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DIY Knitting Needles

July 17, 2012   //  Posted in: DIY   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses
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File this under Things I Never Thought I’d Need To Make.

I’ve been toying with a handmade rug project on and off for the last month, and its ultimate success has been possible thanks to a set of knitting needles that I made myself using an inexpensive wooden dowel from Home Depot. I have a lot more to say about the rug project itself, but for now, a quick tutorial:

Learn to make your own knitting needles.

Why make your own knitting needles, you ask? Aren’t they supremely accessible in so many sizes that it would make your head spin?

I have some points to make:

  • I’m no knitting prodigy (har har, is it obvious?), but I was having a hard time finding needles that would be thick enough (think wider than US 50, 25mm diameter) to produce a rug that was loosely woven and appropriate for the “yarn” I was working with.
  • And sure, there are tons of varieties when it comes to needle length and material that the needle’s made from, but I wanted a rug that was at least 18″ wide, and the longest needles at the stores I scoped out that were also US 50+ were only 14″ in length.
  • Did you know you can find a 3/4″ dowel that’s 4 feet long for <$4? Right on.
  • And if you cut said dowel into two matching 24″ pieces right at the store, they’ll fit in the basket of your scooter and be easier to carry home. Or across your bicycle handlebars. Whatever works.

How did I take simple dowels and make them into functioning knitting needles? With a simple utility knife. Carefully so as not to razorblade off my fingers, through my jeans, or through the table I was working on, I carved away at the ends in small, choppy chisels until the point was narrow and gradual enough to easily hook and hold the strands while I knitted.

DIY knitting needles. Looking rough post-carving.

I did wonder whether the roughness of the wooden needles would end up snagging or wearing down the materials that I had planned to work with, but found that any sign of roughness wore down naturally, almost being sanded by the yarn I was using. No snagging, no tearing or shredding, and now they’re perfectly smooth and easy to use.

Any roughness on the DIY knitting needles softened right up once I began to knit.

Their length alone makes them a little more unnatural and unwieldy than common thin 10″ knitting needles, but they did produce an amazing product, which looks absolutely nothing like the teal yarn ball that I’m holding in the next picture. It’s all about the suspense this week, folks.

Knitting a rug!

I’ll be back tomorrow with a nice little recap of how my first attempt of knitting an rug went down. In the meantime, you might be interested in checking out a few DIY closet details can be seen in a little feature of mine on DIY Network!

Six Years Of Jade

July 16, 2012   //  Posted in: Casual Celebrations   //  By: Emily   //  one response
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It’s impossible to imagine where I’d be if I hadn’t moved to Rochester 6 years ago today. Probably not doing this, that’s for sure. Prior to taking an entry-level position in a local advertising agency, I interviewed at agencies and companies in Buffalo, Harrisburg, and Washington D.C., and I could have been anywhere other than that by now given the right opportunity.

It’s nothing that doesn’t cross my mind every day, how great life can be and how I love everything about it at the moment, it’s just a little more top of mind on a day like today when I’m remembering how my parents moved me into a sketchy little apartment on a 90-degree day and somehow I didn’t die of a gas leak or get abducted by the shady didn’t-want-me-there landlord.

Last year when I wrote of a mini-celebration honoring my anniversary of moving to Rochester, I presented the 5-year Jade plant that I adopted my first year in town. Left behind by an old roommate, it was tiny. A succulent newbie. But now it has blossomed. In fact, in just the last 6-months I’ve seen more growth than ever before, and maybe that’s some metaphor for life in general, but really, the plant’s the bomb. Those green arrows indicate new spurts of growth, assuring me the plant isn’t always just going to be a one- or two-legged stalk of a Jade, it’s got it going on in all directions.

That little Jade's really showing off on my 6th year anniversary of moving to Rochester.

Anyone else there use obscure growing objects to measure marked progression, literally or figuratively? Back tomorrow with an unexpected little DIY. A crafty game-changer. Until then!

Quickie DIY: The Oak Staining Test You’ve Been Asking About

July 13, 2012   //  Posted in: DIY, Kitchen   //  By: Emily   //  8 responses
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On Monday when I wrote about getting my kitchen party started, I received a bunch of thoughtful comments and emails directing me to a handy DIY post on monicawantsit.com. The post, quite simply, demonstrates how Monica achieved an amazing oak cabinet transformation using General Finishes stain, much in the way I’ve been planning to stain my oak kitchen cabinets.

Her pictures and finished cabinet look great, no doubt about that, but I did have some of my own questions/concerns/general curiousities that didn’t seem to be answered in the comments:

  1. How is it that you don’t have to sand the manufacturer’s finish off completely?
  2. Does adding 2-3 layers of stain in a way thicker than I might normally stain wood allow the natural grain of the wood to show through?
  3. Or is it too opaque, and really look more like painted wood when you’re not upclose?
  4. Is it really an even way of coating the cabinets, using a sock to smother the wood, or are there still going to be some areas that vary in shade (like on my own very first test run)?
  5. Does it really matter that my supplier said that Gel Stain by General Finishes was discontinued, and sold me a thicker-than-the-ordinary water-based wood stain to use instead?
General Finishes Water-based Wood Stain.

