Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Crocheting Frenzy March 10, 2015

Filed under: Crafting — ourprairiehome @ 7:16 am
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Taking a short break from the simplicity posts to share what I have been doing lately.  It seems that I am thoroughly hit with the crochet bug.  I have always loved to crochet, but never had the time to really play with it as much as I would like to do.  In the evenings, I have been sitting near my 18-gallon sized tote filled with yarn as I crochet on one project or another.  Most recently, I have been working on making some baby blankets for gifts.  I am nearly done with the last of those, finally!  I am really a perfectionist when it comes to crocheted gifts.  I can’t believe the number of times that I will frog a project until I get it looking the way I want it to.

Over the past few days has been a great example of my frogging.  I am making 30 crocheted slings/bags for young girls to carry their water bottles in at a Jr Youth camp our church sponsors each spring and autumn.  Little Miss will be attending the Jr Camp, so I thought it would be fun to make each of the girls in the dorms a little something to use at camp and take home.  Thus, the idea of the water bottle sling came to fruition. I found what looked like a fun and easy pattern online.  After three tries, I finally gave up.  I used the hook size and gauge they suggested, but the bag was huge!  Another pattern yielded similar results.  I finally realized that they must crochet a LOT tighter than I do.  Having arthritis in my hands, I cannot crochet that tightly.  So, I finally got irritated with myself enough to just design my own pattern.  I absolutely LOVE the results!  These bags are far faster to make as well as being a very forgiving pattern.  I use a much smaller hook than the other patterns called for.  They used a size I (5.5mm) hook, while I am using a size F (3.75mm) hook.  I am nearly done with writing the pattern and will share it in a couple days, after I finish the strap on the bag and take a picture.

It has been a long time since I have written a pattern, so this has been fun for me to do.  It takes me back to my years as a craft designer, when I used to write and package patterns to sell.  Times have changed a lot since then.  After having written this one, I am thinking of writing patterns again and possibly selling them through Ravelry or Etsy.  When I wrote patterns and did work as a designer for manufacturers years ago, it allowed me to tap into my creativity in a way that I found to be very enjoyable.  I loved designing projects for others to enjoy making.  Often, I would design projects for kids as well as those for adults.  It feels good to get back in touch with that part of my life.

 

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Black Friday Craziness November 28, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,family,holidays — ourprairiehome @ 9:26 pm
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I have never understood the fascination that many have of going out shopping the day after Thanksgiving.  Yes, there are great sales, but the size of crowds and traffic alone is enough to make me cringe.  I have tried it a couple of times, years ago, and hated it.  Maybe because I went out alone, or maybe because I didn’t really have a plan to make it fun.  Either way, I have found myself thinking now that I am glad that I don’t put myself through that.

What I am doing is making the gifts at home or ordering online.  I find it much more satisfying and calming to my spirit to avoid the crowds.  I am lucky to have people around me who also enjoy receiving the handmade gifts.  Rarely have I had someone be too snooty to accept something handmade.  On the rare occasions when that has happened over the years, I just make mental note to never make them anything homemade again.  If anything, they will get a little gift card so that they can buy what they want.

One thing that I have been trying to instill in our children is the importance of giving of oneself through your time and talents.  With that in mind, I am teaching them to also make their gifts.  It is fun to watch them work on a project that takes several days (or longer) to complete.  The pride that Little Miss feels when she finishes the item and gives it to the recipient of the gift is a joy to see.  Likewise, I am so grateful that the gifts are well received and the children are praised for their efforts.

There are many gift ideas that you can find on Pinterest and other online resources that will give you examples of things kids can make.  These are not just the cutesy crafts but you can find meaningful gifts that can be used for a purpose.  A project that the kids are working on is to make an ornament for each person they make a gift for.  The ornaments that they are making are so cute and easy for them to do.  Even Pookie is getting in on it.

The best part of the holiday crafting is that instead of dealing with crowds at stores, we are spending time being creative as a family.  That in and of itself is a gift that you cannot replace.

 

Christmas Ornament Exchange & More November 4, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,family,holidays,old fashioned — ourprairiehome @ 9:05 am
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On Facebook, I am hosting a Handmade Christmas Ornament Exchange.  It has been so much fun making the ornaments to mail out to the swap participants.  Mine are all crocheted.  I went onto the Ravelry website and did a search for free patterns and found a plethora of ideas.  I have always loved the look of old fashioned handmade ornaments.  Each year, I try to make a new decoration or other item to add to our collection.  Last year was the first time we had an actual Christmas tree.  It is a small tabletop style, but in our home, that works for us.

I have been busy crocheting a lot this year.  Nearly everyone will be getting something crocheted or otherwise handmade.  One new aspect is that both of the kids will be able to make gifts this year.  I wasn’t sure if our son was going to be able to do it but found some neat ideas for crafts that both kids can make.

I wanted him to make something a little more personal for his Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapists though, so designed an ornament for him to make each of them.  He is learning sign language, so that will be incorporated into his project for them.  I don’t have pictures at this time because the camera I was using doesn’t work anymore.  I will try to post a picture tutorial later though if my husband is able to take pictures for me to upload.

Here is one idea that is a very simple one to make.  I am using the air-dry modeling compound made by Crayola for this project.

“I Love You” Clay Ornament

Make a tracing of your child’s hand on a sheet of paper.  Carefully cut it out.  This will become a pattern for your ornament.  Roll out the modeling compound to 1/8″ thick.  Carefully use a knife to cut out the hand print pattern from the clay.  Fold the middle and ring fingers downward so that the clay hand print looks like the sign meaning “I love you.”  You may need to lightly dampen the folded fingers t make them stick to the palm of the hand.

