Saturday, July 18, 2009

Knitted Eyeball

I originally posted this tutorial on on Jan 31, 2009

Intro: This is a fun, easy knitting project using the Knifty Knitter knitting looms. Knitted eyeballs of different sizes make great Halloween decorations. Make a whole set in different eye colors, to match all your family members!

This project is suitable for older children, too, as long as they are old enough to use a (fairly dull) plastic yarn needle.

step 1Materials

The Materials you will need to make this project:

1. Knifty Knitter set of knitting looms.
These come in 4 sizes, for this project I am using the smallest loom (the blue one) but you can use any size. I have made larger eyeballs using the green loom.

2. Yarn- I am using Lion Brand Vanna's Choice. If you are using one of the larger looms you will want to either use thicker yarn (bulky weight) or use a double strand of worsted weight.
1 skein of white yarn
1 skein of black yarn (you won't use very much black so if you have some leftover from another project that is perfect)
1 skein of blue yarn (or brown or green, whatever eye color you want to make)
1 small skein of red yarn or red embroidery floss, I used Sugar 'n' Cream crochet yarn.

3. scissors

4. Poly fiberfill stuffing

step 2Getting started

You will start with the white yarn.
The knitting process follows the basic Knifty Knitter instructions, I'm assuming if you own the looms you have used them before and know the basics.

Cast on with the white yarn and begin to knit a tube.

Knit until the white tube is about 5 inches* long.

*5 inch measurement pertains to using the smallest loom. If you are using a larger size loom, these length measurements will be larger.

step 3Changing colors

Now you want to switch to the blue yarn.
(or brown or green, whatever eye color you chose)

Leave a tail of the white thread anchored to the outside peg, and wrap the next circle of loops using the blue yarn.
Continue knitting with the blue yarn a few more times around, and then tie off the tails of blue and white in a knot together. Pull the tails of the knot inside the tube to weave in later.

step 4Knitting the pupil

Knit about an inch and a half* of the blue yarn, then change colors to black.
Follow the same color changing directions as in step 3.

Now knit about an inch and a half with the black yarn.
When you are done, anchor the tail to the outside peg and cut the yarn leaving about a 6 inch tail.

  • Inch and a half measurement pertains to using the smallest loom. If you are using a larger size loom, these length measurements will be larger.

step 5Remove eyeball from the loom

Wrap a piece of black yarn around the outside of the loom to measure it, and cut a piece about 6 inches larger than the loom circumference.

Thread the piece of black yarn in the plastic yarn needle that came with your Knifty Knitter loom.
Use the yarn needle to lift the last set of loops off the loom, one by one, following the basic Knifty Knitter directions.
This piece of yarn will serve as a drawstring to close the pupil, once the eyeball is off the loom.

step 6Tying the drawstring

Now your knitted tube should be off the loom and look something like this.
It looks long and skinny but don't worry, the tube will stretch quite a bit when it is stuffed.

Turn the tube inside out, and pull the last black piece of yarn tight from booth sides like a drawstring, closing off the black end. Tie them in a tight knot and also tie those 2 tails to the black tail from the tube.

Weave in the ends of these tails and the tails from both times you changed colors.

Turn the tube right side out again.

step 7Stuff the eyeball

Start to stuff the eyeball through the white end, which will still be open.
Use white poly fiberfill stuffing, it will still be somewhat visible through the holes in the knitted tube, but it won't fall out.
It won't be as visible through the blue and black sections because they are not stretched as much.

A tip from myrrhmaid on Instructables: use a length of pantyhose as a liner to keep the stuffing from coming out. Great tip!

Stuff it until you get a nice rounded shape, it can even be a little oval shaped like a nearsighted eyeball.

When you think it is full enough, thread some of the white yarn with the plastic yarn needle and thread it through the bottom loops on the white end of the tube.
Close it tight and tie it off using the same drawstring method you used on the black end.
Weave in ends.

step 8Add the bloodshot veins!

