Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hooded Cocoon / Baby Sack

This is the other cocoon I made for my daughter before she was born.  I wanted to get some of those cute newborn professional photos done.  Of course, I kept putting it off until she wasn't a newborn anymore, so all I have are the hospital photos.

This sack was big on my 6 pounder, so it should fit any baby up to about 8 or 9 pounds.  It is knitted, but I also crocheted the white edge.  The edge is completely optional.  This is a very forgiving pattern, so as long as you aren't a super-tight or super-loose knitter the gauge shouldn't matter.

- Bulky weight yarn in any color.  I used Yarn Bee Whimsy Bulky Yarn in a color called Strawberry Fields.  I used about 1.5 skeins.
- Size 11 circular needles
- Size 11 DPN
- OPTIONAL: Small amount of white or contrasting (any size, but I used a medium 4) yarn and Size I-9 crochet hook

1) CO 26 st on your circulars needles but DO NOT join in the round! (You’ll be using the circulars as if they are two straight needles, so be sure flip your work for each row.  You could also use straight needles and just switch to circular when you need to join in the round.)
2) Stockinette stitch until piece measures 5 inches (alternate knit one row, purl one row since you are flipping and working as if they are straight needles.)
3) CO an additional 26 st and join in round.
4) Knit until piece is 17 inches total (knit all rows since you are using circular needles and knitting in the round now).
   Start decreases (and switch to DPN whenever you feel it’s necessary) -
5) [K6, K2tog] around
6) Knit row
7) [K4, K2tog] around
8) Knit row
9) [K2, K2tog] around
10) Knit row
11) [K, K2tog] around
12) Knit around
13) K2tog around
14) Knit around
15) Repeat rows 14-15 until 4 or 5 st remain, bind off

Finishing -
Now you have a sack with a floppy piece on top.  The top is half the width of the sack. Fold the top's open end in half and crochet the top together to shut it and create a hood.  Also crochet the border of the two open sides.  I did a simple slip stitch  but any stitch will work.  If you can’t crochet, then just sew the top together on the inside to hide the seam.
That's all there is to it!  It was very stretchy and easy to get the kid in and out.  She seemed to like it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hungry Caterpillar Baby Cocoon Set

The first thing I ever crocheted were the two eyes on this hat.  I could't figure out how to knit the perfect circle, so I grabbed a hook instead.  That's the only thing crocheted in this set, the rest is knitted.  Here is my disclaimer: I know how to read a pattern, but writing one still eludes me.  Mainly because I've never written one as I was knitting.  I always wait until someone asks for the pattern, then I go dig up my old notes and try to figure out how I made it.  This pattern was created over a year after I actually knitted it, so it is VERY rough.  I'm not certain what gauge or needles or yarn I used.  This is NOT a pattern in the traditional sense, but more like guidelines.

Alright, here goes:

- Bulky (size 5) yarn in any green shade (I think I used the Deborah Norville Chunky in Apple Orchard) - One skein cut it very close, so depending on what size you make, you may need 2.
- Bulky (size 5) yarn in maroon (I have no idea what I used) - you need about a quarter skein.
- Size 9 circular and DPN needles
- Stitch marker
- Scrap of yellow bulky yarn for the eyes
- Scrap of green bulky yarn for the eyes (I used the same as above, but you can use a different shade.)
- Scrap of brown yarn for the nose (any size)
- Size I-9 crochet hook

For the cocoon/sack:
1) CO about 52 st onto circular needles (mark the beginning with a stitch marker)
2) Knit each row until the piece is about 4 inches.
3) Purl one row.
4) Knit each row for another 2.5 inches.
5) Purl one row.
6) Repeat [K 2.5", P one row] pattern until the piece is 16" long.
Start decreases -
7) [K3, K2tog] around
8) K row
9) [K2, K2tog] around
10) K row
11) [K, K2tog]
12) K row
13) K2tog around
14) Repeat row 13 until 5 or 6 st remain; bind off

This fit my average sized 3-month old.  For a larger or older baby, add stitches to your cast on and continue step 6 until the piece is the desired length.  A quick google search will provide you with the average sizes for babies at various ages.

