Upcycled Crocheting

I have been waiting a long time to finally get the motivation and time to work on this project! Floating around Pinterest are tutorials on “no-sew” rugs. I was particularly drawn to these two:

Both are crocheted rugs – the first using rope and the second using old sheets. Last summer (so long ago!) my mother-in-law gave me several old sheet sets. Some sheets went to my classroom (many uses for them there) and others were reserved for this crazy crocheting project. I was a little intimidated by cutting the sheets into strips and crocheting. I have always admired crocheting, but have never mastered it.

I started a little smaller – with a trivet (for sale on my Etsy). The fabric is yellow jersey knit that I found in the remnants section of Jo Ann’s. I had tried to make a dress from the fabric, but when that failed, I cut to fabric into 3 inches wide strips and sewed the ends together with 1/4 inch seam allowance. I crocheted the circle in double crochets with a size S hook.

My problem with crochet has always been that I pull the stitches too tight, which results in warping. I love the large hook because it is plastic and really easy to work with. The jersey knit, however, was a little challenging due to the elasticity. Also, some strips of fabric were wider than 3 inches, which resulted in a lot of bulk. After a practice round with the trivet (actually, I probably unraveled it at least 3 times before I was happy with the final product) I gave the sheets a go.

Flannel Sheets
Shredded SheetI used a top sheet and fitted sheet in the pattern pictured above. The sheet set is flannel, so I though it would feel great underfoot. I started by removing the hems and elastic from the two sheets. Then I made small cuts, every 2.5 inches along the top. Along each cut, I ripped. Ripping the sheets into strips was way faster than cutting – especially working with queen or king sized sheets. I didn’t even bother sewing the ends together like I did with the yellow knit, I just tied the ends together.

Starting The Rug

HalfwayFor the rug I used my size S hook again, this time working a rectangle is doubles. The second photo is after I used up the sheet. At that point the rug measured 28 by 12.5 inches.

Rug TextureI love the texture of the rug. You can see that as you work the stitches, sometimes the wrong side of the fabric shows. Also, the ripping leaves raw edges, but I like that.

Finished RugHere’s the finished rug in the kitchen. With two sheets the finished the rug measures 35 by 20 inches. I am really happy with the finished product. It’s fun to walk on! I am not sure about these colors in the kitchen though…

Foyer Rug in FoyerI really love how the rug looks in the foyer. I think the speckled colors of the rug pull in the floor, walls and window coverings. The only problem is that the rug is so thick the door can’t open!

I really enjoy working with the sheets. It was much easier than crocheting with yarn. Of course, that might also be credited to my giant hook. The rug took about 4 hours to make, while watching some TV, of course. I build up a good rhythm with the double crochets.

Anyone else crocheting with unusual materials? Crocheting tips for me? Where should I put this rug?

Kitchen Floor – The Reveal

* Check out this post to find out why we chose Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)

So the question remains, which tile did we choose to replace our old green and white checked linoleum floor?

LinoleumIf you guessed Iron Blue, then you’re correct!

New FloorAs for how we eliminated tile choices, we started with the two lightest tiles – they didn’t “pop” against the white appliances. The darkest tile, graphite, was definitely one of Jeremy’s favorite, but it was difficult to envision the entire floor that same dark color. Although there is variation among the tiles, graphite had the least color variation of all the samples. I was a big fan of the taupe-gray, but we worried that it was too traditional. So, in the end Iron Blue won – there is great color variation, it looks great with the white appliances and it is a little bold.

Now, although LVT claims to be more DIY friendly than ceramic to install (no wet saw, tiles are more forgiving, etc), we did have our floor installed by professionals. The main reason? That cursed linoleum. When installing the cork floor in the downstairs bathroom Jeremy tried to remove the existing linoleum, but it was extremely glued to the cement floor. Instead he just laid the cork on top of the linoleum. For the LVT, we needed to remove the linoleum for a proper install. That gave Jeremy some nightmares. So, we left that to the professionals. Plus, they haul all the waste away, so we didn’t have to deal with that headache either.

