Saturday, November 8, 2014

Two more birthday parties = Two more gifts

The boys have been invited to two birthday parties this month. The first one is tomorrow, and both boys have been invited. It is a Minion Disco Party! We haven't seen Despicable Me yet - but have plans to watch it tonight. Even though the boys haven't seen Minion movies, they both know about those crazy characters and LOVE Pharrell William's song "Happy."

Since it is a Minion party, I knew I needed to make something Minion-inspired. I was going to make another pencil case like I did for a party we went to last month, but then I saw these fingerless mitts and knew they would be the perfect gift. I adapted the pattern to use 8-ply (DK weight) yarn and a size G crochet hook, but otherwise I followed it as written. The result was the perfect size for a pre-schooler!

I'm so pleased with the way they turned out. Here they are, modelled by Desmond...

If I make them again, I will make the cuff in a rib stitch so they are easier for little hands to put on.

In a couple of weeks, Vincent is going to another party - this one is at the local bowling alley. Vincent helped me pick out a pattern from Rebecca Danger's The Big Book of Knitted Monsters. The one he selected, Tony - the toy-box monster, looks remarkably like a bowling ball!

I hope that both boys will like their handmade toys!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Another birthday gift - Crochet Minion Pencil Case (from Petals to Picots)

This weekend, Vincent was invited to another birthday party. This time, it was a 6th birthday party for one of the first boys he made friends with at daycare-preschool when we moved here from the US two-and-a-half years ago. (Has it really been that long??) Last year, I made his friend this snake, which was apparently a big hit. Since this friend is now in kindy, we don't see him as often as we used to. I wasn't sure what to make him for a gift - I wanted to do something special, but didn't really want to give him another toy. Then, I remembered that his mum said that one of his favorite songs was "Happy" by Pharrell Williams - the theme song from"Despicable Me." We haven't seen the movie, but my boys really like that song.

So I did a quick search for minion patterns - there are lots of cute hat patterns out there, but since it is now coming into summer here in Sydney, I didn't really want to make a hat. Then, I came across this great pattern for a crocheted minion pencil case by Kara at Petals to Picots. I really like her patterns - they are cute and useful. And her patterns are very clearly written and easy to follow. I made some of her apple cozies for teacher gifts at the end of last year (for the pattern for one, see here and then scroll down to links for the other apple cozy patterns - I love the monster ones! I have pictures of mine somewhere, but I can't find them right now...)

Making adjustments in hook size and stitch count to account for the DK yarn I used, I made my very own minion pencil case.

I'm very pleased with how it turned out. It worked up quickly and it was fun to do something different. Hopefully, the birthday boy will like it too.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

R2-D2 Hat

This weekend, Vincent was invited to a birthday party for one of his preschool friends. It was a Star Wars-themed birthday party. Since we don't own any Star Wars stuff, I thought I'd make Vincent a hat to wear to the party. There are lots of Star Wars patterns out there, but Vincent and I decided on this cute R2-D2 hat pattern. I adapted it to suit DK (8-ply) yarn (the most widely available yarn here in Australia) and changed a few of the elements of the pattern (like the vertical white lines). It is just a basic crochet bucket hat with a few embellishments, but it it resembles R2-D2. And,  I figured that if we ended up not being that "into" Star Wars, it would at least look like a robot hat.

He was the only R2-D2 at the party. There were four Darth Vaders, a couple of Luke Skywalkers, one Princess Leia, and a Spiderman.

Then, of course, there was the matter of a gift for Vincent's friend. I tend to make birthday gifts, so Vincent and I decided I would make a R2-D2 hat for his friend as well.

And, of course, Desmond didn't want to be left out. So I made one for him too!

Three R2-D2 hats in less than a week - I think that might be some sort of record!

Until the invite came, Star Wars hadn't hit our house yet. But in the last week, Vincent has become much more interested in it. Yesterday, he drew this picture of Star Wars characters and ships.

1st row (L-R): Storm Trooper, Darth Vader, R2-D2, C3P0
2nd row (L-R): Death Star, Millennium Falcon, and two different spaceships/fighter jets 

I think this is just the start of the next "big thing" for the boys. (And I'm just waiting until Vincent realises that there are Star Wars Legos!)

I would be happy to make and sell these hats (or other hats/toys/accessories/sweaters/etc) to order. Please send me a message if you are interested and we can work out the details.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Temperature Blanket Pattern

Some of my knitting/crocheting/fiber arts friends have asked me for the pattern for the Sydney-Decorah Temperature Blanket. (For posts about how this blanket as come to be, see here, here and here.) It is basically a bunch of mitered squares that are knit-together-as-you-go. I got the idea for this type of pattern from this website, and I made a few modifications to so that the squares would work for my project.

Today, I had some time to type up the pattern. It has not been tested. But I thought I might as well put it out there. So, if you find any errors, please let me know.

As I am just over halfway through the blanket, I have not yet worked out how I will do the border around the outside of the blanket (thus incorporating the temperatures of the last five days of the year). As I decide the border, I will update the pattern.

