Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012

I know I've been quiet lately and I'm hoping to break through the craziness of the holidays this week. In honor of New Years, I thought I would do a "Best of" post so that I can look back on my accomplishments. I just started writing this blog and I have so many plans for the future but it's nice to look back on what I've already done. Here are the most popular posts of 2012:
"Durga" the Wool Scarf Pattern
"Janet" the Lace Hat Pattern
Plant Hanger Tutorial
Green Gift Giving Wedding Edition: Personalized Recipe Book

Stay tuned this week, I've got a fun new project in the works!!! Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hand Felting Tutorial

Recently, I made a new friend that just happened to know how to knit too. He had plenty of family members that knit and had been gifted these really awesome felted clogs that I must say I am jealous of. You see, years ago, I attempted knitting and felting a pair of mary jane slippers that turned out to be just a little bit too short for my feet and provided very little warmth because the majority of my foot was still exposed to the air. 

Instead of pining for said slippers, I decided to try some for myself and see what happens. The particular pattern that I used was Fuzzy Feet and it took me three days to knit and felt these slipper socks. I decided to hand felt them because I didn't want to use any machinery for the entire process. Also, the purple yarn in the socks was an experimental yarn that I dyed with purple juice years ago and I wasn't sure whether or not it would bleed. Since the process worked out so well, I thought I'd make a little tutorial of how to hand felt knitted items. 
First, you start out by filling a sink full of hot water and soap. Soak your giant items ready to be felted in the water bath and prepare yourself for the work ahead. NOTE: If your fabric isn't 100% wool, start over and make whatever you want to felt with 100% wool because it will never work. 

Once your fabric is nice and wet, you'll need to start massaging the fabric together. Most people know that hot water, soap and agitation are the key ways to accidentally shrink (AKA felt) wool garments. Because I wanted to intentionally felt, I used these three methods to my advantage. I made these two gif files to demonstrate to you the kinds of motions that will help in the felting process. The felting process is sped up by rubbing the fabric against itself in small but fast "massaging" motions. I like to think of it as rubbing a little bit of happy into the fabric so that the slippers will be nice and warm, essentially keeping my feet happy!
I felted the slippers one at a time so here is a size comparison for you. Felted garments shrink to about 1/3 of their original size so you'll want to make sure your garment is about 3 times bigger than your finished dimensions. 
These slippers turned out pretty cute and very warm! The pattern was great and the slippers made a good addition to the holiday gifts I was giving. I wish I had more time before the holidays to make a few more pairs but I'm also a fan of giving gifts at random so I might still make some anyway. 
PS, these were a great way to use up some stash scraps of yarn. I want to make a few that have thicker stripes in the near future so keep an eye out in the near future :)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Foraging and an Update

Look what I found! It's an amanita muscaria mushroom (you know, the Alice in Wonderland looking mushrooms that are such a popular icon nowadays). Amanitas have a red cap with white spots and I found this one growing a few blocks from my house. I'm no mycologist but these babies are pretty rare and I was so happy to see one!
I did pluck it out of the ground to photograph it but there were several more in the ground so don't worry. If you end up in Bellingham anytime soon, send me a message and I'll tell you where I found them.
And, since I am in the process of reading a super cool book that I want to get back to, I just wanted to post an updated picture of my brown pullover that I sewed an applique to. Eventually, I'd like to embroider something over the top, but I don't want to reveal what just in case I decide not to. Be sure to check back in within a couple of days because I've got a few projects up my sleeves I'll be writing about soon. Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Best Intentions

So, I mentioned in my last post how I wanted to blog more, right? Well, I have a really cool project that I'm working on that I wanted to share the progress photos but then I was attacked by a wine bottle opener. Yes, I seem to be unable to function sometimes and while trying to open a bottle of wine yesterday, I tore about a half inch chunk out of the finger on my right hand (probably my most used finger too!) and it bled for about twenty to 25 minutes. That puts a bit of a damper on all my plans!

