Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas November 2017: Quick Knits

Posted on November 25, 2017 By

Knit & Crochet Patterns

Bronwyn the Brave Designs

It’s time for the final push! We only have one month until Christmas! Can you believe it?

Every time I write about a new craft I’ve made, I feel a slight pang of guilt. I’ve always dabbled in all sorts of crafts, so it’s not like I’m a monogamous crafter or anything. Knitting is my main squeeze, though, so that is my go-to when I want to make a handmade gift. But wait a second. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to blog about knitting in, say, June when we still had several months ahead of us? Well, my favorite things to knit are accessories because they are quick and make a big impact with only a small amount of time and effort. I’m a procrastinator, and I know many of you are, too, so quick and easy are key features when you’re on a deadline.

[It just occurred to me that knitting is a little like childbirth. Yeah, of course, you created this thing of beauty and the knitting project is your baby and all that, but I’m thinking about the effort you put in. You always hear moms bragging about how many hours they labored. It seems like the most dramatic stories come at the extremes: “I pushed for FOUR hours!” but also, “I only pushed for 22 MINUTES! I guess he was in a hurry.” (True story. 22 minutes for me. Not bragging at all.) So when it comes to knitting, we’re especially proud when we finally complete a sweater or afghan that took 2 years to complete but also when we whip up a cowl in only a few hours. Or is it just me?]

Anyway, because I like to knit small, quick projects, I like to design those types of projects. Most of my patterns can be knit with a short deadline. In fact, you could definitely make several in a month’s time. In particular, I knit two cowls, Valor and Windswept Forest, at two different Knitting Pipeline retreats–evidence that I could knit and talk at the same time. I was also crazy enough to knit a Jett the Octopus for each kid in my son’s Kindergarten class–22 of them in about two weeks.

Valor Cowl

Windswept Forest cowl

Windswept Forest

Jett the Octopus

 

If the promise of a quick and easy project isn’t incentive enough, how about a discount? From now until Christmas, when you purchase two or more patterns from my Ravelry store, you’ll save 20%. No coupon is necessary. And be sure to snap some photos before you give away your gifts. Create a project page on Ravelry so others can see your work. If you’re on Instagram, tag me (bronwyndp) and use #bronwynthebrave and/or #bronwynshandmadechristmas.

Shop now!

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Sashiko-Embroidered Tea Towels: Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas October 2017

Posted on October 25, 2017 By

Sashiko Embroidered Towels

Sashiko-Embroidered Towels

When I was in junior high and high school, I did a lot of counted cross-stitch, but I didn’t do much straight-up embroidery. I haven’t done much needlework (aside from knitting and crochet) since then. Over the past few years, my Pinterest feed has been full of beautiful embroidery. The designs range from cute to fanciful, traditional to modern. I’ve been pinning the gamut with hopes of picking up needle and floss again one day. Lately, I’ve been especially drawn to the Japanese folk embroidery technique called sashiko.

Traditional sashiko calls for white cotton thread on indigo-dyed cloth, but modern applications can be found in other colors. Literally “little stabs,” sashiko stitching is made by a basic running stitch. You might be used to using an embroidery hoop, but being able to scrunch the fabric and take several running stitches at a time is easier without the hoop. This keeps lines straighter and is less taxing on your arm and shoulder.

Three things to keep in mind as you work through a sashiko pattern:

  1. The stitches on the front should be the same length, of course, but the stitches on the back should be one-half to one-third the length of the stitches on the front.
  2. At the intersection of lines, instead of working into the center, the stitches should all meet equidistantly from the crosspoint. However, when lines turn at a sharp angle, a stitch should be made directly into the corner to maintain the sharp angle rather than a curved corner. This website is much better at showing what I’m describing poorly.
  3. Think outside the box. Even though my pattern has a strong circle design, I didn’t stitch circle after circle. Try to stitch the straightest, longest lines to minimize backtracking, knots, and puckering.
Sashiko Embroidered Towel

Sashiko Embroidered Towel

My first sashiko project is not necessarily a great example of proper technique, but this is folk embroidery, right? I think the overall look is really cool.

Materials

Sashiko pattern (I found a design I liked the look of, but I couldn’t find an actual working download. I ended up creating my own pattern in Microsoft Word based on it. It’s simple, but you’re welcome to use it yourself. Find it here.)

Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy (also known as Sulky Stick ‘n Stitch) self-adhesive water-soluble fabric stabilizer

Cotton or linen tea towel, washed and pressed

Sashiko or regular embroidery needle

White cotton sashiko thread or embroidery floss (This tea towel used just over one full skein of DMC floss.)

Thimble or bandages (I used bandages on my thumb and middle finger because I didn’t have thimbles. I found some silicone needle pullers that helped me grip the needle, but I still needed the bandages underneath to push the needle through the fabric.)

Scissors

Instructions

Print the sashiko pattern onto the fabric side of the Sticky Fabri-Solvy. With this stabilizer, what you see is what you stitch, so if your pattern is an obvious mirror image, you’ll want to flip it in an editing program before printing. If you’re using my pattern, cut it in half and test the position and length by overlapping the two sections, rotating if necessary to create a continuous pattern across the end of the towel. Peel back the paper from the sticky printed fabric and adhere it directly to the right side of the towel. (If you don’t want to use this adhesive stabilizer, using carbon paper or tracing the pattern with a lightbox will work, too.)

Sticky Fabri-Solvy Dissolving

Sticky Fabri-Solvy Dissolving

Here’s a good photo tutorial for the actual stitching part. And another that shows how to stitch the straightest, longest lines.

Once all the stitching is complete, soak the towel in a bowl of water for a few minutes. The stabilizer dissolves rather quickly. You may need to gently rub a few stubborn spots to speed things along. Then wash and dry the towel as you normally would.

If sashiko isn’t for you, maybe you can try another style of embroidery. Or, add a crocheted or knitted edging. Here’s a photo of a towel that I made a few years ago as a sample for my “crochet for knitters” class. I used cotton fingering yarn (I imagine washable wool sock yarn would work, too.) and crocheted the edging before attaching it to the towel. I’m always happy when this one reaches the top of the stack in the dish towel rotation. I’m sure the recipient of any hand-embellished tea towel will be just as thrilled.

Towel with crochet edging

We only have 2 months to go until Christmas! Post your own Handmade Christmas photos on Instagram and tag me! I’m bronwyndp. I’m always looking for new ideas and would love to see your projects!

 

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Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas September 2017: Essential Oil-Diffusing Bracelets

Posted on September 25, 2017 By

Essential oil-diffusing braceletSo many people swear by essential oils nowadays, so I think this month’s Handmade Christmas gift idea is perfect. Make one of these bracelets for the friend who loves her oils and another for the friend who could use a boost but hasn’t tried oils yet. I made this first bracelet for a friend who has been struggling with hormonal emotions. We’d been talking about essential oils, and she said that she hasn’t remembered to use them lately. I thought this might help. The key is using a few lava beads that absorb the essential oil and diffuse the scent throughout the day.

When it comes to beads, it can be rather overwhelming. I wasn’t sure what size to get, so I used a beaded bracelet from my jewelry box as a guide and decided that I wanted 6 mm beads. With a basic knowledge of gemstones, I searched Amazon for beads I liked. (I think I searched for “6 mm (and also 6mm) beads for jewelry making.”) I had seen black lava beads before, but I found these lava beads in a pastel rainbow and thought they were too pretty to pass up. For the main beads, I chose three strands to mix and match: red and gray jasper, pinkish moonstone, and gray-green agate, all with a matte finish. Of course, the photos are representative of what you’ll actually get, so it’s a bit of a gamble. I also picked up a spool of Crystal String elastic beading thread. (Update: I don’t recommend this string. The lava beads shredded the string too quickly. Something like this might work better.)

Diffuser Bracelet Supplies

To string my beads onto the elastic, I dipped into my stash of Oral-B Superfloss that I use for adding beads to my knitting. You could use a beading needle, fine-gauge wire, or even stiff thread. First, I strung a somewhat random mix of beads onto the floss. I guessed that my friend’s wrist was a little bigger than mine, maybe around 7”. I used 28 gemstone beads and 3 lava beads. I debated whether to string the lava beads next to one another or to space them out. I ended up spacing them out.

