Saturday, October 15, 2011

Photo Friday (A Day Late)

Our neighbors just welcomed their first grandchild -- a beautiful little girl!  I set to work on the Candyland Sweater by Robyn Chacula in the Nov/Dec 2009 issue of Crochet today!  I used Caron Simply Soft in light green, with white edging.  I'm so excited about how it turn out!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Photo Friday

Remember those socks I started a few weeks ago -- the ones with the cheery colors? 

I was searching through some of my sock patterns and found one that caught my eye. It's from Ann Budd's Getting Started Knitting Socks, the Chevron Lace Socks.  The yarn used for the pair in the book is described as space-dyed. Ann states that "in many cases, space-dyed yarns obscure stitch patterns, but here the color changes help to define the peaks and valleys of the chevrons" (pg. 116).

What drew me to the yarn in the first place was the jumble of the greens, blues and yellows. The stockinette pattern above resulted in definite stripes that didn't resemble the yarn while in its skein, and, in my opinion, didn't really bring out the true personality of the yarn.

I tried the Chevron Lace Sock pattern and the result is EXACTLY what I wanted for that type of yarn. Now when I look at the yarn, I see a jumble of greens, blues and yellows, and the yarn can truly strut its stuff.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Companion

Ahh, the work goes much better when there is someone to help. Peeper is 16 yrs old now and not nearly as spry as she used to be, but she's still a good helper.

What's on the hooks and/or needles?

I always have a pair of socks going . . . this time I'm knitting a pair as well as working on a pair for one of the lovelies. My team is in the MLB playoffs (at least for one more game), and socks are a tradition for a playoff project.

I'm still enthralled with the Tunisian Tapestry crochet technique that I learned at Chain Link 2011 and the ideas keep flowing. I am reminded of that old adage "So many _________, so little time."

Thoughts of holiday and upcoming birthday gifts pop up periodically, but I haven't decided on what to make this year. Every year, poor Randi gets something handmade from me for her birthday. One year I decided to spare her the current year's experiment and buy her something from a store. She seemed disappointed that she didn't get something I designed, so last year I made her something. My skills have grown in the years since I began the tradition. She loved it and so did one of the editors. In the near future, you'll be able to see Randi's Birthday ??? in print!

I'd love to hear what kinds of gifts you make for the holidays.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Photo Friday Plus

With the beginning of Fall, my 3rd grade lovely had an assignment to make a scarecrow. She worked very hard, and decided that this crow would be a rabbit instead. Everyone knows that all scare-rabbits need a carrot!

I had hoped that the Lovely would crochet this carrot. She tried, and tried. She is a lefty. I've tried to teach her to crochet left-handed, abandoned that and tried to teach her to do it right-handed. It's just not her "thing". I settled for teaching her pattern-reading. I found a pattern on Ravelry by Nicki Engle. The Lovely was in charge of gathering all the materials that we would need. Next, we read the Pattern Notes, and then moved onto the instructions. She would read the instructions to me and I would crochet, that way she was learning the "language" of pattern-reading.

I've been asked often whether it is easier to knit or to crochet. I usually shrug my shoulders and say it's all a matter of personal preference. Crochet would seem to be simpler because there is one less "thing" to keep up with--1 hook, the yarn and the work, while knitting requires 2 needles, the yarn and the work. And knitting has many live stitches while crochet usually has only 1 loop in play at a time.

But logic isn't always the best means to judge. The Lovely above can knit. She struggled less with the learning to knit than with the crochet. I taught her to knit right-handed and to "throw" so the left-handedness doesn't seem to be a factor.

I worked with a client to teach her to knit about a year ago. Every week, we spent most of our time taking out her work and re-doing. While I was ripping back one day, I showed her how to crochet and asked her to practice while I ripped and she "got" it. She decided to crochet the blanket rather than to knit it.

I love both arts. I love the process of both, the movements of the hands, and both create beautiful fabrics. One is my favorite . . . and so is the other.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Design!

