Friday, October 24, 2008

Taking a chance

I did a "scary" thing today. I applied for a job that is dependant on my writing and organizational skills.

First let me say, I love crochet sites that have oodles of information and patterns on them. To me they're the "one stop shop" of the crafting world.'s crochet site has just that. I've been using that site on and off (generally at least once or twice a month if not more) since the days when it was "the mining company"... I think that url was or I just know they've always been one of the main resources in my crafting life.

So today when I went there to glance at a granny square pattern as a refresh for a project I'm working on, I saw something surprising. The guide evidently resigned and they're looking for a new one. I read through the qualifications and have to admit, I'm under qualified in some ways. I've never been published, I've only taught a handful of people on a one to one basis, I've never done anything quite like the guide job before. However, there's a couple places where (not to brag) my qualifications soar. I've been crocheting most of my life and that now equals a respectable 33 years of crocheting. I've also gotten very good at being able to look at a pattern and "translate" it into a different size.

There's a crafter who designed these wonderful double-thick reversible winter hats. However, her pattern is only sized for adults. 99% of what I make anymore is made for children, so an adult sized hat wasn't going to work. By doing a bit of math and finessing with hook sizes, I was able to come up with a toddler sized version of her pattern. The kids who've gotten the hats love them, as do their parents.

So, now it's a matter of waiting to see what the powers that be at are going to say about all this. If I'm lucky, they'll give me a chance. If not? Well, what's the the worst they can say that I don't already realize?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

That time of year again

I can't believe I'm already starting on Christmas crafts... it's not even November yet!! However, when one has 7 stockings to complete before an undetermined date in December, then I probably should have been working on them weeks ago.

This all started last year. A dear friend, who is too familiar with my penchant for yarn and hook, gave me one of those quizzical looks and said "If I hand you something crocheted, do you think you could recreate it?" Well, I'm always game for a challenge so I said I'd try. She hands me a Christmas stocking that her grandmother had made for her 20 some years ago. It's been washed a multiude of times and has fallen prey to felting a bit over the years but one thing was screamingly obvious about it, it was made of granny squares. Piece of cake! She'd asked someone else a couple years ago if they could deconstruct it and come up with a pattern that she could then follow. She handed me the card. Ugh. You know you're dealing with someone unused to granny squares when they have as the first line "chain 12, join with slip stitch to first chain to make a loop". The directions were fine, the problem was the number of chains. Making the loop you'd be crocheting into 12 chains long and then only wanting to put 11 - 12 dc in it is just asking for huge gaping trouble. ...not to mention that there was no way the center portion of the original granny square design was that big.

So, being me, I set aside the "pattern" this person had come up with, grabbed hook and christmasy yarn and went to town. 5 stockings later, Steph was thrilled! Of course, the new stockings were HUGE compared to the old... so much so she was able to put her 2 month old son IN one and take his picture! It's adorable, he looks like a little pea in a pod. She understood how the original had shrunk/felted and that with how she prefers to wash them (hot water!!! eeek!) these would too... eventually.

Well. In the course of making the stockings for Steph, my acquired sister's mother and mother-in-law saw the end results of my handiwork and wanted some. Beth only really wanted one for her front door, so I whipped that up while I was making Steph's 5. Sue on the other hand, wanted to replace all the stockings she'd currently had for her three kids, their spouses and me. Yep, seven stockings. Wheeeeeee... so here I sit with skeins of "victorian" christmas colors and have to order the colors for mine... I want the "christmas" blue. ;) Yeah, I gotta be different.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Knit one, save one

I have a confession to make. I'm addicted to crocheting baby hats.

They're small, they crochet up quick (I made three tonight while watching TV and talking to my acquired sister), I have an excuse to buy pretty, soft yarn and most importantly of all, they're useful. Every mommy I know wants at least one if not several of them for the kidlet(s). The acquired neiceling's mother has always been more than happy to take as many as I'm willing to make because neiceling and now her baby brother love wearing them. Neiceling used to wear hers to bed at night which made her mother happy because she knew kiddo slept warmer that way.

This brings me to tonight. First, a quick trip on the wayback machine. A couple years ago in one of their early editions that I picked up after the fact, my all time favorite crafting magazine, Crochet Today, had done a blurb on a charity effort called "Knit one, Save one" which partners with "Save the Children", an initiative to provide education on basic parenting skills to mothers in third world countries. They also provide kits that include baby hats. In order to come up with those hats, they've put a call out to crafters to make and donate them. Going from the name, I'd say they focused on knitters originally, but recently have seen the light and included crocheters as well.

