New job, new projects, new creativity!

I’m in the middle of the 3rd week of my new job. So far it’s been a lot of things: exciting, overwhelming, stimulating, intimidating, freeing, and most of all, scariest of all, most exhilarating of all, NEW. Besides planning to teach courses, almost every other aspect of this new job is completely different from my old ones. Phew! At least I can never say my job is boring or routine or not challenging me – I don’t think I will ever will have a “typical day.” I like that a lot.

What is this? A piano for ants?

1. Baby grand piano I made to learn CAD software. 2. How the piano looked fresh off the printer. 3. After support plastic was removed: semi-finished product.

An incredibly wonderful upside of my job is the new things I’ve been learning. I’m now laser cutting, 3-dimensional printing, designing (in the engineering sense of the word), and accidentally attending lunches with safety goggles on her head. (I blame my husband for not noticing.) Soon I’ll be delving into the world of mills, lathes, welding, mold making, and more. I’ve been learning a lot about CAD software, machine shop equipment, and the engineering design process. These are all things that, 3 weeks ago, I wouldn’t have known much about at all.

Maow.

Good Kitty helping me move stacks of physics and math textbooks. With an entire office to fill, I can finally clean out my apartment of this stuff!

The ending of two old jobs was hard. My heart still hurts a little when I visit my other university home or the old labs where I used to teach. I got teary when I cleared out my old desks and moved into my first ever office. I usually take things like this pretty hard: big changes, separations from an old way of life. So, I continually remind myself this is my chance to make a bigger difference, to grow, and to learn. Already in these first few fly-by weeks, all three of these things have been happening. Worth it? Yes!

It will never be this organized again.

My new office. Office warming gifts from family and friends made it feel much more like home – keep this in mind!

My current big task is to design three project based courses, roughly described: 1. An introduction to the design process and basic building/prototyping skills, paired with visual and graphic design skills to attractively promote and communicate designs.  2. More advanced design. We will be designing and, ideally, implementing sustainable energy projects on campus. 3. Intro honors physics lab focusing on circuits and optics. I think we will build solar powered light fixtures. I am pumped, I am nervous, I am working long days. Loving it!

 

My First Sewing Project: A New Purse

For Christmas, my husband got me one of the most thoughtful and wonderful gifts ever; something I had wanted for a very long time. A sewing machine! I had never sewn before in my life, so I was sooo excited to start using it but so terrified of messing something up (mainly the sewing machine itself). After playing around with it a bit on some scraps of fabric, I decided my first project would be a new purse. First, a little story about my old rainbow purse:

I bought rainbow purse at Target for a bank breaking $9 in 2003, so I’ve had this thing for 10 years! This is the one purse I’ve had for these many years, so parting with it was a big decision. It’s just a purse, you say? Yes, a normal person would probably say so. But I have a small attachment problem… heh heh. Anyhow, this old purse will sit in my closet until I decide what to do with it.

After I decided I wanted to make a purse (but before I found a pattern I liked… maybe not the best decision, but it worked out), I picked out some fabric at Hobby Lobby. As I mentioned before, I looove grey. I especially love grey paired up with yellow. Surprisingly, Hobby Lobby had lots of grey & yellow fabric and I ended up deciding on the pattern above with some plain grey for the purse’s lining.

I looked around at (free) purse patterns for quite awhile before I decided on one – Rae’s Buttercup Bag. The pattern is so cute – I love the pleats! It’s also simple enough for somebody who’s never sewn something before.

I did decide on-the-go to make a few adjustments to Rae’s pattern: I added some metal rings where the straps attach to the body, an inner pocket, and some extra fabric around the edges to add some depth to the purse’s body.

You can see that this new purse has already gotten a little worn – the strap is wrinkled and folded. I’m not sure how to avoid this (any tips?), but it happened with rainbow purse too. Soon I’m going to try tackling a matching billfold, but right now it’s down the list a bit in terms of projects. Regardless, we’ll see if I hold onto this purse for 10 years, hehe!

