Sunday, October 16, 2011

Knoodle Knits' 900 Fans Giveaway

In celebration of reaching 900 Fans on Facebook we are hosting a giveaway! Knoodle Knits is offering a custom Little Newsboy Hat to one lucky winner. The winner will be able to choose the hat size (newborn - up age 3), color(s), and embellishments (buttons or flowers on the brim band). Check out these examples:




The winner will be drawn (via random.org) on Tuesday, 11/01/11Here's how to enter:

Mandatory Entry: 
(1 entry) Visit Knoodle Knits on HyenaCart or Etsy and tell us which item in our shops you love the most. Leave it as a comment below.

For extra entries do the following:
(1 entry) Follow @KnoodleKnits on Twitter, and tweet this giveaway. Please tweet "Enter to win a handmade baby or toddler hat from @knoodleknits. http://www.tinyurl.com/436f5qf Ends Nov 1" Leave a comment with a link to your status. You can tweet once a day for the duration of the contest. Leave a comment with your status for each tweet. 1 entry per day.

(1 entry) Follow our blog through Google Friend Connect. Leave a comment.

(1 entry) Subscribe to our posts. Leave a comment.

(1 entry) Become a fan of Knoodle Knits on Facebook. Leave a comment.

(1 entry) Click "Share This" and share this giveaway on your Facebook page. Leave a comment.

(1 entry) Click on the "Google +1" button on this post or any post on our blog. Leave a comment.

(1 entry) Become a fan of The Crunchy Congo on Facebook. Leave a comment.

(1 entry) Follow us through Networked Blogs. Leave a comment.

(1 entry) Grab our button and post it on your blog. Leave a comment.

(2 entries) Blog about this giveaway and link to it. Post a link in the comment.

(2 entries) Post about this giveaway on a message board or forum. Leave a comment with a link.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Freezer Paper T-shirt Printing Tutorial


This tutorial will teach you how to create your own ‘screen printed’ items using ordinary freezer paper. This tutorial is written for adults, but may be done with children under close adult supervision. 


Since the birth of my son I have sought alternative, environmentally friendly, less toxic, processes for a lot of the art techniques that I practice and teach. I recently discovered freezer paper. That’s right, the very stuff you buy in the supermarket to wrap your food in. With a little experimentation I was able to find a comparable method to silk screen printing for the creation of custom printed t-shirts.

I regularly use this process for creating matching tops for the longies that I knit. I have even taught my high school students how to use this method. They have found this exciting since they can do it at home, without the nasty chemicals and expensive supplies used in the traditional printing process.

While I currently hand-cut all of my freezer paper stencils, I have discovered that I can use a Cricut Expression Personal Electronic Cutter to cut stencils. I recently acquired one of these machines, and I can't wait to experiment with it. 

It should be mentioned that one disadvantage to this method is the fact that the stencils that you create are one-time-use only. In other words, once you print with it, the stencil is garbage. With traditional silk screen printing you can reuse the screen multiple times. So if you aren't mass producing shirts, this shouldn't be a problem. 

MATERIALS
plastic coated freezer paper*
marker
X-acto knife
cutting mat or table surface protection
iron
t-shirt printing ink, fabric ink, or acrylic paint
foam or stiff bristle brush
a design or image to work with
t-shirt or (other item) to print onto
*It is important that you have real freezer paper to work with. Wax paper and freezer paper are NOT the same. If your product is waxy on BOTH sides, you’ve got the wrong item.

TIMEFRAME:
1-2 hours are needed to complete this project.

The materials that you will need.


INSTRUCTIONS

First, you will need to collect all of the materials. Freezer paper can be purchased at most supermarkets. One roll will go a long way and enable you to create a lot of printed items. T-shirt printing ink, fabric paint or acrylic paint can be found at craft supply stores, along with paintbrushes, X-acto knives, and cutting mats. A household iron is also used (although I prefer to use one that is strictly dedicated to craft projects). For this tutorial I used brown, yellow and white Speedball Fabric Ink and an 18 month 100% cotton Cherokee t-shirt.

Next, you will want to find an image or design to work with.You may choose to trace an existing image, or draw your own design. When you are starting out, it helps to choose images that have bold lines and chunky shapes. As you become more skilled, you can choose more sophisticated and detailed images.