One end of the floss is a bit rigid, so it passes through the beads easily. Once I’d strung all the beads onto the floss, I slipped the stiff end of the floss back through the nearest beads, leaving a small loop. I caught the end of the Crystal String in the loop and transferred the beads over the loop and onto the elastic. After double-checking the length against my own wrist, I tied a couple of surgeon’s knots and was done. This video made me feel confident that the knot in the elastic wouldn’t fail. I didn’t even use glue.

Essential Oil-Diffusing Bracelet

To use the bracelet, add a drop of your favorite essential oil to each bead and let it soak in. Wear the bracelet and let the scent envelop you. Sniff your wrist when you need an extra boost. Refresh the oil as needed. Keep in mind that some oils may irritate the skin if applied straight from the bottle. Use proper dilution in a carrier oil if necessary.

This project is so quick and easy and sure to please any gal pal. I’d love to see your Handmade Christmas gifts! Tag me on Instagram. I’m bronwyndp!

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Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas August 2017: Yarn Ball Ornaments

Posted on August 25, 2017 By

Yarn Ball Ornament
Yarn Ball Ornament

Yarn Ball Ornament

We only have four months until the big day. Do you have your handmade gift ideas lined up? Today’s craft is a quick and easy one: yarn ball ornaments. We all know and love the look of the iconic yarn ball: you know, the kittens-with-mittens type of yarn ball. Well, now we can share our love of fiber with others at Christmastime.

I imagine we’ve all wound our yarn scraps into neat little balls at one time or another. These ornaments begin with tiny styrofoam balls as the base (so as not to waste yarn and to also lighten up the overall weight). The styrofoam is also a little “grabby,” making it easier to start wrapping. Neatly wind yarn around the ball, changing directions after five or six wraps, until all of the styrofoam is hidden. Snip the yarn and weave in the end several times using a crochet hook or tapestry needle. If you’re having trouble keeping the yarn in place, a dab of low-temp hot glue will also work. Depending on your color combination, make six or seven yarn balls. (*See note below.)

Steps for making a yarn ball ornament

Weave in ends, cut length of yarn, string them together

Cut a length of coordinating yarn long enough to thread through all the balls plus enough to tie as a hanger. Thread this yarn onto a straight tapestry needle. Pierce each yarn ball through the center and string along in proper color order. Knot the two ends together between the first and last yarn balls. Hold both ends of the yarn together and tie again 3-4″ away to make a hanger. *For mine, I used only two colors and alternated them. I needed to use an even number of balls (I used six.) in order to maintain the pattern. When I strung them, it took some coaxing to get them to stay in a circle rather than a long rectangle. I solved this by tying the ring very tightly.

Of course, the best part of the ornament is the tiny pair of needles. Round toothpicks happen to be nicely in scale with these balls of yarn. Simply slide two toothpicks under a few strands of yarn on one of the balls.

Materials

Yarn Ball Ornament Materials

Yarn Ball Ornament Materials

  • Mini skeins or scraps of yarn (I used these tiny skeins that I bought as an Amazon Lightning Deal. Lion Brand Bonbons come in color themes and would also work well.)
  • 1″ (2.5 cm) styrofoam balls
  • Round toothpicks
  • Straight tapestry needle
  • Scissors
  • Crochet hook (optional)
  • Low-temp hot glue (optional)

I got my inspiration from this class on Creativebug: Stash-Busting Ornaments.

Other fun ideas that use yarn balls: wreaths and single-ball ornaments.

I’m always on the lookout for new and creative projects. If you have a cool idea you’d like to share, please send it my way!

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Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas in July 2017: Etched Glass Casserole Dishes

Posted on July 25, 2017 By

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this month’s project–etched glass baking dishes. I have wanted to make these for years, and I’m thrilled with how mine turned out!

No one can claim my pan now!

If you’ve ever left your casserole dish at a potluck, you know that getting it back may or may not happen. Even if you do get a pan back, it might not be the same one you brought in. Sure, you can label it with masking tape or an address label, but those can wash off. Etching is permanent and dishwasher safe. (Family potlucks might be a little tricky if everyone has the same last name. If you’re planning to give a pan to every cook in the family, it might be a good idea to vary the design a little from one pan to the next.)