Now you could stop here, it's a perfectly nice little eyeball. Roly-poly and soft, all ready to be thrown at someone! But something is missing! To make a good Halloween decoration, you really need some veins.

Cut some of the red yarn, about 24 inch pieces are easiest to handle.
Thread one of the pieces in the plastic yarn needle and start "embroidering" veins onto the eyeball. I just improvised this step, weaving the red yarn in & out, over & under until it looked good. When you reach a stopping point like the end f a vein, just tie off the yarn in a knot and cut off the excess.
This is really a creative license thing, you can make the veins as simple or as branched as you like. No two eyeballs are alike in real life, so no two knitted eyeballs will be alike either.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tutorial: T-shirt hacking

edit July 25:
This tutorial was featured of Totally Tutorials Blog. They have lots of other great tutes so check it out!
This is a tutorial to take a big, boxy, unflattering T-shirt from Michael's craft store, like this one:
(click any photo to see it larger)

And reconstruct it into a cute, girly, puffed-sleeve babydoll Tee like this one:

Michael's T-shirts really don't look that great on a woman's body. They have some good points: they are inexpensive, and they come in a lot of nice colors, but that boxy crew-neck cut just doesn't thrill me. So I decided to see what I could do with the standard T-shirt to make it cuter.
This week my local Michael's had blank tees on sale for $2.50 each, for any size. I picked up this pretty lemon-lime color.

Materials needed:
1 t-shirt
some thin elastic (optional, if you want gathered sleeves like mine)
sewing machine, thread, etc.

For this project: Buy a tee that is 1 or 2 sizes larger than you would normally wear. I bought an XL. (unlike American Apparel, these XLs really are EXTRA large, I think they are mens sizing)

First I sketched out what I wanted to make. I designed a top with a flat piece on the shoulders and upper chest, called a yoke, and then a loose, gathered section on the body. The front yoke is curved because I think that's more flattering, and the back yoke is straight across.
I added puffed sleeves.

The only seams you will need to sew on this top are:
2 armhole seams
front yoke
back yoke
finishing the neckline.
The side seams, shoulder seams, and hems are already done for you.

Phase One: CUTTING

1. Cut off both sleeves from the t-shirt, following the armhole seam.

2. Trim off the armhole seam from the sleeves. Set the sleeves aside.

3. Cut the front layer ONLY into a curved shape, starting about halfway up the armhole.
Try to make your curve symmetrial, you can do half of it and then fold the shirt to mark your cutting line, to make sure the other side matches.

4. Cut the back layer straight across, at the same height as the highest points of the front layer. (the sides.)

5. Cutting the yoke.
First you want to trim the shoulders because the oversized boxy tee probably had the armhole seam halfway down your bicep. We want the new armhole seam to be right at the natural shoulder. Hold the yoke up to your body or use a well-fitting shirt to determine where to trim the shoulders. Discard the two shoulder trimmings.

6. Cutting the neckline.
I don't like crew neck tops, they aren't comfortable or flattering. I wanted a deeper scoop neck which I think is more feminine. Trim off the neck ribbing and set that aside, you will reuse it.
Cut the front layer ONLY of the yoke into a deeper U-neckline. The back layer should stay at the higher level.

7. Trim the bottom of the yoke: Trim the front yoke into a curved shape, and trim the back yoke straight across. Discard the excess you trimmed from the bottom of the yoke.

Here is the final yoke piece, all trimmed and opened flat. You can see the difference between the back yoke and front yoke shapes.

step 8. (no photo)
Take the neckline ribbing you set aside in step 6. Trim the ribbing from the rest of the scrap fabric and the tag. You just want to salvage about a 1 1/2 inch wide strip of ribbing. It will be like a long loop. Stretch it out by gently pulling on it. It should stretch quite a bit once all the seams are cut off.

Phase Two: SEWING

9.The first thing. you want to sew is to finish the neckline. It's easier to do this while the yoke is separate.
Pin the ribbing to the neckline of the yoke, pin it to the wrong side (inside) of the yoke.
It should be long enough to bind the neckline after you have stretched it.
Now sew the ribbing to the wrong side of the neckline. Do not stretch the neckline of the yoke as you sew, you should only stretch the ribbing as needed to fit the yoke.

