Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Almost got it

So I finished the cat cave this morning.  All I had left was to frame the entry.  I had used the plastic "wire" for weed wackers to give stability in different areas, including a "window" at the top. For the entry,  I doubled the thickness.

Then I put it out for the cats.

Freya really likes it, but not in the way I expected. Lol.

There are a few things I will change for the next one I make, but I will address them when I am at a keyboard.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Working on the roof of the cat cave.

Very handy to have the yarn inside.  At least while there is still room to take it out.

Sent from mobile. 😊

I think she likes it.

I've started what will be a cat cave in blanket yarn. I lay the base on the floor to check the size.

Freya promptly claimed it.

Which is good, since I am making it for her.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How to block a crochet lace crown: Part 2

Part 1

Okay, so my crochet crown has been pre-blocked to open up the lace.  Now it's time to block it to shape, using a glue based liquid that is supposed to be permanent.

First thing to do was make sure I had everything I needed handy.  Here are my materials.

The plastic bin that I used as a form.

Plastic food wrap.

White glue. (150 ml bottle)

a jar with lid to mix the glue with water.

a container to saturate the crown in.

laytex gloves.

Plastic drop cloth to cover your
work surface.

My older daughter also offered some glitter from her vast collection.  I ended up using all three colours.

There was one other item that I found I needed rather unexpectedly.  A spray bottle of water.

Make sure you've gone one handy.  You'll need it!!  Having to get one while in the middle of things is not fun.

Trust me on this.

You'll also need tape to fasten the plastic wrap in place.  I also ended up needing to use elastic bands large enough to fit around the bin.

First order of business was to wrap the bin in a layer of plastic wrap.  The plastic wrap, of course, stuck to itself really well, but not to the bin at all.  It takes a bit of doing to get it well covered.

After wrapping the bin, I poured the glue into the jar, then filled the glue bottle with water to get a 1:1 ratio.  Some "recipes" has a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part glue, but it all depends on just how stiff you want the final product to be.  Given the longish chains around the triangles, I decided the 1:1 ratio would be best.

Then I added the trio of glitter.  I used the purple the most, with a fair bit less of the almost black purple, then a bit less of the reddish gliter.

Then it was time to close up the jar and start shaking.

Here is the glue misture after a whole lot of shaking.

As you can see near the bottom, there was still some that didn't really mix.

That done, I set the jar aside and got back to the crown.

On sliding the crown over the bin, I found that, while pre-blocking it made everything nice and straight and open, my hopes that it would tighten up the base of the crown were dashed.  Once straight, the crown fell farther down the bin than before, almost enough to slide right off the open end.

So I put a double layer of elastic bands where I wanted the base of the crown to be.

One the elastics were in place and straight, I added a second layer of plastic wrap.

The elastic bands serve a double purpose.  They were a guideline for where I wanted the crown's base to be, with enough room for the rest of the crown below it, and it gave me something to pin the crown to.

Time to get messy!

And cover everything with my plastic drop cloth.

Glue, gloves, bowl and crown at the ready.

After getting this photo, there was no opportunity for me to take more until after the crown was in place, since I no longer had a clean hand to hold my phone with.

Here, about a quarter of the glue mixture was added to the bowl and mixed in.  I did add a bit more later on.  It's really important to make sure all of the item is coated and saturated with glue.

Once saturated, the excess is gently squeezed out.  Very, very, gently.

Then it was time to put it over the bin, line the base up to the elastic band, then try and get it flattened against the sides.

Things got very hectic for a while.

What I discovered was that the glue on the surface of the crown, and on my gloves, would start to dry faster.  The parts of the crown against the plastic, however, were still very damp.  Which meant that, as I was trying to use my gloved hands to smooth the crown against the bin, the curved sections would instead stick to my hands and lift right off the bin.

I had to spray my gloved hand with water, as well as lightly spray the surface of the crown, to keep that from happening.

I also ended up taking one of the gloves off completely, since I found I couldn't grab the pins with the glove on.

