Spool-Knit Headband Tutorial

I loved to spool knit (also known as corking) as a kid. I would make yards and yards of multicolored I-cord, but I never quite knew what to do with it after that. So I thought I’d figure out a way to use some spool knitting in a useful way — and only a short length of it, too, so that little ones with not much patience could still make something fun.

For this craft you will need a spool knitter or knitting spool, which is also known as a french knitter, a knitting dolly, a knitting mushroom, or a small knitting loom. There are probably terms I’ve never heard of as well, but they’re all the same tool! You can buy one commercially; they’re often found at thrift stores as kids tire of them, and sometimes at dollar stores in the craft section. Walmart even carries a few kinds if you don’t have a craft store in your area. But you can always make your own as I did with the one in the front, which is just four nails in an old wooden spool. The one that I’ve chosen to use for this craft is the pink one on the far right, which has six points instead of the more common four, just because I’ll be using a thin sock yarn. But you can use whatever kind you have handy!

Spool-Knit Headband

Materials:

– yarn
– narrow flat elastic
– two shades of green felt
– green thread to match felt

Supplies Needed:

– knitting spool
– crochet hook or spool knitting hook
– scissors
– small needle for sewing
– darning needle
– pencil or marker

1. Thread your yarn through the knitting spool, leaving a tail of approximately 6″ dangling. The ball of yarn should end up at the end of the tool with the pegs.

2. Keeping the yarn taut, wrap the yarn counter-clockwise once around your starting peg (all of the pegs are identical, just choose one to start from). Spin the knitting spool counter-clockwise in your hand until the next empty peg is directly in front of you, then wrap the yarn counter-clockwise once around that peg. Continue in this manner until all of the pegs are wrapped.

3. Wrap the starting peg a second time.

4. Using your hook, flip the first wrap over the second. Give the tail a gentle tug to set the loop.

5. Continuing to move counter-clockwise, wrap each peg, flip the oldest wrap over the newest, and then give the tail a gentle tug. This will create a long spiral of spool knitting.

6. Continue in this method until the I-cord you have created is as long as the circumference of the head of the person who will be wearing the headband. Make sure that the measurement is taken without stretching the knitting.

7. Cut the yarn about 6″ away from the peg end of the spool knitting. Thread the end of the yarn through the darning needle. Moving counter-clockwise from the last stitch, use the darning needle to thread the yarn through each loop.

8. Pull the loops off of the pegs, then pull the yarn taut. Tie the yarn securely so that the knitting will not unravel.

9. Remove the I-cord from the knitting spool. Thread the elastic through the darning needle. Use the darning needle to pull the elastic through the center of the “tube” of the I-cord.

10. Push the I-cord back on the elastic to create a clear working area. Cut the elastic to the circumference of the intended head. Overlap the elastic about 1cm and, keeping it flat, stitch the ends together.

11. Pull the I-cord back so that it covers all of the elastic. Tie the two tails of yarn together tightly, then pass them both through the darning needle and use them to roughly stitch the two ends of the I-cord together.

12. Use a pencil or marker to sketch a shamrock and a small heart out of two different shades of felt. Cut the designs out with scissors.

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13. Making sure that the non-marked side remains up, stitch the heart to the top of the shamrock.

14. Stitch the shamrock over the area on the headband where the two ends of I-cord were joined.

That’s all there is to it! Of course, any colour of yarn and any felt design can be used. I just thought that it would be nice to have something in the theme of Saint Patrick’s Day given that it was coming up on the weekend. But red, white, and pink with a heart design would be lovely for Valentine’s Day; red, white, and green for Christmas; you could make it in the colours of your favorite sports team or even Hogwarts House. Be creative!

Strawberry Pi Pie Cat Toy Tutorial

March Break didn’t really turn out as planned. A tickle in my throat at the flea market on Saturday turned into a full-blown chest cold by Sunday; Monday through Thursday I spent most of my time between decongestant doses with a hot barley bag over my face to decrease the pressure in my sinuses. The rest of the family didn’t fare much better, with my husband missing work and the only reason the kids didn’t miss school being that it was already a holiday. All of our plans for outings and most of the fun things to do at home went straight down the toilet.

However, I had made myself a promise of one thing I was going to do over the break: find a rescue kitty who would fit well into our home. This was not a spontaneous decision, since my husband finally agreed that it was time for a new cat since Christmas (our previous cats passed away of extreme old age over ten years ago). But we also knew that we were going to be in Madrid in February, and we didn’t think it was fair to adopt a cat and then go away for ten days just as it was settling in.

