Saturday, October 24, 2009

WIP -Works in Progress

I am pretty terrible about finishing things. Not because I am bad at finishing, but because I'm good at starting. I think of an idea while in the middle of another project and I just have to start right away for fear that I might forget my awesome new idea!

Kevin is just the opposite. He won't even THINK about starting a new project until the old one is finished.

And so because I neglect this poor little blog, I suggest to myself the following: Saturday will be Works in Progress day. (Edit: So much for that... I can't keep a schedule anyway :P) A day to show off what isn't yet finished and as the weeks add up it will be a list of yet to be completed projects to gently remind myself what needs to be done.

Knitted Chainmail Inlay (in progress)
I was fascinated by chainmail inlay the first time I saw it, and immediately wanted to make something myself. I don't care for working with metal and I certainly don't have the tools. I love yarn and I can make rings out of yarn, so that's what I decided to use.

So far I'm thrilled with the results. I think the pattern is coming through clearly (and I hope you agree), and I'm having fun doing it.

Anyone who knows chainmail techniques will recognize this as a traditional European 4 in 1 speed knitting. Does anyone else find it incredibly appropriate that making maille is called knitting?

Maybe I should pick a day for finished projects too.


Maybe I should also remember to sign Amanda in rather than using Kevin's name. My bad.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Bob and Larry Effect

First I should admit that this has nothing to do with craftiness; it's just something that's been on my mind for a while and Blogger seemed to be the best place to vent it.

I'm sure I'm not the only person to notice that in movies, televisions, and pretty much everywhere else (including real life), what I will call The Bob and Larry Effect turns up. It describes a pairing of people or fictional characters who are drastically different in physical appearance - one being tall and skinny and the other much shorter and a bit...well, let's say "not skinny." I personally call this The Bob and Larry Effect because I think the two main characters from the Veggie Tales series offer the most striking example:

Obviously they're not the original skinny-guy-and-shorter-stouter-guy combo, but I think it's perfect to use a cucumber next to a tomato when comparing any other pairing with a similar physical ratio. And while I bet the Veggie Tales intentionally chose those vegetables so as to give the buddies dynamically different appearances, they certainly weren't the first to have this idea.

Jim Henson and the other Muppet-makers seemed to be quite fond of the tall-skinny/short-round concept.

But of course even long before then, there were well-known human Bob-and-Larry-type pairs. An interesting case is with the characters of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. The original books don't suggest that Watson is any shorter or rounder than Holmes, and older drawings and live-action portrayals seem to reflect this. But the more recent and more cartoony depictions tend to shorten and fatten Watson. Could Disney be to blame for this?

Feel free to uncover any clues that would prove this wrong. Incidentally, there has been a Veggie Tales video with Larry playing the part of "Sheerluck Holmes" and Bob as...well, "Watson."

Now, how about the non-fictional partners?


For either pairing, I wonder: Were they drawn to each other because of their outward differences? Did an outside force guide them together to create the aesthetically quirky combination? Were they just more entertaining and/or memorable than other golden-age comedy couples because of their size-based unevenness? Would the Bob-and-Larry-essque real-life double acts of the future be successful for any of these same reasons, or even because they would be unconsciously inspired by Laurel and Hardy and/or Abbott/Costello? Or am I just overthinking this, and that it's just a coincidence that this phenemon happens to show up once in a while? I'd like to hear what you think.

Do you have a favorite Tomato-and-Cucumber couple?

*Okay, so even if Oliver Hardy isn't shorter than Stan Laurel, their faces alone seem to follow the Bob and Larry Effect.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Peanut Butter Balls

I loved it back in the late eighties and early nineties when kids shows would occasionally have "very special shows" to teach kids about nutrition, exercise, school subjects, etc.

I happened to come across a cooking for kids episode recently and decided I ought to try making one of the easy kid-friendly recipes. I brought the treats into work and I have never had to write down a recipe so many times in such a short span of time. I repeat it once more thusly:

Peanut Butter Balls
1 cup granola (or granola cereal)
1 cup instant non-fat dry milk powder (Yes they really still sell it, check the baking aisle on a lower shelf.
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix these four ingredients thoroughly (best utensil? clean hands) before adding...

2 cups peanut butter (if you use crunchy you might need a little extra)

Mix this in until the whole batch sticks together in one big blob. Using either your hands (beware it's very sticky!) or a pair of spoons, roll the mixture into approximately one inch balls. Roll each of the balls in a tasty coating. Try some of the following or use anything you might want to try:

Sesame seeds
Toasted coconut
Extra granola
Crushed nuts of any sort
Banana chips crushed up
Pretzel bits
Coat in chocolate

Chill for about 4 hours before serving for best texture and store in the fridge. They'll keep for about 2 weeks, but they're sure to be gone LONG before that.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Busy? Or just a bum.

