Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

While we were out of state, I made some halloween trick or treat pumpkin bags for the kids. Not too big, not too small, but just right. Here we are in our costumes I frantically made after returning to San Diego (while dealing with a cough & cold and no sleep). DH is a leopard, #2 is a lamb, #1is a lion, and I'm a snake. I like trying to do family costumes because it is fun and presents an interesting challenge. I'll post the answer to our family costume theme tomorrow, but feel free to guess how we might all be related. I'll give you a hint: each of us has a buddy. Leopard-goat, lion-calf, lamb-wolf, snake-baby.

The other thing I started working on last week is a bag to felt. So many crafty people in our Fiber Therapy group have been making felted bags recently, I've gotten excited and want to try one out myself. I had been thinking about the design for awhile, and was excited to buy the yarn at a yarn shop while on the trip. I think that it is big enough to stitch together and then try felting. Here is the pic of the flat fabric. I know it will shrink upon felting, but we'll see how it goes. Maybe this will be a project for the weekend...

This week, I have begun making 8" squares for the SD Wild Fire blanket project. I know we'll be busy sewing the squares together on Saturday.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Here we go again

We were out of state when the fires of 2007 hit this weekend. So frustrating to be so far away and not have much info on what was going on at home. Like many, our neighborhood was evacuated, and thankfully we have been able to return to our home. The fires bring back memories of the 2003 fires, which came within less than a mile of my home then. I evacuated then. I remember the smoke, the ash and soot and working on halloween costumes because I couldn't go to lab. I tried to go to lab after a couple of days, but the air quality was worse inside than outside because the building ventillation system had sucked in so much bad air before... I don't know yet how close the fires got this time. I feel fortunate that we have a home to come back to; that we were able to breathe clean air for a couple of days while the fires were close and intense; and that family is safe (not sure yet about their homes in East County as the fire is still burning very close to their homes). It was almost a relief to be so far away when the evacuation order came. My family was safe, I could do nothing about anything at home so there was no need to fixate and worry about our place, and I knew that God would protect and provide for us. I wait to hear about family and friends.So now I'm home. Tired after the loooooong drive, and I have Halloween costumes to make.

Please visit San Diego Wild Fire Blanket Blog to learn about making 8" acrylic squares for blankets for those who lost their homes in the fires.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

8 random things

I was tagged by GeorgeAnne
The Rules:Once tagged, you must link to the person who tagged you. Then post the rules before your list, and list 8 random things about yourself. At the end of the post, you must tag and link to 8 other people, visit their sites, and leave a comment letting them know they’ve been tagged.

1. I love to make Monkey Stew. Don't worry I don't really use monkeys- it's a vegetarian lentil based stew.
2. My Grandma taught me how to make lefse. It's the Norweigian version of a tortilla made from mashed potatoes and flour. Usually served with butter and sugar. So yummy.
3. I have a B.A. in Chemistry and Math from St. Olaf College, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from University of Michigan.
4. My other Grandma taught me how to make peanut brittle and even showed me her secret for making it super yummy.
5. I love to ballroom dance- waltz and tango are my favorites. I haven't done too much since moving to San Diego though.
6. I love helping my Mom make krokonner cookies at Christmas. It's a Swedish cookie that is baked on a curved sheet so that they look like little bridges or bracelets. They are supposed to be white, but I like them a little on the brown (burnt) side.
7. I've stayed in the 4-H dormitory on the 3rd floor of the 4-H building at the Minnesota State Fair over 50 times.
8. My all-time favorite TV series is The Pretender.

Edited-1-20-08 (I've removed the links to the non-fiberworks blogs.)
People I've tagged: Edina, Mary, Amy, Wendy, Noriko, Dawn, Rebecca, and Olaina.

An all yarn purse

Here is my first attempt at a purse made completely of yarn. It needs a name. Maybe Twisty Clutch? Ideas? I was working on another bag I have in mind, but this time the yarn just didn't want to go there, so this is what I came up with instead. It's sort of a fabric made on the bias with inc on one end and dec on the other, giving you a parallelogram. Then I matched up the stitches and sewed the seam part way up on either side, leaving the center open. I think the twist in there helps keep the bag closed. The ends were gathered and sewn shut. I made the handles by chaining a length, then sc over the ch, and then sc over the handle again to add some bulk. I even made a little "bell clapper" button- Chained a few, then made a little ball at the end. If you've ever seen a crocheted bell, then you know what I'm talking about. The button can fit through some of the stitches to hold it closed.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog for the Environment

On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind. In 2007 the issue is the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.
I grew up with Reduce, Reuse, Recycle always running through my head and I have always tried to use my resources wisely. Teach your children to recycle from an early age, then they won't know anything different. My parents were recycling long before it was so easy, hanging on to the recyclables until the next collection opportunity came around. Today we load up the kids' wagon with the recyclables and take it down to the far end of the complex to the recycle dumpster. Make toys & crafts for and with your kids from items to be recycled- the cardboard cones that thread & yarn come on make fun tunnels for cars/trains or bracelets or blocks.

