Here's why I make things and craft. What about you?


Why do you craft?
For me, making things and crafting have always been a part of my life. Crafting is a place for joy. A comfort. A best friend.

I craft because...
it's how I can experiment and learn. One thing I really love doing is looking at a traditional craft and then thinking "What if I tried _____?" or "What would happen if I changed _____?".

There's a great thrill in giving an idea permission to come out of your head and be real.

It's just a bonus if a crafty hypothesis works out how I wanted it to. Even if it doesn't, I know I'm going to learn a ton from what did and didn't work.

I craft because...
it grounds me. Whenever I get stressed out or anxious, the inherent repetitiveness of crafting helps me calm the nerves. It's amazing what a hundred knit 2, purl 1's can do to gather some perspective.

I craft because...
it's awesome to create something that didn't exist before. So much fun fun fun!

The best is creating something new out of something that was going to be thrown out. Then I get the "Woo Hoo, I'm recycling!" feeling too. One of my favorite craft projects was when I "recycled" several sweaters from the thrift store by unraveling them, washing all the "yarn", then crocheting it into an afghan.

We did something similar in our Sew & Stitch Embroidery book where we made a "fake knit" scarf that was made from thrift store sweaters.

And right now I'm crocheting a doily out of all my embroidery floss scraps. It's the same pattern that my grandma used to make all of her doilies. You can see a little detail of it in the "I craft because ____." graphic above.

photo by Sarah Hebenstreit
Now it's your turn.
I would love to hear from you!
Why do you craft?

Email me (Alyssa) at info [at] penguinandfish [dot] com with your answer to:

I craft because _______.


Me being crafty at 1 1/2 years old! Love this pic!
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The one concept that is changing the way I run my business: Accepting outside help

The one concept that is changing the way I run my business: Accepting outside help

I recently had the honor to write a guest post over on the Create & Thrive blog. They're all about sharing real advice on how to turn your handmade hobby into a full-time business. Obviously, I'm super excited about that topic!

The one concept that is changing the way I run my business: Accepting outside help


The article I wrote for them was about an experience I had while working on our craft book, Sew & Stitch Embroidery.

During the process of writing Sew & Stitch Embroidery, I went through several lows, like dealing with the stress of a 4 month deadline, and having 5 completed (and photographed) projects dropped due to space issues. I also had amazing highs, like getting to come up with and make so many fun projects, working with a dream photographer, and holding the finished book in my hands. Surprisingly though, the most eye opening part of the whole process happened after all of this. It was during the book’s blog tour.
It was during the blog tour that I realized I was working on my business all wrong.

Read the full article on the Create & Thrive blog by clicking here.

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Simple Knitted Legwarmers pattern - still time to make before Christmas

Simple, knit legwarmers
The last few days have been FREEZING, and I mean negative numbers. The weather is tempting me to add another project to my already long Holiday project list.

Legwarmers!

I can bundle up all I want on top, but if all I have on the legs are jeans, I'm still going to be pretty dang cold. I could wear tights underneath my jeans, but who wants to do that?

So, I thought, I should just make really long legwarmers, like mid-thigh length legwarmers. Doesn't that sound wonderful! They'll be like blankets for the legs!

I made the legwarmers in the image above back in 2009 and am thinking I'll use the same, no-fuss pattern. To update them for the thigh length legwarmers, I'm going to use the same design and just keep stitching until they're the right length. I'll take the measurement around the largest part of my thigh instead of calf to start. That may be all I do. However, if the legwarmer seems too big once I get lower on the leg, I may start decreasing a stitch or two every now and then to make the bottoms slimmer. But who knows, it might be just right with the bottoms being big. I'll decide as I go, and let you know what happens.

Here is the pattern for the original legwarmers from the photo above.

Simple Legwarmers:

I used black, sport weight, blue sky alpaca yarn, but you can use whatever yarn you'd like. Update: use the needle size that's recommended for the yarn. I don't know what the original size of needle I used to make these back in 2009.

First you'll need to make a quick gauge: Cast on 10 stitches in stockinette stitch (knit a row, purl a row) for 10 rows total. Measure how many horizontal stitches in an inch. Then measure the number of inches around the largest part of you calf. Use those two numbers to figure out how many stitches you'll need to go around your calf.

Figure out the number of stitches it takes to go around your calf (instructions above) and cast on the closest multiple of 4 to that number. For my legwarmers I cast on 36 stitches.

work in the round

(k2, p2) around for 15 rows

k 50 rows (or to your desired length)

(k2, p2) around for 15 rows

bind off loosely.

There you go. Super easy, no frills, but still cute.

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Prepping for Christmas break

The No Coast Craft-o-Rama craft fair was this weekend, and it was super fun and great. However, now that it's over, all that I can think about is Christmas break! The hubs and I are taking Christmas to New Year's off and are spending it at my parent's house in Wisconsin.

And what does a break look like? Eating yummy food, sitting by the fire, hanging out with family, and of course...CRAFTING! The rare time I actually have a real break, I immediately feel the need to start new projects, try new ideas, and attempt to finish projects that have just been sitting in the studio forever.

I couldn't wait anymore last night and had to get started on something. I decided to start a new "this will take me a lifetime to finish" quilt. It's going to be completely hand stitched using the English Paper Piecing technique, and be made from the hubs and my old clothes that I've been hanging onto. Check out my start in the pics below.

