Archive for February, 2012

Monday, February 27th, 2012

How to Block Your Knitting

block knitting project 1 How to Block Your Knitting

Whether you’re knitting a scarf or, as I have just done, a small bag for a camera you’ll need to consider blocking it.

Blocking involves wetting the project – I use hot water and a good wool wash and then laying it flat to dry. When you do this, place the piece on a strong surface like a clean towel and pin it into place to shape the project.

The camera case that I made had a pattern knitted into it. One of the wools used was a fluffy wool which caused the piece to bend out of shape appallingly. In fact, at the end of the knitting process I had a scrunched up little ball and it didn’t remotely look like a camera case.

By pinning it to a clean towel, shaping it and allowing it to dry, I now have a piece of knitted fabric that has all the softness of the original but none of the bizarre shape. It actually looks like what it is.

block knitting project 2 How to Block Your Knitting

The next step will be to sew in the wool ends and sew up the piece. I may even consider blocking it a second time to shape the project even more square than I got it the first time.

block knitting project 3 How to Block Your Knitting

While blocking seems like just another step in the knitting process and one that in your enthusiasm to get the project finished you may think you can avoid, blocking a project really does give you a much better result.

Use blocking to get rid of curly edges of a stockinette stitch scarf and use it to reshape any knitting project to make it the shape that you want it to look like – not the shape that it comes off the needles.

Blocking is simple; all you need is a good clean surface such as a large bath towel and some good quality dressmaker’s pins – the sort that won’t rust and leave marks in your project.

Then rinse the project, squeeze it gently to remove some of the water and then, while it is still wet, lay it on the towel and pull and push it into shape it until you get it the way you want it to look. Use the pins to pin it into position and then leave it to dry.

It really does give a very professional finish to your work. It’s great for scarves, essential for stockinette stitch scarves if you don’t want them to roll and useful before sewing up bags, sweaters and the like.

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Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Stuffing dark amigurumi animals

knitpix wool roving Stuffing dark amigurumi animals

A problem I’ve encountered as I have been making and stuffing Amigurumi animals is that it is impossible to get black polyester fiberfill. It seems that they just don’t make this stuff. I did find someone who could get it manufactured for me – but they would have to get it specially manufactured and I would have to purchase it in 2,000 pound quantities. That is a lot of stuffed cuties! Needless to say, this wasn’t an option for me.

My solution is to buy black, brown or colored wool top or roving depending on the color of the animal I am making. I get my roving from Alpaca Direct. I can buy 4oz of black alpaca top wool for around $11.99 to stuff the little critters. I estimate it will stuff around 4-5 small Amigurumi dogs. So I’ll be able to stuff my animals really easily with good clean alpaca wool roving which is environmentally great because this stuff is wool and in some cases it it wool that would otherwise be discarded but here it is being recycled, it is clean and natural – what’s not to love about that.

Other alternatives to dark fiberfill

There are other options too that I like. At Knitpicks you can get a Furry Friends Wool Roving pack comprising 1/4 oz each of 8 colors of wool (making 2 oz in total) for $11.99. There are heaps of different color combinations here.

You could dye your own white wool tops/roving so you can make it any color you like and white wool is easier to find that colored.

At Knitpicks you can also get Special Reserve roving – 3.53 oz for $6.49 – there is no black but there is brown, and light and dark grey which will suit many projects and you can’t complain about the price. is always worth trying to see what they have.

Outback fibres has mixed bags 8oz weight with a minimum of 8 colors per pack of merino fiber for $20 plus shipping but you don’t get a guarantee of color – just the palette – there is a natural palette that looks good. has mohair and more! I found Corriedale Cross Wool in ecru color for $1.15 an ounce and other wools are priced upwards of this. If you want to dye your own, this is good value. has a lot of cool stuff including wools and their 4oz natural wool roving is $7.50. The site is great so make time to browse around it. has dyed merino tops which are very inexpensive and available in a range of colors for $7.50 for 4oz.  and dyed corriedale for under $8 for 4 oz.

