Finished blackwork!

It is finished!

completed blackwork embroidery map

After many moons, the blackwork map is stitched. I have improved and repaired the pattern, as well, which you’ll find linked from my Upper Valley Fiber Crafts post on the topic.

This time around I couldn’t hang it outside after washing like I’d been doing, so I pressed the water out in a bath towel and pinned it to my ironing board to dry. That allowed me to put more tension on it than the hanging did, which made a really visible difference in the wrinkles. I also pulled on it a bit, like pizza dough, while it was soaking in warm water, and folded it differently than before in the big tupperware-type-thing it was in – this time I made sure the map itself was as flat as possible, with the excess fabric folded in around the edges.

Here’s a shot where you can see the last portion stitched a little closer.

completed blackwork map from southern end

Now I have to decide what kind of title or legend or signature I want to apply to it, how, and where. But that’s for another day!

Shining (ribbon) stars

Our Christmas tree has no topper. We’d love to get a high-end crystal star for it, but that’s yet in the future. Meanwhile I’ve been improvising – one year we had wide ribbon tied in bows, one year I made an origami star out of construction paper (because it was the only appropriately-colored paper I had that was large enough). This year I decided to crochet a star out of ribbon, and got the chance to this weekend. The result is shown below, blurrily, on the tree, after my loving husband arranged the lights behind it for best effect.

crochet ribbon star on tree

I thought at first that I would chain stitch ribbon around wire, bend it into shape, and connect the ends; nesting two or three of different sizes would fill out the star. That might have worked if my wire had been a bit heavier, but as it was it was too flimsy, and it was also difficult to smooth and flatten the wire without crimping and creasing the ribbon.

Then I went looking for patterns and found one by Kimura Kraft that I liked the look of. Unfortunately it didn’t work in ribbon; the inner part was somehow too large for the outside.

crochet ribbon star

Fortunately I had purchased three “kegs” of ribbon, so after two strikes I could still try for a hit, modifying that pattern. For the star shown I used a J hook (6mm), a 40ft roll of 3/16 inch wide ribbon (12.2m|~5mm), and a generous 2ft (60cm) of 28-gauge jewelry wire. I had a decent bit of ribbon left, but only about half the difference to the next available size down, 32ft (9.75m).

Here are my changes to Markus’s pattern. Unfamiliar abbreviations below (and the rest of them too) are explained on the Crochet Reference page.
Round 1: Replace the starting ring and chains with “ch-4, work into ch next to sl kn.” Make sure to put your sl kn onto the hk loosely – ribbon is inelastic.
Round 2: Ch 3 to start instead of 2; work only 1 dc where it says to work 2 (so don’t make that first dc, in particular).
Round 3: This one’s different enough that it’s simpler to give the instructions in full. Note that “in picot” means to treat the “sl st in 3rd ch from hk” parts of rnd 2 as chain rings, working into the center:
No ch this rnd. Work the following stitches around the wire as well as the rnd-2 sts, leaving a wire tail of several inches: *sc 2 around next ch-2; [sc 2, ch 1, dc, ch 1, sc 2] in picot; sc 2 around next ch-2; sk dc* around. Sl st into 1st sc of rnd to join (40 sc, 10 ch, 5 dc). FO ribbon.
Twist ends of wire together and use to attach star to tree or other hanging/display place. Shape by hand.

Blogging, bands, and balm

big windmill and baby windmill! I’m in the midst of creating WordPress themes for two new clients, and tying up loose ends for our other clients so as soon as they get their side of the work done (i.e. content) the site is ready to launch and show off. This has once again derailed my plain-old-studying, but I am getting better at tucking odd bits of work into odd bits of time, so I think I’ll be able to continue to make progress. These new clients both have swift deadlines, so there may be a bit of time in January depending on when we get more clients, as well. Not that I want to not have clients! But it is good to have time to just learn new things. The other major time devotions in November were getting ready for the Sew-op sale and our Thanksgiving travel – both the travel itself and the car work and Christmas shopping that preceded it.

