Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pretty fingers and knitting fun

Why does every post have to start with "gee, I'm sorry I forgot about my blog for the last year"?  ;)  It goes without saying, I think, that life has been busy.  That happens with a toddler.  I keep trying to promise myself that I'll post more, and then I completely forget that this blog even exists. 

What have I been up to? 

Well, for starters, the Unofficial Harry Potter Knits magazine came out.  That was pretty awesome.  I have an amazing pattern in it.  Bluebell Flames.  It's a entrelac and lace wrap.  It was fun to design and fun to knit. 

I'm pretty proud of it.

What else have I been up to?

Mouselette turned 2, which was awesome. Though, it did leave me slightly wondering... what the heck happened?  I have those moments more often now as she gets bigger and more independent.  Right now, she has a sheet of alphabet stickers, which she has declared is her "keyboard".  She's sitting at her little desk beside me "typing" on her sticker keyboard.

I have been designing other patterns, but so far nothing else is in the works for publication.

As for the "pretty fingers" part of the title.  After much determination, I finally quit biting my nails (again) and my nails are long enough to play with fun manicures.
It's not very fancy, because I'm still learning, but I like the look of this one.  Mouselette has been bugging me to paint her nails all the time, too.  So I think I'll have to get some kid-safe polish for her. 

I've got a whole board on pinterest devoted to fun nail art ideas
Check it out.  And let me know in the comments if you have any other fun and easy nail ideas.  :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Sometimes being crafty comes in handy... like when you've run out of ideas for what to get the man who has everything and doesn't need anything, and prefers you not buy anything anyway because sales are better.

This is Mouselette's father's day gift for her "baba" (daddy).  It was super easy.

So if you're looking for father's day ideas that you can do with your little ones, here you go.  If they can hold a crayon or put stickers on paper, they can handle this one!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tweaking nature

I've posted before about how I have recently taken up whittling.  I just have to show off this beautiful before and after shot of how a bit of carving can transform a piece of wood.

This is the before shot.  It is oak.

It's a branch.  It fell from a tree and laid on the ground until I found it.  It doesn't look like anything special, but I picked it up because in spite of how much it doesn't look like much, it does have some potential.  I liked the pieces that stuck out, because those always look interesing when you trim and sand them.
This is the after shot.  This is after I whittled away the bark and trimmed the pieces that stuck out.  This is after I carved the 1" section for a WPI tool.  This is after hours of very gently pulling the best out of what had been nothing more than a branch.

It was sanded and sanded and sanded again, with an increasingly fine paper from 100 to 600 grit.  It was rubbed and polished with a homemade beeswax polish.  Yes, it really is that shiny!!

I drilled a small hole in the top to put a little eyelet in so that a wrist strap could be added if desired.  What it is is a nostepinne - a tool for wrapping yarn into neat little center-pull balls.  With a wrist strap, it can also be used as a wrist distaff.  The stone is a wire-wrapped rose quartz.

I'm at a loss for how to price this.  It takes a lot of care to bring out the best in a piece of wood like this.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

50 Fans and a Necklace!

Mousewife Designs hit 50 fans on facebook the other day.  As promised, I am hosting a giveaway to celebrate!  Click here to enter!!

Up for grabs is this beautiful Green Aventurine pendant on a leather cord.  The cord is an adjustable 18-20". 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Whittling away

Because I need another hobby like I need another hole in my head, I've started whittling a little bit.  It's not really a new thing.  Like, I already knew how to do it and have done it before.  But now I am seeing the potential for this new thing to complement my other hobbies and create things that complement what is already in my etsy shop.

Below you will see my most recent creation, a 3-in-1 spinning tool.  It is a nostepinne, wrist distaff, and WPI tool in one, carved from an oak branch I found lying on the sidewalk in the rain.

This tool has a fun story.  I was on my way out the other day when I looked out the window and spotted this little branch on the sidewalk.  All the way to my destination, I thought about that branch and decided that if it was still there on the way home, I'd snag it and carve it up into a wrist distaff.

It was there as I drove home, so I pulled over, hopped out of the car (in the rain) and rescued that branch.  I put it in the oven to dry it out, curing it for about an hour and a bit at 175F.  This dried out the wood and also killed any little bugs that may have been making their home inside.  Then I set myself down at the kitchen sink (I don't have a dedicated workspace and the sink with some papertowels in it caught all the woodchips and dust) with my little knife and began to whittle.

I removed most of the bark, but not all.  I deliberately left the bark on around the top.  I removed the knots down the length of the twig, but again left them on the top.  I smoothed out the tip where it had been broken.  As I worked it over, I decided that it should also have a WPI notch at the top, so I measured and carved it out.  Then I began to sand it.  I worked it over with progressively finer paper from 120 to 600 grit.  The areas where I hadn't removed all the bark worked out darker than the other areas.  The WPI area was worked over with a nailfile as well as sandpaper (I needed a nice, well-defined edge).  I drilled a hole and sanded it through with a round metal file.

