Crafty Conscience

Tote Bag Crocheted out of Strips of Plastic Bags

From the files of *More Trouble Than It’s Worth* comes my second plarn* bag.

It took so many hours to make the plarn and then crochet it into this bag. I’m talking like 40 hours of folding and cutting and connecting and winding plastic to get enough for this larger bag (it holds about 10 large skeins of yarn)… and after all of that, the crochet is very slow going.

All to end up with something that’s, honestly, pretty daggone ugly.

But I’ll probably do it again.

It makes me feel good to do something with the plastic bags that find their way into our home in spite of the 200 reusable bags we keep stashed in the cars. It’s kind of like doing craft penance. Either way these bags will last forever, but at least now my heirs will have solid proof I was a bit of a nut.

That’s worth something, right?


* Plarn is yarn made out of strips of plastic. I made mine out of bags I collected from stores over the past year or so. This colorway is “Target – Old Navy – Joann’s – Michael’s”. I really need to remember to take my reusable bags into these stores!

Self Care Day on the 6th: November 2014

November 6

There’s something particularly wonderful about old friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting new people — with all of the possibilities ahead and the zing of discovering common connections — but I treasure the folks that have been on this ride with me for decades.

We’ve all heard (and probably used) the platitudes about friends who can go for years without speaking and then pick up right where they left off. There are folks in my life that definitely fall neatly into this category, and man am I ever sorry about that. Not the “pick up right where they left off” part — that’s a gift!

I’m sorry about the “go for years without speaking” part of the equation.

Mea Culpa! I let the whirl of life carry me along for weeks, months, sometimes years without stopping to touch base with people whom I proudly consider friends. At first email and social media seemed to make it easier to stay in contact, but somehow clicking “like” on someone’s latest vacation picture or beating them at e-Scrabble doesn’t seem particularly friendly.

The other day one of my oldest friends — someone I’ve known for three quarters of my life — popped in to comment on a picture I’d posted online. He made a funny comment. I made one back. We clicked like on each other’s comments. And then we were off to snark elsewhere.

Now, this guy is a dear. He’s “been there” for me in about a thousand ways going all the way back to the early 80s. I was kind of reminiscing about that and how we used to grab our spouses and meet halfway for dinner (we live 200 miles apart these days) or plan vacations that crossed paths. Then I started counting the years since I’ve seen his actual, live-in-person face and was a little appalled and a little embarrassed and, honestly, a little sad.

So, did I call him? Pshaw! Of course not! Instead, I started crocheting him a blanket, because what says, “I miss your face, friend!” better than starting a months-long craft project that he knows nothing about?

I can’t always explain me.

The reality is that most folks need folks, and we’re lucky to have those folks. Barbra wasn’t kidding in that song of hers.

So, for self care this month I’m pledging to reconnect with some people who are essential to my happiness and well-being even if my behavior doesn’t seem to reflect their importance.

I’m not flogging myself over this — in spite of my “mea culpa” above — I’m pretty gentle with myself when I discover something I want to change. I am, however, going to pour some love into this intention over the next several weeks and see what manifests.

Oh, and I’ll be working on that blanket, too.

Robert desperately needs a Doctor Wubbie, and making one for him is the least I can do for one of my oldest — Man, is he older! — and kindest friends.

So, what’s on your “nice to do” list that just never seems to make it onto your calendar? Whatcha waiting for?

Doctor Wubbie


Self Care Day on the 6th: January 2014

Do you have things on your perpetual “nice to do” list that never actually get done? They may be phone calls you’d like to make — at some point — or craft projects you’ve been wanting to try — someday — or appointments you’ve been meaning to make — eventually — and they get moved from one list to the next without actually getting accomplished?

Well, one of my “nice to do” items has been to make a book out of some of the wads of paper that come packed around fragile things I’ve ordered from the interwebs. It’s usually wonderfully-crinkly, brown, butcher paper that’s been torn off of a roll. It begs me to make something of it rather than wadding it up further and tossing it into the recycling bin.

So, for the past year or so, I’ve been saving these sheets of paper — by either flattening them or rolling them around a paper tube — in the precontemplative hope that they would eventually get transformed.

After my previous adventures in book making, I’d convinced myself that this venture would be a Big Project. And, as with most Big Projects, it kept getting put off until I had the time/energy/space/staff to do it.

And then it occurred to me as I was flattening another six yards of brown paper last night that, hey, Gina! this is mangled wrapping paper that you get by the boxfuls and that you’ve been hoarding for a year, not precious silken threads, hand-dyed by mountain dwellers. And, oh, by the way, you’d have already turned those precious threads into a shawl.

I realized that I had a point. This book thing didn’t have to be perfect and I didn’t even have to follow some design of how books are s’posed to be made.

