Follow Friday: Follow Finch

I’m lucky to live really close to Finch Knitting and Sewing Studio but I don’t tend to get out and about as much as I should, so I keep tabs on their goings-on via social media (mainly Instagram and Facebook) and their blog. The shop and Nicole, the owner, made national news earlier this year for being so welcoming and inclusive. They have classes and workshops and retreats and are in one of the cutest historical buildings in my town. On top of all that, Nicole stocks thoughtful, high quality yarns and fabrics. Finch is the only place local to me (well, without traveling too far into the DC metro area) that stocks Liberty fabrics. Finch is also an authorized Bernina dealer and I desperately need to replace my basic-level 25 year old sewing machine. I’m almost afraid to go in the shop because I know I’ll walk out with an empty wallet but on the other hand, I know I would find a community of creatives there, so Finch is on my stretch list – I know once I start going regularly, I’ll fit right in.

Bonus: today is the day that Finch Boxes launch! I’m really tempted to subscribe even though I could (in theory) walk to the store (in an hour or two) – I would love to get something crafty from Finch in my mailbox!

The Lesser Great Gilded Reindeer: Gilding 101

This week has already gotten away from me and it’s barely begun; I suspect I won’t be catching up to do my regular posts (or at least not all of them) this week or next. We leave for New Zealand December 20, next Tuesday, and I’m not sure what my vacation internet connectivity will be like.

On to the long-sought after reindeer and the gilding adventure: I have some handy tips if you decide to follow in my footsteps and gild something. My upfront advice: try liquid gilding or stick with spray paint.

Anyway …

Before Thanksgiving, I came across a paper mâché reindeer head (really, half a head and a rack) in an AC Moore in Richmond, VA, 3 hours from where I live, and recklessly left it in the store, unpurchased. With Christmas approaching, I kept thinking about this reindeer and how nice it would look in silver on my front door instead of my usual yarn ball wreath.

Balls & bells & beady crabapples: finished before Christmas!!! #2012xmas
Ho hum. This yarn ball wreath has graced my holiday door for 4 long years now.

After Thanksgiving, I looked in my local AC Moore for the deer: no dice. I tried Michael’s: no dice again, but they had all of the supplies to do gilding, which is what I wanted to do with this reindeer. I found that I could order the deer from Michael’s online, but they only sell them in 3s and what would I do with the other 2 reindeer? I gave up and purchased a consolation decoration.

But last Monday a Christmas miracle happened: I stopped by JoAnn (more known for fabric & sewing than general crafting) and they had one remaining precious paper mâché half reindeer head!!! And 4 other reindeer … uh … heads with necks (more like what you’d see mounted as a trophy). I scooped up the half reindeer and after searching high and low for the gilding supplies, just bought the reindeer head and made another trip to Michael’s for the gilding supplies.

The precious reindeer head and the gilding supplies

Supplies: for gilding something with actual metal (and not cheating with liquid gilding or spray paint), you need the gilding sheets (thin sheets of metal, available in silver & gold), gilding adhesive (I suspect this is just diluted white glue, more diluted than what’s used for Mod Podge/découpage), a set of brushes for spreading glue and getting the gilding sheets to stick, and the thing you’ll be gilding.

Gilding Step 1: As you can see, I gathered all the supplies and also, for once, covered my work space (aka the dining room table) with a protective layer of newsprint, which turned out to be a bad idea by step 3.

Step 2: Paint the thing you want to gild with glue so the gilding sheets have something to stick to; without the glue, you’d just have little bits of silver or gold floating everywhere. (Even with the glue, that’s going to happen.) So I painted the reindeer with glue and laid it carefully down on the paper to dry until it was tacky.

The gluey reindeer

The downside to the paper on my work surface is that the back of the reindeer’s antlers rested on the paper as they dried to tacky. To avoid découpaging the antlers to the paper, I laid some clear plastic wrap down thinking that would be enough to separate the two. Had I started painting the head with glue and moved up, I probably wouldn’t’ve had a problem, but I started with the antlers and moved down. I did realize that the antlers were sticking to the plastic wrap a little to much before the antlers were ripped and before the plastic wrap was permanently fixed.

Tip 1: If you’re gilding something large or complex break it up into sections and fully gild each section before moving on to the next so the whole thing isn’t covered in glue all at once. I’m lucky I didn’t get glue on what I was wearing, the table, the paper, or the cats, who were curious, of course. Also, I did find that I was rushing step 3 to beat the glue before it dried too much.

Applying the gilding sheet to the tacky reindeer and trying to patch all the areas where the gild didn’t reach on the first go around

Step 3: Take one of the wax sheets with a gilding sheet stuck to it (with static!), position it over your now tacky/sticky object with the metal side down, press down with your fingers and/or one of the brushes to adhere as much of the sheet as possible to your object, then gently lift the wax paper away from the object, and gently smooth the metal on the object with one of the brushes. Soon, you’ll have little bits of metal all over yourself, your work surface, the brushes, the cats, and, if you’re doing it right, the object you’re gilding.