Crochet! Magazine has created Best Ever Afghans and my Cables and Bouquets Afghan is included. Panels of popcorn-flower bouquets alternate with cables.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Grandparent's Day

Today is Grandparent's Day--the day when Grandparents go to breakfast with grandchildren and maybe back to the classroom to read a story or two. I never remember when the day is because we have one grandparent and he lives in another state.

Papa came to stay with us for a little while this summer. The first words from my oldest lovely was "Can he come to Grandparent's Day?". The first thing she said to him when he arrived was "Can you come to Grandparent's Day?". When she found out that he was going home in July, she cried because he wouldn't be here for Grandparent's Day.

We made big promises. We would make the 8-hour drive (one way) and bring Papa here so he could go to Grandparent's Day. She stopped crying, but didn't quite make it to Happy on that subject.

My heart plummeted on Wednesday when I saw the notice about Grandparent's Day come out of the backpack. Foul language sprang to my lips (I squelched it in the presence of the young). There was no way either me or doc could make the drive and keep that promise.

Was there a Plan B or even C? In hindsight, I should have gone to or called 1-800-GrandparentalRental.

Grandparent's Day has dawned bright and early to lots of tears. Neither me or doc (who is the  master) were able to calm the Lovely.  I was reminded of a line from a movie (Tootsie)--"I'm just going to feel this way until I don't feel this way."

It doesn't have to be Grandparent's Day for me to miss my mother and mother-in-law. Both have been gone 11 years. The first thing I wanted to do after we received both girls was to call them. When they do something that is too-cute-for-words, I want to tell them about it.

When a new design comes out, I know that both would bust their buttons with pride. When I've been working on a design problem and the light comes on, I want to call them and share that rush of success.

When I teach my own girls to sew--one using Grandma's sewing machine and the other using Grandmother's--I am thankful that I had a mother and a mother-in-law who loved me fully, taught me how to be crafty, and shared the need to create things.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gauged Graph Paper

One more thing I learned at Chain Link 2011 . . .

Again, from Lily Chin (yes, you are the master!) I learned how to use gauged graph paper.  I knew it existed and I have even searched for it on the internet and printed out a few pages.

And I've used the standard grid graph paper for all sorts of things--graphing out color work, stitch patterns, and shaping for necklines and armholes in pattern grading. The last was to verify mathematical calculations for increases and decreases, but didn't mimic the actual shape of the item.

First, I swatched (we all do, don't we?!). Then I measured my gauge on that swatch. Next, I took out my notes and went to the first website Lily had mentioned ( and entered the # of rows and stitches over 4" in my swatch.  This website creates a pdf file with the grids. I printed a few pages, but I also saved the pdf for future use. 

The project I'm working on requires quite a bit of shaping, both increasing and decreasing. I took out a colored pencil and set to work. This first picture shows my 1st attempt with the stitch pattern and the increasing.

That worked pretty well, but I wondered what would happen if I stitched the item in a different direction.  I have a template of the shape. After I graphed out the stitch pattern, I put the template on the grids and traced around it. As you can see in this picture, I've got some major problems!

Today, I went back to the drawing board, printed out more pages of the graph paper (so glad I had saved that file!). I taped several together, and traced the entire template and started over, plotting out the increases and decreases. This graph helped me realize that I needed a double increase on some rows. After I had plotted out about 30 rows, I began to swatch again, testing my graph. I am also able to put the swatch on the graph paper to make sure the shaping and sizing actually does what I want it too.

Now I am a happy stitcher . . .

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Circular Tunisian Tapestry Fabric

As promised, I've got a few pictures of fabric that I've created using the technique I learned at Chain Link 2011 -- Lily Chin's class Circlular Tunisian Tapestry Crochet.  This is a fun technique that combines Tunisian crochet with Tapestry crochet, and my muse has been overwhelmed with design ideas!

This swatch plays on the contrasting colors of black and grey and utilizes the Tunisian Knit stitch and the Tunisian Reverse stitch.