Supplies I used:

  • Anchor Hocking 8″ x 8″ glass pan
  • Armour Etch Glass Etching Cream (I bought a 2.8-oz. bottle that should last a really long time.)
  • Con-Tact Brand Adhesive Covering (The pattern or color doesn’t matter.)
  • Silhouette Portrait cutter and software
  • Wooden craft stick to apply and remove cream
  • Latex kitchen gloves
  • Paper towels

The general idea is to apply a stencil to the outside of the pan and then apply an etching cream for several minutes. The cream is removed to reveal a frosted design where the smooth surface of the glass has been eaten away.

I finally jumped on the bandwagon and bought a Silhouette Portrait electronic cutting machine. I found an Amazon Prime Day deal and bought one in a moment of weakness; I feel less guilty for paying less than half the regular price. *If you don’t have access to a cutter like this, see my note below for an alternative method. Using the software that came with my Silhouette, I set up the design with simple fonts–Book Antiqua for the name and Wingdings 2 for the flourishes. I didn’t want to waste my good vinyl for this, so I cut my stencil from Con-Tact Paper. I used a square glass pan I’ve had for years.

Applying the etching cream

I adhered the vinyl stencil to one side of the pan and rubbed it really well with the non-waxy side of the backing paper. I had to add the center of my “a” and tiny centers of my flourishes. It’s easy to forget those little bits, so I was relieved that I remembered. (I was able to use the chevron pattern of the vinyl to get proper placement of those little bits. Lucky accident!) I placed some scraps of vinyl on either side of the stencil in case I got carried away with the etching cream. I took all of my supplies outside to avoid inhaling fumes. (I couldn’t smell anything outside at all.) While wearing kitchen gloves, I then followed the instructions on the bottle of etching cream. I waited about 4 or 5 minutes before scraping the cream off and returning it to the bottle. After a few careful swipes of a paper towel, there was very little to rinse off. I then removed the vinyl to reveal my handiwork. Don’t panic if you can’t see the design while you’re rinsing; the design will appear once the pan is dry.

This is after I scraped off the blobs of etching cream and then wiped it with paper towels. It doesn’t look like much yet, but I can see the tiny clear spot in the bottom flourish where the center moved while I was wiping.

A few important notes:

  • Don’t rinse off the cream in a porcelain sink unless you want to etch your sink, too.
  • When wiping, be careful not to get any cream on the pan where it doesn’t belong. It works pretty quickly.
  • The etching cream bottle says that it won’t work on some kinds of glass or Pyrex. It’s best to test an inconspicuous spot on the glassware with a tiny dot of cream and to buy just one pan before buying one for everyone on your gift list.

Now that I have the Silhouette and the bottle of etching cream, I can see all sorts of etched glass in my future!

*If you don’t have a cutting machine, a similar but opposite effect can be achieved using alphabet stickers. Spell out the name on the side of the pan and then mask off a rectangle around the letters. Apply etching cream to the area around the letters. The result will be a frosted rectangle with clear, untouched letters.

If you make this project or any other that I’ve shared with you, I hope you’ll let me know! I love to see others’ creative efforts!

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Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas 2017: Pin Loom Coasters & Bookmarks

Posted on June 25, 2017 By

Pin Loom Coasters and Bookmarks

Can you believe I’m thinking about Christmas already? It’s only six months away, folks! What’s that mean for us? It’s time for Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas, of course!

As I was organizing the area around my end of the couch (a.k.a. my knitting nest), I came across my little Weave-It pin loom. Now, I’ll admit that I haven’t used it a lot, but it is fun to play around with. When I came across the loom again the other day, I remembered how these small woven squares would make great drink coasters–perfect Christmas gifts.

Pin Loom Coasters and Bookmarks

Following the (yellowed and fragile) instructions that came with my (third-, fourth-, fifth-hand?) loom, I started with a basic over-under pattern using some Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Tweed in Garnet Heather.

Basic Pin Loom Coaster

Basic over-under weave

Next, I grabbed some orange Cascade 220 and followed the instructions for the diagonal weave. I love how this one turned out! Even though the wool yarn is matte, the light bounces off the switchback pattern beautifully. If you’re adventurous, there are lots of other weaving patterns available online.