This seems like an easy thing to do until you realize that it’s a little more complex and difficult with 3 dimensional features, like antlers, eyes, ears, and nostrils. In some of the hard-to-reach areas, I peeled the metal away from the backing and carefully placed it over the area I was working on, then used the brush to nudge the gilding into place. In other areas, I centered the gilding on the sheet over an ungilded area and rubbed with my finger or fingernail until it stuck.

Tip 2: Use spray paint or liquid gilding instead of glue & gilding sheets because it’s so difficult to apply the sheets evenly over indentations, bulges, and curves. My finished reindeer is not entirely gilded; there are still spots on it where the brown paper shows through, but the eye is so distracted by all the shiny silver that you have to look really hard to find those areas. So if you’re seeking perfection, go with spray paint or liquid gilding.

This was about 2 hours of gilding, including set up and a bathroom break or two

Tip 3: See Tip 1. Tip 1 also allows you to take frequent breaks so that if/when you get frustrated, you can step away instead of feeling like you have to beat the clock before the glue goes from tacky to dry. I think there’s a 2-3 hour window of tackiness before the glue dries too much and I had begun to hit it by the time I realized I needed to step away from the project or shred it into tiny, tiny pieces (I only have so much patience, you see).

Step 4: Allow the completely gilded object to dry 2 hours or (ideally, I think) overnight and then go over it again with one of the brushes to brush all of the extra gilding off. I’ll tell you right now that I skipped this step. I may or may not go back and do this; the reindeer looked good enough and I was really tired of brushing it.

Tip 4: Do Step 4 outside if you can. The gilding gets everywhere, even if you’re careful. I think despite my precautions & despite how careful I was, I will have gilding stuck to my dining room table forever now. It also ending up on the cats, the dogs, in my hair, on the kids, and probably in our dinner. Step 4 is going to create even more itty bitty bits, so go outside if you can.

The Lesser Great Gilded Reindeer on my front door

Step 5 (optional): Seal your gilded object with a coat of clear finish, preferably spray paint. I’ll probably do this at some point in the future; I spent too much time on this to not add another layer of protection to it.

Tip 5: Skip steps 1-4 and just use spray paint.

Ta da!

I’m calling the finished reindeer The Lesser Great Gilded Reindeer because in my mind, The Greater Great Gilded Reindeer is either a gilded paper mâché trophy head or gilded version of an entire reindeer. Maybe next year I’ll attempt a Greater Great Gilded Reindeer (with spray paint, of course).

The Week Dec 5 – Dec 11

Last week’s goals with progress indicated:

  • Make recommended changes to the pattern for the Gir hat & scarf, including (reluctantly) instructions for using DPNs.
  • Figure out how to organize test knits for both, including what expectations to set.
  • Add another pattern as a custom knit to The Yarn Office.
  • Start keeping track of things people ask me if I can make. Evaluate whether or not I can or want to make them, possibly add to etsy. (Cat butt coasters aren’t exactly keeping with the vibe I’ve got going on in the shop, but if I like making them and they sell, why not?) List started in my Bullet Journal, I haven’t really decided on whether or not to make any of them yet.
  • Finish the Chunky Herringbone Infinity Scarf and start a listing for it in the shop.
  • Start etsy listings for the FOs I took to the event on Saturday.
  • Edited to Add: Text Al to get Master John’s email addy. Email him the info for requesting a custom order from TYO and ask him to send the pics he showed me. Also pre-emptively ordered yarn from Webs, along with some other goodies.

This week:

  • Make recommended changes to the pattern for the Gir hat & scarf, including (reluctantly) instructions for using DPNs. Decided to neuter the instructions, so to speak; they now talk about knitting in the round but leave it to the knitter to decide on whether to use DPNs or circulars/magic loop.
  • Figure out how to organize test knits for both, including what expectations to set.
  • Add another pattern as a custom knit to The Yarn Office.
  • Start etsy listings for the remaining FOs I have, including the Chunky Herringbone Cowl – next step will be pics.
  • Gild the reindeer head that I finally found again this morning after seeing it in a craft store a few weeks ago. (I made myself do the edits to the Gir Hat & Scarf before writing this post and before gilding the reindeer; so excited!!!)

Deer head

30 Day Knitting Challenge All Together Now

Having completed the 30 Day Knitting Challenge, I thought it might be handy to have all the questions in one place and link them to my answers. As a tech writer, back in the day one of my favorite things to do was create an index for a document – this definitely hits that button. All in all, this was fun to do; I got to reflect on all things knitting-related and I’ve written every day since starting the challenge on September 5. I hope it’s been fun to read, too. I plan to continue writing and posting regularly, I even have some tentative themes set up. If you, dear readers, have something you’d like me to write about or have found another interesting blog challenge, please let me know!

