Crafty Stories

I like to tell stories through the creative arts. I may be slightly obsessed with books, movies, TV shows, yarn and fiber. Wanna hang out?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Meet My Characters: Haymitch Abernathy

Hello, and Happy Fiber Arts Friday!

Today I'm going to introduce you to one of my "characters" and explain the back-story of the creation of that character.

May I introduce you to Haymitch Abernathy?

Haymitch is one of the leading characters in Suzanne Collins's "Hunger Games" trilogy, and this colorway was inspired by him.

Haymitch serves as a mentor to Katniss and Peeta, but in the beginning of the series he isn't much of one. He's the town drunk, and a bit of a joke. There are times when he pulls off being lucid, but you just never quite know which version of Haymitch you're going to get in any situation.

As the books go on we learn that there's a lot more to Haymitch than meets the eye. After all, he wouldn't be a mentor if he hadn't won the games in his youth; this is a fact it can be easy to forget during one of his drunken episodes.

For this colorway, I chose to play up Haymitch's strength and his unpredictability. This is a kettle dyed colorway, so no two skeins will be identical (though they will of course be as similar as possible). Haymitch is a blend of grey, rust, olive green and purple. I love the way the different colors work together; this is definitely one of those colorways where I think we'll all be surprised by how it knits up, too!

Knit Haymitch when you need some sage advice or someone to lean on in a tough situation. Knit this colorway for someone who has been a mentor to you or supported you on a hard day.

In the film version of the first book, Woody Harrelson will play Haymitch, and I'm really excited to see how that turns out! I think he will be great.

Haymitch is only one of my many Hunger Games inspired colorways; you'll see more later this month when I debut them after my Hunger Games KAL/SAL ends. If you want to get in on the action, I have listings available for roving, yarn, batts and mini skeins!

Thanks for visiting for Fiber Arts Friday everyone! Now head on over to Andrea's place and check out the rest of the fun!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meet My Characters: Peeta Mellark

Welcome back for another edition of "Meet My Characters" here at Storied Yarns Central! This is the type of blog post where I showcase one of the colorways I have created and explain the back-story behind my inspiration for that colorway.

Today I want to introduce you to Peeta Mellark, the male lead in Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy.

I should warn you that there may be some SPOILERS for the whole series in this post. I will try to be somewhat vague, but I don't want to totally gloss over anything, either.

Anyway, here is Peeta:

In the novels, Peeta has blonde hair, which separates him from Katniss and Gale because the kids from town are blonde whereas kids from "The Seam" have darker hair. As a younger boy, Peeta's blonde head sticks out in Katniss's memory because of an act of kindness he shows to her after her father dies.

The blue in this colorway comes from the mental image I have of Peeta's culinary talents. During one scene in the third book, Peeta decorates a cake to look like an ocean scene, and his beautiful icing decoration shows Katniss that the Peeta she knows is still inside of him somewhere.

The orange is there because it's Peeta's favorite color; not bright orange, but darker like the sunset.

I wanted the overall feel of this colorway to be one of bright colors, like the camouflage paintings that mark one of Peeta's many skills as a Tribute. Over the top of that, though, I have added a grey overdye to symbolize Peeta's experiences in The Capitol and the ways he changes between the books. Though he's still Peeta underneath, he's not that boy with the bread any longer.

I hope you like my tribute to Peeta in colorway form! Come back next time and I'll introduce you to the third member in the pseudo-love triangle from The Hunger Games: Gale! :)

In the meantime, check out my Hunger Games Spin-Along and Knit-Along on Ravelry! I'm offering packages for yarn, roving, batts or mini skein sets so you can stitch and spin along with us! We'll have competitions amongst the participants and the final Victor will win a prize! :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

It's Finished!! My Handspun Shrug

If you've been following along with my handspun sweater project this year, then you know I spun three sets of batts to make a gorgeous yarn and then wanted to knit it into a sweater.

Except that it turned out to be fewer than 300 yards total, even though it weighs in at nearly a pound, so I didn't quite have enough for a full-sized sweater.

It's all good, though. My motto around here is "Keep Moving Forward," remember?!?

So, I settled on a sweater-like project instead: Shrug This. I made a few mods to the pattern - namely, I went up to a size 11 needles since my yarn is a little bit more than worsted weight, and I added 2 stitches per sweater section (10 stitches total) to the cast-on. I knit as directed until closing up the arm holes and then I just kept knitting until I ran out of yarn.

