favourite things friday

Here are my fabulous finds this week — I hope you enjoy them too!

 

Got a stray sock? Or a sock with holes in the heel? Make some baby socks! Now I just have to find a baby to wear them… Simply genius idea from Made by Joel.

 

It is absolutely worth the money to buy this pattern, if you and your family like to wear flip flops — it comes in size 3–10, good for both indoors and outdoors! Makes fantastic gifts for birthdays in the summer, I think! Pattern for sale at EASY.

 

More crepe paper awesomeness! The tutorial calls for crepe paper in sheets, but I wonder if streamers would work. Hmm. Crepe paper flower tutorial from How About Orange.

 

I love this idea from Make and Takes to encourage optimism in the family. One person writes in a journal 3 things that made him/her happy that day, then put the journal on someone else’s bed to write the next day. I suppose one could also write about things that one is thankful for, to treat the grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side syndrome. Or write about things that give us hope, in times of change and challenge. It’s fun to do when there are several of people (especially kids) in the household. But I can also see it being a great journaling practice. Don’t have a journal handy? Make one with scrap paper! :D

 

But when it’s hard to express in words, try saying it in llama. Because llama makes everything better. Just watch. Not convinced? Read these examples. Now go ahead, say it in llama, save, and share. (via Swissmiss)

 

On the other hand, if you have something really nice to say to someone, this cute dictation pouch would do a fabulous good job. Tutorial by The Long Thread.

 

Perfect for weekend brunch! Bunny fold for napkins, instruction on the Martha Stewart website.

 

Also made with a rectangular piece of fabric — a simple, breezy summer blouse. Free pattern on Grosgrain.

 

This is just brilliant! A theatre made of a matchbox, and characters made of rocks! Not only that, but the rocks are moved by magnets on a popsicle stick, and the scenes are replaceable (even has a piece of ribbon at the bottom for easy removal). Such an awesome idea, generously shared on Coloured Buttons.

 

I have been wanting some air plants for a while… I think they’re just fascinating. And I think these terrariums are just the perfect way to display an air plant. How-to on Ruffled.

 

What’s better than an extra whip green tea latte? (or any hot drink of your choice — GTL is just my favourite) An extra whip green tea latte with a colourful knitted cup sleeve! These are by far the most elaborate coffee sleeves I’ve seen. Pattern by Ohdessa Knits.

 

Coconut ice! These look so delicious, and are surprisingly simple to make! Though the original recipe calls for dessicated coconut, I’m guessing regular shredded coconut would do (I will test it out and report back — stay tuned!). (via Mini-Eco)

 

I’m not a fan of olive, but these would be a hit at any party for sure! How-to on The Hairpin.

Happy crafting! :D

 

another rainy day at the print shop

 

Print shop à la mudpie, that is. It’s an experiment. And it’s perfectly acceptable to print in flannel pants.

Unlike the Mackenzie’s print shop, there are no machines here. No press. Just me, some cut-up plastic bags, some torn up Styrofoam trays (washed and sanitized), some cardboards, and the trusty PVA glue.

 

I was hoping to make a background for the plarn betta fish, and what would be better than making it with plastic bags? :D I’ve printed with bags before, at school, on a press. Actually, printing with found materials (i.e. things that people consider trash, like plastic bags, bread tags, and pop tabs) was my favourite thing to do in printmaking class.

I don’t have any of that equipment at home, but I do have a plan. I started by cutting up the bags and gluing them onto a piece of cardboard. That’s plate #1.

For plate #2, I tore up Styrofoam trays (again, washed and sanitized) and glued them onto another piece of cardboard, to resemble river stones.

 

I don’t have block printing ink, but I thought acrylic would be fine. I brushed it on so it can get into all the crevices.

 

I always like the test prints on newsprint the best. The feathery details were mesmerizing, like frost.

However, this makes too busy of a background for the delicate plarn fish. So I sprayed water on it to disperse the paint a bit before it dries. But then I got carried away and it got too wet. So rather than patiently wait for it to dry, I laid another piece of paper on it, hoping that if it doesn’t make a half-interesting print, it would at least soak up the watery mess. Kind of like a ghost print, and out came this…

Isn’t that so lovely? Well, at least I think so. Has a kind of smoky quality to it. Reminds me of aquatint

The layered prints didn’t come out so great. But I did salvage this one after reworking it several times.

I’m not in love with it. I thought it needed some red. So when it was all dried I added some watercolour…

Like leaves carried by the current or a school of fish. Still not liking it too much, to be honest, but I think it’s looking a bit better.

I ended up printing the background for the fish on a piece of canvas.

 

I trimmed it a bit, pinned on the fish (so I can move them to a new background if I ever want to), and hot glued a strip of cardboard on the back so it can stick on the mirror (because one large wall in our apartment is a mirror, and we’ve run out of regular wall space).

