Beanie Bags: Happy Mail for Yarn Junkies

Subscription “boxes” are popping up all over the internet these days! From makeup to nerd gear, there are so many out there! I looked into yarn subscription boxes but most of them were $32+ a month like Yarnbox, Fiberista Yarn Club, and Yarn Crush.

These boxes are definitely appetizing, but as a mother of three small children, I just don’t have the money for that. In September, I saw a suggested post on facebook featuring the Jimmy Beans Wool Beanie Bag. Beanie Bags debuted in October, and I was lucky enough to grab one before they ran out. For $10 a month, this sweet little bag of yarn and goodies is a steal! ($10 USA, $15 international.)

Continue reading Beanie Bags: Happy Mail for Yarn Junkies

And That Was the LAST Time I Had Sex With an Embroidery Major: Rhinebeck 2015

Whichever flavor of geek you fancy yourself, there’s a gathering for you. We all love to be able to mingle among our own people, to learn from them, to get ideas from them, and to make friends that will last beyond the week(end). Who doesn’t love the idea of being somewhere where everyone gets you?

If you’re a knitter or crocheter (I’m the former myself), then the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY is just that place for you. It is the ultimate pilgrimage for anyone with a fondness for yarn, making yarn, making things with yarn, buying yarn, and/or the furry animals from which the yarn originates.

Continue reading And That Was the LAST Time I Had Sex With an Embroidery Major: Rhinebeck 2015

Geeky Coffee Cozies to Knit and Crochet

Even though paper coffee cup sleeves are biodegradable, they still create unnecessary waste and use needed resources. Most of the time these sleeves end up in the trash instead of recycled. Why use a boring paper sleeve when you can rock a piece of geeky art work instead?

These projects are very quick to finish and require only a small amount of yarn. They make good stocking stuffers or birthday gifts. They are practical, unique, and sure to please. I use mine on both disposable and reusable cups. Here are six free patterns for coffee cozy sleeves you can knit and crochet:

Continue reading Geeky Coffee Cozies to Knit and Crochet

Crochet This Baymax Hat For Your Favorite ‘Big Hero 6’ Fan

Image: RepeatCrafterMe
Image: RepeatCrafterMe

Fans of Big Hero 6 will absolutely love this adorable crocheted Baymax hat. I haven’t crocheted a thing since I was little, but this could make me get back into the hobby. It’s the work of Sarah of RepeatCrafterMe who has posted the full directions on her site along with step-by-step photos to help you with the project.

She has it all broken down so that there’s a section for the hat, a section for the head, and a section for the arms to make it easier to follow. Baymax is also easier to work with than some other characters because he’s all white except for his little black button eyes so there aren’t lots of colors to manage.

Image: RepeatCrafterMe
Image: RepeatCrafterMe

Technically this is for kids, but who’s to say that you couldn’t modify things just a bit and make this for yourself? No one. So go ahead and crochet this adorable hat for yourself and absolutely no one is going to try to stop you. They will, however, be jealous so make sure you keep a close eye on him so he doesn’t go home with the wrong grown-up.

You can find the instructions at RepeatCrafterMe along with all sorts of nerdy crocheted items. Best of all, the patterns are free!

(via FashionablyGeek)

12 Geeky DIY Gift Ideas From GeekMom

Collage: Cathe Post

Are you looking for something geeky to make for that special someone in your life, but have no idea where to start? GeekMom is here to help! We have crochet, sewing, and gluing projects for kids and adults. Take a look at some of our favorite DIY projects.

8-Bit Afghan. Image: Cathe Post.

8-Bit Afghan. GeekMom Cathe has been crocheting up a Tribble-load of granny squares. The stacks of fibrous squares are being put together to make various geeky 8-bit images including a TARDIS, Spider-Man, and others. You can learn how to put together your own pattern from scratch for a gift this holiday or for any special occasion. (Average price $30)

The Launch Acceleration
Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Amy Farrah Fowler’s Blanket. GeekMom Sarah was enamored with this particular multi-colored afghan long before she was aware of its geeky origins. The fact that it rests on the couch of Roseanne Barr, the font of all knowledge in Sarah’s childhood, as well as on the couch of Amy Farrah Fowler, is icing on the cake. This Granny Square Afghan is adaptable to the size and coloring you prefer. It can be made over several months and pieced together at any point. Use scraps that you have or buy new yarn; it’s entirely up to you. (Average Price $0-30)

Photo by Sarah Pinault, used with permission.

Felt Masks. Whether you wish to play dress up with your kids or move about your city incognito, these felt face masks are sure to help you. Quick to stitch up and easily adapted, you can put together a full costume-change library for the aspiring spy in your family. (Average Price $1-7)

GG Dalek Dress
Image by Lisa Kay Tate.

Great Gatsby Dalek Dress. This is a fun little party dress for girls, and it even works for people who don’t know the difference between a Dalek and a Cyberman. Those who do, of course, seem to really enjoy the simple, 1920s-influenced look. (Average Price $25 )

Monster Patch
Monster patch. Image used by permission from

Monster Patch. A monster face is an unexpected way to patch worn jeans. It’s also a method you can use to add personality to all sorts of gifts. Try adding a small monster patch to a blanket, bedspread, or pillow. Add a larger monster patch to a hoodie or backpack. Make it look like a dinosaur or a robot instead of a monster. Such patches are particularly fun to personalize hand-me-downs or thrift-store finds. Go ahead, patch a few gifts this year! (Average Price $1 per patch)

Photo courtesy of Sarah Pinault.

