Tag Archives: DIY

Book Review: Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs

Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs:

144 circles, hexagons, triangles, squares, and other unexpected shapes

Book By:  Edie Eckman

5cupcake

5 cupcakes out of 5

Review by Amanda McMillen

Over the holidays I was at a family member’s house and she had a copy of this book. She let me borrow it for a few days and I fell in love with it. After returning it I managed to get myself a copy for the Kindle.

The author Edie Eckman has written several books but so far I have only read the one! When it comes to the world of fiber arts she has done it all. After working in a yarn store she started writing patterns, and teaching. She is also an editor for yarn companies and independent publishers.

I have not read a lot of crochet books because I find that I tend to prefer blog posts. Many of the books I have read in the past end up making me feel overwhelmed. This book is far from intimidating. The patterns are easy to understand and she clearly explains everything about them. Noobs to the most experienced crocheter can gain something from this book.

One of my favorite parts of this book is that she explains how to use graph patterns. This is something that has alluded me for years. There is even recommendations on which patterns to to use, to help teach yourself how to read them. Each motif has a written pattern and a chart pattern. Like so many other craft books, this one is filled with amazing images. They are clear without taking over the content.

Although the only patterns in the book are the motifs themselves she offers creative ideas to use them. There is even a recipe on how to create your own designs.

Pros:

  • Easy to read patterns and technique tutorials
  • Beautiful images
  • Good tips and tricks
  • Easy to use and well organized

Cons:

No major cons. This books was better than expected! Although there are great ideas for uses of the motif, they are all drawings. I do kind of wish there were some photos of finished products using them.

You know I had to make some of these the first night I had it!

I have made a few motifs so far, but one really stands out as a favorite!

Motif 112

I like a traditional granny square but sometimes they get a little boring. This is a different take on it. I am planning on making an afghan for my daughter using this motif with a regular granny square done in two colors.

This book has so much to offer, so in between making squares I will be making a scarf from some of the more open round motifs, I just have not decided how I want to join them yet. Thankfully the book offers tips on how to join pieces!

Have you read this book?

What is your favorite motif? I am thinking about trying to host a crochet along this year and using this book for the projects.

Disclaimer: I am not being paid to do this review. I have not
received any compensation from the author or publisher.
I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate program, so if you buy this book through the links in this post you will be helping this blog, and my family.
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Oops… My bad

So earlier today I posted a free pattern… I also made a PDF file of the pattern, and set it up for free download on Ravelry.

I forgot to activate the link…

So if you tried to download it  today and could not, I am very sorry.

Here is the link to the pattern for Basic Arm Warmers PDF file.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/basic-arm-warmers

arm warmers resize

Basic Arm Warmers With a Thumb Hole

This is one size fits most, but you should check the size and make adjustments to fit the person it is for.

arm warmers resize

I used a chainless foundation when making this but if you do not know how to do that you can start with chaining 28.

If you do not know how to do a chainless foundation, but want to learn how I posted a video I found on youtube a week or so ago.

Using an H or I hook (use a larger hook for larger size)

Rnd 1 hdc 26 and join. Be careful not twist it when joining.

Rnd 2 hdc around.

You can add rounds if you would like the cover more of the hand.

Row 3 hdc 22 (21 for men) and turn. (This is the start of the thumb hole)

Row 4 hdc 22 (21 for men) chain 4 (5 for men) and join.

Rnd 5 – 21 hdc 26 around

You can add or subtract rows to fit.

This pattern is really easy to embellish, and easy to make. Get creative and add your favorite trim or applique.

For my daughter I will be adding cat prints to hers!

Want to download the PDF for free? Find it on Raverly! Basic Arm Warmers I made a nice pretty PDF so you can save this pattern to use later!

Sweet Berry Vinegar!

So I have been experimenting with making my own vinegar. There has been a lot of ups and downs but I am excited to say, I got this now!

back to basics

Vinegar is very useful. I am not sure it is the cure all that some people say, but I’ve found it the most useful thing in my pantry. It clears up dandruff, helps digestion, kills parasites, cleans the house, and helps with inflammation. I am told it does even more, but that is what I have tried.

The vinegar you buy in the store is pasteurized and distilled and that kills a lot of the stuff that is good for you. You can not buy unpasteurized vinegar, so I learned to just make my own.

I have read many methods of making vinegar, and to be honest it is a little overwhelming how much I found. Some recipes sound simple, where some sound like you need a full lab to make it.

Let me tell you how I did it:

vinegar

First I started by making a Mother of Vinegar. That really was not as hard as I thought at first.

