Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Color Block Afghan

{subtitle} Long overdue

This blanket was most certainly a labor of love. My nephew graduated in May of 2011, and his graduation totally snuck up on me. Ignore the fact that the whole family discussed it at Thanksgiving beforehand. Maybe it's my age. Ya know turning 40 can do a number on ya.
So, I started it as soon as we got the invitation to his commencement. Thought I would be done by Fall, and I was, give or take 8 months. Why did it take so long? Well, I tend to get distracted easily these days. That's why I have been posting mostly one-day projects. But, the repetition of crochet in large projects is still very soothing to me. I just need regular breaks to be a little creative.
I chose to create an afghan of squares because, when I crochet on-the-go, it is so much easier to carry small projects.  I could easily take a couple of skeins of yarn along with a hook and get several blocks done.  The trick was putting it all together, because it was impossible to take anywhere once that process started.
The afghan bedspread measured 67"x85" when complete. This pic shows it on my queen size bed.  It covered the top of the bed plus a few inches when pulled to the top edge of the mattress.  I didn't keep track of how many skeins I used since I bought them as I needed them. I wasn't concerned about dye lot, because the pattern of the blocks meant I wouldn't have 2 different dye lots of the same color side-by-side. But, I estimate you would need 4 skeins of each color (20 total). 12 blocks of each color are needed plus 3 more of the first three in the pattern (mine being Cranberry, Medium Blue, and Dark Gray).

Basic pattern information:
Yarn = I Love This Yarn (from Hobby Lobby) in 5 colors, estimate 4 skeins of each color: 
A = Cranberry
B = Medium Blue
C = Graybeard
D = Navy Blue
E = Light Gray
Hook = I/9 5.5 mm

ch = chain
hdc = half double crochet
sl st = slip stitch
sc = single crochet

I made 63, 9" squares of half-double crochet. Here is how I did it. Adjust to your tension.

Ch 31.  Turn, hdc across beginning in 3rd ch from the hook (29 hdc total). Ch 2 for turning chain. Repeat to make 23 rows of hdc. Check for squareness by folding it diagonally to make a triangle.
Repeat for 12 squares in each color, plus 1 more of Cranberry, Medium Blue, and Graybeard.
To piece squares together, first create a color pattern to follow.  Mine was Cranberry, Medium Blue, Graybeard, Navy Blue, Light Grey.  Since I used 7 squares per row, I simply repeated the pattern in order as I moved down the rows, going left to right.
Sl st the pieces together on the back.  I suggest you work across in rows first, making it easier to follow the pattern you have created.
Edging - Make 2 rows of hdc in Light Gray and one row of the edging in Navy Blue around the entire perimeter. Start with the light gray. Sl st into the top of a hdc or equivalent opening (for sides without clear stitches) along middle of any side. Ch 2, hdc in each stitch (or equivalent openings). For rounded corners, crochet 2 hdc in the last stitch of one side, 2 hdc in the corner stitch, and 2 hdc in the first stitch of the new side. Finish each row of hdc with a sl st to first stitch. Finish off.
Next, in Navy Blue, sl st into the top of any hdc you have just made (preferrably not a corner).  Ch 2, sl st, ch 1.  *Dc, sl st, ch 1*. Repeat between *s along the edge of light gray and finish with a sl st to first sl st.  Finish off, weave in ends.

I am currently working on another afghan for another nephew who graduated this past May.  Poor guy, he has to wait because this one took so long to finish.  Cross your fingers that this one goes faster, for his sake!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Beachy Keen - Part 1, Beach Memory Vase

Well, I am still coming down from our Vacation High last week. It was a lot of fun seeing the kids play in the sand and surf. Only their second time to the beach. We took a 3 hour trip to a small island to collect seashells (yes, I was hearing the Gilligan's Island theme in my head the whole way there). We had to dig a little, but found some nice ones. I also made sure we took some sand.  And, to have enough for the projects I wanted to do, I made everyone fill an empty water bottle with that beautiful white sand.  I knew going there exactly what I wanted to do with them when we got home, and got to it as soon as I could. I've seen some nice ideas for displaying them and thought a vase display would look nice on the mantle.
I found the candle at the Dollar Store and the Vase at Hobby Lobby (never go without a coupon!). The seed beads and 24 guage wire were from my stash at home. So, I think I only spent $7.
I also used Mod Podge, water, plastic wrap, jewelry pliers, scoop, funnel, and a chopstick (you'll see why later). You can see I sorted out a few choice shells for the top rim because each naturally had a hole in it.
First, I wanted to preserve the sand dollars because the ones we found were way too fragile to use as they were.  We even wrapped them up separately from the other shells for the trip home.
I mixed equal parts modpodge and water so I wouldn't end up with a thick, sticky coating.  I dipped the sand dollars in and laid them to dry on the plastic wrap for several hours.
Next, I took the wire and wrapped a piece around the top of the candle glass, just tight enough to fit uner the top rim. I twisted the ends together and used the round tip of the jewlery pliers to turn the ends under together a couple of times. I then took 3 inch pieces of wire and fed a few beads, a shell, and a few more beeds onto it. I then fed one end of the wire under the wire around the candle and twisted the two ends together. Then, used the pliers again to make a loop. I used the shells with holes and the sand dollars for this decoration.
I then placed the candle inside the vase.
I then used the funnel and scoop to put the sand around the candle.
As I dropped the shells into the vase, I used the chopstick to arrange them. And that was it!
It looks amazing under our canvas photos.