Starting a New Project: Baby Boy Blanket

A sweet friend of mine is expecting a little boy in May, so I’m starting my next “middle sized” project today, something I’ve never made – a baby blanky! I looked up a bunch of patterns and tutorials, and eventually ended up deciding to design my own. I made a mini version last night which turned out well, so we’ll see how it does on a larger scale!

My friend isn’t planning on decorating baby boy’s nursery any specific colors, but gave me the rough guideline of “we like blues and greens.” So, perfect for me, my two favorite colors! I spent an embarrassingly long time in the yarn aisles at Hobby Lobby, combining blues, teals, greens, and greys. I initially really wanted to find a bright teal and pair it with a charcoal grey, but remembered that perhaps grey isn’t the most babyish of colors. Oops. And besides, not too many brands of yarn available at Hobby Lobby have a medium-dark grey… what’s up with that? All of that aside, I opted for “I Love This Yarn” antique teal, sea blue, and light sage.

Blues and greens (and secondarily, purples and greys) have been my color palette of choice for quite a long, long time. I specifically learning about analogous color schemes in elementary art class and immediately going for either “purple-blue-green” or “blue-green-yellow” combinations. In the last couple of years, grey has sneakily crept into my list of favorite colors. Everything looks fantastic with grey, I think. I’m afraid that my wardrobe is starting to get taken over – the clerk who very occasionally sells me a white chocolate truffle at work made the comment, “You really like grey, don’t you?” So I guess it’s no secret.

Anyhow, on to the blanket making. I’m thinking I should be able to be done within the week if I really stick to it at nighttime. We’ll see – updates to come!

Pattern & Tutorial: Crochet Tulip

We have a cute little vase sitting on a shelf in our bathroom – a cute, but empty vase. I knew I wanted to put something in it someday, but couldn’t put my finger on it yet. Then, it hit me (I don’t know why it didn’t sooner) to try crocheting some flowers. My most favoritest flower of all time is the tulip. It’s so smooth and squat – like a little teacup suspended on a stick! So cute! This past week I’ve been writing (and heavily revising) a tulip pattern, and here it is! Enjoy!

Materials You’ll Need
Crochet hook G (4.00 mm)
Worsted weight yarn color #1 for petals
Worsted weight yarn color #2 for pistil and stamen
Worsted weight yarn color #3 for stem and leaves
Scissors
Large eye needle
Floral wire of desired length
Ruler for making measurements
Sewing pins for positioning petals

Specific Materials I Used
Crochet hook G (4.00 mm) from Polymer Clay Shed
“I Love This Cotton” Pale Denim for petals
“I Love This Cotton” Banana for pistil and stamen
“I Love This Cotton” Sage for stem and leaves
Fiskars Scissors
Tapestry needle
18 gauge Hobby Lobby floral wire (not pictured)
Steel & cork ruler for making measurements
Sewing pins for positioning petals

Abbreviations Used (US terminology)
ch: chain
sc: single crochet
sc inc: single crochet increase
sc dec: single crochet decrease
Following each row’s instructions for the petals, the number in (parentheses) indicates how many stitches you should have in that row

Petal Pattern: Make 6
ch 2, ch 1 to turn (2)
sc in each, ch 1 to turn (2)
sc inc in each, ch 1 to turn (4)
sc inc, 2 sc, sc inc, ch 1 to turn (6)
sc inc, 4 sc, sc inc, ch 1 to turn (8)
sc in all, ch 1 to turn (8)
sc inc, 6 sc, sc inc, ch 1 to turn (10)
sc in all, ch 1 to turn (10)
sc dec, 8 sc, ch 1 to turn (9)
sc dec, 7 sc, ch 1 to turn (8)
sc dec, 6 sc, ch 1 to turn (7)
sc dec, 5 sc, ch 1 to turn (6)
sc dec, 4 sc, ch 1 to turn (5)
sc dec, 3 sc, ch 1 to turn (4)
sc dec, 2 sc, ch 1 to turn (3)
sc dec, 1 sc, ch 1 to turn (2)
sc dec, tie off leaving a 25 cm tail
Hide the short starting tail by sewing it in

After you have the six petals made, they should fit together like the above picture. Make sure all of the petals are facing the same way if you are particular about that kind of thing. :) Use one of the long petal tails to sew the very insides of the petals together.