The result? Awesome:

I haven't blocked it yet, so right now it still kind of curls in at the front edges. I'm thinking a little bit of good blocking will help it not do that and also maybe even it out a little, and after that it will be pretty great!

Thanks for following along with my sweater knitting and spinning adventures! I'm sure this will NOT be the first sweater I make this year, so stay tuned for more fun!

In the meantime, though, I'm taking a break to knit my first pair of socks. Wahoo! I'll report more on that project later. :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tutorial: Valentine Gift Bag/Card Holder

Hello, and welcome to the blog! Here at Storied Yarns Central things got a bit hectic recently as I realized that my older two children were going to have their Valentine's Day parties at school today. Yep, that's right, today. No, your calendar isn't wrong - apparently it was a unanimous decision at their school to celebrate a full four days early. Fantastic ...

Anyway, we busied ourselves with filling out Valentine cards earlier in the week, and to be honest I was feeling a bit of a crafty let-down. Valentine's Day has been a DIY holiday for me since, well, forever. When I was a little girl I used to LOOOOVE buying construction paper, doilies and glitter at this time of the year and making my own Valentines instead of buying the pre-packaged ones. My own children, however, just want to buy the Fun Dip that comes with a place to write the recipient's name on the front and call it a (holi)day. Ugh.

To appease myself and my need to craft up this holiday properly, I whipped up these little bags yesterday:

Want to see how I did it? Follow this tutorial for an easy DIY gift bag. My eldest will be using his for holding Valentine cards at school (more durable than a shoe box and more fun than a paper bag), but my younger two can just enjoy using them to tote around their valuables. Use these bags for reusable gift bags, lunch bags or anything else your heart desires! Only basic sewing skills required. :)

First up, gather your materials.

You'll need the following items:
1. Felt fabric - two 9x12 sheets will make one tote.
2. Ruler or measuring tape
3. Rotary cutter and mat (optional)
4. Scissors
5. Scrap of decorative/fun fabric
6. Coordinating thread
7. Sewing machine
8. Guard cat to make sure you're doing it right:

Don't have one of those? Ok, you can probably get by without one. In fact, it'll make the job a LOT easier. ;)

Moving on. Here's what you need to do to make these DIY felt tote bags:

1. Cut your felt fabric; the first sheet can be cut down in half so you get two pieces that are each 9x6.

2. The second sheet needs to be cut into four even pieces that are each 9x3:

3. Cut one of those strips in half so that you get two pieces that are each 1.5x9 and then cut one piece down so it is only 6x9 and you'll have this:

(You may be noticing that my colors aren't very Valentine-y. Well, that's because I'm a mom on a budget so I'm using the felt I have lying around, which happens to be NOT red. Plus, I figure that makes the totes more versatile for using at other times of the year, right? It also worked out well that my felt coordinates with my cotton printed fabric. See? I did it on purpose. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

4. Anyway, moving along. Take your scrap of cotton printed fabric and cut it into a heart shape. I just free-handed it with the old fold-it-in-half trick and it worked out just fine:

5. Pin this scrap onto one of your larger felt pieces, centered near the top, and sew around the edges of the heart with a zigzag stitch to hold it in place:

6. Sew around the edges of the heart again, but this time increase the width of your stitch to 5 (or super wide) and the length to 1. Now your heart will look like this:

7. Trace your kid's name under the heart and embroider it on there, if you like. You'll see mine in a minute.

8. Take two of the 9x3 strips and sew them, one at a time, along the 9-inch edges of the front piece. Use a straight stitch and sew with wrong sides together; these strips will become the sides of your bag. When you finish it will look like this:

What you can't see in this photo is that the front of my bag is face-down, so these are sewn to the back side of the bag. See the stitch lines on the right and left? I'm leaving my seams "exposed" because this is felt and it's not going to fray, plus I think it helps the bag stand up on its own.

9. Sew the back panel of the bag onto the other long edges of the side pieces so that you have a bag that stands up on its own and has no bottom. I forgot to take a photo of that step, sorry about that!

10. Sew the bottom strip onto the bag - this is the piece that measures 3x6. I found it was easier to sew one 3-inch seam, then the opposite 3-inch seam, then the 6-inch seams one at a time. Again, keep your seams exposed to the outside of the bag as you do this. When you finish your bag will look like this:

Here's a side view:

and an aerial view:

11. Pin one of the thin strips to the front of the bag like so to make the front handle:

12. Repeat this with the remaining thin strip and the back panel to make the back handle. Sew across the entire top front and top back of the bag with a zigzag stitch to secure the handles. (Note: I didn't feel the need to make the handles super secure because these bags only have to hold Valentine cards. If you want yours to be sturdier, sew a few extra back and forth stitches across the place where the handles physically attach to the body of the bag.) Your finished bag will look like this:

13. Make a few more for your other kids, improving your embroidering skills as you go:

Stand them up by the front door and wait for the kids to come home ...