To make vinegar you have to feed the mother sugar that it can ferment to create alcohol and that is what turns to vinegar. Anything that ferments can be used, but you do want to keep the flavors of that in mind while doing it. Old, but not rotten fruit is the best thing to use. Most old fruit is starting to ferment already.

I used a glass one gallon tea pitcher with a spout on the bottom. It has to be glass or ceramic. Vinegar is an acid, so you do not want anything corrosive. I cleaned everything with a bleach sanitizing solution (1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water), and let it air dry.

A few weeks before starting this I bought a bunch of fruit. I let the kids help themselves but I got extra hoping some would get old. I used what was left to make the vinegar.

  • 1 plum
  • a handful of strawberries
  • a handful of grapes
  • 1 green apple

I cut everything up, making sure nothing was rotten. I covered the fruit up with wine and apple cider vinegar. I used the Bragg kind with the mother in it. For extra sugar I added some honey.

Honey can slow things down, because it does not go bad. I found it really added to the over all flavor though.

I poured in the mother of vinegar, and the solution it as made in. I used a coffee filter to cover it up. It’s important that it is able to breath, but you want to keep things out. It is possible to attract vinegar flies. Store it in a warm, but not hot dark place.

Do not be surprised when you smell an alcohol smell in the room it is fermenting in. Once a week I would pull it out, and check on it. The whole family would smell and taste it. We were always surprised by how good it was!

After a week we noticed, it formed a new mother.

 

Every two weeks we would feed it by adding more fruit, or a little wine.

Last weekend when tasting it, we realized it was done! I pulled out the many layers of mother, and set them aside. I poured out the vinegar into the bottles, and filtered the fruit out. Since it is unpasteurized I am keeping it in the fridge.

I sure it will be great in salad dressing! I know it was good when the bratwurst was cooked in it!

I have started a lemon vinegar now, using the mother I saved from this one. I have used 8 lemons, some white wine, and some apple cider. It  is almost a week old now.

How to Cook Pumpkin for Pies & Breads

A long time ago I was taught how to cook up a pumpkin for pie. I love pumpkin pies, and I really can not get enough of them.

Every fall I cook a year’s worth of pumpkin, portion it out and freeze it. This is a really easy but time consuming project. Once you taste a pie made from fresh pumpkin you will never settle for less!

back to basics

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First thing you should do is pick the kind of pumpkin you want. I did not take pictures of this, but I wish I had. There are different types of pumpkin but the most common will be Pie Pumpkins and Large Pumpkins.

  • Pie Pumpkins: These are smaller and sweeter to taste. You can reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, but these will yield less pumpkin goo.
  • Large Pumpkins, or Jack O Lantern Pumpkins: These are larger, and less sweet.  They are more common and have a stronger gourd taste. If you increase the brown sugar in the recipe it really brings out the flavor. This is my favorite, if nothing else because of volume.

Other Pumpkins:

I have never used these before so I do not know anything about them. Feel free to experiment. I am sure the cooking would be the same. Here are some of the ones I have seen.

  • White Pumpkins
  • Heirloom Pumpkins

I am sure there are far more varieties then most people know. Keep in mind, a pumpkin is just a winter squash, so you can use it in any squash recipe! I LOVE pumpkin! Be sure to try my Pumpkin Stir fry recipe too!

Once you decide what kind you want you get to cook it!

There are many methods to cooking pumpkin and I have tried at least most of them. This is my preferred method.

First I cut the top of the pumpkin off, like you would a jack o lantern. After cutting off any usable pumpkin from the top I just throw it away. Next I cut the pumpkin in half cleaning out the seeds and goo.

You will quickly learn that pumpkin is a little harder to cut than you expect. I suggest using a very sharp knife with a comfortable grip.

Cut the pumpkin into cubes, about the size you would for potatoes, or a little larger. Once cut toss into a large stock pot and fill with water. I also add salt so that it will cook a little faster.

As you see I have kept the dark skin on the pumpkin. That is because it is difficult to remove raw. I have destroyed so many knives and potato peelers trying to remove it.

I prefer to only fill the stock pot half way, and cook fewer pieces at a time. I find it takes just as long to cook fewer all day as it does to fill the pot. You get your temperature up faster this way and the pieces cook quickly.

To check if the pieces are done I insert a knife into the chunks. If it’s soft enough to go through, it’s done. Once soft I strain it with a colander and and let it cool.

When cool I use a simple table knife to cut the dark skin off. It is not harmful to eat but it does not blend well and does not digest well either. I think it makes for ugly pumpkin goo.

When I am making my Honey Pumpkin and Shrimp Stir Fry I stop the process here. You can eat the pumpkin like any other squash at this point!

If you want to make pumpkin goo there is one more very simple step.

Mash the Pumpkin! I use a food processor.