Cut out paper pieces from a No Coast Craft-o-Rama craft fair poster. Yay for recycling!
About 2am. Took hours and hours and hours to get this far. Have to remind myself that it's OK if this project takes a long time to complete.
Even made up a cute little portable bin!
What are my other projects on the Holiday docket? I have a bin of projects all ready to go of things I've been meaning to do.

1. Make a fleece or flannel lining for the knit cowl I made a few years ago.
I love this and want to wear it so badly, but it's too itchy.

2. Make a stuffed animal bear out of mohair. 
I've had this kit for probably over 10 years. I think I've just been scared to cut into the beautiful mohair. Also, I rarely end up making things from other people's patterns because I always want to change them right away so they're more Penguin & Fish-y style. Well not this time...I'm doing this one by the book. I will, however probably knit him a little scarf when he's done.

3. Make the "Note Taker" writing pad folder by Pink Chalk Studio
I got this at the Spring International Quilt Market in Portland last spring. I think it's totally cute and I've been wanting to make one. Just haven't got to it yet.

4. Make a "Pointless Wonder" quilt top.
Another kit that I've had laying around for over 10 years. I'm at the "THIS NEEDS TO BE FINISHED NOW" point. It's a quilt made up of wonky 5 point stars, all with the tips of the points cropped off at the edge of the blocks. The pattern and fabrics in the kit aren't quite my style, however it looks like it uses a pretty interesting technique for making the stars, so I'm excited about that. And I want it to be finished so it's not sitting around anymore.

Bin of projects all ready to go.
And last but not least...

5. Finish the top for my jeans log cabin quilt.
I've been working on this fellow on and off for about 5 years now. I cut up the hubs old jean (he goes through a lot of jeans) into 1 1/2 inch strips and have been making "log cabin" blocks. I'm practically done with the blocks and almost ready to sew them together into a top. I'm pretty excited about getting this project to "quilt top" form. I'm also excited for it to not be sitting on my printer anymore.

Jean quilt. My printer is sick of being weighed down.

So by "last but not least" I actually mean "not least". I know my mom has plans to work on couple of quilt tops and some infinity scarves. I'm also going to be bringing home my embroidery sewing machine and a computer, so who knows what else we'll come up with while we're there. And yes, I do realize that my vacation will be at most, 10 days long, and it's crazy to think I could actually finish all of these projects. I'm hoping finishing all the projects will be a beautiful Christmas Miracle.

What are you working on over the holidays?

Happy Thanksgiving! (plus a freebie)

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, yay! I actually already celebrated Thanksgiving with my family last week and had lots of fun and lots of food. My mom is the best cook! The husband and I are still going to have our own little celebration tomorrow though. We have all to food ready for our cooking adventure.

I wanted to say Thank You for all your support and for being part of our Penguin & Fish community!

Here is a little freebie to help put the finishing touches on your Thanksgiving table. It's our printable Woodland Holiday Place Holders!

Click this link to get your Woodland Holiday Place Holders.

best
-alyssa




Wooly Woodland Zipper Pouches in the Fox, Owl, Raccoon and Hedgehog now available.

Our Wooly Woodland Zipper Pouches are now up in the Penguin & Fish shop and available for everyone. Yay!

They would make an amazing holiday gift (or "just because" gift), and could be filled with all the gift receiver's favorite things.

Click here to see all the available Wooly Woodland Zipper Pouches: http://penguinandfish.com/accessories



Details:

• Features an embroidered fox, hedgehog, raccoon, or owl designed by Alyssa Thomas of Penguin & Fish.

• 6 1/2 inches wide x 5 inches tall

• 100% woven wool exterior that we've felted (or "fulled") making it soft and fluffy.

• Organic cotton lining from our Picnic Pals and Critter Patch fabric collections.

• Each is one-of-a-kind. No two have the same combination of design, fabric, zipper color, and lining.

• Perfectly fits a phone and a few personal items like nail polish and lip gloss. Or if you're like me, some fabric, embroidery floss, small scissors, needles and water soluble marker.




Click here to see all the available Wooly Woodland Zipper Pouches: http://penguinandfish.com/accessories


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Our new holiday favorite! Wooly Woodland Zipper Pouches.

I recently gifted myself something that I've been wanting to play with for a long time. A machine embroidery sewing machine! Don't worry, I'm not giving up on my hand embroidery roots, I just wanted to experiment in a "new for me" medium.

Look what I made! A little zippered fox pouch.



It's made out of fluffed up 100% wool fabric with a cute cotton lining. I was so excited about the little pouch, that I of course immediately posted it to facebook, twitter and instagram.

I was pretty quickly emailed by several people that they would like one, so I thought,
"How fun! I'll make some more!" 
and decided I would make up a limited amount of them especially for the holidays.



I'm still working out the details about when they'll be released (I've just started to make more). If you would like more info on the Wooly Woodland Zipper Pouches and want to stay updated on when they'll be available, click the link below.

Click here to stay up to date on the release of our Wooly Woodland Zipper Pouches.

You'll be the FIRST to know when they're available, and have FIRST DIBS on them before I share them on our main newsletter and other social media.

And now for a pile of cute...



Look at this pile of wool that I've stitched already. There are hedgehogs, foxes, owls, and even raccoons! I can't wait to make more!
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