Maybe I'm not cut out for this blogging thing. I always seem to have something to say, but I never remember to put it into text.

Today I was finally able to give blood again. My iron was high enough (and far higher than normal which for me is a good thing. I was interested to learn about this new program called Red Cross Racing. The Red Cross has always been rather generous to its donors in the past and it seems to me that they just keep giving and giving. I'm happy to donate whether there is reward in it or not, but it is kind of fun to have a little program that keeps track of your appearances.

I hope to earn enough points by January 2010 to get the cooler that you sit upon. It will match the duffel bag, 7 shirts, and lunch pail. Sometimes I try to turn them down, but those RC workers are insistent.

If you're able, and you're not needle squeamish, please donate!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Geeky Cross Stitch Project #1 (preview)

Hello! My name is Kevin. Earlier this year I took up cross stitching. Below is a preview of my first geeky project. This was taken a week and a half ago, but I've made significant progress since then.

Can you guess what it is?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Plarn Making, Version 2

Oh my, but I have been slacking in my posting! In any case, I've come into possession of a ridiculously large amount of plastic. Indeed it is the same plastic used to make the snowflakes in the previous post. However, these bags are really too slender for my preferred method of making plarn to be practical. Thus, I give you version 2. In reality, this method is far more common than the spiral method I use, but in case you haven't seen it, here it is.

Step 1- Once again, acquiring and flattening your plastic bags is the first step. This method is especially suited to slender bags such as those in which your newspaper is delivered. Flatten your bag and snip off the handles if there are any and the bottom most edge which is often fused. This way you will have an open cylinder of plastic.

Step 2- With the open edges at the right and left, fold your plastic over once or twice vertically to allow for quick efficient cutting.

Step 3- Cut strips. Straight through this time! Don't leave a strip at the top or stop short, but simply cut all the way through. When you open up this cut pieces you will have loops. I have had success with strips as thin as a half inch and as thick as two inches. There's every reason to experiment here!

Step 4- Make a chain a follows.
a) Begin with two loops.
b) The left loop will go inside the right loop.
c) Then the lower edge of the right loop will be pulled through the left.
d) Use the newly made chain as the left loop and a fresh loop as the right to continue this pattern from (b) until you have as much plarn as you wish to use.

Or you could just ask me for some. I think I have more plarn now than any human on the planet ever has.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Here in Cleveland, the snow is just stopping and maybe in the next week or three we'll see less slush and mud and more grass. But in our apartment, it's going to look like winter all year round because i just can't stop making these plarn snowflakes! The qualities of plarn are perfect for these! They are stiff enough not to need starch, and yet they are flexible as well. Plus, the plastic's slight shininess makes these flakes almost sparkle.

So fun!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Playing with my Food

HA! Tootsie Rolls really are just little bits of chocolate clay. I'm no sculptor, so he may not be perfect, but he was fun and easy to make. I think I need to get to the bulk candy aisle at my local grocery store and get some of those flavored tootsie rolls to make some really colorful taffy sculptures.

And he fulfilled his purpose moments after this picture was snapped. He was eaten, and he was tasty.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

No Recycle Bin

I know. It makes you sad, doesn't it? Kevin and I live in a small apartment in an average sized apartment complex. There is no recycling pick up. Still, we are avid recyclers and while sometimes it requires a bit of sacrifice, we do what we have to do to avoid enlarging our carbon footprint.

The nearest recycling drop off that takes everything (plastic 1 and 2, aluminum, cardboard, paper) is roughly a 20 minute drive That means we have to make every drive really count. We make as little trash as possible. And when we do make trash, we save our trash. We save it until we know that the trunk and backseat will be stuffed before we make the trek.

In our one bedroom hole in the wall, saving up trash can take up a lot of space! Here are just a few of our tips.
  • Instead of a bin, try a cardboard box. They are everywhere, so you won't have to look too hard. I find enormous clean boxes at my workplace which supplies were shipped in.They serve as my recycle bin, and I don't have to bring back the container!
  • Smash your cans! Not just the aluminum cans, ALL the cans. Aluminum cans buckle easily (save your pop tabs though! That's another post!), but soup and veggie cans can be a little tougher. Use your can opener to remove the bottom of the cans and you'll have a much easier time flattening them.
  • Use market bags. Avoid bringing in what you don't need by keeping your eco-friendly market bags in your car, purse, or bike basket. Every rare once in a while, go ahead and use a brown paper bag so that you can....
  • Have a separate paper recycling container. Keeping paper separate from plastic and metal makes for much tidier recycling areas. Break down cardboard boxes (like cereal boxes) to save space and stand them up in the brown paper bag. You'll be shocked at just how much paper and cardboard will fit in the bag without tearing by sliding your papers in vertically. As a bonus the bag is recyclable too, so there is no bringing back a container after drop-off!
  • Very important! Before you toss something in the recycle bin, consider whether you might have a use for it. I'm a crafter, so tins, glass jars, boxes, zipper pouches and many other things make excellent containers for my knick-knacks and notions. Cereal boxes turned wrong-side out make excellent mailers for small non-fragile items. Plastic jugs from milk or cider can be washed and reused. While waiting for the water to get hot for dishes what have you, why waste it? Use a jug and put that water in the fridge for drinking or boiling later.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Knitting Experimentation

Wow that's tiny!