This swatch is similar, but places the Tunisian knit and reverse stitches in a zigzag pattern.

And finally, this swatch combines the zigzag pattern with the Tunisian Simple stitch.

Tunisian and color play, all in one technique. I couldn't be happier!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Photo Friday

Just a little something fun today . . .

Here are my lovelies on the first morning of school -- 3rd and 5th grade (recognize that earring?)

And one must have fashionable feet to start school:

I sent a model out today, and I've been working on ideas inspired by the new technique using the double-ended crochet hook that I learned while at Chain Link 2011.  Check back and I will show you some of the various fabrics that I've come up with using this technique.

I hope this weekend is a great one for all!  Enjoy the holiday!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What's On the Hook/Needles Today?

I do have lots of crochet projects on the hook, but none that I can tell you about. So . . .

I am a confessed “sockaholic”, and I always have a pair of socks in play.  I was thumbing through one of my stitch dictionaries and saw a swatch that called to me for a sock (a knitted sock). I like to make socks from the toe-up, 2-at-a-time. I selected a colorful yarn—Tofutsies (lots of green, yellow and blue; quite cheerful) and started working on the toes.  I was quite excited when the toes were done and it was time to start the pattern on the instep. 
                Knit, knit, knit . . . . purl, purl, purl

                                Round and round I went . . . .

Do you see the lovely pattern stitch?

Me either.

All I see are the stripes.

Hmmm, beautiful yarn, but I must go back to the drawing board and find a stitch pattern that will let the stripes strut their stuff (why do all that work and not have it show up?). AND, I must look around my yarn cubicle for a solid or less-self-striping yarn for the stitch pattern that I am dreaming of.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Designs Out!

The October 2011 issue of Crochet World should be arriving soon in your mailbox, and on the newsstands. The preview of the items in this issue is up on their website. I am excited to show you 3 of those designs!

First, the Autumn Bobbles Rug.  The bobbles are offset by tracks (highs and lows) and are just downright fun.

Next up is the Massaging Back Scrubber. This fun little piece is worked with alternating post stitches and makes a great gift.

Finally, the Tunisian Lace Cardigan is sure to be a staple in any wardrobe. The bodice uses the Tunisian Knit stitch, while the skirt is done in an easy Tunisian Lace stitch.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pom-Pom Scarf

Our LYS had a sale this summer and my oldest decided to spend her money on pom-pom yarn. Once home, we researched the yarn on Ravelry and found a simple pattern. We got out the size 13 needles (almost as big as she is), and cast on. After a few rows, I turned the reins over to her.  She's doing well, but slowed by her desire to rub the scarf on her cheek, a look of pure rapture on her face.

The pattern is very easy and would normally work up rather quickly. It can be adjusted for length or width. For a wider or narrower scarf, add stitches or subtract stitches. Knit 2 stitches for each pom-pom. In her scarf, we chose 3 pom-poms and cast on 6 stitches; we cast on and worked the scarf in the following order:

1 st, pom-pom, 2 sts, pom-pom, 2 sts, pom-pom, 1 st

These would be good gifts for teachers or class-mates.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back to School Earrings

Six months ago, the oldest daughter finally put aside her fear and decided to have her ears pierced.

The protocol for taking care of her ears called for her to wear post earrings for 6 months. After that time, she would be able to wear drops (or hangy-downs, as we call them). As it turns out, the 6 months is up just as she is ready to go back to school. To mark this momentus occasion, I pulled out thread, a steel hook and Edie Eckman's book Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs. Due to size, I worked one less round than the motif called for, but the result is quite cute and I will be making more of these.

And here is my little lovely modeling the new earrings.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Next Thing

My hiatus didn't last long! It's hard for me not to have hook or needles in hand.

While at Chain Link 2011, I took a class taught by Lily Chin on Circular Tunisian Tapestry Crochet.  It was quite facinating and once I realized that the dress she was wearing was made using this technique, I lost all of my focus for the topic she was teaching in the morning class I was in!

