Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Archive for the ‘Random Acts of Crafting’ Category

Why I never need to buy dish towels.

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I never need to buy dish towels, because I have an abundance of the best dish towels ever. Every year at Christmas I get some of these:

They are a set of dish towels embroidered by my grandma. They usually come with some dish rags, and then some hand towels with crocheted tops to hang them from the oven door. I’m so used to getting them that this year I just did a quick once over at the container of it all, then set them down. While putting them away today, I noticed the patterns and how ridiculously cute they are. They are always cute, but I really liked these ones this year. Er, should I say, last year? Look at the kittens!

Thank you grandma!

You can go to my Flickr to see the designs up close. Not very good pictures though, just taken on my iPhone.


Written by nikkinbird

January 2, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Spinning dog fur

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Last night I sat down to brush Gru for a bit, and I got so much fur I couldn’t stop. The craziest part was, I just kept brushing the same spot on his haunches over and over, and kept getting fur! He’s in full-on spring shed mode. This pile is just what I got from the right side of his butt. Just think what I’ll get as he starts shedding everywhere else, too! I plan to experiment with spinning his undercoat into yarn on my spinning wheel. See that look on his face? He’s afraid of cameras.


Written by nikkinbird

May 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Organizing my yarn stash

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This is the chaos in my living room right now:


I’ve never thought of myself as having a yarn “stash” before. I think that’s probably because I don’t have a lot of yarn that isn’t leftovers from something. I guess I do have several untouched skeins that were purchased for a specific project and never started, but I don’t normally buy yarn with nothing in mind. Unless it’s on a trip, then I get souvenir yarn.

I’m calling it a night and finishing this sorting in the morning! Tomorrow afternoon, we go on a road trip to get our puppy! Right now he is being transported by a lovely group of volunteers relaying him all across the country to get to us! We’re meeting him in Eau Claire, WI. The person keeping him overnight sent us this picture of him:


Up until now, the only picture we’ve had straight on of his face was very sad looking, so we are happy to see that he has an adorable doggie smile. I can’t wait! We’re going to have a dog!

Written by nikkinbird

March 13, 2011 at 5:01 am

Travel urges, or just the urge to be somewhere else.

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IMG_0483Sometimes I smell something, taste something, or something about the mood in the air will remind me of somewhere else I’ve been and make me want to go there. For example, the right kind of spring day last year made me want to be back in Argentina. Today, something, and I have no idea what, reminded me of being in Mexico with my friend Erika, shopping at a certain gift shop that we happened upon for a souvenir for another friend who couldn’t make the trip with us. Something that I saw as I was cleaning up toddler toys made me want to be here, in the callejon in Guanajuato, Mexico, going up these stairs and around the corner to the university. The thing is, I know that I’m lucky to have been able to travel to a foreign country at all, much less five starting when I was a freshman in high school. But now that I’ve traveled and lived abroad, I want to do more and more of it! Alas, it’s not in the financial cards right now.

DSC00354.JPGWhenever I travel, I’m drawn like a magnet to the textiles of the area I’m in. I have a little doll from a town called Humahuaca in the province of Jujuy, Argentina, who is made of cloth and is holding miniature knitting needles fashioned from toothpicks, and the needles have a tiny garter stitch scarf hanging from them. Note to self: photograph this doll. In the meantime, this is a picture of me at the top of some stairs going up to Humahuaca’s monument. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to somehow have a career that not only allowed but required me to travel all over the world to study and learn about textiles in different countries? I bet there are people who do that. In fact, I know that there are people who do that, in various forms, whether it be anthropology or artists or whatever. Well, I will figure out a way to travel somewhere again soon. Or relatively soon. I do have a wedding to plan and all.

Written by nikkinbird

February 4, 2011 at 3:17 am

A photo journal of my evening.

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No fiber stuff tonight, except for a cameo appearance of internationally made items of clothing. For the past week or so, I’ve had a baking urge, and tonight I satisfied it by baking good ol’ chocolate chip cookies.

