Friday Fluff, Sweet Machine

Friday fluff: Tiny crafts

As those of you on Ravelry know, I’m kind of an obsessive knitter. I mostly do scarves, hats, and sweaters, but lately I’ve been charmed by the idea of making really small items that only take a few hours to do. Just this past week I’ve been making washcloths (shapes like stars and fish and other cute things) and kitty toys (filled with catnip — I cannot even sew them shut before my cats try to steal them away).

I think one reason this kind of tiny project appeals to me is that my attention span is completely shot right now due to grief and winter-induced depression. Crafting makes me feel better, but I can really only do an hour or so at a time before my brain starts going in spirals or I need to do something else.

Do you have tiny projects for the times when you don’t have a whole scarf/painting/letter in you? What small activity lifts you up for a few minutes at a time? What do you do with your itty bitty bouts of creativity?

Bonus: a great poem about a tiny painting.

151 thoughts on “Friday fluff: Tiny crafts”

  1. I make little snacks for my birds and me or I patch up parts of their older broken toys to make new toys to have them destroy with much glee.

    Sometimes I also doodle on random objects and leave them for others to find and wonder who did it. My co-worker Mike always knows but others do not. Many a pizza menu has been inhabited by fairies by my creative boredom.

  2. I cross stitch keyrings, or bookmarks. Geeky, simple things that I don’t need to look at a pattern for that can be done whilst watching a film (I really can’t just watch a film, no matter how great, I have to be doing something else. This is why I never go to the cinema).

  3. Funny that you posted a poem, because that was my answer–I write poetry. I like that in a single sitting I can draft something with a beginning, middle, and end—even if later, after I rework it, it turns into something different altogether. Or, sometimes I will create a little cartoon–I’m not a visual artist, so I don’t feel the pressure for it to turn out *perfect*, which frees me up to walk away from it whenever I feel like stopping, rather than when it’s completely polished.

  4. I like to color. Very therapeutic. I prefer colored pencils and books from museums, ’cause I’m all growed up now ; )

  5. I’m not verycrafty, but sometimes I like putting on wildly elaborate makeup, experimenting with colours and goth looks and such, and then going nowhere.

    Also writing little poems.

  6. I also love to write postcards. I love to write letters, too, but I don’t always have it in me, and I find that people really love to get a short thing in the mail just as much as a long thing.

  7. When a hat, scarf, or socks are too much, I like to make wrist warmers, drawstring pouches, itty stuffed animals, and balls (provisional cast-on, short rows, and kitchener stitch to make them look seamless).

    When I can’t focus enough to knit, I like to make stitch markers.

    My method is to use that rubbery stuff that makes slightly stretchy bracelets. I cut about a 2″ piece of the clear flexible stuff, string on some pretty beads (I have some markers in counting sets, others in sets with one contrasting color marker to mark the beginning of the round) and crimp the ends of the flexible stuff together with a crimp tube.

    The stitch markers are big enough to fit a size 15 needle, but thin enough that when I put them on my size 000 needles, they don’t get in the way or distort the knitting like thicker and less flexible markers do.

  8. queen of nuffink – I do tiny little doodles on the margins of my music at choir rehearsal. I imagine some future choir member opening up their music and seeing trees and dancers.

  9. I make jewelry, which I’ve found is great for distracting me with shiny things and giving the academia-brain a rest. (Only problem with the tiny-craft aspect is that people who watch me turn out a pair of earrings in two minutes get the impression that running a jewelry shop is not time-consuming, which it totally is–there’s a lot of work that goes into it beyond making the shiny thing.)

  10. This is an awesome thread. I am always looking for fun but not too involved craft projects.

    I recently decided to reorganize my jewelry, and it required two very short craft projects:

    For earrings, get a piece of fabric you like (calico tends to be a good weight) and put it in a needlepoint hoop. Trim the edges. That’s it; you can stick your earrings in the fabric and hang it on a wall, and see all of your earrings at once. It ends up looking really cool as well as being just a good way to keep things organized.

    For bracelets and necklaces, grab a couple of sticks from your backyard; find one that has a lot of branching nodes. Spray paint it (I had some copper spray paint lying around, and it turned out really well). Find an empty canning jar or vase that’s maybe six inches tall (depending on how big your stick is; you’ll have to eyeball it). Once the spray paint has dried, put the stick in the jar standing upright and hold it so it is centered. Pour in colored sand or small-sized craft pebbles (about the size of aquarium pebbles tends to work really well). Annnnd you have a jewelry tree that looks pretty awesome.

    I like these strategies because they really let me tailor the projects to match my room and my tastes. Most jewelry organizers aren’t quite what I’m looking for, plus they are really expensive.

  11. I sew underwear! Which is convenient, because then I have something useful, properly fitting, cute, and I don’t have to buy panties anymore. ^.^

  12. @Takver – love the jewelry storage/display ideas!

    SM, sorry about the winter depression. :-(

    My tiny projects:
    I like to make earrings (short time commitment).

    Or very small collages, about the size of an artist trading card ( 2 x 3 inches).

    Or I prep pages in my journal… paint with water color or otherwise alter them, then later I write on them. That’s something fun to do even when I’m not feeling totally creative.

  13. I collect Asian Ball Jointed Dolls, and I love to knit clothing items for them. <3 A pair of armwarmers or a tiny hat takes anywhere from two to eight hours, depending on the size of the dolls (I use sock yarn at size 2 needles). It's really nice and easy. Things like sweaters are a different story, though!

  14. I make blanket squares out of scrap yarn. My grand ambition is a sock yarn blankie in a combination of knit and crochet squares but that’s about 100 years away at the rate I’m going.

    Mitts, socks out of heavier yarn, hats. I do a lot of hats. I made a passel of baby hats last week thinking the Haitian orphans coming to Pittsburgh might need them but it turned out they had it covered so I’m going to donate them to a local org that works with a lot of refugees. Is five a passel? I don’t know. I do know that I can knock out a baby hat from Patons SWS in about three hours, though.

    Shameless Plug- Anyone who is on Ravelry, I’m donating 100% of my proceeds from my two measly little sock patterns to the BRESMA orphanage.
    that’s an article that was done a year or so ago. The orphanage was destroyed in the earthquake, and the McMutrie sisters got all the kids to safety, either here in Pittsburgh or Netherlands and France, depending on where their adoption was pending. 54 of them came here. One of the sisters literally got off the plane as it was getting ready to leave because one of the babies (a 2 year old) got left at the embassy and she was not leaving the child in Haiti, no matter what. There are a lot of good stories about this in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. My connection to these people is that I work with their brother-he’s a secretary in my office. I’m also very impressed with the level of love and dedication they have to the orphans, even before the quake hit.

    Anyway, my patterns are here. Most of them are free, but the two that are not (Moderne and Cucumber Falls), all the money goes to the babies.

  15. Or I prep pages in my journal… paint with water color or otherwise alter them, then later I write on them

    What a great idea! I am totally stealing it, especially since I just got a big set of Sharpies as a gift and I don’t know what to do with them.

  16. Oh! Another thing I’ve been doing lately is making envelopes out of my 2009 calendar. There is something about cutting up those dates that is EXTREMELY satisfying.

  17. I crochet little octopi for the cats now and then when that mood strikes. I don’t use a pattern, I just crochet a little pursed bag with scrap yarn and an G hook, and then append eight squiggly arms to it. I leave the bag open, to tuck fresh catnip into.

    I also sometimes fold simple origami in bright colors.

  18. I do art journaling. A page, or a two-page spread, is something I can do reasonably quickly: acrylic paint, assorted bits of collage and gel pens, usually.