So over the March Break I visited the Humane Society as well as many of their Pet Adoption Locations. While I think I petted and cuddled every cat who was willing (which is honestly a nice way to spend your time anyway), it wasn’t until right before closing on Wednesday night that I found Fizzgig (originally named Violet).

Fizzgig is a female 9-month old brown tabby with green eyes who is very curious about the world around her. She is a little bit shy, but deals well with our boisterous, noisy family.

So, in honour of the new member of our household, I thought that a cat toy craft was in order. Since March 14th is Pi Day, a pie-shaped toy seemed particularly fitting! If you don’t have a cat who would have any use for this toy, it also makes fun play food for a child.

Strawberry Pi Pie Cat Toy

Materials:

– 1 sheet of tan felt
– coordinating tan thread
– red embroidery thread
– polyester stuffing
– OPTIONAL: dried catnip

Supplies Needed:

– sewing needle
– scissors
– circular item (to trace)
– pencil

1. Using a circular glass or container about 7cm in diameter, trace a circle on your felt.

2. Cut out the circle and a strip of felt about 2cm wide. The strip should be an inch or two longer than the circumference of the circle. The easiest way to determine the circumference without math is to wrap the felt around the bottom of the glass/container you used to to make the circle.

3. Using coordinating thread, whip stitch the long edge of the strip of fabric to the circumference of the circle.

4. Overlap the ends of the long strip, and then trim off the excess so that they only overlap by about half a centimeter. Whip stitch along the exterior edge to join the strip into a circle.

5. Using your stitched portions as a guide, draw a rough circle about 1cm larger all the way around than the original base. Cut it out.

6. Turn the circle over so that the marked pieces are on the bottom. Draw the symbol for Pi π in pencil at the center of the “top crust” you just cut out.

7. Using red embroidery thread and your favourite stitch (I am a fan of the split stitch, which is #3 in this article), embroider over the pencil markings you have made for the Pi symbol.

8. Using a large whip stitch (which will result in the fabric bunching around the edge to create the “crimped edge” of the top crust), sew the top crust to the rest of the pie. When the crust is about 3/4 of the way attached, stuff the pie with polyester stuffing and, if you so choose, a little bit of dried catnip. Then finish stitching the pie closed.

Your strawberry pi pie cat toy should be ready to go! We didn’t use catnip for ours, but Fizzgig likes it just the same. Her favourite thing to do is bat it down the stairs and then go chase after it. I tried to get a picture of her playing with it, but this was the best that I could do — she’s basically just a motion blur at this age!

Yarn Dolls Tutorial

Yarn dolls are something that I used to make all the time as a kid; once again, I believe I learned how to make them in Girl Guides. I realized that I hadn’t made any with my own children yet when Thing 1 came home from Guides the other night with the beginnings of her own yarn doll in the works. Thing 2 hadn’t had a chance to make them yet, so I thought I’d dig out my solid-colour yarns left over from previous projects and let them get at creating.

If you’re not the kind of person who’d have yarn scraps around the house, don’t despair! There are lots of very cheap yarns available, even from the dollar store. But before you head there I might recommend hitting the local thrift shop. There you can usually find orphaned balls of yarn for a fraction of the price of buying new, and it keeps a previously-loved item from going to a landfill.

Yarn Dolls

Materials:

– yarn
– OPTIONAL: googly eyes, beads, buttons, scrap fabric, etc.

Supplies Needed:

– book, binder, folder, or piece of stiff cardboard
– scissors
– OPTIONAL: glue, needle, thread

1. Get your yarn, book, and a pair of scissors. I chose a stack of file folders for 8″x10″ pages because they were about the right size for the size of doll that I wanted to make. However, you can really use any size of book or even a piece of cardboard. Since it’s just going to hold the yarn, you don’t have to worry about damaging it.

2. Wrap the yarn around the book until you have created a thick hank. How much yarn you use depends entirely on how big you want the doll to be and what size of book you use. Feel free to experiment! There really isn’t any “right way” to do it. Then cut the yarn off of the ball.

3. Cut a piece of yarn that is a little bit more than twice as long as the book. Thread the piece of yarn under the hank and tie it tightly with a double knot.

4. Slide the hank off of the book. Pass the piece of yarn that you used in step 3 through the center of the hank again and tie another double knot for reinforcement. Turn the hank inside-out so that the knots are on the inside. Smooth the piece of yarn so that it is now part of the hank.