This is the wrong side of the yoke, with the ribbing sewn on.

10. Now you will fold the ribbing over to the right side (outside) of the yoke neckline. Fold the ribbing to cover the seam allowances and encase all the raw edges. Pin and sew the ribbing down to the right side of the yoke. This is one of the most important parts to do neatly, especially the front neckline, since it is the closest to your face. Most people won't notice a funky sleeve but will notice a crooked neckline.

Here you can see the ribbing area in the back is finished, and the ribbing near the needle is folded over about to be sewn.

Here is the yoke, with the neckline ribbing finished.

11. Attaching the body to the yoke.
With pins, mark the center point of the front and back yoke, and the center points of the front and back body pieces.

12. Set your machine stitch length to a long basting stitch, and baste along the top edge of the front and back body pieces. Also baste just along the top half of both sleeve pieces. Leave your threads dangling and both ends.

13. Pin the front yoke to the front body piece, right sides together, matching centers and matching sides. Pull on the loose basting threads like a drawstring, to gather the front body piece to fit the yoke. Distribute the gathers to be fuller right over your boobs.

14. Now sew the front yoke seam.
If you have a serger, you can do this in one step. Sergers are the best for sewing with t-shirt knits.
I don't have a serger so I sewed a straight seam, then I trimmed the excess seam allowance, and then used a mock-overlock stitch to finish the edges.
Repeat this process with the back yoke and back body pieces. You can distribute the gathers evenly across the back. Pin and sew the back yoke to the back body.

Here is the top viewed inside-out, with the front and back yokes finished.

15. The next step is to add the sleeves, which you set aside in a previous step.
There is no left or right sleeve, they are identical.
Pin the sleeve to the armhole, right sides together. Match up the side seam of the body to the underarm seam of the sleeve, and match the shoulder seam of the body to the top shoulder crease of the sleeve.
Distribute any gathers to the top of the shoulder area.
Now sew the armhole seam as you have pinned it.
If you have a serger, you can do this in one step.
I don't have a serger so I sewed a straight seam, then trimmed the excess seam allowance, and then used a mock-overlock stitch to finish the edges.
Sew on both sleeves.

Here is the top with sleeves added. This is the front view.

Here is the top with sleeves added. This is the back view.
Now you could wear the shirt just like this, if you like straight loose sleeves.
But I wanted puffed sleeves so this last step is optional.

16. To make the sleeves puffed, I added elastic to the sleeve hem. You don't need to make a casing for the elastic, because the existing hem will become your casing.
Measure around your upper arm and subtract a couple of inches. Cut 2 pieces of narrow elastic to this length. You can use 1/8" wide elastic, or 1/4 " wide, whatever you have on hand that will fit in the sleeve hem. If the elastic is stiffer or less stretchy, then only subtract one inch from your arm measurement.

Cut two small holes on the inside layer of the sleeve hem, one hole on each side of the underarm seam. Do not cut all the way through both layers the hem to the outside, you want these holes to be invisible from the outside.
Do this for both sleeves.

Attach a safety pin to one of your elastics.

Poke the safety pin into one of the small holes you cut. Use the safety pin to thread the elastic through the casing, until you get to the other small hole. Pull the safety pin and elastic out the other hole.

Tie both ends of the elastic together in a secure knot. Trim the ends and tuck the knot into one of the holes.
If you used wider elastic you can also sew the 2 ends together for a smooth flat joint, because a knot may be too bulky.

Here is the finished puffed sleeve from the outside.

Design ideas:
You can screen print on the shirt or add other embellishments to the yoke area.
You can buy two shirts in different colors, and then swap the yokes. So you can make a top with a black yoke, and pink sleeves and body, and another top with a pink yoke, and black sleeves and body. Give one to your friend and you will be opposite-twins!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"whoopie pie" cake

This is like a cake-sized version of a Whoopie Pie.
The frosting uses this recipe for whoopie pie filling, although I am using Kraft Marshmallow Creme instead of Marshmallow Fluff, which is not commonly available in my area.