    That said, I’m meaning to get down to some little projects (mini-collages or little box shrine things or something similar) that I can actually sell somewhere. Various people have been urging me to get onto Etsy for ages, but first I have to have something to put on there.

  19. I really like Subversive Cross Stitch patterns, though I have yet to make one exactly as the pattern says. They’re good for a day’s sitting, then I have something that is done done done. I like the binariness of it– there is a stitch or there is not. The stitches go in rows and rows and line up nicely. They’re also small enough to send in a greeting card.

  20. buttercup: Here’s an envelope tutorial. The only thing I do differently is that I traced the template onto a heavy piece of junk mail and cut it out, so it will last longer. Then I use that to trace the envelope shape on the old calendar pages — and of course, when I glue it together, the dates go on the inside and the picture goes on the outside! Unless you want your mailman all up in your business.

  21. Mine is really silly. But I unleash my creativity on a sims game when I’m depressed. I go in and just spend 30 minutes or so redecorating a house or building one if I feel inclined. Or I’ll create a new sim and torture him/her but that’s not really a creative outlet so much as redirecting homicidal rages. ;)

    I do enjoy coloring but haven’t done it in a really long time. I’m more inclined to spend my free time doing something digital than physical.

  22. I make cookies. Or some other quick bread that doesn’t require the investment of a yeast bread.

    Sewing never takes a little amount of time for me, but I’ll do a little piece of a larger project sometimes.

  23. Also, SM, I have one of those Happy Light things on my desk and in my sewing room. That plus running like a freak keeps the worst of the winter depression at bay, and mine gets pretty bad. Supposedly going outside without sunscreen on the rare nice day helps too.

    I can’t imagine dealing with SADD plus the grieving process. *Hugs.*

  24. chava, I have one of those! My friends pooled together and bought it for me when I first moved to Seattle. ;-) It really does help. I’ve also been doing yoga more often, as with everything that’s happened the last few months, I basically gave up exercising altogether and need to ease my way back in.

  25. Sympathy on the winter depression, SM. I struggle with it as well and it’s a whole lot of suck.

    My current favourite tiny projects are things for a computer game–specifically, Sims 2. It doesn’t take me all that long to throw together a simple clothing mesh, so long as I know just what I want out of the end product, or fix/alter an existing one. However, texturing the mesh ends up being a much bigger project!

    I also like to write, but sometimes (like, oh, the entire damn winter) I’m not up to holding a novel in my head, so I do writing exercises with my girlfriend. We assign each other a character, a setting, and a genre, set a time limit, and off we go! The results are good for a laugh and it’s a gentle way to keep the rust off of my mental gears.

    As for physical projects, I like to bake cupcakes (simple ingredients + recipe I could do in my sleep = yum in under and hour) and make little crochet toy animals. Those’re really fun because they need no pattern, just knowledge of basic stitches and an okayish grasp of how to work in 3D. I’ve made some really cute stuff (like a Cthulhu!) and I’m not even a particularly visual person. I also do quick sketches when the mood hits me. I used to do them on the computer, but my graphics tablet died a few years ago and they’re too spendy for me to go out and grab another.

    Laura, I love the really small collages idea!

  26. Oh! I used to make envelopes out of old magazine pages! National Geographic was the best. I totally forgot about doing that.

    Jewelry-making is my new thing, but I don’t have enough odds and ends of supplies yet to just spontaneously make stuff. Soon, I hope! It’s ridiculously fun!

    I keep forgetting about coloring and how awesome it is! I should get a good coloring book. I always loved those books with the cool geometric patterns.

    Takver, that is the coolest idea for a jewelry tree ever. My necklaces are in desperate need of some organization, too.

  27. I can’t really sew or knit, but I love to color mandalas and do kirigami. I also like to bake muffins, but sometimes even those things are too trying for me. When that happens, I turn to reading comics or graphic novels to escape the sadness. I also have little crappy short computer games like Bejeweled Blitz and Word Challenge that keep me busy. Not really an outlet for my creativity, but it helps me get by.

  28. I paint ACEOs (it stands for Art Cards Editions and Originals) and sell them on eBay. I love them because they’re perfect for experimenting with, trying out techniques, composition ideas and colour schemes before committing myself to a much larger painting.

    Plus, the small size (2.5×3.5 inches) and the short amount of time taken to make them means I am less likely to get too attached to them and not want to let them go.

  29. This isn’t a craft which I do regularly (yet!), but I have a tiny piece of crafting now that I’m very happy about. I’m taking a class on Jewish scribal calligraphy, and I now have a small scrap of parchment with the Hebrew alphabet not quite three times through. I wrote it! Myself! With a quill! It’s this strange combination of on the one hand participating in a system of evoking holiness through following rather a lot of niggly little rules, and on the other hand feeling like I’m about six years old because I Wrote the Alphabet! All By Myself!

  30. Winter depression here, too. Thank goodness for my lightbox!! It doesn’t keep depression away altogether, but when I start feeling like I’m moving through sludge come February, it keeps it more like molasses than tar. . .

  31. Sweetmachine..I can’t believe you havent made….Lemur Hats! Small, easily achievable in one evening, and Lemurs get to keep heads warm and store handy treats or small things to throw.
    Imaginary Lemurs need hats too. Mine does anyway – especially after I shaved the side of his head by accident. That was kind of creative.

    Ok…on a more serious note I like baking novelty cakes for people…there, I said it.

  32. I like to do a couple scrapbook pages, or just lay out a few without sticking all the parts down as a quick project. I also like to build houses in Sims, or complete a mini-game or sidequest in an RPG. Before I sold my piano (too big to move to Europe with me) I would sit down and play a few songs I know well, or arrange something really simple.

    My mom crochets teensy baby booties and hats for the local hospital’s preemie ward. The hospital started the program so parents who’s babies die can take home the booties/hat the baby wore in NICU as a memento, instead of the hospital needing to sanitize and re-use to keep the next preemie warm. She makes adorable nine-patch mini quilts for the same program. The squares are big, to make the sewing go quickly, and she precuts the squares and borders so she always has a supply to start with.

  33. Hm….I don’t think I do any tiny crafts, but it’s a good idea. I’m currently just over 1/2way through the baby blanket of doom I mentioned on the Ning site, so something little and cute after that may be just the thing. A cat toy maybe.

    I tend to overstretch myself on projects, and then they sit uncompleted.

    I don’t know if it was here or some other blog I saw it, but is a really therapeutic & creative thing to play with. Electronic sand art.

    I’m also very glad I’m not the only adult who loves to color. I remember being quite wounded when someone I knew in college said it was “sad” that that’s something I enjoy.

  34. SM, hugs and positive vibes as you move within grief and winter depression. I hope that as the days get lighter, so too will your heart.

    I’m also a fan of small projects. I have a bunch queued up at Ravelry (under the same username), but my most recent find is a project called Hamsterbeans: So damn cute! And it’s free. :)

  35. I hope it’s ok I’m adding you to my friends on Ravelry, SM :)

    I tend to like the big knitting projects, so when I have a littler burst of creativity I doodle (not very well, but it’s still fun!). My housemate and I are currently painting some sheets of wood to make chalkboards for our living room, very excited since then we can leave each other drawings and notes and physics problems.

  36. I cook. I am currently teaching myself to make tortillas from scratch–I find it’s a good project because it takes less than an hour, you come up with yummy stuff at the end, and (like most of these sorts of foods) there’s a trick to making them, so you make them again and again for a few weeks as practice until you get the hang of it and suddenly you’re making the very best tortillas in the world. Then you can brag about it to friends and chance-met strangers.

