My Week at Puppet Fantasy Camp

Beyond the Sock puppetry workshop

I just got back from the best vacation ever.

My husband and I went to the Beyond the Sock Puppetry Workshop where we spent a week learning how to make – and perform – hand and rod puppets.

So! Much! Fun!

Here we are with our instructors (and our finished puppets).

Beyond the Sock - our teachers

From left to right that’s Peter Linz, Noel MacNealย (both puppeteers for Sesame Street and lots of other shows/movies) and Pasha Romanowski (puppet-builder and pattern-designer extraordinaire).

What an incredible week! We spent every morning working on our puppets, and every afternoon learning how to perform them.

I’ll start with the making – the part that was definitely my happy place. ๐Ÿ™‚

Everyone worked from the same pattern – which was a great way to learn. This year it was a cute cat. ๐Ÿ™‚

Beyond the Sock 2018 - cat pattern

Previous years have been rats, monkeys, chickens, penguins, and pirates.

Even though we all worked from the same pattern, we all used different materials and ended up with wildly different puppets. And we didn’t get to choose our materials – we got mystery boxes like on Master Chef.

Beyond the Sock 2018 - mystery boxes

I got this really thick, lush, grey fur.

Beyond the Sock 2018 - my fur

And the fur my husband got may look familiar to some of you!

Beyond the Sock 2018 - Alan's fur

I used it for one of these monsters and in this tutorial showing how to cut fur. It’s one of my favorites!

We built a foam structure, staring with the mouthplate and basically building out from there.

Beyond the Sock - building the mouthplate

After the foam structure was finished, we sewed all the fur and everything into a skin and slipped it over the foam – a very tight fit!

Then it was time to add eyes and accessories and all that and I forgot to take pictures because I was totally engrossed. ๐Ÿ˜‰

But take a look at some of the finished puppets!

Here are mine and Alan’s.

Beyond the Sock - finished puppets

I love his bowler hat and mustache!

Mine has a little gemstone stud in her nose and she was supposed to get purple feather streaks in her hair, but I ran out of time. I’ll add them later. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here are some others. . .

Beyond the Sock - finished puppets

Beyond the Sock - finished puppets

Aren’t they awesome?

Now – the performing.

This was the part that was WAAAY out of my comfort zone – but I still loved it!

Beyond the Sock - learning to puppeteer

We were learning how to puppeteer on TV – not live – and that’s a very different thing. You have to make sure your puppet is standing up straight (a constant problem for me) and moving/looking in the right direction. For those of you who have watched my “welcome to the new month” videos where I show the new Ami Club pattern – you know I’m very directionally challenged when it comes to recording! ๐Ÿ™‚

In that shot above, we’re trying to make all our puppets look in the same direction – which is surprisingly hard!

And in this one, you can see what we look like performing, and on the monitor.

Beyond the Sock - learning to puppeteer

We were trying to get our group of three centered on the screen, filling the screen, not showing our rods, and all looking at the camera. ๐Ÿ™‚

And then they had us acting and lip synching and doing improv on top of all the puppeteering! So many things to remember!

We did a bunch of performances on the last night, including a big song and dance number that had over twenty of us packed into that space below our puppets. Crazy!

Really – it was a totally incredible week and we want to go back next year.

If any of you are interested in making puppets, Pasha has a terrific website with video tutorials and sells really well-designed patterns. It’s called Project Puppet and I can’t wait to make my next one!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

Stitches Midwest and lots of inspiration!

Yarn and Craft Newsletter from FreshStitches

Events

Hey guys! Next weekend, I’m going to be at Stitches Midwest… am I going to see you there? It coincides with the Chicago Yarn Crawl that starts today and goes until August 7!

I’ve really enjoyed reading about the Australian Sheep and Wool Show

What I’m up to

I did some woodworking! I made a toy box for Maddie from American Cherry, and I’m really proud of it!

This is the hardest woodworking project I’ve done so far. I used these torsion hinges which keep the lid open at any angle- it means little fingers won’t get smashed! For this hinge, you need to weigh the lid for proper functioning, I feel very lucky to live near a Rockler Woodworking shop. It’s a lot like the quality assistance you get from a good yarn shop.

I finished the box with tung oil, which gives a great finish. It’s good to go outside of your comfort zone!

Tips and Tutorials

More Great Links

Let me hear from you!