... and find the Valentine cards they got in the mail!

I hope you enjoyed my simple sewing tutorial today! If you make one of these bags, I'd love it if you pop back in here and show me a picture! :)

This has been a presentation for Fiber Arts Friday, so head on over to Andrea's blog and check out the rest of the fun.

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meet My Characters: Cinna

As you probably already know if you're reading this, I believe very strongly that when we create something with our hands we tell a story through that item. That's why I do what I do - when I dye yarns inspired by the stories I love, I believe it brings depth to the finished knitted or crocheted item as the layers of the story come together.

Today I'm introducing Cinna, a colorway inspired by The Hunger Games. Here he is, one of my all-time favorite colorways:

Cinna is a black base with splashes of silver grey, bright violet purple, electric blue and bold periwinkle.

Most people ask me why I chose these colors for Cinna; as a result of the fact that he wears metallic gold eyeshadow in the first book, most people picture the color gold when they think of Cinna. I can't deny that association, of course, but after reading the final book in the trilogy I was more inspired by these colors than gold. I don't want to give too much away to those who haven't read the books, but to me Cinna's role in the final book will always be his lasting legacy as a character and this colorway was inspired by that role.

When you make something with this colorway, what kind of story do you stitch? Well, in my opinion, you stitch a story with style. I chose these colors to epitomize Cinna's cool factor. Knit Cinna when you need a dose of cool in your own wardrobe, or when you want to tell someone else how cool you think he/she is. Alternately, since Cinna was a mentor figure to Katniss and an inspiration for her, you could choose this colorway for a special project made for someone who inspires and guides you in your own life.

Thanks for visiting with me today, and getting to know Cinna! Leave me a comment if you feel like it and tell me what stories you're stitching today!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Meet my Characters: Katniss Everdeen

Sometimes I like to share the back-story and inspiration involved in creating my colorways. This month I'm going to be doing a little character bio for each of my Hunger Games colorways, in preparation for my Hunger Games Knit-Along/Spin-Along and the movie debut.

Today, meet Katniss Everdeen: The Girl Who Was On Fire.

Katniss is the lead character in Suzanne Collins's YA series that begins with The Hunger Games. I fell in love with these books, and Katniss herself, from the first minute I read them. Katniss was actually one of the first colorways I ever created; she has been with me for the long haul.

I don't want to spoil too much for people who haven't read the books (Why haven't you read the books?!? Do it!), but I will say that a main part of the novel series is the idea that Katniss comes out of nowhere to become a symbol and a leader for a revolution. The novels are set in a dreary dystopian, post-World War III future and Katniss lives in a community known for mining. When she participates in the Hunger Games she shows what happens when you light coal on fire: you get a flame.

For Katniss's colorway, I started with a base of charcoal grey for District 12, her home. I then added splashes of flame colors: red, yellow and blue (which sometimes blend together to give a rainbow effect; an added bonus/side effect). This colorway reminds me of a phoenix rising from the ashes, much like Katniss does in the novels.

I once sent a skein of this colorway to a friend of mine who had survived a house fire that destroyed, among many other things, her entire stash of yarn. I think this is a great colorway for representing our ability to survive hardship and come out stronger and brighter on the other side, don't you?

I have crocheted this colorway once before into a spiraling scarf:

I definitely love this colorway as a scarf, but I think it would make an amazing shawl, too. I hope someone knits one in the KAL! :)

Thanks for visiting me today and getting to know Katniss. I hope you love her as much as I do, and that you'll stop by later in the week as I introduce more of my characters!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: The Countdown is ON!

Happy Fiber Arts Friday, everyone!!

Ok, so this week I don't have much to show off. I did spin a few yarns, but I'm lazy so I haven't taken photos. I've been knitting, but there isn't much to show for it and for now it's a big secret project anyway.

So instead, let's talk about what I'm gearing up for next: a new
Storied Yarns Spin-Along/Knit-Along!!

This time we're going to count down to the film premiere of The Hunger Games. Dun Dun Duuuuuuunnnnnn!