    I am also learning how to dance, which has the threefold advantages of 1) getting me dressed cute and out of the house, 2) requiring physical activity without being Dreaded Exercise and 3) involving music. I am the world’s least coordinated person (I took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu simply because it’s the only martial art I know where you start by falling down, then proceed from there), but swing dance once a week has been marvelous.

  37. I collect packets of flower seeds and during the winter months I sometimes sort through all the pretty packets, and daydream…about gardens yet to be, and about gardens that will only and forever exist in my mind.

  38. Oooh, also, potted plants. This is a weird one, maybe, but boy does it cheer me up. When I feel particularly winter-blue, I go to the grocery store and suss out the most desperate of the potted plants, the one that’s root-bound and unwatered and miserable, then take it home and pot it properly and give it a nice drink with fertilizer in it. Within the last month, I have acquired three gerbera daisies, two primroses, an orchid, an angel-wing begonia, a tangerine tree, two lime trees (Kaffir and key), a blood orange tree, and a pink lemon tree. (The trees were from a greenhouse, and were looking a little peaky and mite-infested.)

    Winter is Not A Good Time for me, and by spring I usually have trays and trays of seedlings as well as the potted plant collection.

  39. Hats, hats and more hats. Crocheted hats, knit hats, felt hats and then if I’m really short attention span theater, I’ll do crocheted flowers to go on the hats. I’m a milliner, just in case you didn’t get that from the part about hats.

  40. Starling, I’m learning to dance, too! But it feels like more than a little thing, because it’s a scheduled activity. But it’s great for being physical movement that I like and want to go back and do more, for meeting a lot of really nice people (the dance crowd I found has been really friendly and welcoming!), and for getting me out of the house to be around other people a couple times a week no matter what the weather or my mood. Plus I can practice things at home, which IS a little thing I can do.

  41. V0lcanista–
    The scheduling thing is a drag, although it is sometimes the only thing that breaks through the winter blues for me. Someone is expecting me to show up, and all I have to do is be there for an hour. A sense of obligation to a friend can be a beautiful motivator.

    Putting on a little Pink Martini and the red velvet dancing shoes and galumphing through a song is a little thing, though, and it’s kind of a blast, especially since no one sees me galumphing. And, my dancing skills being what they are, there’s a nice thrill of accomplishment simply from managing to get through the song without losing the beat. (Yeah, I totes suck at dancing. But it’s fun!)

  42. I’m a pretty devoted sock knitter, so I like to make all kinds of socks. I like that they’re one of the few knitting projects I’ve found that are broken up into multiple parts, thereby preventing me from getting bored.
    The Striped Footies on the LionBrand website knit up pretty quickly. Worsted weight yarn and 3.5 mm dpns, if I recall correctly. And they’ve got an afterthought heel so you don’t have to make a heel flap!
    I also like Socktopi ( I usually make them to give away, but had to keep the last one I made because he’s orange and so cheerful-looking.

    For things that take even less time, I like making origami cranes and boats. There’s something so relaxing about folding paper.

  43. I’m totally bookmarking this page, as this is a void that needs to be filled in my life. I’ve lately been too-precious with my artistic stuff. If the task doesn’t produce a useful & beautiful end-product, I lose interest, but if it *does*, I get all stage-frighty and chicken out halfway through.

    once upon a time, I would knit lace swatches. I still do, sometimes, but nowadays it’s not as satisfying to me to have a scrap of mostly-useless lacey knitting when I’m done. Like @buttercup, I’d planned on sewing them together in a blanket, but I’m not sure I’ll ever manage that.

    Before my preschooler got into the “get into everything” phase, I kept little scraps of watercolor paper and a tray with three colors of watercolor and my favorite brush, and I’d paint quick sketches when I got the chance. I need to get some non-toxic watercolors, or just wait until the little one is a little older.

    I also used to make paper beads. This generates some mess but once I’m set up with a pile of scrap paper, a pot of glue, and a place for them to dry, it’s quick & easy to cut a long triangle of paper, coat it with glue, and roll it up.

    I’m also experimenting with yarn-dying techniques that don’t require too much hands-on oversight, so I can dump the yarn in a tray of water and periodically splash some dye on it until I end up with colors I like. I have this dream that I’ll always have a skein of yarn waiting for the dye-pot, so whenever the mood strikes me I can make some color happen. I figure I can always donate another skein of hand-dyed sock yarn to a charity auction…right? Because I certainly can’t knit as fast as I can dye. :)

    And finally, I make my own granola. coming up with attractively-colored fruit-and-nut combinations scratches the creativity itch for me (bright orange papaya and muted green pumpkin seeds!)

  44. Awesome thread. Yay for the crafters! I do a lot of things that have already been mentioned – mandalas, prepping journal pages, crocheting just a square or two of a larger granny-square afghan. Coloring, or random doodling.

    I also like to do quick contour drawings of every day items around the house. Sometimes the shapes that emerge inspire a larger, completely un-related project later. Just because I liked a shape or a line or something.

    The other small project I keep around is a paper-pieced doll quilt that I’m working on – a couple hundred tiny hexagons all sewn together by hand, one-by-one.

    The one consistent, in the winter, is BRIGHT colors. Lots of “tropical” color schemes – it’s the only thing that gets me through the 6 months of gray that is a MN winter.

  45. Loving this thread.

    I collage envelopes using old magazine images, and send silly clippings and comix to my friends. I also like to use snapshots as postcards; since I talk to everyone incessantly by email, the cards usually just have a cryptic or inspiring quotation on them, not my latest news.

  46. Aside from my travelling sock, most of my knitting is currently big projects (both in size and in concentration), though I do have a granny square afghan in progress that I can crochet bit by bit as needed.
    My current tiny craft of choice is drawing. I bought myself a small sketch book and a fun set of colored pencils and am going to town. It’s currently getting filled up with cartoon cats and lopsided flowers. I’m not a good artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m having fun.
    I’m so type-A that it’s rare that I give myself permission to just do something without having to be perfect at it. I struggle not to “judge” my drawings, and sometimes I fail (I have to keep reminding myself that nobody will look at them unless I want them to), but the whole process of putting pencil to paper is so pleasurable that I’m going to try and keep at it.

  47. I write, mostly. And I like baking bread, though I don’t do it often enough.

    All the crafty stuff you all do sounds wonderful! I’ve always wanted to try something a little more practical than writing, but since I have health issues that mean I’m very slow at anything that has to be done using both hands (I have left-side hemiplegia) I’ve never really given it a go.

    Tiny crafts sound so much more achievable for me – I’ll have to take a few ideas from this thread and try them out!

  48. Uhoh I think it swallowed my first comment.

    Which was:
    1. That’s nifty that you’re on Rav. I didn’t know you were a knitter!

    2. I like making the Danger Craft stuffed animals lately. They’re small and they’re not really specific to a particular gauge or yarn, so if I need quick engagement and amusement they work well. for patterns.

    3. And I dye yarn for fun, since a single skein doesn’t take that long and I can go wild on color. If I don’t like the outcome, I overdye. Having spent a whole childhood getting minuses in art classes, I appreciate the freedom to do whatever I want and not have to make it “right”

  49. I make paperdolls. I love to pattern, and when I can, I love to sew, and a long time ago, I would make scale patterns and cut them out of construction paper to get an idea of what the ffinished dress/pants/jacket/corset/skirt/etc would look like.
    This eventually turned into me making paper dolls when bored, and I now make them for some friend’s kids when I can, too, custom like.

  50. Thanks for all the great ideas, everyone. I’ve never tried making my own envelopes but it looks cool, thank you for the tutorial. Really grooving on the idea of small collages, too.