Octonauts Felt Masks. Indulge your child’s love of The Octonauts with a complete set of face masks, perfect for deep sea adventures. Eight, easy-to-follow, easy-to-make, patterns are included. Crafters—to the Octopod! (Average Price $2-5)

Image: and Sarah Pinault

Peg Plus Cat Amigurumi. We are totally freaking out over this awesome “life-size” Amigrumi version of Peg’s feline companion, Cat, from the PBS show Peg Plus Cat. The finished product stands 12 inches tall and is perfect for cuddling and numerical conspiracies. (Average Price $5-10)

plant markers
Image by Laura Weldon, used with permission.

Plant Markers. Make a set of plant markers using spoons from the thrift store. They’re more durable than other markers and better yet, entirely your design. Use them as markers for house plants or potted herbs; give along with seed packets and garden gloves. Or, make them with your kids as you plan together what you’ll be planting in the spring. Costs depend on the repurposed spoons, but the other supplies are enough to make several hundred. (Average Price around 25 cents per spoon)

sock monsters
Image by Laura Weldon, used with permission.

Sock Monsters. Need an easy project? Use socks and notions you have around to create a sock monster or two. These are made with baby- and toddler-sized socks, then decorated with felt, buttons, and embroidery floss. If you intend to give a sock monster to a baby or young child, it’s safest to add features by drawing or embroidering them on to forestall any risk of choking. (Average Price 50 cents-$3)

DIY Infinity Orb © Sophie Brown
DIY Infinity Orb © Sophie Brown.

Star-Lord Orb. Complete your Star-Lord cosplay with a handmade Infinity Stone Orb as made by GeekMom Sophie. These are cheap and fast to make, so they would make great stocking stuffers or party bag favors. (Average Price $1-10)

Star Lord Care Package
Image by Lisa Kay Tate.

Star-Lord Pack. This Guardians of the Galaxy-themed care package is great for personalized gift-giving as it can be easily modified to fit into a holiday gift package, or even as a Star-Lord themed Christmas stocking. This is the year for all things Guardians, so this is a wonderful, homemade addition to—or replacement for—the commercially-sold merchandise that I’m guessing will be pretty hot during the gift-giving season. (Average Price $30-50, but may be less or more depending on what items you want to put in it.)

Image by Lisa Kay Tate.

Steampunk Doll Wings. Our entire family caught the steampunk bug before we even knew the word steampunk, particularly the props and cosplay ideas. My daughter wanted to make her own pair of Steampunk wings, but full-sized wings were a bit too much for her when she was 10. We came up with the idea of making them for her dolls using popcicle sticks and chenelle craft stems, and they turned out to be great project for us to do together. When she was done using them on her dolls, she attached the wings to a large barrette she could pin in her hair or on her hat. (Average Price under $10)

Easy 8-Bit Afghans to Knock Your Granny’s Socks Off

About a third of the way done attaching granny squares to make a TARDIS afghan. Slow, but steady, progress is being made. Image: Cathe Post

Granny squares aren’t just for grannies—they make excellent 8-bit patterned afghans, too! You really don’t need artistic talent to complete this project, but you do need time and patience—especially if you are like me and crochet super slowly.

To make a pattern you will need:

  • Blank paper, graph paper, or a photo editing program
  • An simple image (cartoon, clip art, or 8-bit image) you want to copy
  • Markers, crayons, or pencils if you are making your design on paper
  • A ruler if you are doing the design on blank paper

Blank paper method:

Use your ruler to draw lines breaking your image into a grid. On average, you will need the finished product to be 39 inches wide and 75 inches tall when crocheting a twin size afghan. So, for a twin sized afghan with three-inch squares you would draw a grid 13 squares wide and 25 squares tall. If you are looking to make a different size afghan, there are guides and calculators out in internet-land that are very helpful.

Put another piece of paper directly on your desired image. It helps to have it on a lit background. Start filling in the squares with your coloring implement. Each square should be one color. So, if you have a square that is two colors, you will need to choose which color works best with the image. Keep in mind that your image will still have square edges even if your original image has circles. Any lines that need to be “drawn” on the afghan can also be added (you will be able to add a chain cable to the top to draw accent lines on the final afghan).

The photo program method:

If you are more comfortable in the digital realm, you can use an image manipulation program like Photoshop or GIMP to make your design (I used GIMP). Create a new image that has the same dimensions as your final product, though the units don’t matter; just use the number of squares for each dimension. For the twin-sized, three-inch-square example, make the image 13 by 25 inches. Then, set the resolution fairly low—maybe 10 or 20 pixels per inch. Our design will very blocky!

Set up a 1 inch by 1 inch grid, offset by 1/2 inch each way, and turn on snap to grid. Each intersection of the grid is the center of one of the squares in the final design. Select a square brush, set to 1 inch size (however many pixels you chose for the resolution). Open the image that you are going to be using for the design as a new layer, then create a transparent layer on top of that—this will be our working layer.

With the grid and the brush, you can now start ‘stamping’ your design. At each grid intersection, decide what color your design needs to be (use the dropper to sample colors of the original image if you’d like) and plop a squares on until the whole original design is covered. You may find that is easier to move the original image above the working layer, set to a low opacity – it’s up to you.

Once the design is finished to your satisfaction, hide the original image and the grid, create a new transparent layer above the current one. Then, render a 1 inch by 1 inch grid with no offset onto the new layer (in GIMP, this is done with Filters->Render->Pattern->Grid; a Google search should be able to tell you how to do this in Photoshop). The resolution is so low that you should be able to get away with a 1 pixel line thickness. Make sure the color is set to black, or another color that will contrast with your design and make it easy to see all of the squares later on.

