Trying the Fuseworks Microwave Kiln

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With my full-size kilns put away for a bit while rooms are being remodeled, I thought I’d finally try the Fuseworks Microwave Kiln.

I remember asking my local stained glass shop about this a few years ago and they deterred me from getting it.  If you’re a real glass artist, this probably isn’t for you.  If you’re a crafter or just think the idea is cool, then you’ll probably get some fun out this.

The kit comes with all the basic supplies you’ll need to get started:  The kiln (duh), gloves for handling a potentially hot kiln, glass cutter, kiln paper and some glass products to fuse.

I’ve worked in glass for many, many years.  I actually used to work at a glass studio and taught some classes, so I’m very familiar with these items.  I generally use higher quality items (a full kiln, a top-notch glass cutter, thicker gloves, etc) but the glass is pretty standard.

One thing that annoyed me was the instructions kept showing tools you don’t get with the kit.  For instance, Figure 5, shows ‘running pliers’ which you don’t get.  These pliers are pretty essential to cutting curves in the glass.  So this kit will pretty much limit you to straight cuts unless you want to get some running pliers as well.  Considering that the items you’ll make with this kit are very small, you won’t likely be making many curved pieces.

I cut some glass, slapped down some glass confetti and some millefiori and piled it all onto a piece of kiln paper.

I then closed up the kiln, placed it in my 1800W Microwave (you can use anything, the amount of time will change depending on your microwave) for 3 minutes.  Using my gloves, I peeked into the kiln and saw everything looked fine, so I let it sit for 30 minutes to cool off.

And there you have it, my glob of melted glass products.

Overall, this was pretty quick and fun.  I plan on playing with some of my ceramic supplies in it.  Some ceramic underglazes and liners can be used with glass, so I may do some mini paintings or something.

July 2017 YarnBox Socks

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A month or so ago I signed up for yarnbox and I received my first shipment a few days ago.   What attracted me to the service was that it sent me yarn (yassss!) and second, they had a sock box (double yassss!).  I also hoped it would be a great way to get the yarn I either wouldn’t normally get for myself or get yarn that isn’t available to me locally.

This month’s “box” was a generous 434-yard skein of Corrie Sock yarn from Flying Goat Farm.  I say “box” because it was really one of those gray bags that many magazines are sent in.   Most box services I see are done really cute and presented well, but this was very much just yarn in a bag.

The yarn itself is not something I would normally buy, which made this even more interesting.   I have nothing against it, but this is not something I would consider my style.   So, I guess I got exactly what I was hoping for!  I also wouldn’t buy this because it’s $28 and I’m more of a $5/pair of socks type of guy.  My socks are for utility and allergy relief, not beauty, though I do like when they end up looking unexpectedly nice.   Since the sock box is about $20/month and this is a $28 skein, I think it’s still a deal.

I also noted that the yarn was noticeably thicker than any sock yarn I’ve used, so machine knitting could be problematic but I was sure I’d get through it.  I’d just be pushing the limits of my 72 needle setup.

I cranked away at the sock machine with only a few issues and I was pretty happy with what I saw being knit:

I was surprised how the striping came out and now I’m even more glad I ordered sock box.   I definitely never would have picked this skein up off a shelf or internet store, but now that I have the sock in hand I can say I’d totally wear it… and I will.   Tomorrow, most likely.

More Tie-Dye Fun

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One thing you may not know about tie-dye is that once you mix it, you should use it all up within the hour.  According to the instructions, it will become less effective as time goes on.  I didn’t realize that until further into dyeing yarns, so I went and grabbed a shirt and used up my dye.   I’m glad I did, I really like the how it came out!

tie dye shirt

For my next round of dying, I had a friend over and we tie-dyed some shirts.   As we each took turns dyeing, the other would look through Pinterest and figure out what to try next.  We had stopped off at the store earlier in the day and I grabbed some XL t-shirts to use as giveaways.   He, on the other hand, made shirts for himself.  Selfish, I know!