In the meanwhile, here is the pattern. If you do make this blanket, I'd love it if you would share a photo of it with me. And all the standard "rules" apply - please treat this pattern and the associated pictures as you would want your own to be other words, please don't sell the pattern as your own and don't use my photos without permission. However, you may sell any finished items. Happy Knitting!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A long overdue blanket update...

Ok - I admit it.

I am waaaaay behind on my temperature blanket.

All was going well, and at one point in April, I was completely caught up. Then I got behind again and decided to take the blanket and yarn with me to the US when the boys and I went to visit my family in June/July. I was on track to getting caught up when I ran out of orange yarn. The mild winter in Sydney and cooler summer in Iowa resulted in an insane number of totally orange squares (days where the temperatures in Sydney and Decorah were within the same 5-degree range: 21-25 degrees Celsius). I had underestimated the amount of orange yarn I would need.


After we came back to Sydney in early July, I started working on the blanket again, trying to get caught up. But I then made the decision to start on Christmas presents so I would not be in a rush to get things made right before the holidays. So I've been working on a variety of smaller projects that will be gifts for family members and teachers. (Lots of cute things that I can't post pictures of here - don't want to ruin any surprises!!) And I've been working on the blanket here and there.

The end of July marked the half-way mark for the rows on the blanket. And I finally knit up those squares about two weeks. It is amazing to see the blanket half finished. There is a lot more red, orange and yellow than I had expected - the temperatures in Sydney this winter have been nearly constant and there has been little variations in the daily high temps in Decorah. Even though I reached this milestone several days ago, I kept forgetting to take some photos of the blanket. Of course, it doesn't help that it has been raining and raining and raining and raining - not good photo-taking weather.

At any rate, here is the blanket at the halfway mark. I'm pretty pleased with how it is turning out. (The light yellow looks like white in the photos).

And I am kind of excited to see that the Farmer's Almanac is predicting a harsh winter for the Upper Midwest (sorry Iowa folks!!) That means lots of blue (there are three shades in my colour scheme) and grey and hopefully some purple (for the REALLY cold days). I'm crossing my fingers that Sydney has a few hot days in December and January so I get the opportunity to work some pink into the blanket as well.

The last day for the blanket will be 30 January 2015. That seems like a long time from now, but it's not. Hopefully, I will be able to get caught up on the blanket now that I am almost finished with Christmas presents.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lego Storage

Until about a month ago, my boys had a casual interest in Lego, but it was nothing really more than that. When my family came to visit last year, my mom brought along the Legos that my sister and I had played with when we were kids. My boys would occasionally take them out and play with them, building fighter jets and houses and stuff, but nothing very organised or serious.

Then, for his fifth birthday at the start of April, Vincent got four different sets of Lego. And just like that, Lego obsession hit our house.

We now had lots of different sets of Lego and nowhere to put them. We had one tub that served as the storage for the Legos from when I was a kid, but it was difficult to see all of the pieces and find the one exact piece that was needed for a project. The Legos were being left out on the dinner table with projects in various stages of completion. Pieces were getting lost, stepped on (ouch!) and Vincent was frustrated because he was struggling to find the pieces he was looking for.

The original Lego storage system.
I knew we had to find a new storage solution. I decided I wanted one that was compact (our house is not very big), easily transportable (so Vincent could take his Legos on playdates or to his grandparents' or cousins' houses) and organised in such a way that was efficient and straight forward. We don't have heaps and heaps of Lego - but we have enough that it was starting to get out of hand.

I searched online for some ideas and came across one that sounded perfect (of course, now I can't find the link...) This mother used a tool box with removeable compartments for her son to store his Lego bricks and accessories. That sounded perfect to me.

So off I went to Bunnings (that is the Australian equivelant to Home Depot or Lowes). And I found the perfect tool box for about $30. There are several small compartments that are the perfect size for storing the Lego bricks. And they are removable, which is great for when you need to dump them out to find a specific piece. There is also a big storage compartment in the bottom part of the tool box - perfect for storing the instruction books, smaller finished projects and half-finished creations.


In that same blog post I mentioned earlier, the writer mentioned that she used paint chips to color code the storage compartments. I thought this was a great idea - so I picked up several while I was at Bunnings.

It has taken some organising and re-organising of the colors in each bin but I think we have now managed to get things settled in the new Lego-sorter-storage-tool-box. Vincent absolutely loves it. Although it is a bit big for him, he is able to carry it, which he thinks is great.

This was definitely a parenting win!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Update on my Sydney-Decorah Temperature Blanket

31 March marked the end of two months and four rows on my temperature blanket. I am pretty excited by how the blanket is progressing. I am about a week behind, but have been collecting the temperature data for Sydney and Decorah for each day.

The weather in Sydney has been pretty consistent - that's why there is lots of orange and red on the blanket. But - fortunately for me! - the weather in Decorah has been all over the place in the past two months. That is what is providing the color variation in the blanket.

Just to remind you - each square is a day and the colors in that square are determined by the high temperatures in Sydney, Australia (where I currently live) and Decorah, Iowa (where I grew up). And I am going to be recording this temperature data for an entire year. I began on my birthday, 31 January. The end result will be twenty-four rows of fifteen squares (360 days) with the temperatures of the remaining five days represented in a border around the blanket. [And yes - I will type of the pattern one of these days...]