A three-inch square vs. a four-inch square. Overall it will make a big difference.

Putting it together:

Once you have your pattern, it’s time to find out how much yarn you need. First, count up how many squares of each color are in your design. Then, multiply the number of squares of each color by 6.69 yards of yarn per three-inch square, or 12.786 yards per four-inch square (disclaimer: these are approximates, and your yarn usage may vary). This is how many yards of each color of yarn you’ll need. Time to go shopping! Err on the side of too much; it’s easier than scrambling to find more of the same color later.


Three-inch TARDIS squares (for a 45 x 69 inch afghan):

  • White—1057 yards
  • Light blue—127 yards
  • Medium blue—301 yards
  • Dark blue—675 yards
  • Black—47 yards



Four-inch Spider-Man squares (for a 52 x 76 inch afghan):

  • Black—1150 yards
  • Red—1406 yards
  • Medium blue—473 yards
  • White—77 yards

Now you can start crocheting! It took me a month and a half of crocheting 5-50 squares a day to complete 336 squares for the TARDIS afghan.

Don’t know how to  crochet, or where to start? Feel like it’s just too much? To give you some perspective, I used Red Heart Super Saver yarn. I spent about $30 per afghan. To make a three-inch square, using the video tutorial above, I used an I9 hook, and for a four-inch square I used an H hook. For both sets of squares, I used the pattern in the video above; I just did four rounds of the square for the bigger squares.

To sew them together, I used these instructions:

I am still working on finishing Spider-Man and the TARDIS before Christmas Eve. If you want to skip the design phase, you can make your own Spiderman, TARDIS, or Princess Unikitty afghan from the designs we made. Poking around on the internet, I even found a Mario pattern! Have you done this before? What geeky patterns have you made?

Peg Plus Cat Amigurumi

Image: and Sarah Pinault

Before having children, I went on an Amigurumi feeding frenzy.

I devoured everything Ana Paula Rimoli came up with, then when Pinterest and children came along my imagination exploded. Of course, as every first time mother knows, she will have plenty of time for her hobbies while on maternity leave, ahem. My needles sat mostly dormant through two children, surfacing here and there for a new hat or simple blanket. Then came the wonderful Peg Plus Cat from PBS, and my imagination was sparked again. So out came the hook and the yarn, and eventually, out came Cat.

This pattern for our beloved Cat comes with a warning. I started making Cat in time for Christmas 2013, he was finished in time for Easter 2014, and the pattern was translated from chicken scratches in time for Columbus day 2014. I fear that something has been lost in translation. Perhaps this should be considered a test pattern, please comment with questions and addenda and bear with me as we work to get this pattern out together.

The increase indicated at the end of each line are, I pray, at least accurate enough so that you can adapt this pattern to your preferred method of increasing and decreasing.

My sons have had hours of fun with this friend, and I hope that the ramblings of a first time pattern designer are good enough for you to get to the joy he can bring. Because if your child loves Peg Plus Cat as much as we do, I can promise that this will bring only joy.

Body (using Navy blue yarn and a G hook)

Row 1 Ch 3 and join into a loop

Row 2 6 sc (single crochet) into loop (6)

Row 3 Sc 2 into each st around (12)

Row 4 *Sc 1, sc 2 into next st*,  repeat (18)

Row 5 *Sc 2, sc 2 into next st* repeat (24)

Row 6 *Sc 3, sc 2 into next st*,  repeat  (30)

Row 7 *Sc 4, sc 2 into next st*,  repeat  (36)

Row 8 *Sc 5, sc 2 into next st*,  repeat (42)

Row 9 *Sc 6, sc 2 into next st*,  repeat (48)

Row 10 *Sc 7, sc 2 into next st*,  repeat (54)

Row 11 *Sc 8, sc 2 into next st*,  repeat (60)

Row 12 *Sc 9, sc 2 into next st*,  repeat (66)

Row 13 *Sc 10, sc 2 into next st*,  repeat (72)

Row 14 *Sc 5, sc 2 into next st*,  repeat (84)

Rows 15 – 41 Sc 84

Row 42 *Sc 5, dec 1*, repeat (72)

Row 43 *Sc 2, dec 1*, repeat (54)

Row 43-55 Sc 54

Row 56 *Sc 2, dec 1*, repeat (39)

Rows 57 -59 Sc 39

Row 60 *Sc 2, dec 1*, repeat (30)

Row 61 *Sc 2, dec 1*, repeat (24)

Row 62 *dec 1*, repeat (12)

Row 63 *dec 1*, repeat (6)

Row 64 *sc, sk1* repeat 3 times then close

 Ears (make tw0)

Row 1 Ch 3 and join into a loop

Row 2 4 Sc into loop (4)

Row 3 sc 2 into each st(8)

Rows 4-12  Sc 8

Row 13 *sc, sc, sc, sc into next st* repeat (10)

Rows 14-17 Sc 10

Arms and Legs (make 4)

Row 1 Ch 3 and join into a loop

Row 2 3 Sc into loop (3)

Row 3 sc 2 into each st (6)

Row 4 sc 2 into each st (12)

Row 5 *sc 1, sc 2 into next st* repeat (18)

Rows 6- 16 Sc 18

Tie off and sew flat.


