Raku Extruded Bowls

Pieces glow orange when they’ve been Raku fired to about 1,700-1,800 degrees F.

One of my favorite things is to Raku fire with my teacher and potter extraordinaire Peter Syak. In a (small, masked and socially distanced) ceramic class this summer, Peter introduced the extruder, which is like a giant Play-Doh machine, but for clay.

I made seven bowls: three small ones without feet and four large ones with feet. My carving needs a ton of practice, but I like how some of the pieces came out.

Though Raku pottery is generally not food-safe, it’s safe with “dry” food such as candy, nuts, and pretzels.

The Copper Blue Luster glaze is beautiful, and I always like the crackles that show up when using Clear Glaze.

Happy creating, hon!

 

A Week of Positives: Ceramics

1,750 degrees F! That’s the temperature the Raku kiln must reach before Peter removes pottery and then sets them in a bed of sawdust where they burst into flames!

Pottery is therapy!

Wheel throwing, hand building, trimming, carving, sanding and glazing force me to be in the moment. This summer, due to Covid-19, one of my Ceramics teachers offered a limited-spot, mask-wearing class. One of the wonderful things about learning from and working with Peter Syak is ending class with an always-dramatic Raku firing. My favorites pieces from the class are a desk caddy and lamp bases (my first ever lamps!). We used an Extruder, which is like a giant Play-Doh tool, to make unique bowls. I carved them and added feet, but won’t know they turn out until I Raku fire them this Fall.

Want to know more about Raku firing? Check out Raku Intensive.

Lamp base, unglazed.

Lamp base, unglazed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unloading the Raku kiln.

Lamp bases, glazed.

Desk caddy.

 

Make Do and Mend, Hand Knit Market Bags Lined with Pretty Prints

“Make Do and Mend,” a philosophy of repairing and reusing clothes and material, originated in the UK during WWII. Though I often see alternate possibilities for household items and fabric (My family says I’m a pack rat. I call it being creative!), during quarantine the whole family was making do and mending. So, it’s no surprise that when I wanted to line my hand knit market bags (pattern below), I dug into our bag of bags and found the perfect liners:  pretty printed cotton shopping bags.

Steps to create liners out of cotton shopping bags:

  • Wash and iron bags.
  • Cut off handles.
  • Insert into knit bags and pin to fit.
  • Fold over and iron top seams.
  • Pin liners inside knit bags.
  • Sew.

During WWII, the British Ministry of Information released a pamphlet titled “Make Do and Mend.” It provided tips on how to be both frugal and stylish in times of harsh rationing. Readers were advised to create pretty “decorative patches” to cover holes in warn garments, unpick old sweaters to reknit into new styles, turn men’s clothes into women’s, as well as darn, alter, and protect against the “moth menace.”                                                    Green America

Pattern for Double Handled Market Bag from Plymouth Yarn.

DOUBLE HANDLED MARKET BAG

Yarn: 2 (3) 100g skeins of yarn

Gauge: 4.5 sts=1″ over st st on size 7 needles.

Needles: 16″ circular size 7. 24″ circular size 13.

Finished Size: Approx. 16 (20)” long. Bag will stretch.

BOTTOM: With size 7 circular needles, loosely cast 25 sts. Working back and forth in garter st, knit 46 rows or until square. Bind off loosely, leaving last st on needle. Do not cut yarn. Continuing with the circular needle, pick up and knit 96 its all around the base (24 sts per side). Place marker and join. Knit 1 round.

SIDES: Change to larger circular needle and begin pattern:

Round 1: Knit.

Round 2: *(Yo, k2tog); repeat from* around.

Round 3: Purl.

Repeat rounds 1-3 9 (11) more times until there are 10 (12) sets of “eyelet holes” up the side. End with round 3.

Next round: Change back to the smaller circular needle.

Round 1: Knit.

Round 2: Purl. Repeat these 2 rounds until there are 7 (8) ridges: 14 (16) rounds total. End with a purl round.

STRAPS: On next round: BO 14 sts, K10, BO 14 sts, K10, BO 14 sts, K10, BO 14 sts, K10. Working back and forth on these last 10 sts only–knit every row until total length of strap is 11 (14)”, ending with a WS row. Pick up the 10 sts from the opposite side (1st set of knit sts) and holding and right sides together, work the 3 needle bind off–attaching the 2 sets of sts.