Take care and calculate value

One thing to watch is that wool roving is typically priced by weight. A very tiny amount of wool can look enormous on the web! And you don’t want to unwittingly pay a lot for a small amount of fiber because it might look huge. Check the weight in oz in the pack and compare – expect to pay from $8 up to triple that or more for 4oz of wool.

Why you need dark fiberfill for toys

The reason I need black or dark fiberfill to use with dark designs is because if I use the white fiberfill it will show through the crochet stitches.

There are some other options – you can line the project with something black such as felt or a recycled stocking and then fill the shape with fiberfill. In that case, you could use the white fiberfill if you line the project with a dark lining.

For my money, finding a good source of black wool fiber in place of impossible to source dark polyester or Dacron fill is going to work a whole lot better. Amigurumi animals and similar tiny projects are just too difficult to line with something additional in the way of stockings or felt – it adds an unnecessary layer of complexity to the project. Considering my dogs’ legs are a mere 5 crochet stitches around there is precious little room to move in them.

For me, wool roving is inexpensive enough that I can buy it for the projects that I need it for and it really does offer the best solution.

That said, if you find a reliable online source for black or dark brown polyester fiberfill or Dacron, I’d be interested to know.

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Sunday, February 5th, 2012

More Hot Air Balloon Goodness

felt hot air balloon opener More Hot Air Balloon Goodness

Learn how to turn some wool felt into this fun hot air balloon.

I love felt balloons and this is the second one I have made. It uses the same pattern as the first one but this time the basket is hanging using string and not wire.
To make it you will need this pattern for the gores or panels for the balloon.

You will also need

- wool felt (or wool blend felt) in three colors for the balloon and a fourth color for the basket

- string

- needle and thread

- fiberfill or wool roving to stuff it with

- wire for hanging

Make the balloon following these instructions:

Cut the pieces of felt – I cut two panels in each color so I will have three colors used for the balloon.

felt hot air balloon 3 More Hot Air Balloon Goodness

Use thread and blanket stitch, sew along the seams alternating the panel colors – the stitching will be on the outside:

felt hot air balloon 4 More Hot Air Balloon Goodness

Once this is done you’re ready to stuff the shape with fiber fill.

felt hot air balloon 5 More Hot Air Balloon Goodness

Push some wire through a small hole in a small circle of felt and twist to make a hook for the top. Splay out the ends of the wire so it won’t pull out through the hole. Sew the circle around the top of the balloon to cover the top neatly and to hold the wire loop in place.

felt hot air balloon 6 More Hot Air Balloon Goodness
Then cut a strip of felt in one of the colors and cut one side in a small scallop edge.

Pin it over the outside edge of the balloon and sew it in position.

felt hot air balloon 7 More Hot Air Balloon Goodness

Sew a small basket shape with a base and sew small lengths of string along the sides.

felt hot air balloon 1 More Hot Air Balloon Goodness

Fill with fiber fill and sew a top onto the shape.

felt hot air balloon 2 More Hot Air Balloon Goodness

Finish it by sewing the strings into the underside of the balloon and add a circle of felt under the balloon to hold the stuffing in!

felt hot air balloon 8 More Hot Air Balloon Goodness

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Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Toast your pix with PhotoToaster

omnisketch cityscape phototoaster final Toast your pix with PhotoToaster

This cityscape was taken from OmniSketch into Photo Toaster.

omnisketch cityscape phototoaster starter Toast your pix with PhotoToaster


Once there, I applied the floodlight effect by clicking the Brightness button and choosing Floodlight. If you see sliders and not named effects, click the icon in the top left of the slider box to go to the named effects so you can click a preset and use that.


omnisketch cityscape phototoaster 1 Toast your pix with PhotoToaster

omnisketch cityscape phototoaster 2 Toast your pix with PhotoToaster

For Vignette adjustment (it shows as an icon with three stars), I applied Medium Black.

omnisketch cityscape phototoaster 3 Toast your pix with PhotoToaster

For the Texture, I applied Antiqued.

omnisketch cityscape phototoaster 4 Toast your pix with PhotoToaster

And for the frame the Torn Edge frame.

omnisketch cityscape phototoaster 5 Toast your pix with PhotoToaster


What’s to like about PhotoToaster

PhotoToaster has lots of options to choose from.