Once you have decided on the image you want to use, you will need to transfer it onto the freezer paper. Cut a piece of freezer paper that is large enough to cover the entire area of the t-shirt you are printing. Since the freezer paper acts as a stencil that masks the ink from the shirt, a larger piece will help to protect it from unwanted ink smears.

If you are drawing your image, you can do this directly onto the freezer paper. Make sure that you transfer your image onto the DULL side of the paper. If you are tracing an image, you will again, do this on the dull side. The freezer paper is translucent enough to trace images placed directly underneath it. If you are having trouble seeing the image through the paper, you can use a window as a light table. For this tutorial I chose to draw the oak leaves and acorn directly onto the freezer paper.


The oak leaves and acorn design drawn onto the dull side of the freezer paper.

Now you will begin cutting out your ‘stencil’. Place your freezer paper onto some type of table surface protection. I use a self-healing cutting mat specifically designed for use with craft knives to protect my table surfaces. If you do not own a cutting mat you can use a sheet of thick cardboard or an old (smooth) cutting board. Carefully cut out your image. Make sure you are using a sharp blade to do this. This way your cuts will be crisp, and the pieces of your stencil will come apart easily. You will be cutting out all parts of the design that you want to be printed on the t-shirt. Make sure that you save ALL of the pieces that you cut out, as they will be needed when you attach the stencil to the t-shirt. In my design I am cutting away all of the black lines, but I do not want to discard the white center pieces of the leaves and acorn.

Cutting out the design with an X-Acto knife.

Save ALL of the pieces that you cut out and remove. You will need them later.

The design completely cut out. Notice that I saved ALL of the pieces, including the ‘background’ where the design had been drawn.

After you’ve cut out all parts of the design you will get ready to assemble the pieces onto your t-shirt.

Iron the t-shirt that you will using. This will allow all of the stencil pieces to lay flat on the surface of the shirt, and will help them to stick properly.

Iron your t-shirt before assembling your stencil pieces on the shirt.

Now you will assemble all of the stencil pieces onto the t-shirt and start to iron them into place. When doing this you must place the freezer paper’s SHINY side so that it is touching the shirt fabric. This way when you iron the freezer paper, the wax will melt and adhere to the shirt, creating a secure bond. If you try to iron the freezer paper with the shiny side up, it will stick to the iron and you will have to start over (and probably buy a new iron).

Set your iron to medium/high heat setting without steam. When ironing on the freezer paper pieces, use brisk strokes and make sure to iron down all edges. Don’t leave the iron on the freezer paper too long or you may scorch it. First, iron the ‘background’ onto the shirt. This will help you to place all of the other pieces back into the design.

Iron on the background piece first.

Now start placing all of the other pieces back into the design. You will be placing the white pieces onto the shirt. The white pieces act as a mask and prevent the ink from touching the surface of the shirt. Everything that you drew is left off, since that is where you want the ink to print. (Refer to the pictures on the following page for assistance.)

After all of your pieces have been ironed onto the t-shirt you can start painting the stencil. 

Start adding in the other parts of the design.  Each time you place a piece, run the iron over it to attach it to the shirt. If you want to reposition a piece after it has been ironed on, carefully peel it from the t-shirt and re-iron it into position.


When you have finished ironing on all of the freezer paper pieces double check that the edges of each piece is securely attached. If any of the edges lift, iron them again. If they are not adhered properly ink may get underneath the stencil.


Place a sheet of scrap paper inside your shirt to prevent ink from bleeding through the shirt onto the backside.


A sheet of scrap paper placed inside the shirt will prevent headaches later on.

With your brush, apply a small amount of ink to your stencil. The technique that you will be using to paint on the stencil is called ‘dry brush’. This simply means that you will be adding a light coat of ink to the stencil at first. If you glob on the ink it could ruin your design and prevent the stencil from giving your clearly defined edges. If you find that the initial coat of ink is too light or transparent, you can add a second coat after the first is dry. Make sure that you are getting the ink onto all parts of the exposed fabric of your stencil design. I use perpendicular motions (up and down, side to side) to get the ink completely into the weave of the shirt and ensure solid coverage.


Start applying the ink in small quantities.


Evenly coat the entire stencil. Apply a second coat if necessary.