I have come up with fifteen temperature ranges and have assigned a color to each. The outer most color in each square represents the Sydney temperature and the other color is representative of Decorah's temperature for that same calenar day.

Here are the temperature ranges (in degrees Celcius) and the corresponding colors:
below -25 = dark purple (none of that yet!)
-24 - -20 = light purple (none of that yet either)
-19 - -15 = grey (a few days were that cold in Decorah since 31 January)
-14 - -10 = dark blue
-9 - -5 = royal blue
-4 - 0 = light blue
1 - 5 = dark green
6 - 10 = light green
11 - 15 = light yellow (finally some warmer days in Decorah near the end of row 4!)
16 - 20 = dark yellow (this is the only color that has been used for both Decorah and Sydney, but on separate days)
21 - 25 = orange (lots and lots of this for Sydney)
26 - 30 = red (lots of this color too)
31 - 35 = dark red (only one day has been this warm in Sydney since 31 January)
36 - 40 = dark pink (hopefully next summer!)
above 41 = light pink (hopefully not too many of these days next summer...)

And here are some photos of how the blanket is progressing...

It is finally starting to warm up in Decorah!! [represented by the progression of dark green and light green to light yellow and dark yellow]

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Sydney-Decorah Daily Temperature Blanket

My recent knitting and crocheting projects have mostly involved toys, accessories (scarves, fingerless gloves, etc), little hearts, little stars, bunting, apple cozies and baby clothes (NOT for me...I am going to be an auntie!!). I have been looking to do something for myself and have been wanting to make a blanket.

I have been inspired by all of the beautiful colorwork by Lucy at Attic24 (check out this, this and this). I like granny squares, but the thought of sewing all of those squares together makes my blood run cold. I tried making one of her ripple afghans, but it just didn't sit well with me. (By the way, I LOVE her pattern for Granny Bunting Triangles and can't wait to try her recipe for crusty no-knead bread.)

Then I came across this idea for a temperature scarf. What a great idea - assign a different color to a different temperature range. Then record the maximum temperature for each day of the year and knit a row for each day. Fantastic! Except that one of the joys of living in Sydney is that there is not much variation in the daily maximum temperature - sure there are days of extreme heat and relative cold, but not much in the way of variation.

That is when I came up with the idea to do a dual temperature scarf - for each day I would record the maximum temperature for Sydney and Decorah, Iowa (my hometown). Then I would get lots of color variation (a la Lucy from Attic24) and end up with something for me. Great.

I decided that the first day would be my birthday (31 January) and that I would record the data for an entire year. So this scarf would be a record of the maximum temperatures of Sydney and Decorah for the 36th year of my life.

So I worked out my color chart, bought my yarn, worked out a gage, made a plan and started recording the temperatures for Sydney and Decorah.

I chose DK (8-ply) yarn for my blanket. The dark purple corresponds with the coldest temps (-25C). The further right you go, the warmer the temperatures. The light pink on the right is for the hottest temperatures (41+C).

Here is my color-temperature chart, in degrees Celsius.

The one thing I didn't take into account was all of the ends I would have to weave in. At the end of every. single. row. YIKES!!

Not to mention that it was going to be a very long scarf... two stripes for each day for an entire year... do the math... that's 730 rows.

Right. Time to come up with a new plan.

I started trawling for ideas. I decided that blanket would be best. But I wanted something that would make use of my two-colors-a-day color scheme. Granny squares wouldn't really work - plus, I would have to sew them all together. Stripes might work, but it would be a bit mind numbing and I would have the same problem of having to sew the ends in at the end of every. single. row.

Then I came across this idea for a blanket made up of mitered squares. I realised that I could make one square for each day and each square would be made up of alternating stripes of the colors that corresponded with the maximum temperature for that day in Sydney and Decorah.

And, when you do a blanket made up of mitered squares, you have to join the squares as you go. It's part of the pattern.

A close-up picture of what the squares look like.

And, if the starting color of the next square is the same as the starting color of the previous square, you just carry the color along - one less end to weave in.

So I had Paul do some math for me and he worked out that if I made 3-inch squares, then I could make a blanket that was 15 squares by 24 squares. That is 360 squares. Then the last 5 days of the year would be represented in a border around the blanket - 10 stripes in total. And the resulting blanket would be a decent size blanket.

And it would be colorful.


I've just finished the 16th square (the end of the first row + the first square in the second row). Because of the false start with the scarf and a crazy bout of sickness, I am a bit behind. But I am really enjoying the pattern and the colorwork. It is also fun to see how the temperatures are changing (or not) for Sydney and Decorah.

This is sort of what the blanket looks like so far - I've finished the first row of 15 squares and have started the second row. Up to this point, it has been all orange and red for the Sydney colors. For Decorah, it's been 3 shades of blue and some grey.
Here is my temperature data for Sydney and Decorah.

At some point, I will write up a rough description of the pattern and how I am putting this all together.