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  • Pumpkin Craft Dioramas for Gnomes & Fairies

    Can you tell it's coming? Or, have you already felt it, smelled it, seen it?  The changes are happening. Whatever you call it, autumn or fall, for the Northern Hemisphere September brings the autumnal equinox. For many, it is a much-awaited time of year bringing in crisp weather, football, school activities and....pumpkins! If you love pumpkins, you will want to incorporate them in your seasonal decorations with gnomes and fairies by updating your fall home decor with a pumpkin craft diorama!

    In recent years, I have admired the creative displays showing different methods to decorate pumpkins. I have wanted to make a pumpkin craft diorama but was always tentative with the planning, carving and decorating. This year, I have my gnomes, fairies and accessories, so it was time to take the plunge and make a pumpkin craft diorama!

    First, I needed to purchase a pumpkin; a fake pumpkin. I opted to get a pre-carved artificial pumpkin ready for diorama creativity. One is good, two is better. I bought two pumpkins; a 13 inch tall orange pumpkin, and a round 9 inch white pumpkin. I also purchased mosses as my artificial terrain for inside the pumpkins.

    Inside view of the empty, pre-carved 9 inch white pumpkin. Inside view of the empty, pre-carved 9 inch white pumpkin.

    The next decision I made was not to permanently adhere anything to the pumpkins. I did not use glue or pins or tacks. I also did not carve any other architectural designs in the frame of the pumpkins; I did not add any windows or other doorways. I used mounting putty to help place the mosses and accent pieces from my kits.

    Sheet moss to fill fake pumpkin while creating your pumpkin craft. Diorama terrain will be created using preserved Spanish Moss, preserved Sheet Moss, mounting putty, battery operated tea lights, and polyester fill.

    Hmmm--what else might I try to include in my pumpkin craft dioramas? I used a brand new book as my guide; I relied on Leisure Arts' item 6870 - Pumpkins Pumpkins Pumpkins! as my go-to resource for both the dioramas and other decorative ideas. In addition to my new Pumpkins Pumpkins Pumpkins! book, I chose various accent pieces from my kits by Leisure Arts that include  #47858 - Woodland Garden Kit, #47870 - Fairy Garden Kit, #47961 - 4 Pack Resin Gnomes, #47962 - 4 Pack Resin Fairies:

    Leisure Arts' item 6870 - Pumpkins Pumpkins Pumpkins! offers great decorative ideas for faux pumpkin craft by adding bling, paint & lace, or creating a fairy & gnome home or glittery surface! Leisure Arts' item 6870 - Pumpkins Pumpkins Pumpkins! offers great decorative ideas for faux pumpkins by adding bling, paint & lace, or creating a fairy & gnome home or glittery surface!
    47858 Pieces included in item 47858 - Woodland Garden Kit.
    47870 Pieces included in item 47870 - Fairy Garden Kit.
    47961 Gnome figurines included in item 47961 - 4 Pack Resin Gnomes.
    47962 Fairy figurines included in item 47962 - 4 Pack Resin Fairies.

    Now to begin! Review the size of your pumpkins, including their height, the height and width of your carved opening, the diorama pieces and then start arranging. TIP: Make a few sketches of your design arrangements. Just in case one idea doesn't work, a back-up plan has already been formulated! Start by placing some polyester fill into the bottom of your pumpkins, add your artificial turf of choice and move on to your decorative pieces.

    Some polyester fill was placed inside on the bottom, then covered with some Sheet Moss. Hanging from above is some Spanish Moss. Some polyester fill was placed inside on the bottom, then covered with some Sheet Moss. Hanging from above is some Spanish Moss.

    To incorporate the look of outside terrain being part of my pumpkins, I used two different kinds of mosses to give different textures to the terrain. I tacked up some artificial leaves on the inside back wall of each pumpkin, and some on the outside, too. Thinking of a tabletop display, I also placed a fairy and a gnome outside of the pumpkin craft diorama standing among the fallen leaves as if they were visitors.