What's great is you can easily buy sand and shells at the craft store.  I even found some really nice baskets of shells at the Dollar Store, and I'm sure the sand wouldnt be much.  You might be able to pick everything up for under $10.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Canvas Photo Art - by Renata

Putting your own photos on canvas is NOT nearly as difficult as it looks.  I don't know about you, but I have been admiring Pinterest pins about this for a long time, and was totally intimidated.  But, I love my crafty friends who help me fumble my way through.  First, let me say a HUGE thank you to Ms. Renata Copsey for teaching me how she mounts photos onto canvas.  She has put a lot of time into researching how to do this and has fine-tuned the process.  
Renata put a class together  at the local library to teach her friends the process for free.  AWEsome! And these ladies had a lot of fun! 

Renata was first inspired by Pinterest pics and then looked into how to do it on It's Doable and girl .Inspired. 

She began with a gallery of pet photos before her big project, two of her children's 16x20 wedding pictures.
I am now addicted to this process!  It was so fun to see our vacation pictures transform into wall art.

Project supplies: Canvas and photo of approximately the same size, black acrylic paint, sponge brushes, sponge, mod podge, wax paper, and cheese cloth.  Other supplies shown are optional.
Wear something that you can wipe your hands on.  You don't want to touch the pictures with Mod Podge or paint on your hands.  So old pants, or an apron are a must.  And, a wet paper towel makes it easy to clean your hands while you work.

We will begin with Renata's step-by-step process.
1. Cover the work surface with a plastic bag. If the paint or mod podge dry to the bag, it will not damage the piece. Paint the edge of the canvas and a bit of the top. Allow to dry completely.
2. Trim photo to fit canvas. I trim it a bit smaller than the edge of the canvas.
3. Brush even layer of mod podge over canvas
4. Carefully lay photo on canvas starting at one side and roll to the other side. Ok, I accidentally started with the middle and worked outward.  It worked, but to be safe, follow Renata's tip. Line up or slide to adjust it.
5. Press all bubbles out. Turnover and continue to press out bubbles. Tip: Use a butter knife to help push the air bubbles out from between the photo and the canvas.
6. Leave flat on table. Put heavy books on if needed to press together.
Note: For this process, you using small amounts of mod podge at a time with a time span in-between.  That causes the mod podge to dry and clump in the container and on the sponge brush.  Renata's tip: when not in use, place the sponge brush in a plastic bag.  I decided to put several tablespoons of mod podge in a bag, using a bowl for support, and kept the sponge brush in the bag with it.  Eliminating the need to pour small amounts on a plate that end up getting wasted.
7. Apply first coat (short direction) of mod podge over photo. Ok, I didn't follow directions . . . again.  I started the long direction, but it works.  Just be careful not to damage the photo with this first coat. Let dry.
8. Apply second coat (long direction) of mod podge over photo. Let dry
9. Apply third coat (short direction) and press a piece of clean, dry cheesecloth or sponge texture before it dries. Press into wet mod podge using wax paper if needed.
  10. Gently and evenly, pull cheesecloth off while still wet. Pull off any stray strings that might have fallen off cheesecloth (using a straight pin helps). Let dry.
Note: When using cheesecloth, handle it very carefully, and lay it on the table first, placing the canvas above it, slightly over the top edge.  After you lay the cheese cloth over the piece, use wax paper to press it into the mod podge, being careful not to slide the cheesecloth.
The cheese cloth adds another dimension to the mod podge texture.  I didn't have time to go out and get cheese cloth, so mine doesn't have that effect.
11. Apply modpodge to edges of canvas. This can be done earlier, but will make the edges wet to touch.  Let dry.
12. Sponge paint edge of photo. Begin with a small amount (dabbing most of the paint off of the sponge) and just touch the edge of the photo all the way around.
Come in slightly on the corners.
Why paint?  Well, besides the cool aged/distressed effect, it helps camouflage the raw edge of the photo (see above where 1/2 is painted and 1/2 is not).
13. Hang and enjoy your canvas photo art.
Note: When you want to hang your finished pieces, you don't have to fill the wall with nail holes as you change your mind over and over again (or is that just me?).  Canvases are very lightweight.  You can use stick pins to hold the piece in place while deciding.

See what I mean? It's an amazing transformation.  And, actually, these pics do not do the actual art justice.  Try it yourself and tell me what you think.  I am anxious to do more, but next up I plan to make a few more vacation memory projects.
This post has been linked up to: Positively Splendid, Happy Go Lucky, and The 36th Avenue, and Jam's Corner.