1) Cast on 48 st on circular needles and switch to DPN whenever you see fit (use a stitch marker to mark the beginning of your rows)
2) Knit until the piece is 5 inches
Start decreases -
3) [K2, K2tog] around
4) K row
5) [K, K2tog]
6) K row
7) K2tog around
8) Repeat rows 7 until 4-6 st remain; bind off

The eyes are crocheted.  I started with green-
SC 6 into a magic loop
2 SC in each st around (12 st)
switch to yellow-
[SC, 2 in next SC] around (18 st)

The nose - I picked 4 knit stitches and just sort of sewed brown yarn in them in an X pattern, then closed off the sides to make as close to a circle as a I could.  Yeah, this was one of my first projects and my technique was not quite refined.

The antennae are knitted i-cords.  You tube has plenty of instructional videos for this.  Each one is about 3 inches.

This is the reason I had to learn to knit and crochet.  Look at that little face!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cardstock Busy Book

I've posted these books on a couple other sites and I usually get good feedback.  I wanted to make one of those amazing felt quiet books.  They're so cute and fun.  I had some ideas and started making a list of materials, then listed what my process would be.  It seemed so daunting.  So time-consuming.  I thought about it and tried to figure out a way to make one without all that effort.  I realized that I didn't care if it was quiet or not, I just wanted some fun activities for the kids.  I decided to put my new Cricut to use and make a card stock version.  I suppose you could print out all the letters and pictures, then cut them out if you don't have a machine
to do it for you.  You'll also need a thermal laminator (I got mine at Walmart for $25).  They sell sheets that you don't need the laminating machine for, but I can't vouch for the sturdiness of those.  Here is the list of materials you will need.  The amounts will depend on what you decide to do for your pages.  Try to come up with a game plan first, so you're not running back to the store for more supplies.  The basic idea is that there is an activity glued to the pages and shapes that are laminated and need to be put in the right place.  Sometimes I use a pocket, sometimes I just have them taking up space on the side of the page. 

Chipboard Book - $8 at Hobby Lobby using the 40% coupon on the app. Get the one that is a binder with removable pages.  I've used the one that's like book binding and it is very difficult to let it dry without touching anything.
Cardstock - About 15 or 20 standard sized pieces in assorted colors.
Velcro circles - $5-7 for 80 pack at Walmart
Mod Podge - $4-8 (you will only need about 5 oz.)
Spray Acrylic Sealer - $7ish, I use Mod Podge brand, you will not need much
Laminating Sheets - $5 at Walmart (you will only need about 4 of the 5x7 sheets)

This seems like an expensive project.  For me it was not.  I already had everything except the book and velcro dots, so I spent about $15.  Also, for most of the items you won't use the entire pack or bottle.  I always use the 40% off one item coupon at Hobby Lobby or Michael's.  I go in some times when I pass by and just purchase one item that I know I'll need later.

Let's Do This:
1) First, I sketched out each page.  I actually removed one of the chipboard pages because I wanted to be able to close the book.  The more pages, the more velcro dots, and the thicker it is. So, I got some paper, sketched the pages on the left side and listed out exactly what I would need to cut on the right side: shape and cartridge, color, size, quantity.  This made the cutting process more efficient because I was able to cut the same colors and cartridges at the same time by just looking at the right column.  Look online for great page ideas.  Here is a link to an album with all my pages in my first book.  I also made a second book for the baby so she wouldn't destroy big brother's book.  Here is the link for that one.  Of course it depends on the child, but some some standard pages would be shape matching, counting or number matching, letters, maybe something with animals, etc etc etc.
2) Next, I cut out all the shapes.  This is definitely the most tedious, time consuming part.
3) Glue the layers together that need to be assembled so all your shapes and characters are ready to go.
4) Glue the necessary shapes onto the chipboard, then Mod Podge over the entire page. You'll do all the right sides first so it can dry completely before you flip the pages over.
5) Once dried (give it a full 24 hours just to be safe), spray with the acrylic.  Give it at least another 12 hours to dry.
6) Flip the pages over, glue everything on, Mod Podge, dry, acrylic spray, dry.
7) Place the velcro circles on the pages wherever they go.
8) While all this drying is going on you can laminate and cut out the other shapes.

