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.

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!

Bronwyn's Handmade ChristmasCraft     , , , , , , ,

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.


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!

Bronwyn's Handmade ChristmasCraftGeneralKnitting     , , , , ,

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!

Bronwyn's Handmade ChristmasCraftGeneral     , , , , , , ,

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!

Bronwyn's Handmade ChristmasWeaving     , , , , ,

Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas November 2016: For the Home

Posted on November 26, 2016 By

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.

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.

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!

Bronwyn's Handmade Christmas     , , , ,

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?

Bronwyn's Handmade ChristmasDesigns     , , , ,

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?

Bronwyn's Handmade Christmas     , ,

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.

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!


Designs     , ,

Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas: September 2016

Posted on September 25, 2016 By

Time is flying! I still haven’t settled on my handmade gift for everyone this year. I just keep collecting ideas and dabbling, but nothing has lit my fire yet. It could be that it’s hard to feel the pressure of Christmas when it’s still 85 degrees, but now that fall is officially here, it’s time to get on the ball. Christmas is only three months away!



To create a rope basket, I found several methods to choose from. First, using hot glue to adhere the coiled rope to itself. No thanks. That seems like it’s just inviting disaster (while making it or while using it). Second, crocheting the rounds of rope together (like this and this). This method definitely has potential, but it takes longer. Third, and the route I chose, using a sewing machine to zigzag the rounds of rope together. (This one is absolutely gorgeous! If you subscribe to Creativebug, they have a good video tutorial.) A variation of this is to first wrap the rope with scraps of fabric or even yarn just before you zigzag. (I like the look of the baskets shown here.)

cotton rope — I used cotton/poly clothesline, 3/16″ x 100 ft, from Wal-Mart for under $4. (Choose rope that is close to 1/4″. Much thicker than that will be difficult to fit under the needle.)
sewing thread — a full spool or more, in one or more colors

rope-coreLike many projects, the hardest part is getting started. The clothesline I used is cotton braid with a polyester core. It’s surprisingly multicolored and ultra-multi-stranded. Bending the rope makes the core pop out a little. The trick I learned is to slide the outer cotton sheath back to expose the core. Then, pinching the core firmly, cut it back about an inch or so. Slick the cotton back down. This leaves the end of the rope empty and less bulky for starting the spiral and the fuzzy core isn’t exposed.

Begin with a FULL bobbin. This project eats thread.
Fold over about 1″ of the end of rope. With the fold at the top, cut end on the left, and working rope on the right, backstitch to secure the beginning of the thread, and begin sewing with a zigzag stitch. Rotate your work (not the length of loose rope) counterclockwise as you continue to wrap the new rope around. Use the center point of your sewing machine foot to follow the groove between ropes so the zigzag straddles evenly. Work in a flat spiral until the disc is the size you want for the base. If you want it to flare out as the sides grow, begin tilting the disc at a 45-degree angle. This angle will fatten the basket. When you’re happy with the overall width, tilt the basket up to 90 degrees to build the sides straight up. If you want straight sides without flaring first, skip the 45-degree angle and immediately go to 90. When you’re ready to finish off the basket, cut the rope about 3″ from where you’ve stopped sewing. If your rope has a core, you can trim it back to reduce bulk as before. Fold it over so that the cut end is tucked in between the basket and the working rope. Join the cut end to the basket with a zigzag until you reach the fold. Zigzag backward over the remaining bit of rope to secure. (There are countless ways to add handles to your basket if you want them. This tutorial walks through one type that looks nice.) Trim threads and marvel at your new basket!

It’s best to work slowly in order to achieve neat results. In my case, I put my pedal to the metal and just let it rip! (I sometimes like to imagine that I’m on Project Runway and am sewing at the speed of light on an industrial machine.) That means that I did go off course once or twice and had to backstitch to close up those gaps. That’s what some of those darker blobs are in my samples. After a couple of those re-dos, I added in a few backstitches here and there just to balance things out. Planned imperfections. If you don’t want any mistakes to show, you can go back with a needle and thread that matches the rope and close up any holes. Mistakes will be more obvious if you use dark thread. Using neutral thread is a smart choice for the first try.

One more note:
If you need to stop and start in order to close up gaps or to change a bobbin, the basket might be hard to slip back under the needle. Try disengaging the feed dogs while you reposition the basket and the stitches won’t get caught on them. Just be sure to put them back up or you won’t get anywhere.

Now that I’ve got the hang of it, I think I might have to attempt a larger basket to wrangle balls of yarn or clutter that accumulates at my knitting nest.

Watch for the release of my Gathering Rosebuds pattern VERY soon!

Bronwyn's Handmade Christmas     , ,

Bronwyn’s Handmade Christmas August 2016: Nutella Powder

Posted on August 25, 2016 By

Every year, I tend to choose one unique gift to make and give the same thing to everyone. Last year, I finally got around to trying something I’d seen on Pinterest (this post) a few years ago— Nutella Powder. It was a big hit with my family and friends, so I thought I’d share it with you.