No More LinoleumYard LinoleumWhat I found interesting is that the installers did not try to peel up the old linoleum, they just cut the floor out. As you can see from the pile in our yard, the linoleum is still glued to the plywood. In the picture above of the kitchen you can see we now have a bare subfloor. Yea, I never would have thought of just cutting out the linoleum. The installers laid new plywood and then applied the adhesive:

AdhesiveThe adhesive is super smelly, and takes at least half an hour to “set” before the tile can be laid. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of the installers laying the tile – I tried to stay out of their way.

New LVT FloorIn addition to laying the LVT, they installed new white shoe molding (quarter-round) to the baseboards, and wooden kick-boards to the cabinets. We previously had brown rubber kick-boards. look closely:

Old Kitchen So much better without the linoleum and rubber kick-boards!

Empy Corner

New TileI really love the texture of this tile! They also feel great underfoot – softer and warmer than even the linoleum. The tiles are 16 inch squares and are laid on a diagonal. Both large tiles and the diagonal supposedly make a room look larger, and I think the room does feel larger!

We were considering refinishing the cabinets in a lighter stain, but we are starting to think that the cabinet color goes nicely with the floor. There are some sandy/tan colors in the tiles that tie into the caramelized bamboo and the cabinets. We’re still not fans of the faux-marble green counters, but the floors are really the focal point now. So, I don’t notice the counters as much…

Are you a fan of the new floor? Did we make the right choice with the Iron Blue? Which would you have chosen?

Kitchen Floor – The Decision

Ah, the kitchen. Although I love cooking and food and brewing, the kitchen has always been my least favorite room in our house.

KitchenWith its caramel-pecan cabinets, marble-green laminate counters and linoleum floor, I always cringe when guests would end up hanging out in the kitchen.The kitchen is large and functional, but not the most beautiful room n our home.

This summer we are finally ready to do a small-scale kitchen remodel. Sources (magazines, the Internet) say that kitchen remodels are the most expensive home-improvement and offer the greatest return on resale. So, it’s going to be expensive, but it is worth doing right. Our first goal is to replace the kitchen floor. The linoleum is stained, ripped, scratched and downright ugly. Keeping it clean has also been a pain, since it is textured.

Floor ChoicesThe first thing we had to decide was floor type. We needed something durable, water-resistant, stylish, easy to maintain, and comfortable. We also wanted it to coordinate well with the bamboo flooring, and offer some sound dampening. Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) offered us everything on our list.

Pictured above are five LVT samples we brought home from the local flooring store. All five samples are from Armstrong Flooring’s Alterna line. Hopefully these samples make you a believer: LVT can look just as nice and realistic as ceramic tile. I won’t lie, I really wanted ceramic tile in the kitchen. In the end, LVT is (practically) superior to ceramic. Oh, let me count the ways:

1. Can be installed with or without grout – so it can mimic ceramic tile. Even when grouted, LVT can be walked on within the first 24 hours, unlike ceramic. Also, no cement board needed.

2. Although the LVT is thick (thicker than linoleum or sticky-tiles), it is flexible enough to be laid on uneven floors, and not crack.

3. LVT is warmer underfoot, and softer. These tiles won’t crack when you drop something on them. Also, that something should be unbroken as well.

4. Luxury vinyl tiles are easier to replace, if needed.

The downfall? It doesn’t have the reputation of ceramic. Despite it’s name, it doesn’t sound very luxurious when you say “vinyl tile”. Anyways, on to the fashion show!