    P.S I love you Starling and your plant-rescuing ways.

  51. I have all sorts of little crafty things I used to do, like make greeting cards and when I didn’t feel up to planning and assembling a whole card I’d make bookmarks, or pretty little bits of things to incorporate into cards later.

    I have done knitting in the past and I don’t really have the time for big projects these days, but I plenty of half-balls of yarn and things leftover from when I did. But I’m a little nervous about knitting tiny things because I’m afraid of double-pointed needles. Are they as tricky as I fear? I’m good with fine motor control for the actual knitting, but when it comes to gross motor control I’m clumsy and also absent-minded, so if a knitting assemblage is delicate I’d probably screw it up when I got up to go to the bathroom or something. Or are they like circular needles, which I was afraid of until I tried making a sweater and discovered that they’re actually much nicer to work with than regular straight needles? I would love to knit tiny adorable toys a la mochimochi if the dpns really aren’t scary.

    Anyway these days I try to channel my spare creative energy into making sketches and such for my capstone project, but when I just can’t face that I make stuff in the Sims. I have the Sims 3, which at this point has less in the way of customization tools other than just building houses in-game, but sometimes I make patterns in Illustrator or Photoshop and put them in game with the pattern packager.

  52. interfacings, dpn are a lot less scary than you might think, especially if you’re already used to working in the round. And if you’re clumsy and think you’ll knock stitches off, you can just keep needle covers on them all the time. It would be a bit more annoying to have to take the covers on and off while you’re knitting, but your stuff would be safe!

  53. winter depression here too! I got one of those full spectrum lights and I am stunned by the difference. I carry that lamp from room to room.

    I like making postcards, mini ‘zines (working on a two pages at a time), prepping pages in my journal and doing tiny collages on index cards that are going to be a part of a larger project.

    I also like cut and paste bedrooms from magazine scraps. I learned how to do this in a graphic design class lecture/lab on geometric forms and pretty much all I do is make bedrooms.

  54. I-cord is oddly fun to knit, but I’m never sure what to do with it after besides making it into an octopus. Not that you can have too many octopi, but I keep thinking there must be a more productive use for it.

    (so as not to induce Googling – it’s just 4 stitches at a time, knit only, on double-point needles, and instead of turning the needle around for the next row you slide it to the other end of the needle, so the first new stitch reaches around and grabs the end of the last one to make a teensy tube)

  55. Ahhh..the winter blues are in full bloom! I have actually been known to thrust my wide open eyes to the white, blurry ball in the sky and say “Burn my retinas!!” Being a Pacific Northwesterner makes me wish for things I wouldn’t normally wish for….like sunburns, a rain-less HOUR, acres of clear cut land, and anything that contains a color other than gray. It is not uncommon to develop a Vitamin D deficiency in these parts, so supplements are a must for me if I want to function above the level of twilight sleep.

    As for creative outlets, I’m old school (and feeling just plain old) and enjoy paint by number sets. You’d be surprised at the intricacy and detail those sets come in these days. This ain’t your Grandma’s paint by numbers sets of old. Since I have no real painting ability, these at least give me the satisfaction of having a painting LOOK like something. I especially like scenic settings, though would love to be brave enough to try rennaisance or roccoco style figures. Artsy types turn me all shades of jealous.

    Another outlet for me is the piano. I took lessons as a preteen and can still plunk out a harmony or two. I have claimed my daughter’s nearly full size electronic keyboard she got for Christmas, and find that just improvising on it awakens the door to my lyrical soul.

  56. I like to walk my dog. He gets so happy at the mere prospect of a walk that it makes me smile. But it is so cold, and I am prone to falling and he is prone to dragging me on ice. I do like to knit, and to paint, but both of these things often neccesitate the purchase of some additional item that I don’t ever have. (I never have enough yarn for the pattern I ultimately want to make. Currently trying to decide on a pattern for a hooded cowl.)

    I think I’m going to start working on learning new music this winter. I haven’t been singing and it always makes me feel better. Thanks for the inspiration!

  57. I write silly mini-stories, if in collaboration with someone else, so much the better, since laughing always makes me feel better:

    I make curry from scratch. Cooking is great because it’s a limited-time thing, when it’s done there is instant gratification, and if it doesn’t work out I can move on with no harm, no foul.

    I sew, which never takes mini-creativity, alas. But I do like planning out how to execute more complicated projects, like how to use a garment to make a pattern for a similar garment, but with alterations.

  58. I like to bust out a few little haiku poems about whatever is on my mind when I’m just sitting there stressing. Sometimes I write 10 in a row, sometimes just one. It is super bite-sized creativity.

  59. We’re on a felties thing right now, partly because my stepdaughter (6) is starting to really get into crafting and making little felties is easy. We like to take a simple drawing one of the kids has made and use it as a pattern for a felty. We’re also currently into finding cool old sweaters at the thrift store and making sweater owls and other animals out of them. Cheap, fun, cute, recycling – what could be better? On the other hand, I’m not quite done with my sock monkey/socktopus phase, so there’s that too. So many cute socks, so little time…

  60. Currently trying to decide on a pattern for a hooded cowl

    I read this as “hooded owl” and got all excited for the pattern, and then I realized I am equally excited for a hooded cowl.

  61. (I really can’t just watch a film, no matter how great, I have to be doing something else. This is why I never go to the cinema).

    I am the same way, but I just take my knitting with me. My friends think it’s pointless and that I’m just going to have to redo it later, but if it’s a simple pattern with no color changes I don’t actually have to look at it.

    Anyway: topic. My attention span is always short, but I don’t stick to small projects. I just work on the big ones in short bursts, and change them up all the time. This is why I always have like 50 different things on the needles. Sometimes I will go on a small-projects kick just because it’s so satisfying to actually finish a bunch of different things right in a row. But then I go back to my big projects, which are even more satisfying to finish, because I can look at (for instance) my, like, 3′ by 7′ Victorian lace sampler shawl and go, HOLY FUCK I ACTUALLY DID IT.

  62. I feel bad for all of you get winter depressions…horrible. I’ve never been affected by seasons like that but it must be bloody awful if you are. I bake each and every one of you a novelty cake and send it through the ether.

    Incase you were wondering, I’ve made Pirate’s Treasure Chest cakes, complete with chocolate money.

  63. Volcanista, thanks! Some of my classmates are organizing a craft night next weekend, maybe I will get some dpns and try them out then.

    In the meantime I thought of another thing I do that is not necessarily crafty but certainly a creative outlet for me, and that’s to make mix CDs and give them to friends.

  64. Emaloo – I have been knitting preemie hats and blankets for Winthrop Hospital’s Precious Purls since my high school days. If you live in the New York area, help them out! Some yarn stores will give you free yarn to do Precious Purls projects.

    Sweet Machine – I am also in the depths of bereavement, and I know exactly what you’re talking about. This has been a long, dark, winter. Unfortunately, my attention span only shortens itself for things that do not interest me (schoolwork, cleaning, putting on clothes, etc.). This winter I’ve written a two-act play that was supposed to be a ten-minute sketch, made a five-foot long braided rug out of old t-shirts, and wrote 20,000 words for a new fake memoir in less than a week. Winter, for me, has been not so much the mini projects, but the mega distractions.

  65. Personally, I write drabbles. (100 words, or multiples. I’m an old skool purist.)

    But for those of us who do not have asbestos hands, SM, if you’re doing washcloths, do you also do potholders?

    I don’t mean the ones with thumbs, that might make it take too long. I mean the flat ones.