I’m hoping to see a few of you in person this weekend… and then I’ll be on vacation for a week! Happy summer!

footer

Happy Holidays + travel blog post roundup!

I’ve always loved this time of year. It’s Christmas, Boxing Day, my birthday, the New Year and now Maddie’s birthday all at once!

It’s also an incredibly busy time, which makes it especially important to set aside a little time for yourself to do some crafting!

Continental knitting from FreshStitches

It’s also a time when a lot of us are traveling to see friends and family, so I thought I’d do a little round-up of blog posts that I think are super-helpful at this time of year!

What am I bringing with me for my holiday travel? Aaahh! We leave Monday and I haven’t totally decided! I’m definitely hoping to knit Maddie a Mini Manu (but I haven’t had a chance to get to the yarn shop, so I may go in Sydney) and I have some AMAZING rainbow english paper piecing planned. But I need one more relaxing knitting project…

Follow me on Instagram for up-to-the-minute updates on my crafting!

And just a little reminder that since it’s the holidays, I’ll be replying to emails a tad slower than usual. The site will also be down at the start of the New Year for maintenance. It’s going to be bigger and better!

What’s in your notions case?

I bring knitting or crocheting with me everywhere I go. You never know when you’re going to have a spare moment to get in a few stitches!

I’ve chatted before about planning projects for traveling. But what do you carry in your notions case?

Here are a few essentials that I don’t leave home without:

  • A crochet hook (a size H is what I use most often)
  • A tapestry needle
  • Stitch markers (locking and the ring-type)
  • Scissors (ones with blades less than 4″ are even allowed on planes!)
  • A tiny crochet hook (for picking up dropped stitches in my knitting)
  • A tape measure

Depending on the project… I might also bring along a cable needle, maybe double point needles and a row counter. Fortunately, all of these things fit in my notions case!

So tell me, what do you carry in your notions case? Anything super-important that I forgot to mention?

Best,
Stacey

How to use a stitch marker in crochet

How to Use a Stitch Marker - from Shiny Happy World

Want to learn how to make adorable crocheted stuffed animals with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Let’s Make Amigurumiย here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make an easy amigurumi from start to finish using simple crochet stitches.

It’s a fun, inexpensive, and totally portable craft. You can do it!

Besides your crochet hook and yarn, a stitch marker is your best buddy for crocheting!

You want to look for a locking stitch marker, which is a lot like a fancy safety pin.

Locking Stitch Markers from Shiny Happy World

Locking stitch markers come in a few varieties, but the most important thing is that they open and close! Don’t get fooled into buying those ordinary ring markers that are for knitting needles… they don’t work for us crocheters!

Do you have your stitch markers ready? Let me get you and your new best friend acquainted!

Handy use #1: mark the end of the round

The most common problem crocheters have when crocheting in the round is losing track of where the round starts and ends… which leads to an incorrect stitch count and mayhem! So, I’ll show you how to use a locking stitch marker!

Don’t lose track of your end of round!

I don’t tend to use a stitch marker for the first couple of rounds (because there are so few stitches per round), but I usually start at the end of the third round (here, I’m crocheting the snout of the cow, but many circles begin similarly):

Since I crochet through the back loop only the front loop is available to hold a locking stitch marker.

Close it up, and keep crocheting!

I know I’m finished with my next round when I’m just above the stitch marker, like this:

Then I can move the marker and start my next round. No confusion!

Handy use #2: counting how many rounds you’ve done

A lot of amigurumi are made by crocheting in the round. When teaching classes, I’ve noticed that counting rounds is something that gives a lot of crocheters trouble… I mean, who wants to count every stitch? I’ll show you how a locking stitch marker can help you in counting rounds.

Let’s do a little example.

I’ve been following my pattern instructions for the first three rounds, and now my pattern says:

Rounds 4-6: sc in each st (18)

How can we do this without counting?

I take a locking stitch marker (the orange thing in the photo above), and lock it onto the last stitch of the round. Then, I’m just going to keep crocheting around and around until I’m exactly 3 rounds above my marker!


Check out the photo above… and you’ll also see why I prefer crocheting through the back loops- each round leaves behind a little horizontal ridge that makes each round super-easy to count!

Handy use #3: position your pieces for attaching

Attaching pieces can be a little tricky, too… but stitch markers can help! So, let’s look at some instructions that say, ‘attach legs to rounds 9-14’.

