How To: Dealing with Stiff Circs

Uncurl-Needle-Cords-Header

Every knitter who uses circs knows the struggle of wrestling with the cords of cheap circs. You take them out of the package, expecting the cord to unwind only to end up with this:

curly-cord

Ugh.

Seriously the worst.

And it’s not like they’ll gradually soften and straighten as you knit – no matter how much you pull, that spiral stays.

Except, I figured out how to make it go away.

(Or rather, my father suggested it to my mom who then tried it, found out it works, and then told me… but anyway…)

All it takes is a little bit of hot water and about 5 minutes total.

heat-water

All you do is heat some water to boiling (or near boiling)*. I just put it in the microwave for about 4 minutes.

Once your water is hot, dip your cord in the hot water for 10 seconds (make sure you don’t put it in far enough that the joint between the needle and the cord touches the water – make sure it’s JUST the cord), take it out, and pull it straight.

dip-cord

Hold it straight for 30 seconds until the cord cools – essentially what you’re doing is melting the cord ever-so-slightly and allowing it to resolidify in its new, straight form.

If it’s still not uncurled enough, dip again and repeat the process.

All done

And that’s it! Now you have a nice, relaxed circ cord!

(*Sidenote: if you’re someone who is concerned about plastics and heat and whatnot, use a disposable tupperware container that you don’t intend to use for consumables to heat the water.)

DIY Adjustable Wire Charm Bracelets

Wire Charm Bracelet header

One of the (non-career related) benefits of teaching college students – adjunct though I may be – is that it helps keep me on top of fashion trends. Some I’ve by far already aged out of (apparently midriff shirts are a thing again?). But others I’m totally still young enough for, and the wire charm bracelets I’ve been seeing everywhere are right up my alley.

Bonus, they are TOTALLY DIYable. Which is great for me, since most of the actual brand name bracelets are hella expensive (for my budget anyway) at about $30 a bangle. That said, the actual bangles (I do own one – Jim bought me one for my birthday!) are made of much higher quality materials, and are far sturdier than my DIY version, so just beware.

I had many of the materials needed beforehand (tools, wire, jump rings, and some charms – many still unopened! Craft supply stashing has its benefits sometimes). After raiding my stash, these bracelets cost me a minimal amount of money. However, if you’re starting from scratch, this project may end up costing as much as one of the original bangles – the pliers you need can run the bill up pretty easily. That said, you’ll be set up to make a whole bunch instead of just one, plus the pliers (at least in my experience) pay for themselves in jewelry repair beyond this project. I can’t tell you how many necklaces and earrings I’ve salvaged and fixed over the years with my set.

Tools

Tools:

  • Flat Nose Jewelry Pliers
  • Round Nose Jewelry Pliers
  • Wire Cutters

(here’s a set of jewelry pliers on amazon that aren’t too pricey)

Supplies

Supplies:

  • Thick Jewelry Wire – I used 16 gauge dead soft wire that I got forever ago at Michael’s (they’re all the same brand – luckily I still had the tag on one coil!)
  • Large-ish Charms to match your wire
  • Jump Rings (or you can make your own out of the wire – I have a whole stash of them, so I didn’t bother.)
  • Small charms for accent purposes – I bought a variety from Michael’s and Hobby Lobby

wire start

First, take your wire, and cut enough to go around your wrist tightly about one and a half times – the circumference of the wire I used means I cut about this much:

cut wire

Next, bend each end like so:

bend ends up

There should be a little more than half an inch for each bend – enough to loop over the wire comfortably. Then, if needed, bend the wire in so the ends overlap by about an inch and a half, like so:

bend wire in

Then, take your round nose pliers and bend one of the little “tails” over the wire above it, trimming off the excess and then using your flat nose pliers to clamp it down so the wire won’t escape, as the following three pictures (hopefully) illustrate:

round nose pliers step one

First Bend

finish first bend

Repeat the process with the second “tail:”

second bend

Once you finish the second bend you’ll have a bangle base that looks like this:

Finished base

From here on out, it’s a breeze. Open up a jump ring…

open charm jump ring

… and attach your main charm to the bangle base between the two wire bends.

charm attached

Then take your little accent charms…

little charms

… and attach them to the main part of the bracelet. And Voila! All done!

bracelet all finished

Each bracelet takes about three minutes once you get the hang of the bends. I had a bunch of charms (I admit I went and bought more, even) and so within 30 minutes I had a whole bunch of bangles! They’re not nearly as nice as the real ones, but I like the fact that I can make them with any charm of my choice, and they’ll certainly do for now. At least until I can actually afford to treat myself to the real ones!

