August 29, 2016

Office Shed Makeover

Did you know I won a contest?

Not sure how many people I specifically told or not... but yeah it's true! A while back I saw some posts and emails about a contest that the Container Store was running. All you had to do to enter was read a few of their Container Stories blog posts about space makeovers they had done for other people and comment on your favorite one, mentioning your own organization challenges. Container Store turned my makeover into a blog post as well! Check it out by clicking here to see their full story and more pictures!

One of the reasons we bought our house was for the amazing outbuilding which was half finished into an office. As I work from home most days, it was amazing to have a full room to dedicate to my craft supplies, yarn tubs, desk and chair and office supplies. As with most people, the furniture items in there were a mish-mash of Ikea, Walmart stuff, hand me downs, dumpster dive shelves, and old stuff that didn't fit anywhere else.
My original office. A bit cluttered but functional.
So of course I commented on a post, as I often thought about getting better shelving for my shed office space. It's not that it didn't function ok, but it was suboptimal. And then I got an email saying congratulations for winning! At first I was sure it was a scam, but I did enter, so maybe not? The email wasn't shady or anything, I just was so unbelieving that I might have won something. I called up customer service and verified that the person who sent the email did indeed work for them, so at that point I figured it was legit. I had won a space makeover with Elfa products!

After signing a few different forms, we set up a time for a photographer to come out and shoot the before pictures. I didn't even vacuum out the bugs. Then came a person to measure the space. After that the floor plan was sent off to the design people to figure out the best configuration. I got to give my input on the configuration, making a few tweaks since I'm left handed, as well as the colors of the hardware and shelving itself. I ended up picking white hardware to match the trim and baseboards in the room already, and sand shelving to match the wood laminate floors. With the purple on the walls I wanted to keep it light and clean looking in there.
The clean and empty space with Elfa delivered.
During this time I spent about two days going through all the stuff, throwing out what I didn't need, donating what I didn't want, and moving the furniture out to the other side of the shed, which is separate and is a garage space. After that I had to clean the room itself. Being a shed outside, it does tend to collect bugs like no other, even though I do get it treated just like the house. First vacuum for the dirt, a second for the large dead bugs, and a third to get the cobwebs and moldings.

A few days later we scheduled delivery and installation. I did my best to stay out of line of sight of the shed all morning of the install as I wanted to keep it a surprise for myself. There is a big difference between seeing a line drawing and the real thing in the space. Once it was in, I was shocked at how big the room felt. The new long desk space running down one full wall was amazing, and all my art books and supplies now fit in orderly and neat ways.
The installed shelving with a happy dog for scale.
I did tweak the placement of one shelf up just a bit to be able to slide my clear tubs underneath the bottom shelf. I used a few of the drawer bins from an old cart for more compartment storage on the shelves of various smaller art supplies. Now that so much of the walls were shelves I did have to move a lot of the art to sit on the shelves, but I have plenty of space for that and to grow into. I still have two empty drawers and tons of space to fill.
Before again.
The finished space. Art back on the walls, comfy chair back in. 
I can totally see myself continuing to tweak and arrange and add to this space, but for now it is simply a dream come true. As my mom always says: If you don't enter you can't win!

So I don't buy physical CDs anymore, who does, but I had a lot of old album art inserts in my stash of stuff that I didn't want to throw out. So instead I cut off the cover art of each one and tossed the rest. Eight of those covers, mainly for anime and Katamari Damacy, went into a frame on the wall (you can see it on the left in the finished space image above) and the rest sat in a drawer. At Ikea this weekend I saw they had a glass topper for their long Hemnes dresser, which is the set I have in my bedroom, but that glass topper was also the perfect size to fit on my new Elfa desk!

So I took all the album covers and laid them out in a grid on the desk under the space where the glass would go (affixing them with a little bit of tape) and then just set the glass down on top on its rubber feet. Volia! Nice smooth long desktop with cool art underneath. It's so cool to have good colors and nostalgic art right at my fingertips.

August 22, 2016


*UPDATE* 4/2018: Due to a request I now have a written pattern. Feel free to email angela dot skees at gmail dot com for a pdf copy.

Look, I love lousy movies. Like a lot. Ask me which Batman is the best? I'm gonna say the "neon" Batmans (aka Batman and Robin or Batman Forever) with all the bad puns. I love the Godzilla from 1998, and Twister, and Men in Black 2, and Legend. The list goes on. Gotta say though, Tremors might be the number one on the lousy movie top 10.

So when I was laying in bed, trying to sleep, and my brain is chattering away, for some reason I started thinking about bad movies. It's like I can watch them in my head. I was also wondering what next I could make. And it hit me. Why, oh why, have I never made a plushie crochet graboid?!?
A Graboid.
It's like perfect for crochet. Other people have done plushies, which is a help to look at how they constructed theirs. As I was planning to go to a desert-y locale during the summer I jumped on this project to get it done in time so I could take pictures.