With something akin to fortuitous timing, they've once again put out the call for hats and I've been trying, heavy emphasis on the word try, to de-stash a bit. Considering I have an entire corner of a storage unit filled with bins that are filled with yarn, it's not a bad idea. When the bin tower is over your head, or would be if you stacked them all properly, then it is well past being simply a good idea and quickly approaching a moral imperitive.

Mind you, I still want to do the scarves for the special olympics, that involves buying more yarn which does NOT help the de-stash process and the deadline for mailing the KOSO hats is before the SO scarves deadline. I also have a list of Christmas projects as long as my arm so this is going to be a delicate juggling act. Can I do it? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Zen of Crochet

I've seen books about the "The Zen of Knitting", "The Zen of Eating", "The Zen of CSS Design" and even "The Zen of Blogging" but I've never seen one about the Zen of Crochet.

This is going to highlight my crochet/knit bias. I'm very pro crochet and don't quite understand the appeal of knitting. Don't get me wrong, I can knit, and believe that in the hands of experienced knitters, you get some absolutely wonderful items out of it. However, it's always seemed so cumbersome to me with having to juggle two needles, the yarn and your pattern. The way you wrap the yarn and then bring it through the stitch always seems somewhat counterintuitive to me. I know it's a block I have and not a fault with the craft, but I haven't figured out how to get around it. My one true abiding obsession with knitting however is knitting with double pointed needles. I taught myself to knit that way and love it. I can rock out on that much easier than I can if I have to knit with regular, straight single point needles.

Knitting isn't zen for me, even when it's a "mindless" or easy pattern. I have to pay too much attention to my tension or what I'm doing with the needles. Dropped stitches are the penalty when I don't. I know it's possible to not have to frog the whole bloody project if you drop a stitch... or the horror of ALL stitches being dropped because the needle decided to be slippery and fall. ...yes, that happens to me regularly but I'm the girl that can accidentally flip a pen ninja throwing star style at someone when I only mean to hand it to them. It's a weird dexterity glitch ever since I tore the ligament sheath in my right hand. But I digress. Even knitting socks, which I love to do now, isn't relaxing for me because I have to pay attention to pattern, increases, decreases, etc. It's an enjoyable craft but not one I can have a soft focus "in the moment" mindfulness with.

Crochet. Now there's an entirely different kettle of fish. I find a stitch that my fingers memorized years ago, that's now the equivalent of muscle memory to do and I can just flow. Scarves become an exercise in Zen, or as the DBT therapists here at work would say, an exercise in mindfulness. I can just sit and enjoy the way the yarn flows through my fingers, the growing soft texture of the scarf as it slips down to puddle in my lap, the silken slide of the hook darting through stitches to catch the yarn and "tangle" it into something that will be both pretty and useful. Time stops, becomes unimportant, my breathing slows, tension melts out of my neck, back and shoulders, relaxation sets in almost in spite of myself. I can truly be still and not have to think about things. Crochet is my meditation and some days, my salvation.

That being said, there are some caveats to it. The stitch can't be boring. There needs to be a softness and texture to it or I get frustrated. An item made up almost entirely of single crochet will not work. Between the inflexibility of the stitch and the lack of interesting detail in the fabric it creates, frustration would be a given. The yarn needs to have an appealing feel or again, frustration sets in. The color of the yarn is generally the least important item, but it does play a factor. If I'm working on something with a varigated yarn and discover that I absolutely hate the way the colors are pooling, the project gets frogged. I had a scarf 3/4 completed yesterday, took a look at the way the stitch and the colors mixed, hated it, frogged it and restarted. The new version is much more appealing to me. :)

Complex patterns are not good for a day I need zen crocheting. If I have to be focused and pay attention to stitch counts, there will be no relaxation that day. Well, not unless I set the complicated pattern down and pick up something ... simpler. The project also needs to be something that produces fairly instant gratification. While I could come up with a stitch for an afghan that would be "zen", the length of the project would lead to boredom which kills the whole meditative factor for me. This is why I have my little "stash buster" patterns. They could just as easily be called "boredom busters" or "meditative tools, it really does equal the same basic thing. In the end, I have a quick, cute something that is useful, be it for one of the littles in my life or a charity donation item. The "ata'girl" from either is simply icing on the cake. :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Stash-Buster Scarves #2

This is another favorite zen-type pattern for me. This makes a 3 1/2" scarf so it's good if you like skinny scarves or if you're making one for smaller kids.