Next, using a small plate or bowl, cut out a circle that is slightly larger than the clay hand, from the 1/8″ thick clay.  This will become the base you attach the hand print to.  Lightly dampen the back of the hand and place it in the center of the ornament base.  Press just firmly enough to make it stick well, but not enough to flatten the hand too much.  You want the dimension of the sign language gesture to remain clear to see.  Using a straw, make a hole for hanging the ornament at the top center.

Let the clay dry thoroughly.  You can speed up the process by placing it on a wire rack in a warm oven, if necessary.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully if you attempt to dry them in the oven.

Once completely dried and hardened, you can have your children paint their hand print ornaments.  Use a permanent marker to write their name and the year on the ornament once the paint is dry.  To give a shiny finish, you can spray the ornaments with a glossy clear coat of spray paint.  After the ornament if finished, thread a ribbon through the hole and tie the ends into a knot.  Enjoy!!!

Another fun idea that Little Miss is making is a crocheted garland.  She is just learning to crochet and wanted to make a simple decoration for the tree.  So, she is crocheting a long garland using the basic chain stitch.  I will be teaching her how to add beads to her garland as she crochets.  It is really simple.

Beaded Chain Stitch Garland

This is a perfect first project for a little child to make.  There is no gauge or specific hook size.  All you need is the crochet hook, a smaller steel hook that is small enough to thread through a bead’s hole, yarn, and the beads.

The distance between beads is up to the person making the garland.  On our little tree, the beads will be about one bead every 1.5″ of stitches.

Begin making the chain.  When you reach the point where you want to add a bead, carefully remove the crochet hook.  Using the steel hook, thread a bead onto the hook.  Next, grab up the loop of yarn with the steel hook and slip the bead off of the hook, bring the yarn through the bead’s hole.  Set aside the steel hook and place the yarn loop back onto the crochet hook you are using to make the chain stitching.  Continue chain stitching until you are ready to add another bead.  Repeat this pattern until the garland is the size you want.  That’s it!  A very simple garland that a child can make successfully.

There are so many handmade decorations and gifts that kids can make for others.  By teaching them from an early age to hand-make their decorations and gifts, you are not only teaching them a craft/skill, but are teaching them to give of their time and talents.  It is something that will benefit them for many years to come.

 

Gift Idea: Spa Basket October 7, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,holidays,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:56 am
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I love the responses that I get when people find out that I ma working on holiday gifts and decorations. Some think it is too soon to think about, while others think I should have started long ago. For those on the fence of this issue, let me put a perspective on it. Each year there are numerous blog posts about people going quietly nuts during the holiday season. They become stressed out and are freaking over the littlest of things. Often, they are stressed over the gift purchases. I have to wonder, “Why do they do this to themselves each year?” If you started this week and made/purchased only 1 gift item each week, you would have 12 bought by the week of Christmas. Now, let’s imagine that I decide to crochet a hat for the two kids and my 2 young grandsons. I can crochet a hat in a couple of hours. Yes, some are faster than I am but I am also homeschooling my kids. I could easily make a hat a day and have 4 gifts made in a week. Here is another easy and fun gift for the women in your life. Now, for those who don’t crochet or do crafts, you can easily buy all the items in this gift, but it would also take less than a week to make it all. Here is the spa basket gift idea with links to any necessary patterns or instructions. Use masculine scents and colors to make this for a guy.

Crocheted Basket

Lavendar Soap for the ladies

Coffee Bean Soap for the guys

Bath Salts

Crocheted Face Cloth

Face Scrubbies

Nicely Scented Candle

As I already stated, you could buy the items and put the basket together, or make them yourself. Either way, this is a nice gift that can be done within a week.

Enjoy!

 

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.

 

No-Sew Fleece Blanket November 23, 2013

Filed under: Crafting,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 5:19 pm
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I love fleece blankets.  I learned years ago that sleeping between two layers of fleece in the winter can keep you much warmer than using regular bed sheets.  The blankets are a wonderful throw to keep in your favorite chair.  At night, after the kids have gone to bed, I like to curl up under the fleece blanket and read.

A couple of years ago, I noticed the blankets made by tying two layers of fleece together, using the fringe edging.  The blankets were cute to look at, but I could never get past how uncomfortable all those knots could be if you happened to lay on them.

I recently came upon an idea on Pinterest for a braided edging.  Pieces By Polly has a picture tutorial for this simple, yet beautiful edging technique.  The blankets are fringed, just as you would for a tied edging.  Instead of tying the fringes, she has a very easy method to create a braided look using a crochet hook or opened paper clip as a tool.

In looking at the technique, the cutting and preparing of the fringe easily takes the longest about of time.  The “braid” would be fast to complete.  In the entire blanket, there is only one small knot.

If you check the link for the website above, you will find a braided edging for a 2-layer fleece blanket.  In the top of the post, she references through a link the instructions for a single layer fleece blanket with the same edging.

These would make wonderful holiday gifts as well as a quick and easy charity blanket project.  I received an advertisement in the mail for Hancock Fabric store that makes this project very timely.  On black Friday, Hancock Fabrics will be having a great sale on all their fleece.  Perfect opportunity to make some gifts.

While making these blankets, consider making a few extra in crib size to donate to a shelter or a children’s hospital.  Quite often, a new mom may be in need of a warm blanket for taking their little one home.  The crib size works well to be used as a lap blanket for those in a nursing home.  Another way that I love using fleece blankets is to keep a couple in the car.  Should there be an emergency, you will have a way to bundle up and stay warm.