First issue was finding yarn. These are subterranean creatures and are covered in dirt and sand throughout the movies so finding a good picture for coloring was a bit hard to do. In the end I decided for a more monochromatic tan color scheme than that graphic above.

I had some Lion Brand Homespun on hand in Pearl. Even though I despise that yarn I really liked the subtle browns and tans going on. I tried to find something similar in a regular worsted as opposed to the fuzzy irregular Homespun, but failed. I found a nice taupe color in Vanna's Choice that really complimented it to create that darker head. The head is actually like bone kind of or a big beak as compared to the soft worm body, so I thought they would make a cool look together. The tongue worms I still haven't found a color I like, but I do have a bit of this dusty sort of pink in my stash that might work. And I will need a tiny bit of a red color for the inside of the mouth where the tongue worms come out.

I started working on the body from the tail up to the neck where it joins. Using the pearl homespun I worked up several rows and then started increasing rows. Every few rows I did one that had some of the spikes come out. I would just sort of eyeball where the spikes should go. The body spikes help it move through the loose soil and I wanted them to stand out a bit from the body, so I started carrying a second darker solid tan (pretty sure it is Bernat Satin in Sable) and switching to it to make popcorn stitches. Sort of like the Daleks I made way back in the day.

I got a good way in and wasn't sure I liked the shape it was making, but kept going. At this point I was writing each round down as I made it. So that I could tweak as needed and still be able to turn this into a pattern eventually. The tough part is that homespun felts together really really fast, so if I needed to rip this out and redo it, it was pretty much hopeless.

As I kept increasing the body, I started thinking about how large the overall plush would turn out to be and how to make it proportional in my mind. I kept feeling like I was increasing too slowly overall. This is gonna be a baby sized graboid for sure, but I still wanted it to be a good huggable size. Also, just to note, I was stuffing as I went along, as the spike yarn was crossing across the inside space.

The body spikes I sort of just placed as I felt they were needed while trying to be roughly symmetrical. I also tried to keep at least three or four rows between them so they had their own space. I also gradually started adding more and more until they met at the top of the back. The belly side is free of spikes so it's easy for me to tell where the top and bottom are. It took me about two months to get the body alone done, but mainly because I was only able to work on it about two hours every two to three days during that time.

Once it was big enough around I felt it was ok to just keep that width for several rows to elongate the wormy body, continuing the pattern of spikes. After that I worked a few rows of decreasing, with no more spikes, for the neck area before the beaked head.
throat piece widening to mouth with tongue worms anchored to base
Next I made a throat and mouth for the Graboid. The throat is just a tube that I inserted into the body cavity and stuffed around so that I could have a place to retract the tongue creatures in. Figured it might also make it eating other toys easier if it could swallow them a bit, ya know for pictures. I widened the tube at one end to the same number of stitches as the last row of the neck and sewed it in place.
iCord body and tube head for tongue worms
I was originally at a loss for how to do the tongue creatures since working a tube of only four sc around is a giant pain in the butt, but after learning the i-cord technique for the Norse Cords, I decided that would be perfect for making the thin and long mouth tongue worm things. I made them all about the same length and then at one end widened up into a round 6 sc open tube for the head and mouth of the tongue guys. I embroidered a little black on the tops for the little horn hooks they have, but it kind of ended up looking like eyes.
throat in with a few tongue worms stuck in
I had some ideas for the beak head shape and set about trying to make and assemble them. I sketched out the shapes on paper first and held them up to the body to see how they would work together. Then used tape to hold the shapes in place and see if they would really work right. Then I set about making those shapes in the taupe vanna's choice yarn. I only did one piece of each shape as it took 5 shapes to get the full beak done. Only after assembling it all and attaching it to the body did I realize that it didnt really have enough structure to hold itself up, so I might have to go back and see if I can't stiffen it with glue and water or something.
bottom jaw pieces

I really like that the soft squishy body yarn has a different texture from the more bony beak like head, and that the body spines have a little sheen to them. All those different colors and textures really made it look like the different parts in the movie.

I super love how it came out. Pretty cute and super squishy.

Time to complete: about 40 hours
Difficulty: Intermediate
Size: About 18 inches from beak to tail, 10 inches around at widest part of body

August 15, 2016

Norse Cords

Well school has started by the time this post will go up, but as I write it, graduation weekend is only two days away. One of the many roles my husband plays at his high school is to be Norse Chief of the Norsemen, a spirit group of rowdy young men who cheer at games. They are most recognizable because of their blue and white striped overalls, and the noise...

As I usually attend each game that he does, and have watched over them myself occasionally, as I maintain my Keeping Children Safe certification, some have affectionally called me the Norse mom. It's not a title I take lightly, and I do try to think ahead and about them like their moms might.