Annie's Attic has a book titled Double-ended Hook Crochet and I had worked with that technique before taking Lily's class.  Items can be worked in the round (such as socks, hats, mittens or gloves) and the concept is much like that of using double-pointed needles--several double-ended hooks are required.

Lily's technique is different and uses contrasting colors to the max.  Supplies for the class included 2 balls of contrasting yarn and a double-ended hook.  For the class, I bought a short double-ended crochet hook, made by Clover.  These hooks come in sizes G through J.

Lily started by showing us how to join our chain to make a circle, and then how to begin using the double-ended hook.  Basically, you should pick up stitches with one end of the hook (the traditional forward pass of Tunisian crochet), then turn the same hook and work those stitches off with the contrasting color (the traditional return pass of Tunisian crochet). This process is repeated around (and around) the work.

As Lily pointed out, you are really working in a spiral, like Tapestry crochet.  She showed us how to increase and decrease, as well as which kind of Tunisian stitch to use to control the color of each stitch.  In the Winter 2010 issue of Interweave Crochet, she has demonstrated the technique in the Mesa Pullover

Here is a picture of something I've worked on with this new technique:

I know that I'm going to be spending lots of time with this new technique!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Lull

I've just finished one project and taken it to the post office. I still have to make some revisions to the pattern before I e-mail it.

So, what is next . . .? I always have a period of aimlessness between projects.  My mind races through ideas and my hands wander over my stash of yarn.  I don't know if I am waiting for a yarn to speak to  me, or if I'm just feeling the freedom to go out with others.  This lull can be frustrating rather than liberating. I am eager to get on with the next thing, whatever that next thing might be.

In the meantime, I'm putting away all of the materials related to the last project, cleaning up my work area (putting all of my stray stitch markers back into their box, putting away balls of yarn that served as a diversion during my "down" time), and trying to get my desk cleaned off so I can digest all of the information that I brought back from Chain Link.

A few cool things I've noticed on the internet . . .

April Garwood of Banana Moon Studio has posted pictures of skirts that she made for her girls. Adorable!

Ellen Gormley of Go Crochet! has posted pictures from the fashion show on Saturday night at Chain Link. She and Haley Zimm both looked outstanding!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Do we really need to plan?

There seem to be (at least) 2 kinds of designers -- organic and planners.  During Lily Chin's workshops at Chain Link 2011, she emphasized the benefits of planning before stitching, one being the loss of time due to stitching, stitching, stitching only to find out that all of that stitching was done in vain.  During those workshops, I nodded my head in agreement because I am a planner, especially a visual planner.  I make drawings, I make notes, I use software to plot out "things", and being a lover-of-all-things-math, I calculate until the cows come home.

Yesterday, I received a model back with notes about adjustments that need to be made. Of course, I am mortified that I have turned in a project that has to be "adjusted".  That certainly goes against the advice that Margaret Hubert gave us on Professional Development Day-quality.

So, what happened.  There are no excuses, but there are reasons--the children are home for the summer, my father-in-law was visiting and I was enjoying having time with him, I was getting ready for Chain Link . . .

But the main reason is that I didn't take time to review the design between proposal and stitching. I jumped in because I loved the colors that the editor picked, I loved the design and I couldn't wait to see it materialize.

Now what? I have spent the morning with my software working out the adjustments. The result will be a much better product, one I think the editor will be pleased with.

And Lily, I'm still nodding my head in agreement.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chain Link 2011

The Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) held its national conference (Chain Link) in Minneapolis MN last week. Each day was so awesome, it's hard to decide where to start . . .

Wednesday was Professional Development Day. The morning speakers were Ellen Gormley of Go Crochet!, Margaret Hubert, and Vickie Howell.

Ellen's speech was about the characteristics that make a project a showstopper or a project maker. A showstopper is a project that makes you go "WOW!" when you see it; it reaches from the pages of the book or magazine and grabs you. A project maker is one that people will make over and over; one that is their go-to project. It is the type of project that makes the crocheter feel successful.