Next, using each petal’s tail, sew the inner edges of each petal together to about 2 cm from the center. This is what will form the bottom of the “cup” shape of the tulip.

Now is the beginning of the tricky part. Decide how the petals will alternate – they need to go top-bottom-top-bottom-top-bottom (in other words, identify which petals will be inner and which will be outer). When you pull the tulip into its cup shape, the “top” petals will be in the inside and the “bottom” petals will be on the outside.

Pull the petals up and toward you and into the desired cup shape (you can determine how “open” you want the tulip to be here). You may have trouble holding everything in place with your hands, so pin the petals together and adjust the spacing as you like. As shown above, the edges of the widest part of my outer petals are about 1.3 cm apart. So if you’d like your tulip to be more “closed” than mine, pin your petals closer to each other. Likewise for a more open tulip, you would pin your petals farther apart from each other. Your tulip cup will look funny and lumpy when you pin it – don’t worry!

Now use all of the tails to sew the petals together. Try not to split any of the yarn of the petals as you do this, and make small stitches so they blend in with the crochet stitches. I sewed the petals up to where the inner and outer petal edges meet up, so the very top could fan out a bit without getting floppy. Now you should have a little tulip cup!

Next are the pistil and stamen. Get out your yarn color #2 and thread it on your needle. Pull the yarn up into the tulip cup in the desired spot, tie 2 or 3 knots in the yarn, cut off any excess, and pull the yarn back down through the bottom of the tulip cup until the pistil/stamen are the desired length. Cut off leaving a small tail. Repeat this for all pistil & stamen.

Now for the base and stem, so get out your yarn color #3. The base is a little disc shape. To make it, first ch 2, then make 6 sc in the first ch stitch. Then sc inc all the way around, so you should have 12 stitches in a little circle. Tie off and leave a 15 cm tail. Pull the starting tail tight, tie off and hide in the disc.

For the stem, decide on the length of stem you’d like and cut that much floral wire. The desired length will depend on personal opinion but also what container/vase you’ll be putting it in (if any). Make a chain approximately the length of the wire you chose. Turn at the end of the chain, sc down the entire row, turn, and sc down the entire row again (you should end up with 2 rows of sc on top of your chain). Tie off and leave a looong tail. Lay the floral wire on top of the strip you just made, and use the long stem tail to sew the strip shut around the wire.

Finally, you’ll use the base and stem tails to put everything together. Use the base tail to sew the base to the bottom of the tulip cup, hiding any color #2 yarn you used for the pistil and stamen. Now stick the floral wire partially through the center of the base/bottom of tulip cup (otherwise, the tulip cup can be floppy on top of stem), and use the stem tail to sew the stem to the base.

And that’s that! You should now have a full tulip! Please let me know if you have any questions about the pattern – I’d be glad to help!

A Wee Turtle!

Today marks an exciting day!! I finally, after years of agonizing over it, opened an Etsy shop! This has been a goal/dream for me for so long, but this year I decided I would definitely and finally just do it. So I did. If you’d like to visit, click here! Nothing too impressive in there yet, though – just a single crochet pattern, which I made today: a wee turtle!

This little guy took me the better part of today to sketch, design, create, and photograph. I also got the pattern all typed up and finished. I really, REALLY enjoyed the whole process, even organizing the pattern and making it look nice. And even though I spent all day on this, I feel like I could go go go into the night!

I designed the turtle for my husband – he loooves turtles. In fact, we have a pet common snapping turtle named Zim (you can see him lurking in the tank in the photo above). Needless to say, although I do love Zim, the cuteness of the wee turtle does not reflect the pointiness and prehistoric-ness that is Zim.