Don't know what this is? Have you been living under a rock? It's okay, let me teach you. Go here and read all about this amazing book, the start of an amazing trilogy. Then get thee to a library or bookstore, STAT! (Here's a tip: you're going to want to have a copy of the second book immediately upon finishing the first, and ditto with the third, so it's best to get all three at once.)

Once you're finished reading all that awesome, or perhaps you already HAVE read all the awesome, now it's time to join me over at Storied Yarns Ravelry Central for a Hunger Games themed KAL/SAL!

Just like my other KAL/SAL packages, this one will be lots of fun! You'll get yarn or fiber in your choice of Hunger Games inspirations and extra goodies. I'm going to hold little contests amongst the participants, too, and award mini prizes along the way. Then at the end there will be a larger prize package for one big winner!

If you want to see my Hunger Games colorways, visit my Facebook photo album. For this SAL/KAL you can choose one of these colorways or a new inspiration from the series.

I hope you'll join in or follow along with the fun. And may the odds be ever in your favor!

Now go visit Andrea and say hello for Fiber Arts Friday.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fun with Free Motion Quilting

Let's take a break from yarn for a while, shall we?

This month I have made the resolution that I will become better at free motion quilting. Basically, for me, "better" means that I'll do it at all; in the past when I have made quilts I have either used "stitch in the ditch" or tying to finish them. That's all well and good, but I really wanted to be able to do the pretty quilted designs I see from other quilters out there.

How hard could it be, right?


Yeah, it's pretty hard. However, with the help of the Sew Inspired Blog's Focus on Free Motion Quilting Month, I felt brave enough to tackle a few projects last week.

I should start, I suppose, by telling you that I sew with a fairly basic (but very nice) Singer sewing machine. It does not come equipped with any kind of long arm quilting mechanisms, and it doesn't even have a walking foot (though I may invest in one in the very near future). It's a good little machine, and so far it has done everything I ever asked it to do. I should have known it would continue to stand by me through this adventure. :)

For my machine, the manual only tells me to remove the presser foot and drop the feed dogs in order to free motion quilt. I found I also had to mess around with a few things like tension and stitch length to get the motion of quilting to be comfortable for me, too.

I made a special project first, but I won't be showing that off until later when it arrives at its new home. After that special project I made two baby quilts for Project Linus:

I'm not sure if I ever really talked about it before, but for a part-time day job I work for Candice at Wee Essentials. As part of our work, we use quite a bit of fabric, resulting in quite a lot of left-over scraps that aren't quite big enough to make any of the Wee Essentials products. We just can't stand the thought of throwing them all away, so we came up with the idea to make them into baby blankets to donate to Project Linus. I made these for that project; they're 18-inch preemie quilts for the NICU at Vanderbilt Hospital.

These little quilts were the perfect size to practice free motion quilting, because they were small enough to maneuver easily. I imagine the king-sized quilt I eventually want to make will be a much bigger challenge, ha ha.

Anyway, here are some close-up shots. The first blanket I did a sort of loopy-loop line along the straight stitching lines from the quilt:

I like the way this turned out because the quilting doesn't take away from the fabric at all, but it just adds a cute little feminine design to the quilt body itself. Plus, it was fairly easy to do since I could still follow the stitching lines as I quilted.

For the second quilt I did a sort of big scallop for a few rows of quilting and then a big figure-8 sort of a design. I don't like how this worked out as well, but it still works:

This little crafty adventure wasn't 100% easy. First off, I think I broke my top thread about a million times. I also had some tension issues, where the underside of the quilt ended up with loopy sections like this:

Luckily, after washing, most of these are barely noticeable and there's really only one or two on each quilt.

Here are some Things I Learned About Free Motion Quilting through my practice on these quilts:

  1. It's best to use a quilting design that is small in scale. It was easier to keep my stitches even and to make the design look nice when I made small movements with the fabric and needle.
  2. At some places my tension was off; I think this is because I moved with inconsistent speed. Sometimes I really got into it and I sped up my fabric moving and I think that was too fast for my machine. I'm trying to keep in mind that my machine has a basic speed level for straight stitching and I should probably try to match that with my quilting movements.
  3. I broke my thread, a LOT. I think this is a combination of problems including using cheap thread and moving too erratically with my stitching. I'm going to try to slow down the stitching a little but also invest in some nicer thread the next time I make a quilt.
Well, that's it for me today! I hope you feel inspired by this post to get adventurous and try something new in your own crafty adventures. If you do, leave me a comment and tell me about it!