Reattach yarn to second set of 10 sts with WS facing. Knit every row until total length of strap is 11 (14)”, ending with WS row. Pick up the 10 sts from the opposite side (3rd set of knit sts) and holding the right sides together, work the 3 needle bind-off-attaching the 2 sets of sts.

Weave in all ends.

Abbreviations: K=knit, p=purl, st(s)=stitch(es), RS=right side, WS=wrong side, yo=yarn over, k2tog=knit 2 sts together, BO=bind off, st st=stockinette stitch

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Blocks or Bricks Bookends

When an editor requested a book proposal for Back-to-School crafts for a range of ages, I submitted a 33-page proposal that included 75 ideas. The editor passed on the submission– “Sales is now saying they don’t need a back-to-school crafts book (which is not what they were saying when I was searching for a book months ago).”–but, do you know what that left me with? Cool ideas for kids or anyone organizing a desk, office, bookshelf or work area! (And a proposal that may be submitted elsewhere.)

Here’s one of the ideas:

DIY Bookends
Supplies:
  • blocks or bricks
  • paint, 2 colors (I used leftover samples of wall paint for the main color and a small bottle of silver for the contrasting color.)
  • paint brush
  • blue tape or masking tape
  • cardstock
  • ruler, pencil, scissors
  • hot glue gun and glue sticks
Steps:
  1. Set up work area.
  2. Paint blocks or bricks. Let dry. Apply second coat. Let dry.
  3. Once paint has dried, apply tape to create a design.
  4. Paint taped section in contrasting color. Let dry
  5. Measure bottom of blocks or bricks. Using that measurement, cut pieces out of cardstock. (If the bottoms are smooth, this step might not be necessary. My bricks had rough bottoms. Lining them with cardstock means they won’t scratch the shelves.
  6. Glue cardstock to bottom of blocks or bricks.

Tips:

–Imperfect bricks/blocks might be more visually interesting than perfect ones. If there are any sharp edges on wooden blocks, sand first.

–I made three sets of bookends, using different paints for each set, so I marked the paint name on the cardstock in case I need to touch them up.

–Consider the bookends’ weight when determining how many books they will support. For example, lightweight blocks might only support slim books.

Knit Halter Top

Knit Halter Top

While looking through one of my knitting books, Knitting Pretty by Kris Percival, I came across this quick and easy halter top.  I decided to start right away, but needed yarn that was lightweight and washable. Here’s when–ummm–collecting and keeping odd balls of yarn comes in handy!

I combined a skein of blue and a skein of cream to create heathered fabric. When the blue was running low, I knit a stripe and then finished the top with cream. The pattern calls for an open back, but I wanted somewhat of a bottom in the back. After one failed attempt to knit in rib stitch the whole way around (it was too loose), I added two angled back panels that join with a button. Since the daughter I knit this for is quarantining in CA, I may re-work the back when she returns, removing the button and adding ties instead.

Hon, do you think about these would make cute gifts for my many nieces?

Happy knitting!

Knitting Pretty’s description of the piece–

This cool cotton halter is perfect for those days when it’s just too hot for a T-shirt. Since you will be working with a double strand of yarn in two different colors, the halter knits up quickly and is a unique creation.

Knit Halter Top

Materials:

  • 4 skeins (50 grams each) cotton/acrylic blend worsted weight yarn
  • 1 size 9 circular needle, 24 inches long
  • 1 pair size 7 needles (straight or circular)
  • tape measure
  • scissors
  • yarn needle
  • gauge aid (optional)

Pattern:

  1. Working with a double strand of yarn, make a stockinette stitch swatch with size 9 needles, and check gauge. If it’s not 3 1/2 stitches per inch across, change needle size to match it.
  2. Cast 54 (60) stitches onto the size 9 circular needle. Work in knit 2, purl 2 ribbon until the piece measures 2 (3) inches.
  3. Knit in stockinette stitch for 2 inches. Your entire piece should measuure 4 (5) inches. You will now begin to decrease.
  4. Row 1:  Knit 1, knit 2 together, knit until 3 stitches remain on your needle, slip 1, knit 1, pass slipped stitch over, knit last stitch. Row 2:  Purl. Repeat these two rows 19 times until 16 (20) stitches remain on needles. You will decrease 2 stitches every time you repeat row 1.
  5. Bind off.
  6. Make the 4 halter ties by using size 7 needles to pick up 3 stitches per tie from the edges if the halter. Knit each tie in garter stitch, using a single strand of yarn, until it is 11 inches long (I made the straps 15 inches.)
  7. Weave in and trim loose ends.