One thing I was very excited about was my brand new, very tall metal mixing bowl. Before Christmas, I made a whole bunch of white chocolate chip chocolate cookies, and batter was spraying out everywhere from my shallow glass mixing bowls. So, while we were in Minneapolis for Christmas gatherings, we stopped at Bed, Bath, & Beyond and I happened upon this mixing bowl.


To further guard against spraying chunks of cookie dough, I now have an apron! Chris’s aunt gave this to me for Christmas. She lives in Mexico and got this there. The embroidery is gorgeous! I’m also wearing, for coziness’ sake, my giant llama sweater purchased in the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina when I was studying abroad there. I love getting textile related items from other countries.


While I made cookies, Chris made homemade shells n’ cheese, in all its creamy artificial cheese product goodness. So shiny!


Mmmm, cookie dough!


Mmmm, cookies!


They aren’t perfect, but chocolate chip cookies always taste good. Unless they’re burnt, I suppose. I’m disappointed with how flat and puddly they got before they browned. And then the edges browned and got crispy while the insides are chewy. If anyone has any tips for baking an all around chewy chocolate chip cookie, let me know! Still, these will be excellent for dipping in milk. Yum!

Written by nikkinbird

February 3, 2011 at 4:42 am

Creative writing, jewelry, and clay.

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Today I signed up for a creative writing class through Minneapolis Community Education. We get to take Community Ed classes for free in our AmeriCorps program, which is so nice! I’m hoping that signing up for this class will give me the boost I need to get myself writing regularly. NaNoWriMo in November was good, and I swore that after that I would keep up a regular writing habit, but other things always seem to push it out of the way. I do have to admit that I’m a little nervous for the class. I get nervous sharing my writing with people, or self-conscious, and it wasn’t until my last semester of college that I actually took a creative writing workshop class. Then, I discovered that it wasn’t really that bad. In fact, it was awesome! It motivated me to write and I got lots of great feedback, as well as getting to read other people’s stories, too.

I really like the after school aspect of our AmeriCorps service. At our site, it’s been mostly self-designed. So, each of us in our cluster have gotten to make up our own classes and teach them, with a few exceptions. This session I’m co-leading Jewelry Making for 3rd-5th graders, and so far it’s been great. I got a big bin of assorted plastic beads from Michael’s for today’s class, thinking they were pretty tacky, but maybe the kids would still like them. Well, the kids loved them. And some of them were pretty cute, like dolphin shaped, whales, dogs, flowers, and such. We’ve also been doing friendship bracelets with the kids who are interested. Mostly, the 5th graders have the patience for the friendship bracelets, and the 3rd graders just like to string beads.

The other class I have is “Play with Clay,” which I teach by myself (eek!), with a group of 15 kindergarten-2nd graders. Though I had doubts about my chances of success with the combination of the subject matter and the age range, I felt like I did pretty good the first day of class last week. I want to tell myself that it’s because I’m getting better at managing kids, but things could always go horribly tomorrow! Anyway, my solution has been to over plan. Tomorrow, we are making pinch-bowls out of air-drying clay, and then we will paint them next week. I have already worked out an elaborate system of drawing names for helpers to help lay down newspaper and other tasks. My other secret to a stress-free class is to start cleanup 25 minutes before they have to go to the bus, then have them color until it’s time to go. Every class, my supply of colored pencils gets smaller and uglier-colored. Hmm, how does that happen?

Though stressful at times, I really think after school classes are enriching for me as much as for the kids. Sometimes, as an adult, I forget how fun it can be just to craft for the fun of it, not worrying about perfection or the usefulness of the finished item. Sharing that with the kids and seeing their creativity is a great reward for all the effort.

Written by nikkinbird

January 21, 2010 at 3:54 am

Nikki’s Popsicle Stick Llama Tutorial.

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One of my favorite things about knitting and other fiber arts is that they have increased my awareness of where things come from and how we connect back to the materials that we use in our everyday lives. Basically, I like knowing that the wool I’m knitting with came from sheep, or alpaca yarn from an alpaca. I’m especially entertained by skeins of yarn that come with a name – the name of the animal the fiber came from. This, in turn, has made me especially entertained by depictions of these animals, or the chance to see them in real life. I have several shirts from with sheep in them, and have started doing things like going to the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival (though I regrettably missed it this year).  So, when trying to come up with ideas for my Amazing Animals class, I became extra excited when I thought of doing llamas!  Having discovered that the kids really enjoyed having an arts and crafts component to the class, I thought long and hard about how they could make llamas.  And that is how the popsicle stick llamas came to be.

