Monday, September 29, 2008

plastic bag pompoms


I'm not exactly the cheerleader type. I was once a cheerleader, though -- in sixth grade, my first year in a new town, I (along with every other girl in the class save one) tried out for next year's jr. high squad. Unfortunately for me, my cheering older sister had taught me enough that I made the squad, only to find that it just wasn't my thing. I think I ended up feigning illness many Saturdays, and the squad alternate ended up cheering more games than I did. (Granted, that wasn't a terribly mature way to handle the situation... but that's kind of the definition of being in seventh grade, I think.)

Well, my daughter saw pompoms on TV, and declared that she wanted some. "How do you even know what pompoms are?" "That's just what they're called, Mom. They're pompoms." Hmm. So much for that whole plan of not indoctrinating her with immutable gender roles. Pompoms it is!

Rather than go pick some up at Target -- where they would assuredly be bright pink with pink on top and emblazoned with some distasteful licensed character -- I decided to make our own out of Target bags. That's what I had on hand (Gimme a "T"! Gimme an "A"! Gimme an "R"!...), but I think this would be really cool with some solid colored bags if you could get your hands on them. (Just last week I had a red one lying around, too bad we decided to clean up! Lesson learned. :) Here's how we did it, but I'm sure this method could be adapted in any number of ways. See what you come up with...

7 plastic bags (for a pair of pompoms), a rotary cutter/mat/straight edge set or a scissors. That's it. You don't even need tape or a ruler.

1. Slice off the bottom. Cut off the bottom inch or so of one of the plastic bags.

2. Open it up. Pull out the pleats and lay it flat. Fold the bag in half side-to-side. (That's optional, but folding it in half means less cutting.) I used a rotary cutter, but a scissors would work too if necessary.

3. Cut fringe. Cut strips about 1/2" to 3/4" wide, from the bottom of the bag, stopping about 2" before you reach the top edge. The width isn't that important... don't bother measuring (but do try to keep the cuts parallel). Feel free to experiment with wider or narrower fringe, but you might not want to go too narrow unless you're using thicker plastic.

4. Snip one handle. Cut one of the handles at the top. (This photo shows multiple bags stacked up as I got into production mode, sorry if that's confusing.)

5. Roll it up. Starting from the edge with the intact handle, roll up the bag across the top edge. The snipped handle will end up on the outside of the roll.

6. Pull down the outside handle. This reminds me of one of the battalion of brooms in Fantasia. Send your fledgling pompom around the room carrying a bucket of water if you like.

7. Tie it up. Use that snipped handle to secure the roll-up. Wrap the two ends around the rolled-up area a time or two, tie off, and trim off the extra (photo was taken before I trimmed).

Repeat this with a total of 3 bags for each pompom you want to make. Two is a popular quantity. :) If you have bags of different colors, you could experiment with placement: roll multiple bags together to blend the colors, or group the little poms so that the center is white and outside is purple (just like my jr. high pompoms).

Next we need to make some plastic strips with which to wrap the handles -- think of it as grip tape like used on a tennis racket or hockey stick. (Or, anthropomorphized broom?) One bag yields enough "tape" for a pair of pompoms.

8. Create tape loops. [I'm basically following the continuous strip-cutting technique from Laughing Purple Goldfish, so you can check out her instructions if you need more photos.] If you want a contrasting color for the handles, this is the time to grab that bag.

Cut off the bottom inch of the bag and pull out the pleats (as before) to make the bag lie flat. Trim off the handles, creating a nice rectangular tube of plastic. Fold one side edge (as opposed to the trimmed top/bottom edges) almost over to the other side edge (maybe 3" shy). Starting at that newly created fold (bottom of photo), cut 2" wide strips extending nearly to the opposite edge, but leaving 2" or so connected. (I'm compressing many steps here, so if it's as confusing as I suspect it is, check out the Goldfish tutorial :)

9. Turn the loops into one long strip. Open up the bag, and cut on a diagonal across the part you left connected, which makes one long strip of plastic tape. (Clear? Good.) Find the approximate middle of that very long strip, and cut it to create two pieces of tape, one for each pompom. Repeat steps 8 and 9 for each pair of pompoms you wish to make.

10. Prepare to wrap. Group three poms together (hey, feel free to go nuts and put like 20 together and make a mega-pom... you've got spirit, yes you do!). Tie the end of your tape around the base of the fringe, then begin wrapping up toward the handle, catching the tail of the tape underneath.

11. Keep winding. Do your best to keep the tape flat, overlapping generously (like that racket handle), but if you're not too bothered about it, you can just let the tape twist up into a rope as you wind. Just depends on how much you want to be concerned about it. When you get to the top (the base of the handle), start winding through the handle.

12. This part isn't so fun, but keep going. It helps if you roll the remainder of the tape into a little ball so that you can shove it through the handle (over and over) a bit more easily. Make sure you're overlapping the tape quite a lot in this part (or, if you've given up and are going for the twisted rope rather than flat tape method, keep the rope fairly snug).