Angled back panels.

Pattern photo from book.

Halter top shown in book.

To Add Angled Back Panels: I picked up 2o stitches on each side towards and knit in stockinette stitch, decreasing on every right side until I reached the middle of the back and bound off.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Father’s Day Gift, Map Paper Weight

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I was searching for a quick, easy and useful DIY Father’s Day gift idea and came across “Paperweight Pebbles” from Steller.co. Thanks to Steller.co for the photos, instructions, and wish-we-could-travel-right-now gift. The site says, “Be prepared to get very messy, sticky hands… You have to smooth the map over the pebble when it’s covered in glue,” so fair warning, hon.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the wonderful dads out there!

Here’s the How-To:
Supplies:
  • maps
  • rocks (squarer rocks recommended)
  • scissors
  • glue (Elmer’s, white glue, Mod Podge)
Steps:
  1. Cut out section of map, estimating how much is needed to cover rock.
  2. Cover rock with glue.
  3. Wrap rock with map, pressing map into crevices and smoothing seams.
  4. Trim excess map.
  5. Glue any seams that are sticking up.
  6. Let dry.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Tug-of-War Dog Toy

Lucy loves playing tug-of war.

Therapy Dog

In normal times, I pet and scratch Lucy for my own comfort as well as hers. These aren’t normal times. Everyone in our full house gives Lucy extra hugs and kisses since she’s our very own in-house therapy dog. She has a heart of gold (unless you’re a groundhog), a sweet nature (unless you’re the mailman), and is well trained  (unless you’re eating something she wants).

I was teaching After School Enrichment classes when we adopted Lucy, a Border Collie/Chocolate Lab mixed breed, so I was inspired to teach a Dog Craft Class. One of our projects was this  Tug-of-War Dog Toy. Lucy loved it!

There are two ways to get a similar Tug-of-War Dog Toy. I suspect the second way is a bit sturdier since the ends are braided together.

Version 1 (project for K-2 ASE students)

Supplies:

  • fleece, 3 strips (approximately 4-5 inches by 36 inches) in 3 colors if desired
  • masking tape

Instructions:

  1. Knot 3 strips of fleece together.
  2. Tape to a surface for resistance.
  3. Braid fleece. Knot other end.
  4. Fold braided rope in half. Feed one end of braid in and out of other side, starting in middle of folded rope until two knotted ends meet.
  5. Re-knot ends together and take out separate knots.
Version 2 (Steps and Photos Source-Raising Your Pets Naturally, craft by Tonya Wilhelm)

Supplies:

  • fleece, 3 strips (approximately 4-5 inches by 36 inches) in 3 colors if desired
  • masking tape

Instructions:

  1. Tape three strips of fleece to a surface for resistance but do not knot the end.
  2. “Start your braid from the CENTER of your fabric and braid about 5″ to each side of the center.”
  3. “After you get the center braided (the handle), bring the ends together (3 from one side, 3 from the other) and combine them in pairs so you have 3 doubled parts to continue your braid. Braid the parts together (remember to make each braid taut).”
  4. Knot the end.

Show and Tell, Loopy Mango Puff Sleeve Top

Hannah wearing Loopy Mango’s Puff Sleeve Top.

 

Hon, there must be a knitting or needlepoint project in the house at all times! Make that several projects. I just finished knitting two of Loopy Mango’s “Mohair Puff Sleeve Tops,” but instead of LM’s mohair I used their Merino No. 5. Hannah gets the gray and Morgan gets the yellow. Once Darcy picks a color, I’ll knit one for her, too.

I’m almost finished knitting two of Loopy Mango’s chunky sweaters (future post), have finished weaving in ends on an infinity scarf, and am finishing up a knit market bag and needlepoint pillow. See, many projects?

Upon hearing about the gifts reserved for future birthdays and holidays, a friend asked how they’re being stored. Good question! The answer? In a bin of aromatic cedar blocks!

Thanks to  Wool & Grace for curbside pickup during quarantine. I actually squealed when they answered the phone!

