Author Archives: Ellen Lundgren

Ellen Lundgren

I am a student currently in my last year of undergrad at Grand Valley State University earning my BFA in Visual Studies and a minor in Writing. I have been a student leader of the Grand Valley Secular Alliance for a year and a half. I am currently in my final semester completing my Senior Project for my culminating Senior Exhibition in April. I am also looking forward to life after graduation and finding a job to serve my passion for creativity in the secular movement.

Knitting Podcast??

So, I’ve been on a monster binge of watching knitting podcasts mainly on YouTube. And I’ve been thinking about starting my own and soo… I did. Watch it below, it’s kind of long so if you’re not into this sort of thing, feel free to skip.

I’m probably going to see if I can switch my funding interval to monthly rather than per post/thing because I have a goal of podcasting once a week, and if I add that in addition to blog posts, that puts me over my original 2-5 posts a month estimate for you guys on Patreon so this should make it easier.

In where Ellen introduces herself and idlecatknits, the craft room, and gets super excited about new socks.

(My show notes will improve with time. I totally winged this episode so I’ll go over some details I missed on my next video.)

You can find me on the following websites:

DIY Sock Blockers

So as I’ve written, I’ve been knitting a LOT of socks lately. And one thing I haven’t done is blocked my socks. (For non-knitters, blocking is when you wet a project and stretch it into it’s intended finished shape and let it dry that way. This eases out any kinks and unevenness in your knitting tension and gives the project a finished, professional look and can help hide any goofy little mistakes.)

Pretty much the only tool you can use to assist in blocking socks, besides your feet, are called sock blockers. But in my research to purchase sock blockers, I found that they’re all pretty much ridiculously over priced for something I could easily make myself out of some wire coat hangars. So, I thought I’d share my process.


Luckily, materials are easy. Just grab some wire hangars from your closet or get some nicer ones from the store – mine I stole from my partner’s closet (with permission) but we think they’re from Target. They’re a nice silver and a thicker gauge metal than what I was thinking of so they kind of wrecked my hands, but they look really nice. You’ll also need a ruler (not pictured), pen or pencil and 1-2 sheets of paper that your foot will fit on. Printer paper will be fine for most unless you have ridiculous clown feet (no judging). You may also choose to use some heavy pliers but I found it was much more effective to just use my hands.

Step 1: Trace your foot! It doesn’t need to be beautiful, just be sure to put some standing pressure on your foot to get your full-size foot print. Then measure the longest and widest parts of your feet. Now take your nearest modern device that can do some calculations and take your two measurements and multiply them by 0.9. This shrinks your foot measurements giving the sock some negative ease so it will still have some “hug” left in it to stay on your foot. So for example, my measurements were or 9.875 inches long by 3.875 inches wide. Multiplied by 0.9 gives me 8.9″ by 3.5″ (rounded to the nearest tenth). (Calculations from this blog post of a similar tutorial for cardboard sock blockers.)


Step 2: Draw these two new smaller measurements onto your second piece of paper to start drawing the shape of your sock blocker. I aligned mine to the corner of the paper  to give some room for the angle of the leg. Draw out the shape you want. I like a nice big rounded toe, and be sure to increase the width of the ankle/leg as it goes up to account for any calf shaping that went into your socks. Don’t stress over getting this perfect, you won’t get the hangar to bend perfectly to this shape, but this will just give you a guide template to compare to as you begin bending.


Step 3: Start bending metal!

Metal Bending from Legend of Korra
Metal Bending from Legend of Korra #geek

I tried using pliers, but they weren’t big enough for the hangars I had but they may work for you – although if they have the grooved teeth, they may leave marks in your wire which may snag your yarn – so use at your own discretion. I just used my hands, but found the hard plastic arm of my office chair to be a great tool to press against to create gentle curves with pressure from the palm of my hands rather than just killing my thumbs. The edge of a table would work just as well, but the chair arm I could fit inside the space of the hangar as well for interior curves. But work with whatever you’ve got!