Allow the ink to dry completely. This could take up to an hour or more depending on the type of ink that you used, and how thick it was applied.

Once the ink is completely dry you can start to peel off the stencil. I usually remove the background sheet first, then all of the smaller inside pieces. If the smaller pieces are stuck to the fabric you can use the tip of your X-Acto knife to help peel them up.



Allow the stencil to completely dry before removing the stencil pieces from the shirt.


The finished shirt.

Read the instructions on the container of your ink. Some fabric and screen printing inks require that you iron the design after you print it before laundering, others do not. 


For this project I used Speedball Fabric Screen Printing Inks in brown, yellow and beige. This ink does not require that you iron the garment after printing.

That's it! Pair your shirt with your favorite longies and you've got a perfectly matched outfit. When laundering your shirt I recommend turning it inside out and using cold water to preserve the design. Of course, it's best to follow the ink manufacturer's instructions for proper care.



Download the PDF of this tutorial here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Autumn's Arrival

Summer is just about over, with the first signs of Autumn fast approaching. The evening air is cooler, leaves are turning, and my mind is racing with the many projects, gifts, and new ideas that I want to tackle. 


This Fall, aside from stocking our shops on Etsy and HyenaCart, we will also be participating in local craft shows. The weekend of September 10th -11th we will be attending the 17th Annual Sheep & Fiber Festival in Ringoes, NJ. I'm excited to take my first spinning workshop and check out local fiber artisans and vendors. I'll be sure to post pictures and information about the Festival once we return.


During the summer months we were busy building inventory and working on custom orders for our awesome clients. We also developed several new hat designs, perfect for newborn photography sessions. I'm eagerly awaiting photographs of our new hat designs by Carrie Steffe of EMA Photography. As soon as we get them back I'll post them to the blog. 


In the meantime, here is a small sample of some of the projects that we completed during the past few months.



Autumn Longies
I love the way these turned out.
This medium-sized gender neutral pair of longies are perfect for the Fall. They are knit with Peruvian wool, and appliqued with crocheted oak leaves on the legs, bum, and hips. The i-cord features two crocheted acorns.



The Little Newboy Set
A crocheted set featuring a 24 x 24 inch lovie by Sarah at Star Crossed Stitches, the Little Newsboy Hat, and an Owl Stuffie. This would make an awesome shower gift.



Gillyweeds & Knoodle Knits Collaboration
This was a semi-custom knit for a sweet mama expecting her 5th baby. The yarn was dyed by Shannon from Gillyweeds, on Peruvian wool, in the 80s Rainbow colorway.


Neverland "Peter" Sweater
I LOVE how this custom sweater turned out.
The pattern is by Tina at Green Strings. This was knit as a gift, as we do not have licensing for this pattern (yet). The yarn was kettle dyed by Knoodle Knits in the Forest Frirends colorway, on Aran Canadian BFL. Custom Tessa Ann Designs buttons complete the set.


Sloane's Shrug
This shrug has been knit in pumpkin colored Peruvian wool and finished with a matching leaf button by Tessa Ann Designs.


Newborn Little Newsboy Cap
Brown and Beige acrylic yarn with a square accent button.


Kettle Dyed Longies
A medium sized pair of longies knit on MMR. The colorway, Blue Truffles, and matching brown trim were kettle dyed by Knoodle Knits.



Floral Longies
Another pair of medium sized longies knit with Peruvian wool in lavender-grey, magenta, and lime green. Crocheted flowers and a vine are appliqued onto the left hip and across the bum. Magenta stripes adorn the legs, and a green stitch detail accents the cuffs.



Autumn Springtime in Hollis
Another Autumn inspired garment, knit with a pattern and licensing from Comfort Wool. This STIH was knit with bamboo and soy yarn in deep colors of purple, orange, and russet. Custom raven and cornstalk buttons by Tessa Ann Designs complete the piece.


The Steinar Sweater
This unisex sweater is an original Knoodle Knits design. Lace details on the yoke and a crocheted placket make this a great heirloom quality cardigan. Coordinating Tessa Ann Designs buttons in the Snowbird style finish the garment.