That's all there is to it!  It is very easy, though can be a little tedious to place the letters and glue them all down.  I completed the project in about a five days, usually working for one or two hours each night.

Some tips:
- Look at your cartridges first to help get an idea of what kind of pages you should make.
- Cater it to your child's age and interests.  My daughter is younger so I made her pages easier for her skill level.
- Make sure everything is 100% dry before putting the book back together.  I rushed mine and the pages stuck together a little bit.  I re-did the sealer and let it dry completely, and never had the sticking problem again.
- Don't skip the sealer!  Mod Podge alone is too tacky and your pages will stick together.
- I made the mistake with the first book of not using a shadow for the letters.  It's not so bad in person, but if you notice on the pictures the titles are a little hard to read.  So I suggest using a shadow for all letters.
- For the pieces that will be laminated, it's much easier (when cutting them out) to glue the shapes to a circle or square background.  I didn't, and it's difficult and time consuming to cut out the intricate shapes.  Also, the thick lamination leaves more jagged edges if there are lots of corners and crevices.  It's nothing threatening to the kids, it just doesn't look as polished.  Another advantage to this is a more uniform look for the pieces.

Here is my youngest playing with her book today, which is 6-months of use.  If you notice, the pages have started to curl from the corners.  This is another reason why I highly recommend using the book with the binder rings.  It doesn't have paper glued to the chipboard so there is nothing there to get worn and start peeling.  This book-binding one was a hassle to work with.  But the munchkin likes it, so it's all good!

This is my first tutorial, so any questions about materials or technique are welcome!  In the future I plan on doing the tutorial as I make it, so I can take better process pictures.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


When I had children, I was determined to be a crafty mom.  I wanted my kids to think of anything  and know their mother could just make it for them.  I always did well in school, I breezed through college, I worked some terrible office jobs, but I knew that one day I would stay at home with my children making fantastic dinners, sewing custom dress-up outfits, and sending them to school with the best Valentine's Day box or whatever silly project was required of them that week.  Apparently I was just expecting to one day download all the necessary skill and knowledge into my brain Matrix-style.  When I was pregnant with my first child I realized that I had to buckle down and figure this stuff out.

First, came knitting.  I bought a book, yarn, and needles.  Between my book, online tutorials, and YouTube, I got the hang of it pretty quick.  But it was so slow.  It took me days, or even weeks, to finish a project.  I dabbled here and there for the next year.

When my son was about a year old, I decided that I needed to learn to sew.  For the next 6 months I barely touched my knitting needles and it was all sewing, all the time.  I made quilts and bags and capes and... more bags.  I liked sewing because it was much quicker.  I lacked the patience for knitting.  But I soon learned that I am a lazy seamstress.  I almost never iron.  I take any short cut I can if I know you won't be able to see it on the finished piece.  But with a sleepy then busy baby in the house  there was just no good time to sew.

All of a sudden, I started seeing so many cute crochet patterns online.  Just in time for me to make things before my daughter, currently housed in my uterus, would arrive.  So all the fabric I stocked up on, all the notions, all the books took a back-burner to my new hooks and chunky yarns.  My crochet phase lasted longer than my other two.  It was so easy, so fast, and I could actually free-hand it.  I got into amigurumi and my son requested a new creature every day.

Sewing, knitting, (briefly) photography, crochet.  While I never stuck with anything long enough to master it, at least I had a basic understanding of it all.  Before I started my crafting journey, the only time I had set foot in Hobby Lobby was to buy fabric for a toga in college (yes, for a frat party).  But now I knew about gauges and blocking and fat quarters and darning needles.  I actually knew stuff.  I even had a bottle of Mod Podge somewhere in my closet. I thought I was done learning for a while.  Until my birthday, when I spontaneously decided I needed a Cricut.

Cue cardstock, vinyl, chipboard, and cartridges.  I pretty much got sucked into that world for another 6 months or so.  Everyone got a handmade card for the next few holidays.  But now, I'm finally taking a break.  I can't think of any projects I want to get done.  I can't think of any new technique that I really want to learn.  We're in a nice holiday-free few months right now.  Both my kids just had their birthdays.  I feel like it's the perfect time to get all my thoughts down.