  66. Oh, winter depression. Right now I am experiencing my first winter. I know that sounds crazy, since I’m 23 years old, but up until now I’ve lived in sunny South Florida, where winter does not exist. Now I’m in NYC, and I just… can not handle it.

    I whip out my sketch book and charcoals and doodle something. I like to draw a banana wearing eyeglasses, that kind of thing.

  67. @Starling — Ha. I try to stop myself from getting new houseplants. And from propagating ‘African Violets’ (Saintpaulia). I can barely resist propagating them, and then do not know what to do with them all because I have run out of people to give them to. It became even more fascinating when I discovered that some of the colour patterns for white edges or speckles on the flowers are actually caused by diseases and I can infect my other plants by injecting a little bit from the first one with a syringe…

  68. I write small things that can be completed quickly during those mini burts of creativity. Not only because hey, only so much mental energy avaliable, but it feels good to actually finish SOMETHING. Taking on a big project and not being able to get anywhere with it is just depressing when you’re in that state of mind.

  69. But for those of us who do not have asbestos hands, SM, if you’re doing washcloths, do you also do potholders?

    Here’s the thing: what material is a potholder usually made of? Because I have definitely thought about making them before, but I’m worried about the burning/melting factor. Does anyone have any experience with this?

    Tonight I started knitting what I hope will be a really pretty stashbusting scarf; I hope it comes out as elegantly as the one in the pattern does! It will take forever as an object, but I’m hoping it will satisfy the “pick something up for 15 minutes and then put it down again” impulse I’ve been having lately.

  70. SM, I’ve made potholders for my mom before out of 100% wool (which I felted so there aren’t any holes in the fabric), and that worked really well. Wool doesn’t catch fire easily, in fact it tends to snuff it out.

  71. Grafton–With a few exceptions (citrus, jasmine, anything that makes me really happy to smell), I try to only get houseplants I can put in the garden, come spring. Things get a little unmanageable by April, but then it’s planting season, and all is well.

    I am totally envious of your spotted and speckled and ringstrake African violets. I’m not so good with them, but I will have rocking African daisies by spring.

  72. SM, second on the 100% wool, also we used to weave them out of these elastic loops.

    (I’m a crocheting fiend, but I’m kind of an idiot as to what stretchy fabrics are available for knitting. I have to ask my mom.)

  73. @Grafton – pick me, pick me! *jumps up and down*

    I’m still waiting for that full lasagna recipe where the grilled eggplant strips replace the noodles, too … *wistful look*

  74. Ooh, I have a list of “craft watching” movies I use while making stuffs. I love having on familiar friends while I’m making stuffs. Usually it’s episodes of The Golden Girls, though lately I’ve been loving the Will Smith alien collection.

  75. SM, my grandmother also used to crochet potholders of heavy cotton, double- or triple-layered. I still have some of the fancy ruffled red ones; I think they’ve seen service every holiday since the mid-40s.

  76. I haven’t really had the urge to sit down and write and record an entire song in a loooong time, but when i’m bored i usually find myself writing a lot of tiny fragments of songs, like, cool chord changes/melodies/riffs, and saving them for later, when i can (hopefully) stitch them together into an entire song.

    It’d be easier if i didn’t hate write lyrics so much. xD; i have this weird thing where I feel embarassed to sing honestly about stuff. i dunno how those singer-songwriter types sing about their feelings so often!

  77. I listen to commentary tracks while sewing. The absolutely best ones ever, ever, ever are the ones from The Wire and Emma Thompson’s commentary on Sense and Sensibility. And Hot Fuzz, especially the Timothy Dalton et al one, which I swear was as funny as the actual film. (Nothing says “hilarity” like hearing James Bond, the Equalizer, and Bellac from Indiana Jones discussing where to get the best pie and a pint in Wells, England, I tell you what.)

    I have also seen the 5hr A&E Pride and Prejudice twice (except the Colin Firth in the water part, which I have seen… more. Somehow, I always need to take a break when that part comes on). I have heard it many, many times. It’s about right for a sewing session, to listen to once.

  78. I sew little cotton drawstring bags. I like to carry crystals or tumblestones sometimes, and the little bags are just the size to hold one or a few. I’ve made them to give to friends, too.

  79. All this talk rang the bell in the giant belfry of my mid-brain, sitting here, wine in hand, with giant fluorescents,( oops, cannot spell, or type, but- then- I never really learned to do type anyway) aimed straight at my optic nerves, and with my potted plants that I mother arcing to the deading sky, their gentle palms uplifted in sweet green prayers for me. Me, er, that is I, who looks at the mounds of beads at handsbreadth that could be… anything, the colors giving me pleasure, Round beauties, crystals, vibrancy… How can I show them off well enough? So I, appreciating the posibilities of it all, am without enough vitamin D to goddamn do anything to make it happen, it seems, read and google myself into a torpor. As this is a favorite site, I wish you articulate ladies goodnight.

  80. I like to draw/ doodle. I used to draw so many horses I could draw one in my sleep… :-)

    Fashion design has always been a go-to, almost mandatory this time of year when there’s red carpet dresses here, there and everywhere.

    To dash off a quick design I made basic “models” I can trace to get the basic form down. I never liked the stupid elongated fashion design diagrams so mine look like people including a big hourglass figure and an apple shape. And my favorite “amazon” shape when I’m in the mood to whip up an ass-kicking outfit.

    Tracing the forms is probably pretty lame – I’ll admit – but they’re great when I want to spend more time on the outfit than dashing off fussy poses…

  81. @littlem — you mean you want some African violets? Where do you live?

    There just isn’t a full recipe for that lasagna, all there is I already posted way back on that other thread. Sorry for the lack of precision there.

  82. @Starling — it’s funny, people say African violets are difficult, but I’ve always had an easy time with them. I cannot get them to ripen seed, but that’s about it. Vegetative propagation is a snap, and some of them are well over ten years old. Or at least, I’ve had one like it for well over ten years, I am lazy about it and lose track of which is parent plant and which is clone. I would like to try orchids, but wife would not be happy as the house is too small and I’ve got too many other plants besides. I have to ceremonially kill the one she dislikes the most from time to time. And stop her from rescuing and rooting every Jade plant leaf that drops off, the inconsistent creature.

  83. I make mugs, or salt & pepper shakers, when I want to be in the studio making stuff but I can’t commit mentally to a project like a casserole or a teapot that is going to be ruined if I walk away at the wrong stage. And really a pottter can never make too many mugs. So relaxing.
    The salt & pepper shakers are a newer obsession, They give me a lot of joy. You can see them in progress here:
    I wouldn’t normally come to SP and promote, but since you asked…

  84. Heh. I was totally about to ask for those patterns, SM. They’re so cute!

    Can I ask a knitting newbie question? In the starfish pattern ( it says

    “Row 2: K3, YO, K to last st, turn.
    Row 4: K3, YO, K to last 2 sts, turn.”
    What does “to last 2 sts” mean? Do I do what it says on row 2 and then leave the very last stich just…sitting there, and then turn and go back along the needle K3 YO K-ing? And for row 4 I go along and then leave the last 2 stiches just sitting there and turn and go back? Je ne comphrend pas.

    I do 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles, because they are awesome. And if you have a surface to leave them on you can take as long (i.e. as many little minutes) as you like to do them. And they fill that obsessive point of my brain that otherwise gets addicted to the internet, so that I dream about getting the wall pieces to fit together instead of the Duggars’ buddy system. I feel it is healthier.

    I want to colour! I have pencils, but no colouring book. I need to buy a colouring book.