I wiped it down and finished it by rubbing it with a thin coat of mineral oil.  I worked the oil in with a cotton ball first, then a paper towel, then my hands until it was absorbed all the way through.  The final coat was beeswax to protect the wood.

I wrapped a piece of smokey quartz in goldtone wire and used the same sort of wire to create a bail for a leather wriststrap.

I love the final product.  It's so smooth and soft to touch.  The mineral oil brought out the colour of the wood so very beautifully.

So now I'm on the hunt for more twigs like this one.  Unwanted, discarded, destined for the mulch pile or the fireplace.  This piece is spoken for, but I can't wait to create more for the shop.

Monday, April 8, 2013

My new wheel

Warning: This is a totally pic heavy post!  :)

I purchased a new spinning wheel on the 4th.  There was a tale of drama and frustration surrounding that, but now that it's done, it seems unimportant.
The drama culminated such that the whole drive (in awful traffic) out to pick up the wheel was fraught with me thinking (and occasionally saying out loud) that this wheel had better be worth it!

Well, when I got there and saw it, I decided it was.  It is a pretty cute, if slightly odd, wheel.

Here she sits next to 'Elaine', my 70s model Ashford Traditional wheel.  It's not that Elaine is huge, it's just that the little wheel is rather little.

I've gone back and forth between Brighid, Brigantia, and Holda.  All three are mythological figures associated with spinning - although in the first two cases the association is rather looser than in the third.

'Elaine' was named for Elaine of Astolat (the Lady of Shalot), the maiden who loved Lancelot du Lac in Arthurian legend. Although I'd posted on facebook and ravelry that I'd decided on Brighid as the name of the little wheel, I've changed my mind and she will henceforth be known as Holda.  Holda is the germanic patroness of spinning.  The Brothers Grimm have a story about her called 'Frau Holle'.  So, this is my new wheel, named 'Holda'.  It's a more appropriate name than Brighid, as the wheel is undeniably german.  After posting pictures of the wheel all over Ravelry, I came across another Raveler who owns, by chance, the same wheel.  Hers came slightly less complete than mine, but it did come with the original instructions, which was useful.  As best as she was able to figure out, the wheel was manufactured as a kit in the 1980s by a German furniture company.  There are enough oddities about the wheel that it's pretty clear the wheel was not made by a spinner.

The wheel itself is wonderful lightweight.  She will be amazing for taking out to spin-ins.  She weighs a very light 10lbs has a very small profile.  Her flywheel is only 12.5" diameter.

The strangest thing about the wheel is the distaff.  In it's current placement, it's unusable.  It sits about 6" behind the flyer.  That's not a practical position for spinning of any type.  However, it is not a permanent fixture.  It can be easily removed and held while spinning.  I've tied a mohair and wool blend batt onto the distaff and have been spinning from it.  I have to say, it makes spinning infinitely easier!  Although I generally get a nice even thread while spinning, using the distaff seems to make that evenness pretty effortless.

It's a double drive wheel, meaning that the driveband goes around the flyer and the bobbin.  I've never spun on a double drive wheel before, so figuring out the tensioning was a bit unusual.  In the picture above, you can see the wooden knob on the rear maiden.  The upper part of the assembly unscrews, and then the lower part screws up to tighten everything up.  This pulls the flyer assembly up, which tightens the tension.

The flyer goes right through the front maiden, instead of having a separate bearing attached to the maiden.  That means in order to remove the flyer, the whole maiden has to be loosened and pulled back.  It's not a big deal, though.  There is only one bobbin, so until I get more bobbins made (or find more), I won't need to worry much about switching them out.

The flyer itself is also slightly odd, having only 4 hooks.  The top hook does not align with the end of the bobbin, either.  This is an easy fix.  I plan to remove the hooks, fill the flyer with wood filler, and put in 6 hooks, evenly spaced.

The treadle was a little clunky at first, but that was a veyr easy fix.  There were a few problems there.  First was that the conrod, the twine that attaches the footman to the treadle, was way too loose.  I cut it off (it was knotted too tightly for me to untie it) and replaced it with new twine.  I am going to get a thin leather strip to replace the twine, but for now, it's much better. 

The second problem was that the footman was apparently missing something to hold it securely to the crank on the wheel.  According to the diagram provided by my fellow raveler, there should be a small wooden bead there.  Not having a bead of the right size handy at the moment, I stuck a hair elastic on in it's place.  Totally solved the clunky treadle issue.