The base of the crown was still wider than the circumference of the bin, so I had to rely on the pins and the elastic band to hold it in place, re-adjusting the pins as needed to have it all even around the bin.

Then I simply smoothed my gloved hand down the sides to get the crown to lie evenly against the bin's surface.

Along with needing to spray my hand with water to keep the drying glue from lifting the crown off the surface of the bin, I also found myself dipping out some more glue from the bowl to add to the surface as well.

Once done fighting with it, this is how it looked.

After a couple of hours, I used a damp cloth to wipe glue off the beads.

Then it was time to let it dry overnight.

And here we are, the next day!

Getting those pins out was rather hard on the finger tips!

You can even see the glitter a bit.

All done, and looking good!

 Isn't it pretty?  I was so happy with it!

 A closer view of the beads, and you can see the glitter a bit better, too.

Of course, I then had to set up a pretty little photo shoot and get more pictures...

 different angles.

Then I broke out Dolph to get some shots of the crown actually being worn on a head.

I tried it on Dolphina, but the female head is not at all human sized.  She would have done for a child sized crown, but not an adult size.  The crown just slid right over the face and down to the table.

I noticed that with almost all the display heads I've looked at.  The female heads are all stylized and tiny, while the male heads are more human sized and shaped.

Which irritates me.

But that's okay.  The crown looks fabulous on Dolph.

Here are some more close up shots.

The points aren't quite as distinctive anymore, since I had nothing to pin them to to keep it, but they're still not as rounded as they were before the first blocking.

All in all, I'm really happy with how this turned out.

Once blocked, the larger size was much less of an issue that I was afraid it would be.  It's actually just normal head size.  So using a thicker cotton and larger hook turns out not to have been a problem at all.

In the future, I would like to find some way to cover the plastic bin with a layer of foam that I can pin to.  The bin itself is great for stability, compared to some of the other ideas I had thought of, like rolling up a towel or something like that.

The crown itself was quite easy and quick to make.  Figuring out how to block it was much more of a challenge, and the interwebz was of little help.  Which is why I made a point of taking so many photos and doing this step-by-step!

Happy crafting!

How to block a crochet lace crown: Part 1

I had a friend I wanted to surprise with a crochet lace crown.  The pattern I used was a variation of this free pattern from Red Heart.

I had a couple of issues with the pattern; the first being I didn't have any No. 5 crochet thread.  In fact, I've never even seen No. 5 anywhere other than online.  I've only been able to find No. 3 or No. 10.

My other issue was the disappearance of my 2.25mm hook.  I know I have one.  At least I'm pretty sure I do.  Even though I don't do thread crochet often, I do try to keep all my steel hooks together, but no sign of a 2.25mm anywhere.

So I ended up making the crown out of No. 3 crochet cotton with a 2.75mm hook.

Which means I knew I would have a final crown that was larger than the pattern.  And it already look pretty big on the model's head in the photo.

When I first started making it, because of the size difference, I followed the instructions for size changes and reduced the starting chain by 15.

It wasn't until I got to the 4th round that I realized the error in the pattern.  It's not a 15 stitch repeat.  It's a 30 stitch repeat.

Which meant starting over, but without trying to change the size.  Taking 30 stitches out of the pattern would have made it child sized.

Well, I wasn't making it to be worn.  I was making it for an inside joke.  So I wasn't too worried.

I also decided to add matching beads to the bottom of the crown, 1 bead for every 2 stitches.  In the pattern, there is no turning at the end of the rounds, but for the beaded round, I did turn it, since the beads are all at the back of a single crochet stitch.

Making the crown itself was not difficult.  It's only 13 rounds.  It wasn't until I got to the very last row that I realized why the pattern called for 2 balls of thread.  I was doing the many, many picots at the top when I realized I would run out of thread.

By about 2 feet.  Maybe.

Well, I was not about to go buy another ball for that little, and I wasn't too keen on the picots, anyhow.  So I redid the last round without the picots, and liked it much better.