Pin Loom Coaster with Diagonal Weave

Pin loom coaster with diagonal weave

Hmm…what else can I make with this? How about a bookmark? We can never have enough bookmarks in my house, so I always assume (correctly or not) that that’s the case for everyone. I used this video to set up my warp on the diagonal. I stopped wrapping once I had 15 strands. (After relaxing, my bookmark ended up being about 1.5″ wide and 5″ long without the tassel.) This technique naturally fills in the triangles in the corners. Once I had the width set up, I continued with a basic weave without wrapping the yarn around the pins. As I rounded each turn, I was just careful not to pull the edge in too much. I added a tassel for the finishing touch. After a steam block, all three were ready to give away. My son saw these and asked for his own bookmark in blue Peaches & Creme cotton. The cotton doesn’t stretch as much as the wool, which made it a bit harder to work with, but the bookmark still turned out well.

Pin loom bookmarks

Pin loom bookmarks

Since we have six whole months to craft our gifts, it would be easy to sit back and relax procrastinate. (Trust me. This is just as much a pep talk to myself as it is to you.) I can see a couple of ways to get these made over the next few months. Every time you finish a knitting or crochet project, use your leftover yarn to knock out a few squares or bookmarks. Or if you want to be more deliberate with your color choices, use traditional holiday colors or colors that will match the recipient’s decor. Then, weave a few gifts in between bigger projects.

Do you know of a fun project that I can highlight in my Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas series? I’m always looking for new ideas. Shoot me a message or post in the comments below. Come back to find a new project on the 25th of each month through November!

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Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas November 2016: For the Home

Posted on November 26, 2016 By

snowballs-5
I have to admit that I don’t decorate much for Christmas, or throughout the year, for that matter. I put up a tree and hang a wreath on the door, but that’s about it. A few years ago, I started collecting the LEGO Winter Village sets (Some people collect ceramic houses, I do LEGO.), but I never get around to setting up an actual display. Maybe this year will be different.

I came across a video a few weeks ago for how to make pumpkin pom pom garland. I’ve seen a similar technique for making several pom poms at once, but this is pretty clever. First, wrap lots of yarn around two poles several feet apart. Then, securely tie short sections at equal intervals. Finally, cut between the ties to create individual pom poms; for garland, though, keep one strand intact all the way across so that the poms are strung along the length of it, evenly spaced. To trim and shape the pom poms, hold the long strand out of the way while you carefully snip around.

snowballs-collage
I thought the pumpkin garland was cute, but Handmade Christmas is my schtick. So, how about snowballs? Yep, white yarn works just as well as orange! I flipped a table onto its side and wrapped yarn around the legs. It’s a 6-foot table, so I’m guessing the legs are about 5 feet apart, making my garland about 5 feet long. For a longer garland, I imagine you could flip a table over completely and wrap around all four legs. One tip I have is that it’s faster to wrap with two strands at once by using the inside and outside of the skein. Also, your fingers will get pretty sore from tying a lot of pom poms, so plan breaks accordingly if you’re making several lengths of garland.

Two years ago, I made lots of large white pom poms for my sister’s three girls for a Frozen-inspired indoor snowball fight. I made them with a Clover pom pom maker. It’s a great little tool, but it took forever to make those things. I wish I’d known about this trick back then. Do you know some kids who live in a warmer climate or are too small for a knockdown, drag-out snowball fight? A bucket of fluffy pom poms would be a fun, quick gift.

faeries-firelight
Another gift I’m thinking of is knitted Mason jar covers. When you place a candle inside (battery-operated, for me), the fabric diffuses the glow and casts pretty figures onto the wall. Jenn Sheelen has several beautiful patterns, but the one I used was Faerie’s Firelight. Several of my knitting friends made these last year. I think I knit mine in about a day.

And, of course, cowls, shawls, and toys are rather quick projects to knit or crochet. Don’t forget about the Indie Design Gift-A-Long! The 25%-off sale ends November 30. Then post your projects by the end of the year for a chance to win prizes!

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Indie Designer Gift-A-Long 2016

Posted on November 22, 2016 By

gal-2016-finalWith Christmas just over a month away, it’s time for all you knitters and crocheters to kick your crafting into high gear if you’re planning to make hand-stitched gifts. If you’re still looking for just the right pattern, now is a great time to support independent designers like me. It takes a lot of time and hard work to put out quality designs, so we all really appreciate every pattern sale. The Indie Design Gift-A-Long (GAL) is a Ravelry-wide knit-along/crochet-along (KAL/CAL) that showcases knit and crochet designers who self-publish their patterns. Without wide exposure from magazines or yarn companies, indie designers are left to fend for themselves. This GAL is an excellent way to discover fun patterns from new-to-you designers. The event begins with a pattern sale running from tonight, November 22, at 8 p.m. EST (New York time) through Wednesday, November 30, 2016, 11:59 p.m. EST. Hundreds of designers (335, actually) have created “pattern bundles” on Ravelry to highlight their 5-20 designs that qualify for a 25% discount. Use the universal code giftalong2016 in your shopping cart to take advantage of the sale.