The finished turtle is very small: just an inch or two in any given dimension. As you can see, he fits in the palm of my hand! I think this might be the tiniest thing I’ve ever crocheted. Took a bit of patience and some sore hands/wrists, but definitely worth it. Also, as my husband said, “This is way better than the beavers!” I have to agree.

The next few days will be back to my day job. I’m hoping to get a few moments at nighttime to work on my next project! I’ve got it started and sketched and designed, just need to actually make it… And guess what, it’s not an animal! We’ll see how it goes!

A Quick Beaver Project

I think beavers are one of the neatest, cutest animals. So I spent the day writing and making a simple animal pattern – which, now that I’ve tried it out, I think I’ll try improving and adapting it to other animals as well. :)

The baby beaver in the picture above looks a bit like a squirrel or a chipmunk with its tail up, don’t you think? Eep! It’s a beaver, I swear! I didn’t realize until editing these photos that the baby’s tail does flip up a little bit. Must fix…

Anyway, I realized partway through sketching my ideas beforehand that I was settling on an image from when I was little: how my mom first taught me to draw animals (and how I often still do when I want to leave a quick message or doodle!). She taught me to draw a circle, draw the animal’s face and ears on the circle, and then add legs, arms, and a tail which appeared to float above the head/body. I also blame my love for “squat” things on this method of animal drawing – the squatter the animal, the better. In fact, maybe this is why I think beavers are so cute!

This design really makes for some simple crocheting. The body is a sphere-ish shape with a separately made flat base, and all the rest were details – little ears, arms, and legs (which were all the same shape), some big ol’ buck teeth of course, and a tail which is like a flattened, tapered tube.

I had a bit of trouble getting the beavers to sit flat. They don’t really want to, but I want them to! No amount of squishing them onto the table really helped, either. The bases were indeed flat circles when I made them, but my need to stuff my plushies to the hilt so that they’re firm puffed them out a little. I’m thinking about trying some backing on the base or something to keep it straight.

Apologies for the blatant white cat hair (or possibly scrap of polyfill?) on the nose in the picture above! Unfortunately, kitty hair finds its way onto everything unless I’m careful.

I ended up very happy with the baby beaver – she’s just the right size! I like the mama, too, but she looks a little bit too plain from the sides/top. I definitely would need to play around with the larger pattern some more to get the look I wanted.

All in all, a fun experiment! More animals to come!

Ongoing Project: Husband’s Ripple Blanket

About a year and a half ago, I decided to undertake my first big crochet project: a blanket. My husband and I have some fluffy fleece blankies to cuddle up on the couch with, but they’re getting old, raggy, and pilly. So he and I took a trip to buy some blanket yarn, and he picked out all of the colors (thus making the blanket his): brown, green, and a variegated “autumn” mix of reds, oranges, yellows, and greens. I looove the combination of colors – greens and browns are some of my favorites, but the variegated yarn adds a little zip of brightness that the green and brown don’t have. Something I do get a little frustrated with, though, is when the variegation ends up giving me a giant blotch of all the same color. I almost ripped out several rows to get rid of such a blotch before my husband got all panicky and told me he likes the blotches. What?? Hey, it’s his blanket.

Look – you can see one of those big orange/brown blotches right there! They happen a lot more than I expected.

I was just getting “serious” into crochet at this the time of starting this, which coincided with me stumbling upon Lucy’s Neat Ripple Pattern. The simple pattern, the beautiful result, and the “quick” pace of creating a blanket appealed to me. So, off and on, some free time has been devoted to this big guy which my husband requires to be “big enough to wrap around me and make me cozy” – that’s a tall order.

Someday the blanket will be a piece of our living room (not our bedspread as pictured above – it’s just a convenient viewing area for the blanket as a whole!). I think I’m about halfway done with it, so we’ll see where I’m at another year from now! ;)

In the meantime, as you can see, the kitties bad kitty is already attracted. I swear, anything with potential loose ends and/or the potential to be coated with fur is like a magnet to him!