13. Finish up. Once you get around to the other side of the handle, wind back down to the base of the fringe. Tie a knot, then let the remaining length of tape blend in with the pompom fringe (trimming as necessary).

14. Rah, rah. Repeat the final assembly steps for the other pompom. Now you're ready to outwardly exhibit your enthusiasm for a whole variety of things. Rah, indeed!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

t-shirt bag

t-shirt bag

i've vowed several times in the past many years to stay away from cheap disposable one-season clothing and focus on quality, timeless pieces. well, i try, but it's been a struggle lately, and somehow an embarrassingly high percentage of my wardrobe comes from target (hey, did you know you can just wheel that whole damn cart right into the dressing room, toddler and all? that's on a good day. most of the time, i just pull things off the rack, try them on at home so i don't have to do it while juggling kids, and return what doesn't fit. lame. you can imagine how well this plan is working for me.)

well, i have big plans. i've been holding off until my body figures out what size it wants to be post-baby, but shortly i plan to equip myself with, say a minimum of two pairs of pants that fit (up from my current total of zero -- it's summer, i've been relying on those roughly three skirts i have. seriously sad.) this time around, i really want to commit to avoiding disposable clothing. i'm sticking to timeless styles, remaking old stuff i have around or that i find resale, or sewing. eek! i've always wanted to have a wardrobe of clothing i've sewn, and have never managed more than a few pieces at a time. of course, now i have less time than ever... so i think i may have to ease into this, but stating the goal is a good a place to start as any.

so, in an effort to clear out some room in my closet, i pulled down a whole stack of t-shirts that are all from 2004 or earlier. remember? back when we were made to believe that it was hopelessly frumpy if the hem of our t-shirts so much as grazed the tops of our jeans? well, i saved all my t-shirts then when i switched into maternity clothes, thinking i'd wear them again some day. i'm pleased that i've more or less fit back into them since then, but lo and behold, they're... short. now it's really important that our t-shirts not only sit squarely below the tops of our jeans, but it's ideal if they extend nearly to the thigh. perfect. and, unlike the hemlines of my mother's day, i can't just raise or lower my t-shirts so that i can keep wearing them. you would have thought t-shirts were more or less a basic item, not so affected by the whims of fashion. but were that so, how else would they get us to buy all new t-shirts every two years?

stack o' t-shirts

lesson learned. that's why i'm not playing that game anymore (as best i can avoid it, in any case.)

all this to say that i used laughing purple goldfish design's strip cutting technique to attack those short t-shirts, and while i was over there, got inspired by her crochet bags. i will say, i didn't bother with the pattern (too lazy to walk over to the computer and remind myself what it was, though i would have been better off if i had), so mine is just made up. luckily, it's the sort of thing you can make up while sitting on the floor attempting to have a conversation with an old friend, as two babies and two kids swirl around the room (we had house guests this weekend, which was really too much fun.)

a few details: i cut the strips 1 inch wide (might go narrower next time?), and used a N hook. (i'd read the metric size for you off said hook, but my daughter took a liking to its novelty-like giant goofiness and now it's somewhere among her things, i'd guess.) i did it single "strand", which kept the colors distinct and formed a stripe pattern (so to speak), but using thinner strips and crocheting double-strand would give a different look if you like. the handles were a twisted rope sort of thing formed by the loops cut off the bottoms of the shirts (to avoid having to deal with the thicker hemmed fabric). i opted not to line it since it's so stretchy, i wanted to go with that rather than work against it with a lining. also, it's heavy. really heavy. just something to keep in mind.

so there you have it. my too-short shirts have become a just-right-sized bag. i like how the colors worked out, but really it's not that surprising. after all, i did choose all those shirts once upon a time. really, the surprising part is that it's not all just shades of green.

crochet toddler dress

crochet dress for hazel

two months ago, i decided to crochet something for hazel. i settled on a sweet timeless looking dress pattern from a book i have around (candy crochet by candi jensen, the pattern is "summer love"). i really want to just make up my own stuff, which i will do next, but i figured i'd try not to tax my recently-postpartum brain for now. similarly, i made it 18 mo size so that if it took me a long time to complete, there would be no chance she'd outgrow it before it was completed.

plus -- and i really believe this -- 'tis better to make clothing for toddlers than for babies. babies grow ridiculously fast, and ideally you'll want them to wear it for more total hours than the number of hours you spent making it. (unless you just really love making baby booties... which i've done and can totally understand the appeal.)

crochet dress detail

well, it's finished, so i think i did okay with that whole schedule/sizing thing. :) in fact, i started it during the opening ceremony of the olympics (remember that? weird how it already seems like ages ago) and finished it before the olympics ended. i wonder if other people do this or if i'm weird, but when i look at something i've made, i always remember what i was thinking or what was happening around me while i was working on it. thus, i'll always think of this as hazel's "olympics dress".