 

Ta-da!

I hope they’re happy in their new habitat.

A couple of things I learned from printing with recycled materials:

1) Must invest in block printing ink! I keep putting it off, but acrylic is really too runny for printing.

2) Styrofoam does not stick to white glue! The pieces kept falling off when I rolled paint on it. Next time I’ll use the glue gun.

 

Will definitely try doing this again. Thank you so much for stopping by!

quest for the perfect slouch hat

The weather is getting a bit too warm for my thick, crocheted-with-two-strands-of-yarn-held-together hat. Even my crocheted slouch hat feels like a bit of an overkill. Perhaps it’s best to leave crocheted headgear for the winter. So I just stopped wearing hats whenever I go out.

But one grey, sunless day, after standing in a windy playground for half an hour, and realizing that there are still 20 more minutes to go before the end of my recess duty, I wished I were one of the kids runny around and around the sandbox. Yes, I may look silly, but at least I’d be warm. Or, better yet, I wish I had a hat. Then I’d look warm and stylish. Plus, they say we lose heat through the top of our heads (but apparently that’s a myth).

Losing heat or not, a lighter hat is needed for the rainy, grey, spring season (OK, I’ll be honest. I just like hats). Then one day, we were at a tea shop and I saw a guy working behind the counter wearing a green hat, like a regular toque, with just a bit of slouch to make it look stylish. I loved the simplicity of it. That was the perfect hat.

And if I see something I like, I’ve got to make it.

There was a problem, however: I don’t know how to knit in rounds with double-pointed needles. Plus, I only have one pair of needles for each size, which means that I don’t have enough needles to knit in rounds.

No problem, I will knit the pattern flat, then seam it together. It’s not going to look as good but I’m OK with a bit of flaw.

So I first tried this pattern from Sarah Bear Crafts via Ravelry. It looks like it has the tiny bit of slouch that I wanted and seemed simple enough.

I’m not very familiar with knitting, and so it wasn’t until row 4 or 5 that I realized when one knits in rounds, there are no purl rows. But I was knitting back and front, so I tried to figure out what to do on the purl rows with the ribbing pattern. And I wasn’t good enough in knitting to figure that out, so after casting on and ripping out 3 or 4 times I had to abandon the project and miss out on a great hat :(

So then I found the Rikke hat pattern on Happy Knits, also via Ravelry. Entire hat is made of garter stitch. I can handle garter stitch. It doesn’t look very slouchy in the picture, so I was really surprised when I tried it on…

If I had knitted it in white, I would look like a Smurf. And that wouldn’t be half bad, wouldn’t it? But I just can’t see myself wearing that to work. I don’t think it was the pattern’s fault. Perhaps I have a smaller than average head. Perhaps it was the yarn substitution and my faulty calculation. Even though I decreased the number of stitches all around it was still too big.

So! I took it apart and tried again with a lighter yarn. I also made it 2.5 inches shorter than the pattern. And it worked out just the way I wanted :D (Isn’t it a great feeling when that happens with knitting? I guess it’s such a big deal for me because I’m not very good at checking gauge. And unlike crocheting, one can’t take the stitches off the needle and try it on along the way.)

Here it is from the side…

 

And here it is from the front :D

Yes, I’m just that happy about a new hat :P

(The truth is that I’ve taken way too many pictures of myself, trying to frame it properly while keeping a straight face, and in the one before this for some reason I looked shocked and scared and mad altogether. I looked so ridiculous it was hilarious. So this is more about me laughing at myself. Makes a pretty candid shot though!)

And let me show you a close up of this yarn, with the different colours in it. I believe it’s DK or sport weight. It was given to me without a label.

 

I wore it out today. It’s very light and doesn’t give me hat hair. It’s perfect for spring :D

Cheers!

Easter dough fun!

Busy hands at my mom’s “dough fun” booth for the kids! It was part of her Christian community outreach group’s Easter program at a Chinese mall, along with other game booths, the telling of the Easter story, free blood pressure measuring (a big hit with the seniors), dance and choir performances, and Chinese opera singing.

The night before we made 8 batches of dough in total, each the size of a small cantaloupe. My mom cooked some batches using this recipe, while Mike and I made some using the uncooked recipe.

And from this frenzy of dough-making I learned that:

1. Never wrap cooked dough in plastic wrap! Just put them in an air tight container, and only do that after it’s cooled. Of course, I found that out the hard way. 4 batches of cooked dough turned into paste the next day. Utterly formless, sticky, mushy paste. It took 2 full bags of rice flour (because the Chinese grocery store near the mall didn’t sell all purpose flour) and 2 hours of kneading one fistful of dough at a time to undo the damage.

2. Always add less water than called for initially. Especially with recipes that also call for oil and food colouring. I found that any extra liquid would make the dough too wet and sticky. One could always add more water if the dough seems dry and flaky.