Reduce the waste you generate by purchasing things with less packaging, buy only what you need, combine trips in the car, and walk whenever possible.

Reuse Make simple cloth napkins for everyday use. With little kids around, we go through lots of napkins, and rather than the fancy ones getting used all the time, I made some very plain ones. You can cut 1 yard of fabric into 20 9" squares. It's a good size for our house, or you could make larger ones if you wanted. I just left the edges unfinished- the first few times through the wash you will have frayed edges to remove, but after that they won't ravel anymore. You could also finish the edges with pinking shears or a simple hem. They also make good handkerchiefs to use instead of tissues. Reuse your grocery bags or make or purchase reusable bags. Check out all the crafty ideas at My Recycled Bags.

When purchasing yarn, why not try to use yarns made from bamboo, soy or other renewable sources? Or if you like alpaca choose Frog Tree Yarns- the yarn is made by a co-op of women in Bolivia and is sold as Fair Trade. Or search and purchase other yarns that have a Fair Trade promise. And buy organic whenever possible. It's better for you and better for the environment.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A new love?

So we're getting ready for a mini-dishcloth swap in our Meet-up group to get to know the members better. I'm excited for it as it will be fun, they are fast to complete and are pretty. I recently read someplace that "you can't do pictures in crochet but you can in knit" or something to that effect. Knowing that both knitting and crocheting have brick stitches that look just about the same, I figured you can make pictures in solid crochet cloth. So yesterday I set out to try it. I found a grid of a heart, modified it a bit, and voila! I know you're jumping up and down in your seat! How did I do it? I did the background work in half double crochet and the picture work in front post or back post double crochet (alternating rows so that the post is always accented on the same side of the work). This works because the fpdc and bpdc go down into the row below so it turns out to be the same height as when the hdc is done on top of the stitch from the row before. Plus the picture part gives ridges that will be great for scrubbing. Also, at the end of each row, I only ch 1 instead of the normal 2 for hdc, and then I went into the first stitch. This seems to have given a nice edge on either side with out doing a round of sc around the edge. I'm sure others have already thought of this, but being new to crochet, and not having scoured the dishcloth patterns, I'm happy to have tried it, and found out that it works! It only took a couple of hours to make, and I can see how these would make great gifts, especially if I find lots of pictures/graphs to work from.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


So I finally sat down to make the striped FBB. I wanted to do it because the stitch used is called herringbone half double crochet. I thought it would be cool to see the herringbone stitch really pop out like in some fabrics with that pattern. I think the bag looks pretty good, but I don't really see the detail I had hoped to see. I suppose it's because I used black yarn. I lined it with red fabric, made a white strap and black button to close. It took me 2 days- 1 to do the bag, and 1 to do all the finishing details. It looks like a FAT BOTTOM BAG! not some flat bottom tube! Yay! It feels good to have finished one I've been thinking about for a long time. I even used the bamboo handles.

I also finished #2's striped Frozen Strawberry Yogurt hat, well it's almost done- just need to add ties to the ear flaps. Now to work on the mittens.

I have also finished the filet crochet I mentioned earlier. It's not blocked yet, it doesn't look too horrible, but I might still try doing it with triple crochet instead of double. I gotta satisfy my curiosity. I might just do part of the motif- 1 heart instead of the whole thing.
Now I can start working on other projects like necklaces and barrettes, and Halloween costumes- do I try to make a family costume or do individual??? It's fun making a family costume, but so hard to come up with cute ideas. I've been putting it off for a while, now I really gotta crank them out.

On another positive note, the folks at Ravelry have added like 5000+ people in the week since I signed up. There are only 11000+ people ahead of me, so either I should be on by the end of the month or maybe it will be open to everybody soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The 2007 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Gerhard Ertl for his studies of processes on solid surfaces.

While I consider myself more of a synthetic chemist, I have done some surface chemistry and have an appreciation for suface chemistry. A significant number of students in the research group I was in at the University of Michigan did their projects on various aspects of surface chemistry. My post-doc at UCSD also involved aspects of surface chemistry.