Begin with White Yarn

Row 1 Ch 3 and join into a loop

Row 2 3 Sc into loop (3)

Row 3 sc 2 into each st (6)

Row 4 sc 2 into each st (12)

Row 5 sc 2 into each st (24)

Row 6 *sc 3 then sc 2 into next st* repeat (30)

Rows 7 -12 sc 30

Switch to Blue Yarn

Rows 12-13 sc 30

Row 14 *sc 4, dec 1* repeat (25)

Rows 15-16 sc 25

Row 17 *sc 3, dec 1* repeat (20)

Row 18-26 Sc 20

Row 27 *sc 1, sc 2 into next st* repeat (15)

Row 28 *sc 1, sc 2 into next st* repeat (10)

Rows  29-34 sc 10

Stuff up to this point, do not stuff any further

Rows 35- 40 sc 10 and finish

Legs were added at the request of my four year old, I would have preferred a bean bag base and no legs to create a doorstop of kinds, but I was outvoted. A word to the wise, sew on the tail with steel, Cat will be swung around the head in some kind of feline karate action the likes of which you have never witnessed.

Happy hooking!

Eight Geeky Crochet and Knitting Patterns to Get Started On

Living in the southern U.S., it’s hard to get interested in balls of yarn during the heat of summer. But when fall kicks in, I always want to start crocheting or knitting. Here are patterns (many of them free!) for eight projects to kick start your cool-weather crafting:


Fingerless Iron Man gloves

Image by Louie’s Loops

Baby Groot

Image by Twinkie Chan

Ewok hood cowl

Image by Amber Flowers on Ravelry


Image by April Draven Designs

Bonus—your crochet projects will be even more fun if you’re doing them with a sonic screwdriver or light saber.


Baby Dalek dress

Image by Allison Bitter on Ravelry

One Ring Scarf

Image by Samako on Ravelry

Sherlock wallpaper pillow

Image by Andrea “Trooperschaf” on Ravelry

Bat’leth scarf

Image by Kimberly Gintar on Ravelry


Knit Nests for Baby Birds in Rehab

I’m no knitter, but birds are easy to love. So, when I read that abandoned baby birds need warm nests to live in at wildlife and conservation centers, I knew GeekMoms had to hear about it.

WildCare is a nonprofit in San Rafael, California, that cares for over 3,000 wild animals annually (including more than 500 baby birds last year). Many of these baby birds had fallen out of, or otherwise become separated from, their nests during the spring season. An important part of their recuperation is a warm, soft, safe nest substitute. The hard plastic bowls that had been used to house them sometimes resulted in bruises… the idea for knitted nests was born.

Local knitters answered the call from WildCare and donated over 500 nests last year.

Knitted nest snuggles baby birds in video from (Screengrab K. Moore)

If you’d like to help, contact your local conservation organizations to discover whether they are using knitted nests, or donate directly to WildCare. They have a web page dedicated to the Nest Knitting project and knitting instructions are available, along with a Ravelry group and FAQ. There is also a crochet option if a hook is your thing.  (via SFGate)

Big Bang Barr Blanket

The Launch Acceleration
Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Whether you are a fan of Johnny Galecki in The Big Bang Theory, or remember with fondness his days as David Healy with the titular Roseanne Barr, you have to admit the best thing about either show is the blanket.

Okay I’m stretching it, but the blanket on the back of Amy Farrah Fowler’s couch, that I can only imagine Galecki pilfered from Roseanne’s couch, is awesome. Long before I realized the sitcom infamy of this particular style of Afghan, I was enamored with it. Pinterest abounds with variations on this style, most mommy bloggers have one lying around, in the background of several well crafted pictures.

While the idea of sewing a hundred small squares together has never appealed to me, I set out on an epic quest to own Farrah Fowlers blanket. Though, in all honesty, I preferred Roseanne’s style of blanket, bigger squares and more sporadic placement of color, so that’s what I ended up with.

Image in Progress: Sarah Pinault

Here I present you with a breakdown of the granny squares I ended up using, and the biggest tip a casual-crocheter can give concerning granny squares. Using Red Heart worsted weight and the recommended hook, I changed color for every row and ended each in black.

Row 1. Chain 6 and join into a loop.

Row 2. 3 dc (double crochet) into loop, ch 3, (four times) join final chain to the top of the first dc.

Row 3. 3 dc into the corner, ch 1. *3 dc into the corner, ch 3, 3 dc into the corner, 1 sc (single crochet).* (** three times) For final corner, put 3 dc into the corner you started in, then ch 3 and join together.

For the remaining rows, you simply work as follows:

Each corner:  3 dc into the corner, ch 3, 3 dc into the corner, 1 sc. Remembering that you will start a row with half a corner, and finish with half a corner.

Each edge: In between corners, you will put 3 dc into the top of each sc, remembering to put a sc in between each set of three.

Image complete: Sarah Pinault

It sounds like utter nonsense doesn’t it? Now I am no crochet pattern writer but if these, or any granny square directions, don’t work for you, you are not alone. My search for the perfect granny square was a mini voyage of self discovery, and self loathing!

While I find crocheting relaxing and simplistic next to knitting, the granny square presented me with a conundrum. Back in 2011 I was trying to find a pattern to make a blanket for my second son, who was gestating at the time. My husband wanted it to be square, I wanted it to be holey, so that it wouldn’t accidentally suffocate him. I decided to go for one big granny square. I had never before made a granny square, but as millions have done so before me wondered how hard it could be? I discovered that many people had done this kind of giant square, so felt confident in the pattern I found.