Folios? Pshaw! Covers? Heee! End papers? Whatever! Purpose? Shrug.

So I grabbed some paper and started folding until it was kind of the size I wanted. I kept folding until it was sort of even. Then I stapled it. Then I folded it some more so that the wonky staples were covered up. Then I stapled it again. Then I took a fork — yes! a fork! — and used it to rip the folded edges so that I could turn all of the pages.

I was pretty darned pleased with myself and passed it around the family for some atta girls and gold stars.

To a person, they said, “What’s it for?”


So I took a nearby Sharpie and did this to it:

It's for whatever it's for! Vol 1

I’ll admit that I sure was proud of myself.

Writing this on the cover didn’t stop the family asking what it was for and what the next chapter would be and what the book would be about, but it reassured me that I didn’t have to know any of that in order to love this crispy, crunchy, deckely creation. I doodled on the cover on and off all evening, and just before bed I wrote this (on the back) because I realized that I was already afraid to tarnish it with the wrong purpose.

Hey, Gina! Quick, write in it before it becomes too precious! (And you can always make another one!)

That didn’t seem to do the trick.

Seriously. I was still a little afraid to use it this morning. So, I made another one.

What better way to lower the perceived value of some precious, rarified (even if made out of stained, wadded up, torn, recycled, brown paper) object than to make it redundant?

I thought maybe you’d like to know how I made this precious thing in case you’re all about brown paper and little books and the like. So I took some pictures of my second go so that you could follow along from home.

First you’ll need some highly-technical tools and well-honed skills. You’re going to need to fold, staple, and fork deckel. You may not be familiar with the last skill because I just made it up. But, I promise, you’re great at it!

Collect your paper, your fork (yes!), and your stapler.

It’s best if the paper has been wadded up and shoved into a box and shipped across country, but sometimes you can’t be picky like that.

Paper, Stapler, Fork

Now, take a look at the paper and decide what size book you think you might want. Or just start folding it. You can fan-fold it. You can fold it long-wise and then into quarters. You can get all precise with it. You like folding thirds? Have at it. It really doesn’t matter. If you don’t like it, unfold it and try it again. The extra creases add value.

What mattered to me is that there was a fold that went all around the other folds to form a spine. So I made mine do that.

Like this:

Folded Paper

See those little uneven edges poking out the side there? Yep. They stick out the side there. And — shhhhh, don’t tell! — there’s a page inside that doesn’t even reach the edge! I know! It’s awesome!

Now, here’s where your technical stapling skills are challenged. Decide which edge you want to be your spine. Now eyeball where the folds end up and staple along one edge so that you catch them all. (If you miss, do something fancy like folding the front page back over the whole shebang and staple the edge again further in.)

If it’s kind of thick, you may have to use your fork to squish down the sharp ends on the back. You can put tape over them if you want. This tape thing is optional.

Stapling Paper

Now comes the fork deckeling. This is why it doesn’t matter how you fold the paper. You’re going to separate all of the layers using your fork. (If you want to use scissors or a screwdriver or a paper cutter or some other such tool, feel free, but you’re on your own.)

You may want to make sure all of your edges are extra creased. You can even use your fork edge to flatten them if you’d like.

Then find an opening at the edge of the paper that’s not the spine, insert a tine from your fork and use it to rip the edge letter-opener style.  There are YouTube videos demonstrating letter openers. I don’t think they show how to use a fork in this way, but they do show how to use a pen. So, you may have to use your imagination to transfer the letter-opening-with-a-pen skill to this tool and purpose.

Fork Deckeling

Depending on how you folded your paper and how thick your book is, this may take some time. It’s okay to get a snack or take a break if you need one.

You might be tempted to rip more than one  fold at a time if there are several sheets nested together. I didn’t risk attempting this advanced skill. Let me know how it goes if you get brave like that.

Don’t forget to fork deckel the top and bottom edges if you have folds there, too.

More Fork Deckeling

Eventually, you’ll rip apart all of the folds along the edges and all of your pages will be free!

Then you can go wild and decorate it with colored markers or pens or stickers or ribbons or macaroni or glitter or any or all of these items.


Or you can leave it blank and just add stuff as you’re inspired.

But be forewarned: if you wait too long, you might decide it’s too precious to use and then you’ll have to make another one.

It's for whatever it's for in two volumes

So, what’s been on your “nice to do” list for way too long? Is perfect the enemy of the good here? If so, maybe giving yourself permission to just do it in some form — not the Big Project form, but a good enough version — will get you past that precontemplation and on to having that self-satisfied feeling that we all enjoy.

Who says you need a reason to make a paper wad into a book? Who says you need a reason to try a new recipe or call up a friend or send that email?

Oh, and if that “nice to do” thing is something you’re never actually going to do, it’s really okay to stop pretending you will.

Who says you need a reason to skip it altogether?

