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Open University Creative Writing Course - Dec 30, 2009

I'm starting a self-study creative writing course today to help me refresh my writing skills while I have a little time over winter break. I am using a course found here at Open Learn, Open University UK. Feel free to follow along and to comment below if you have discussion points.

Today I'm working on sections 1 and 2, and here are the results of my activities:

Activity 1: Write what you know

Writing what you know means pulling snippets of your daily life and using those words in your writing. it means taking details from around you and making them create a realistic environment for your reader.

Activity 2: Listening activity

Activity 3: Building a believable world

From memory-

Two tall dressers with a chocolate-brown papered-on finish stand on either side of a honey-toned half dresser, topped with a clunky square TV. The California-king has a regal wrought-iron headboard that always pokes me in the back of the head while i'm trying to read, and the mattress is somehow always topped with my least-favorite comforter in the house. Twin nightstands are at the head of the bed, mine topped with library-borrowed craft books and often crafts themselves; Mark's with his alarm clock and the remains of yesterday's pocket contents that did not get transferred to today's pocket.

From observation-

The flat-paint finish of cheaply-maintained apartment walls is beginning to look more scuffed than clean around the edges, and the standard beige short-pile Berber carpet has a distinct walking path, plus a few spots from craft accidents, cats, or messes otherwise. Matrix promo cards, cat toys, and laundry litter the edges of the floor, and on the day before New Year's Eve, the calendar is still pinned up as November. If I change it right now, at least December will see one full day.

Plastic Bag Yarn Christmas Tree - Recycled Holiday Decorations

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate at an eco-holiday craft workshop for San Jose's Our City Forest. I brought along several project ideas for decorating without purchasing anything new, and my plastic bag yarn Christmas tree was a big hit!

Cardstock or thin cardboard
Hot glue gun & glue
Plastic Bag Yarn
Decoration for top

To begin, find a piece of thin cardboard or cardstock. Cereal boxes work well, old poster board from a past school project is perfect for larger trees, or anything flexible yet firm that you can roll up into a cone shape will work. I'm using a piece of used bristol paper from a scrapped drawing assignment last semester.

Find the center point of your edge, and roll the edges of the paper in on themselves. You'll have to cut the bottom to be flat, so don't worry if it's not evened out.

Once you're happy with the shape of your cone, hot glue the edges of the outside down all the way around. Let the glue cool, then trim the bottom of your cone so it sits flat.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Starting at the top, glue the end of your plastic yarn into the hole at the tip of the cone. Laying down a line of glue all the way around the cone tip, wrap the plastic yarn carefully into the glue. Once you get all the way around, continue wrapping the yarn down the cone in a spiral fashion, keeping the yarn tight to the round above it. Add more glue as necessary.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Continue wrapping and gluing plastic bag yarn all the way down the cone. When you get near the bottom and the last layer looks even across, trim excess yarn and cardstock.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Now it's time to decorate our tree. Over an area that will collect excess glitter or hot glue, such as a box or a large piece of paper, apply a dot of hot glue on the plastic yarn tree. Low temperature hot glue works best here, but if you just have a high temperature glue gun, be careful that the hot glue doesn't move around on your tree much.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Holding the tree over the box or paper, and while the glue dot is still hot, cover the hot glue in glitter. Allow glue to cool completely, then shake off excess glitter. Wait for each hot-glue-and-glitter ornament to be completely cool before applying the next one.

If necessary, dust excess glitter off plastic bag yarn with a soft dry paint brush.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Finally, decorate the top of your tree. I used two circles punched from a recycled foil-lined envelope, which I glued back-to-back and finished with a confetti star glued to each side. I cut a tiny slit on both sides of the cone tip, added a little hot glue, and stuck my star medallion to the top.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Here's the tree on my craft table at Our City Forest's Eco-Holiday Craft workshop. You can see people making recycled ornaments in the background. Everything was a big hit!

Here's to great decorations, creating less waste, and a happy holiday to you and yours. Cheers! <3

Yoga Cat - Dizzy

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

New Yoga Position: Downward-Facing Diz

Making T-Shirt Yarn - Recycled Craft Supplies

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

The holidays are here, and it's time to spread the good cheer. Why not make an effort this year to reuse and recycle as many of your gifts as possible?

Today I'll be showing you how to make t shirt yarn, which is great for creating custom yarns, from slim to bulky weight, that can be made into any number of great home decor or fashion gifts.

First, collect t shirts. Specifically, you want a tube knit shirt with no side seams for the best results. Harvest shirts from your give-away pile, your friends' or family's cast-offs or closets (after asking, of course!), or from thrift stores. If you opt for the last option, this is a case where bigger is better. Hit up the men's sections first, heading straight to the xxxl's if possible. Bigger shirts will get you more yardage for the same amount of money.