I thought it was interesting that Ellen said that not all showstoppers are project makers. At first thought, all designers probably want that showstopper, that pattern that will possibly grace the cover. But, having a pattern that is a project maker is just as important.  From the feedback I've received, my Adirondack Socks is just that kind of pattern.  They are not complex, yet there are some stitches that make them interesting.  They also look great in any type of varigated or self-striping yarn.

Margaret Hubert's speech was about what it takes to survive in the crochet publishing world.  She certainly should know because she has been designing since 1975.  Margaret gave us 7 things that were most important for survival. Many centered around quality: quality of ideas, quality of proposals and finished products, and quality of the written patterns. She also advised us to be flexible and pro-active, but the final piece of advice fits Margaret to a T -- be nice. 

Vickie Howell was the last speaker of the morning and she wowed us all with her knowledge and tips for using social media.  My head was swimming with all the ideas that she gave me! I must say that my roommate and awesome designer, April Garwood, taught me how to use Twitter before we left on Saturday night.

Tidbits:  both April and Ellen have give-aways on their websites, so click on the links above and register to win.

More about the conference later . . . .

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Friday Morning Knitting Club Finale

Today was the Finale ceremony for the FMKers.  The whole class sat on the floor in a group.  I called each FMKer up to the front and presented them with their bracelet, a project bag which included needles, pattern and yarn, and a certificate. In addition, there were 2 children that tried their hand at knitting, but decided it wasn't quite their "thing", and I gave each of them a bracelet as well.

As each child received their goodies, the whole class would applaud for that person. What a wonderful group of children this has been!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bringing a Design into Focus

If you ask 10 different designers how a design comes to life, you would probably get 10 different answers. Each designer may also have more than one answer for that question.

Recently, I was working on proposals and an image popped into my mind. I grabbed my sketchbook, but the design didn't translate well to a sketch; yet it remained firmly attached to my mind's eye.

Next, I reached for hook and yarns and rushed headlong into the swatch. I experimented with different methods, and swatch #3 finally yielded what I was looking for stitch-wise.

But something was wrong. It was more of a feeling. The swatch didn't quite match the image stuck in my head. I kept staring at it, but no enlightenment came, just that niggling feeling that something was "off".

I put it aside and worked on other projects. The design waited patiently, never leaving me.

Then one night as I lay down to sleep, I had it! I knew what was wrong! My mind started running through ideas for correcting that pesky problem. The next day, the swatching started all over. This time, I nailed the "look" on the 2nd swatch.

Sometimes, designs don't come to me in full focus, like this one did, and there is more reliance with being true to the "feeling" that the idea is giving off. Only as I work on swatches does it come into focus, gradually, like a picture being developed in a dark room.

No matter how it comes, the satisfaction I get from bringing something from nothing gives me a buzz and keeps me designing!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Morning Knitting Club Update

The Friday Morning Knitting Club is going strong!  The children (girls and boys) were learning well beyond my expections (remember, the children are 7 & 8 yrs old).  The children were separated into 2 groups of 4 - 5 students each.  As with any group, some had immediate success, some had very little success, and the majority were trucking along somewhere in between.  The teacher (fabulous woman!) helped me to divide the groups so that the skill levels worked well within each group and that allowed me to help some while giving others more direct attention.

Both groups had started on a beginning project -- a beaded bracelet.  I put together a project bag for each child that contained a ball of cotton yarn, a set of size 8 needles and a written pattern.  I wrote the pattern in a standard pattern format, but with more detailed steps.  I wanted them to learn more than just the knit stitch, but how to start a project, how to read a pattern, and how to finish a project.

I gave each child a packet and asked them to take out the contents.  We started by reading the Materials (Things You Will Need) section, and I asked them to make sure they had all the items.  I had the beads on paper plates (bowls would have worked well too) in the center of the table, so it gave the children the chance to note that an item was missing from the list.

