For the Love of Tools: Part 3

Are these getting old? These love of tool posts? I can stop. Really, I can. I swear. Just let me tell you about my scissors. Then I'll stop. Maybe. We'll see.

I hate tools that come in stupid packaging made just for such-and-such reason. For instance I came across a scissor the other day labeled "Just for embroidery!" and really they're just a pair of cheap children-sized scissors that have been re-packaged. Ugh.

Anyway, I didn't know what a cuticle scissor was until I did a project at Smart Design redesigning the Sally Hansen Beauty Tool's line. I don't use them for that purpose - all I saw was the gently curved blade and thought, "Holy crap those would be awesome for snipping a close thread!" Especially important when doing anything with weaving or knitting, since if you slip and errantly snip the wrong thread or yarn, your entire piece can unravel and come apart. Not that I know that from experience. No sir. Never done that before.

(It really stinks, just in case you don't know!)

For the Love of Tools: Part 2

I know it seems a little ridiculous to talk about how great a ruler (straight edge, line gauge, etc) is, so I'll make this brief. I currently use this six inch ruler every day of my life thus it is quite important to me. You may be wondering how that's even possible. How do I have that much stuff to measure? Even now that I think about it, I have no idea. But I know that I use it all the timeKinda how I used to use these really awesome calipers every day at my old job. But that's another post. 

So portable. So versatile (inches and mm! key!). And metric equivalents?!? Yes, please. 

Just try to ignore the fact that it has the initials FAG* on it.  

*It stands for Fischers Aktien-Gesellschaf, in case you were wondering, a bearing company originally founded in Germany. Yeah, get over it. How did I get it, you ask? Probably accidentally swiped it from my super-duper-jet-engine-making job. Whoops.

For the Love of Tools: Part 1

I've decided that I need to share with you all how much I love a good tool. (Insert joke here. Go ahead - once you're done laughing we can continue.) There is nothing like a well made tool that gets the job done. I am so convinced that there are cases where if you don't have the right tool, you shouldn't even bother tackling certain projects. This series will span a number of different tools and the reasons I love them. Ridiculous, I know, but it's one thing I am very passionate about.
When attempting to take apart my upholstery project, I came across a square screw head. It's been a while since I've seen one of these and started to fret that I wouldn't have a screw driver to deal with the situation. I even dreamt that I didn't have the right tool and none of my friends did either. And now you know that I have really boring dreams.

Enter: my handy-dandy Tim Allen Signature Tools screw driver set from the early 1990's, which I stole from my father. Yes, this screw driver was sold under the Tim 'The Tool Man' Taylor Home Improvement advertising scheme. What's even more baffling to me is that my dad would buy something labeled as such. (Perhaps my mom bought it??)

Why do I love this particular screw driver, even though I have one very similar to it and it has a ridiculous label that has (thankfully) almost rubbed off? Fourteen different screw heads of various sizes and shapes all neatly arranged in the handle of the screw driver. No fumbling for where you put the different interchangeable bits. It's sturdy, made of heavy plastic. It has saved my ass and solved many problems in the last 20 years or so and has possibly saved a relationship or two (assembling the IKEA couch with my honey). It has yet to save a life, but there is time Tim Allen screw driver. There is time.

DIY Weaving Paddle

I was watching a weaving video the other day. Yes, I watch weaving videos. Now that we've all stopped laughing, I watched the woman in the video demonstrate a paddle. To put it simply for those who don't weave, paddles can speed up your warping time because they allow you to warp several threads at a time. They do other things, like create stripped warps quickly too, but I won't go into it. Just know that they are a time saver. Anyway, they look like a rigid heddle, which looks like this:

I've never used one, but wanted to try one, but didn't want to buy one. They're pricey, it would take a while to arrive because I'd have to mail order it, and who knows if I'd even like to use it. It also seemed like something I could make. So I decided to put my creative problem solving to the test. Since I don't have access to a super stocked prototyping shop anymore, I often find myself scratching my head wondering how to whip up something it normally took me a few minutes to make. I'd like to say that it's developed my problem solving skills even more.

"All I need is a piece of wood or plastic a few millimeters thick with slots and holes," I thought. Simple, really. Popsicle sticks would totally work, but I'd have to go out and buy them and I wanted something a little more durable.

And then I had that ureka moment: "I HAVE SHRINKY DINK SHEETS!" (I literally said it aloud and woke up a sleeping cat.)

Apparently I introduced my boyfriend to the joyful world of Shrinky Dinks. Oh, Mainers. Granted, living in remote Maine, he didn't have access to toy stores like I did growing up in suburban CT, but really? Not grow up with the wonderment of a shirnky dink? So, for those who don't know, they were "kits" with several plastic sheets of your favorite Disney/My Little Pony/Transformer, etc characters outlined in black for you to color in. Using the provided colored pencils, you'd color a little life into the outlines. Then, when baked in the oven, they would magically shrivel up and flatten out into little half-pint versions of their original selves. I have found memories of my face planted next to the oven window watching in amazement as they transformed.