What you want to do is find out where round 9 is, and place a locking stitch marker there. Start counting (see the ridges?) from the center:

Count until you’re at round 9, and place a marker. Place another at round 14. Now you know where your leg should be located on the body!

Handy use #4: hold pieces while seaming

So now you’ve marked where your pieces should go… but locking stitch markers have one more great use: I use locking stitch markers to hold my pieces in place while I’m sewing pieces together!

They’re big enough to go through a couple layers of crochet fabric, and by placing a couple around the piece that you’re attaching, and it’ll be held in place- making your sewing even easier. Yay!

I’ve been showing you lots of examples of circles… but this exact same trick can be used when assembling a sweater or afghan blocks! It keeps everything nice and even!

Handy use #5: keep your work from unraveling when you travel

Throw your crochet into your bag, and you’re just one snag away from all of your work coming undone. Eep!
But not with a stitch marker!
how to keep crochet from unraveling
Put your locking stitch marker through the loop when you’re done… and it can’t unravel even one stitch! Fabulous!

With your new buddy, you can crochet with confidence!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Stacey

Try one of our newest crochet patterns! Get the Merrick Monster pattern here.

All You Knit is Love: Barcelona, Spain

Store: All You Knit is Love
Address: Carrer de la Barra de Ferro, 8, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

All You Knit is Love Barcelona

When I travel, I always look out for yarn stores. Imagine when I spotted a lovely yarn shop in the center of the city in Barcelona! All You Knit is Love is located really close to the Picasso Museum, down a sweet little alley that only European cities have… I could walk those alleys all day! But I digress…

sign outside

All You Knit is Love had a nice supply of yarn, fiber for spinning and needles/hooks. I was very impressed to discover that their offerings include an alpaca yarn that is milled exclusively for them in Spain. Locally-made souvenirs are the best!

All you knit is love yarn

The store features a sitting area and a table, and there’s a sit & knit every Friday night!

All you knit is love

And… maybe the best part. Their business card has a needle gauge punched into it. Isn’t that so clever?

I got a chance to talk to the co-owner, and it was clear to me that it’s a store with a great spirit that really cares about it’s customers. They speak English and Spanish, so they’re well-suited taking care of tourists. Be sure to stop by if you’re planning a Barcelona visit!

The Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair

My visit to Sydney just happened to coincide with the Craft & Quilt Fair… and I was so excited to visit! I was only in town for the last day, which also happened to be my sister-in-law’s birthday (busy, busy!), so I could only stay for a couple hours. I wish I could have stayed longer!

The show was divided into three areas: the shopping bit, the quilt exhibition and the guild display area. In the shopping area, I immediately fell in love with this booth selling batik cottons in all of the shades of the rainbow:

rainbow batik fabric
rainbow fabric collection

Check out this amazing fat quarter I bought:

batik fabric freshstitches

Swoon! It’s perfect for all of the english paper piecing I’ve been doing. (have you checked my Instagram feed? Lots of EPP awesomeness, there!)

It was hard to not buy it all!

There was oodles of great needlework on display. There was a tribute to 50 years of flower power… a display full of knitted and crocheted flowers by Prudence Mapstone.

flower power by prudence mapstone

And each guild had great work on display. I don’t do much embroidery, but the embroidery guild’s display made me want to do more!

embroidery guild display

The quilt exhibition allowed photography for personal use only (not for internet posting), so I couldn’t take any photos to show you. But let me tell you, my jaw was on the ground staring at all of the amazing quilt work! So inspiring!

I just love that you can make such beautiful things with little pieces of scrap fabric!

Best,
Stacey

Photos from Stitches South 2015

Last weekend, I was teaching at Stitches South.

First, let me say: the venue was AMAZING!

Gaylord Opryland Stitches South Nashville 2015

It was held at the Gaylord Opryland… and the best way I can describe it is: Vegas in Nashville. Without the gambling.

Gaylord Opryland Stitches South Nashville 2015

I mean… there was a river in the hotel! With a little boat! Whoa. It wasn’t a very deep river, but still. Whoa.

Gaylord Opryland Stitches South Nashville 2015

And, yes. All of these photos were taken inside!

I was super-nervous about teaching such a full schedule (16 hours of classes) at my first event back after Maddie. When I ask around, I don’t know too many professional teachers who have small children because the traveling is so hard. But I’m determined to make it work, and did I mention that my husband is amazing and my daughter is charmingly easygoing? That helps.