I ended up making 3 giveaways:

I stuck mostly to spirals.  My friend seemed to enjoy rectangular and striped designs more. Here’s some of his:

I plan on dying more yarns (since I have so many undyed skeins), so I’m sure more dye projects will be popping up soon.

Fun with Tie Dye

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Skeins of Undyed Lace Yarn

I recently ordered a bunch of skeins of lace yarn with the intention of dying it myself.  I had been watching a lot of YouTube on the subject and decided to give it a shot.  Even if it didn’t work out, I would still have a bunch of natural/almost white skeins to make socks with.

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I decided to try the Tie Dye method since it didn’t require simmering on the stove but I knew going in it would be a lot more time-consuming since it’s a 6-hour wait period while the dye does its magic.

I got out a marbling tray that I had bought a while back when I was planning some other projects (which I never got to, but we’ll ignore that part).   I covered it with plastic wrap to keep things clean and got to dyeing my yarns.

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My main goal was to make rainbow yarn.  I’ve seen a lot of beautiful rainbow yarns out there but I wasn’t willing to pay the high price for most of these hand painted yarns.  I started squirting color on the yarn but all it did was bead up on top on top of the yarn and wouldn’t soak in. Tapping/Dabbing it into the fabric seemed to work but took forever.   Most yarn dyeing involves pre-soaking your yarn in water, but Tulip’s instructions didn’t say to do that.

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Since I prepared a bunch of skeins I was planning on trying a bunch of different methods.   On the second skein, I presoaked the yarn and dyeing went very quickly and the color bled very easily through the fibers.

I also tried soaking a skein in the dye (see bowls in the picture) but that really didn’t turn out.  It dyed the outermost layers, but the inside of the skeins was completely untouched and dry.  So yeah, don’t do that.   I’ll have to re-dye them later in a darker color and see if they can be saved.  Right now they look awful.

After 6 hours of waiting, I rinsed them out and hung them up to dry.  I’ll show you two of my favorites.  The rainbow yarn turned out amazing:

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While pushing the dye into the yarn took a long time, it gave me a great amount of control.  The dye didn’t bleed at all, so the color only went where I put it.

When the yarn is pre-soaked, it pretty much does its own thing, but that can also be amazing.

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The picture makes it look pretty dull, but in real life, it came out like a shiny oil spill.   I don’t know how well that will translate into socks, but it was still fun to create.

Last, I got to unwind these knitted ‘blanks’ and turn them into balls of yarn ready to knit.

hand painted rainbow yarn being wound

multicolor "oil spill" yarn being wound

Once I saw them being wound I got pretty excited to use them.  Unfortunately, the sock machine is still being used for sock yarn and I’m not ready to switch over to lace yarn just yet.   So these are being put aside until I work my way through the enormous pile of sock yarn still waiting to be turned into socks.

Ribbing results

Yesterday, when I got up and got ready for work, I popped on my new jelly bean socks as I had planned.   I was surprised just how loose the ribbing was.  It stretches and lays flush with the ankle, but it really had no strength to it.  It wasn’t squeezing around the ankle like a commercial sock would.  But then, my ribbing has no elastic woven into it like a commercial sock would either.

By the end of the day, it was just as stretched out as my non-ribbed sock was.  And to be honest, I didn’t care for how the ribbing looked once it was on my foot and stretched.

I can see how ribbing could be useful for a smaller ankle.  But my ankle is quite large and it doesn’t seem to make any difference unless I decided to start putting elastic in my sock… which I won’t, because I’m allergic to it, hence the reason I’m making my own socks to begin with.

I could also see myself using ribbing if I was making socks for someone else, they do look more polished and commercial if you add ribbing.  But for me, the amount of work and time that goes into adding ribbing is not worth it.  I think my future socks will just have a plain hung hem (like the bottom sock in the picture).

I may play with adding elastic just to see how well it works out and for any socks I make as gifts.