Wash and dry all shirts when you get them home. Next, we dissect.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Begin by cutting off the hemmed portion of the t shirt as close to the stitching as possible. From there, cut a spiral strip from the bottom edge of the t shirt all the way up to either the armpit area of the t shirt or to the printed design, whichever comes first.

The thickness of your strip will determine the thickness of your yarn, but be careful not to cut down to less than a quarter of an inch strip or you won't be able to stretch your strips into yarn.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Here's one 3xl shirt, cut into 1 continuous strip, before stretching.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Begin stretching the strips between both hands by pulling the strip lengthwise. This works with the properties of a knit stitch to curl the cut ends of the fabric in on the strip, creating a rounded piece of fabric that is easy to work with and looks smooth. Continue pulling the strip until the entire length of the fabric has been stretched.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Here's the same 3xl t shirt after being cut and stretched, waiting to be rolled into a ball.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Here's my original pile of t shirts after being cut, stretched, and wound into balls. As you can see, I've already started crocheting them into a Christmas-colored rag rug. The rag rug was raffled off at the Our City Forest Eco-Holiday Craft Fair, and now has a happy new home!

Enjoy your new yarn, and enjoy making a green impact on our world!

Teaching Alissa to Spin Cotton Yarn

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

On Thanksgiving I finally got a chance to crack into my cotton spinning kit that I ordered from The Woolery. I brought it to my in-laws' place and after dinner my step-niece Alissa and I played with the kit together. I taught her how to brush a rolag with my new 120 pt carders, and then we started to practice spinning.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Here's the carders after Mark assembled them for me. I just cut a flap in the box to accommodate the handles for now, until I can find a more permanent storage solution. Below the cards is my handy dandy cotton spinning kit, complete with tahkli spindle. I like the weight and balance of it. It spins like crazy.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

In no time, Alissa was spinning on her own. She got the principles down really quickly, and I think if she had the opportunity to practice she'd get pretty good at it.

Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Here's the payoff: somewhere around 3 yards of her very own handspun cotton yarn! Cotton isn't easy either, so I've gotta hand it to this kid. She picked it up quick, and she seemed to enjoy it the whole time. I know I had fun helping her learn!

Plying Two Single Yarns on a Drop Spindle - Spinning Tutorial

In this video, Megan LaCore demonstrates plying two single-spun yarns together on a top-whorl drop spindle. Spinning two or more yarns together is a helpful and versatile technique that every spinner should have in their knowledge base.

Leaf Crochet Embellishments - Crochet Pattern

Main Color (MC), Contrasting Color (CC) in worsted weight
crochet hook in 2 sizes between E-G
Tapestry Needle for weaving in ends

Large Leaf:
Use largest hook.

With MC, ch 11, turn to back, skip 1 and sc 10 into single back loop of chain
sl st across short edge without turning
ch 2, sk 2, tc inc 2, dc 2, hdc 2, ch 2, sk 2, ss 2, ch 3, ss 2, ch 2, hdc 2, dc 2, tc inc 2, ch 2, sk 2, ss into beginning st of the row
cut end, pull up through working loop to tie off, leaving tail long enough to sew with or to weave in, as desired.

With CC, pick up a loop at the base of the leaf and sc a decorative line up the foundational center chain of the leaf. cut end and pull up through working loop, then through top loop of leaf. Weave in end on the underside of the leaf.

Small leaf:
Use smallest hook.

With MC, ch 7, turn to back, skip 1 and sc 6 into single back loop of chain
Sl st across short edge without turning
ch 2, sk 2, dc inc 2, hdc 1, ch 2, sk 2, ss 2, ch 3, ss 2, ch 2, hdc 1, dc inc 2, ch 2, sk 2, ss into beginning st of the row
Cut end, pull up through working loop to tie off, leaving tail long enough to sew with or to weave in, as desired.

With CC, sc all the way around the edge to tip of leaf, ch 3, then sc around to bottom edge. Ss into first CC st, then cut end and pull through working loop. Weave in end.

With MC, sc all the way around to the tip of the leaf, ch 4, then sc around to bottom edge. Ss into first MC st, then cut end and pull through working loop. Weave in end.