But that’s not all! Once you’ve saved some PayPal cash and added patterns to your queue, you can participate in the KAL/CAL GAL. Get busy with those sticks and hooks and then post pictures of the finished objects in their appropriate threads on Ravelry. You’ll find inspiration and encouragement from other knitters and crocheters along the way. You just might win a prize, too! Since you do need to rest your hands every once in a while, you can play a few games and even win prizes that way. The Gift-A-Long ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on December 31, 2016. All the details are spelled out in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long group.

I’m thrilled to be included as one of the indie designers again this year. All of my patterns (except the free ones, of course) qualify for the 25% discount, so this is a fantastic time to buy one or more that you’ve had your eye on. Only projects started after the official GAL start time on November 22 can qualify for the GAL; however, if you’ve purchased a pattern in the past but just haven’t gotten around to making it, the GAL is an awesome excuse to shop your pattern stash!

I know budgets are tight and you might not be able to support me or others by buying all the patterns you want. That’s totally ok. You can still help by sharing patterns you love with your friends. Hit the like/favorite/pin/share buttons wherever you see them to spread the love. That would totally make my day.

I love to make quick projects, so that’s generally what I like to design. That means any of my patterns could easily be finished before Christmas. If you start now, you might even be done before Thanksgiving. Do you have big knitting/crochet plans this holiday season?

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Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas October 2016: Busy Bags for Kids

Posted on October 25, 2016 By

How about something for the kids this month? Choosing from a wish list on Amazon is awfully easy, so I’m certainly happy when that’s an option. Sometimes, though, I like to give a small handmade gift, as well, to show that I’ve put a little more thought into the gift.

When my son was a toddler, I ran across the idea of busy bags**. These are little learning activities that young children can handle with little to no supervision- -a necessity if Mom wants to get dinner made. Some activities are portable enough to be used while waiting for dinner to be served in a restaurant.

For Christmas, I’d choose just one or two activities to add to a store-bought gift. A search for “busy bags” or “busy bags for toddlers (or preschoolers or kindergarteners)” on Pinterest or in a web browser will yield a ton of results. “Quiet bags” or “quiet books” are other keywords to use. Keeping the age and skillset of the child in mind, choose activities that focus on areas that need a little work. There are games that can help with color matching, counting, fine motor skills, and so on. As with any toy, good judgment should be used with regard to the readiness of your child for each activity.

One of my favorites is one that helps with fine motor skills and counting. Pipe cleaners are snipped to various lengths and bent a little to look like wiggly worms. The worms are spread out over a piece of green or brown felt (the grass or dirt). Then the child uses a clothespin (mama bird) to pick up worms and feed them to her babies in the nest (a plastic bowl). Clothespins take a lot more strength to open than you’d think, so they are good for building hand muscles, important for handwriting later on. Younger children can use fingers to pick up the worms. The child can also count how many worms there are in each color.

Mama bird hunting for worms

Mama bird hunting for worms

For older children you can trust to use Play-Doh without eating it (My son was about 4 when I first made this.), my old stand-by is a homemade Gak kit. Gak was a nickname for the green slime on the Double Dare game show on Nickelodeon and was later marketed as a toy for kids. The gooey slime is easy to make at home with just a few ingredients.

DIY Slime Kit

DIY Slime Kit


Homemade Gak
1 teaspoon borax powder
liquid food coloring
1.5 cups warm water, divided
1 4-oz. bottle Elmer’s glue, white or clear

In a measuring cup, dissolve borax and a few drops of food coloring in 1 cup warm water and set aside. Pour glue into a medium bowl. Measure an additional 4 oz. warm water in glue bottle and add to glue in bowl. Carefully stir glue and water until combined. Pour the borax solution into the glue/water mixture and watch as it seizes up. Stir for a few moments to combine. Begin working it into a blob with your hands, kneading it until most of the water is absorbed. Discard any excess water. Store in a plastic bag or airtight container.