    Tavker, that is a really great idea for earrings! I can never figure out what to do with them, therefore I lose them. I have forbidden myself from buying any more nice jewellery til I learn to take care of it.

    Mini collages! Ooooh. I have long known that my one artistic talent is making giant temporary wall collages of stuff I’ve collected over the years, but I never really know how to make something permanent of it. Hmm. I should at some point. And mini-collages sound like lots of fun! Where do people get the stuff from that goes in them? I don’t know if random things enter my life at a fast enough rate to have a steady collage supply.

    Calendar envelopes! Man this thread is awesome.

  85. What does “to last 2 sts” mean? Do I do what it says on row 2 and then leave the very last stich just…sitting there, and then turn and go back along the needle K3 YO K-ing? And for row 4 I go along and then leave the last 2 stiches just sitting there and turn and go back?

    Yep, that’s exactly what you do. I’m having trouble picturing how that would turn into what I see in the picture, but give it a try, trust the pattern and I’m sure all will be well. Unless there’s errata somewhere.

  86. @Grafton, in my experience, both orchids and African violets need just the right light – if you’ve got it they can be very easy keepers and bloom like mad, and if you don’t they’re just about impossible. In my house, the only place either will grow and bloom is the kitchen, and only in the one window over the sink, so long as I move them to the left side in winter and the right in summer. Fussy little things!

  87. SM, organic materials like wool or cotton might catch fire if you put them IN a flame, but won’t melt. Synthetics will melt if they get hot enough.

  88. There’s always cooking. I find that baking something sometimes is an excellent stress reliever, and I have a bread machine that makes me feel like a phenomenal bread maker, even if just putting things in a tub and hitting the “on” switch doesn’t count as baking. But it is very minimal effort for very maximal outcome.

  89. Caitlin, have you ever done short rows? If you have, that’s what the starfish pattern calls for. If not, there are lots of tutorials for them out there — you really do knit to a certain point and just leave however many stitches sadly unknit as you turn to go back the other direction. :-) The key is a little move called “wrap & turn,” which is how you move your working yarn around so that it doesn’t leave a gap. It looks like this site has a video tutorial that might help, and I’m sure Professor Google can provide other short row tutorials for you.

    As slythwolf says, it’s hard to picture how the written pattern is going to end up as a starfish, but trust me, it does!

    Thanks for the potholder tips, everyone.

  90. Calligraphy! I’m a fan of using cheap felt calligraphy markers to practice or play around when I don’t want to waste my good ink and nibs. For longer projects, I also add illumination. I want to eventually learn how to apply gold leaf to my calligraphy and illumination projects, but gold-tone paint is more than sufficient at the moment. Beading is my other go-to standard project when I want to do something creative and fast (because inevitably something creative and slow always winds up never being finished…).

  91. Oh, you know what I sometimes play with when I’m at my parents’ house and want to kill an evening? Card-making! The costs can get out of hand, if you’re buying nice card stock paper in lots of colors and a whole lot of nice rubber stamps and ink pads and whatever, but you can do it with less. And if your mother happens to have gone on a stamping binge five years ago, all the better! Making basic cards is really easy and really fast, plus they are useful. And when you throw in things like heat embossing it just becomes the MOST FUN THING EVER.

    I also haven’t done this much lately, but I love making rubber stamps, and it’s the kind of project where you can make a few stamps in a single afternoon. The cost is pretty low – initially a basic set of carving tools, and then your preferred carving medium, most of which are pretty cheap. (I like the Mastercarve blocks the best, but the pink stuff is more readily available at places like A.C. Moore and also works very well.) I just steal clip-art designs, but more artistic people can even draw their own.

  92. Like Gem, I too cannot just *watch* a film – I have to be crafting something. Cross stitch, quilting, knitting, and I’m trying to teach myself to crochet, but it’s not going so good just yet. :)

  93. After my Aunt died and my Mom was grieving she started rerooting dolls. She’d take old barbies and Cher dolls and tinsel looking string and reroot their hair. She did that constantly for about a year and it seemed to just be soothing to her, plus she should them on ebay.

    Me, if I don’t want to draw a whole picture or whatever I’ll get out a sketch book and do some blind contour line drawings where you look only at what you’re drawing and never at the paper and draw everything in one continuous line. Or I glue whatever small images and ticket stubs that have accumulated into my primary sketchbook. I also color, though usually not in coloring books because I lose them so quickly and the really cool ones can be expensive, coloring the blind contours can be fun and interesting images result.

    I tried to learn how to knit, but that didn’t work out and my Mom and Sister both think I’m stupid because I can’t crochet either. It’s somewhat math-like and that sets up a block in my mind.

  94. And Hot Fuzz, especially the Timothy Dalton et al one, which I swear was as funny as the actual film. (Nothing says “hilarity” like hearing James Bond, the Equalizer, and Bellac from Indiana Jones discussing where to get the best pie and a pint in Wells, England, I tell you what.)

    This is sounds totally amazing.

  95. I can’t say as I’m super creative and crafty. I never have been. When I have some downtime and need to do something to take me out of my head, I watch tv. I don’t need to watch for long; a half hour of Golden Girls takes me completely away from myself, relaxes me, makes me feel better. Same for an episode of Snapped, or if I need a little extra time to tune out, an hour of Law&Order:SVU. (I’m into the cop procedurals.) Then it’s back to life as I know it until I need another tv break to help me get out of my head.

    If I’ve got more time on my hands and things on my mind, I’ll blog it up at Livejournal. That can usually take several hours or, sometimes, several days (depending on how much I have to say, or how easily my thoughts are flowing).

    …Now that I think about it, though, back in college I was the mix tape queen. I made so many people mix tapes, I’m sure they were damn sick of me. I started doing the college DJ thing in 1990, but before that, while I was getting heavily into music, I made buttloads of mix tapes and spent hours picking songs and putting them together. It definitely got me away from myself.

    I haven’t done the mix tape thing for years, but lately, I’ve been talking with a guy online who shares some of my interest in obscure indie music, but because he was married and has been raising kids for the past 12 years, he’s missed out on some stuff. So I’ve been sending him tons of Youtube clips along with bios of bands, band histories, etc. All stuff which I’m sure he could care less about. But it takes up my time when the days are long, gets me away from my neuroses and is fun for me to do. I’m not so sure it’s fun for him to receive, but he’s yet to complain about it to me.

  96. Snarkysmachine, it is. It is so worth getting your hands on the DVD commentary tracks and listening to them. They’re charming and funny and… worth it, really.

  97. @lasersloth: I make stress haikus too! They’re easy, keep me from getting bored, and are cute little memories of the event afterwards. I have a little book full of seventeen-syllable grouching about the time I forgot my jacket at home, or sleep-deprived pleas for the luggage belt to just give me my suitcase already.
    I made tags for all the Christmas presents I gave this year, cutting out and embellishing construction paper trees, snow people, candy canes and stockings. It was fun to sit down with scissors, paper and glue and wind up with something pretty that makes other people happy. I’ve been making Christmas tree ornaments too, out of little pompoms. I add some googly eyes and felt lips, wings, tentacles or whatever with Elmer’s glue, then I thread them on some gold string.

  98. Think i’m just going to make up a hooded cowl pattern up with some old crappy yarn that I have, this may be a huge disaster, or hilarious, or both. (Also, Chicago Shapeling Knitting Circle? I think so.)

    Question for people who are good with plants! I have this sage plant that my parents almost killed and they gave to me. (Because when you have something in your house you don’t want you should give it to one of your offspring who lives several hundred miles away.) But now I kindof want it to live. The rosemary is starting to look green, but the sage still looks mostly dead. Would it help the plant if I cut off all the parts that seem dead? Or would it make things worse? I’m pretty sure the stuff near the root is still alive, but it is a big plant and I think about 75% is dead growth just hanging on.