Ribbing success

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Last night, I was so excited when I finally got through a ribbed cuff on the knitting machine.  Until now, I kept dropping stitches.  The way the ribber attachment is placed on the machine blocks the view of the sock until you remove it.  By then, you’re usually pretty far into the sock and it’s so disappointing when you find it didn’t turn out and you’ll have to manually fix it. But, I took my time and watch every dang needle grab at the yarn trying to figure out why I kept dropping stitches.  It was painful and slow, but I got through the whole ribbing section without any issues.  So maybe I just need to go very slow. successful ribbing on a sock machine. In case you were wondering this yarn is Red Heart’s heart & sole – jelly beans. For lunch today, I stitched up the toes and hid all the loose ends.  Tomorrow, I will have some jelly bean colored socks on my feet and I’ll get to test how much of a difference the ribbing makes.  The colors aren’t really my style, but they’re the first with ribbing at the ankle, so I’m wearing them!   Just visually comparing the two styles of a hung hem and a ribbed hem you can see a pretty big difference.  I know it’s hard to tell from the photo but that’s about a 2″ difference.  The bottom one is about the actual size of my ankle, so the ribbed one should grip on pretty well.  But then again, I’m comparing two different yarns, which by the size of the stitches look to be pretty different…. so who knows. Once I get some more practice in on these hems I’ll be moving on to the next item on my checklist: rounding out the heels and toes better.  I’ve been watching YouTube videos on it and it looks pretty simple, so hopefully, that goes quickly and easily.

Wearing Socks and Continuing to Improve Them

My first round of socks have all been sewn up and I’m starting to wear them.  I’ve noticed a few things:

First, they are super cute.

Second, they are so soft and stretchy.

Third, it will take some time to get used to the texture on the bottom of my foot.  Because I’m using sock yarn, and not a lace weight yarn, each loop is noticeably bigger and you can feel that on your foot when you walk.  It’s not uncomfortable in any way, but you will notice the difference from a commercial sock as you wear them.

As I wear them I am slowly creating a list of changes and things to learn as I make each future sock.  A few of the future changes will be:

  • Change hung hem to a ribbed hung hem
  • Round out the toes and heels better
  • Try lace weight

Last night, I started playing around with the first one and started setting up the ribber attachment.  I got a lot of extras with my machine so I’ll be slowly trying and playing with each thing until I get my ideal sock.  Getting the ribber set up was a chore, but once everything was aligned and screwed down it was pretty simple.  It was, however, very slow and tedious to remove and replace needles all for 30 rows of a cuff.  I know I’ll get fast at it, but it seems like a very big pain in the butt for such a small section of each sock.  But I got it working and the ribbing does seem like something I will want on my future socks.

 

A Birthday Gift to Myself

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Every year I usually buy myself some crazy expensive gift for my birthday.  Some years I go a little crazier than others and this year I think I kept it pretty tame.

I have been looking at sock machines for years on eBay.  But the price point for something like a 70-year-old machine with no support (especially if you have no idea how to use one) is pretty high.

A few weeks ago I came across a post the Erlbacher Gearhart has started reproducing their old machines.  So I jumped on it and got their new speedster model with a bunch of goodies to go with.  I was emailing back and forth with them for a while before purchasing making sure I would have everything I needed to hit the ground running when it arrived.

Two days before my birthday, a small wood box arrived with everything screwed down inside.   I was surprised that it actually came with tools (like, real tools, not cheap things you’ll throw away), a spool of scrap yarn, a picture of the box (which I assume is there to help you put it all back in if you decide to put it away), a starting bonnet and a bunch of other stuff.

I had already done some yarn shopping before it arrived and watched a bunch of YouTube videos so I pretty much instantly started pumping out socks as soon as I put it all together.

There are still some manual and tedious things to do in sock making even with a fancy machine like this.  Hanging yarn on the little hooks isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but now that I’ve done it a few times I am getting pretty quick at it.  And I find sewing up toes with the dreaded Kitchener stitch actually pretty relaxing.

But ask yourself how long would it take you to knit a sock? Hours? Several evenings? As a beginner it’s probably taking me about 45 minutes with this machine and that is taking my sweet time and learning as I go. There are videos of people easily making a sock in 8 minutes. Isn’t that crazy!?

And watching it work is pretty mesmerizing even if you’re making a boring grey sock…

And here’s a sock I just cranked out that I’ll be wearing tomorrow.