So what is it? Nutella (the creamy spread made with hazelnuts and cocoa powder) is combined with tapioca maltodextrin powder (a tapioca-derived starch that is used as a thickener, filler, or stabilizer in foods) to transform it into a treat that can be sprinkled rather than smeared. Without getting too technical, the tapioca maltodextrin absorbs the fat in the Nutella and transforms it into a powder.

(If you’ve ever watched cooking challenges on Food Network, you may have seen chefs transform foods using “molecular gastronomy.” They make instant ice cream with liquid nitrogen, spheres of “caviar” out of fruit juice, and foams whipped out of everything imaginable. The transformation of Nutella into powder is along the same lines. Check out this website for some examples and recipes. You can even download a free e-book with hundreds of recipes here.)

Why would someone want to sprinkle Nutella? Well, first, because it’s cool. Second, because eating a tablespoon of straight Nutella is a bit decadent, but you can get the same punch of flavor from just, say, a teaspoon of the powdered version. The maltodextrin dissolves in liquid, so when it reaches your tongue, all you get is that rich Nutella flavor without all the fat. I wouldn’t necessarily try to reconstitute it back to its creamy state, however. It’s not quite the same.

So let’s break it down. One serving of Nutella out of the jar is 2 tablespoons with 200 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 23 grams of carbohydrates (1 gram of fiber and 21 grams of sugars). Finding nutrition facts for the maltodextrin was really difficult, but I think I’ve found something that is correct (Amazon product review/customer image). Serving size is 100 grams (What?!) with 370 calories, 0.15 grams of fat, and 92 grams of carbohydrates (1 gram of fiber and 5 grams of sugars). I weighed my 3/4 cup of maltodextrin and it was only 14 grams. So for the entire batch of Nutella powder, we’re looking at about 252 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 36 grams of carbs (1 gram of fiber and 26 grams of sugars). Now, the fat doesn’t disappear; it’s just absorbed. Still, the 12 grams of fat in the original 2 tablespoons of Nutella are now spread out over the entire 7/8 cup batch. I’m not sure what a normal serving would be, but let’s say 1 tablespoon is a serving. (That’s probably generous.) That gives us 14 servings per batch. One tablespoon is only 18 calories, .86 gram of fat, and 2.6 grams of carbs. Sold!

How do I like to eat it? My preferred vehicle is vanilla ice cream. It’s also good sprinkled over fresh fruit, such as apples or bananas. Some people have told me that they like it in hot chocolate or coffee. Experiment!

Here’s the recipe I use:
2 Tbsp Nutella
3/4 cup Tapioca Maltodextrin

Add Nutella and maltodextrin to the bowl of a food processor. Begin with short pulses, working your way up to longer pulses, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally until fully incorporated. When you see that the powder has a consistent color with no large clumps of white or brown, mix on high for a few more seconds to make it fluffier. Use a spoon to transfer the powder to sterilized glass jars or other airtight storage containers. Label, give them to friends and family, and prepare yourself for some amazed and puzzled looks.

I use 4-oz. wide mouth jars, or 8-oz. jelly jars for more generous gifts. One batch yields about 7/8 cup of Nutella powder, enough for 2 small jars or one large jar. I usually make double batches to speed up the assembly line.

nutella 2
*What if you don’t have a food processor? In a deep bowl to reduce spillage, use a pastry cutter followed by a wire whisk to combine the ingredients. The powder won’t be quite as fine or as well incorporated, but it will be good enough. You can see the slight difference in color and texture in this picture.

*Be careful when handling tapioca maltodextrin, especially when opening the package. Don’t run a fan while you’re making this, and don’t inhale or exhale too quickly. This stuff is lighter than air and it will take flight. It’s also a little staticky around plastic, so beware of that, too.

*I bought my tapioca maltodextrin from Amazon in a 1-pound tub. Yes, that will make a lot of batches of Nutella powder (about 32 batches). Here’s a sneaky tip: if you add it to your Subscribe & Save order, you can save 5-15%, depending on how many other items in your subscription. But, like I said, that 1-pound tub will last a long time, so why would you need to have Amazon automatically send more? You probably don’t. I set my subscription to every six months. Then six months from now, if I happen to need it, I’ll order again. More likely, I’ll put off the subscription or cancel it altogether. I do this all the time. You’d be surprised by the weird things you can subscribe to—why would you need to order Sea Bands repeatedly? I don’t know, but I ordered once and canceled.

Other uses for the rest of your 1-pound tub of tapioca maltodextrin:
Bacon powder
Dry caramel salt (I’m totally going to make this one! In fact, I went to the grocery store this morning and grabbed some caramel ice cream topping on a whim. When I got home, I looked at the label and there’s no fat! Darn!)
–Butter for popcorn or corn on the cob

By the way, World Nutella Day is February 5. Good to know.

On a knitting note, I have new shawl design coming soon–Gathering Rosebuds. I have five *brave* testers knitting the pattern right now. Watch for the pattern release in the next couple of weeks!

Bronwyn's Handmade Christmas     , ,