You select Lighting effects, Vignette, Textures and/or Borders for your image using the options along the foot of the screen.

When you’re done with one, you can click the sliders mode switch in the top left corner of the thumbnails and apply a specific adjustment based on the choice that you’ve made.

There’s plenty to like about this program. It allows you to try out options by simply selecting the one that you want. If you don’t like it, go back to None or select something different and it’s immediately applied.

There’s a Randomize button in the bottom right corner that you can use to randomize effects.

After you’ve applied a change to your image, you can simply click the button such as the Vignette button and you’ll see immediately which effect you’ve applied as it has a red checkmark in the corner.

You can output to the Photo Library, Email, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram, via SMS, Twitter, the clipboard or send the image to another app such as SquareReady or other apps you might have that can send and receive images.

Click Help to get access to explanatory screens such as what you’ll find on the tools menu—Crop, Rotate, Flip and Straighten, the global presets which give you access to all the settings and then the individual settings.

Save a PhotoToaster preset

If you use the Global Settings option, you get a set of presets that combine multiple options in one which you can use either as a starting point or a finishing point for your image.

If you like a look, you can save it as a preset by clicking the Global button, click the dial until you see the Add New Preset and then click to add a new preset and give it a name. You can then apply that preset to an image by simply selecting an image and select that preset.

Of all the grunging apps that I use, I really like PhotoToaster a lot.


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Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

An Apple a Day – Layers and selections in ArtStudio

shadow apple substrate artStudio final An Apple a Day – Layers and selections in ArtStudio

This apple started out as a Substrate background. I’m really enjoying this program because it creates great backgrounds that I can use for my art.

What you do with Substrate is to choose an image that it will source it colors from and then it renders this interesting background that you can take a screenshot of and use as a background for your art.

shadow apple substrate artStudio 11 An Apple a Day – Layers and selections in ArtStudio

Having finished in Substrate, I took a screenshot and then brought that into ArtStudio.

Art Studio is an application I use a lot because it allows me to use up to six layers in an image. This image is layered so that on the bottom is the Substrate background.

I then used the Selection tool, which is another of ArtStudio’s features to draw an apple shape.

Move this selection over the background layer and use the copy feature to make a copy of the apple shape from the original background.

I added a new layer and pasted this apple shape onto a new layer.

I duplicated this so I could have a version of the apple at the very top so I could see what I was doing.

I then selected a color from the Substrate background, a sort of dark red brown and I made another selection of the apple layer this time using the Magic Wand tool to select the background which of course is empty.

I then used Inverse to invert the selection so the apple shape itself was selected and then I expanded the selection by 10 pixels.

This area was then filled with the black background.

I then did the same thing but this time only expanded it by 5 pixels and filled it with white.

The layers go, from the top down:
1 patterned apple
2 white apple
3 black apple
4 background

shadow apple substrate artStudio layers An Apple a Day – Layers and selections in ArtStudio

Then I transformed the black apple shape using the Transform tool on that Layer.

I dragged it so it was offset and so it would look like a drop shadow.

The white layer is a solid fill of 5 pixels around the apple so you still get the sense of the apple even where the drop shadow isn’t visible.

The result looks as if the apple is somehow raised up from the original background.

The combination of Substrate for the background and ArtStudio for putting all the layers together works really well.

The powerful Selection tools and layers really set this app apart, it’s like having much of the convenience and features of Photoshop on the iPad for making cool art.

I used the multiply blend mode on each of the white and black layers so that you would see some of the underlying image through these layers. The opacity of both reduced to around 50 percent. The white layer blend mode is screen and the black layer blend mode is multiply.

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