Leftover yarn (I have tons of Bernat Softee)
I hook (makes for a very soft, loose scarf)

Ch 14

Row 1. Sc in second ch from hook and in each ch across, ch 2, turn - 13 sc

Row 2. Hdc in the back loop of the first stitch, *hdc in the front loop of the next stitch, hdc in the back loop of the next stitch, repeat from *, ch 2, turn

Continue row 2 until scarf is desired length.

Last row: sc in each hdc across, finish off

Add fringe if you'd like.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What's in your project bag?

What tools do you consider to be essential "can't live without" items? I'd like to think that the things I keep in mine are those that I really need for a project.

In the current (smaller) bag, a hunt uncovered the following...

I have one actual on-hook project in there, and that's the wrap for Kate. Mind you, it's actually a dual purpose project. Kate's been wanting a sweater and I saw a flyer advertising a $1k contest for items made using Vanna's Choice yarn. I think we came up with something nice. :) I have to get pictures of it posted onto Ravelry shortly.

In addition to the project, I always carry my roll of hooks. I love Susan Bates hooks. My roll has the aluminum hooks ranging from B1 (2.25 mm) through to K10.5 (6.5mm). If I'm a really good girl, Santa might bring me the three new aluminum hooks Bates has started offering... namely L, M, and N. I have them in the lucite but I'd LOVE to get the aluminum versions.

Attached to the strap is my "chatelaine" that holds my trusty 20 year old Ginghers, a Clover Chibi needle holder with several sizes of yarn needles and a tiny split ring that usually has a half dozen or so stitch markers hanging from it.

In the side pockets I have the current pattern, a note pad, measuring tape and a pen.

The "oddest" thing in my project bag? That'd be the solitary size 15 wooden knitting needle that I use to wind my skeins of yarn into center pull balls. :)

I usually have at least one or two random skeins of various weights from my overwhelming stash in case I want to do a quick and "mindless" (or should I say Zen) project. For the record, that's usually a scarf or a hat.

Quick Child's Scarf

Quick Child’s Scarf

Med weight yarn
I hook

Foundation row: Chain 20. 1 sc in 2nd chain from hook, *ch 1, sk next chain, 1 sc in ch. Repeat from * to end. ch 1, turn. (10 sc, 9 spaces.)

1st row: 1sc in first sc. 1 sc in first ch 1 sp. *ch 1, sk next chain, 1 sc in ch. Repeat from * to last sc. 1 sc in last sc. Ch 1, turn. (11 sc, 8 spaces)

2nd row: 1 sc in first sc. *ch 1, sk next chain, 1 sc in ch. Repeat from * to end. ch 1, turn. (10 sc, 9 spaces.)

Rows 1 & 2 form the pattern. Repeat until scarf is desired length.

Adjust hook size to taste, I prefer loosely crocheted “squidgy” scarves to a tighter stitch and an I hook with a loose stitch gave a scarf roughly 4 inches wide. I got one scarf with leftover yarn out of a Red Heart Soft Yarn skein. The scarf was also finished in the course of an afternoon’s chat with friends and family on Thanksgiving. The young lady it was intended for was able to leave with it when it was time for her to go home.

Mari's Baby Hats

Disclaimer: I did not create this pattern from scratch, this is a variation on several hat patterns that are already out there, all I wanted to do was gather the information I use regularly to make a hat in one place.

H Hook
Bernat Baby Softee yarn
Basic hat pattern, worked from crown to brim

Note: Beg ch 2 does not count as a st in this pattern.

Ch 4, sl st to 1st ch to form ring

Row 1: ch 2, work 12 dc in ring, join with a sl st to first dc. 12 sts

Row 2: ch 2, turn, 2 dc in ea st around, join with a sl st to first dc. 24 sts.

Row 3: ch 2, turn, dc in 1st st, *2 dc in next st, dc in next st, repeat from *, end with 2 dc in last st, sl st to first dc. 36 st.

Row 4: ch 2, turn, dc in first two sts, *2 dc in next st, dc in next two sts, repeat from *, end with 2 dc in last st, sl st to first dc. 48 sts

Row 5: ch 2, hdc in ea st around, sl st to first hdc. 48 sts

Row 6: ch 2, dc in ea st around, sl st to first dc. 48 sts

Row 7: alternate between rows 5 and 6 four more times for 14 rows

Row 15: switch colors for a contrasting brim if desired and repeat rows 5 and 6 twice more after that for a total of 18 rows.