Bending tips:
Reverse-bend the sharper corners that the hanger starts with to try and straighten them out as much as possible before beginning the sock shape. This will minimize any of kinky-weirdness you may get from those being bent already (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

If you want the hook to be in the top-center of the leg, then start with the top two corner bends (1, 2) in the mid-calf area, then do the top-foot corner bend (3), followed by the toe (4), then the heel bend (5) last. This means that the toe bend will not be the exact opposite center of the hangar from the hook. The “middle” of the hangar will actually be somewhere on the ball of your sock blocker’s foot, so resist the temptation to just pull down the middle like a kite shape to start the toe.



Refer to your drawing often as you’re bending your sock blocker to make sure all the bends are landing in the right place. Don’t worry too much about perfect angles and curves, you’ll have time to perfect the shape at the very end.

When you think you’ve got it about right, stick a pair of socks on and see if they fit!


When I first put this sock on, it was loose in the inner-foot bend, and wasn’t filling out the heel enough so I adjusted my bends to make the heel a bit sharper and the inner-foot a bit flatter and further away from the heel to get rid of the looseness. Above is the final result! Below you can compare my drawing with my final sock shape to see what adjustments I made.


My final sock blocker measurements are 8.75″ from toe to heel, about 3.4″ wide in the foot, 3.5″ at the ankle and about 4.25″ at the top of the leg. Just about perfect I think!

I hope this tutorial helps you! If it did, send me pictures on Twitter or Instagram or consider contributing to my Patreon! Thanks!!


Shiny & New

This last weekend I got my new gaming computer parts in the mail and I spent Sunday and Monday with a good friend building it and getting everything set up and ready to play. This is mainly a picture post with captions to tell the story. (Sorry for some potatoes.) Here’s the PC Picker Parts List for those who want more specific details. Enjoy!

Computer Parts! They all arrived on Saturday. The case (not pictured) had arrive a couple days earlier.
Computer Parts! They all arrived on Saturday. The case (not pictured) had arrive a couple days earlier.
Sunday night, putting in the motherboard first…
It has cool dragons on it... I was amused because you're never going to see this again.
It has cool dragons on it… I was amused because you’re never going to see this again.
Ran into a small snafu where the optical drive doesn't fit in with the size of the motherboard we got.
Ran into a small snafu where the optical drive doesn’t fit in with the size of the motherboard we got. No big deal, we managed to install all the drivers needed with some creative applications of USB drives.
All the guts are in!
All the guts are in! Minus the CD/DVD drive.
Glamour shot of the case. Nice and minimal.
Glamour shot of the case. Nice and minimal.
The mesmerizing blue light from the power unit.
IT LIVES!! The mesmerizing blue light from the power unit. The power status LED on the front of the case shoots a bright blue circle onto the ceiling too.
Here's my first set up! I've got a 42" TV as a 2nd monitor, a 24" Dell monitor for my main computer, and my old 2011 iMac off to the side, currently off because I ran out of outlets.
Here’s my first set up! I’ve got a 42″ TV as a 2nd monitor, a 24″ Dell monitor for my main monitor, PC on the floor, and my old 2011 iMac off to the right, currently off because I ran out of outlets.

The total was just over $700 with all parts from Newegg. The monitor was purchased separately on Amazon.


Sometimes I draw

Sometimes I just like to draw. Here are a few quick-ish drawings I did last week.

Red Lip Kitty

They aren’t my most polished work, but as I said, they were quick.Couple by Lake

You can see the full album including the reference photographs here.Wedding KissI also accept commissioned portrait work on my Etsy.


You should start an Etsy!

As someone who is underemployed and always looking for opportunities to make a living doing what I love, I’m always trying to find ways to sell my abilities or products of my creativity. But I think it’s harder than most realize.

People see the things I create all the time and go, “You should start an Etsy!”

