Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Handmade Christmas October 6, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,holidays,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 2:51 am
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Over the past few weeks, I have been busy with making gifts for the holiday season.  I am blessed to not only have Christmas gifts to make but a couple of birthdays in that season as well.  Yes, it can be a hectic and busy time of year.

I am loving the preparations.  As in past years, I am making the gifts that will be given.  Soon, we will begin to make the cards to be mailed as well.  It is one of the most personally rewarding things I have ever done.  I am crocheting most of the gifts this year.  I am learning new stitches and patterns as I go along.  YouTube is great for this.  I especially love the tutorial videos made by The Crochet Crowd.  With each video, there are links to a free pattern using that stitch.  In some cases, such as a darling little baby dress, you can find videos showing exactly how to make the projects.

I absolutely love the videos that the Crochet Crowd has posted.  Through them, I have learned and been gaining confidence to try new things.  I am making a blanket this year that is the largest one that i have ever crocheted.  Previously, I only made baby blankets with the largest one being crib size.  This year, I am making one that is double bed size.  Once done, it will be 95 inches square.  I watched the video for the corner to corner stitch pattern and am using that to make the blanket.

Other  gifts and projects are much faster to put together.  Everything from slippers, kitchen items, and winter gear all can be made quickly once you learn the stitches used.  A pretty afghan block made about 10 inches in size can be backed with fleece to make a thick hot pad.  There are numerous patterns for dishcloths that can also be used as a face cloth.  Made with a very soft cotton yarn, you can make a set of these to be used as baby wipes.

To make the baby wipes, measure the width and length of the container you will be using.  Recycled baby wipes containers work great.  Make a dishcloth the length and twice the width of the container.  Use a yarn that is cotton for best results as the synthetic ones are not as absorbent.  Fold the cloths in half and fill the container.  To use, cover with warm water and add a couple drops of baby wash to the water.  Allow the cloths to soak up the water before using.  Be sure to drain any excess water to prevent the cloths from being too saturated.

Here are some other gift ideas.  Among them are ideas that I plan on making but it will give you ideas to inspire.  One common theme through it all is that the gifts are easy to make.  In fact, you can even find ideas here that can be used as charity items to make and donate to a shelter or children’s hospital.

Winter gear and apparel: hats, mittens, fingerless gloves, scarf, shawl, leg warmers, boot cuffs

Household items: dishcloths, pot holders, placemats, mug wraps, blankets, pillows

Fun gifts: cell phone case, e-reader/tablet case, purse or tote bag, soft toys

Holiday items: stockings, gift bags, ornaments, table decorations, wreaths

These are just a few of the ideas that you can choose from.  Going to websites like Pinterest, you can do a search to find many other options as well.  Recently, I did a search for handmade ornaments and came up with hundreds of great ideas.  The kids and I will be making some for the tree this year and to share with others.  I love the idea of the kids making ornaments each year to save from one year to the next.  These will make a nice remembrance for them later as adults when they have their own tree.

Now that I have a good start on the gifts & ornaments, I am now going to start buying gift bags of assorted sizes at the dollar store.  I love buying brown paper ones that can be decorated with gingham or calico fabrics cut out in cookie cutter shapes.  It gives a fun rustic or homespun look to the packaging.  I got some ideas this past month that I will plan ahead for next season.  Instead of using gift wrap or purchased gift bags, I can always sew or crochet gift bags with drawstring closures or make a fun crocheted basket or tote to give the gift in.  These wrappings will be an extra gift to the recipient to use for other purposes.  I am especially eager to make the crocheted basket that was recently the focus of a challenge on the Crochet Crowd website.  I think that it will make a fun way to present a gift.  There are many great patterns available for making totes that would work well for gift bags too.  You can make the totes and baskets to be feminine for the ladies, use bright colors and fun appliques for kids, or use masculine colors to make a basket for the guys.

Are you planning to make handmade gifts or decorations for the upcoming holidays?  What are some of your favorite ideas?