I have great plans for this wheel.  She will definitely be my primary summer wheel.  I plan to take Elaine apart to refinish her in a lovely red mahogany stain.  Re-finishing Elaine will take me the better part of the summer.  But after Elaine is done, it will be Holda's turn.  I am going to strip her right down and remove the current finish.  I'll be refinishing her in a very dark chestnut colour.  It's likely I will paint some small designs around the wheel and treadle.  My husband is going to cut and drill an arm for the distaff to pull it out in front of the flyer.  There is a fancy little decorative tip missing on top of the front maiden.  It serve no purpose, but I am going to pour a resin bead to put in there - I will probably put a small decal of a woman spinning in the bead.  The front of the wheel needs a small attachment to make it mroe secure.  Again, I will form this from poured resin.  When she is done, she is going to be a thing of beauty to behold!

I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Super quick cloth trainers

So this post has nothing to do with knitting - at all.  This is the post that pretty much confirms I've ventured into Mommy-blogging.  ;)
Maybe admitting my own tendency to talk about nothing but mommyhood and my own kid will now give me the freedom to blog more.  After all, let's face it, one tends to get very little knitting and spinning done with a very active toddler underfoot. 

The Mouselette is sort of potty training right now.  She was way into it a few months ago, right around the one year mark.  Not long after, she flat out quit.  She would clench her legs and literally vibrate with the effort of not peeing, then I'd turn my back, she'd stand up and pee beside the potty.  So we quit.  We started up again a few weeks ago, she was into it for a week, then quit on me again.  Then she decided she doesn't like having her diaper changed.  I figured out quickly that it's the whole interrupting-playtime thing that she doesn't like.  So we switched to pullups.  Problem - pullups (both cloth and disposable) are sooooo expensive.  But they are way easier to use right now.  Grab the little bum, whip off the wet diaper and whip on a dry one.  We can do a full (wet) diaper change in about 30 seconds. 

Last week, I was in the dollarstore and saw that they had little packages of little girl panties.  The smallest size they had was 4/5, but that worked!  I grabbed a pack to see if I could make them into pullups.  This was the result!  Please share it with your friends.  A 5 pack of panties was $1.50.  Bias tape is $2, elastic is $1.  That means for as little as $6 (counting for 2 packs of bias tape - only one pack of elastic was needed), you can make 5 pairs of pullup trainers.  The best part is how you can make them fit even the tiniest bums.  Most pullups (both cloth and disposable) are too big on Mouselette's tiny little bum.

I'll wait until tomorrow(ish) to post about my lovely new spinning wheel.  ;)  Yes... I got a second spinning wheel.  She's freaking adorable!!!!!  <3

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Shop update

On January 15, my etsy shop re-opened under the name Mousewife Designs
I started a Facebook group (I'd love for you to join me there, if you haven't already).

The change from Mousewife Knits & Yarnables to Mousewife Designs was a natural decision.  Mousewife Knits seemed a much narrower focus, whereas Mousewife Designs encompasses much more of what I am using the name for.  It covers my knitting designs, as well as my spindle and jewelry designs.

I have been playing with silicone molds and polymer clay as well as wire-wrapping techniques to create designs that are as unique as they are beautiful.  I've been having a lot of fun, especially with the spindle making.  I've been experimenting with everything I can get my hands on: cold porcelain, polymer clay, resin.  I've even been mixing and matching media - coating cold porcelain in resin, finishing the wood shafts with resin.  Then there is finding different ways of tinting the resin for unique looks.  I recently learned that the jaquard acid dyes I use for dying wool also make amazing resin dyes.  Eyeshadow works beautifully, too, for a more opaque finish.  This is an amazing way to get a huge range of colours and use up eyeshadows that have expired.

This hasn't stopped me from designing, either.  I have been very busy on that front, having just had a "super secret project" accepted, finished, and submitted recently.  I will post more on that design in July, when the magazine is ready to hit the shelves.  :)

All in all, I have been busy.  Hopefully that busyness won't keep me from updating more often.

In the meantime, have a few more pictures of recently finished designs:
Raw, tumbled garnet gemstone earrings.

 Goldstone orifice hook.
Hematite orifice hook and howlite stitch markers.
Lavender Blue Fingerless Gloves.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Photography troubles

I'm having some trouble taking pictures.  I am not even close to a professional and I only have a little point-and-shoot camera.  I'm not very good at taking awesome professional pictures.

I have 4 white spindle bowls and a clear dish that need to be photographed.  Unfortunately, my light box is white, which is blinding them out, and using a sheet just doesn't look quite as nice.

I wonder if I could convince H to upgrade our camera...

So far, this is the best I have managed.  It's okay, but it's not the best I can do, and I know it.  I have a few more days to figure it out...