favorite tools!

I’m sure others have experienced the gradual accumulation of crafting tools—you start with a pair of knitting needles and a skein of yarn, and soon you somehow have a spinning wheel, tens pairs of size 00 dpns, and half a room of “stash.” And of course, the more crafts you do, the more this multiplies.

So I thought it would be nice to pare back a bit and show off the top ten crafting tools that I didn’t just “end up with,” but that I genuinely enjoy using most. Some are craft-specific, others I use for any and everything. 🙂


9. clover patchwork pins

Not being very good at sewing (or realizing how many cool sewing supplies are out there!) I spent years using cheap plastic topped pins that were frequently dull and even more frequently poked giant holes into my humble projects. These clover pins were such an upgrade! Also I love the cute case they come in. 🙂

8. brittany crochet hook(s)

These hooks look beautiful and also happen to be my favorite ergonomically. The wood keeps stitches from sliding too much, while the long handle allows me plenty of room to grip. And I love tools that are as beautiful to look at as they are to use—it makes crafting even more special.

7. stone whorl spindle

Spinning is one of those crafts that can feel just incredibly ancient. I think about all the women who used to have to spin hour after hour to make enough yarn for clothing and other household necessities, and am a bit awed by taking part in such a long, arduous, tradition. These stone whorl spindles really accentuate those feelings. They’ve become one of my favorite types of spindles to use, and it helps, of course, that they’re extremely well made and nicely balanced.

6. turtlemade 3d spindle

In contrast, these 3d printed spindles are eminently modern. 🙂 They’re also perfect for traveling—I slip mine into a coat pocket or purse, and bring it everywhere! I’ve even spun with mine in Disney World. 😉 These are also the favorite spindles of my little cousins, who have taken to asking after them if I neglect to bring them. While I wouldn’t recommend them for beginners, due to their light weight and high speed, for a more confident spinner I think there is no better travel option!

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6. a portable iron

Ironing was another of those simple, exceptionally obvious skills that improved my sewing. I like using a small, portable iron, because I travel and move frequently, and I don’t really need a bigger iron for my clothes. Having a little iron and tabletop ironing board allows me to set up a space almost everywhere, and just start sewing!

5. my handmade nalbinding needle

Nalbinding is one of my favorite types of wool-based crafting, because it’s so portable and looks great with my rather uneven handspun yarn. 😉 When I first started nalbinding, I made my own needles out of sticks, because I didn’t like using metal tapestry needles (a cheap beginner option) and didn’t want to purchase one before I knew I like it. Now, a few years later, I have quite a collection of needles! The three below are my three favorites, made of elk antler, mammoth ivory, and one I made myself! Not only do I love using my little wooden needle for finer projects, but I’m also very proud of it. While my dad is a woodworker, I rarely do anything with wood. But I have had a little pocket knife since I was 5 for whittling, and I guess it finally paid off!

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4. sajou embroidery scissors

I bought these scissors in France, and I love them. Embroidery can be so delicate, so pretty—doesn’t it make sense to have a pair of scissors that matches? Of course, they also have a very sharp edge, and the blades are paired, so they work beautifully too. But I will admit I mostly enjoy them for their looks!

3. kromski minstrel

One of my biggest crafting tools, the Kromski Minstrel is my long-awaited first spinning wheel. As you can probably tell, I enjoy a certain aesthetic style. 😉 The Minstrel looks somewhat antiquated, but because of its castle-wheel setup, doesn’t take up too much space. I got it because I wanted a very versatile wheel, and so far it hasn’t disappointed. While I still do particularly fine spinning on my spindles, I’ve found it easy to switch between fine and think yarn on this spinning wheel.

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2. rhodia grid notebook

I am…not the most organized person in the world. But while I don’t mind digging through a pile of mail to find my bills, I hate to lose pattern or project notes and ideas. My solution has been to save one notebook, a rhodia gridded one, and use it for everything! While I still keep notes in other places, or use larger notebooks to design patterns, this little notebook always has at least a note or initial sketch. That way, if I somehow lose the other pieces (which has happened…too many times), I don’t have to start entirely from scratch. 😉

1. gingher shears

My sewing shears get top place. 🙂 When I was a kid, I used to scoff at all the sewing tutorials I found that instructed me to use real sewing scissors. What could possibly be wrong with my normal paper scissors, other than the fact that they had nicks all over them, were incredibly dull, and occasionally didn’t even close properly?