Hannah wearing my version of Loopy Mango’s Cropped Sweater.

Dining Room as Sweatshop! Mask Makers, Part 2

 

SEW Busy!

I’ve been meaning to post a mask pattern, but have been busy…you guessed it…sewing. I also decided to tie dye a donated sheet (shout out to Leslie!) and cut it up for masks. While searching in my attic for more fabric, I came across clothes whose styles are out-of-date, but whose fabric could be turned into something else. Hmmm….

Creating masks for essential workers, we’re constantly tweaking our patterns depending on workers needs (comfort being the most important factor). The first pattern we used as part of  The Mask Maker for NJ Workers was put out by Atlantic Health System along with a helpful video. (see below) We worked on another pleated pattern, and are now creating cinched masks with straps that adjust with toggles.

Do you need masks? My daughter, aka my sewing partner, put together a flier with info for people who want to purchase them. We’ve been sewing lightweight, comfy, breathable, washable masks in both pleated and cinched models. In addition to the fabrics on the flier, we now have more choices.  Please email me at bmoreenergy@gmail.com for info.

Pleated Mask Pattern from Atlantic Health System
You can make two sizes: Adult or Child
  1. Cut fabric 9.5″ by 6.5″ for an adult or 7.5″ by 5″ for a child. Be sure any fabric design is placed horizontally.
  2. Put right sides of fabric together
  3. Starting at the center of the bottom edge, sew to the first corner and stop. Sew the elastic with the edge out into the corner. A few stitches forward and back will hold this.
  4. Sew to the next corner, stop, and bring the other end of the same elastic to the corner and sew a few stitches forward and back.
  5. Sew across that top of the mask to the next corner. Again, put an elastic with the edge out.
  6. Sew to the next corner and sew in the other end of the same elastic.
  7. Sew across the bottom leaving about 1.5” to 2” open. Stop, cut the thread. Turn inside out.
  8. Pin three tucks on each side of the mask. Make sure the tucks are the same direction
  9. Sew around the edge of the mask twice.

Related Post:  Dining Room as Sweatshop! Mask Makers, Part 1

Dining Room as Sweatshop! Mask Makers, Part 1

Ever since quarantine started and a need for masks became apparent, one of my daughters (shout out to Hannah) and I have spent weekends sewing. With two sewing machines, piles of fabric, elastic, notions, and scraps littering the floor, our dining room has been turned into a sweatshop! We’re working with a group called The Mask Makers for NJ Workers, and we’ve been sewing and donating to local medical workers, restaurants and businesses.

This has been a huge learning experience because, hon, sewing straight lines was the extent of our sewing machine knowledge! Hannah and I have broken many needles, ripped out dozens of seams, made tons of mistake, and required boxes of Bandaids. We’ve spent a lot of time cursing the thread which seems to have a mind of its own.

At first, the group agreed to sew masks with elastic that goes around ears. Then, we switched to four, adjustable straps. And now, we’re working on a cinched version with straps that adjust with toggles. All in the name of comfort. But, since Hannah and I aren’t seamstresses, every time we switch to a new pattern, we need a whole day to get it right. Some days everything hums along nicely, and some days it doesn’t!

Once Hannah started posting our finished products on social media, we received requests to purchase. We bought separate fabric and notions, and only use our own machine (as opposed to the borrowed one) for any sales. Click here to learn about the masks we’re selling. They’re lightweight, breathable, comfy, and washable.

I joined several mask maker Facebook groups, but there’s a proliferation of posts like, “Woohoo, just completed 1,ooo masks!” or “Yay me, I’ve reached my goal of 500 masks!” Those posts put our efforts to shame, so I’m unfollowing them asap because Hannah and I can’t compete and, well, we don’t have to.  She works full-time, and I’m working on my long-term writing goals. Last week, one of The Max Challenge trainers said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I love this quote! Just thinking about the energy and emotion I waste feeling bad comparing myself to others, especially when it comes to my writing journey, is enough to make me weep.

Who knows how long this situation will last, and who knows what it will look like when it’s done?! In the meantime, we’ll continue stitching–ripping out–pleating–pricking fingers–ironing–burning fabric–sewing–dropping pins–and donating and, overall, enjoying the process!

Want to know what patterns we’re using? Check it out in Part 2.