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Learning to Broaden My Crochet Horizons with the Crochet Crowd September 20, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:10 am
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Thank heavens for YouTube. I have been having so much fun learning new crochet stitches. I absolutely love the videos by The Crochet Crowd. I had been on a crochet group on Facebook and kept hearing about a new trendy crochet stitch called Corner 2 Corner. Red Heart yarn put out a pattern for a blanket using this stitch but I had trouble understanding the instructions. Unfortunately, I am a visual learner. If it is a new stitch style, I learn best from watching someone else do it. I did a search on YouTube since that is always a great place to find just about anything you need. I stumbled upon the Crochet Crowd’s video and loved the amount of time and explanation they gave to teaching this new stitch. My first project using the stitch was a dishcloth. I was shocked that I could have a 8” square dishcloth made, complete with border edging, in about a half hour. Yes, I know there are those who crochet faster than me rolling their eyes at it taking me that long. For me though, that is a fast project.

Currently, I am working on a blanket for an adult son at his request. This will be the first time I have crocheted a project this large. My blankets are usually not bigger than a crib size. This blanket will be about 90” square once finished. I am surprised at how quickly this project is going. I am less than halfway done, but once you reach the halfway point, the number of stitches per row begin to decrease. That is one thing I am enjoying about the corner to corner style. As I have been working on it, I keep thinking that this will make a great stitch pattern for making a warm winter shawl. Once the shawl is the size I want, I can add an edging along the top and fringe the sides and bottom. I am seriously considering making myself one for this winter after my other projects are finished.

Back to the blanket I am making. One of the gems in the video was learning an easier method for changing colors within the project. The method shown was so easy that I decided to make a striped pattern in the blanket. I have always had great luck in finding tutorials for various off-grid and homesteading projects and topics. Finding the Crochet Crowd tutorials is just an added bonus. They are making learning new stitches and designs so much easier.

Crocheting along with the videos gives me a feeling of accomplishment as I learn new techniques.  Michael “Mikey” Sellick, who does the tutorial demonstrations takes the process slow enough and the video is filmed in such a way that there is no guesswork on my part.  I can see clearly the way the stitches a formed and projects are completed.    I have watched many crochet tutorials and often they are too fast or the camera angle is off just enough that you miss seeing part of the steps used in making the items.  Not so with the Crochet Crowd’s videos.  They have great close-up instructions they are show every detail in making the stitches.  I also love the tips and hints given by Mr. Sellick as the process is explained.  I haven’t found one if these videos yet that leaves me feeling uncertain or frustrated in how the projects are done.  The Crochet Crowd is definitely teaching this ol’ woman some new tricks to use in making holiday gifts and much more!

I am also working on another Crochet Crowd inspired project, the Stitch-cation afghan.  I will share more on my version of this great project in an upcoming post after the project is completed.

 

Planning a Stress-Free Holiday Season August 31, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 8:43 pm
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I know that to many, it is way too early to talk about Christmas. Actually, the holiday is only 4 months away. If you have always wanted to simplify your holiday and make it into something far less stressful, then early planning must be involved.

In our home, Christmas is always a simple celebration. We have always wanted to focus to be on the meaning of the holiday and not the stacks of gifts or the stress induced by the over scheduling of parties and gatherings. Another tradition we have established comes from one I have done for many years prior to meeting my husband. We give handmade gifts more often than store bought.

For me to enjoy a no-stress holiday season, I start early. By this time of year, I already have made notes on what I am going to give to others at Christmas. I designed a gift list and a planning form for handmade gifts that is available as a free printable Gift Planning Pack.

I have started a “wish list” for each child on Amazon so that if anyone asks what the kids need, I can refer them to their lists. This is very helpful with family who live a distance away. The lists contain things that the kids are interested in or are in need of. Pookie’s list contains therapy toys and items that he likes to use at his therapy sessions or art supplies that he loves to use and runs out of quite frequently. For him, art is a communication tool as well as a fun activity. Little Miss also loves art, but in a different form. She also has other interests, such as being a book worm! She reads for several hours every day just for the enjoyment of it. Between now and the end of October, I will be gradually buying the kids a few things off their wish lists to add to their Christmas stockings.

Some gifts take time to make. Things like an afghan are not made in a day or two. They have to be planned out. One thing I am making is homemade vanilla. This takes only minutes to make, but has to sit for a couple of months for the flavors to blend properly before use. Homemade soaps, if you are not making the melt and pour type, need some time for the bars of soap to fully harden. If used before they have hardened completely, the soap melts away too quickly. The harder the bar of soap is, the longer it will last. So, I like to let them cure for a couple of months. The same goes with any other specialty type items like bath salts or lotions.

