To become a master crafts person you have to start somewhere

It is true, in order to master anything, you must first start.  You have to make a decision about what it is that you want to become a master of.  The next step after making that decision is to start with the basics and practice, practice, practice, and practice some more until your ability to execute the technique has become almost second nature to you.  In beading this means that you must first start with a decision about what type of beads you will work with, delica  or large chunkier beads and the material to string them on.  Will you make a necklace, bracelet, anklets or are you looking for something a little more practical, a keychain, a beaded coin purse? Are you willing to rip it all apart and start over, or will you abandon the object just a few stitches in because it is more difficult than you thought?  My suggestion is to start with seed beads or pony beads, these beads are easier to work with when first learning.

When working with pony beads, they are larger than a seed bead so manipulation of the bead and thread are quite easy, most of the time you wont need a needle when working with these beads as the hole is large enough for lanyard if that is the type of stringing medium you wish to use.  Macro may thread is also great when working with pony beads.  You can thread a few beads then macro may a design for a spacer before weaving in more pony beads.  The design possibilities with the different types of threads, wires, and cords on the market today are only limited by the designers imagination.  If you live in a town where craft supplies are not that readily available I would suggest checking out the following article where I will compare some of the places you can find the exact thread for the needles you already posses, or if you can get the right thread but no needles we’ve got you covered there to.

I prefer working with seed beads as I am considered to be a petite woman.  I stand about 5’2″, weighing in around 130 pounds.  I also have a chronic pain condition so having large chunkier pieces of jewelry make me look even smaller than I am and cause great discomfort for me.  The nice thing about seed beads is their versatility from a simple strand of beads to intricate designs that are woven on a loom or sewn into a delicate fashion accessory statement. I am excited to discover the endless techniques that I have yet to learn.  I am certain I could spend a life time learning the different techniques of weaving, threading, and sewing these little guys into designs that are just mind blowing.  In the beginning paragraph of this article I suggest that you ask yourself if the project you really want to do is one that you will follow through with.  Working with seed beads is time consuming and can be quite messy.  I hate having to pick things up and put them away once I have gotten ready to start a project, or in the middle of one when my hands decide that they are taking  unscheduled vacation days.

The first technique I learned when working with seed beads was to string a simple one color necklace.  I like to use the Beadalon Big Eye Beading Needles as they are simple to thread and to pass through beads that already have been threaded once or twice before.  I also like to use cotton thread, not the smallest as this will twist and knot up and unravel when you are working with it, beeswax to draw the cotton thread through so that it doesn’t get damaged by any rough edges on the beads and a pair of needle nosed pliers to help pull the needle through if the thread starts to get to thick to get the next or last pass of thread through.  I would have to guess at size D, the craft stores where I live don’t consistently carry the same size or brands of thread and very few of the beading needles I like to use.  You will need to tie a knot around one bead and then proceeded to string on the other beads.  I thought to myself, “This is simple.  I could make a bunch of these in no time.”  After you have threaded enough beads for the desired length, thread the needle down three or four beads and tie a knot, cut the leftover thread.  After I cut the remainder of the fish line, I noticed my necklace was all twisted up, and kinkie too.  I thought it looked like crap and could not figure out why.

I soon discovered, that if I slowly rolled the beads between my fingers the kinkes started to straighten out.  I continued to do this and notice about the second or third time around the necklace that some of the beads were smaller than the others, or not as round as those they lay between.  I realized then that it really is important to sort your beads first!  Not only so that they are of consistent size, but also you will find several beads that are broken, the holes way to small, or perhaps the bead is just a sliver of what it should be.  All of these things will slow you down and could possibly make you have to cut you item apart and start over, or possibly just give up and forget about beading ever again.  This step is the most important I believe, no matter what type of beads you are using if you want your item to have a consistent look, a neat and tidy look, then sort your beads before you begin to string them.  As you get a few inches of beads on the string, roll them through your fingers to straighten out any kinkes, and to get the beads to stack straight.  This will not only help to give your finished product a more cohesive look, but it will help you to practice building the foundation for more difficult techniques and a foundation for unique, individual pieces of jewelry that hopefully one day will get passed down to the next generation with the story of how that item came to be in Granny’s jewelry box.  And remember, Keep on Crafting Montana!

Oooo, would you look at that!
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No Name Gluten Free, Sugar Free Cookie

I made this beautiful gluten free, sugar free rhubarb, strawberry pie for Christmas Day Dinner.  I came back to my computer a couple of days later to type the recipe into this blog, and guess what?  I lost the recipe.  It was a beautiful, light, flavorful shortbread type crust made from gluten free brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and coconut flour.  I can’t remember how much butter and water I used though, so I have to try and recreate the pie crust recipe.  I thought when I made the original crust that it would make a nice cookie as well.  Here is the first try at a gluten free, sugar free cookie.  I like the taste and texture, but it is nothing special.  It turned out to be a soft cookie, with flavor but nothing too distinguished.  Below are the ingredients and measurements I used to make the cookie.  They couldn’t have been to awful tasting after all I ate all two dozen of them.