The Sloane's Shrug Pattern

Over the summer I was busy putting the finishing touches on a new pattern. In late August we released the Sloane's Shrug knitting pattern. The pattern is written for three three sizes, with smaller and larger variations to come in the near future.


It's an intermediate pattern that features lace details and picot edging. You can download it on Ravelry, and if you are interested in becoming a seller, we are also offering cottage licensing.







Saturday, April 30, 2011

Greening the Home

This is supposed to be a knitting blog, right? Well, part of the reason that I knit is because I use cloth diapers and need wool covers for them (but we do lots of other green things). So from now on my blog posts will be peppered with information about environmental issues and other related topics. Of course, I will still post about knitting. 

Our household is pretty eco-friendly in its current state. However, I am always looking for new ways to integrate more environmentally sustainable ideas into our family routine. Our two biggest concerns are conservation of resources, and using products that are safe for both the environment and ourselves.

The recent approval for a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and Walmart reaffirmed my belief in our use of safe products. We are label readers, and we try to avoid products that contain SLS, phthalates and BPA (to name a few).

I've modified most of our household cleaning routines to include vinegar, baking soda, water, elbow grease, and a smattering of essential oils like tea tree and rosemary (both have antibacterial properties). I also have on hand some great green products by Naturally It's Clean



However, I have to admit that I've been challenged in the floor cleaning department. I have had an unhealthy love affair with my Swiffer WetJet, it's disposable pads and noxious solution. I use it almost daily for touch ups in the entry way, kitchen and playroom. For deeper cleaning, which is once a week, I get out the bucket and scrub brush with the Floors concentrate from NIC. 



With the passing of Earth Day I made the decision to conquer the psychological hold that the conventional floor products have had on me, and find out what I could do to modify my Swiffer routine.

If you search the web you can find a dozen or more websites with information about how to convert your Swiffer WetJet into a more eco-friendly tool. The do-it-yourself intensity varies, and you can choose which route to go depending upon your own technical skills. I knew that I did not have time to mess around with trying to sew my own reusable pads, so I started hunting Etsy to see what I could find. 

There are several shops on Etsy that sell pads or covers for both the Swiffer WetJet and the dry Sweeper. Most of the ones I found were either knit or crocheted. However, I knew I wanted microfiber, I just had to find what I had in mind. I finally came across MicroMops' shop, and they had exactly what I was looking for. I purchased the Set of 4 Reusable Eco Friendly Swiffer WetJet Pads in Green. Under this listing they also had some great information about the proper care and use of microfiber.

Not only did I receive my MicroMops microfiber pads quickly, they were beautifully packaged and very well made.

Now I had to find a way to modify the empty solution bottles that I had been collecting. I wanted to find a way to refill them, but more importantly, fill them with eco-friendly products. If you've ever tried to remove the cap from one of these bottles, you'd known that they are conveniently immobile. As luck would have it, the lovely ladies at MicroMops had a link in their shop that provided instructions on how to do this, along with some recipes for green cleaners. It's listed under PIF--Cleaning Tips and How to Refill your Swiffer Bottle. 



I also presented this information to my husband, who decided it would be easier to modify the solution bottles by drilling a hole in the bottom of one and plugging the hole with a rubber stopper (which he apparently has hundreds of). We modified the bottles using both methods. With the first method you can actually store the bottles without fear of them leaking. With the second method the bottle has to remain upside down, or engaged in the mop.


One of our modified solution bottles, using a rubber cork.

 I was able to test my Swiffer modifications about one week after I had made my mind up to do so. I must say, I am very happy with the results, and a bit ashamed that I had not done this sooner. The microfiber pads from MicroMops clean much better than the paper disposable pads. It takes a bit more effort to push the WetJet across the floor, but it also picks up more grime. I have also found that the microfiber pads do a much better job of getting into the grout lines in my entry way and bathroom floors since they are more plush than the disposable pads. The modified solution bottles have also worked well. I no longer have to worry about the chemical content of my floor cleaner. And we've eliminated the noxious perfume smell that comes with the conventional cleaner, something that my allergen-sensitive husband and I are very happy about.


Our new and improved WetJet.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Our Earth Day Project 2011

For Earth Day 2011 I decided to take a break from knitting to focus my creative energy in a different direction.