It also left me enough thread to do a finishing round of single crochet along the bottom of the crown, which tidied it up and made it much nicer.

Now then.  If you've ever worked with crochet lace, you can probably guess what my next step needed to be.

Blocking it.

But how?

So I started to do some searches on how to block a crochet lace crown.

What I found were patterns.  And more patterns.  Free patterns and patterns for sale.  Adults crowns and children's crowns.  Fine lacy ones and chunky, dense ones.  There are so many patterns out there for crochet crowns!  And patterns for sale that had "blocking instructions included."

But no blocking instructions.

I did at least figure out that I wanted to block it so that it would permanently hold its shape and, with liquid starch apparently gone the way of the dodo, chose to go with a white glue based blocking liquid.

I was still left with the problem of how to block it.  I had lots of ideas in mind, but they all had flaws.

So I did what I usually do.

I winged it.

I decided to block it using a small, plastic garbage bin as a form.

Since I wouldn't be able to pin the crown to the bin itself, that meant I had to pre-block the crown some other way.

Which is why this is a two part post.

In this part, I have a step by step on how I pre-blocked the crown before I permanently blocked it on the form.

To begin, here is the finished crown, looking all lumpy and bumpy.

As you can see, it slid down pretty far on the bin.  I was hoping that, in pre-blocking it, I could be able to stretch the lace upwards enough that the base might actually tighten up a bit.

Blocking something that's round is always a challange.  In this case, I also wanted to make sure not to stretch the base in any way.  My solution was to use one of the most useful things in my craft room.

Styrofoam insulation.

That stuff is awesome.  I honestly don't know what I would do without it.  I've got the 2 inch thick type, which is ideal, and it's easy to cut the length and height to whatever I need.

I had some already cut down to block a cowl, so I cut part of it down so that the crown would fit loosely around it.

The great part about doing that is I could block front and back at the same time.


Normally, I would wet block something like this, but this time, I chose to dry block it, just to keep the mess down.

The adult size crown has 5 distinct, overlapping sections.  This allowed me to pin out two on one side, one on the other.

Since one of my main focuses was to keep the bottom of the crown straight, without any stretching or distortion, I made sure to pin it down first, and very, very thoroughly.  I put a pin at the top of every double crochet, above the beaded round.

I then pinned the center point of the curved section, followed by the points of the triangular sections, stretching them upwards as far as I felt I could, without distorting the stitches.  After that, I pinned each point of the curved section, trying to match the heights and distances of each opposing pair as much as I could.

Once pinned, I held it over a sink and poured water over each side until the cotton seemed saturated.  This photo is of the now-wet cotton.

Can't really tell that it's wet, I guess.  You'll just have to trust me. LOL

The next day, I unpinned the sections and turned the crown around so that I could do the remaining two sections.

Here, you can clearly see how much difference blocking makes!

In this photo, you can also see the seam of where each round began and ended.

Just a closer view of one of the remaining sections, after being pinned and soaked.

I left it to dry overnight again.

Let's take a look at the crown before it was blocked once more...

 ... and compare it to after blocking.

Each "point", instead of having 3 picots, as in the orignal pattern, is simply shells of 2dc, 2ch, 2dc.  By pinning into the 2ch space, it created defined points, rather than the curved shape the shells before blocking.

I much prefer this simpler variation to the triple picots.  I appreciate it even more, not having to try and pin out each picot!  I would have run out of pins. LOL

And here's a closer view of the triangular section with the seam, and the beaded row.

Next up, wet blocking the crown into its permanent shape.

Monday, February 15, 2016

To Bake or Not to Bake: test results (updated)

Okay, so last time I wrote about a marker I picked up to test out for use on cups, bowls, etc.  You can read about that here.

I hadn't wanted to wash the bowl I'd got my daughter to draw on, so I tried it out on a large mug I already had.

I'm glad I didn't try and wash that bowl.  The "permanent" Painters marker washed right off.