Anyway, I'll just introduce you to the project for now and when my finger heals up to the point that I can actually finish it, I'll have a tutorial for you :)
This is a pretty boring sweatshirt right? I made the mistake of taking the tie out once to use for a headband and now I can no longer find it. So basically, I've got a basic brown pullover without ties and without interest.
I put the sweater on and used a washable pen to make dots so that I could determine how big I wanted the applique to be on my chest.
Then, I drew half of a heart on a folded piece of felt so that I could have a symmetrical patch to sew on. It has since been sewn on but I want to embroider something over the top of it (actually, I'll be using the crewel method but I'll talk about that more later).

And, since I can't seem to stop thinking about these puppies, I wanted to share with you another project I am going to start soon. I want to make some felted slippers out of scrap wool yarn that I have lying around. I  didn't make this particular pair but you get the idea. Mine will probably be purple since I have a whole skein of purple yarn that I dyed with koolaid years ago that never turned into anything permanent.

I hope everyone is having a good week :)

Monday, December 17, 2012


So, it has been a very busy week (hence the silence) and for very good reason... I graduated on Saturday. 
There were about 600 people graduating and the ceremony lasted about 2 hours. 
My mom struggled for 5 years to make this photo album with all the photos from when I was in grade school. Best gift ever (even if she hated doing it... she is generally the opposite of crafty). 
I'll be around more in the next few days, I promise. Bring on the real world :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sustainable Goals for 2013

Background 2
I haven't been very talkative lately because it has been a crazy week for me. I'm graduating from college on Saturday, I will work everyday this week, and I just started putting gifts together for the holidays. I'm also missing warmer weather like crazy, so I figured I'd add a photo of my tomato plants from this summer (okay, they weren't really mine. My parents grew them but I helped eat them... that counts as part ownership right?)

Because I'm looking ahead to next year and a change in the weather, I thought it would be fitting to come up with some sustainable goals that I have been thinking about.

1. Be More Pro-Active 
This one sounds sort of vague, but I have some ideas in mind about what this will look like. I lead a fairly sustainable lifestyle (although I'm no expert and I'm far from perfect!), I would like to help others, especially businesses and people make small changes that will benefit the planet. 

2. Showcase Sustainable Tutorials
I make things all the time. Literally, all the time! I want to make more tutorials because it is more my specialty and I want to be able to share my passion with others. I already have some projects lined up, if only the weather would cooperate. 

3. Blog More!
I know most bloggers probably put this one on their goals lists but I have a hard time staying consistent when I am busy. I have been volunteering more and working more lately, which means my free time has gone down. I need to plan ahead and make use out of the time that I have in order to be able to share all of my ideas and projects. 

4. Make More Recipes
I love cooking too, which is probably pretty apparent, but I usually just wing it when it comes to my recipes. I'd like to get better at putting together meals and keeping track of what I do in order to be able to share the yummy recipes I come up with. 

5. Learn How to Photograph Food 
I have a friend that will teach me how to do this so goal #5 is sort of a gimme. I would like to get better at photographing food because it definitely helps me want to cook when the photographs are beautiful. 

6. Create PDFs
I want to learn how to convert documents into PDF files so that they are easily downloadable. I'm toying with the idea of creating hand drawn tutorials and compiling them into a book. I love to draw and I don't do it enough so this could be a really fun project for me! 

Well, I'm sure I could go on all day about things I want to accomplish next year but these are the few goals I've come up with recently. Do you have any goals for next year yet?