5. Cut another piece of yarn that is a little bit more than twice as long as the book. Wrap this yarn tightly around where you will want the neck of the doll to be, then tie it tightly with a double knot. Wrap the yarn around one more time and tie it again for reinforcement. Smooth the yarn into the hank.

6. Holding the yarn taut, snip the loops at the bottom of the hank (opposite from the head you have created). Trim the excess yarn so that it is roughly the same length.

7. Separate roughly a third of the yarn to create the arms (1/6 of the yarn per arm). For thicker arms, separate a little bit more.

8. Cut another piece of yarn that is a little bit more than twice as long as the book. Tie that yarn to create the waist, using the same technique as at the neck.

9. Braid the arms, double-tying the wrists tightly with scraps of yarn. Divide the bottom of section of yarn in half and braid it to create the legs. Double-tie the yarn tightly around the ankles.

10. Trim off the excess yarn on the hands and feet.

At this point your yarn doll is technically done, but if you feel that it is too plain, that’s where the optional decorations come in! You can:

– add googly eyes or beads or buttons for eyes,
– tie on more yarn as hair,
– sew scrap fabric for clothing,
– tie on artificial butterfly or dragonfly wings to create fairies
– twist a pipe cleaner into a halo and tie on a big lace bow as “wings” to make an angel
– make tiny yarn dolls to hang from earrings or necklaces
– make small yarn dolls in festive colours to use as Christmas ornaments

Exercise your creativity!

There are a couple of basic variations on this kind of doll that are useful to know. The first is the “dress” version, which basically omits braiding the legs to create a skirt. You may note that the arms of this doll are tied instead of braided, which is a much quicker way to do it; this is great for younger children who may have limited patience or braiding skill. It should be noted that this version requires a shorter length of yarn (i.e. a smaller book) due to the lack of braiding.

Also, for a simple snowman, use white yarn and tie it all together at the bottom to create a “snowball” instead of legs.

A great Halloween version of a yarn doll stops at Step 6, and requires only the addition of googly eyes to become a ghost. This is probably the simplest version possible, which is perfect if you want to make a bunch of them and hang them as decorations.

Have fun!

Paper Beads Tutorial

It’s that time of year again: March Break! For the Ontario school board anyway; the Québec schools had theirs last week. My kids were really looking forward to the break, not just because of the days off, but because they loved all of the crafts we did last year. This year we started with a craft that I’m pretty sure I learned in Brownies as a child: paper beads.

Paper Beads

Materials:
– paper (I prefer recycled magazines with glossy photos)
– water-based, non-toxic liquid glue such as Mod Podge or plain white glue
– narrow-width ribbon or cord
– OPTIONAL: coordinating beads

Supplies Needed:
– paper scissors
– bamboo skewers
– ruler
– pencil
– paint brush
– old newspapers (to protect work surface)
– clean, recycled container (to use as glue pot)

1. Spread out your old newspapers to protect your work surface. Remove the piece of paper of your choice from the magazine. (Since we’ve gone paperless for the most part, we bought an old National Geographic magazine for a quarter at a thrift store.)

2. Flip your magazine clipping over so that the back side is showing. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw a long, thin triangle from the base of the paper to the top. The base of our triangles varied from 1cm to 2cm or so; under 1cm they can be a bit too small for little hands, and over 2cm they become very chunky beads.

3. Using the scissors, cut out the triangle.

4. Squirt a small amount of glue into the clean, recycled container. Dab the paint brush lightly in the glue, then spread a thin layer of glue onto the back of the paper, starting about 3cm away from the base. (If you start directly at the base, it will stick to the bamboo skewer.)

5. Starting at the non-glued end of the triangle and working toward the thinnest point, roll the paper tightly around the bamboo skewer. Once the paper is stuck down, apply a thin coat of glue to the outside of the bead, being careful not to get it on the skewer.

6. Allow the glue to dry, then slide the bead off of the skewer.

7. String the paper beads onto the cord, adding commercially-made beads if desired.

My kids really loved making these beads, especially since they can say that they made them from scratch! As a bonus, it introduced them to National Geographic magazines. Thing 1 insisted that we return to the thrift store and buy a whole bunch more, and at a quarter each I couldn’t exactly object. I have very happy memories of paging through these same magazines as a child and I’m glad that my children are getting as much enjoyment out of them as I did.