Though not without stress, the day was fun! I made some samples before the kids arrived. Like this caterpillar here, with red bean eyes. (As a last-minute solution for “what if the kids make animals and they want to add some eyes?” my mom brought in some red beans from her pantry.)

With those huge eyes it kind of reminds me of the giant caterpillar in Miyazaki’s Valley of the Wind.

The volunteers and the mothers of the kids who stopped by also made some really nice roses!

Dough flower is actually a kind of traditional Chinese handicraft, using wheat flour or rice flour and sugar, and are served as desserts. And then there’s a modern craft technique for making flowers and miniatures using a special kind of synthetic clay. It’s called clay flower in English but its direct translation from Chinese is “flour flower” (punny!), which makes me think that the synthetic clay craft is a direct decedent of the traditional dough flower craft. It appears to be quite popular in Chinese community, with lots of classes being offered at community/cultural centres, and the volunteers and mothers were chatting about the “flour flower” technique while making roses at the booth.

And so lots of kids wanted to make flowers. One of the girls was making a bouquet with different flowers, and requested calla lilies, so I tried to make some. Just a toothpick wrapped in a bit of yellow dough at the top, and then wrapped in a thin, circular piece of dough. Of course, our salt dough flowers seemed pretty crude compared to the traditional dough flowers and the modern “flour flower”, but it was fun nonetheless :D

I also made a bird. Only as a sample in the beginning, but I liked it a lot, so I finished it with a coat of varnish and hot-glued a pin on the back.

I love its toothpick legs! :D It’s found a home in the type case when it’s not pinned to my shirt.

Have a fantastic start to the week, everyone!

 

favourite things friday

Spring has gone missing in our neighourhood. There was a blizzard on Monday, the temperature continues to stay below 10°c, and the wind is bitter. But that won’t dampen my crafty spirit! Here’s a whole slew of cheerful spring projects (and other cool things too!) for all to enjoy :D

 

Absolutely stunning flower baskets. More stunning is the fact that these are made of the humble, disposable coffee filters! Wouldn’t they make gorgeous center pieces or decorations at a wedding, holding small cookies or candy or favours? How-to on Aunt Peaches.

 

I love the one with fern pattern. Botanical wall decor tutorial by David Stark on Design Sponge.

 

This is brilliant — a lily brooch made of children’s handprint! Perfect Mother’s Day present collaboration for nieces, nephews and a crafty aunt :D How-to on Wild Olive.

 

A free pattern from Mochi Mochi! Tiny bunnies are perfect for carrying around in one’s pocket :D

 

I love that these chicks are made of egg cartons. So very adorable, AND they can hold candy inside! They’d make great party favours any time of the year. From Paper, Plate, and Plane.

 

More egg carton chicks, and bunny too! This time with the Styrofoam variety, no painting required. I think they would also make really cute chubby bird ornaments :D From Simple as That.

 

So we make plenty of things with egg cartons, what about the eggs? Meyamo has a tutorial on how to make fruit and vegetable based paint for decorating eggs. It’s fascinating, and edible! (scroll down to see tutorial)

 

I have a pile of notes, reminders, receipts, coupons and other random pieces of paper strewn all over my desk at the moment, and I’ve been looking for a magnetic message board for a long time, this might be the perfect thing! Have to keep an eye out for metal serving trays next time I’m at the thrift store. Tutorial on Sparkle Power.

 

This caught my attention because my mom recently gave me a large bag of crocheted doilies. Though the doilies I have are really small. But I might be able to combine a few to make one sleeve. How-to by Jessica Wilson on Craftzine.

 

Not trying to get ahead of myself — spring is barely here — but wouldn’t this be so perfect for those scorching hot sunny days? I just love the simplicity of it. Silk shirt refashion on One Pearl Button.

 

This made me smile. I mean physically. But I can type it out too :) Signs jewlery by Chao and Eero. (Via Inspire Me Now)

 

And finally, I end with this, from Shanna Murray, a decal for sale to support Japan, with a quote by Mother Teresa.

 

And today, being Good Friday, I’m reflecting on the great love that is the root of Easter.

Peace, love, and warm wishes to you and yours. Happy Easter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

toppers!

Yay for custom orders! :D

 

You may have noticed that my mushroom friends have appeared on the Etsy badge over on the right sidebar- they’re a custom order for a very creative bride-to-be :D And they’re going to be cake toppers, along with other creations that the bride is going to make! I can’t wait to see what the finished cake topper (and the cake!) looks like :D

They may look plushy, but they’re actually pretty hardcore.

Well, that’s what a mushroom’s gotta do when it’s going to be on its feet (foot?) all day! Yes, inside the mushroom stems are screws, and washers at the bottom, so that they could stand on their own without tipping over.