Painted TV Trays

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I bought these TV trays on amazon about 3 years ago.  They were in expensive and looked pretty nice.  But let’s be honest, all these trays are cheap press boards and some printed sticker laminate.

After years of putting hot dinner plates and drinks on them, they started to show their age with some blister spots and peeling paper.  They bothered me enough that I took on yet another project.

I started by peeling off the side stickers which were a thicker stock and suprisingly easy to do.  Then I got out my heat gun and scraped the glue off.  The top sticker was very thin and wasn’t going to come off like the sides.  So, I got out my sander and gave it hell until the whole thing was smooth wood again.

Now I have 4 perfect canvas’ to start working on (after I wipe all the sawdust off).

I got out my gesso and gave them all 2 coats to bring them up to a bright white.   I decided to paint the theme of Rick & Morty and picked out 4 images to work from.

I think they came out pretty well:

Rick Sanchez painted tv tray

Morty painted tv tray

Snuffles painted tv tray

Mr. Meeseeks painted TV tray

The only thing left to do was to give them that glossy protective coating.

Shrinky Dink Pins

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I saw a youtube video a while back that was about making jewelry pins with shrinky dinks.  I checked out my local stores, that had some, but not the ink jet printable films.  While I do plan on drawing my own pins, I wanted a quick project to see if this was something I could get into and want to do more of. The printable film would make this pretty quick and easy.

I jumped on amazon and order some Grafix Printable White Inkjet Shrink Film and got to printing.  These will shrink to about half the size, so make sure to size your items appropriately.  My prints were all about 3 – 4″.

I picked out some cute things from an image search and got out my Copic markers (though you can use any permanent ink) and started coloring and doing some simple shading.

Things I noticed:   If it’s a large area, it’s probably better to print the color.  Markers tend to streak and they definitely look like they’ve been colored with a marker.  This isn’t normal paper and it will look different than any paper you usually draw on.  I was pretty sure things were going to turn out even if they looked a bit streaky.

I cut them out and placed on paper.  They specifically say within the instruction to not put the film directly on metal, but you can put down some paper over metal – which seems to work best.  I tried just putting cardboard down on the rack and that did not work well. Things did not bake evenly and I had to flip them over and bake them much longer that I should’ve.    This batch I had learned that lesson and these worked out great.

Once they bake for a few minutes and stop shrinking.  Remove from the oven and quickly smash them flat with a spatula so that they are completely flat.  I recommend doing small batches if you are doing many pieces since you don’t have much time before they cool off and become very solid.  Luckily, I picked very solid shapes and didn’t need to fuss with them much.

I do recommend you check the edges when they cool off.  Several of mine had a frayed look to them that could easily be cleaned up with a nail file.

Next, I used a dimensional glaze on top of each to give it that plastic shiny domed look.  It’ll also protect your design from getting messed up from use.

There are several options in different brands that you can use, this Royal Coat was the one I found at a local store.   A more popular one seems to be Mod Podge Dimensional Magic.  They’re all basically clear glue, so just pick one and give it a try.

I learned several things from putting the glossy coating on:

  • Keep your bottle pointed downwards through the whole process and don’t tip it upwards, this will just trap air bubbles.
  • Squirt some out before starting on something you can throw away. There may be bubbles trapped in the tip of the applicator.
  • Outline the outside of your design, getting all the way to the edge, then fill in the middle.
  • It’s tempting to really put a lot on and try to get a nice glossy dome shape on top, but at some point, the tension of the liquid will be too great and it’ll suddenly leak off the sides and all over your surface.
  • If you mess up, just take it to the sink, gently rise off the glaze and dry completely before trying again (if it’s not dry it will all just run off again).

After the glossy coating is dry (I let mine sit for a day to be sure), get out some jewelry pin backs (or your favorite jewelry findings) and glue them down.   I used my favorite all around glue, E6000.  It’s an amazing industrial glue and wasn’t going to come off these pins without a fight.  E6000 needs to sit for a whole day.

And here’s one of my pins on my work duffle.