Socks of Many Colours

In an effort to get an early start on the first of my New Year’s resolutions, I spent a good chunk of this weekend knitting socks. Not just any socks, but socks (well, one sock so far) of many colours. I have a bag of yarn odds and sods of sock yarn that I inherited from a crafty friend when she passed away, as well as many years worth of my own leftovers. I thought that it would be nice to use up this bag, but to do so means that I’m going to have to make some very interestingly-coloured socks.

So far this sock has used six different leftover yarns, and I hope to use one or two more before it’s done. I divided the balls in half by weight and pattern, so the second sock should mostly match — although the colour repeat on some of the yarns is so long that it won’t be perfect. In the end, the pair of socks will be completely unique and hopefully a lot of fun!

I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do with the other leftover sock yarn, of which there is quite a bit. I don’t have the patience to turn it into a blanket, but a shawl is not out of the question. Or maybe a scarf; an infinity scarf might be nice. I haven’t knit a scarf in years. I’ve already made a couple dozen mini sweaters as Christmas ornaments over the last few years, and I’ve run out of people to gift them to. Given how cold my hands get at night when I’m on the computer, I may have to knit a new pair of wrist warmers, though. Hmmmmmm…

Portable Cutlery Set Tutorial

Recently, a video about a sea turtle that had to have a plastic straw removed from its nose went viral on the Internet. So powerful was the suffering of the poor animal in this video that it sparked plastic straw bans in many cities. As much as I appreciated the sentiment behind this move, my personal opinion is that it treats a symptom rather than the underlying disease. For example, to reduce plastic straw use, some restaurants redesigned the lids of their disposable cups — but continued distributing single-use plastic lids that could not be easily recycled. Bans also left many people with disabilities in a tight spot, since they have no options but to use disposable straws. Plastic straw bans don’t help any of the old straws already out there to get recycled instead of going into landfills — and according to this site it takes 100 to 500 years for a plastic straw to decompose. It doesn’t address recycling policies that keep plastics from being properly recycled in the first place. And once the furor raised by the video died down, a lot of people — and more importantly, a lot of companies — went back to single-use plastics without a second thought. As it stands right now, 89% of plastic is not recycled in Canada.

So I asked myself, what can I do? Well, I personally I can stop using plastic straws whenever possible, that’s a given. But in all of the viral-video-fueled excitement for people to buy their own personal reusable straws to use with their takeout food, I think a lot of people forgot about the disposable cutlery that goes hand with those straws. While personal cutlery sets have been available for years (and are especially popular with those who camp), and they’re definitely better than disposable, I think it’s possible to do better. Why? Because these are generally made with new materials.

If you go out to any thrift store you will find that there is lots of perfectly good, used, stainless-steel cutlery that can have a second life as a portable cutlery set. Not only that, it’s generally quite affordable! When I buy vintage kitchenware for my market stall, it often comes with old cutlery thrown in; a lot of people don’t see its value. But all it needs is a recycled travel case to put it in so it can be thrown in a purse, briefcase, backpack, desk drawer, or lunch box.

I made up a bunch of these sets and brought them with me to the 613Christmas this past weekend. However, I think it’s more important to encourage everyone to use them than it is for me to make a profit, so I thought I’d share a tutorial online. It is very basic and can even be hand-sewn if desired. Of course, if you are a master sewer, you can probably make something even nicer, and I encourage you to do so! Experiment! Use even tinier scraps of fabric and quilt them together in incredible designs! Knit a case! Crochet! There’s no limit to the techniques you can use. What’s most important, to me, is that your materials be recycled — not only the cutlery, but also the textiles.

So your first step is to pick your cutlery. If you’re lucky they will all be from the same set, but they really don’t have to be. I recommend the basics of a knife, fork, and spoon, but you can also include a steak knife (although probably not if it’s to be brought to school), reusable chopsticks, and a reusable straw.

Secondly, you’ll need a piece of fabric, preferably recycled. It can come from old clothing, bedding, or draperies, but another good resource (if you don’t sew much yourself) is a friend or family member who sews, who will inevitably have lots of scraps and remnants that they just can’t bear to throw out, but would be happy to see used.

Cut a piece of fabric that, when the fabric is folded in half length-wise, is at least 6″ longer than your longest piece of cutlery. Width-wise, you want it to be twice as wide as the widest piece of cutlery, plus 4″ or so to allow for the depth of the deepest piece. I found that a 30″ x 6″ strip of fabric was adequate to comfortably accommodate every style of cutlery that I tried.