Finished Bracelets on

Enjoy (and don’t mind my pasty pale arm)!

A Test of a Pinterest DIY Cleaner

Header vinegar cleaner

So bathtub cleaner is expensive. Cleaners in general are expensive. This is not news to anyone I’m sure, and it certainly wasn’t news to me. But with my financial situation set to become what it will at the end of this semester* it has gradually become more and more soul sucking to have to purchase these kinds of products. Not only are they expensive, but they smell totally noxious, and using them is a massive pain in the rump that leaves me with a headache from the odor every time. The idea that I was paying what I was for the “privilege” of cleaning just started to drive me bonkers.

My bathtub cleaner, despite being the best one I’ve been able to find over the years, was by far the biggest offender – expensive, horrible smelling, and still for some reason requiring massive amounts of scrubbing despite the guarantees on the bottle that it wouldn’t. None of this is helped by the fact that our bathroom is an interior room with no window or ventilation beyond the exhaust fan (which really only serves to de-steam the room, not fully ventilate).

Before

So one day two weeks ago I got fed up. I was done. The tub had been let go a little longer than usual at that point due to an extra busy few weeks (see photo above for grossness – notice that I have NOT watermarked that photo…), and I was just NOT in the mood to spend an hour + on my knees scrubbing this thing out while the cleaner slowly gassed me. To Pinterest I went, where I found a recipe for a DIY cleaner that I had all the ingredients for.

Now this cleaner recipe has been done a thousand and one times – there are hundreds of pins on Pinterest from hundreds of blogs, many of which have the instructions directly in the pin description, and many of which didn’t even lead back to anything. And I have to admit – I simply did not have the time or the patience that day to try to track the recipe back to an original source. I did a search on Pinterest for “DIY bathtub cleaner,” read the first recipe that had ingredients I had on hand out of the pin description, shut the laptop and went. So if you happen to know who the “originating” blogger was (or the closest we can come to the originating blogger when something’s gone this viral) – please let me know so I can link to them.

But bottom line is, there’s a reason this recipe has been done a thousand times on a thousand blogs: it’s easy, and it works. Simply mix equal parts dish soap (most of these recipes call for original blue Dawn, but I used what I had here and it worked just fine) and white vinegar that’s been heated in the microwave, stick it in a spray bottle and you’re good to go.

Notched Bottle

The spray bottle I had on hand was actually purchased at Sally Beauty for about $2 – originally intended to test a DIY “Dry” Shampoo recipe I had stumbled upon. But I never quite got around to that, so cleaner bottle it became. And it conveniently has these little notches on the side to measure things. So I just dumped in the dish soap until I felt like stopping, and then looked to see how much that was (it was 8 oz).

I then measured out that same amount of white vinegar and stuck it in the microwave for three minutes. Can I just tell you how much I love my Pyrex liquid measuring cup? Because I love it. And it made this process soooooo easy.

Pour the vinegar into the bottle with the dish soap, shake it a little to mix (really, just a little – it will suds up pretty good), and done.

Vinegar measured out

I sprayed it all over the tub and let it sit for about half an hour and work its magic. It did make the bathroom smell like orange vinegar, but that’s sooooo totally preferable to whatever chemically awfulness normal cleaners have. I didn’t feel light-headed or like I was going to suffocate while using this product at all.

Now, I must admit I did do a super quick 5 second pass on the particularly icky parts with a scrub brush just to loosen some of the grime up – but in general this cleaner worked like a charm. A quick rinse and my tub was shiny again.