Gaylord Opryland Stitches South Nashville 2015

I couldn’t have asked for better students to calm my nerves. Folks in the south are always so sweet, and so are knitters. So, combine those two and you pretty much had the nicest people in the universe. They learned and we all had a total blast.

I didn’t take too many photos (a few are on my Instagram feed)… and I can’t even pick favorites. Dyeing with Kool-aid is always awesome. Teaching folks to knit or crochet for the first time is a thrill like no other. And some folks conquered their fear of double points. How can I pick a fave?

fried pickles

So I won’t pick. I’ll just tell you that it was all amazing! The venue made me feel like I was on vacation (even though I was working hard!) and the vendors and students were great. Oh, and the food! Yes, that’s a photo of fried pickles and cracklin’. When in the South, eat like Southerners, right?

We’re scheduled to be at the same venue next year for Stitches South 2016, so I hope to see you there!

Best,
Stacey

Fancy Tiger Crafts: Denver, Colorado

  • Address: 59 Broadway, Denver, Colorado
  • Website: www.fancytiger.com
  • Date of visit: June 2014

If you’re a long-time follower of this blog, you may have noticed that the blog posts in my Store Spotlight category have become sparse.

It’s because the more yarn stores I see, the rarer it is that I find a shop that truly sparkles! It’s only the amazing and unique shops that I tell you about… and I’m happy to report I’ve found a gem for today!

Fancy Tiger Crafts yarn 1

Fancy Tiger Crafts

When I was filming at Craftsy, the Denver folks told me that I had to visit Fancy Tiger Crafts. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’d been to a few lack-luster yarn shops in Denver.

Fancy Tiger Crafts Yarn 2

You could have bowled me over with a feather! This shop is fantastic!

Fancy Tiger Craftsy

Not only does it have a gorgeous selection of yarn, but also fabric, roving, sewing patterns and needle felting supplies.

Fancy Tiger Crafts Fabric

I was in love… I didn’t want to leave!

Fancy Tiger Crafts roving

In the end, I settled on one little gem of a skein:

handspun yarn

But it was a hard choice… I wanted it all!

Best,
Stacey

How to Find Sea Glass

Did you know that I collect sea glass?

Yup! It’s a little hobby of mine that I indulge in whenever I visit a beach. How about I tell you a bit about it?

What is Sea Glass?

sea glass definition

Sea glass is glass that has been tumbled around in sale water until it’s smooth and frosted (wikipedia says that glass tumbled in fresh water is called ‘beach glass’- I actually collect both types).

The color of the glass is determined by the original color of the glass, as well as some slight chemical changes in color that can occur during the weathering. Some colors are quite rare, with the most common being white, green and brown.

sea glass colors

The shape is determined by how the glass broke and tumbled. Although many pieces are rounded squares and triangles, you can sometimes identify pieces from their original glass: like a neck of a bottle.

neck of a bottle

Sea glass occurs naturally on beaches. However, there is a lot of artificial sea glass used in jewelry and sold in craft stores. Artificial sea glass is made by tumbling glass in a machine, and does not have the randomness or true weathering of genuine sea glass.

How do you find Sea Glass?

For a long time, I’ve been just picking up pieces as I come across them on beaches. It’s very hit-or-miss… sea glass requires a collection of conditions (specific ocean currents, a source of glass…) to turn up on the beach.

This year, I decided to do a little research to increase my odds of finding sea glass. I checked out the beach guides on Odyssey Sea Glass to see if there was a good beach near me.

And there was! Malabar beach near Sydney, Australia was reported to be sea glass heaven. So I went, and here is what I got:

pile of sea glass

I actually had to stop myself because there was SO much!

Tips for Collecting Sea Glass

Would you like to start a sea glass collection of your own? Here are some tips:

  • When you visit a new area, google to see if there are any beaches nearby with good sea glass track records. (don’t forget to also find a yarn store when traveling!)
  • Bring a little baggie to store your finds
  • Do a bit of research to see which colors of glass are rare, or decide which color is your favorite. It will help you narrow your pickings if you’re overwhelmed with choice!
  • Search Pinterest for ‘Sea Glass’: you’ll get lots of ideas for storage and craft projects!

And above all, enjoy! It’s not worth collecting if it’s not fun!