Yeah, not so much. The instructions were nonsensical. I tried several times, before giving up and finding a new pattern that made more sense. That still didn’t work, so I went to a third pattern. By this point I had unpicked and redone the center so many times I could have made the entire blanket. I knew what they looked like and I knew what the instructions were ALL saying to do, but the two simply did not match. So I took out my simple crochet book, which contained a pattern for a traditional granny square blanket. I looked at the picture, ignored the instructions and with my new experience of the style of stitch, winged it. This is the pattern I present you with today, if it doesn’t work for you, try a few more and I guarantee you’ll be able to wing it, though it may look different than mine. So the biggest tip of working up a granny square–go with your gut!

I didn’t stay true to the coloring of either TV land blanket, I also used a single line of hdc (half double crochet) instead of the dotted trim because I preferred it. Now I just need to get The Big Bang Theory cast over for Chinese food.

My blanket is 10 squares wide by 13 squares long, it will fit a Queen size bed. Averaging three blocks an hour, and an hour to sew each line of ten together, I average that it took 65 hours. Not exactly cost effective for a craft business, but a wonderful labor of love for my home.

GeekMom Holiday Traditions: Handmade Gifts

Our DIY gifts from a couple of years ago. Photo: Cathe Post

The holidays are my favorite time of year. I liked December as a kid, but as an adult…well, you can ask my husband: I am almost more excited about the Christmas holiday than the kids are.

We have a DIY holiday tradition in our house. For almost 10 years, we have made everything from truffles to etched glass items for Christmas gifts. Once Pinterest came into the picture, it was much easier to find and organize ideas for what to make for family members young and old.

Why do we make gifts every year instead of joining the buying frenzy? Well, it’s the Christmas spirit. It’s the act of doing for others instead of just buying for others. Even if it is a well thought out purchase, a hand-made gift means more in the long run. Plus, it is a way to do something nice for all of those close to us instead of going broke buying presents for a select few. Now that I have children, I am trying to reinforce the idea of doing for others and that it is better to give than receive. Both hard lessons are easier to understand when you are making cool things to give to others.

If you are thinking about handmade gifts for this year or years to come, these are some gifts that were hits in our family.

Crochet Animals: One year all of the kids in the family received a crochet-stuffed-bear. The kids loved them. I used these instructions, but you can find just about anything on Ravelry as far as patterns.

Freezer-Paper-Stenciled shirts: Another gift we have made for kids. Again, since you can personalize them with pretty much any design you can draw or print off of the internet, the sky is the limit.

The label for our homemade barbecue sauce last year. It was super addictive! Image: Tim Post

Canned Goods: Jams, soups, pickles, and more can be big hits. Our biggest hit seemed to be pickles and barbecue sauce.

Etched Glass: Thanks to purchasing a huge container of glass-etching compound, we have enough acidic goo to make glass etched items for several years. Last year we made name-etched casserole pans.

Ornaments: You can even use the ornaments as name tags on gifts. This year we are making melted snowmen. This tradition actually goes back to when I was a kid when the dad of a family friend made wood ornaments for all of the grandkids every year.

DIY mini-Polaroid magnets. Photo: Cathe Post

Magnets: I like this tutorial and template for making fake Polaroid magnets. These make a great gift for in-laws and grandparents.

Notebooks: One of the gifts I am putting together for all of the kids this year is little cereal box notebooks. It doesn’t matter if the kid is 1 or 18, they are getting a notebook this year. Some of them will come with stickers, some have notebook paper in them and come with a nice pen. Either way, it was the gift I came up with that all of the kids would enjoy this year.

What else are we making this year? Well, I could tell you, but it would ruin the surprise.

Street Art, Fine Art, or Both? Let’s Talk Yarnbombing

Yarnbomber Melissa Maddonni Haims at work.  Photo courtesy of Melissa Maddonni Haims.
Yarnbomber Melissa Maddonni Haims at work. Photo courtesy of Melissa Maddonni Haims.

Recently, my friend Melissa Maddonni Haims emailed from the hospital. She was fine, but my first response was: “What’s wrong? Do you need yarn?”

You see, Melissa is a fiber artist and unrepentant yarnbomber. Last winter, when she and I took our daughters to New York, she crocheted on the ice at Rockefeller Center (see the fine .gif evidence, below). She may or may not have yarnbombed a few signposts, too.

Melissa agreed to talk to GeekMom about yarnbombing: what it is, and whether it’s street art or fine art or something else. She also agreed to show us some of the projects she’s done.  Her daughter, Noa, joined us to talk about what it’s like to have a mom who always carries yarn.

Geek Mom: So, what is Yarnbombing? I’ve been seeing it everywhere.

Melissa: Yarnbombing, also known as knit graffiti, is a global phenomenon. Widely believed to have begun in Austin, Texas, in 2009, it has reached a critical mass and can be found on trees, bus stops, subway cars, bike racks, and various utility poles around the world. Recently there was an entire bridge done in Pittsburgh.

How long have you been yarnbombing? How did you get started?

I started leaving little yarny gifts for friends and at shops I liked in early 2010, right after I finished a two-year project where I had been knitting and crocheting non-stop. When that project was complete (I was creating a big fiber installation) I still had a ton of yarn and my hands wouldn’t stop moving… So I kept on knitting. I would wrap a friend’s front post, a pole outside my favorite yarn shop, make a bracelet for a railing. Little bits of fuzzy happiness for the world.