Sometimes I just have an urge to push my limits. Just how small could I get? Turns out, pretty darn small. I do regret that I don't have a camera that is detailed enough to pick up more of the itty bitty stitches. The swatch shown here is about 20 stitches wide with an approximate gauge of 3o-32 stitches per inch.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Plarn, my way

We interrupt these paper recycling ideas for a quick plarn making tutorial.

What is "Plarn"? Plarn is a slang acronym for Plastic Yarn. Most often it is made from used grocery bags or new trash bags, but any thin flexible plastic sheet could theoretically be made into plarn. There are a few ways to make it, but here you will find my favorite method.

Plarn, My way!

Step 1 - Acquire and prepare your bags. Smooth and flatten them with your hands and cut away the handles and the very bottom edge where the plastic is fused. I usually do about three bags at a time and fold them in half for efficiency.

Step 2- Open your bag and roll it up. Roll or fold in such a way that the open cut edges are at the right and the left. Leave about an inch at the top unrolled.

Step 3- Cut strips. Use scissors or a rotary blade and make cuts at the intervals you like. I personally like my plarn to be about an inch wide. Make sure to leave the unrolled section at the top UNCUT.

Step4- Complete the spiral. Right now, you have a many dangling loops. Make diagonal cuts from the bottom right to the top left (or vice versa if you are left handed) of the strip cuts you've just made. In the photo I have drawn the lines where the first four cuts should be made to help you visualize this pattern. What you are basically doing is jogging each strip to meet the one to the left of it therefore creating a spiral all the way down the bag. I find the best way to accomplish this step is to thread my arm through the bag. This prevents the dangling strips from getting tangled up in each other or accidentally getting cut while the spiral is being completed. If you do accidentally cut a strip, it's not a problem, just see step 5.

Step 5- Connecting plarn ends. Like wool, simply twist the ends of the plarn together. This tightly twisted section will all but disappear in the completed plarn fabric (I say plabric!) If it makes you feel safer, use a tiny dab of glue. I haven't found it neccesary but no one, especially me, will fault you for being careful.

But what do you make with it? Anything that can be made with yarn can be made with plarn. The plabric makes sturdy bags and rugs. Plabric that gets soiled is easily rinsed clean and is therefore great for the beach or the tool shed.
Plarn is also ideal for sculpture as it tends to hold its shape.

Here's to keeping one more non-biodegradable material out of our landfills!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Christmas Card Recycling, Part 3

Welcome back to Christmas Card Recycling...

Part 3
(Polar Attraction)
This time your refrigerator is the star attraction as the ideas here require some magnets. Magnetic stripping can be found in any craft store or big box store both in the craft section and usually in the hardware section as well! To be really Earth friendly though, use some of those promotional magnets that every business everywhere hands out.

Magnetic Poetry
1) Cut the most beautiful and most meaningful words from your cards (or silly or funny or whatever!) and glue them to the magnets.
2) Enjoy them on your fridge!
Just look at the multitude of pretty words!

Magnetic (or not) Paper Dolls

This is just like the magnetic poetry, but instead of the words, you'll be using the colors, and patterns of your cards.
1) Draw out a doll's body (or search for one on the net). You'll need two copies. One copy is the doll: Color her, and cut her out. She doesn't necessarily need a magnet since her clothing will be able to hold her to the fridge. But you can still use one if you want.
2) The second copy is your stencil. Take a deep breath and cut off her head. I know! Shocking! But this way you'll easily be able to trace her neckline. While you're at it, cut her hands off too so you'll know the maximum length of her sleeves.
2) Get fashion crazy! Think outside of the box. That night sky could look like a polka dot dress. A tree might look like a fluffy green tulle skirt. Any unusual element can be a hat or a purse or anything that you can imagine! Just trace your headless doll for perfect fitting garments.
3) Cut them out, tack on the magnet, enjoy your new little fashion icon!

Magnetic Frames
What better thing to frame with cards from loved ones than your loved ones themselves?
1) Lots of cards have built in frames which surround the main picture. Cut out the center and use them in tact. If your pictures are small, miter the corners and shrink those frames tot he size you need!
2) Make rectangles, make squares, make circles, ovals, and flowers! Is the card so beautiful you want to keep the whole picture? Cut a shutter and peek inside to see your picture!
3) Add the magnet to the back and post them on the chill chest. Or not...Those frames would look smashing in your scrapbook too, don't you think?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Christmas Card Recycling, Part 2

Last time, we covered the easy stuff. The next round of recycling, reusing, and repurposing is a little more involved.