This month you can expect a seasonal crochet pattern, the next mystery afghan post, and the post for the finished blackwork map! I actually got the next stage of the afghan and all the blackwork stitching finished in November, but didn’t have the chance to photograph the afghan or do anything with the blackwork (which includes washing and photographing the stitching but also fixing and improving the pattern).

What else?

• This happened before November, but at first I wasn’t sure whether I’d keep it up: I started writing again on my technical blog, formerly known as “the math blog” but now far more web design than math (but still sometimes math). I don’t write much – no more than once a week and not every week – but I’m writing. The goal is to record my learning, especially if there seems to be a gap in the available online tutorials.

my Halloween costume 2014 • Halloween came late for us this year, with a party the weekend after. I was a punny costume – can you guess? I’m wearing a wizard robe and hat with adorable animal pictures pinned all over the robe. The picture, courtesy my lovely mother-in-law because apparently we failed to take any on our cameras, gets not only larger but less cropped if you click through.

• We saw Robyn Hitchcock perform for the second time, and we’re thinking as long as he makes an annual trip to New England, we’ll try to make an annual trip to see him. Last year our tickets read Robyn Hitchcock and The Peter Buck, and Peter both opened and played in Robyn’s band, which I think was a five piece (and also included Sean Nelson from Harvey Danger and The Long Winters). This time around most of the show was just Robyn and a guitar, save a few songs where he was joined by Tanya Donelly (of Throwing Muses and Belly) and her guitar. Makes us wonder first, how many formats he uses for performance, and second, how many other musicians we’ll end up seeing if we keep seeing Robyn.

• We visited family over Thanksgiving and had a great time. The picture at top is from the road. Lots of cards, lots of laughter, lots of good food. If you want to learn a fun and easy rummy game that doesn’t take too much concentration, I recorded rules for the one we call Cayman Rummy on my personal blog.

old destroyed purse, new (thirifted) purse • The patch I showed you on my purse last month came right off within a week. Just rubbed away. (Now I can show you the threadbare spot, at least.) I went thrifting on vacation for a replacement and found two, my favorite of which (the second one I found) is pictured. It even has a flip-phone sized pocket, perfect for those of us who haven’t moved into the smartphone age. I may make a large shoulder bag with my purse materials, if the purse works out well for me.

• On our Thanksgiving trip we also went to a fancy-schmancy grocery store where I found lip balm with neither beeswax nor petroleum products, and so far I love it. Doesn’t give me a nasty coated feeling. In case you also object to those nearly inescapable ingredients: Out of Africa Pure Shea Butter Lip Balm with Vitamin E. [The “pure” is intended to refer to the quality of the shea butter – there are a number of other ingredients.] I don’t have to try to fix my cocoa butter lip balm situation any more, though I am thinking about melting the cocoa butter and mixing it with something to soften it a bit, maybe shea butter or coconut oil, so I can carry it around in a little tin for my knuckles.

• Finally, around here I decided it was silly to have single-post categories for thread and ribbon crochet, and add a category for one post on wire crochet when I don’t know when it would get a companion, so I combined them. The crochet sub-categories are now yarn, embroidery floss, and other materials. Hopefully I got any links to them updated – I found two, but one not till a week or two had passed! Finding that second link to update was part of some small site updates I made over Thanksgiving vacation, adding some links to the resource pages, bringing the free pattern page into the present day, etc. Nothing major enough to really call out individually, just part of the ongoing effort to keep this site as useful as possible.

FF: Make your own buttons! (part 2)

buttons from pixabay This month we have the non-fiber button-making options, a sequel to last month’s First Friday.

The photo is someone else’s grandmother’s button box, from Pixabay.

Polymer clay

The simplest clay button is a circle cut from a thin layer of clay, with holes poked in it with a large needle or a toothpick, baked according to package directions. I found nice tutorials for those buttons using decorative icing nozzles and a thread spool as the cutters. I didn’t notice this in any of the tutorials I found, but if you wanted to ensure equal spacing on your buttonholes from button to button, you can tape three toothpicks together, the outer two lined up and the middle one offset from them so it’s out of the way when you punch holes. If that’s too close together for the size buttons you’re making, you could put two toothpicks between the hole-punching toothpicks (since your middle ones aren’t supposed to extend to the tip of the outside ones, you could still use three toothpicks, just cutting one in half to make a double spacer).