Edna on Bravery

Beginning rows of a lace-weight cape.

Superhero capes often have humble beginnings.

It’s the wearers who give them their powers.

110,080 Tiny Stitches

Six shades of undyed lace-weight yarn knitted into a large, striped stole.Some projects are so large that it’s almost counterproductive to sum up the parts. This undyed stole is one such item.

I started this little (huge) enterprise in January knowing that it would take some fortitude to turn nearly 2000 yards of lace weight yarn into a rather large rectangle on rather tiny needles. This project required a pretty long cast on — nearly 350 stitches — but the hardest part of the whole process was coming up with more than 40 stitch markers that weren’t already committed to a WIP (yarn-speak for Work in Progress).

The nice thing about the pattern (if you can call it that) is that once the stitches are on the needles, it’s just a matter of switching knits and purls at the markers until I either run out of yarn or forget where I left it. This stole has become my favorite project to work on while talking or reading. Even so, I go entire months without so much as glancing at it. Luckily, we have one of those friendships where you can go ages without talking and then pick right up where you left off.

The yarn is an undyed alpaca-bamboo blend that  is lovely to knit. I’m currently working on the 6th of what will eventually be 8 different stripes. The subtle, natural shading — three shades of gray and five shades of brown — adds to the zen quality of slowly working along each of these long rows.

73,272 stitches down. 36,808 stitches to go.

You know, if you’re counting.

Just keep knitting. Just keep knitting. What do we do? We knit. Knit.*


*With apologies to Ellen Degeneres.


Happy Traveler and Doctor Blue

Blue Variant Scarf Started
I finished up Gillian’s Season 12 Doctor Who scarf over the weekend, but not before Berns asked for one of his own. He didn’t want a Season 12 like his sister’s. He wants a Blue Variant for the 6th Doctor.

Of course!

What’s that?

I’ll save you some research.

The 6th Doctor — evidently — had a pretty wild costume. When they revived the character for an audio show in about 2002, someone decided it would be tons easier to tone his costume down from a bunch of bright colors to several shades of blue for the adverts.

(Silly me, but, after they’d already invented the multi-colored version and sewn it in real life as a costume for an actual person to wear, this seems a little lazy. I’m sure this thinking puts me into some kind of Whovian Interwebs Battle. Let me go on record to say that I don’t want a vote if someone’s keeping score.)

Okay. But what kind of scarf did he wear?

Best I can tell, he didn’t.

Of course!

Thank goodness for Tara Wheeler and the fact that she thinks of everything. Yes, there is actually an official unofficial, non-canon blue variant scarf pattern.

But Berns didn’t want that one. He wanted a Season 12 in Blue.

Of course!

Are you following?

So, I gathered 7 shades of blue wool — well, 4 shades of blue, 2 shades of turquoise, and a medium gray — and went back to the Season 12 scarf and decided which color of blue would substitute for each of the canon colors and got started. I’m making the stripes 2/3rds the size of the original Season 12 scarf. My goal is to make it 7-8 feet long. We’re calling it “Dr Blue“.

Of course!

Why in the world would I spend weeks of my life making garter stitch scarves based on a TV show from the 1980s that I didn’t watch at the time and have only seen partial episodes accidentally since?

This is why:

2013-09-08 16.30.57


Yes, she’s wearing it without the fringe and with the unwoven ends dangling in the back. She couldn’t wait.

Of course!

Season 12 or Knitting an Iconic Scarf

Season 12 Scarf Begins

All of my children seem to be fully immersed in all-things-slightly-or-even-extremely nerdy.

I can’t imagine where they got this inclination. Ahem.

At any rate, my youngest daughter screwed up her courage and asked me for a Dr Who scarf. (She’s my child who hates to impose and really doesn’t want to be seen as part of the off-beat crowd, but who could quote the entire script of The Holy Grail as a preschooler.)

Now, if you are the least bit familiar with the show, you know that these iconic scarves are known to be rather large and very colorful. What you may not know is that they are also highly scrutinized by Fans who can tell by the (originally, randomly placed) stripes the exact episodes each scarf appeared.

Gillian asked for a Season 12 scarf — the first one, Baker’s original, not the one from the second half of the season, of course! — which, according to the numerous patterns and photos available, is about 19 feet long and made up of seven colors of random stripes of varying widths.

Um, okay. Happy to do it. Let’s do some stash diving and see what we have on hand.

Luckily we came up with 7 shades that suited her in spite of the gray being a little too blue and the brown being more dark chocolate than cocoa and the green being more olive than kelly…

You get the picture.

I offered to take her to the yarn shop to select the exact-right colors. And, guess what? She refused!