Having a list of things that you are wanting to make also gives you a checklist for planning your supply purchases. I can calendar when I have to make items like the vanilla, then make sure I purchase the supplies ahead of time. You can take advantage of sales and buy the supplies when the prices are cheaper or you have a good coupon to use. Having the list also gives me a checklist to mark off as I go along so that I can see at a glance what still needs to be finished.

Yesterday, I bought some yarn and a tote to store the supplies in. I wanted to be able to keep everything close at hand. Now, if I have a few minutes to sit down during the day or after the kids are in bed at night, I can take out a project and start working on it. As soon as the project is done, it can be wrapped and placed in another container until the holiday. I love this method of holiday prep. It gives me the time to get things down in a relaxed manner instead of having to rush around later.

If there are people on the gift list who will be getting a purchased gift, I have plenty of time to look around for a good price. I know that at the holiday sales, there are often deep discounts, but for me the headaches of dealing with traffic and large crowds just isn’t worth it. That is one reason why I love shopping online. Another is that it saves on fuel. To shop for holiday gifts, I would have to travel at least 40 miles to the town where I grocery shop, or at least 70 miles to a large city.

A fun aspect of starting the preps early is that we have plenty of time to make cards and decorations. A search on Pinterest will yield many ideas for holiday decorations and gift ideas for kids to make. The kids and I can sit at the table and make crafts for the season or upcoming holidays once a week for the next two months. This will give us plenty of decorations for our tree or gifts to give to others at Christmas.

Another area of the holiday preps that I like to plan out ahead of time are the holiday meals. Having the meals planned out ahead of time allows you to be able to start gathering ingredients in advance. In the past, I have kept a box in the pantry area just for storing the extra ingredients that I purchased for the holiday meals. This insured that they were not used ahead of time. I remember one year when I purchased pumpkin a month in advance. That year, happened to be one in which it became hard to find cans of pumpkin. We were lucky in that we bought it early. If I gradually buy the ingredients that I need to purchase, then when the holiday arrives, I will only have to buy the last minute items such as the meat which goes on sale for a great price right before the holiday. In some years, because of buying the bulk of the ingredients ahead of time, I had enough grocery budget to buy two turkeys at Thanksgiving. This allowed me to have more than enough meat to home can and add to the pantry.

Whether you make gifts or buy them. Planning ahead will help make the season go easier. If you have tips on how your family makes the holiday season stress-free, feel free to add them to the comments.

 

Crochet Week August 17, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:00 pm
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Looks like I will be getting a week of crochet time this week.  Last Friday, I ended up going to the ER for back pain.  I found out that I had sprained the lumbar region.  With that, the Dr told me to rest and do absolutely no lifting for at least the next week.  Uh, doesn’t he realize my lifestyle?  Yeah, I guess he did.  When we talked about the lifestyle, he got a very serious look on his face and set about putting on the restrictions.

With that diagnosis and restrictions, I stopped at the store on the way home to buy a bit more yarn.  I figured that the crocheting will help keep me busy enough to help fight the temptation to ignore the restrictions.  That is the hardest part of this.  I have always been so active that being forced to rest is a tough thing.  Over the weekend it has been easy.  My husband keeps me from doing too much.  When he is at work however, it will be way too tempting to do the chores that need doing each day.

That is one reason why I am so grateful for the chance to crochet.  If my hands are busy, I will behave and do as the Dr. said.  If nothing else, I will be able to work on the swap and some Christmas gifts.

 

Learning Corner To Corner Crochet May 17, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:41 pm
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Well, I finally took the time to learn a new crochet technique. I was reluctant to do so, but am now so glad that I did. I had joined a crochet group on Facebook and they kept posting pictures of works in progress or items made using the Corner to Corner technique from Red Heart yarn. Well, I am not about to butcher the instructions in my blog. Trust me, it wouldn’t be pretty to anyone trying ot learn the technique. I am definitely doing you a huge favor in that! LOL

What I will share is a couple of things. First, you can get a great tutorial for this technique by going to Red Heart. They have a really nice free afghan project you can download that you make using Corner to Corner. Secondly, I found a great tutorial video by The Crochet Crowd for those who learn better by watching. You can find it on YouTube.