Fold the fabric in half so that it is long and skinny; in the case of our demo, it became 30″ x 3″. Make sure that the wrong side of the fabric faces out. Sew a seam with half of a centimeter of seam allowance around the two longest edges. Alternately, you can serge the edges, which is what I did. (Seams indicated by blue lines in the photo above.)

Turn the tube you have made halfway inside-right, so that the right side of the fabric is visible on the outside. The tube will now be half as long as when you started (15″). Press flat.

On the unfinished end, fold the top layer back about 4″. Sew a seam on the inside layer about 1″ into the fabric, as per the blue line in the photo. Leaving an allowance of about half a centimeter, cut off the excess fabric at the end.

Fold the top layer back so that it lies flat. Fold the two unfinished edges of the top layer inside the tube, and stitch the end of the tube closed as close to the edge as possible (blue line on the right). Making sure to catch the inside layer, sew a second seam parallel to the first, about half a centimeter further in (blue line on the left).

Insert your longest piece of cutlery (usually the knife) into the tube, making sure it goes all the way to the bottom. On the middle of one side of the tube, mark a spot 1″ down from the top of the knife; sew a button on there, making sure to sew it only to one side of the tube. On the other side of the tube, mark a spot 1/2″ from the top of the knife; sew a loop of elastic onto this spot. The length of the elastic will depend on the level of stretch and how big the button is, so it may take a bit of experimentation.

Insert all cutlery pieces in the tube, roll the top closed, and loop the elastic over the button to secure it.

There you have it, your own personal recycled portable cutlery set. Make them for your friends and family this holiday season! They make great stocking stuffers and teacher appreciation gifts. And after many years of hard use, when the cutlery does finally wear out and the bag falls apart, the steel is recyclable and many fabrics are biodegradable. Even if you chose a synthetic fabric, it’s better that it be reused instead of going directly in the trash. Perhaps only the button (depending on the kind you chose) will end up in the garbage at the end of life of your portable cutlery set — and with any luck by then our recycling programs will accept them too.

String Art Tutorial

I’ve been wanting to try this craft with my girls for a while; it is a great way to learn how to use a hammer and nails! I never did this as a child, but my little brother did, and his string art masterpiece hung in his room for years. The nice thing about this craft is that you can make it simple or complicated, depending on the skill level of the people doing it. We went with really simple, perfect for a busy day’s work!

String Art

Materials:
– 1 piece of 1/2″to 3/4″ thick wood, approx 12″ by 12″ (pine preferred)
– 1 colour of acrylic paint
– 20 (or so) 1″ long common framing nails
– scraps of thin yarn or string
– sawtooth picture hanger & screws

Supplies Needed:
– fine-grain sandpaper
– paintbrush
– hammer
– wooden clothes pin
– screwdriver

1. We started with a 12″ by 12″ piece of 1/2″ pine shelving left over from an old project. Pine is inexpensive and easy to hammer nails into. Such a small piece can be often be found inexpensively (or free) off-cut from a home improvement store. If you’re not handy with a saw, most reno stores will cut wood to size if you ask.

2. Using fine-grain sandpaper, give the piece of wood a quick once-over to remove any splinters.

3. You can leave the wood unfinished (in fact, a lot of string art is done on gorgeous, rustic barn board), but my girls opted to paint theirs. Two coats of crafting acrylic turned Thing 2’s board an eye-searing pink, while Thing 1 chose a more muted lavender. Don’t forget to cover your work surfaces with paper or plastic if you care at all if it gets stained! (Graffito from the kids is optional.)

4. Nail in the nails in the pattern of your choice. My kids went for an abstract creation of their own design. However, any number of designs and shapes can be downloaded off of the Internet, printed out, and then taped onto the top of the wood. You can then nail along the edges of the design, and rip the paper away when you’re done. Alternately, you can freehand a design in pencil and then paint over the marks before you add the string.

Since the kids hadn’t done much hammering with full-sized hammers before, we used wooden clothes pins to hold the nails upright while they got them started. This keeps their fingers away from the hammer, at least until they have a little bit more precision! (It stunned Thing 1 that I could hold a nail while hammering without smashing my fingers.)

Thing 1 went with a free-form design.

Thing 2 went with a more geometric plan.

5. Tie a few knots around one of the nails, and then go to town wrapping the string around the nails!

6. If you’re planning on hanging the string art on the wall, using a screwdriver, attach a sawtooth picture hanger with screws to the top back of the piece. Alternately, it can be propped on shelf, or held up by a mini easel.