My son is at the age when coloring has become something fun to do. One of our favorite activities is for me to draw an animal, ask him to identify it by name, then color it in. Although he manipulates a standard crayon pretty well, he also delights in breaking them. So I've known for some time that we needed a different type of crayon.

A casualty of toddler-led cause and effect exploration.

A few months ago, when he was just learning to use crayons, our neighbor had given him a brand name 'toddler' set. They come packaged in threes, with egg-shaped holders. In theory these crayons were a great idea. The only problem was that the refills were nearly impossible to find, and he had figured out (within minutes) how to pull the little crayon nubs from their holders. So we had to limit his access to these crayons, which was a big drawback.

As fortune would have it, while cleaning out my parents' attic recently, I came across a huge cache of old crayons. So, today I decided to set about repurposing them for more toddler-friendly use. 

Jackpot! A crayon cache in Grammy's attic.

The two of us spent the evening unwrapping crayons. I used an X-Acto knife to cut a slit down the length of each crayon, and showed him how he could unwrap them. This pseudo-destructive task was right up his alley. It was a great way to involve him in the process because it was something he could easily do. Plus, I didn't want him near the area where I was chopping up the crayons. 

All of the spent wrappers strewn about the floor.


Some people choose to use a food processor to grind up the crayons, but I'm not a fan of contaminating food-use items with craft materials. Therefore, I used a blunt-end blade and non-food cutting board to chop each crayon. It was slow, but it allowed me to control the size of each crayon bit. I made them approximately a quarter of an inch in length because I wanted the end product to show the various tones of each crayon.

The chopping area, prior to prepping the warm colors.


I used an old muffin tin that was no longer needed for baking. Some websites suggested using spray cooking oil as a mold release, but I decided against this. Instead I employed  some leftover foil muffin liners that my mom had given us. I discovered that when I do this project again, I do not need to use the liners. The melted wax will pop out of each mold once thoroughly cooled (you can place the tin in the freezer to speed this up).

Each liner received a generous amount of crayon bits. I estimate that we used six crayons per mold. My son helped me to fill the liners with all of the cool colors that we had prepped. We purposely combined various shades of blue, green, and purple in each mold. This was another great way to involve him in the process. I taught him the name of each color as he picked it up, and guided him to the appropriate mold with similar hues. If we do this when he is older, I will probably just let him pick where the crayon bits go. Once the first batch was filled I set the tray aside so that he could have dinner and a bath before bed.

After he was in bed I preheated the oven to 200 degrees. When ready, I placed the tin into the oven and watched the melt progress. It took about 15 minutes for the crayons to melt completely, with some colors melting faster than others. 

First batch in the oven. There is one cake without a liner.


When done, I set them aside to cool and began prepping the next batch, all of the warm colors. With the first batch ready to be released, I simply peeled the liners away from each wax cake. I then decided to reuse the liners (we only had nine to work with) for the second batch, just so that all of the crayons would be consistent in texture. 

Close-up of the a cooling cake, without a liner.
You can see tiny crayon bits melted all over the tray.
Although it would clean off easily, it is important to keep
food and crafting utensils separate.



I found that the second batch came out a little 'wonky'. This was due to the fact that the liners did not sit in the tray perfectly. They were a bit deformed when removing them from the cakes in the first batch. This is purely an aesthetic thing, something that will bother mama more than it would a toddler.
Second batch in the oven, with the reused liners.
Notice, they do not sit in the tray perfectly when the liners are reuse
d.



The second batch of warm colors and value tones fresh out of the oven.


As a final finishing touch I used an old peeler to trim the top and bottom edges of each crayon cake. If you do not use the muffin liners you will probably be able to skip this part. I didn't want tiny little crayon chips (created by the ridges of the liners) flaking off during the first use. 

It's hard to see, but these cakes have been trimmed.

In under two hours I was able to bring new life to a batch of old crayons. Not only was I able to repurpose materials, I created something that my son would have fun playing with. I managed to create two cakes of each 'color', as well as one value tones cake (black, white and grey) and two metallic mixed cakes. I'll divide them into two sets so that they last longer.

He won't see the finished products when he wakes up in the morning though; we'll be tucking these brightly colored crayon cakes into his Easter basket on Sunday morning, along with a few pages of recycled paper. 

The finished toddler-friendly crayon cakes.