    Colorful leaves nestle the fairies and gnome in their wooded pumpkin setting as they gather mushrooms and flowers for fall's festivities. Colorful leaves nestle the fairies and gnome in their wooded pumpkin setting as they gather mushrooms and flowers for fall's festivities.

    Remember, I am not permanently gluing anything to the pumpkins. This can be tricky when it comes to placing the figurines, especially since I am also trying to create the effect of a hilly meadow! I didn't want the gnomes and fairies to fall face down into the moss. I purposely placed a mushroom in front of this fairy to help steady her stance on the hillside. The mushrooms are on long wire stems. (They easily pierced through the sheet moss into the polyester fill underneath.)

    The Fairy Garden has been weeded and prepped for the cooler night air. One of the gnomes assists the fairy while the hedgehog watches. The Fairy Garden has been weeded and prepped for the cooler night air. One of the gnomes assists the fairy while the hedgehog watches.

    I incorporated artificial lighting in my diorama by hanging some tea lights using mounting putty for a very low-light effect; these images do not reflect a low-light setting.

    More leaves are changing colors everyday. An illuminated tea light marks the forest's path while bats fly overhead in the nighttime air. More leaves are changing colors everyday. An illuminated tea light marks the forest's path while bats fly overhead in the nighttime air.

    The pattern templates for the bats and black leaves are included in Leisure Arts' item 6870 - Pumpkins Pumpkins Pumpkins! It's a great additional effect to remind us of the changing seasons - or even to precede the Halloween festivities coming in October!

    I am pleased with my first attempt at pumpkin craft dioramas. Since none of my decorations are permanently adhered to the pumpkins, I can change everything from the backdrops and terrain, to the accent pieces and surrounding thematic settings. Another wonderful positive about the dioramas having changeable pieces is the invitation for interactive play. How awesome it would be for youngsters to play with these figurines in a setting like this!

    A changeable setting currently showing the autumnal leaves surrounding two pumpkins used to house all mystical woodland creatures, fairies and gnomes! A changeable setting currently showing the autumnal leaves surrounding two pumpkin craft dioramas housing mystical woodland creatures, fairies and gnomes!

    Now I have plenty of time to plan for Thanksgiving and Christmas, too. I wonder what the gnomes and fairies will be up to during November and December? I bet they'll have something fun in store for us!

    Until next time, have some creative fun!

    Martha

  • Spring Cleaning Tips

    FullSizeRender (20)

    I spent about an hour tonight going through my yarn bag looking for a single ball of yarn and what I found was a yarn mess. My yarns were mingling with one another and had become a tangled mess. So I went into the kitchen and got my box of Ziploc sandwich bags and as I sorted them I put each ball of yarn into their own bags. Since I did this this will keep them tangle free and clean. Also when I am ready to use a particular color of yarn it is already in a baggy all I have to do is take a pair of scissors and snip a small triangle in the corner bottom of the bag.  Then work the yarn through the hole. In doing this this keeps your yarn clean. I don’t know who came up with this idea but they were a genius. I don’t know about you but I hate when my yarn falls into the floor. Especially when you are knitting in public and it rolls off and lands on the ground that you’re not too sure when it was last swept.

    FullSizeRender (21)

    Have a ball, skein, or hank of yarn that needs winding or rewinding into a ball? Grab a crochet hook. I use my Boye J or K. in my left hand I hold a good size tail about 3 inches should do it and then start wrapping it around the end of your crochet hook. Take turns wrapping it straight onto the crochet hook with a little angle to it and when you wrap at an angle I turn it slowly with my left hand. The reason that I hold it with my left hand is that I am left handed. Give it a try. If you are winding a skein or a hank you can have someone hold it or put it on a chair. So far when winding a skein into a ball I have held it myself. Remember to always pull your yarn from the center of the ball. Good luck and happy spring cleaning.

    FullSizeRender (22)

  • Sewing??