Part 2 ("Some Assembly Required")
This time, scissors, glue, and a hole punch will be joined by a stapler, and a little more labor.

What's Old is New Again!
Reuse all the elements (pictures, words, fibers, anything!) from your old cards and turn them into new cards. No explanation needed here. Use your imagination.

Matchbook "Books"
Matchbooks don't have to have matches inside. They could be filled with a small stack of paper and made any size you like for a quick and sweet little notebook.
1) Choose the size of your filler paper. Use the blank side of junk mail if you have it or you might like some notebook filler paper if you prefer lines.

2) Cut the cover of the matchbook 2 and a half times the width of the filler paper and as long as the filler paper plus a quarter to a half inch extra. Fold it to fit around the paper like so.

3a) Visible staple- Staple it at the bottom. Leave a little room so the top flap can easily slide under the lower flap to secure. You could make these over sized and use paired holes and ribbon instead of a staple.
3b) Invisible staple - If you don't want to see the staple, place the card picture side down on the filler paper and staple. Fold as shown in the pictures. Don't let the photos fool you! I did use junk mail (yay reusing!) but those words won't be visible because the backs of the papers are blank. The blank side of the paper should be against the picture side of the card and when folded, the blank sides will be properly visible.

Of course, you can pretty up real matches by removing the cover and replacing it in the same way. Save the strip on the back of the old cover and glue it to the new cover or you won't be able to light your matches!

Advent Calendar or Peekaboo Frame
This card was just a happy find. The flags made perfect little shutters for small pictures that I had received over the holidays. But consider this idea for next year's advent calendar. If you don't have enough photos, use images from your holiday cards hidden behind the shutters. Use a separate piece of poster board or a large card if you have one and use a craft knife to cut 24 shutters. Number them and open one every day in December! The shutters could be fun shapes or haphazard rectangles or anything. Glue the pictures to the back of the poster board or large card so when the shutters are open, you will see the surprise image!

Coming Soon- Part 3 ("Polar Attraction")
Stuff for your fridge.

Christmas Card Recycling, Part 1

It's nearly the end of January and if you haven't already, you're just about ready to take down the decorations. I know I have. I've got a collection of Christmas cards too. I can't bear to just toss them in the recycle bin, so it's time to craft.

Part 1 ("The Easy Stuff")

Paper is paper. Anything made of paper can be made from Christmas cards. Let's take a look at the old classics. You'll need scissors, a hole punch, and glue.

Gift Tags
SO EASY. Templates for interesting shapes are available all over the internet, but rectangles can be just as nice if the image is particularly pleasing and there's no reason you can't just wing it. Any card from any occasion can be made into a gift tag beautifying your gifts. Cut any shape you want and punch a hole wherever you think it should be. Here's a great site for templates and envelopes.

Post Cards
This one is a no brainer. Cut off the back page of your cards and use the front as a post card. (And post cards are quite a bit cheaper to send than regular cards, so next Christmas you'll not only save coin on the stationary itself, but the delivery fee as well) Just be careful that if the front has words on it, that they are complete thoughts, or at least complete the thought when you write your note.

A little more body and a lot prettier than that ripped piece of notebook paper. You could just cut a strip, or you could cut shapes, punch holes, add tassels, glue bits onto other bits, weave, sew, and tear. A bookmark really can be made into a work of art with a little creative thinking. As you can see from the picture, elements from your cards are readily adaptable to the slit style bookmark because the paper is just a bit stiffer. Simply cut a right angle and slide it onto the corner of the page! You could also cut curves or shaped outlines and fit the bookmarks over the edges of the page rather than the corners.

Recipe cards
Same as postcards but cut to index card size. This would be an excellent project if you have a repertoire of recipes that you really only use around the holidays. Print your recipes by hand directly onto the cards or print them on your computer and paste them onto the cards. Maybe you could add envelopes to your scrapbook and keep the recipe card there to remember the look on your mother's face when she realized your cookies were better than hers.

Next time...Part 2 ("Some assembly required")

My Name is Amanda

I recently joined Etsy because I love to craft, knit, and tons of other things and I just can't keep everything that I create! While there, I started involving myself in the forums and sometimes I'd post something that was a little long to be just a response so I figured it was time to start a blog and save these ideas where more people can benefit from them.

Find my shop here:

I'm also a member of the Cleveland Street Team
Cleveland Handmade

His name is Kevin and he crafts with me, but much more often than that, he updates his webcomic.

Hope to see you often!