 

No Name Gluten Free Sugar Free Cookie

  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 12 cup watercookie
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter or Margarine
  • 1 Egg
  • 3 Heaping Table spoons of Stevia

Mix all ingredients together until a nice creamy dough appears.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Drop by

Teaspoon fulls onto parchment paper on cookie sheet.  Bake 15-20 min, until golden brown on the bottoms.

Makes about 24 cookies.

Why don’t you give these a try, they are a nice light, little cookie that can surly satisfy anyone who is stuck on a diet of hard, crunch things for snacks.  I get tired of eating nuts and seeds all the time and want something soft to snack on.  These cookies fill that bill.  I will be trying different things like adding peanut butter, or chocolate to see how I can change it up, but for a basic gluten free, sugar free cookie this one is pretty good and you can dress it up with a little frosting and some sprinkles if you like.  If you bake these cookies, please let us know how they turned out for you and what you think of them.  If you are tired of eating healthy food that taste like your lawn, or a cardboard box then you have to try these cookies.

Remember, Keep on Crafting Montana!

Oooo, would you look at that!
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Weather Snake

I remember as a little girl one of the first things my Mother taught us to crochet was a weather snake.  These were long tubes that we crochet using a variety of stitches.  This one is made using the half double stitch.These snakes would be placed at the bottom of doors or windows to stop the drafts, and it is a great way to use up scrap yarn.  I hate throwing anything out, so I stuffed mine with stuffing from a pillow that someone had given me.  Below are the instructions for a Crochet Weather Snake.

Great for stopping drafts under doors or windows!

 

Crochet Weather SnakeHand Crochet Weather Snake

Chain 4. Join into a circle with a single stitch.

Row 1: Chain 2, Insert hook into circle, pull up thread, pull thread through both loops on the hook.  This is what I call a half double crochet.

Do this 18 times, for a total of 19 half double crochets, the first double crochet is the chain two. Join each row with a single stitch and start each row with a chain two.  Repeat this until your snake has reached its desired length.  This particular snake is 39 1/2 inches.

I found it easier to stuff the snake as I went along.  I would do four or five rows, then stuff in a handful of the batting from the pillow I was up cycling.  I have enough stuffing from this one pillow to do quite a few projects.

Keep on Crafting Montana!

Oooo, would you look at that!
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Strawberry Rhubarb Gluten Free Pie

I just love strawberry rhubarb pie, just rhubarb pie.  When I was a little girl, my mom would make a rhubarb sauce that we would poor over vanilla ice cream.  Man it was so good, your mouth would water just thinking about it, or at least mine does still to this day.

I have been told a couple of different times that I needed to be gluten free because my body could not digest the protein gluten.  I tried back in the early 80’s but everything tasted like the cardboard box, coated with some sort of plastic and gave up after a year of trying.  I have been trying to go completely gluten free since 2009.  I continued to find that the foods prepared for commercial marketing lack taste and do not take into consideration the combination of foods some of us can not eat for one reason or another, my other problem food is sugar, and most combinations of sugars our other foods break down to.  So I make things from scratch  Sometimes they end up being dogie treats for my service dog, Dee, and some times I come up with something really good.  Below find the recipe and step by step instructions for making this gluten, sugar free strawberry, rhubarb pie!  Just add your favorite topping, beverage or memory of eating rhubarb pie and you have the perfect relaxing winter day. The first pie was made with sugar free Jello strawberry flavored, but once I noticed it had aspartame in it, I chose to just add some tapioca flour to the fruit mix for a thickening agent on the second and finale pie I baked.

The crust is like a shortbread crust, very light and flavor full.  The first fruit mix was just delicious, sweet and tart at the same time.  I ate the whole pie, and decided that I didn’t need to use the Jello, as it does contain aspartame and apparently the taste of the aspartame was addictive to me.  The second pie was not nearly as sweet as the first pie but it did have a nice balance between sweet and tart, but it could have had more of a jelly type sauce like the canned fruit for pies or even when cooking with refined sugar.  Steveia does not become syrupy when heated, I would suggest adding some Knox gelatin to thicken it appropriately.  Adding tapioca is an old trick, but if the fruit and sugar do not make a syrup like liquid the pie will seem dry and the fruit will look more leathery and less inviting.

Gluten Free Sugar Free Strawberry Pie

That is how my pie turned out, and below is the recipe for the one with the Jello in it.

 Pie Crust

  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 8 Tablespoons (1/2 cup) salted soften to room temperature Butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Cut butter into flours, until crumbly.  Add about 1/4 cup water one tablespoon at a time, working dough with hands until a soft ball forms.
  • Place dough in a 8 inch pie pan and press out and up sides.  Fill with fruit mixture.
    Fruit Filling
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberry
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen Rhubarb chopped small.
  • 1 pkg Sugar free Strawberry flavored Jello 0.60 oz.
  • 2 Heaping Tablespoons Stevia, almost 1/4 cup.
  • If using frozen fruit let defrost in Stevia and jello powders.  Stir and add to pie crust.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake pie about 1 hour.