i was going to title the post that way, but i figure that will just confuse the search engines. in fact, if anyone arrived here looking for patriotic, athletic-inspired clothing, i apologize. (but if you did, and you read this far anyway, leave a comment to say hi. because that's something i'd do... the internet is so distracting. :)

button and picot detail

p.s. this is the second thing i've made out of bamboo blend yarn (the first was a springy sweater), and i'm really sold on it. it's easy to work with, has a lovely sheen, and works well for those of us in warm climates where wool isn't always the best option. this time, it was bamboo/nylon babyboo in color "blue ice" -- quite economical, too, at $5.50/skein. last time, it was wool bam boo (guess what it's made of?), and after washing it a ton, i can attest that it really holds up well.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

garden party cake

cake in a meadow

two weeks ago, my sister called to chat as she drove home from work:
"so, what are you doing?" she asked.
"um... i don't want to tell you."
"well, okay. i'm making 1,000 blades of grass out of sugar."
[pause, then she asks:] "do you ever ask yourself, 'why did i think this was a good plan?' other people wouldn't think of doing this stuff! well, they might think of doing it, but then they'd come to their senses and not actually do it, because they're not crazy."

i have to admit, she has a point.

i often find that i have these grand ideas for things that "won't be that hard" and then somewhere around 2 a.m., i'm starting to reconsider. yet, despite all my crazy plans, i can only think of one time where i actually threw in the towel and went with a less-cool Plan B (which was my Wii cake, which actually turned out to be my most viewed project ever, despite the catastrophic failure of Plan A).

a thousand blades of grass

in this case, though, the 1,000 blades of grass weren't really so bad, maybe an hour to pipe and and 90 minutes to place them. and, hey, this math major got to use some numbers! (hmm, area of the cake plate, minus the area of the cake itself, times the number of blades per square inch... i did have to recheck my figures when the answer came out to be 960-something.) but the very idea... i'm fessing up, it's a bit nuts.

i was inspired by a filler photo (not one of the featured projects) in "kate's cake decorating", a 2004 cake book by kate sullivan. that book seems to be out of print, but a newer book, "fun & fancy cake decorating" appears to be largely a reworking of the older book (from what i can tell peeking inside it on amazon, anyway). i quite enjoy the book i have; if you have some basic skills from a wilton class or something, but don't want to make the same semi-dated ordinary cakes over and over (sorry, wilton! i know you're trying...), kate sullivan's ideas can help you transition into something a little more interesting. that said, i disagree with some of her specific methods (why the obsession with painting over untinted icing? it seems easier and tidier just to tint the icing, IMO), but everyone has their own way of doing things, and i never follow the methods as presented to me anyway! overall, i definitely got my money's worth from it as a source of ideas, so you might want to check out the new book. (hopefully that typo about putting approximately a metric ton of leavener into the otherwise amazing (!) chocolate cake got fixed in the second version -- at least, the lava flow of cake batter that's still charred into the bottom of my oven feels that it might have been a typo. can't say for sure.)

enough with the mini book review (so timely and useful, reviewing a book that is out of print!). this cake was for my mother-in-law's recent birthday. we wanted to do something special for her this year, so larry and i brainstormed and came up with an idea for a little garden party. his mother lives in a beautiful setting, with a little green space next to a creek extending from her back yard, so we decided to utilize that wonderfulness and set up a table there. with some flowers, candles, paper lanterns, and a few other little decorations, we had a lovely table set up, all in green and yellow. the cake followed that theme, and included daisies which i knew to be one of her favorites. we ordered in food from a nearby italian restaurant that we all really enjoy (too many babies around to consider cooking ourselves). she seemed genuinely surprised (hurray, subterfuge!) and everyone had a great time. (and i'm learning that you don't have to stress about going 100% martha to have a lovely party...)

party table

i do have one party idea i want to share, though. after dinner, we played a bit of family-themed pictionary. i wasn't sure how this idea would play out, but it ended up being really a lot of fun: i made up pictionary cards with concepts or events from the family, that most everyone would be familiar with (people, professions, cities where we had lived, family quotes, etc, as well as funny notable events like "the time the boys changed the baby brother's diaper by hosing him off in the yard".) as we played, people started making up their own clues, too, which was really funny. we used one of those giant presentation pads from an office supply store, but that wouldn't be necessary if you were indoors. the fact that the game triggered lots of remembering and joking around made it perfect for a family party. try it out at thanksgiving, ideally after some wine but before the naps take over.

happy birthday!

Sunday, September 7, 2008


bee egg

i've created a flickr set showing and describing my Ukrainian eggs (pysanky). i haven't worked on this project for a while and have been really wanting to start back up again, so this is part of my motivation to do so.

rather than repeat everything here, if you're interested in reading more, i invite you to click through to the flickr set. as always, i'm more than happy to answer any questions, so just leave a comment (either place).


oh, pengie!

Update 09.16.2008: I just found out I've been accepted to Maker Faire! I'll have an interactive display of these eggs -- if you'll be around, stop by and try your hand at making one, or just to say hi!