Obviously nothing, right? 😉 I’m sure it’ll surprise no one that my sewing magically improved ten-fold when I finally invested in this pair of gingher shears. Suddenly I could cut in a straight line! My seam allowances no longer looked like mice had chewed the fabric apart! I could actually follow patterns! I’m still using the same pair, and I still love them.

So these are some of my absolute favorite crafting tools—what about you? Which do you use most often, or enjoy using the most?

 

 

embroidered lunch bag

I still can’t get past my love for white-on-gray linen embroidery. It’s simple, pretty, and decorative without being ostentatious—perfect for things I want to use daily. I decided to make this latest project after realizing that a bag to carry my lunch in would be useful. My normal schoolbag is a leather satchel, which while perfect for keeping papers un-crumpled, isn’t that spacious. I usually clip my water-bottle to the handle, and figured I could do that with a lunch bag too!

I used this zakka book once again for inspiration (the last project I used it for was my pincushion). The bag will be a simple drawstring one, with embroidery on both sides—although I might just put a decorative initial on the back.

You can see I still have a lot of work to do! While I love the look of chain stitch, I’m not very fast at working it yet. Oh well, practice makes perfect. 🙂

I’m designed this bag to fit the box I used for these lunches, but I hope it also fits the new (slightly bigger) lunchbox I just ordered. While I like my other one, I wanted one that a) looked somewhat more like an adult would use it and b) was stainless steel. I haven’t used my new one yet, but I did test the seal—it didn’t spill anything!

Embroidery and sewing things that I can use frequently is one of my favorite things about these crafts. Every time I spot my handmade item, I feel like the day gets a little more special. 🙂 What are your favorite things to make?

summer picnics

Picnics are one of my favorite parts about summer. 🙂 I love being outside, chatting with friends, and enjoying some of my favorite simple foods—bread, cheese, apples, and wine. Once I even brought a baguette and chèvre on a windsurfer! My friend and I lashed our boards together and enjoyed our little picnic in the middle of a lake.

But it can be fun to do fancier picnics too—especially in unexpected places! Recently my friend R. and I got new backpacking gear, and decided a cool way to test it out would be to pack a very fancy picnic, hike some nearby bluffs, and enjoy it right at the top. 😉

51873406430__48250A27-7093-47CD-914D-ACF7021E06D6Deciding on the food to make was a bit of a challenge. I knew we’d be hiking in the hot sun, so I didn’t want to pack anything too perishable, or too fragile. But once we got to the top, I wanted our picnic to look amazing! So I decided to do a few special baked goods, packed well. You can see them here—cheese & chive buttermilk scones, spiced pear hand pies, and lemon macarons. 🙂 I also made hibiscus and mint iced tea—super refreshing, and a beautiful deep red!

Once we got to the top of the bluffs, R. and I found a perfect picnic spot. We set up on a flat rock overlooking the lake, and quickly had all our food spread out. We quite enjoyed relaxing and eating our treats after our hike, especially as all the other hikers on the trail looked more than a little jealous. 😉

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R. and I especially liked the scones and tea, and the lemon macarons and pies made a sweet treat to finish our picnic with before we got ready to hike back down. I’ll definitely include them again on slightly less silly picnic endeavors. 😉 Anyone else have favorite picnic foods?

distractions

You may have noticed I disappeared slightly! Unfortunately, I was very distracted by a series of final papers this spring, which, while fun, were not nearly as fun as posting crafting projects. 😉

However, now that finals are over and I’m at my parent’s house for the summer, I have a much cuter distraction to share with you. We got a new kitten!

His name is Lionel (after the hero of Mary Shelley’s novel, The Last Man, Lionel Verney), and he is my little purr buddy these days. Our older cat, Fey, is quite taken with him, and they spend half the day running around playing.

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The other half, Lionel spends bothering me. 😉 He’s a very social kitty, and loves to snuggle next me while I’m doing work and either play with my shirt cuffs or watch the scrolling on my computer screen. Unfortunately he’s also figured out how much fun knitting needles are!