Monday, December 10, 2012


I've been struggling this week to accomplish some of my projects because I'm fighting poor lighting, lack of internet, and failed projects. Well, not necessarily failed, just not 100% successful. On Thanksgiving, I decided to make some homemade lotion because my skin always gets dry in winter and I use lotion all the time. Store bought lotion has all kinds of chemicals in it that actually make your skin drier which is very counterproductive when you have patches that get so dry, they split and bleed. 
I did some research and found a bunch of recipes that would work well for my purposes. I decided to try making lotion with a bit of the aloe plant I've been growing since September. I gathered all of my ingredients and set to work. 
One of the challenges I faced was deciding how much of the aloe to use. I had never cut aloe fronds before but I experimented with different methods to get the pulp out. 
Cutting the edges off and sort of julienne-ing the plant worked mildly well. I discovered that you can't just slit one end open and massage the goo out, you just need to be patient and willing to get pretty sticky. 
So my hands ended up a sticky mess!
Then, since I could only find .8 oz bars of beeswax, I sort of fudged a little bit on the math and used two. I don't own a scale so getting the accurate amount of each of the ingredients was a challenge. 
After combining everything except the aloe and the essential oil, I melted everything down until it was all incorporated. 
Then, I mixed everything together in a separate bowl submerged in some cold water. The result was a mash that looks more like mashed potatoes, is very clumpy because I didn't have a useful blender, and the aloe chunks didn't really mix together that well so it's not the prettiest lotion that has ever been made.... 

But you know what? My hands have never been more soft! I'm going to keep experimenting and hoping that the days will get brighter so I can photograph all the projects I'm working on. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tip of the Week: Make a Sub-irrigation System Houseplant

For this week's Tip of the Week, I'm demonstrating how I made a miniature sub-irrigation* system house plant! It worked out really well and I was able to use up some plastic single use items that were cluttering up my house. Sub-irrigation, when it comes to house plants, is a method of watering plants where the water is delivered below the soil and the root system and transported upwards (by the roots). Here's what I did... 
1) Gather all of the supplies. You'll need scissors, a plastic container that fits reasonably well in your pot, a thrift store pot that I got for $3, some kind of tubing or straws a tad shorter than your pot, soil, and a plant that you wish to transplant. (I don't know what kind of plant it is but I got the start from a roommate. The original plant is very large and tropical looking so this pot might be a temporary house for this houseplant). 
2) Cut the rim off of the plastic container. Your container should be fairly shallow because you don't want it to fill up your entire "pot". If the plastic is too big, there won't be any room for your plant.
3) Punch some holes in the bottom of the container. I just used the scissors I used to cut off the rim of the container. You'll also want to make one big hole that you can fit your tubing/straws in.
I've got to share a quick little story with you while I'm on the subject of straws. First of all, I do not recommend purchasing brand new straws or tubing to make this project. That would defeat the purpose of using found materials. Come on, be creative! These straws, although they might look like normal stirring straws, are far from normal stirring straws. The particular drinking straws that I used have been sitting in my backpack for a few months while I pondered what to do with them. You see, I am a bit clumsy. Seriously, I'm a clumsy person. I had aforementioned backpack on and turned rather quickly, dumping all of these never been used plastic stirring straws onto the ground and rendering them 100% useless instead of 95% useless. Ugh... anyway, moral of the story is that you should use some kind of tube-cylinder shaped object that you find instead of something brand  new. 
4) I had to chop my straws down a little bit. You want to make sure they don't poke out of your pot... unless you like that sort of thing. This step is more about aesthetics than usefulness. 
Yes, I know this picture is crooked but you can't see the straws can  you?
5) Place your plastic bowl with the straws into the bottom of your pot. Fill with soil until it almost reaches the top of the straws. 
6) Finally, place your plant in the soil and pour water through the straws into the bottom of the pot. I'll keep you posted about how this plant develops. I might be switching out this cutting for a plant that requires a little less space. Good luck on your sub-irrigation system! 
*Sub-irrigation is sometimes called self-watering which is a misnomer because the pot and plant do not have the ability to water themselves. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Arugula: Harvesting and Saving Seeds

