress this week is a pair of socks - this time for me! When I went to the yarn shop to get the yarn for my son's hat, I may have strayed into the sock yarn section and found a green and pink Zauberball. Of course something that fun and funky could not be passed up! (Hey at least it's not blue!)

I decided to branch out a little from a plain vanilla sock and do a patterned sock. It's still cuff down with a heel flap on my handy Size 1.5 needles, though. The pattern I chose was Jury Duty socks. Still pretty easy knitting but at least they are slightly different than others I've knit. And I absolutely love the color changes in the yarn - reminds me of a watermelon!

For more works in progress, check out Tami's Amis!

 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Finished Object Friday - Minecraft hat

Boy I'm on a roll - two finished projects in as many weeks! This week I finished a hat for my son. His birthday is about a month away and he is crazy about Minecraft. A few months ago I was browsing Ravelry and I came across a pattern for a Creeper hat (Creepers are characters in the game) and thought it was just perfect for him. So rather than wait until the last minute I actually started working on it a few weeks ago.

(I'll get a better picture when I give it to him - trying to be a little stealth here)

To make the hat I used Cascade 220 Superwash in a Christmas green and Black. This was my first time using Cascade and I think I like it. I used size 6 needles for the hat and tried to be very careful on the color work so I didn't pull the yarn too tight. Looking through other's pattern notes on Ravelry provided me with two very helpful hints about the hat. 1 - the pattern runs a little small so rather than knitting the child's size I went with the small adult size. I was glad I did. I tried it on me and it was quite snug and a little short so I'm pretty sure it will work perfectly on a seven year old. 2 - I followed a different decrease method used by quite a few people that I think worked out very well for shape of the hat.

Can't wait for my son's birthday so I can give this to him!

For more finished objects, check out Tami's Amis.

 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Finished Object Friday - Tardis Socks

I'm so excited about my most recent finished knitting project! E and I are both big Dr. Who fans so I made a pair of Tardis socks for Him for Valentines day.

I based the socks off of the Tardis Socks pattern but modified it so they were ankle socks and the pattern was on the foot. E prefers ankle socks, which means the pattern isn't showing when he wears shoes, but it's kind of fun because it's a hidden surprise. You might even say that his shoes are now "bigger on the inside". (Sorry fellow Whovians for the lame joke).
The socks are knitted top down with a heel flap and gusset but unlike standard socks I did half an inch of ribbing (as opposed to 1.5 inches) and then knitted three rows of stockingnette before moving onto the heel flap. And thank goodness they were ankle socks because I had to knit an 11" inch foot!
E was pretty thrilled with the socks - he's already worn them a few times. Definitely a knit worthy guy!
For more finished objects, check out Tami's Amis!