Button Closure Contrast Edge Plain Headband - Crochet Pattern

Worsted weight yarn,
(Here I'm using Knit Picks Shine Worsted in Laurel for mc, Grass for cc)
Size G hook, or necessary hook to achieve gauge of 4.5 to 5 sts=1 inch
Tapestry needle for weaving ends
Crochet Embellishments (optional)

Body of Headband:
ch 5,skip 1 and sc 3 into the back of the chain
ch 1, sc 3, catching the last loop on the row below into the final sc (continue this at the end of each row), 4 rows
ch 1,sc inc 1 into next 2 sts, sc 1
ch 1, sc 5, 2 rows
ch 1, sc 1, sc inc 1, sc 3
ch 1, sc 6, 2 rows
ch 1, sc inc 1, sc 3, sc inc 1, sc 1
ch 1, sc 8, 2 rows
ch 2, dc 8, 3 rows
ch 2, dc inc 1, dc 5, dc inc 1, dc 1
ch 2, dc 10, 20 rows
ch 2, dc2tog, dc 5,dc2tog, dc 1
ch 2, dc 8, 3 rows
ch 1, sc 8, 2 rows
ch 1, sc2tog, sc 3, sc2tog, sc 1
ch 1, sc 1, sc2tog, ch 3
ch 1, sc 5, 2 rows
ch 1, sc2tog into next 2 sts, sc 1

Button Hole:
ch 1, sc1, turn, 6 rows, pulling final loop big so to not drop stitches while working on other side
Using other end of the skein of yarn and starting on the outside edge, attach to row below by pulling up a loop, leaving enough tail end to weave in later
ch 1, sc 1, turn, 6 rows, cut tail long enough to weave in and then pull through the final loop
Pick up original loop
Ch 1, sc 3, 4 rows
Cut tail long enough to weave in and pull up through free loop, pulling tight.
Using one of the lower tails of yarn, weave to the inside edge of the button hole and up the inside edge to the center. Stitch one side at the center to the other inside edge of the button hole, turning one long hole into 2 button holes.

Contrast edge:
Pick up cc and sc all the way around the edge, sc inc 2 into each corner.
ss into first st, then cut tail and weave in ends

Match up ends to fit head, then sew on two buttons to tab end for closure.

Sew on crochet or fabric embellishments in a complimentary color scheme if desired.

Drop Spinning Yarn with a Wrist Distaff - Timelapse Video

In this timelapse video, I'm working with superwash wool, a top-whorl drop spindle (The Babe) and a handmade felted wrist distaff. A distaff is designed to help keep fiber clean and neat while spinning, and keeps it from catching in the yarn as it is being spun. It also helps limit fiber shedding onto clothing and furniture, and minimizes collection of particles, pet hair, or random fuzz into the fiber.

Reading Shawl - Knitting Pattern

Reading Shawl
Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Last night I finished a new pattern I designed for a birthday present for one of my best girlfriends. It's a big shawl, perfect for the cool fall days in the bay area, and great for curling up on the couch to read with.

I have a feeling I'll be making a bunch of these this year, because they're fast, easy, and knit up with huge needles and only 3 balls of yarn. Can't go wrong there!

Reading Shawl
Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

3 balls Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick yarn, 3 colors (pictured: oatmeal, barley, taupe)
1 set size US 19 ( 15.0 mm) knitting needles (or size needed to obtain gauge)

Gauge for 4"x4":
7 sts by 8 rows

Approximate dimensions:
55" width x 35" length

Gauge and dimension are not critical in this piece, and dimensions can be altered by adding or decreasing stitches and rows to create desired length and width.

Reading Shawl
Originally uploaded by theartofmegan


Row 1: Starting with Color 1 (C1) and using the long-tail method, cast on 60 sts. Leave C1 to the side.
Row 2: Pick up Color 2 (C2) and k 60 sts. Leave C2 to the side.
Row 3: Pick up Color 3 (C3) and k 60 sts. Leave C3 to the side.
Row 4: Carry up C1, *k1, yo*, repeat * 58 times, k.
Row 5: Carry up C2, *k1, drop 1*, repeat * 58 times, k.
Row 6: Carry up C3, k 60 sts.
Row 7: Carry up C1, k 60 sts.
Row 8: Carry up C2, *k1, yo*, repeat * 58 times, k.
Row 9: Carry up C3, *k1, drop 1*, repeat * 58 times, k.
Row 10: Carry up C1, k 60 sts.
Row 11: Carry up C2, k 60 sts.
Row 12: Carry up C3, *k1, yo*, repeat * 58 times, k..
Row 13: Carry up C1, *k1, drop 1*, repeat * 58 times, k.
Row 14: Carry up C2, k 60 sts.
Row 15: Carry up C3, k 60 sts.
Rows 16 - 60: repeat rows 4-15.
Rows 61 - 75: repeat rows 4-14.
Row 76: Carry up C3, bind off. Weave in ends.

Here's more knitting shawls I've made in different colors:

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