So I bought a couple of plain white serving platters to continue testing, then did a bit of research.  I decided to try several different types of marker that I have, then bake one of the platters.  I then tested the durability by first hand washing them, then putting them through the dishwasher.

Here are the results.

First up, here are my platters and my selection of markers.

As you can see, I've got quite a few Sharpies.  Actually, mine are the plain old regular Sharpies with fine tips.  My daughter passed on her large chisel tip Sharpies, as well as a couple of brush tip Sharpies.

I've also got the Painters marker from before, a couple of Studio brand metallic markers that are similar to the fine tip Sharpies, plus I picked up a pair of Studio brand dual tip markers in gold and silver.  These are the type that, like the Painters marker, need to be primed first, by pushing the tip in several times until the ink gets absorbed and begins to flow.

I made things easy for myself by simply writing out the names of the different types of markers on both platters.

The Painters marker wrote well, with a nice deep black and clean lines.  I was also very happy with how the Studio dual-tip markers wrote.  They flowed beautifully, had nice crisp lines and good, metallic colour.

The Studio metallic markers, on the other hand, sucked on this surface.  The gold looks more yellow, and the silver is barely visible at all.

The brush tip Sharpies were a bit unusual to work with, but the colour and coverage was pretty good.  The other Sharpies were... okay.  The black isn't as opaque and crisp as the Painters.  The red and yellow in the flowers were nice.  For the leaves, I used two different greens, with a darker green outline filled with a lighter green.  The second green smudged the inner line for the leaves' vein away, making it look like it was never there.  The chisel tips did not have very good coverage, though the colours of all the Sharpies stayed nice and bright.

 On taking the photos, I noticed this, though.  I managed to smudge some of the gold with my hand on both platters.  I had done the Painters marker first, then the dual tips, then turned the platters to do the others.  I must have smudged it while writing in the black Sharper on the other side.

So, something to remember; when using the dual tip markers, they need a bit more time to dry than expected.

Once the platters were marked up, I left them to sit overnight.  Except I got busy, and overnight ended up being a couple of days before I could go to the next step.  Baking one of them.

After looking around online, I decided to bake one of them at 425F for about 35 minutes.  I put it in before preheating the oven, because I figured it would be safer that way.  Once the oven was preheated, I set the timer to 35 minutes.  When the time was up, I shut off the oven and left the platter there to cool slowly.

It's pretty clear which one of these was baked!!

While the brush tip Sharpies held up well, the chisel and fine tip did not hold up at all.  Pretty dramatic.

I was really happy to see how well the dual tip and Painters markers held up.  The gold and silver kept their metallic shine quiet well.

I think my biggest surprise was the silver metallic marker.  It became more visible, and changed into a pinkish colour.

I left these overnight before I moved on to the next step: hand washing.


I put both in the sink and started washing the baked platter first.  I was not at all gentle about it, either.  The brush tip pink started to come off, so I just rubbed harder until it all came off.  The brown brush tip didn't even fade, but the Sharpies all faded just a bit while hand washing.

Then, as I rinsed off the soap, I saw the water hitting the platter below.  The water stream was hitting the end with the metallic marker, which had already washed off.  As I watched, the last letters of the Painters marker just lifted off and went away.  As in, the letters still kept their shape as they lifted off.  Unlike the dual tip markers, which began to spread as soon as the water touched them.

By the time I finished washing it, there were just the faintest traces of Sharpie left in a couple of places.

That left one last test.  The dishwasher.

I put them both in, even though the one was basically clean already.  I wanted to see if the tiny bits of pink and black I could see would wash off or not.

They didn't.  The unbaked platter still has the tiniest specks of colour left in a couple of places.

Let's take a closer look at the baked platter.

Here is the ordinary black Sharpie with fine tip.  It faded a little more, but otherwise held up to the dishwasher rather well.

The coverage and opacity is rather poor, though.

The Studio metallic markers were pretty much unchanged.  So while their colour did not transfer well, and the silver, which was barely visible at first, darkened and changed colour, once baked, it stays.