They each picked out 7 beads. Then we turned to the Pattern Instructions (Things You Will Do) section and began by reading the first step.  Everyone began to move at their own pace from here on out and I was able to float among them as needed.  We kept the time for each group to about 20 to 25 minutes.  Attention spans waned and wandered after that, and it allowed me to work with all of the students each week.

By the 3rd week, the children were comfortable with each other and looked forward to coming.  Their skills were not progressing as much as their enthusiasm, but that wasn't important at that point.  On that 3rd week, something unexpected and amazing happened.  Each group morphed into a real knitting group!  By that I mean that they did just exactly what all of us adults do when we sit down to knit or crochet with others--they began to talk about whatever was on their minds, to share ideas, family tidbits, and successes.

I was reminded of times when my own girls were toddlers and just getting their feet to take flight. They would take off running in one direction while looking in another, and run smack dab into a wall or doorway (it only took once for each child).  The Friday Morning Knitters (FMK) were doing the same; their hands kept moving and they looked at each other when they talked--with about the same success.  Stitches slipped off, or the yarn didn't get wrapped around the needle.  But all that gave me great opportunities to teach them the correct way to do things, and gave me many chuckles.

Things were going quite well . . . until standardized testing interrupted! During the testing, no volunteers are allowed on campus, and we had to stop for several weeks.  So today, my expectations were not very high; they are quite young, after all.  But, again, I was surprised by these little people.  Their muscles still remembered the basics, but most importantly to me, their enthusiasm had not flagged during the hiatus.

I don't hold any lofty thoughts of how they will go home and knit this summer, but I do hope that each one has had a positive experience with a craft. And that the next time a needle or hand-craft opportunity presents itself, they will take it with the same enthusiam and joy that they did this year.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sand, Sea and Sky Table Runner

A new design! This table runner is in the June 2011 issue of Crochet World. The colors and the ripple stitch pattern take you straight to the beach!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Friday Morning Knitting Club

My girls are 10 and almost-8 and I've worked with them to learn both crochet and knitting for several years. Those experiences have taught me that there is a certain amount of hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity that is needed to crochet or knit. While both of my girls have learned, neither has chosen to work on a project for more than 15 minutes.

As I approached the lesson plan for the 2nd grade Friday Morning Knitting Club, I was prepared for the children's interest to wane after that first week. The teacher and I decided the club would meet as long as the children were interested, with no obligation for them to continue if a child chose to stop.

That first morning, I worked with 3 children for 20 minutes. I found the teaching experience to need quite a bit of hands on and individual attention for each child. I gave them my ground rules: 1) be patient with each other, and 2) be patient with yourself. They did a great job at both.

I must admit that I had doubts about them mastering the knit stitch that first week. At the end of the session, their enthusiasm still ran high, and they were quite proud of the row or 2 that they had knit.

And I went home, energized and filled with ideas to improve our next club meeting!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Knitting Fever

I was helping in my daughter's 2nd grade class one day and spied a book called Knitting Fever. The plot was that a sheep on a farm caught knitting fever and then taught all the other sheep on her farm and on a nearby farm to knit. The sheep worked furiously and ended up knitting all of their wool. This turn of events caused the farmers quite a bit of concern, as they had no wool to sell, and therefore no income.

The farmers and the sheep put their heads together and came up with a good solution: the sweaters that the sheep had knitted would be displayed and sold at the county fair. The farmers made enough money from the sweater sales to cover all of their expenses.

The story ended with the sheep making plans to knit "mittens and gloves next year".

I asked the teacher if I could bring in yarn, needles and a few items that I had made to show the children what the sheep were doing. She agreed, and I brought in a pair of socks, a blanket and a top. I had a pair of big needles and chunky yarn, and demonstrated the knit stitch, then let each child who wanted to make a few stitches.

I thought that would be all she wrote, but the children were so excited that the teacher asked me to create a knitting club.

And that is how the Friday Morning Knitting Club was born for 10 2nd graders!