Ertl's work has had impacts on all of our lives borh by the questions he investigated and by the methodology he developed (that others have used to study different systems). He studied how catalytic converters in our cars work, as well as how the catalyst used to make ammonia gas from nitrogen and hydrogen gases is involved in the transformation (ammonia has many important industrial roles including its use as fertilizer).

Other examples of surface chemistry include - corrosion (rust), making semi-conductor computer chips (and studying why/how they work or fail), and new fuel cell technology.

It's exciting to know that while I didn't do the exact same experiments he did, I have done similar experiments on different systems. So reading the pdf article from the Nobel committee, I understand what it takes to do some of those experiments and know what those acronyms stand for. Like how hard it is to get a surface really, really, really clean so that there are hardly any molecules of gas (oxygen, water, nitrogen, hydrogen, etc) on it at all. Let's just say you need a really good vacuum to do so. By getting your surface so clean, then you can introduce the molecules you want and look at the reaction you want to study, not some other reaction.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Hats and Mittens

I've had a bunch of hats planned for quite awhile and just haven't let myself work on them. But now I've decided to start working on them so that I can 1) play with the alpaca yarn I bought to make them, 2) not have to keep worrying/wondering about them and 3) get them done before we go to Minnesota for Christmas.

Last year I made this hat for #1 and some mittens, both were out of wool. I need to find the hat and see if I need to make a new one for him. I know the mittens are too small. I actually made two pairs for him last year. The blue ones had thumbs, and did not fit right, plus he didn't really need thumbs on the mittens. So I made the red ones- no thumbs! Less of a struggle to put on.

This summer DH asked me to make him a beanie out of bright green bamboo yarn. He liked the bamboo I used for #2's dress and my vest. While there are many places which sell bamboo yarn, there are very few selling the bright green he wanted. I spent several days looking for it- first in local yarn shops and then on the internet. While the yarn shops only had bamboo sock yarn, I found the alpaca for the winter hats for #2 & myself. I finally found the green bamboo yarn at, a really great store selling environmentally sustainable goods. I told DH I'd make a beanie for him and that he could select the stitch pattern, etc from my book with over 200 stitches Crochet Stitch Bible by Barnden. The only thing I said was don't select something from the chapter on Tunisian crochet, because I don't know how to do it and I don't have the right hook for it. So he spends some time looking through and picks 3 patterns from the Tunisian crochet chapter. After discussing what he wanted, I found out he doesn't want any holes and wants a nice solid cap. So I auditioned a few different stitches- I did a few rows of sc, a few in dc, a few with front post dc, all in two different hook sizes G & D, and then a few rows of sc with a B hook. What does he pick? The sc with the B hook. So because I love him I gladly made the beanie in boring sc with a super tiny hook. His choice meant that I needed to do 4-10 times as many stitches as I would have if he had picked any other combination. Here are my models modeling the hat.

When I bought the alpaca, I bought 4 skeins- 2 white, 1 pink, and 1 brown. I didn't notice that the pink was super fine while the brown and white were a thicker gauge. So now I get to work both ends of the pink to double it so that I can make the stripes with the white. Not too tough except it makes it more interesting for #2 to want to play with. I'm not too much for naming my projects or patterns, but this one is just screaming "Strawberry Frozen Yogurt". I tried it on her this morning and I have a few more rows to go before I add the ear flaps. It's so exciting when I guess the right size. I started it after she fell asleep, so I couldn't check it out until this morning. I'll try posting the pattern when I finish. See she's already getting into the yarn while I'm trying to take the picture.

Brooke's beanie pattern- my friend asked if I would teach her how to make beanies so she could make them as Christmas gifts. She picked out three stitch patterns and we auditioned them. Luckily the 3rd one worked. It's tough to try to transition a pattern that works well for flat, non increasing pieces into one that works on a hat with lots of increases. This one worked because it called for a row of sc between the crossed hdc. So I simply put all the inc into the row of sc, and worked the crossed hdc rows even. I made this one out of Frog Tree Alpaca that was left over from the labyrinth in the corner. I picked a super huge hook because I didn't have much yarn left and because I wanted to show off the crossed hdc. I really like Frog Tree Alpaca because the yarn is made by a co-op in Bolivia. I hope to put the pattern in a separate post soon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

FBB crochet-a-long

So I'm part of a Fat Bottom Bag crochet-a-long with our Meet-up group. I've finished 3 and will need to frog the fourth (which is actually the second one I started). The first one I made in two halves and stitched together in the center because I didn't know how much yarn I had left on this skein and I didn't want to run out and be left with a funny shaped FBB. So I crocheted from both ends.