When I moved into my current house, I noticed there was a big patch of leafy green stuff that I assumed were weeds growing next to the shed where we keep our bikes. One day, I noticed one of the girls in her pajamas with a bowl and some boots hunched over this patch of "weeds". Upon her return to the kitchen, I asked her what she was doing... lo and behold, there is a mini salad garden in front of the shed back there! 
Meet arugula. I started doing some research and discovered that you can save the seeds from arugula and propagate them next year. They last up to four years if harvested correctly and provide a healthy, slightly spicy and sometimes bitter taste to the dish you add it to. I am a huge fan of eating a bed of arugula with my egg sandwiches in the morning, usually with a little bit of hummus or cheese from the food bank depending on the week. 
Look at how beautiful it is! Do you see those skinny little bods on the right hand side of the photo? Those are the arugula seed pods. These ones are too green to harvest but I waited very patiently until the time came. 
In the meantime, I enjoyed the pretty flowers that they produced and the yummy leaves in my breakfast. 
Finally, this afternoon I went outside to collect some of the pods. I'll share with you more about what I found during my research, but I learned some things that might be helpful for anyone else wanting to harvest arugula. 
1. The seeds are tiny! Make sure you have a work surface that is clean and clear, somewhere you will be able to find the little seeds that you will probably drop. I was doing this over my carpet and guess what? That's right, I lost a few seeds because of my lack of foresight. 
2. The seeds need to dry out on the plant because once the pods are plucked, they do not continue to dry out. The pod on the left is the right color and produced seeds that were dark to light brown and were very easy to open (in fact, they broke open very easily which is part of why arugula can be a little tricky to harvest. You have to let them dry enough on the stem but you can't let them wait otherwise the pod gets too dry and bursts open). The pod on the right is too green and the seeds inside were also green. 

3. The seeds from the photo above are from about 10-15 pods. I will continue to report back about my findings next year when it is time to grow them again (I'll make sure to keep documenting my progress for those of you that are interested). I'm going to let them sit in the bowl for a couple days just to ensure there is no moisture on the seeds and then I'll make a little envelope out of a brown paper bag. I have no idea how many plants these seeds will produce. It's definitely going to be a learning experience for me!

Finally, if you'd like the resources that I found, click on the links below. Do you save any seeds?
Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook
Seed Saving by growingyourgreens

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Low Tech Machines: Un-Knitting is Knotty Too

I meant to post this yesterday but what better way to celebrate the first day of December than to stumble upon an awesome new machine. I shared with you in this post  that I love to recycle store bought sweaters, but this machine turns it into a much more efficient process. The teapot is used to steam the yarn, removing any kinks in it before it is wound onto the ferris wheel. After that, the ball is wound using a ball winder into a center pull cake. How awesome would it be to have one of these? I could unravel a sweater in a few short sittings and get exercise while doing it! I'm off to go hunt through the garage to see if it might be possible to make one of these bad boys!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tip of the Week: READ ALL THE THINGS!

The wintry weather coupled with my bizarre work schedule means that I have been reading quite a bit these days! I absolutely love to read and when I found two of these books, I could not put them down. Here's what I've been reading:
A few months ago, I was researching sustainability blogs in order to begin work on my own blog and I found this one. Colin Beavan is an inspiration to me because he attempted something really radical and shared it with others because he felt so strongly about how our society needs to change. The book itself is very though provoking and discusses some of the tricky parts about global warming, including how playing the blame game isn't helpful. I watched the documentary as well and am following his blog. I have definitely got some ideas about how I can lighten my impact on the planet from his book. Plus, it's pretty funny!

Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen is basically a manual of how I want to live my life. It's all about how to create a homestead while living in an environment that doesn't have 100 acres, cows, farm equipment or a nearby fresh water source. It's got tons of tutorials about how to can food, make your own cheese, sourdough bread, how to compost and set up a worm compost bin (I'm seriously considering trying this even though we have a compost pile already!), how to fix a bike, and tons more. I haven't read the whole book yet but I will probably be using this one for years and years to come! 