Well, except for the drain, which is old and has lost some of the lacquer finish in places so never really looks shiny and perfect. But the rest of the tub was clean as a whistle. Just look for yourself!

After

Overall, I give this DIY recipe a 9/10. The only way this could be better is if I could figure out how to get rid of the vinegar smell while it worked and make it smell like cookies or cake or something equally appetizing. Maybe I’ll work on that in the future. But for now, you can definitely call me a DIY cleaner convert. This cleaner apparently works just as well once it cools – but we’ll have to wait for next time to find that out for sure!

*I know, I know. This has been mentioned almost every single post for the last couple weeks and I’m sure it’s getting tiresome, but bottom line is that Magpie Making Do is a reflection of my reality – and lately my reality is consumed by this issue!

Lucky Charm Treats – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

lucky charms treats header

St. Paddy’s Day is one of my very favorite holidays. Or rather, let me rephrase that: My hometown St. Paddy’s Day Parade is one of my very favorite holidays, topped only by Christmas. I originate from the Scranton, PA area and let’s just say this – “Parade Day” (as we call it – it’s so important we don’t even need to specify. Everyone just knows) is a big freaking deal. That said, our sacred day was actually Saturday annnnnddddd I was a bad girl and didn’t bring my camera with me.

Boooooooo bad blogger.

So to make up for the lack of personal photos, here’s a tutorial for Lucky Charm Treats!

First, gather your supplies.

Lucky Charm Bars Supplies

You’ll need:

  • A box of Lucky Charms Cereal
  • A bag of marshmallows
  • Butter
  • A big rectangular baking tray of some sort – I used my lasagna pan because I don’t own any cake pans
  • A spatula of some sort for stirring and spreading

melt the butter

Second step: Melt up some butter – I used about 4 tbs.

Add the marshmallows

Third: Once the butter is all melted, add in your marshmallows and begin stirring. I used about 2/3 of the bag. I started off measuring cup by cup but then said “screw this” and dumped them all in. Sipping a Guinness while cooking makes me impatient I guess – look, I didn’t even wait for the butter to be totally melted! Just goes to show you, these are easy to make – loooootttsss of wiggle room in the instructions!

Melt the mallows

Let them melt and get all gooey and gross looking.

add the charms

Then, take the pot off the heat and add the lucky charms! I started out measuring, aiming for about 6 cups but pffffff. Who needs that. So I just dumped them in as I stirred until it looked relatively right. The cereal should be coated with the marshmallow goo – but not saturated.

spread into pan

Once all the cereal is coated, (and try not to over-stir or else the Lucky Charms marshmallows will start to melt too and the colors will run together into a muddled brown mess) dump it into your greased pan and use your spatula to flatten it all out into the corners in a nice even layer. This is far harder to do than with Rice Krispies – be patient.

Add some sprinkles

Then, just for shits and giggles and because there’s no such thing as too much sugar, add some sprinkles. It’s a good idea. Trust me.

Finished lucky charm treats

Let them cool (as eager as you may be, you really do need to do this – just ask my burnt finger), and then enjoy your Lucky Charms Treats!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

DIY Plastic Bag Keeper

DIY Plastic Bag Keeper

We had a major plastic bag problem in our kitchen. Since we moved in this summer, we’ve been saving plastic shopping bags to use as garbage bags in our small cans – throwing so much plastic away without even attempting to recycle made us feel uncomfortable. BUT, after several months of this, we had accumulated more plastic bags than we could ever hope to keep up with in terms of our trash creation, and because we don’t have a ton of hidden storage, they were cluttering up our kitchen big time. So, I whipped up a quick solution with my DIY Plastic Bag Keeper.

Supplies Needed

What you’ll need:

  • Sewing Machine
  • Scrap fabric that’s at least 4″ taller and 1″ wider than you want your finished keeper to be – I used a remnant I had in my stash that matched our lovely retro orange countertops
  • Matching Thread
  • Scissors
  • Safety pin and Orange Stick (or whatever you prefer for turning small tubes inside out/threading elastic through casings)
  • Elastic (I just used what I had stashed away – I think it was 1/2 inch and it worked perfectly).
  • Beverage of Choice
  • About 30 minutes of free time

Cutting Fabric

First, cut your fabric to size. The remnant I chose was almost a full yard, and there’s no way we needed a plastic bag keeper that big. I just kind of eyeballed it, but you’ll want your piece to be about 4″ taller and 1″ wider than you want your finished keeper to be. The excess will go into the casing for the elastic, the fabric for the hanging loop, and the seam allowances.