Yarnbombing at the Schuykill Nature Center, Philadelphia.  Photo courtesy of Melissa Maddonni Haims.
Yarnbombing at the Schuykill Nature Center, Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of Melissa Maddonni Haims.

One of my favorite pieces so far was a forest that I yarnbombed in January of 2012 at the Schuykill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia. It was thirty trees along a one mile trail on their nature preserve. When the curator initially contacted me for the project I politely declined, because trees are pretty enough already. But, she didn’t take no for an answer and after a meeting or two with their environmental director and their arborist, we went ahead with the project and it was amazing. The biggest challenge: trees move. When you’re 20 feet up on a ladder wrapping a pole and the wind picks up, it’s an issue. Trees move. A lot.

Also, in December of 2012 I did the mezzanine railing of the Catalina Hotel in South Beach for Art Basel. It was amazing and that project led to yarnbombing an interior and exterior stairwell at an historic home in Fairmount Park managed by The Philadelphia Museum of Art this past spring. I covered both stairwells in yarn and the juxtaposition between the details of a home built in the 1760s and a contemporary fiber installation was fantastic.

It was also my hardest project to date. Usually I throw a bunch of yarn into a bag, take it wherever I go, and whatever comes out comes out. This stuff really knits itself. But for the exterior installation I had to do a boatload of math and figure out a color pattern, which was really challenging.

What projects are you working on now? What is your dream project?

I’ve got a couple of things going on at the same time, usually. Right now I’m preparing for Art Basel Miami, the largest contemporary art fair in the country. I’m creating a series of yarnbombed chairs that are really quite sophisticated.  I’m also working on my first public space commission which is really exciting.

Dream project… Hmmmm. I always wanted to do the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which spans the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. But everybody is doing bridges now and so I’m kind of over it.

I am headed to the Venice Bienalle next week in Italy (see the comment above about Art Basel, but replace “country” with Europe) and I’m hoping to have something planned there for 2015.

Can you talk a bit about public art (and art done in public) vs. art shown in galleries?

Yarnbombed Piano. Photo courtesy of Melissa Maddonni Haims.
Yarnbombed Piano. Photo courtesy of Melissa Maddonni Haims.

There is always a lot of malarkey about it. Is it still graffiti if its been curated? The answer is yes. Art can be art no matter where it is and who asked you to do it, or who didn’t. Listen, I don’t do this stuff in the middle of the night and run. I do it in broad daylight in front of people and when they approach me I talk with them, I let them take my picture and I ask them—well, the tall ones, anyway—to help me push up the yarn on the poles. It’s fun and it brings a bit of joy. It makes the hard, cold places in our world a little warmer and fuzzier.

If a gallery or a curator asks me to do a project, it’s not any less of a statement of joy than if I did it unsolicited. I’ve yarnbombed columns in galleries along side paintings. And it’s been we’ll received. I also make work that’s not about yarnbombing, too. I’m a fiber artist and yarnbombing is only a fraction of what I do for fun. Mostly, I make large-scale installations out of knit and crocheted yarn.

Yarnbombing is just plain fun.

What materials do you work with?

Mostly I work with upcycled, recycled, and donated yarn. I use very little virgin materials in my projects. The world is just so full of stuff to  work with that I find it unnecessary to buy too much.

Because I work in public, on the street, people are always asking me what I’m doing and it usually ends up with a story about a box of yarn bits that they would love to give to me. It is not unusual to arrive at my front door and find a bag or a box of mix matched yarn left for me.

You now something about that, don’t you?

… Guilty as charged. I just left a bag of my leftover yarn on your porch.

Currently I am working on a business plan with my sister to make a specialty yarn created from post-industrial consumer waste fabric. I’ve been working with that material quite a bit over the last few months. Stay tuned…

So what happened along the Tour de France route, exactly?

Paris yarnbomb. Photo courtesy of Melissa Maddonni Haims.
Paris yarnbomb. Photo courtesy of Melissa Maddonni Haims.

Well… My husband is a cyclist and we have been dreaming of going to watch the Tour de France for years. Well, he has been dreaming and I’m more like a willing participant because it’s in France. And so we planned this trip with our 11-year-old daughter and went this summer. Noa and I are not really into biking as much as he is. And it turns out she’s not really into high altitudes so much so I mostly spent my time scoping out places to yarnbomb while we were there.

The first yarnbomb was at the finish line of  mountain stage 18 in Alpe d’Huez, at 12,000 feet.

Back in Paris for the finish of the race, I yarnbombed all of the “Caution: bikes!” poles along the finish line route on the Rue du Rivoli. I had pre-crocheted all of the yarn and thought blue would be nice. Blue skies, you know. France. Except I got there and realized everything for the Tour de France is yellow. So that was kind of like an epic yarnbomb fail.

I did get to yarnbomb a small lock for the Ponte des Arts, near the Louvre. It’s a reference to a movie I never saw where people put locks on a bridge to symbolize their commitment to each other.

Crochet on Ice. Gif by Fran Wilde.
Crochet on Ice.

For Noa: What do you think of your mom’s projects? You’re very creative yourself—have you ever been tempted to try it? 

Noa: I think her projects are crazy, pretty, and weird. I’ve never wanted to do one, because it’s just not my thing.

Melissa: Wait, what’s your “thing,” then?

Noa: “Not that.”

Also for Noa: What are some of your mom’s favorite projects?

Noa: My favorite yarnbomb that she ever did was the one in Alpe d’Huez. I don’t know why, it was just my favorite day. And I got to take the pictures of that one with the big camera.