To add texture you can press anything you like into the surface of the clay either before or after cutting the circle: rubber stamps, braided trim, and lace are all popular choices. Lisa Clarke has a whole series on these sorts of hand-formed or simply cut buttons, with a focus on color and patterns (coming from the clay itself: of course you can always paint your buttons when they are finished).

Button molds exist, and you can also make them from your favorite buttons. Sew Chibi has a tutorial on using commercial molds. The Frugal Crafter has a post on making button molds from scrap polymer clay, and Cuttlefish Corner has one on making them with silicone caulk and cornstarch, which is more involved but I expect produces a slightly more flexible mold. Rings and Things has a tutorial for molds made with two-part silicone putty, with advice on making a mold that will sit flat and stack well.

I’m sure you could do all these projects with air dry clay as well, but if your button is likely to get wet you would want to seal it thoroughly with some kind of waterproof varnish.

Plastic, resin, and glue

By “plastic” here I really mean shrink plastic, as in this tutorial from Scissors.Paper.Wok. The Zen of Making has a slightly different version with a lot of additional advice.

I put all the mold-making tutorials above in the polymer clay section, but you don’t have to fill molds with polymer clay. Other options include resin and hot glue, though you may need to be careful of the kinds of molds you use, to ensure you’ll be able to get the finished button back out. I wasn’t able to find a resource giving the yea or nay on different mold materials.

In any case, to make a button with holes through it you can make or buy a mold with holes built in, or drill them after the resin cures. To make a shank button you’ll need to embed a ring after the resin has stiffened somewhat but before it hardens. If you use an O-ring from jewelry making, be sure spot where the ends meet is within the resin so your sewing thread can’t pull out that way later. If you use a ring that’s built more like a keyring, it doesn’t matter. Other advice can be found on Florence Turnour’s blog. For a hot glue tutorial, visit Lil Blue Boo – and make sure your ring is at the ready since this will set far more quickly than resin.

I imagine this bottlecap pin tutorial could be adapted to buttons as well: either embed a ring in the resin to be your shank, letting the top of the bottlecap show, solder a ring to the back instead of a safety pin (might take some finagling, with the drastically decreased contact area), or drill holes through the whole thing after it’s done. Be careful of wear to buttonholes from the points around the edge, though.

Other materials

Buttons can be made with beads rather than simply decorated with them; large single-hole beads can be turned into shank buttons, or you can construct a button out of multiple beads strung together.

Wood is a classic button material, and you can use scrap lumber or tree branches sliced into flat pieces (see also this tutorial). For a chunkier look more adapted to a coat or shawl, you can drill holes crossways through twigs to make toggle buttons.

It seems to me that any weaving you might do with thread could also be done with wire (this might be a way to use more open Teneriffe lace patterns as buttons), but the only tutorial I could find was this Instructable for coiled wire buttons. Instructables also hosts a tutorial for making beads from sea glass, which should adapt well to other hard materials (though I have found seashells flake badly when you try to cut them, so a very sharp drill would be in order).

Finally, I found tutorials for making buttons with Perler beads and with paper. The latter uses a heat gun and embossing fluid and enamel to coat, and the instructions have only one hole punched, whereas you may want two. I doubt I would use those on clothing, but they would be cute embellishments elsewhere.

Crochet topped towels

I didn’t make too many crochet-topped towels for the Sew-op sale, because I inherited some finished ones with the materials for all the towels. I did make two, though, and so needed to reverse-engineer/develop a pattern, which I’ll record here.

crocheted towel top, buttoned

The pattern I pulled from the existing towels was too large for my stitching – I was already using an F hook (3.75mm) and might have had to go down two hook sizes for the right gauge, which would have been truly uncomfortable. F is about as small as I want to go with cotton worsted weight.

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