I’ve already started some sanding work on my own kitchen cabinets, but if this works, it could save me a lot of time in the sanding arena. Dare I say, it would be a magical solution.

Because I still have plenty of unused oak cabinets in the attic from when I lessened my overhead load a few years ago, I removed one the smallest cabinet doors and decided to sacrifice it for the cause so that I didn’t have to risk messing up one of the cabinets that I actually needed to reinstall.

Oh yes. Another oak staining test. Please let this one be magical.

After cleaning off the cabinet door with TSP-PF and wiping it clean with a damp cloth, I followed Monica’s tutorial closely, first sanding the door lightly (I used 120 grit sandpaper on the Craftsman Multitool). Her instructions indicated to spend about a minute on each door, but I spent closer to two, mostly because I worked slowly in the beveled areas to keep the sanding even and neat.*

Sanding the cabinet lightly. Stress on the lightly.

*First note: Probably should have followed this up with a quick hand sanding to eliminate some swirlies left by the tool.

I even had tack cloths on hand. If you haven’t used them before, they feel like cheesecloth covered in something sticky like wax or honey. All sawdust will cling to its tack-iness and really help to clean up whatever you’re cleaning easily.

Cleaning the cabinet sawdust with a tack cloth. Works like a charm.

It honestly didn’t feel sanded well enough at this point, but I was determined to test out the tutorial her way anyways.

Just last week Pete just threw out about 19 singleton/unmatched socks and even asked me if I wanted them for staining, but I declined. Low and behold, now I needed some to use for the stain application, so I had to sacrifice a pair of my own. Footies.**

Aw yes. The sock is on, let's stain this baby.

**Second note: In hindsight, I should have used the smooth outside cotton, not the slightly pilled/rough inside of the sock. I figured this out by the third coat, and it made a little bit of a difference.

The first coat went on smoothly enough; I had to saturate the sock a little more to really get the stain in the bevels completely (a foam brush would have worked too).

Stain coat #1. Looking rough, just like we've been warned by Monica.

The piece did look like crap after the first coat, as Monica and everyone in her comments also cited, but I’m happy to say that the stain did not oversaturate in the bevels the same way that it had for me on my first test. I attribute this back to the fact that much of the manufacturer’s finish was still present.

Stain coat #1. Looking rough, just like we've been warned by Monica.

Where stain saturation was apparently an issue, was how I used the sock to stain in the direction of the wood grain. In the corners, the grain changes direction and my socks streaks overlapped a bit. Hopefully it would clear up by the time a second or third coat was applied.

Stain coat #1. Looking rough, just like we've been warned by Monica.

Coat two looks better in pictures than it did in person; I waited a full 24-hours to apply it over the first coat. In this next picture, it is still wet, and it also looks very streaky in the center panel.

Coat #2 helped, but it was still looking streaky. *May have been a factor of my inside out sock.

Along the bevels is where this method worries me a lot. Can you see in the bottom of the photo how the grain runs vertical in the picture, and my sock-stain-swipe runs horizontal? Sorry that I slapped the text right over that focal point.

Coat #2 helped, but it was still looking streaky. *May have been a factor of my inside out sock.

Because it was still streak-city when I finished the second coat, I did proceed with a third coat after another full 24-hours (this was an all-week project). There’s a stain can shadow over the top right corner of the door here, don’t be fooled on its espresso-y richness. In any case, it looked better after the third coat. Happily, I could see the grain, despite light sanding and adding thicker-than-what-felt-right coats of stain.

Coat #3 still looked streaky. More opaque in some places than others. Yikes.

When it dried, I brought it inside. From a far, it looks a lot different inside in the indirect sunlight. Darker. Richer. Good. But I didn’t exactly feel confident yet.***

Coat #3, dried, looked OK from afar in the kitchen.

Up close, it still felt streaky. Some parts were still lighter than others. Maybe it needs a 4th coat. It felt a little “you stained this by hand, you crafty girl, and I can tell that it’s not professional.”***

Know that feeling? I cringe.

But upclose, coat #3 was still inconsistent.

***Third note: There are no coats of polyurethane on this yet because I was in Boston for work all day Thursday, and I didn’t have that kind of energy when I got home late. But would that make that much of a difference in the final streakiness?

I’m needing some major DIY encouragement. Or discouragement. Do I waste my time with this? My god, be honest. Maybe an iced coffee will give me the clarity I need. Off to find one. Have a good weekend!

Editor’s Update: I did it, and it is awesome. Check out the finished cabinets right here.

Looking for the Gel Stain that I used to stain the kitchen cabinets? I could not find it in stores, and my best resource was General Finishes via Amazon. Learn more about the product and purchase it for yourself right here

Makeover your kitchen with this (honest!) tutorial on how to use gel stain to refinish your cabinets.