I also added gills…

 

And one mushroom has sparkly sequins atop its head…

 

I love custom orders. I love hearing the stories behind the orders and I feel so honoured that my plush friends can be part of the story. And I’m just so excited that the snow mushrooms are going to be a part of a wedding! The original snow mushrooms appear on snow days to spread holiday cheers. I’ve asked these special topper mushrooms to spread wedding cheers and well wishes at the reception; I think they will do a good job :D

If you have something in mind that I may be able to make for you, feel free to visit my shop or contact me, I’d love to chat!

Have a lovely Wednesday!

go Plarny!

 

I spy… with my little eyes… something white, with orange spots… and a long tail… and fins…

It’s my plarn betta! On Instructables’ homepage! :D Well, sort of. One has to go to page 2 of editor’s pick in the “Living” section. But yes! Plarny is on the front page! :D

I wrote an Instructable for the plarn betta mainly because I felt bad about not contributing anything since I signed up to enter the Critter Contest (for which I entered Marshie the Monstermallow). That was about a year ago.

So I thought plarn betta would be a pretty easy and quick Instructable to write (it’s pretty much the same as the blog post). Did not expect people to like it so much. It’s really a rather simple idea. You can visit Plarny on Instructables here. And if you’re a “pro” member you can even download all the steps in one handy PDF!

Thank you for stopping by! And thank you so much for all your comments and sharing of creative ideas for the plarn betta! They really made my day :D and given me some ideas for what to make with plarn next… hmm.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

rainy day at the print shop

We visited the Mackenzie House on the weekend. Nestled between office buildings, right around the corner from the busiest intersection and shopping mall and flashing billboards is this small museum, former home of the first mayor of Toronto. Entering the historic home is like travelling back through time and walking into a completely different world — one of the things I find so incredible about the city.

We wanted to visit the home of William Lyon Mackenzie mainly because of the museum’s period print shop, with Mike’s passion being typography, and mine being printmaking (though, unlike Mike, who’s expert at typography, my printmaking skills are mediocre at best. But that doesn’t stop me from loving it!). There’s a print shop in the museum because Mackenzie, besides being the first mayor of the city and leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion, was also a newspaper editor.

We had the chance to print our names on the beautiful 1845 printing press, which was in excellent condition and amazingly easy to operate. The museum staff who was demonstrating the printing helped us set our names into the plate. She said this plate could have been used as a book cover in its time.

 

The smell of lithography ink… sigh.

 

Moment of truth!

 

There was this lovely cast iron cage-like container holding a ball of cotton twine. I think I can really use one of these with my balls of yarn at home.

 

Our prints were later given to us rolled and tied up with string. That made my day.

 

This quote made me smile.

 

Mackenzie’s office, where he wrote the articles for his newspaper, I imagine. And look! A map of the city. Legend has it that the Mackenzie house is haunted by Mackenzie himself, and he was heard working at his printing press, and flushing toilets.

 

So, I was curious, and a quick Google search yielded an interesting article about the Mackenzie House Legend, in which a long-time employee revealed that (dun dun dun!) “in about 1960 the house had very low attendance. It wasn’t until the house was in dire financial straits that the stories of the ghosts first started.” Another volunteer chuckled, “People said they could hear ghosts using the printing press—but it’s a completely silent machine. And flushing toilets? The Mackenzies didn’t have a toilet. How would they know how to use one?”

Anyway. I’m not one to easily believe in ghost stories, but I do like to look at old things and imagine how people used these things in the past and what their lives were like. I guess that’s why I was particularly drawn to the kitchen, where the family spent most of their time. And I wonder why we don’t have beautiful gas lamp like this anymore.

 

Found a bit of knitting on the windowsill :D

 

This is, in the tour guide’s words, a “full Victorian pantry”.

 

I really like this shelf.

 

I like visiting small museums like this one. It only takes several hours to see, so I can still have the rest of the day to catch up on housework or meet up with friends or whatever. And unlike the large national museums the small ones are usually not very busy, but are really well-staffed with knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guides and volunteers. I’d love to be a museum volunteer, so that I can dress up in period clothing. But I don’t think that I would be very convincing, because a) I know nearly nothing about Canadian history, and b) I’m Asian, I doubt that I’d look very convincing as a pioneer in Canada. Anyway, we do plan on visiting more of the local museums whenever we have the chance this spring and summer.

Wouldn’t it start to get expensive?” you might ask. Well, yes, most museums in the city charge a fee, and they do add up. But if one lives in Toronto, one could actually get free museum passes with a Toronto Public Library card. A lot of people I talked to didn’t know about this, so I thought I would mention it here. One pass covers up to two adults and four children! Definitely a great idea for a family day trip! Another reason to love the library! :D

Thank you for stopping by! Have a terrific Monday!