This year one of the boys asked me via Instagram chat (who knew it had a chat?) if I would make Norsemen cords for graduation. If you haven't been to a high school graduation in a while, you might not know that various students get pieces of flair that they can add to the standard cap and gown, in the form of colored cords. This is mostly honor societies and things of that nature. I smiled at the thought, as it is both totally in the style of the Norsemen to be a bit silly and to poke a little good natured fun at the prestigious cords of which so many are so proud.
Thumb showing the back side of the cord, front below it.
Sure I could totally just make long chains of blue and white, but that would both look more like a ribbon when done than a cord and wasnt really what I was thinking would be coolest. Luckily a little searching and I came up with the perfect solution.

A crochet i-cord. Yeah I'd never heard of such a thing. I followed the instructions and video from the blog PlanetJune which is in only one color. With a little playing I found that switching colors each row created a really nice striped zig zag look which was cord shaped and totally perfect for my needs. I did also try making larger stripes of color but then it created long strings of yarn marching up the back side which was not too good looking.

It did make it a bit slower going than you might think but each cord only took me about 2 hours to make. They are about 70 inches long and each end has two rows of white to start and end the cords. I did this to give a nice sort of visual end to the cords.

Once I had all five made, one for each senior Norsemen, I also added on tassels to the ends as is a pretty standard style. These really made me smile, and it was nice to surprise the rest of the boys with a little symbol of their time together.
Finished cords.
Difficulty: Easy
Time to complete: 2 hours each

August 8, 2016

Whale Song

When we left off there was a lot of kindness going on, and I decided to make one more thing to go into the care package to these lovely ladies. A whale. Why a whale? Well my friend, she has her own art studio called Whalesong Arts and I thought it might be fun to make a crochet whales as colorful as the ones she creates in oil pastels and paints.

A photo posted by Whalesong Arts (@whalesongarts) on

I bought a palette of yarn by Lion Brand in the Happy color scheme as I thought it might look nice with the heart afghan I also made her. I used the free pattern for Richard the Whale by Stacy Trock, which I liked a lot for the texture on him.

Of course I got the fins done and most of the tail when I realized I forgot about the ribbing part... But as my husband pointed out, the color change was pretty cool all by itself and the ribbing might make it look too busy. In the end I agreed with him and kept going. Good thing too since I'm not sure how embroidering on that ribbing would have looked.
The bag of colors made this much whale. 
Working up the body was no trouble at all. There is a large section of the body pattern that is implied based off the previous rows, so I spent a little time expanding those rows out so I didn't have to keep track in my head.
Something to note... there are more than one kind of pack of these small colored skeins, and it turns out I bought one with 135 yards for this project which called for 150 yards. So I pulled the dark blue out of my leftover yarns and was able to finish this off.

The pattern just calls for saftey eyes, but I really wanted to make this more like her whales, so I added some black embroidery to try to get that signature smile and lines onto the whale. I really like the way it turned out.

It really made me smile when it was done. I mean look at that face...

Difficulty: Easy
Time to complete: 5 hours
Size: about 10 inches long

August 1, 2016

Crochet it Forward

And were back!

So just a little reminder, if there is anything I make that you might want one of, please ask and we can talk it over. I'm generally open to taking custom commissions too.

That is exactly what happened in today's post. A friends mom, who has commissioned things in the past, asked I make one of the V for Victory scarves in white for one of her good friends who is doing pushups everyday for Veterans. I can't even do two pushups in a row.

I got a huge skein of Big Twist Rainbow Classic yarn in white which is super duper soft. I also made it a bit longer than the original pattern calls for since I prefer longer scarves myself. These scarves are just so darn quick and easy.

Difficulty: Easy
Time to complete: 3 hours

I used about a third of the skein on the scarf, so I decided to use the rest for another project. Her daughter saw my post about Iorek and his armor, and told me that her mom loves that character and asked if I could make her one. This lovely soft white would make an excellent polar bear. I'm calling this one Iofur, just to keep them straight in my mind.

I decided on this one to make the feet a bit more like real legs since I didn't like on my original one that they kind of got lost inside the body. Other than that I didn't make any changes to the bear.

As for the armor... well I still remembered about how I went about making the first set, but as I had not written it down, I had nothing to follow. That was ok since this bear actually came out a little bit smaller than the first. I had run out of the brown oatmeal yarn that I made the first set of armor in, but I remembered I had about half a skein of Patons Silk Bamboo yarn in a silver color called Stone.

As the yarn was a bit thinner than the brown, I used a smaller hook and I really like the way this armor turned out. His breastplate had more crocodile stitches and I left it unbacked so it felt more like chainmail too. I gave him a full backplate and the spine armor as well as the shoulder pads, all hung off a thinner collar that sits above his shoulders. At this point I was again running out of the yarn but managed to make a helmet anyway. It has a solid top and front nose piece and the back side is made up of interconnected chains so that it also looks a bit like chainmail. I managed to get one final crocodile stitch done and added it to the front of the helmet.

Iorek in the back, Iofur in the front
Difficulty: Bear: Easy, Armor: Intermediate/Custom
Time to Complete: Bear: 6 hours, Armor: 4 hours

Dang do I really like the silver as armor and that new breastplate... I was really happy to be able to get this done for a good friend and her mom. So much thoughtfulness going on here. Good People.