In the past I have used mixers, and blenders too. I have even used a non electric hand mixer before. All of these have about the same results. I suggest avoiding blenders though, because they get hard to clean and turn out to be more mess and hassle. I mash them just like I do potatoes.

As you see, this really is easy. The bigger the pumpkin, the longer it takes. If you use a lot like I do, a full day of pumpkin cooking is worth it. If you use less you can get a smaller one and only spend an hour or two.

Cooking With Fresh Pumpkin Tips:

  • This method of pumpkin cooking makes the pumpkin watery. You may want to reduce the liquids in the recipe, or strain the pumpkin overnight.
  • Fresh pumpkin is lighter in color than canned. Your pies will not have the same rich color as store bought ones. This is also a way to tell if they used fresh pumpkin or not.
  • Unfrozen pumpkin goes bad quickly. It is important to freeze right away. Remember you did not add preservatives.
  • Once thawed out, use within 24-48 hours. As with all things, if it smells bad throw it out!
  • Cooked, frozen pumpkin in a deep freeze can last a year. Most people say only 6 months. I have kept mine for a year, but if it gets freezer burn it does not taste as good. After a year it sometimes smells bad once it is thawed out.

A Stitch in Time Saves 9

This is a tutorial for basic mending skills. If you have no practice with a sewing machine you may not be able to do this right. As long as you can operate the machine, you should be able to.

 

back to basics

My grandmother was a very good seamstress, and made amazing quilts. I had no sewing talents in my youth, and oh I tried. It often ended with me in tears. Years later I decided I was going to teach myself to sew. Drawing on the lessons of my youth, and my amazing googlefu I managed to do it.

These days I find myself more mending something. So this Back to Basics post is something different from my normal kitchen posts.

I’m short.

I am 5 foot tall. Just that, there is no quarter inch or anything extra. 5 on the line. It is really hard to find pants that fit. I wear a lot of boots and that helps a lot. It never fails though, I end up with pants that are too long.

For work I have to have black slacks, and I found me a nice pair of dockers that fit me perfect except the length. They were not too bad, and I thought with the boots, I would have no problems.

So I was wrong:

Before

In fact it was so bad I managed to get a rip up on of the back

I neglected fixing this for a while and the rip just got bigger. The words of my grandmother, “A stitch in time saves nine,” echoed in my head. As my work days got longer for the busy season I had less and less time. My last day off I decided to not only fix the rip, but take the pants up too.

Here is a basic tutorial on mending pants:

Hopefully you are smart enough to fix your pants before they get as bad as mine. If so you can skip a few of these steps!

The first thing I did was fix the rip. I cut off all the longer strings and cleaned up the tear. I did a quick hand stitch first. This will keep everything in place.

When hand stitching I do not tie a knot at the end of some thread like most people do. I use another method I learned from cross stitching. I cut a length of thread twice the size I need it, and fold it. I thread the needle through both of the end pieces, leaving a loop on the other end.

I start a stitch, careful not to pull everything through, leaving the loop open. Insert the needle through the loop and then you pull it tight. From there stitch as normal. I took pictures of this, but I decided to spare you the boring details.

Next I needed to clean up the bottom of the legs.

Using a ruler and some contrasting chalk I found the highest point of damage and cut everything below it off.

Once it was cut I tried them on, to see how much room I have to hem and take them in.

The important thing to remember

is that you need to sit down when measuring. When you sit, pants rise. If you take them in too much you will end up with high waters when you sit.

Measure twice, cut once!

I know this is a wood working rule, but really this is important in most crafts.

I always measure before I start pinning and I keep a ruler or a seam gauge close and check my seams as I go.

Personally I hate raw edges, so I always do a double hem. The first pinning is half the size I want to take the pants up

Once this is stitched up, I need to trim it up more, to make the final seam cleaner.

Anytime two seams meet, things get bulky. This can make it hard to sew, and you can even break a needle on your sewing machine.

Cut a small arch in the fabric over the other seam. When you go to pin this part be aware, and watch it closely when sewing.

Like the first time make sure your seam is even all around. Always double check your measurements.

After pinning, I always try them on again. Make sure everything is lined up right, and everything hangs correctly.

Be VERY Careful!!!

Stepping on a stick pin hurts REALLY bad!

Once you are satisfied that you have everything right, finish it up!!

I’m so happy that I now have nice clean edges on my work pants!!! Maybe I should take up some pajama pants on my next day off. Well maybe not, but I can dream right?

I still have to make a week’s worth of muffins and about a ton of yogurt. I need some cream cheese for a new recipe I found on Facebook! I will sharing the results of that on my friend’s new facebook page: Recipe Results.

Week in Review

What a busy week this has been. Thankfully it is over now!