I am really happy with how the Painters marker held out.  It comes in a variety of colours, and if they all hold out as well as the black did, I will be very pleased.

The instructions on the package says "permanent", but says nothing about using heat to make it permanent.  Given how well it writes and how the opacity holds out, I'm really glad that baking it worked.  I'll happily pick up more of these.

I think I'm happiest with the gold and silver Studio dual tip markers.  They write beautifully on the surface.  The lines are clean and crisp and the opacity holds up really, really well.  The photo does not do the metallic shine justice.

These guys are winners.

They are also Dollarama purchases.  I can't even find them online!  I don't know if they're exclusive to  Dollarama or what, but when I do a search, I'm finding everything but this particular brand.  Which is weird.
Maybe I need to stock up when I get the chance, just in case!!

Update - March 8, 2016:  Thank you, Panya, for sending me info and links in the comments!  These markers are as EK Success metallic writer pens.  Along with her link to a silver one on Amazon, I found it in the colours, green and purple. (Get Crafting! affiliate links)

And finally, the other Sharpies.


While the black managed to stay, the colours just ... didn't.  The bright blue chisel tip changed the most.  I think that's kind of a brown now.  The green outline (also chisel tip) became blue.  The red fine point markers turned orange.  The yellow disappeared.  The greens for the leaves turned blue, then went away.

There you have it.  A range of markers and colours, baked and unbaked, hand washed and dishwasher tested.

It now makes me wonder about all those Pinterest photos of gorgeously decorated dishes, cups, etc.  So many of them are said to be done in Sharpie, and most do not mention being baked at all.  How did they hold up, AFTER the photos were taken?  The one site I found that did a test used only black Sharpie on plain white plates, baked.  The person used a large tipped marker (not sure if it was chisel, but most likely) to fill in large, bold letters, unlike the simple letters I did.  It held up extremely well, while mine didn't, though at least the black fine tip and brown brush did did hold up better than the bright colours.

After this test, I wouldn't use Sharpies at all.  I'll stick to Painters (which comes in a range of colours) and Studio dual tip metallics (they didn't come in any other colours).

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Testing a new thing

As someone who likes to learn new crafts all the time, I'm finding Pinterest to be wonderfully inspirational.

Among the things that have caught my attention are cups, bowls, teapots, etc. that have been decorated using markers.

Some use Sharpies, while others use "porcelain pens", something I've not been able to find.  It's something I'd like to try myself, but I wanted to test for a final product that is hand and dishwasher safe.

I don't think my Sharpies will cut it.  I know they've come out with lots of new types aimed at crafters, but I've got just regular ones.  I don't think they'll hold up.

What I did find was something called a Painters marker, from Elmer's.  The label says it's an opaque paint marker that's permanent, streak free, fast drying and easy to use.  It's supposed to work on just about any surface, including wood, plastic, clay and glass.  I got one in black to test out.

I did briefly try it on a tiny appetizer serving bowl in light ecru colour.  After a few days, I put it in the dishwasher.

The "permanent" marker came off as if it wasn't there.


This time, I specifically picked up a larger white bowl to try again.  When my older daughter came by my craft room to chat, I showed it to her, asking for ideas of what to doodle.  She mentioned some, then offered to draw on it for me, since I was doing something else.  I happily said yes.  Because she's a better artist than I am.

This is what she doodled.

She drew spouts for me.

Adorable little sprouts.

All the way around.

I love how she got different stages of growth in there.

I also wish I had her ability to doodle such awesome little things so quickly.  She makes it look so easy.

And then I saw this guy smiling up at me and started to squee.

I love slugs.

She knows me so well.  LOL

Now I have a problem.

This bowl is meant to be a tester, so see if the marker will come off when washed.

Based on what happened with my appetizer bowl, I'm pretty sure the "permanent" marker isn't dishwasher proof, but I was going to test it anyhow.

But I just love her sprouts and the happy little slug.

So... I think maybe I'll just get myself another bowl like this and draw something that I won't mind getting washed off.