Day 1: What was your first finished project?
Day 2: What is currently on your needles?
Day 3: Do you have any other WIPs (works in progress)?
Day 4: How did you learn how to knit?
Day 5: How long did it take from the time your learned how to knit, to finish your first project?
Day 6: What is your favorite piece that you’ve knit?
Day 7: Your least favorite?
Day 8: What’s your most challenging project?
Day 9: What fiber or yarn do you love working with?
Day 10: Do you have a favorite pattern or designer?
Day 11: Do you have a “Knitter Hero” or someone that is just way too awesome for their own good? Do share!
Day 12: Where do you keep your stash? Post pictures!
Day 13: Do you have yarn that you love but can’t find a project for?
Day 14: What’s the worst yarn/fiber that you’ve worked with and why?
Day 15: What was your least favorite pattern and why?
Day 16: Have you ever had a knitting related injury?
Day 17: Have you ever had a project that you loved become ruined? What’s the story behind it?
Day 18: Do you knit English or Continental?
Day 19: Do you watch movies and/or listen to podcasts while knitting? What are your favorite things to knit to?
Day 20: Do you knit in public? Was anyone offended/incredibly happy/curious that you were doing so?
Day 21: Do you knit gifts for friends and family for the holidays or birthdays?
Day 22: Have you ever stricken someone off your to-knit-for list because they didn’t appreciate/take care of your last knitted gift to them?
Day 23: If you had the supplies (and patience) for it, what project would you start today?
Day 24: Have you ever made your own pattern or dyed your own yarn? How did it turn out?
Day 25: Do you have a knitting book or a place where you keep patterns, ideas, size measurements? Post a picture of it!
Day 26: Have you ever been a part, or wanted to be a part of a knit-a-long? What was it? If not, why?
Day 27: How do you acquire most of yarn? Online retailers, local yarn shops, swaps, or large chain craft stores? What’s your favorite?
Day 28: Do you do any other crafts besides knitting? What are they, and did learning to knit come before or after learning these other crafts?
Day 29: Do you have any tips, or things that you’ve learned from knitting?
Day 30: What’s your name on Ravelry? If you don’t have a Ravelry account, why?

30/30 Ravelry

30 Day Knitting Challenge Day 30: What’s your name on Ravelry? If you don’t have a Ravelry account, why?

Surprise! I’m madgeface on Ravelry but my designs are under my real name because I couldn’t figure out how to do it any other way. Before Ravelry, I was active in the Knitter’s Review forums and I remember feeling like joining Ravelry was a betrayal. But I found my knitting group and all of the forums and had a ball. I’m not as active in the forums as I used to be; a lot of my friends who were active have had circumstances change and they no longer have the time to keep up their previous posting pace. I also feel like I’m still searching for the right group; some of them are really prickly and I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing, but the vast majority just don’t hold any interest for me – I’d rather knit or put my energy into this blog or Instagram or Twitter or any number of other things.

Ravelry definitely changed what and how I knit. Before Ravelry, I picked patterns out of books and Interweave Knits or Vogue Knitting and occasionally online. Now, Ravelry’s pattern and yarn databases are invaluable for finding projects. I almost always research a pattern and look at other people’s project on Ravelry before I start knitting. Or I start with the yarn and see what other people have made with it. In turn, I try to include helpful information in my pattern notes.

Wow. The last day of the 30 Day Knitting Challenge! I’m going to publish a page later with all of the questions linked to my answers so it’s easier for me (and you, but mostly me) to look back on them all. If you made it through all 30, kudos to you! And if not, here’s an easy achievement for your Friday:


29/30 Tips

30 Day Knitting Challenge Day 29: Do you have any tips, or things that you’ve learned from knitting?


I have lots and lots of tips, but most of them pertain to specific situations or problems. For example, to cable without a cable needle, it helps to hold your knitting below the live row so you’re not pulling out stitches while you’re manipulating the needles. I have a whole board on Pinterest for knitting tips. But then I do have some other general proclamations …

  • Have patience with yourself and what your hands will do. Knitting is mostly muscle memory and it takes time to train your muscles to do different things.
  • If there’s something that’s bothering you about your knitting and you’re not sure whether or not to tink back or rip it out, go ahead and tink or rip – if it bothers you now, it’ll still bother you when the piece is finished.
  • Buy the best yarn and supplies that you can afford.
  • Learning how to do magic loop with circular needles will save you from having to buy circulars in multiple sizes – just get the longest set you can.
  • Connect with other knitters in person or online; you’ll learn new things and get to see what other people are working on, which can be really inspiring.

And probably more – I’m always open to questions and helping other people, even if it’s tracking down an answer from someone else or commiserating.

28/30 Other Crafts

30 Day Knitting Challenge Day 28: Do you do any other crafts besides knitting? What are they, and did learning to knit come before or after learning these other crafts?

I crochet, spin, and weave, though not all that regularly. I’ve also fooled around with felting and fulling, beading, embroidery, sewing (but my sewing machine and I have a hate-hate relationship), and other things, like upcycling Altoid tins. I have an album on flickr with some of those projects, aptly named The Others.

The Others