My other favorite work of hers are the cakes, because they are delicious.

Melissa, where can people see your work?

Fairmount Park Historic House Yarnbomb.  Photo courtesy of Melissa Maddonni Haims.
Fairmount Park Historic House Yarnbomb. Photo courtesy of Melissa Maddonni Haims.

Well, if you are flying through the Philadelphia International Airport anytime between now and the end of the year, you can see a collection of knitted and crocheted cakes in Terminal D. This has been a super fun project. People from all over the world have contacted me about them. Imagine stuffed cakes that are kind of like Dr. Seuss meets the Cake Boss.

My main gallery here in Philadelphia is called 3rd Street Gallery in Old City and I show a body of work there about once every eighteen months. I do lots of group shows, too. And I show in galleries around the country, as well.

I have a website and a Facebook page where you can see images of my work, and maybe my cats.

Many thanks to Melissa and Noa for joining us.

So. What’s your favorite yarnbomb or public fiber art? Jump in at the comments!


Wonder Woman Day: Wonder-ful Crafts

Wonder Woman Crafts © Bake at 350/Pixel Power Designs/Being Geek Chic
Wonder Woman Crafts © Bake at 350/Pixel Power Designs/Being Geek Chic

If all today’s Wonder Woman posts are inspiring you to add a bit more Wonder Woman into your life then maybe a craft project is just what you need. Whether you’re looking for something you could create in an afternoon or a more long-term project there should be something for everyone here.

One of my hobbies is baking cookies and after spotting this spectacular Wonder Woman design over at Bake at 350 (which you should NOT visit if you are on a diet) I might just have to invest in some new cutters and have a go myself. The shape of the cookies was created by using two different cutters (a bikini top and a baby’s onesie) and some ingenuity to stick them together as one. Some bold and bright food dyes later and I’m feeling hungry… Continue reading Wonder Woman Day: Wonder-ful Crafts

K1, P1, Slst, and Other Such Coding.

All Images: Sarah Pinault

I like to do a variety of crafts in my free time. I am an avid scrapbooker, I occasionally make clothing, I dabble in knitting, and I love to crochet. I prefer crocheting over knitting because if I make a mistake then I know how to fix it. When I knit and make a mistake, I have no idea where to even begin fixing it, so I have to unpick and start again. With crocheting, if I don’t understand a pattern, I have enough base knowledge to figure out a workable solution.

Last weekend I gave a refresher course in crocheting to a friend. For a long time now I’ve been a firm believer that it’s all about the math–the sequences in particular. So I employed this idea when showing her how to crochet a hat, and I do believe she picked it up quicker than the last time that I showed her.

This is how I explained it:

  • Starting with a base of two chains, you build a set of five stitches.
  • Into each of those five, you put two stitches which leaves you with a new base of ten, yes it’s in base ten.
  • From ten, you insert two into each again so that you now have twenty.
  • Simple doubling up to this point, but now we start introducing incremental sequences.
  • With twenty stitches you follow a set of ten, into the first stitch you add a single stitch, into the next stitch you add two.
  • You repeat this pattern ten times and end up with thirty stitches.
  • You continue with a single stitch in the first and second followed by two stitches in the third, you do this three times and end up with forty stitches.
  • Two singles and a double single making forty over a base of thirty.

You continue to increase in this manner. Three singles and a double single (not a double stitch – that is an entirely different beast) will give you fifty stitches over ten sequences. Four singles and a double will give you sixty stitches and so on. At some point however you begin to see a peculiar shape forming, and rather than have a multi pointed hat, you simply adjust to a sequence of twenty sets instead of ten. Once you reach a point where you are working on ten singles followed by a double single, your next row is not 11 singles but five singles, and a double single for twenty repeats.

It sounds better in person, and by the time we had reached five singles and a double single, my friend had conquered her crocheting fears and was happily multiplying herself to a hat with no need for further instruction.

Though knitting and crochet patterns confound some people, I still cannot understand many of the abbreviations without a good guide. If you can understand the mathematical principles behind the pattern, then it is easy to adapt to what you are being told. Very often, I come across a pattern I like, but from a designer whose methods I do not agree with. In these instances, I will look at the numbers associated with each increase and follow my own knowledge of how to build a pattern, instead of using their preferred way.

Think I’m reading too much into something that has been a simple task for centuries? Then you need to take a look at David Chudzicki’s blog post Simulated Knitting, the alternative title of which is “I’m a big fan of the Fruchterman & Reingold graph embedding algorithm.” The Knit ML Project also regularly posts on ways in which software and mathematical principles can be used to improve the standards of knitting patterns for the end user. In their own words:

  • KnitML is not intended to promote the “right” way to notate a knitting pattern. Rather, it is our hope to write and promote software which can be easily customized to both the preferences of the designer and the knitter. KnitML only hopes to standardize the underlying content model so that software everywhere can interpret and process knitting patterns.
For my next task, I shall teach my mathematically inclined husband to crochet my infamous Boba Fett hat–from a Binary pattern.

Casting Call For Volunteer Knitters and Crocheters

"Message to the Universe." Robyn Love's communal, award-winning yarnbombing project at New York's 2010 Maker Faire. Photo credit: Andrea Schwalm

Last fall at GeekMom we wrote about guerrilla knitter Robyn Love’s “Messages to the Universe” project for Maker Faire NYC. Robyn had put a call out to fabric artists requesting donations of 12″ x 12″ squares that were then sewn together into yarn “flames” and draped from one of the rockets on the site at New York’s Hall of Science. Previously-collected messages of hope were also written out on cards and pinned onto many of the squares. At the close of Maker Faire, the knitted flames were cut apart, sewn into blankets, and distributed to the homeless through Warm Up America while the messages were collected into an art book. For my family, the project was one of the most memorable visuals in a weekend stuffed with eye candy, and we were delighted when it won a special design award at the Faire.