Row 19: finish the hat with a repeat of row 5. Weave in and trim ends, fold up brim

*Optional trim: add a row of sc for a simple trim or shells for something a bit frillier

How I finish the hat tends to change almost every time I make one. If I'm doing a basic hat, I'll switch colors at row 15 for the contrasting brim. If I want the hat to be a solid color I tend to do a accent/contrast sc trim for boys or a simple *sc in stitch, ch 2, sc in next* pattern to create a tiny bit of ruffle for a girl.


9” hat ~ increase until the hat measures 3” from edge to edge or 1 1/2" from center to edge, total length 7 1/2"

10” hat ~ increase until the hat measures 3 1/4" from edge to edge or 1 1/2" from center to edge, total length 7 1/2"

**12” hat ~ increase until the hat measures 4” from edge to edge, or 2” from center to edge, total length 8”

** this is the size of the baby hats I used to make for donating to local hospitals

Stash-Buster Scarves

This pattern is good for getting rid of random skeins of yarn that you may have hanging around. When working on these, I was going for toddler to young child sized so they're "skinny scarves".

As a caveat, I'm not very good at writing these up so suggestions would be greatly appreciated

1 skein of yarn or roughly 6oz of random yarn bits that are a similar weight
1 crochet hook that gives you a scarf with a texture you like (or "squidgy" as my sister calls them)

Chain 14
Row 1: Starting at the 2nd chain from the hook, 1 sc in each stitch across, ch 1, turn - 13 sc

Row 2: sc dec over 1st two stitches, ch 1, *sc dec, ch 1, repeat to last stitch, 1 sc, ch 1, turn
* you should still have 13 stitches

Repeat row 2 until the scarf is as long as you want.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wheee, happy birthday to me!

So, another birthday. :) This was was actually pretty darned good, mostly because of my best friend Kate, her folks and our friend Shilo. :)

I'm already looking toward the weekend and everything that needs to get done. One of the things is to take the yarn, needles and patterns I got handed to me when Kate's MIL was cleaning out the house after her mother died and move them into storage. I don't quite have the mindset to go through them properly right now. It's a bittersweet thing because the one thing Mary (Kate's grandmother in law) loved was when I'd be sitting there crocheting during family functions. She used to both knit and crochet in her younger years but arthritis and failing eyesight stole that from her. So to see her granddaughter-in-law's best friend bring crochet back into the family, it brought her a small bit of joy. I'm sure it didn't hurt that her great-grandchildren tend to be some of my intended "victims". She also loved the two lap robes I made for her. It still brings me to tears 4 months later that the family decided to have them buried with her because she loved how warm they were. It's morbid and kinda twisted but it's also very sweet and human... the desire to keep her warm even then.

I've been trying to keep the enthusiasm up for the lap robe for my friend Minx's mother Mary... however the minute my brain made the connection that once again I'm making a lap robe for someone named Mary who is dying... it's been harder to pick that project up. I will manage, but it's ... hard.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Well, I now have yet another reason to frog the sweater I'd been working on for Minx. When one skein ran out, I knotted the end together. I no longer do that, for that matter, that was probably one of the last projects I did do that on. Bad bad naughty me!

Both cap sleeves are now frogged and I'm one skein into frogging the body of it. I think there's 6 or 7 ... maybe 8 or 9 skeins worth of yarn in there. The sucker is heavy.


Becky's newest sweater is done. :) I just finished it tonight and will be handing it over to her grandmother tomorrow. Yay!!!

Digging out projects

Well, one good thing about joining Ravelry is that it's getting me to dig through the piles of "stuff" (also known as "unfinished objects") and start categorizing them. I have this huge black tote bag I carry with me on a daily basis that has my current on-hook projects in it. It's stuffed to the gills right now and honestly, I'd like to get back to the smaller project bag which is really a Pirates of the Caribbean purse from the Disney store.

In going through the bag, I've discovered the following:

Two yellow lap robes, one of which is going to get frogged, the other is going to be finished for Minx's mom. I either have to finish it before I leave or make sure to take the yarn with me. The preference is to finish it so I only have to transport the lap robe itself.

The other one is for Becky, for her twin sized bed. However, when I originally started it, it was going to be Mary's laprobe. I didn't like how it was working up for that particular project so I got different yarn which is working out much better. I definitely want to use the original yarn for Becky (since she's who I had in mind when I bought it) but the lap robe width is too narrow for a twin bed. Needless to say, it's frogging time and then do the blanket for her to proper measurements.