  99. Shinobi–
    Are we talking houseplants here? If so, my first recommendation is to pot the rosemary separately. It’s fairly temperature-sensitive and it needs much less water than virtually any other plant, so it should live alone in solitary splendor, and not be watered until the dirt is genuinely dry.

    Sage is a perennial and it makes a lovely woody bush. So long as you’re in planting zones 5-9, you should probably pop it into the ground in the spring. It’s probably dormant right now. Don’t trim dead-looking stuff at this time of year. Just stick it somewhere relatively cool, even outside, and let it do its sage thing. Be aware that if it’s in a pot, it will suffer much more from cold than it would in the ground, so it’s not a bad idea to put it in a sheltered area, or surround it with mulch or leaves. In the spring, some of the dead woody stuff will start putting on new leaves, and other bits will stay dead, and that’s the time to prune. You’ll also want to prune right after it blooms in about June. My parents are in the USDA 5a zone and they have a sage bush that’s nearly thirty years old and makes a great display every summer and rocking stuffing every Thanksgiving.

  100. Oh, and . . . depending on where exactly you live in/around Chicago, it may be too cold to permanently plant outside, and you may have to keep in in a pot and bring it in when things get truly grim (colder than 5 below.) But it should generally winter outside otherwise. If you’ve got a cold garage or laundry room or something, use that to acclimatize the poor thing and don’t actually stick it in The Great Outdoors this year, or it’ll put up its leaves and die of fright.

  101. I TOTALLY made the fishie with fins today, and it is AWESOME. It is my first ever pattern!

    Thanks, SM and slythwolf! I will check out thon video.

  102. (This year, this winter, whatev. I’m not making sense. What I’m saying is put it somewhere cool but don’t let it live outside just yet–wait for spring.)

  103. Oh, another quickie craft I do a lot is designing superhero costumes. This can range from “How many barrels should I put on the jetpack?” to “If I had to come up with a superhero costume from the contents of my closet, what theme could I pull off?” I doodle my plans a lot, and come up with names and powers sometimes. I have yet to reach the actualization stage, and probably will never do so unless I can get a group of friends to go as superheroes for Hallowe’en or something. For those who are interested, a trenchcoat combines the billow of a cape with the handiness of a utility belt…

  104. I send mail. Cards, or incense, or decants of my favorite perfume oils, or slices of delicious handmade soap or whatever. It makes me happy to surprise people with sweet packages and it makes me happy to occupy my hands and my mind for a while with the little, nondemanding creative touches of wrapping, adding stickers or wax seals, doodling on the envelopes, adding glitter glue and so on.

  105. Shinobi–

    I ditto everything Starling said about the sage plant and add: bees and butterflies are attracted to Sage. One of the happiest experiences I’ve had in my garden involved a sage plant that was cloaked, for days, in butterflies. I couldn’t take my gaze away. It seemed as if, at any moment, the whole bush might take flight.

    Your sage is worth saving.

  106. SM, organic materials like wool or cotton might catch fire if you put them IN a flame, but won’t melt.

    This, but additionally it’s actually pretty hard to set wool on fire. It will smolder a bit and then go out. Cotton is much easier to burn.

  107. Thanks for the advice! IThe Sage is inside right now, in a pot. I will put it outside when it starts to warm up, I do have a nice room that it can go live in where it wont be too warm and it will be safe from nibbling kitties. (I think it will need a bigger pot.)

    The rosemary is in its own pot. I will have to stop watering it so much. Perhaps this year I will do what I keep saying I should do and actually take an interest in the state of my yard. I really wanted to get a fuchsia plant last year, and plant a strawberry pot but my yard gets very little sun.

  108. >This, but additionally it’s actually pretty hard to set wool on fire. It will smolder a bit and then go out. Cotton is much easier to burn.

    Anybody else having the urge to set fire to fabric just to see it burn?

  109. Among other things, I’m slowly working on a Lizard Ridge blanket. It’s a pattern from I like it because it’s made up of separate peices, which each take a single ball of yarn. Even better, each one is a different color, so I don’t have to buy a crapton of expensive yarn all at once to match dye lots. I’ve done four now, so I’ve got the pattern down, and I work it on circulars so it’s all really portable.

  110. Shapelings who’re good with plants – any idea which ones are pretty, easy to take care of for someone who is not blessed with a green thumb and safe for cats? I’d like to get some little potted plants to have around the house, but I have a cat who climbs everywhere and eats everything, and I can kill some plants just by looking at them. Are there any that aren’t toxic to cats that are also relatively idiot-proof?

  111. @ CassandraSays

    You could try mint. If it wasn’t delicious, it’d be one of the worst weeds ever, it’s so hard to kill. If you keep it in a pot it’s fine, but if you put it outside make sure it’s very very contained. I have a mint patch that’s cheerfully overgrowing my lawn, despite my best efforts to root it out. I would guess it’s fine for cats. It also comes in lots of varieties. I think that the pineapple mint is the prettiest.

    Flowering cacti are good too, if you think the spines would deter your cat. If the cat tried to eat a cactus despite all the spines, that would probably be bad.

    You could grow catnip, and try distracting the cat from all the other plants that way.
    Absolutely avoid lily-of-the-valley, which I see in pots a lot this time of year. They’re very toxic.

  112. @Emaloo – Thanks for the suggestion. Mint would actually be really cool since it would smell nice too. Are there any that are cat-safe that are flowering plants? I immediately think of the ones that aren’t, like poinsettia, and if I have anything with flowers he’ll definately try to eat them. I’ve seen him perform Olympic-like jumping feats to reach flowers.

  113. I agree with the cactus and succulent recommendation for idiot-proof plants that cats will leave alone. But your cactus might end up full of cat hair, and it is not easy to clean a cactus!

    As for burning fabrics, it might actually possible to get a synthetic fabric to light on fire instead of just melting, but I’d do it in a well-vented area, because man, plastic fumes are nasty.

    You guys, I made a necklace tonight while watching a movie! It took less time than the movie. This is one fast craft. And the pattern turned out really pretty, with dark iridescent pearl beads on a silver chain. Fun!

  114. @Eucritta

    in my experience, both orchids and African violets need just the right light – if you’ve got it they can be very easy keepers and bloom like mad, and if you don’t they’re just about impossible.

    I grow mine under a flourescent bar on a timer. I can tell you the colour temperature if you want, but most people seem to get annoyed when I talk about light bulbs.

    CassandraSays: A pothos vine, perhaps? Some people will call it a rhododendron, which it is not. If you have birds it’s not safe, but it’s fine for mammals and is tolerant of a wide range of light conditions.

  115. @ CassandraSays

    Mint gets tiny flowers in the spring. My spearmint gets purple flowers, and the chocolate and pineapple mints get white ones. For big pretty blooms, maybe amaryllis? They’re bulbs, and while I’ve never tried re-potting them after a year, the first growth is pretty easy. After they die back, the bulbs have to be stored somewhere cold for a couple months before you can grow them again. The only trick with those is to make sure the pot is very heavy because they like to tip over. The only other flowers I’ve grown indoors are gardenia, and while the shrubs are easy to keep happy, I found it pretty challenging to get it to bloom. They need a very very sunny area.

  116. @Grafton, I’ve seen fluorescent bar setups for African violets … they were very popular in the 60s and 70s. If I had the space I’d love to try it, but unfortunately I don’t – or, rather, the only good spot for a setup is already taken up with my aquarium.