My first project using the technique has been dishcloths. I wanted something simple that wouldn’t be as overwhelming as an afghan. I generally will do this with any new stitch or techniques learned. I make small items until I get more comfortable with it,

One thing that I am very pleased about it how quickly I caught on to the technique. While it may seem confusing at first, the pattern is actually very easy to do. I also loved that the dishcloths took very little time to make. I am now considering making a small blanket using the pattern, possibly a baby blanket to give as a gift.

Learning this new technique is giving me the confidence to try more new patterns. Even though I learned to do basic crocheting nearly 30 years ago, I still am very timid about trying new techniques or patterns. I have a few that I am very comfortable with and have used off and on over the years. Finally, I’ve reached a point in life where the crocheting is very relaxing to me and I am wanting to branch out a bit more in it.

I am already planning out the crocheting needed for next winter. Both Little Miss and I need new shawls and the beds can all use a new blanket. Then, there are the holiday gifts to be made. I am sure that at least a few of the things made will be incorporating corner to corner crochet.

 

No Pattern Crochet Vest for Kids April 29, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 8:01 pm

I have been wanting to crochet a few simple pull-over vests for our kids.  Nothing fancy, just am added layer to wear next winter to help stay warmer.  This morning, I remembered very old idea for making the vests.  Best part is, no pattern is required!

First step is to take measurements.  Measure the child around their chest.  Add 1.5 -2″ to this amount to allow room needed for pouring on the vest and wearing a shirt underneath.

Next, measure from 1-2″ below the armpit to the waist where you want the vest to end. 

Last measurement is the shoulder from the place where the top of the vest will be from front to back.

When crocheting the vest, you make 3 pieces: a tube that forms the body of the vest and two rectangular shoulder straps that are 2-3″ wide.

To make the body (tube) of the vest, chain stitch the length of your chest measurement.  Slip stitch to close the ring.  Chain two stitches then start crocheting with your favorite stitch pattern beginning at the second stitch from hook. Continue all the way around until you reach the beginning of the row.  Slip stitch to end that row.  Repeat the process until the tube is the length needed for the vest measurement. 

For shoulder straps, make two rectangles 2-3″ wide and the length needed according to your measurement.  You may want to place the vest body on the child and measure the strap length.  At that time, place rope markers or a short price of yarn where the straps will be attached to the front of the vest body. This will make finishing easier later.

Stitch your straps to size.  Align one short end of each strap to the placement markers on the front of the vest body.  Single crochet into place.  Lay vest flat with front side facing downward.  Align shoulder straps to the back so that they are even with the front. Single crochet into place.

To finish, you can now stitch a pretty edging onto the vest if desired.

Voila!  You are done.  A simple pullover child’s vest without a pattern.  Enjoy!

 

Spring Cleaning and a Swap February 22, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,gardening,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:06 am
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For the past week, the days were nice enough that I only had the heater set on low at night. In the morning, I turned the heater off.  By mid-day, the front for was open to let the warm breeze in.

I have started the spring cleaning.  I want it done before spring planting commences.  Already, the feed stores are selling onion sets and seed potatoes. Garlic can also be planted.  The time to prepare for garden season is upon us.  Once the last frost has occurred, I won’t have time for spring cleaning.

This season, Little Miss is helping.  I have her working along side of me so that she can learn how to deep clean.  She seems to enjoy it while we are working together much more than when doing a task on her own.  It takes me longer to get the chores done, but we have fun with it.

In the evenings, I am crocheting 10″ square dishcloths for a swap that I joined. We have until early April to get the dishcloths made and mailed to the other participants. I haven’t taken party in a swap like this for quite some time.  I am enjoying it though.  I am making 20 of the dishcloths in total.  I was Lucky in that I already had a bunch of the cotton yarn on hand.

As the winter is approaching its end, I am deciding on the final garden plan.  I am considering the vegetables we ran out of the fastest.  How much should I grow?  Is it more cost effective to buy the tins of certain vegetables instead of growing our own?  Lots to take into account before planting.