Now that Lionel is free from the kitten “nursery” (ie, the room we kept him in to introduce him slowly to Fey), and a little less of a baby, I should be able to get more crafting done and post more. 🙂 Until then, enjoy the kitten photos!

garden re-do

I used to dream of having a beautiful vegetable garden, and going outside to pick herbs before dinner—but as a child, my parents were both way too busy to bother with our yard, so we mostly had grass, weeds, and daisies. A decade or so of total neglect later, and we usually don’t call it a yard anymore—it’s the jungle. 😉

Last summer I decided to do something about it. I had nothing to do except read before my PhD program started, and I though a nice way to thank my parents for having me home rent-free would be to re-do their yard. I’m not sure they thought it a very nice gift at the time, since it involved way too many trips to Home Depot and gardening centers, but now they’re actually quite happy to have a better looking front yard!

This is what I started with:

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Yeah, that was once a garden bed. You can see I meant “a decade of neglect” quite literally. 😉

I recruited my sister and we dug up both this bed and the other front one by hand, just to get rid of as much of the grass and weeds as we could (we did save those irises). One of the hard parts of re-building a garden for my parents is trying to make one that allows them to do the absolute minimum of work, while still appealing to their taste. Because of that, I decided to add a small retaining wall, which I thought would define the borders of the garden better and make it more obvious when grass encroached.

This is the finished (if very new) garden:

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Look, you can see our absurdly hardy azalea again! 😉 I found some rocks in the back garden-jungle (which I will be tackling this summer…) and used them to take up some space. I cut the bed a bit short and added a row of herb pots along the side, which my parents both loved. Most herbs don’t survive our WI winters anyway, and I thought this way they would be both more identifiable and more manageable—no mint going out of control. My mom is already looking forward to replacing them this spring. 🙂

The garden looks a bit sparse in this picture, but once I get back in town, I’ll see which of those perennials survived and plant some more to liven things up! I’m excited to finish the rest of it, hence sharing this post. 🙂 And if anyone has any tips for a beginning gardener, let me know!

patchwork chair cushions

I said I had more plans for my kitchen—here’s the next addition. 🙂 I decided to cut down on my fabric scrap collection by making some scrappy patchwork chair cushions. I’ve only finished the first one right now, but it turned out very cute.

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I apologize for the random plant in the background—I’m procrastinating studying for finals by redoing my whole gardening set up, so pots and plants are currently all over my kitchen.

Doesn’t the cushion look cute though? I’m not a big fan of those serious foam cushions, but I did want this to have a bit of padding, so I used 3 layers of 1/4″ loft batting and then tied it rather than quilting. All of it is pieced and sewn by hand, but it wasn’t so bad, as most of it is just squares.

Let me know what you think!

homemade lunch!

Ever since my undergraduate, when I had to schedule back-to-back rehearsals through what felt like every single lunch, I’ve had terrible habits when it comes to eating at normal times. But with finals coming up, I figured it was time to try yet another attempt at reform—and it’s actually somewhat working! This time around I’ve been making homemade lunches the days that I’m gone through the afternoon, and it’s been rather fun. I thought I’d share with you my two most recent ones. 🙂

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It’s too much work to put together a super fancy lunch, so both are rather simple. This one is just rice, egg, stewed beans, and grated vegetable pickles. I have a rice cooker, which I love, and I just set the timer so that my rice starts cooking in the morning and is ready when I wake up. Since everything else is made before, it means that I can put this together in 10 minutes!

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And here is basically the same lunch! I’m vegetarian, and I almost never buy vegan meat substitutes, so I took advantage of having fake hotdogs around to try out one of those cute hotdog octopi. 🙂 The main filler is roasted golden and red beets in cider vinegar, and I put vinegar vegetables again on the rice. I’m slightly paranoid about food going bad at room temperature, so I try to follow good food storage practices, which includes using seasonings like vinegar. Good thing I like it a lot, I guess?

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I’m working on an embroidered bag for my lunchbox, but until then I just tie it up in a napkin. These are plaid flannel ones I made for my first apartment, and they’ve held up well!

I’m really enjoying making these lunches though. It not only gives me something to look forward to during the day, but I’ve also found that I’m far more motivated to get up in the morning if I fear my rice might go to waste. 🙂