Apparently now they come complete with dioramas. Which makes sense. I mean, what did I do with those little things once shrunk? Stuck them to the windows only to be forgotten about and then thrown out by a parental unit. Great, I just gave myself 'recycler's guilt'.

Okay, enough. If you're interested in how I made a paddle out of "shirnky dink" material, feel free to check out my instructions below!
DIY Weaving Paddle

You'll need:
- One 10.5"x 8" sheet of shrinky dink plastic** [it's polystyrene (PS, #6 recycle symbol) for you nerdy types]
- My template (or you can use your own)
- Exacto blade
- straight edge
- hole punch
- cardboard (I used the back of a legal pad)
- 400 grit sandpaper
- alcohol and cotton ball
- markers or color pencils to decorate (optional)
**Polystyrene will shrink roughly to 45% of it's original size, so just be conscious of that if you're using your own template or if you don't want to buy shrinky dink sheets and use a muffin container with a #6 recycle symbol that isn't quite as big as I used. 

1.) Rough up both sides of the sheet with sandpaper. I do this because I don't like the way the pastic feels after shrinking. (I'm weird when it comes to tactile things! Why do you think I like fiber?!) It also helps when adding any sort of color or markings, not to mention it reduces the static electricity issue of super smooth plastic. Stuff will stick to it and then it gets baked in and then it's just gross.

2.) Remove excess dust with alcohol and a cotton ball. If there are bits of dust they'll melt in when shrinking. Not cool.

3.) Print out template - make sure you print it at 100%, or else the scaling will be off when you go to shrink the plastic. Tape the piece to the template. (Ignore the fact that I started to trace - totally realized that was unnecessary after I taped the template on!)

4.) Starting with the small holes, cut out the holes and slots with the exacto blade and straight edge. If you do all the long slots first, it'll be super difficult to cut out the smaller ones between.

5.) Punch out edges of slots and holes with the hole punch. This relieves the stress at the corner of the squares and keeps the plastic from tearing. [Nerd fact #2 in this DIY.]

I was feeling punchy.

6.) Decorate if you'd like.

Now comes the fun part.

7.) Heat oven to ~310 degrees. (Anywhere between 300-350 deg is fine.) Place plastic sheet on a piece of cardboard and place in oven.

8.) Watch as it shrinks! (Sorry I don't have pictures!) It will curl up and get all wonky, when it does this DO NOT FUSS WITH IT.  Don't worry it'll flatten out. I swear. If for some reason it sticks to itself - it should correct itself, you just have to wait - but if not take it out and release it, pop it back in the oven and let it finish.

9.) When it's all shrunk down and flattened out you know it's done. Take it out and evaluate if you need to push the slots together (they might be skewed a little). You now have my permission to fuss with it. If it hardens before you have a chance to fix it, just reheat in oven until pliable.

And voila!

Produce Bags!

I shop at farmer's markets and certain grocery stores that are make me feel genrally good about the food I'm purchasing. One thing I have been aching for are produce bags. I loath using plastic bags because they are so wasteful and make me feel generally icky. (I have a complicated love-hate relationship with plastic.) I've been looking for some that are light enough that they don't add money to my bill, but aren't completely boring. The latter being surprisingly hard to find.
Since I went on a supply buying binge, I found these ready-to-dye produce bags.
Via my supply site

I can not wait for them to come in the mail. And one more package to help solidify befriending the UPS Ground guy. 

Supply frustration

The last week has left me frustrated beyond belief. I went to dye a bunch of felt to find that I was mostly out of the color I wanted. Although it didn't matter because I was out of felt. What the eff?

So I went through and did a little inventory check and went on a supply ordering binge. I was a happy little bunny after that. Or so I thought. I then realized I forgot to add things to some of my orders. Grrr.
Via Dharma Trading

Talk about adding salt to the wound! When ordering ready-to-dye supplies, I could have sworn I had included some doggie hoodies. Yeah, go ahead make fun. EXCEPT EVERYONE LOVES THEM. Who can resist a dog in a hoody? It's ridiculous. Ridiculously cute, that is.

Guess I have to go make another order.... Rough! Ruf.

Yarn Co...

Often I buy fiber off the internet thinking it's one thing, just to get it in the mail and find out it feels totally different than what it is. Such is the life of buying tactile things in a not so tactile way. So I've started to scour the NYC area for various yarn stores. It's really hard to find spools for weaving, but there are lots of sources for knitting. 
Recently I went to The Yarn Company, the boon being that they are close to my apartment and also sell high quality yarns. I found this really great 100% merino wool. So soft, naturally dyed, knits up quickly. 

Perfect for last minute Christmas gifts!