Taupe Grey

Charcoal

Multistone (White)
Gray Dust

Iron BlueIn order of appearance: taupe-grey, charcoal, multistone white, gray dust and iron blue. After we decided on LVT, we had to narrow down the wide selection of brands, styles, colors and textures. LVT is pretty limitless – you can choose planks or tiles; wood grains, solid colors or stone. The local floor store recommended the Alterna line, citing several happy customers. After we narrowed our focus to a product, we knew we wanted tiles that coordinated with the bamboo flooring, our cabinets and the existing countertops. We are considering refinishing the cabinets and eventually replacing the counters, but we wanted something that would not only work for the future, but also mesh well with what we already had (who knows how long it will be until we “kill” those green counters?). We thought all the samples we brought home looked great with the bamboo. So, which looks best with the cabinets but also with our future vision?

For the answer to that question and a peek into the installation process, come back late this week for the big reveal!

Why Raised Bed Gardening

A few months ago we started our raised bed garden in our side yard. As promised, I’m back (finally) to share some perks of raised beds and tips for planting.

Raised Beds

Zucchini, Snow peas, Snap peas, Carrots, Leaf Lettuce, Banana Peppers

Advantages of Raised Beds:

  • Fill beds with soil of your choice. As mentioned before, our yard is primarily a mix of clay and sand. We knew that raised beds would be our best chance of making a garden work.
  • Less weeds and easier weeding. Since the beds are lined with burlap/newspaper/landscaping fabric there is less opportunity for weeds to grow up through the beds. Even if weeds do make it to sunlight, they will be less strenuous to remove. The beds are higher, so you won’t have to kneel and bend over as much as with traditional gardening.
  • Keep the burrowing animals out. In addition to lining the beds to prevent weeds, you can also line the beds with wire mesh to keep out animals.
  • Soil stays loose, making it easier for roots to spread. In traditional gardening, you plant the crops in rows and you walk between the rows. Walking pacts down the soil. In raised beds you stay off the soil, avoiding compacting.
  • Able to plant crops closer together. This ties into the previous bullet – since you don’t need room to walk between the crops, you can space the rows closer together.

Heirloom tomatoes, Blue beans, Zucchini, Sugar Pumpkins, Jalapenos

Heirloom tomatoes, Blue beans, Zucchini, Beets, Sugar Pumpkins, Jalapenos

Tips for Planting Raised Beds:

  • Mix the harvest times. Within each bed, plant crops that vary by harvest times. This will prevent competition, and as one crop matures and dies off, the other crops can utilize its nutrients.
  • Plant onions along the borders of the beds. My aunt tells me that onions along the borders will serve to ward off pests – both bugs and animals.
  • Certain combinations of vegetables are mutually beneficial for each other. These are just a few combinations: spinach and peppers; lettuce and tomatoes; peas and cucumbers.
  • Plant sprawling vegetables along the edges of the beds so that they can lay on the ground. So, along the borders of our beds we planted the zucchini, pumpkins and squash. I should also get my act together and plant the cantaloupes.

Squash, Cucumbers, Beets, Carrots, Lettuce, Bell Peppers

Squash, Cucumbers, Beets, Carrots, Lettuce, Bell Peppers

I hope you find those two lists helpful. If you have any important tips that I should include, please share! I am certainly no expert on gardening, but I’m working on it.

I am ashamed to report that not everything is growing as we had hoped. Our beets were the first to break ground, but now it seems that they haven’t grown any more (of course, it is difficult to tell with root vegetables). For the carrots and leaf lettuce, we planted two rows each, and split the seeds among different beds. It’s interesting that between the different beds the crops are growing differently. In one bed the carrot tops are several inches tall, but in the other bed the tops are only 1/2 an inch.

What’s even worse are all the sprouts we started indoors. Almost all of them didn’t survive the transplant, a lot of them perished before they could be planted outside. A few of the different pepper plants might make it (fingers crossed). We ended up buying some heirloom tomato plants from the farmer’s market (they seem to be doing well).

HarvestDespite some of those issues, we are having some success – namely our snap peas, snow peas and raspberries! The raspberries are really starting to go crazy, and its a competition to harvest the berries before the ants do. Like last year I’m spraying the berries with my Octagon soap repellant. It did its job of keeping the ants off while not killing the berries. I sprayed some on the peas as well. Of course, with all the rain we’ve been getting, they’re going to need daily spraying.