Monday was the first day of school! I got all the kids up early and of course I shoved a camera in all of their faces!

I am so happy that even the older kids are loving school. When I was their age I hated school, but they have way better classes than I ever did! Advanced Technology??? They build robots in that class!

Witch Hat resize

This is my mini witch hat!

I plan on stuffing this, and finding a way to attach it to a headband. My daughter is already trying to steal it!  I may even end up writing out the pattern. This one is different from my other witch hat pattern.

I finally have a day to myself. My love is at work, and the kids are with Grandma for Labor day! I have at least a few hours of alone time. So of course I am watching Netflix and playing the Sims 3!

Have you seen Orange is The New Black? The first season is on Netflix, and I am surprised by how addicting this show is!

I love The Sims 3! Have you seen a No Lama Cat?

Okay, well I am off to take care of my Sims new plant baby, and relax for some.

I hope you guys all have a great Labor Day!!!

Back to Basic: Lemon Vinegar

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back to basics

Lemon Vinegar: Cleans your house and your insides!

For the last year I have been really into lemons. They have the amazing health benefits and I love the taste. I have even read that adding real cane sugar does not reduce the health benefits.

If you are not familiar with some of the benefits of lemons, here are some of the things I know from my own personal use of them.

  • Drinking Lemon water gives you energy boosts, helps hydration, and helps constipation. Lemon water is also good for sore throats.
  • Lemons are very high in Vitamin C.
  • Lemons are an acid, but they make your body more alkaline.
  • Immune building and clears skin

Although I have not had problems with kidney stones or gallstones I hear it is good for that as well. I have also heard that lemons neutralize free radicals linked to aging and disease.

There is a reason that so many cleaners are lemon scented. Vinegar is also a great cleaning tool!

I recently starting making a lemon cleaner!

I can use this same recipe and dilute it to fit my needs!

  • Cut 6 small lemons
  • Squeeze the lemon slices into a large glass container.
  • Put the lemons into the container as well.
  • Add 1 quart of white vinegar to the container.

Let the mix sit over night to a few days. I like to let it sit until it is a deep yellow color like lemon-aid. Once you are happy with it, strain, and dilute to need. I keep it in the fridge, but I am not sure it has to be. I am honestly not sure how long this is good for. I would discard if it ever smells bad. You want it to smell lemon fresh but still like vinegar! 

For an all purpose house cleaner:

Dilute with equal parts water and lemon vinegar. This can be used to clean anything in your home and is completely non toxic. My floors have never been so clean!!! While cleaning there is a strong vinegar smell, but that is gone once it dries. The lemon smell lingers a little longer. Since this is antibacterial and antiseptic I also use it to clean door knobs and handles once a week.

For an internal cleaner:

Mix 1 oz lemon vinegar to 8 oz water. I mix it in water bottles and drink a glass a day as needed. This is a great colon cleanse, aids digestion, and helps with constipation.

For Pets:

This can also help with most parasites that pets may have. This does not replace anything that your vet recommends. About once a week I mix 1 oz of the internal use diluted lemon vinegar into the pets water. This will dilute it more and is safe for most pets. The dog loves it. The cats are annoyed but drink it. Be warned, they will poop more!

Looking for a craft show

Participating in a craft show is something I have always wanted to do. It would be fun I think. I love to crochet, and when my hands are working right I can do it pretty quick.

I don’t know any local ones, and really do not know enough about them. I have been to plenty and know what I like to see, but I do not know what sells. How many items do you make? I would hate to run out of something.

I am looking this kind of information up today. If any of my readers have done something like this I would love to hear about your experiences. Do you have any tips? What about flea markets? If that worth looking into?

Easy Center Pull Yarn Ball!

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How to turn your Yarn Mess into a center pull ball

Anyone who is into any kind of yarn art knows the pain of a big mess of yarn. For me it is worse when I recycle yarn. Along time ago I saw this trick online but I can’t remember where.

All you need is a paper towel tube and the yarn.

Cut a slit into the paper towel roll:

Find the end of your yarn and put about 4 to 6 inches of tail into the tube and slid down into the cut.

Pull the yarn down about 3 inches from the cut and wrap yarn around to hold that into place:

 

I normally wrap it about 10 times. Next turn the tube upside down and wrap it about 10 more times at a diagonal angle.

Turn it again to a more comfortable angle. and slowly wrap around at an angle until it is the size you want.

To me it kinda looks like a dragon egg! Or I have been playing Sims 3 Dragon Valley too much.

Tuck the end under and pull the tail out of the tube. Make sure that you do not leave the tail in there or it will be hard to find later!

 

Pull the tube out of the yarn and shape the ball with your hands.