    I haven’t wanted to sew on a sewing machine since I graduated from my year of home economics in high school. I have probably had nightmares over the years over my experience in home economics. The first semester was cooking and the second semester was sewing. Cooking wasn't a problem. I had been cooking with my mother and both of my grandmothers since I was probably four or five. My mother picked my first sewing project and bought all the material for it. This could be part of my problem because it wasn't something that I would ever have chosen for myself. She chose a jumper like the ones that you see kids wear to private school for me to sew and the material was tan khaki cotton. I should know - I wore one myself when I started to school. I was in a private Christian School; my jumper was red, white, and blue plaid. In fourth grade I switched to public school. Cutting the pattern wasn't the problem, it was sewing all the pieces together. I had so many holes from ripping out stitches. I dreaded the day that we had to wear our finished projects to school. I packed an extra set of clothes to change into right after class. I never wore that jumper again. I now have a fear of sewing machines.

    I am more comfortable making and sewing things by hand. The last couple of years I have contemplated overcoming my fear of the dreaded sewing machine. Both of my grandmothers sewed quite beautifully; even my mother can sew. I was going through the Leisure Arts' website looking at books on everything but sewing when I stumbled across Pat Sloan’s book I Can’t Believe I’m Sewing. I thought to myself that it was time to overcome my fear of the sewing machine. It was easy not fretting over sewing on a sewing machine if you do not own one. I asked my friends on Facebook if they sewed and if they did, what is the best machine to learn on. One of my friends said that they had a new sewing machine still in the box and asked if I would like to use it. Yes!! Please!! So I have her new machine - don’t laugh, it’s a Hello Kitty sewing machine. But hey it works.

    With the book and my friend who lives next door neighbor came over and gave me a quick review. I was surprised about what all I remembered from my home economics class. The only problem that I had with the machine is my bobbin kept shooting out at me. Seriously!! It was shooting out at me like it was possessed or something. I finally tilted it back a little so I could try inserting the bobbin one last time and the problem was I wasn't getting it into a little notch. But once in I had no more shooting bobbins. My first project on the sewing machine was small. I chose A Coaster Set from Pat Sloan’s book. I used tracing paper to trace the pattern and cut it out so I would cut all my material the same size. They aren't the most perfectly sewn coasters. My lines maybe a little wonky but hey I did it. I am ready for my next sewing project. I have some extra material; I will practice on some more coasters. I might even make some for gifts.

    FullSizeRender (15) Coasters

     

  • Make Your Own Paper Piecing Kit

    I've been going quilt crazy lately. It's possibly my new sewing machine (eek!) but it may be scrolling through all the amazing pattern books Leisure Arts publishes. I've got some machine quilts planned that I'll talk about in my next post but today I want to talk to you about paper piecing. Specifically, how to put together a little on-the-go box that will knock your quilt out in no time.

    paper piecing_edited-1

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  • Learn to Crochet: Whipstitch Inside Loops (Left Handed Video Tutorial)

     Let's talk about seaming, okay?  It's important!  It's simple!  If I didn't do it, I would just have a pile of squares instead of a halfway-done project from Baby Afghans!  It can even be done by left-handed people, but you can probably still get the idea by watching this video even if you're right-dominant.
      

    I typically seam my work together by facing the right sides together.  I'm not really sure why, other than I might be thinking about sewing with fabric.  But! There's no raw edge with crochet, so why do something that makes your squares (or strips or hexagons or whatever else you want to join together) bend and warp?

    Stitching inside the loops even seems to make a tiny bit of difference in how large my squares appear.  Or so I think.  It's all very, very gray.  I had originally planned to alternate gray squares with yellow ones, but then I changed my mind.  So now I need to make 13 more gray squares with yellow centers.

     

    As for those yellow squares with gray centers I already crocheted?

    Well, I'm just going to crochet 12 more of those at a later date.  For now, I'm focused on the gray blanket because that's the one I plan to give as a gift at a baby shower I'm attending.  On Friday.

    I might have finished a little sooner if I hadn't been distracted by other cute square projects, but oh well.  This is my second time making the pattern, and it's a pretty quick project even if you're not familiar with it.  I'm still going to make an extra strip so that the blanket will be a square, and I'm going to continue to be pleased with stitching the inside loops.  I'm halfway there!