These are the only two books I'm reading right now but I have a long book list that contains similar titles. Being informed is so important if you want to make any kind of difference. The first step towards being more sustainable isn't using reusable bags, isn't changing your light bulbs, isn't feeling guilty about all the things that you aren't doing or can't do. The first step is knowing what is happening, what other people are doing to help fix the health of the planet, and then decide what changes and additions you can make to your lifestyle in order to do some good. Every little bit helps :) What are you reading?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Easy and Free Knitting Patterns: Lace Hat

It's time for another free pattern! I debated whether or not I wanted to share this one but it's so darn fun that I couldn't keep it from you.  This pattern, which I call Janet, is a reference to my Grandma Janet who is the one who taught me how to knit (Hi Grandma!). When I first started knitting, there were so many dropped stitches, you'd think I was attempting to knit lace. Eventually, with a lot of patience, the best knitting reference guide ever, and a lot of repetition from my grandma, I finally mastered knitting. Now, somewhere between 8 and 12 years later (none of us can remember when I started knitting because I've been doing it so long), I am designing my own patterns and sharing them with you. It feels so good to have come this far :)
Anyway, as usual with knitting, nothing really ever turns out exactly how you want it. I thought to myself "Self, I'm going to make a raspberry beret like in that Prince song. Hey, Self, I can use the scrap yarn that I got from my fiber teacher last year that just happens to be raspberry." Well, that didn't exactly turn out because I ran out of yarn (GASP!). If you're a knitter and you knit with scrap yarn, you know how frustrating it can be to get full swing into a project and not be able to finish. Instead of giving up, I decided to embrace the color block trend that is going on right now (not that I'm very trendy... I buy everything at Goodwill remember?). I grabbed another hunk of scrap yarn that I got from the same fiber teacher and Voila! Janet was born (the lace hat, not my grandma!)
Janet Hat
Yarn: I used some scrap yarn that I had lying around in my stash. It appears to be worsted but in order to be positive, make sure you make a gauge swatch!
Needles: US Size 7 double pointed needles or appropriate needles to obtain gauge
Gauge: 21 stitches and 36 rows equals 4" in stockinette stitch, 22 stitches and 32 rows equals 4" in lace pattern.
Note: It is less important to achieve row gauge for this project because it is based on measurements. If you are a row or two off for the row gauge but are able to achieve stitch gauge, that should be fine.
Lace Pattern: 
Round 1: (yo, ssk) around 
Round 2: knit every stitch

Cast on 100 stitches onto 4 double pointed needles, place a stitch marker at end of round or keep track of the beginning and end of the round. 
Knit 9 rounds, purl 1 round, knit 9 rounds.
Now what you're going to do is fold the cast on edge backward at the purl row so that the knit side is facing out. Pick up the first stitch from the cast on edge and knit it together with the first live stitch on the needle. Continue all the way around.  I'll be making a photo tutorial of how to do this later in the week which I will link back to. 
Next round: (knit 4 stitches, knit into the front and back of the next stitch) repeat around. 120 stitches. 
Purl 1 round
Begin Lace Pattern. Continue in pattern until piece measures 7-8 inches (mine is 7.75 inches to be exact). 
Decrease Section: 
Round 1: (ssk, yo, ssk) repeat around (90 stitches)
Round 2 and every even round: knit every stitch
Round 3: (yo, sl1k2togpsso) around (60 stitches)
Round 5: Repeat Round 1 (45 stitches)
Round 7: Repeat Round 3 (30 stitches)
Round 9: Repeat Round 1 until last two stitches, ssk (22 stitches)
Round 11: Repeat Round 3 until last four stitches, yo, sl1k3togpsso (14 stitches)
Cut yarn, leaving a 3 inch tail. With a tapestry needle, thread tail through every stitch. Pull tight and weave in end. 

Note: There is no right or wrong way to make the color block happen. I decided to change yarns when I ran out of one color. You can use lots of scraps and make a hat with multiple thick stripes, you can knit the hat in all one color, or you can knit a hat with only two colors like I did. The possibilities are endless!