    @CassandraSays, hibiscus is a pretty tough indoor plant, reasonably cat-safe, and it blooms well if it gets some sun. Filtered sun is fine, it’s not too fussy. Mine blooms pretty much year-round, though it slows down in winter. Jade plant is another that’s safe and tough. And aspidistras are legendary for their durability – one of their common names is ‘cast iron plant.’

  117. You guys, I made a necklace tonight while watching a movie! It took less time than the movie. This is one fast craft. And the pattern turned out really pretty, with dark iridescent pearl beads on a silver chain. Fun!

    I did two pages in my art journal while watching Let’s Do It Again (1975) with my partner. It was a lot of fun.

  118. If I’m feeling depressed, I don’t craft. I’ll clean up or re-organise things. Or I’ll put on some of my favourite music to sing along to, and just combine the music and the cleaning. Of course, given we’ve moved in the past couple of months, a lot of the whole “organise everything” at the moment is a function of getting out of the “dammit, where the hells is everything?” stage of having just unpacked and not quite found aways for everything. I’ll probably be dancing and singing for a while when I finally get all the cardboard boxen out of the house, and finally have everything unpacked and put away. Of course, then we’ll probably have to move again…

    My ongoing craft project at the moment (which gets picked up as and when I remember) is creating crocheted rugs. I just make up granny squares (maximum 6 rounds size) and they’re all going into a large tub. Then as the numbers get up sufficiently high, I pull out about a dozen to fourteen of them, and crochet them together using leftovers of wool. Once I have enough strips, I connect the strips together, and once there are enough strips joined together, I’ll create a border for the rug. So far I’ve created four of them over the years, and they’re very useful in winter as a sort of auxiliary blanket, or as knee rugs, or whatever kind of wrap I want at the time. At present I have a couple of them in progress (for values of “in progress” which cover all the stages of incomplete and completely stalled). There’s one in blue and green shades (blues, greens, purples, etc) which I’m intending to pass on to my mother-in-law when I finally finish it. Then there’s another one which I’ve nicknamed “Nightmare on Sesame Street”, which is going to consist of squares made from all the various “muppet pelt[1]” yarns I have in my stash. There’s also a rather aborted plan to create a second rainbow blanket (the wool from the early stages has been re-purposed and will be used for something else).

    Another little craft project I once had a go at: making lavender bags. The first prerequisite for this was the rather over-enthusiastic lavender plant which I used to own (harvest all the lavender flowers when it was in bloom, dry them, discover I have enough dried lavender to fill a very large jar indeed… now what do I do with it?). The trick I found was buying a few metres of very wide lace; cut each piece to lengths about twice the width you want the finished bag to be (a 10cm length works well); fold each piece in half, then sew along the bottom of the lace strip and up the unfolded side, and turn it right-way out. Half-fill with lavender flowers, or with potpourri if you haven’t had a prolific lavender plant to work with, then tie off with a bit of very thin ribbon. Congratulations, you now have a lavender bag you can use in your linen cupboard, or underwear drawer, or anywhere else. If you have enough of them, or an insufficient supply of storage spaces which need scenting up, you can give them away as gifts to friends and family.

    [1] Muppet pelt – yarns which are fuzzy, fluffy, glittery, etc. They’re generally more of a bloody nuisance to work with than standard yarns, mostly because I can’t see the individual blasted stitches.

  119. Ooh, I love making tiny things. Haven’t in ages though, because I’ve been caught up in big gifts making. I have recently made some tiny purses and clutch bags out of tiny pairs of jeans for babies. I also like making teeny embroidered and beaded needle-books and pincushions, and little felt ornaments.

  120. @CassandraSays, I have a jasmine plant I rescued from a grocery store in Pasadena that has become a gorgeous potted plant. It was originally pretty modest-size (the sort of thing that goes into any normal ceramic pot) but has grown, and grown, and grown, until it’s now on a five-foot trellis and aspires to take over a window frame. I got it in early ’08 and I keep it indoors in moderate light during the winter and outdoors in the summer. It blooms twice a year in months and months of tiny fragrant white flowers, and it’s not toxic to cats.

    You can usually find potted jasmine at a local greenhouse, even if it’s not suited for outdoor growing in your area. All mine seemed to need was a big enough pot–it’s really not a fussy plant.

  121. @WindSparrow That was my science fair project one year :) Watching the polyester melt was actually a bit scary.

  122. @ Grafton – I’m so sorry it took me so long to reply. I’ve had a sort of weird weekend.
    First, I’m (mostly) in NYC. idk whether violets are “shippable” from where you are (or whether I can come pick them up :-) ).

    If not, what’s the wattage of the fluorescents you’re using, and do you think they’d be safe in a pre-war building? (NYC is, as you probably know, home of the celebrated Northern Exposure. I pine and weep for the plants I can’t raise here.)

    Long sigh on the lasagna. I guess I’ll have to improvise. Can you offer your preferred list of ingredients?

    (I like ricotta, but with so much water already in the vegetables I don’t know whether it would make the multi-cheese mixture runny, or whether the extra water is necessary so the whole thing won’t dry out on the second bake.)

  123. Anybody else having the urge to set fire to fabric just to see it burn?

    I am now just remembering an old knitter’s trick to identify mystery yarn: set a bit of it on fire and see if it melts (acrylic) or sorta smokes (natural fiber).

  124. @ Starling – Ooh, jasmine. That’s definately worth a try as long as it won’t poison the cat. I like the idea of plants that smell as well as look nice (in my town there’s lots of night jasmine, walking around in the evening you can smell it everywhere, but sadly not inside the house with the windows shut).

  125. CassandraSays–ASPCA doesn’t have jasmine on its toxic list, and my cat’s never had a problem, so I’m pretty sure it’s fine. And the smell fills the house–my sister’s idea of hell, but my favorite.

  126. I am now just remembering an old knitter’s trick to identify mystery yarn: set a bit of it on fire and see if it melts (acrylic) or sorta smokes (natural fiber).

    They taught a similar technique in a textile class I took in college. There are some fabrics that are so similar that you have to set them on fire to tell the difference. I am not making this up.

  127. Late to the fluff here.

    I sew everyday on the bus to & from work. Lately I have been sewing doll clothes for American Girl sized dolls. Love it!

  128. I’ve got an afghan that I’m working on in between other projects. It only takes about half an hour to crochet a patch, so if I’m watching a movie, I can usually finish several :)

  129. I like doing small, useful projects that don’t require a long attention span. I find that I can’t concentrate on one thing for too long these days. I like making pretty dangling earrings, baking brownies, and doing small clothing repairs and reconstructions.

  130. Wish I’d seen this thread when it was current!

    Re: earring holders. I saw some at a crafts fair once made from window screen and picture frames. Figured I could make that myself. If you choose a hinged frame you can stand it up on your dresser. The screen mesh is just perfect for poking the earring wires through.

    What I like to do in little snatches of time is spin. I have a drop spindle and some pretty-colored wool next to the computer at all times, and when I need to wait for something I spin. The theory is that someday I will make socks from this yarn.

    For little crafts in terms of scale, if not time, I have done a lot of lampwork beadmaking. That means melting glass over a torch flame (kind of like a plumber’s torch, but with a clean blue flame, and with a proper way of clamping it to a table). Hot things, bright colors, applied chemistry. My favorites are variegated effects from the ingredients in the glass interacting.

    I’ve also done a lot of Ukranian Easter Eggs. Not strictly in Ukranian style — this is something I try to do every few years with certain friends, and we’ve gotten inspiration from Laura Ashley prints, Elizabethan blackwork patterns, henna designs, and ancient goldwork.

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