  • Learn to Knit: Changing Double Point Needles

    I've been thinking about making another pair of socks.  I really like the Basic Sock pattern from I Can't Believe I'm Knitting Socks, and it seems like now is a good time to talk about knitting on double pointed needles. 

    Here is a video to show you what knitting with double pointed needles looks like!

       

    Ta da!

    I know that tutorial is for when you switch from circular knitting needles to double pointed ones, and that's a little different from when you knit on double pointed needles from start to finish.  Actually, no.  It's pretty much the same.  It may not feel like it when you get started, but it is.  Knitting in the round is moving your stitches around and around. 

    Knitting in the round on double pointed needles is moving your stitches around and around, and from needle to needle.  I promise that it's not a big deal.  When you're knitting a hat and move to double pointed needles because you've decreased to the point where you have too few stitches to knit on a circular needle, you'll probably divide your stitches onto three needles.  I'm not sure why, but that's just how it works out with your stitches and decrease points.  Your pattern will probably tell you. 

    I think I prefer to knit on four needles, just because.  I found out that I have an easier time hanging on to four than three.  Maybe I just like it because it makes a square.  In fact, I like it so much that I'd tell you that if your hat pattern doesn't specifically say "You need to divide your stitches evenly over three needles," then you should divide them evenly over four needles.  You just should.

    You should try all kinds of things.  If you haven't knitted with double pointed needles before, a baby hat might be the best starter project.  Or you should just throw yourself into sock knitting with wild abandon because there's no reason not to!  Have fun!

  • Learn to Arm Knit: A Video Tutorial

    So.  Arm knitting.  You might have heard of it, but if you haven't I'm telling you about it now and I'm telling you that it's officially a thing because there are books for it now like Learn to Arm Knit.  And!  There are video tutorials!  This one is fantastically comprehensive.

        

    I watched this video faithfully, with some pausing and rewinding in certain places, when I made pattern #14 from Learn to Arm Knit.  The booklet has very detailed and clear instructions with illustrations, but I'm more of a video-learner and this particular one was a life-saver.

    Big thanks to my husband for taking these pictures of me....without letting me know I look like a slob. The knitting looks good, though!

     
    Arm knitting is simple and pretty easy once you get the hang of it.  But before you get the hang of it, it can be a little daunting.  As an intermediate-level knitter and lifelong arm-haver, I thought this couldn't possibly be any easier.  But then I realized that both arms have to act like the active needle at different times, and that there's a right side and wrong side for arm knitting.  Enter this handy little video tutorial.  It was so great!

    If you're even a tiny bit interested in arm knitting, I suggest that you try it out because it is the quickest stash-buster I know of.  It's fast even than swapping your yarn, or bagging it up and donating it.  There are over 30 yarn combination suggestions in Learn to Arm Knit (with details on the yarn brand, colorway, and how many strands or skeins you'll need for each project) and they are gloriously quick projects that can use up your bulky and super bulky yarn. 

     

    I'm already eying some more of the yarns in my stash a little differently.  With some substitutions for brand or color, I could have a fantastic little gift stash of cowls all knitted up in an afternoon or so!

    I might have already started.....

    #29 with Lion Brand Homespun.

  • Learn to Knit: Knit 1 In Row Below

     

    Before knitting the Bee Stitch dishcloth pattern from Kitchen Bright Dishcloths, I don't think I'd ever heard of the bee stitch.  But the the dishcloth's pretty patterning is the result of mixing knit stitches with the technique of knitting into the stitch below and I love it. 

     

    Knitting into the stitch below is fairly simple, once I got over the part where I would hold my breath because I felt like I was going to somehow unravel all my knitting when I would move the new loop off the needle.  It just felt a little scary even though I read the explanation of the stitch in the book several times and watched this video at least twice.  Actually, it might have been more.  I might have even done it when I was more than halfway through the project because I suddenly panicked and was convinced I had forgotten how to knit into the stitch below.