To make this more giftable, I like to pre-dye the borax. Measure out the borax into a bowl. Add a few drops of food coloring and stir until the color is mixed throughout. Let the powder stand overnight to let it dry completely. Pour borax into a small plastic bag and include it with instructions, bottle of glue, and a 2.5-cup disposable food container.

Other ideas:

Balloon Ping Pong—Paper dessert plates stapled to large popsicle sticks plus a few balloons

Balloon Ping Pong—Paper dessert plates stapled to large popsicle sticks plus a few balloons


Build-a-Letter- -Popsicle sticks with Velcro dots on each end and on both sides; create a guide by taking photos of each letter and number made with the sticks.

Build-a-Letter- -Popsicle sticks with Velcro dots on each end and on both sides; create a guide by taking photos of each letter and number made with the sticks.


Pipe Cleaners and Pasta- -You can’t get much simpler than this! Bag up a few different dry pasta shapes and a bundle of pipe cleaners. Let the child practice stringing pasta either to make jewelry or just for fun.

Pipe Cleaners and Pasta- -You can’t get much simpler than this! Bag up a few different dry pasta shapes and a bundle of pipe cleaners. Let the child practice stringing pasta either to make jewelry or just for fun.


Popsicle Puzzles- -Glue a magazine photo to a series of popsicle sticks and cut apart. Make it more challenging by gluing a second photo to the other side. This is an easy one to toss into a purse for emergency entertainment.

**If you get a group of moms on board with the idea, you can organize a busy bag swap and come home with an assortment of busy bags. My friend Kristen did this with her moms’ group in Des Moines and let me join from afar. The swap is run like you would a cookie exchange. You choose one activity and make one for yourself and one for each mom in the swap. Rather than coming up with (and buying various supplies for) ten different busy bags for your own child, you make ten copies of the same activity and place each in a plastic bag. The result is ten unique games for your child to choose from.

By the way, Christmas is now just TWO months away! Seriously? I’m not sure how that happened.

Do you have any fun handmade Christmas ideas?

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Gathering Rosebuds

Posted on September 29, 2016 By

I’m so excited to release my new shawl pattern today! Gathering Rosebuds is a shallow crescent, one of my favorite shawl shapes. I love the long tails that can wrap around my shoulders when worn as a traditional shawl, and when I wrap it around my neck like a scarf, the center isn’t so deep that it feels like I’m wearing a lobster bib. The increases are worked all the way through the border in order to maintain the elegant curve of the crescent. This means that the tails cascade gracefully rather than being lopped off at the ends.
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I designed Gathering Rosebuds to be knit with just one skein of fingering weight yarn. I chose a gorgeous skein of MCN (Merino/Cashmere/Nylon 80/10/10) dyed by Jeanette of Sun Valley Fibers. (Mine used about 92 g in the Moody colorway.) She has some of the most beautiful semi-solid colorways. If you have extra yarn, I’ve included additional instructions for knitting two more rows of rosebuds. Charts and written instructions are provided in the pattern.

What’s in a name?

When I found the stitch pattern for the rosebud border, I thought of the first line of a poem, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” and was instantly taken back to an English literature class I took as a senior in college. I had a fantastic professor who renewed my interest in poetry. One of my favorite poems from that class was “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” by Robert Herrick, published in 1648. At first, it drew giggles and blushes from the class, but once we got over our immaturity, I think most of us in the class learned to appreciate the poem, at least on some level.

On the surface, it sounds like a man’s ploy for young girls to abandon chastity, and it very well might have been, but I think there’s more to it. He’s warning that our time on earth is short, so should start living full lives before it’s too late to enjoy ourselves. Even though life was very different three-and-a-half centuries ago, I think this poem is still relevant. The underlying theme is “carpe diem.” (Remember that great line in Dead Poets Society? Robin Williams’ character says, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”) It’s not just about getting your act together and doing something, but also enjoying the journey; we should stop and smell those rosebuds we gather. “Carpe diem,” “live in the moment,” “make hay while the sun shines,” or “gather ye rosebuds while ye may”—whichever expression you prefer, embrace it and fill your knitting time with gratifying projects. After all, you only live once. YOLO, baby!

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