I was amazed. Rather than stick with the “Are You Mad? This Is The Official Pallette And Nothing Else Will Do!” protocol, she decided to go off-map and to add some things to her scarf. She picked out a pumpkin orange and a deep turquoise — her favorite! — to add to the other 7 nearly-official colors.

She also requested that it be a “reasonable length” so that she wouldn’t trip over it. I find this rather practical (and a gigantic relief as I wasn’t looking forward to 19 feet of garter-stitch knitting) and enthusiastically support her decision.

So, I’m sort of following Tara Wheeler’s sequence, but cutting the counts down – the biggest stripes by half – and adding in the extra colors, and hope to end up with something between 6 and 7 feet long. I went further off of the actual scarf pattern by narrowing it by nearly half and adding a slip-stitched faux i-cord edging to tidy it up a bit.

We’re about 20 stripes into this project and it’s going pretty well. Gillian gets rather giddy when she comes to check my progress.

I do admit that it makes me laugh that we take haphazard, randomly made items and turn them into iconic patterns. I’m sure there is a life metaphor in there somewhere.

I’ll just leave you to ponder that with an image of my current progress on Season 12.

Season 12 Scarf Halfway Completed

Hot Tea and Wool Season

Knitting a Henley

It’s the time of year when it’s starting to get a little chilly and things like hot tea and wool call to me. As you may or may not know, I do a fair bit of crocheting all year around. What I don’t do is knit. Well, I have knit things along the way. But the reality is that when I’m knitting I’m thinking about the fact that I could have finished 4 crochet projects in the time it takes me to knit one.

Even so, I get the urge from time to time to knit something. This time it’s all Kristen’s fault. While she does a fair bit of crochet, she also knits, sews, and quilts beautiful things. I was successfully resisting the urge to follow in her footsteps until she posted her version of this sweater. Twice.

While out on a date-date with Ned Andrew on Friday night, I talked him into taking me to the yarn store to purchase new circular needles and some yarn. You know, because nothing in my room-filling stash was exactly what I wanted to use.

Okay, so on Saturday I was about 12 rows in and was pretty pleased to report that my stockinette stitch was knitting up even. I’d even call it gorgeous. My increases were a nightmare, though. In the place where I was supposed to be making a new stitch I ended up making a new hole instead. Near tears, I put the needles down and vowed to go to my local yarn store first thing on Sunday.

As luck would have it, Bliss wasn’t open when I got there and closed before I could get back. I was with the family and we had an outing all planned, so I thought all hope was lost. But a dear lady and yarn-lover, Pam, saw my cries for help, took pity on my soul, and invited me to her house for a demonstration of Make Ones. She also magically ended my twenty-year frustration with the continental purl stitch in about 45 seconds.

Once I got home last night, I ripped the whole thing out and started over. So far– 23 rows in — I only have one hole and I’m actually having fun! This is a miracle… seriously.

Add to that the first official day of hot tea season, and I’m a pretty happy girl.

I heart Autumn.

Hot Tea Season


Off to a Beautiful Start

Noro Bouquet

There’s no question that I love, love, love yarn. A complete yarn inventory has been on my “Nice to Do” list for months. Of course, I would rather knot yarn than count it, so I haven’t quite gotten around to figuring what all I have in my stash.

I love getting an idea, — usually around midnight on a holiday weekend — diving into my bins of colorful skeins, and finding exactly what I need just waiting for me there.

I will admit to having way more than I could possibly use in a year… or two.

Even so, there are times when I see a project that I want to make that calls for something that I don’t have handy. Sometimes — like last spring — my vision requires a huge order of 19 different shades that I just can’t find at my local yarn store. More often, I’m wanting a particular fiber or colorway but tell myself that I can make do with something on hand…

I put off a trip to Bliss as long as possible, start 4 other projects, attempt the desired project in a different fiber, and then I finally give in and run across town to get what I’ve wanted all along.

It happened just that way today. Well, I’ve been wanting to make an Tunisian entrelac scarf for months. But today I had to go into my local yarn shop and get three skeins of delicious Noro Taiyo and start my project.

If I didn’t have two of our kids with me, I would have plopped down in a chair and started crocheting on the spot. As it was, I had to go to the grocery store and put everything away before I could even think about giving it a go. I’m so antsy to get started I may just pop.

So, I’m off to wind this lovely bouquet of yarn into balls before I decide that it’s too pretty to use and start obsessing over finding the right yarn for the crocheted version of the Color Affection Shawl that just caught my eye.


Oh, She’s That Kind of Nerd!

Nerdy Crafter

Why, yes! Yes I am that nerd who solved a 25X25 Sudoku to determine the placement of these supposed-to-be-random squares.

But I’m not compulsive enough to pull out the 49 squares I’d already made and attached before I came up with this brilliant scheme.

So not only is it not random, it doesn’t actually follow the Sudoku pattern rules completely.

So, does that make it a Random Pattern?


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