You should end up with a rectangle that looks something like this (yes, I know, I didn’t iron my fabric… whoops):

Fabric cut to size

Next, clip a strip off the bottom of one of the short sides, like so:

Cutting strip for hanging loop

Make it about double the width you want your hang loop to be plus seam allowances I wanted mine sort of thin, so my strip is only about 1.5″ wide. If you want yours to be wider, make sure you accommodate for that extra width when cutting your initial rectangle. You’ll end up with a strip like this:

Cut strip

Put that strip aside for now, because next we’re going to make the casing for the elastic.

fold over for elastic

Fold and pin your fabric on one of the short sides over, wrong side to wrong side. I folded about an inch over, but again, you can just kind of wing it. Just make sure that once it’s sewn, you’ll have room for your elastic to fit through. Now, sew it up, making sure to leave enough space between the seam and the fold for your elastic.

Sew for elastic casing

Do the same on the other side, and you’ll be left with a rectangle with a tube on both short ends, like so:

elastic casings finished

Next, fold that baby in half lengthwise, right side to right side.

Fold into tube

Sew up the loose side to make a big tube, but only go from seam to seam. Be careful not to close up the tubes at either end you made earlier: that’s where you’re going to thread the elastic through. You’ll have something that looks like this when you’re finished:

Finished tube

Now it’s time to make the hanging loop – I find it easier to make and attach this BEFORE you add the elastic, but you can do it either way, really.

First, fold your strip in half (right side to right side) and pin. Then sew up the side to make another tube – really that’s all this project is: making tube after tube…

Making Hangloop

Next, turn the tube inside out. Mine’s pretty thin, and I find that orange sticks work really well for this (those wood sticks used to push back cuticles and clean under nails and stuff – you should be able to find them in the nail care aisle of any drug store or beauty supply shop. I get mine at Sally Beauty). I have a bunch sitting around in my manicure drawer anyway, and the flat angled edge is perfect for forcing fabric through fabric.

Finally, attach to the big tube where you want it to hang, again being careful to sew UNDER the seam so as not to close up the elastic casing. I actually doubled my hanging loop, because my strip was long enough to cut in half, and I liked the way it looked.

And with that, all that’s left is to put in the elastic!

Threading Elastic collage

First, cut your elastic. I cut mine so that the elastic at the bottom of the keeper will be smaller, and thus the hole will be a little smaller – this helps keep the bags in the tube. Meanwhile the elastic at the top was left a little bigger, so that you can shove the bags into the keeper with a bit more ease. Use the width of your tube as your guide – the top elastic should be about as wide as the tube is when laid flat, and I cut my bottom elastic about half the size of the top elastic.

Now pick an end, and thread it through! I usually use a safety-pin for doing this kind of stuff – it gives me something a little more solid to push through the tube. Make sure you keep a good hold on the end of the elastic as you do this – you want to get it through and have the fabric all bunched up in the middle with both ends hanging out.

Reeeeaaallly bunch it up so you’ve got space to work with, fold those two ends of the elastic over one another and then sew them together to make a circle. Redistribute the fabric so that it covers the elastic, tuck the raw ends of the casing into one another, and if you’d like you can sew that down so it doesn’t move.

Repeat on the other end, trim your threads, turn the whole thing inside out, and viola! You’ve got your very own plastic bag keeper!

The whole thing should only take about 30 minutes or so, and it really is just making tube after tube, so it’s suitable for even the most beginner of sewers. That said, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments. When you’re done, you can store those plastic bags a little more in style than just shoving them all into one another and hanging them off the back of a chair (like we were doing)! Fill it up, and enjoy being rid of the eyesore!