Also shoved into the bag are four partial baby sweaters. I stopped working on the ones for Sydney and Danny in order to whip up the easy yellow one for Becky. That's partially because I know I'm going to be seeing her grandparents tomorrow and I can leave the finished project with them. I love the yarn for Danny's, but the pattern is starting to irk me so it's possible that it's going to get frogged and be redone using the Sweet Sweater template. Yes, I am addicted to that, thank you. But if it didn't work, I wouldn't keep making sweaters that way. Besides, he's growing at such a rate that the current size on the hook isn't going to be wearable for very long.

Sydney's little sweater is down to the point of my needing to finish a sleeve and a half, sew it all together (my least favorite part) and put the trim on. The pattern for the tapering of the sleeves was driving me batty, so I'm just doing them as plain, straight rectangular sleeves that follow the stitch pattern of the body. When I follow directions and end up frogging the results multiple times, it's time to try something different.

I need to pick up a button tonight for Beck's sweater so I can finish it. I'd really hoped the cute Debbie Mumm buttons would work, but it just looked lopsided no matter how I did it and two of the big honkin things worked out to pure overkill. So, I'll find a cute little sunny button and go from there. Maybe I'll zip up to JoAnn's and get a sunflower or black eyed Susan button since those are two of her grandmother's favorite flowers. Oooo, a pretty hook and eye set could work out nicely too. We'll have to see what I find when I get out there.

The last sweater in the bag is technically unclaimed. I'd started it for one baby but it'll probably go to a different one now. I have to frog part of it because once again, following directions got me a very strange looking sleeve area. Directions are problematical for me on occasion, especially if they're not extremely clear, which is why I usually make it up as I go along. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Frogging Minxy's sweater

Oh a project I love to hate.

I started this sweater back in 2005 because I wanted to make something for my friend while I was up visiting her. Unluckily for me, she fell head over heels in love with TLC Wiggles yarn. For those of you who don't know, it's a lovely worsted weight yarn with bumpy lumpy caterpillars of thread wound around it. Multi-colored, rainbow explosions of thread "wiggles" randomly interspersed through the yarn. Ugh.

Why ugh? Simple, crochet hooks love to catch them wrong and break the thread or get it aaaaaaaaall tangled up into an impossible never to be salvaged mess. To make the whole thing worse, while I started it in Canada, I did a good bit of it while stuck on a plane... on the tarmac... in the blistering summer heat. I lost count, alot, which led to lots of bumps and puckers where you don't want them. Not good. Plus I was also making it up as I went along instead of using anything resembling a pattern or guideline. Even more not good. I was using single crochet for the stitch. One guaranteed to make the project last forever. Then, to top it all off, when I got home and had a mere cap sleeve to finish, I misplaced the scribbled hieroglyphics resembling directions and completely forgot what hook size I was using. If you're guessing recipe for disaster, you'd win a Kewpie doll.

The sweater then proceeded to sit in my guilt laden dreaded UFO pile and was eventually banished to yarn totes in the storage bin until today. Why today? Simple, I'm leaving in two weeks to go vist Shel again and I've decided that I'm taking the yarn with me and FINISHING a sweater for her. I'll use an I or J hook, half double crochet stitches and the handy template from the lovely "Sweet Sweater" on Crochet Me! Yes, I have a plan... one that can only take effect after doing one thing. Frogging Minxy's sweater.

Becky and sweaters...

I love making sweaters for Becky. She's such a nifty kid and she appreciates them SO much. Here's an example, last year, I made her a sweater that she fell in love with. It had nifty heart buttons on it that her Aunt Kate picked out and they were the first buttons Bec could do by herself. Well, because Becky is growing like a weed, the sweater was starting to get a bit short on her, so her mom asked if I could make it longer. Heh, piece of cake.

It took me about a week or so from the time I got the sweater to add the decorative bottom, extending it, wash it and then get it back to her. I cheated and got it to her grandmother who I knew would be seeing her before I did. Know what the little cutie did when she got the sweater back? She HUGGED it and exclaimed "My sweater came home!" Not only that, it now fits her perfectly lengthwise and she insisted on wearing it to the first day of school today.

And that is why I love making sweaters for Becky.

Wiping the dust away

So I decided I needed to be able to blog about crocheting. Why? I have no idea except that every now and again, ranting is a good thing.