For my class, I pre-assembled the llamas beforehand and then let the kids apply the “fur” in class. However, if you have more time and less kids, the whole project is not too hard for a kid to do by him or herself.

How to make a popsicle stick llama!

What you’ll need:

7 popsicle sticks
White glue or super glue
Glue stick
Googly eyes
black construction paper
Lion Brand Fun Fur yarn in brown, black, or cream (or any color you’d like!)
Lion Brand worsted weight yarn in brown, black or cream

1.) Body and neck: Take 3 popsicle sticks. Cut one of them about an inch from the end. Using white glue or super glue, glue the longer piece to the end of one of the other popsicle sticks at a slightly less than 90 degree angle. Glue the smaller piece to the other end of the popsicle stick, lining it up with the end.

2.) Take the 3rd popsicle stick and glue it on top of the neck piece and small cutoff piece, creating a sandwich. This creates the body and the neck.

3.) Legs: For the legs, you can either choose to glue all four in place at once and hold them until they dry, or do one side at a time and let the llama sit to dry, then do the other two legs on the other side once it is dry. I chose the second way since I was making several llamas at once, but first I lined up all the legs to find out what angle I wanted them to be at. I will describe that method here.

4.) First, find out what angle you would like the legs to be at. This is how I decided to do mine:

5.) Next, glue the legs on one side. I started with the ones that angled outward. Lay it flat on the table, legs side down so they don’t tilt out of place, and let dry.

6.) Once the legs have dried enough to hold in place, you can do the other set of legs. Glue on the legs that angle inward, and flip the body over so that these new legs are face down on the table, and let dry. You can do a test before you lay the llama down to make sure the legs will all stand evenly on the table if you want.

7.) Llama face: To make the llama face, fold the piece of black construction paper in half and trace the end of a popsicle stick, making it about an inch and a quarter long. Cut this piece out. Dab a little bit of glue on the top of the popsicle stick neck and fold the paper around it. Glue the ends of the nose together.

8.) For the ears, you want them to look slightly banana-shaped. I traced a strip of paper about a quarter of an inch wide that was as tall as the width of the llama’s face to give room to glue them on. Then, I made it about that height again and curved them forward at the top. To get them to be symmetrical, I cut this shape at the fold of the paper like I did with the head. Glue the ears to each side of the head, then, using two small dabs of glue, attach the eyes. Your llama should look like this:

9.) Now comes the really fun part, the fur! For my example, I’m going to make a black and white llama. Since I did this project with a group of kids, I wound the yarn onto small bobbins that I made out of cardboard from cereal boxes instead of using the whole skein of yarn. I recommend winding these small bobbins anyway, since it was not very hard to control the yarn while I wound.

10.) Now is when you use the glue stick. Do one body part at a time to avoid getting too sticky. I will start with the llama’s body. First, apply glue up and down the length of the body on both sides of the popsicle sticks. Using the worsted weight yarn, stick the end of the yarn onto the glue and begin to wrap, securing the end by wrapping around it.

11.) When you reach the end, cut the yarn and apply an extra blob of glue to secure it, if needed. You have your base wrap!

12.) Now, again with the glue stick, apply glue onto the wrapped yarn and repeat the process with the fun fur. You shouldn’t need too much glue except to secure the ends, but too much won’t hurt it either, besides getting your hands pretty sticky!

13.) Repeat the same process with all of the legs and the neck until you have a finished llama! Be careful when applying the glue stick to the legs that you don’t snap the legs off the body. I ended up having to go back and super glue a bunch of kids’ llamas in between classes because of this. When your llama is finished, enjoy!

I decided to add a scarf to my example llama and make him into a Christmas tree ornament!

Written by nikkinbird

December 26, 2009 at 4:53 pm

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