    Sometimes it's a little scary to learn new things and try them out, over and over in a new pattern!  But doing that new thing over and over is probably the best way to learn it.  Now that I'm familiar with the stitch, I catch myself checking out similar-looking stitches in pictures for patterns and wondering if that's what it is.

    Who wouldn't want to see this in more patterns!?
    The video tutorial for this stitch was fantastic, and really helped me calm down a bit.  You should see me when I try something new and can't find a video tutorial, or at least a simple line drawing illustration!
    Actually, you shouldn't.  No one should see that.  I love it when someone can show me a new knitting technique.  Even when that person is just on a screen.  That might even be my favorite way to learn new stitches because I can replay this as many times as I want and that calm voice and competent hands never get impatient.  It's the best!

  • Learn to Crochet: Placing A Marker For Continuous Rounds

    Remember when I started crocheting the Sunflower potholder pattern from Towel Toppers and Potholders?

    Somewhere in all my chattering about grandmas and kitchens, I forgot to mention that these round pieces are worked in rows of continuous rounds.  Continuous rounds are pretty lovely for round crochet projects because the rows are, well, continuous.  The beginnings and endings of your rows blend together smoothly and you can avoid any bumps in your work.  Continuous rounds are common in amigurumi and they're also showing up in my potholder pattern.

    However, it can be kind of easy to lose your place in your work because the rounds all kind of blend together.  If you want to crochet the correct number of rows and/or keep your increase and decrease rows in order, you're going to need to place a stitch marker in your work to keep track of the begining of your rows.

        

    At first I wondered about writing this post.  Placing a marker?  Wasn't that kind of obvious?  Surely people can figure that out on their own, right?

    Welllllll.

    Let's just get this out of the way: I totally learned something new with this.  Of course, of course.  I have to admit that I was a little confused about where the marker should go and when you knew your row was stopping and how am I able to tie my own shoes?

    You know, I'm wondering if I'm even doing that correctly now.  Dang, video tutorials.  They make me question everything!

    If you didn't need this video, then congratulations!  But if you did need this video, we don't have to talk about it.  Either way, isn't it lovely that we have them? 

    Happy crafting!

  • Binding Off In Knit: A Video Tutorial

     When I was knitting the St. Patrick's Day pattern from Holiday Knit Dishcloths last week, I noticed the bind off instructions.

    And it got me thinking.  When I first started trying more crochet patterns, I used to panic at the phrase "finish off" because it just seemed like I should be doing so much more than pulling my hook out of its singular loop and tying a knot.  "Finish off" sounded like a huge task I should perform with some ceremony.  Or maybe a weapon.  But nope.

    Remove the hook from your work:

    Tie a knot:

    Ta da! You have finished off a crochet project.  (You monster.)

    Binding off, however, is different.  You're still knitting a row.

    You need to have plenty of yarn still on hand.

    And sometimes, you have to do it in a knit.

    Okay, I shouldn't be dramatic.  Binding off all stitches ("stitches" = "sts" in patterns, by the way) in a knit usually just means that if you're working knit stitches, you'll keep working in knit stitches as you're binding off.  If you were purling, your instructions could tell you to "bind off on the purl side" or something similar.  Some patterns just say "Bind off in pattern."
    But binding off in knit stitches is its own special lesson, and that's what we're talking about today.  So here's the video tutorial:

       

    There, see?  Nothing too crazy at all!  It's like one long row of decreasing, or passing a stitch over the stitch just worked.  Honestly, you could bind off every knitting project you ever made just like this for the rest of your very long life and very few people--if anyone--would look at your bind-off edge and know that you worked your bind off in knit stitches and not whatever other technique the pattern called for.  And if they did, who cares?  Who inspects bind-off edges?

    (Do you do that?  Please let me know if you do.  I'm very curious as to why, out of all the quirks most of us have, checking bind-off edges is yours.)

    So!If you don't know how to bind off, now you do.  Obviously, learning tons of different ways to do something is always ideal.  But binding off all stitches in knit is a really great way to simply finish off a project and now you can do it!

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