Anyone else having garden troubles? Success? What are you harvesting?

Brew Update: Honey Brown

It’s hard to believe that we haven’t brewed since back in November with our Pumpkin Ale. In fact, we’re still enjoying that beer! That batch is definitely one that got better over time.

This weekend we transferred our newest brew, Honey Brown into the secondary fermenter.

Honey Brown BrewLook at the lovely color of that brew in our sample glass.

The pumpkin brew was a mini-mash, but the honey brown is a partial mash. The main difference being that with the mini-mash the grains are soaked in the grain bag, but with the partial mash the grains are boiled directly in the pot. The bad news? You have to separate the grain from the liquid. What we learned? We need a better strainer and possibly another 5 gallon pot. The other difference between this brew and others we have done is the malt. This time it was not just malt, but also honey, hence the name.

To make things more interesting (complicated?) Jeremy added fresh ginger to the brew. We added about 2 oz of fresh grated ginger at the end of the brew with the last of the hops. You can definitely taste the ginger in the sample. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s prominent.

What we’re definitely enjoying is the wort chiller Jeremy got for Christmas. The chiller hooks up to the sink faucet and runs cold water through the coils of the chiller. You place the chiller into the boiling pot (to sanitize) then turn off the heat and let the chiller cool the brew down to room temperature before transferring to the fermenter. It works pretty wonderfully, although it does use a lot of water.

In a week or two we will be bottling this brew, and hopefully it will be ready by July. What have you been up to?

Long, Long Overdue Update

I cannot believe that it has been 40 days since my last post. Needless to say, things have been a little hectic…

1. Back to back vacations
As you already know, we went to Asheville for Spring Break (I owe you a second post on that). A week later we went to Seattle, WA for a long weekend. Jeremy was attending a conference for work on Monday – Wednesday. We flew in Friday for some fun beforehand. This was our second time in Seattle. Hopefully I can whip up a post with highlights about both of our visits. Both cities have great food and art, and yet are so different from each other.

Space Needle2. Insane 4th quarter
As you may know, I teach 8th grade math at a local middle school. This year I had the privilege of hosting an intern for the second semester. She was wonderful and it was a great learning experience. I grew as an educator and learned a lot about being a mentor. Next year I will have a graduate student intern – I am really looking forward to that!

In addition, I volunteered to grade graduate student portfolios for the University of Maryland. These students are working on their Masters in Education in Mathematics. It is the same program I completed at UMD, although this assessment process is new. Although I enjoyed the assessment process (and the monies) it took an average of 5 hours to grade each portfolio. Goodbye weekends!

The last thing that made this quarter crazy was curriculum writing. Maybe you’ve heard of Common Core State Standards. Maryland, like more than half of the US, has adopted the standards, and is striving for full implementation next year. What this means for the counties and teachers is brand new curriculum. New format, new topics, new order – you get the idea. I am on a team of 4 people writing the Geometry curriculum for our county. It is a tedious process, but we are really happy with the product so far.

I know that was a big blob about teaching, but that’s the primary reason why I haven’t found the time (or energy) to blog. I have considered starting a math blog, I read several that have been very inspiring.

Raspberry Bush3. Our Yard
Things are growing! The raspberry canes are bright green and full. Berries have started to form, but there won’t be a harvest until later in June. The vegetables in the raised beds have sprouted and some are growing fast!

Baby RaspberriesSnap PeasI owe you a full breakdown on what we planted where, and what I’ve already killed. What you see flourishing in the photos are the blue beans, sugar snap peas, snow peas and some tomato plants.

Beans and Tomatoes4. It’s Summertime!
Just 4.5 more days of school at I will be officially on summer break. We have several projects that we plan to tackle this summer! We’ve also updated a few things that I need to share. My other big summer goal is to fill up my Etsy store. I have some ideas floating around but need time to execute!