Lemon Meltaway Cookies

Cookie Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsalted Butter, softened
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
freshly grated zest of one lemon

Frosting Ingredients:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsalted Butter, softened
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon lemon juice
(I also added a few drops of yellow food coloring)

Combine all cookie ingredients in large bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.
If the dough is dry and crumbly after beating, add more lemon juice, adding 1 teaspoon at a time until dough forms.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into 8x1-inch log. Wrap each in plastic food wrap. Refrigerate until firm (1 to 2 hours).

Heat oven to 350°F. Cut each log into 1/4-inch slices with sharp knife. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until set. (Cookies will not brown.) Cool completely.

Combine all frosting ingredients in small bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until fluffy. Frost cooled cookies.

Old School chocolate cupcakes

choco-cupcakes 6
We all have some childhood nostalgia for those Hostess chocolate cupcakes, with their iconic squiggle on top. But with your grown-up palate, they just don't pass muster for taste. So I decided to make some lookalike cupcakes from scratch.

Step 1:
Bake a dozen chocolate cupcakes from your favorite recipe or from a cake mix.
This is my favorite recipe:

Peerless chocolate cake

this makes one layer, 8" or 9" round pan, or 12 cupcakes.
preheat oven to 350.
line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners.

Melt 1 oz (1 square) UNSWEETENED baking chocolate (not
semisweet) in a double boiler or a microwave at a
low/defrost setting. Don't scorch it. Set aside to

cream together with electric mixer:
1/4 cup softened butter (I use unsalted for baking)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

mix in cooled chocolate.

sift together into a bowl:
1 cup cake flour (it must be cake flour, not all-purpose flour)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Add the flour mixture to the chocolate-butter mixture,
mixing at low speed with electric mixer. Add in 1/2
cup ice cold water and beat til smooth at medium
speed. Batter should be light, smooth, kinda fluffy.

Pour batter into prepared cupcake pan, filling the cups about 2/3 full.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean

Step 2:
Cream filling:
1/4 cup crisco shortening (not butter flavored)
1/3 cup marshmallow creme or marshmallow fluff
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
Beat all ingredients together with mixer until fluffy. You may add a little milk, a few drops at a time, to get the right consistency.

Put the cream filling into a ziplock baggie and cut off the tip of one corner.

Step 3:
With a pointy serrated knife, cut out a conical section from the top of each cupcake. You hold the knife at an angle to make the cone.
Then cut off the tip of the cone-shaped plug, so that you have a flat cap of cake left.
(you can eat or discard the tip of the cone)

step 4:
Squeeze the ziplock baggie to pipe the cream filling into the cone-shaped hole in the top of each cupcake. Don't fill it all the way to the top, because you will replace the cap of cake on the top.

Step 5: These cupcakes have been filled and the caps are back on top, covering up the filling.

Step 6: Frost the cupcakes with your favorite chocolate frosting recipe, or you can use canned frosting. I made a simple chocolate buttercream with:
powdered sugar
melted unsweetened baking chocolate (1 square)
softened butter
I didn't use a recipe or measure anything, I just eyeball it, mix it up and then add a little milk as needed to get the right spreading consistency.

Step 7:
Mix about 1/3 cup of powdered sugar with a little milk. I did not measure the milk, I just add it a few drops at a time and then stir, repeating until I get the right consistency. Do NOT add too much milk at once!
When you get the right consistency, it should not be too liquidy because you want the squiggles to hold their shape.

Put the white frosting in another ziplock bag and cut off a tip of the corner. You will cut a much smaller hole for this than you did to pipe the filling.
Squeeze the bag and pipe the white squiggles on each cupcake.

step 8: OmNomNom!!
This cupcake has a bite taken out showing the cream filling center.

serve with ice cold milk!