The one thing I did not like about using the Jello is that it contains Aspartame.  Some people have a funny reaction to Aspartame, so if you choose not to use the Jello, you can add tapioca to the mixture, about 1 Tablespoon to help thicken the fruit mixture.  The Jello pie has a little more flavor, and a better filling jell, I think it could be achieved using Knox gelatin, but I haven’t tried it yet.  Give this a try and let me know what you think.

And remember, Keep on Crafting Montana!

Oooo, would you look at that!
Posted in Gluten Free

Montana’s Florence Crittenton Home Calls for Handmade Items

Florence Crittenton Home

Florence Crittenton Home

The Florence Crittenton Home & Services  in Helena, Montana, has been providing its clients for the past 114 years with intervention and prevention services to pregnant and parenting young women and their children.  Brittney Shirley states, ” We believe the most effective way to improve life outcomes is to provide very early intervention for young children and support, educate, and encourage their parents.  Florence Crittenton uses intervention strategies for those young parents struggling with barriers to provide care to their children-barriers such as trauma, substance abuse or histories of inter-generational abuse, neglect and poverty.  Providing services to pregnant teens and their children does not just affect the lives of these two individuals, but the lives of their entire families for generations to come and the communities in which they live and work.”

Florence Crittenton does accept hand crafted items as donations.  Ms. Shirley says they receive a great number of crochet and knitted items but would love to have some sewn items as a fresh change.  Below is a list of items they are currently seeking:

Cloth burp rags

Terry washcloths

Muslin swaddling blankets (not crib blankets)

Hats

Pre-made scrapbook pages for our young moms

Picture frames

 Swaddling blankets should be around 42X42, made mostly of muslin but the boarder can be cotton.  The children they help are of newborn to toddler ages and hat sizes should be geared for those age groups. I have taken the liberty to enclose a couple of links to other crafting websites so that you may find a pattern for the cloth burp rags: http://www.sewingsupport.com/sewing-how-to/free-patterns-and-projects/baby/burp-cloths.html, and patterns for sewn hats: http://smalldreamfactory.blogspot.com/2011/09/free-pattern-toddler-hat.html.  

If you would rather make a monetary donation please go to their site at, http://www.florencecrittenton.org.

Remember to Keep on Crafting Montana.

 

Oooo, would you look at that!
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Have A Spooktacular Halloween

 

The air is crisp, the leaves are falling from the trees and in Montana we usually have snow on the ground by the time Halloween rolls around.  Unfortunately, not all children will have the opportunity to go trick or treating around the neighborhood or in a neighboring  town like my sisters and I got to do.  We lived in a small town named Ledger.  The population at the time was twelve people, there were six people in our family so that tells you there were only three houses we got to go trick or treating at, after we hit every house there, our folks would drive us twenty-five miles down the road to Conrad.  Our Grandparents Egan lived there and of course we had to show Grandma our costumes and run the streets in Conrad filling up our pillow cases with all the candy we could score.

Our favorite place to go trick or treating in Ledger was Freda Hall’s store.  Her store was one small room with shelves of can goods, bread and cigarettes.  She also had milk and soda pop which she kept in the refrigerator in the back where her living quarters were.  There was also a large long glass case with three shelves where all the candy was housed.  The top self held candy that was priced a penny to five cents, the second shelf was a dime and the bottom shelf held the prized candy bars that sold for a whopping twenty-five cents.

Today most children attend Halloween parties put on by churches, schools or a group of people that are trusted.  There has been an unfortunate turn in the tradition of trick or treating by a handful of people who put foreign objects into candy bars, or home made baked goods that could cause serious harm to those who consume those items.  I remember when my girls were still of trick or treating age the hospitals would allow you to bring your bootee in and have it x-rayed to make sure that it was still eatable.  I’m not sure that they still do that as things have changed vastly since my girls were little.  One thing that hasn’t changed is too keep our children safe during this holiday that was designed as a way for the little beggars to get their sugar fix for the next few weeks or until Mom has had her fill of the sugar rushing and tosses it out. Here are a few suggestions from the Consumer Product and Safety Commission:

Halloween Safety In 3 Steps

Prevent Fires & Burns
~Select flame-retardant materials when buying or making costumes and accessories.
~Choose battery operated candles and lights in-stead of open flame candles.

See & Be Seen
~Trim costumes and outerwear in reflective tape.
~Carry flashlights or glow sticks when trick-or-treating after dusk.

Fit for Safety
~Adjust costumes to ensure a good fit. Long skirts or capes can drag on the ground and cause falls.
~Secure hats, scarves and masks to ensure adequate visibility and ventilation

 If you go to their website, http://www.cpsc.gov, you can download and print out a cool Halloween poster with these great tips to handout to all the parents you know.And remember, Keep On Crafting Montana.
Oooo, would you look at that!
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