The second, I'm not sure what happened but somehow my inc rows don't match my dec rows. I thought maybe when I gathered it, it would be ok, but no. I can't finish it how it is.

The third, I really like. I made it out of a teal yarn from Big Lots. I raided my quilt stash and lined it. Then I added a button and strap to close it.

I made a button for the FBB by ch 4, closing w/ a slipstitch, ch 1, 8 sc in loop, closed w/ a ss. Rnd 2- ch2, 2 hhdc in each sc, close w ss. (16 sts)Rnd 3 ch1, sc2 tog around, close w/ ss. (8 sts)Rnd 4- ch1, sc2tog around, close w/ ss. (4 sts)Fasten off leaving a tail ~18" long. With a needle, gather loops together. Sew to center of bag at bottom of gathering. Wrap yarn tail around button a few times to stabilize it.Strap- ch 6, sc across (5 sts)Row- ch1, sc across in back loop only (5 sts) until strap is 2" (or long enough to get over handle and down to button) Mine was 7 rows.last row- ch1, sc in 1st stitch, chain 6 (or enough to get over button), skip 3 sc, 1sc in last stitch.Before fastening off, check to see if hole is appropriate size for your button. If not, remove last sc, adjust chain length, sc in last stitch. Then fasten off.Sew strap to inside center of back side of bag just below handle. This way strap can hide inside bag when it is not buttoned shut.

I really like the flower handles I found at Michael's. They are brass rings. I also got plain rings as well as a pair of stars. I can't find any good deals on the bamboo or other handles. I just can't justify spending $4-5 on a cheap pair of handles, knowing that Michael's or JoAnn's marked it up so outrageously. I suppose if I were making only 1-2 FBB I could pay that, but I have so many ideas for different ones to try.

The fourth is blue with contrasting green- mostly because I didn't have enough blue left to gather it and I hate starting a new skein for just a couple of rows because that would mean I'd have to adjust the next one, and I don't want to think that hard.

It's funny, I can't figure out why I feel so obsessed with these FBB. I'm not really a fan of purses/bags. I prefer to use pockets when possible. I know a lot of people who would like one as a gift, so I keep making them. Maybe also because I still don't think they have turned out like I thought they should. Mine all seem so small, and I think they should be deeper. GeorgeAnne's always look so nice. Maybe the bags are misnamed- maybe I'd be satisfied with them if they weren't called Fat Bottom, and were called Round Clutch or something like that. The stitch is pretty, and makes a nice pattern, but I can't seem to find a nice rhythm with it, it is far slower than the hdc or dc. I have to pinch the loop on my hook to get the right loops to transfer. Once I make the "perfect" one I'll be satisfied, maybe ...


I should have looked at that Ravelry site earlier. I had noticed people mentioning it awhile ago, but I didn't take the time to check it out until this week. It seems like it will be really cool and neat to use. Of course, there is a huge waiting list, like 16000 people in front of me. But that's ok, I've waited for awhile, I suppose I can wait some more. It looks like it's an online version of what I've started in a bound journal at home.

Monday night after my post, I decided to do a few more rows on the filet crochet. Right after I say things are going well, I notice that my dimensions aren't coming out quite right. Although the pattern is square, the listed dimensions are 7" x 8". Mine is on track to being 5 x 7. I don't mind the size, I'm frustrated by the distorted proportions. The hearts do not look symmetrical at all. They look rather squashed. I'm going to stick with it, and hope that with enough blocking and stretching it will come out looking ok. If it doesn't, then I'll keep it and use it as a coaster here. Then I'll do it again with triple crochet instead of double crochet. I'm not so sure switching to a larger hook would solve my problem.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Thread, thread and more thread

A friend of mine from church gave me some beautiful rayon thread. Nancy had bought it for embroidery, but it didn't work on her machine. It seems to be about size 10, so I made a necklace out of it. It's a choker, with an eight petal flower in the center. I know the picture doesn't do it justice, but the webcam is fastest.

I am also working on my first filet crochet item, a belated wedding gift for a former housemate from: It's working up pretty fast, and it's nice that it is so symmetrical. The symmetry means I don't have to remember which way I'm goin L to R or R to L- when I have to set it down to go deal with the kids.

I recently finished these two pot-holders for my halloween loving friends. I made them with Grace Cotton on a size D hook, using the pattern from Geometrics, a new way to Crochet by Ruthie Marks. Now to make a trip to the post office and send them off.