I have, and I do have one actually.

It’s a full time job just to keep it afloat and get the views you need to be seen to get found and make sales. And when you also have a part-time day job and a life to live, it’s just not feasible to spend 12 hours a day trying to plug your Etsy store to make a single $35 sale.

Not to mention that Etsy has grown to be huge. It has hundreds of thousands of users. Many of which are taking advantage of the new rules that allow manufacturing to be a part of the handmade process meaning you can order bulk trinkets from China, slap a chain on it to call it a necklace and sell it for 3000% profit and it’s preventing real Etsy sellers from getting business.

8pairsofsocksBut by far the hardest line of competition are hobbyists. These are people who are making their handmade items for fun and not profit. Take hand knit socks for example – something I’ve really been into making a lot of lately. I’ve been cranking out about 1 pair of socks every month since January of this year. I occasionally make another project in there, but most of the time I’m just working on socks. If you take a look on Esty and search for “handknit socks” you’ll find socks for $40, $25, and even as low as $16 for an adult-size sock. The yarn alone for some of my socks is well over $20, and the time I put into them and the skill I’ve honed in making perfect socks? I wouldn’t likely charge less than $100 for a pair of socks. And I’d still only be make a few dollars an hour, only a fraction of minimum wage. If I wanted to pay myself a living wage on socks, they’d be unaffordable to all but the pickiest sock fanatics.

I found one seller who had lovely lace socks for $60-80 but had to have a line on her shop description explaining that she spends 10-16 hours per set of socks and to “please keep that in mind” when considering the price of her socks. But how many people will read that and consider it but still see all the other $20-30 socks for sale and go with those instead?

Maybe ten years ago before Etsy went public, before it had so many scammers, before it was totally overrun by hobbyists just trying to make a buck I could have been successful. But these days it seems all but impossible unless I had a supportive spouse to bankroll me. Seriously, nearly every “success story” I’ve seen come out of Etsy has a spouse that supported them in the early years before they made a profit. I don’t have that. I have me and a part-time job on the weekends to get me started.

Keep that in mind the next time you tell the artist/crafter in your life, “You should start an Etsy!”

P.S. You can still help me make a living any time I post here by donating to my Patreon page! It’ll help keep me afloat and keep you updated on my crafts, life, and general thoughts and struggles.

Yarn: My biggest hobby

I first learned to knit in high school. I forget who taught me, but I learned English style throwing. It sucked. I didn’t stick with it.

In college I would get stressed out and watch TV with my roommate who would knit the whole time. I wanted to learn something that I could do during down time like that but wasn’t so finicky about being put down in the middle of a row so she taught me to crochet. I never looked back.

I may have gone a little overboard with my first project but I completed it, and I learned a lot.
I may have gone a little overboard with my first project but I completed it, and I learned a lot.

I crocheted constantly throughout college for 6 years before I picked up knitting again – this time Continental style, much easier. One of my first knitting projects was this:

I finished in summer and said "screw it" to sleeves.
I finished in summer and said “screw it” to sleeves.

Since then, I’ve gone kind of nuts and now I also spin my own yarn on my Ashford Traditional spinning wheel:

Spinning Wheel
My love – my Ashford Traditional wheel.

Here is only some of the yarn I’ve spun so far… click the image to see details.

Handspun Yarn - click through to see details via Ravelry
Handspun Yarn – click through to see details via Ravelry

If you are also a yarnie, you can keep up with me on Ravelry, add me here. Otherwise I will update here semi-regularly when fun new stuff is happening.

If you don’t know half of what I even said in this post, stick around, I’ll cover the basics in the future.

Thanks for reading! If you like what I write, please consider supporting me monetarily on Patreon.