Now Robyn is working on a new project–a 1,500 granny-square installation to be hung from the London Plane trees lining Cheongju, Korea’s Avenue of Trees during their 2011 International Craft Biennale–and once again, she’s asking for help. If you’re a knitter or crocheter who has time to stitch up a 20″ x 20″ square by September 3, read on:

I will be installing squares of colour on each of the approximately 1,500 trees that line the roadway called “The Avenue of Trees” in Cheongju, Korea in order to create a kind of rhythmic effect of slowly transitioning colour–think colour for music. The coloured squares will be organized on-site to create the patterns and transitions, and since the roadway only accommodates cars, one interesting challenge of the project is that these color transitions will need to work at driving speed.

If you’re interested in contributing to this project, you can use crochet or knitting in any stitch, and you can use any yarn you’d like: wool, acrylic, whatever. The only real guidelines I have are that the completed square must be 50 cm/20″ and it must be one colour. I don’t have a pattern yet–I have just been making very large granny squares–but I will have a pattern soon for those that need one.

So, GeekMoms: anyone interested in becoming a foot soldier in Robyn’s artisan army? Stop by Robyn’s blog, My Fair Isle, or email Robyn at thehousemuseum(at) for further details–and feel free to upload a picture of your completed square to GeekMom’s flickr page, as well!

(Video of another project: Robyn’s water tower crochet cozy.)

Hyperbolic Crochet: The Intersection of Geometry, Feminine Handicraft, and Environmental Activism

A mathematically precise model of a hyperbolic pane by Dr. Diana Taimina.
Photo by The Institute for Figuring

A mathematically precise model of a hyperbolic pane by Dr. Diana Taimina.

Hyperbolic space is at your finger tips. A ball of yarn and a crochet hook are the only tools needed to make models of hyperbolic forms–once believed impossible to build. Created and curated by twin sisters Christine and Margaret Wertheim of The Institute for Figuring, “The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is a woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft, and a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world.”

I’ve always been a knitter–but now I’m inspired to pick up a hook and join in the international handwork circle:

The reef is being exhibited in the United States at the Sant Ocean Hall, Focus Gallery, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C. through April 24, 2011.

"Crochet Coral and Anemone Garden" with sea slug by Marianne Midelburg. Photos © The IFF by Alyssa Gorelick. (used with permission)

Check out Margaret talking about the project on TED.

“Thinking is Cosmic Knitting:” How Making Mittens Helps Kids Learn

My son Leo knits a mitten. He's wearing the hat he crocheted in 3rd grade and one of his hand-made scarves. Image: Alexandra Siy

“Thinking is cosmic knitting.”

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, knew what he was talking about. Consider Leo, my youngest son, a little boy who couldn’t sit still. The kindergarten teacher said he needed tutoring and remedial work. (He couldn’t read!) The next year Leo went to a Waldorf first grade. He loved handwork–we still have  yards and yards of his finger crocheted snakes, ropes, and rugs. In third grade Leo crocheted a cotton cap of many colors, in fourth grade he knitted  long wooly scarves,  and this year in grade five he is knitting a pair of mittens on four double pointed needles (camo colors, of course). Leo did learn how to read–when he was nine. (He is 11 now and is an excellent and voracious reader.)

Leo's mitten in progress.

“A bright yellow thread cries out to be made into a golden chain,” said Steiner. “The child responds and the activity of the limbs works with the feelings and stimulates the processes of the head. It should become a harmonious, rhythmical activity. The child must begin to be conscious. He counts his stitches; he must know when one is missing. There is a right way to hold the needles, a right time to put the thread over the needle. Such things slowly bring the child out of his unconscious world.”

Young children love to finger crochet. Around age seven a child can learn to knit. Making your own wooden needles is exciting and rewarding. My boys (Leo’s older brother is also a knitter and made me a fabulous bag and iPod holder) love visits to the yarn store–the colors, the textures, the subtle sweet, smell of wool, offer a wonderful sensual experience. Here’s a few tips on how to get started:

Finger Crocheting: Use thick wool yarn to start, and any yarn or string once mastered. Make a slip knot. Keeping the loop of the slip knot in one hand, use two fingers to pull another loop through. Hold onto the tail and don’t let the loop get too large. Tug the tail and continue to make loops. Change colors by simply knotting two yarns together. Stitch together the lengths into spirals for rugs, pot holders, and mats. Here’s a verse to help remember how:

Use your little pinchers/Go into the cave/Grab the little snake/My but you are brave!/Pull it back through/So two of you can play/Close up the hole/So he can’t get away!

Making Knitting Needles: Get 1/4 inch wooden doweling at the hardware or craft store (or any size that is comparable to knitting needle sizes0. Thicker needles are better for beginners. Cut two lengths, 12-inches long. Sand with coarse sandpaper to make tip. Finish with fine paper. Polish with lanolin cream.  Glue a bead on the flat end, or make a bead-shaped end piece with beeswax modeling clay. Go to Crafty Yarn Council for step by step instructions, and check out Squidoo for several  videos.

Here’s a verse to help little fingers keep track of the steps:

In through the front door/Running round the back/looking through the window/Off comes jack!