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January 31, 2007

Yes, Virginia, there is a Crafty Clause.

Not that I am slow on the uptake or anything, but finally it dawned on me that being nominated for an award and all, in the category of crafts, I should maybe...um. Do a craft? To fit in better with my peer group?

(By the way, before all this I did not even know they had awards for websites. Yeah I know, I live under a rock. BUT IT IS A NICE ROCK, ok? Anyway, please go check out the other craft websites because they are so good! There is Angry Chicken and Not Martha and Design Sponge and Make Magazine. I feel like I have grown now as a internet user and should try real hard to stop pronouncing it "innernets.")

Luckily, I was doing a craft project anyway to augment my drinking, so it all worked out okay.

Last time we checked in with our knitting, I was making the most exciting stitch ever... stockinette. In the most challenging garment shape ever ... scarf. I got the idea for this particular scarf while faux-shopping in Bloomingdales one afternoon. I can't really shop there (see: debt, don't want to live in storage shed, shoe addiction) but I check out the knitted stuff in their accessories department for ideas.

On that particular faux-shopping trip I saw a Juicy Couture scarf in winter white. The scarf itself was a plain knit-one-purl-one rib, but on each end there were giant pom poms. And this thing was selling for $185! (I found a picture of it here at Saks online, for $195. Geez.)

So I finished my little, teeny (8-foot long) red wool variagated scarf in stockinette and my plan was to put giant pom poms on the ends. Since I don't particularly want to waste a whole skein of "Rio De La Plata" wool if I mess up, I decided to do a test pompom with my trusty best friend Red Heart.

Let us talk about Red Heart for a moment, shall we? I started knitting a few years ago as a way to stay busy (and ergo not drunk dial my soon-to-be-ex-husband) during my divorce. I went through phases of yarn consumption:

Phase 1: Yarn? Uh, okay. Maybe something in a mournful black?
Phase 2: That's yarn? It's so pretty!
Phase 3: DAMN that is expensive!
Phase 4: I am a yarn snob. I only buy snobby yarn.
Phase 5: Yeah like I can be a yarn snob when I am so PO I cannot even buy the remaining "OR" to be fully POOR.
Phase 6: Yarn!!! It's on sale!!!!!
Phase 7: I actually gave up HBO and smoking so I could buy yarn.
Phase 8: Look at the pretty, affordable Patons!
Phase 9: What else can I give up to afford more yarn?

So when I make a big yarn purchase (i.e. $14 for a skein) you better believe I'm not going to be cutting it all up pompom style on a trial run just for kicks and giggles.

One must be fiscally responsible, even in yarnage.

While you can make your own pompom guide out of cardboard and ingenuity (see my flower pompom here) I already had a giganto pompom maker by Susan Bates hidden in my stash. This contraption is a set of plastic guides that help you make perfect poms anywhere from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches in diameter.

pompom1.jpg
Susan Bates pom pom maker, extra large. It's four plastic interlocking pieces that break apart into eight smaller pieces for smaller pompoms. The instruction manual is definitely helpful for this gadget.


I love funky, unexpected elements in knitting. Pom poms remind me of 5th grade, and the skating rink and Calvin Mooningham who I had a GIANT crush on. Later, I had my very first French kiss from Jason Roth in the skating rink in Carencro, Louisiana and I can tell you to this day I remember my pink pom poms on my white rollerskates. I was terrified that his tongue touching my tongue meant I was no longer a virgin. Also: How Would I Disinfect? (Yes, germ issues are so sexy. I have lots of Listerine!)

Where were we?

Pompoms?

Here is my test pompom in all its glory:

pompom-mess.jpg
I discovered that the pom pom maker does not actually snap together securely when you connect the two halves -- you have to hold it together with your hand, too. Whoops.

No germs or french kisses or yarn snobs were harmed in the making of that pompom. But a lot of Red Heart had to die for the cause. I did finally get the hang of it and made a good prototype and two excellent wool pompoms for my scarf. You start by holding the guides together in half-moons and loading each half with yarn. The reason this gadget works in half-circle increments is because that's a LOT of string you're winding round and round ... imagine trying to fit a hank of yarn through the center of a donut? Not easy. So splitting the circle into half-circles makes sense:

pompom-halfway.jpg


Next, "join" the half circles of yarn together and carefully snip the outsides. There is a groove for your scissors running along the outer edge of the plastic guide. I have no pictures of any of this because you need both hands for this project -- one to hold the half moons together, and one to snip. Finally, hold the whole thing carefully while you tie a very sturdy round of yarn across the middle. It's like baling hay. Remove the pieces of the gadget carefully to reveal your fabuloso pompomoso:

pompom-finished.jpg

Yarn selection is key when making pompoms. You can see the difference between an acrylic worsted-weight, on the left, and a wool worsted/almost bulky yarn on the right. Wool and other fuzzier yarns make excellent pompoms. Take it from me, I have a phD in pompomology.

[I added this part in, because folks were asking]
When you're ready to attach your pompom to something, just take that tail from the yarn used to "bale" it all together and thread it through a large-eye yarn needle. Then sew it to the ends of your scarf, or your hat or whatever stands still.

For this scarf, I did not have the foresight to taper the ends, leading to neat points for my single pom pom. That's okay, though... I just used my tarn tails on the scarf to draw the bottom up like a drawstring purse. Stockinette rolls in anyway. Don't tell anyone, but when I added my giant fluffball I totally tied a knot, too, and you can't even see it. Pompoms hide many sins.

pompom-attach.jpg
With this yarn I could have stapled it on and it wouldn't show!

Voila! Or as we say in my family, "Vwa-lar!"

pompomme.jpg
That scarf is wrapped around my neck three times.
It's a lot of stockinette.


And as always, I'd like to thank the academy, the cabernet, and the fine helpers at Chez Dander for their never ending support and their ability to clean up all the smallest yarn scraps and transport them through their intestines and into the cat box:
pompom-helpers.jpg

Posted by laurie at January 31, 2007 9:38 AM