So, after this last week of school I plan to be back on schedule with two posts a week! I really appreciate people hanging in there while I took a breather.

Asheville Adventure: Part One

For Spring Break, Jeremy and I ventured down to Asheville, North Carolina. First we stopped outside Charlotte to visit some family. Then we headed into the Smoky Mountains for a night of camping before exploring the city.

Smoky MountainsWe spent the night at the Cataloochee campground, part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What is really great about camping in the national park is that you don’t have all the “attractions” of a typical campgound and RV park. There weren’t electrical and sewer hook-ups for the RVs and campers. There was no “snack shop” or pool or mini-golf – just the wilderness. Thankfully though, there were flush toilets and a pump for fresh drinking water.

Winding RoadThe Cataloochee campground is in a valley. To get there, you have to pass over a mountain. The mountain road winds up one side of the mountain and then back down the other side into the valley. Above is the best photo I could safely get while Jeremy was driving the winding roads. At the base of both side of the mountain, the road was paved, but as you approached the top it was a gravel and packed dirt road. Thankfully our little car handled it well, and Jeremy is a great driver.

Our TentWe selected and reserved our campsite through recreation.gov. It was the same process as booking a hotel online – we could see the available dates and spaces. We booked the spot online, and it gave us a confirmation number. When we arrived at the campground, there is sort of a self check-in. There was an information board with a map of the campsites, and check-in cards to be placed on the numbered post of your campsite. There was no park ranger to check us in, we just put of name and confirmation number on the card and posted it. Later in the evening, two rangers came by and checked everyone’s cards.

View from tentThis is the view of our campsite from the tent. The space is plenty large, and complete with a picnic table and fit pit. To the right of our car you can see the big, brown, bear-proof trashcans. Thankfully, there were no bear sightings, although we did see some elk.

ElkOkay, so as you can see from our campsite photos, there was a level gravel bed for the tent, and then a large gravel area with the picnic table, fire pit and parking. Beyond our car you can see other campers. The campground had an outer loop and a group of campsites on the middle. We were on the outer loop.

Our CampsiteThat’s what it looked like behind our campsite. You can see the little creek that eventually winds around the campground and empties into a much larger creek. The larger creek could be heard from our campsite, and at night it sounded like the ocean. It was beautiful.

Eventually we got our fire going (thanks to some assistance from the campers next door) and roasted some vegan hot dogs. We snacked on some Girl Scout cookies and ended up turning in early, mostly in an effort to keep warm.

Inside the TentThe tent is supposed to be a 3 person tent, but I don’t see how another person would fit. Our sleeping bags are Coleman brand, and they kept us plenty warm through the night. I have a camping mat, and was reasonably padded and comfortable. Jeremy slept on top of the gravel. He is going to get a mat before our next camping trip.

When we awoke the next morning, we ate a quick breakfast of granola bars and clementines, packed up our campsite and headed down the road to the hiking trails. It was 35 degrees.

HikingWe parked our car at the head of the trail, and started heading up into the mountains. We passed the horse camp and a mile later reached this sign. I think we accomplished Little Cataloochee, but after this sign there weren’t any more.

HikingMost of the trail looked like this. No signs, but a well-worn path through the woods. It twisted and turned, up and down the mountains.

Creek

Water pathThe trail followed along side the creek, so sometimes the trail looked like this. Jeremy was wearing waterproof boots and was able to traverse these sections easily. I was just wearing my sneakers, so I tried to creatively cross the water without getting too wet. Most of the time there were large rocks or logs that I could step on to safely cross. 

We had fun hiking in the mountains, we probably traversed 8 miles in total. After we finished our walk through the woods we headed back over the mountains and into downtown Asheville. Overall, it was a good night of camping. It was our first time pitching a tent alone. We made some mistakes (no flashlight, campfire troubles, etc) but definitely want to give it another try. Once it gets warmer we want to camp a few nights at a national park closer to home.

Anyone else have good camping advice and experience? Details of our downtown Asheville experience coming soon!