Gaming Newb Tutorials

Roller Coaster TycoonI was never a gamer growing up. My brother and I were not allowed to ever own a console. We would be allowed to rent a Nintendo 64 and two games for one week each if we had good grades at the end of a school year. Besides that, we had a limited selection of mainly educational 90’s PC games and my brother would buy the various iterations of Game Boy controllers with his own money where I preferred to save my dollars. Still, we both had some interest in games and while he went towards first-person-shooters and RPGs, I gravitated towards simulation and adventure games. Although we both played the original Roller Coaster Tycoon on our parent’s old Windows ’98 desktop for at least ten years after the fact.

These days though, I’m beginning to find more fun and value in video games, but I find myself a bit stunted in the inherent knowledge of gaming many others (especially guys) in my generation seem to have. The barrier to entry seems to necessitate having had a childhood filled with gaming experience that I just never received. But with a lot of wiki-reading and getting lost in some forums and a considerable amount of help from my more savvy friends, I’ve found a way to enjoy some rather complicated games today.

Still, I hate to think of others wanting to give these games a try without the help I’ve had and it’s inspired me to have the idea of creating gaming newb tutorials. Videos for other beginners with very little assumption as to skill level, intended to help people who didn’t grow up with gaming to get into games. Below are some games and ideas, what do you think?space-engineers-cover

  • Space Engineers
    • This is my latest obsession and is rather complicated – there are many video ideas I’ve had for this game for getting started if you’re unfamiliar with WASD+ to more specific game items and updates.Minecraft
  •  Minecraft
    • I know there’s a million beginner tutorials out there on this already, but one more couldn’t hurt.CIVILIZATION-V
  • Civilization V
    • A turn-based classic that could use some beginner basics that aren’t hours long.Skyrim
  • Skyrim
    • Another relatively simple but super fun game for beginners to learn on… it’s probably what got me back into gaming.Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I & II
    • An older but still really fun set of games with a great balance between story, adventure, puzzle and more. I’m currently playing through II for the first time.

Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing what other games I play, here I am on Steam!

Confederate History and why the flag should be history

I am beyond happy that the confederate flag is being brought down from government buildings. It had no place there in its representation of an attempt at secession that divided our country in two only 150 years ago. It further has no place in today’s society as it is primarily a symbol of white supremacy brought on by the racial divide in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement, and I am glad to see it go in all areas except for that of a context of history.

Now for the history lesson. The flag with a diagonal blue cross isn’t the actual confederate flag. There were many different battle flags throughout the war. Watch this video to learn more about the various flags and where they all fit in history.


With freedom of expression in this country though, we have the right to display whatever symbols, images, flags, etc. that we want. Do I think any version of the Confederate flag should be mass produced in hues of polyester? No. And any company that has profited from this culture of racist bigots should be downright ashamed. But should we ban the image of the Confederate flag? No. I care about this because while I may be disgusted by today’s connotations of displaying this flag, I believe in protecting everyone’s right to free speech.

Also, I am a hobbyist Civil War reenactor. For me, it’s a fun excuse to make giant poofy dresses à la Gone With the Wind and show them off. I don’t care about the battles and though I started with a Union reenacting group back in Michigan, I’ll happily join in Confederate events here in Texas. Now, are there Confederate reenactors who are racist? Probably. Are all of them? By no means. I have respect for many of the Confederate reenactors I have met. They have all been kind and civil and I would be upset to learn if they had any of these racist leanings. But without someone reenacting the Confederacy this hobby would be pointless. I wish the Confederate Flag were as rare as it is for me to see the 1860 US flag on battlefields. But the point is its not rare. I see it on bumper stickers, on trucks, in windows, in houses on shirts and in many more places in the rural conservative parts of the country. In these places it’s only context is that of racism and bigotry. No Civil War reenactor I know would ever hang a Confederate Flag outside of the context of a historical reenactment.

Civil War era U.S. Flag with 34 stars
Civil War era U.S. Flag with 34 stars – don’t see these anymore!

The Confederate Flag belongs in a museum. That is the only place it rightfully belongs.