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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scary Stuff on Halloween

Happy Halloween!

I wanted to write about the scariest thing I could think of, but couldn't figure out how to make 'stuck in traffic with a fussy baby and no diapers while fleeing the zombie apocalypse' fit into the blog's craft theme.

So instead I went with UFOs.

"UFO" usually stands for "Unidentified Flying Object", and that can be scary, but I'm referring to "UnFinished Objects".  Unfinished objects freak me out, with their memories of promise followed by frustration, the guilt if they're for someone else, and the fear that they'll forever be staring me in the face to remind me of my failures and inadequacies.

Some people might like have a lot of half-finished projects around the house, but I think I just made it pretty clear why I don't.  I also have serious cast-onitis, so I skip through life like the new couple in the quiet village--merrily pretending that everything is going to be okay as long as I'm positive and working toward goals.  All the while, ominous music is playing in the background and those projects are silently glaring at me like the hill folk steadily waiting for the time when my grisly doom comes to a head.

So today, I give you my UFOs of Horror and Despair:


This is a sweet toddler-sized sweater that I'm making for my daughter.  It's a simple enough project, and I've done it once before.  The only problem is that the pattern is no longer available online.  I had written everything down in a notebook a week earlier, but that didn't stop all the blood from draining from my face the night I clicked on the pattern's page and found out it didn't exist anymore.  All this sweater needs is a border at the bottom, and then I'll get to move on to my nightmare of knitting little sleeves with double-pointed needles.  It will be quick and simple if I ever get around to finishing it.....but I have to get around to finishing it first.  Worst of all, it probably won't even fit my teeny-tiny girl until next winter so I have almost no motivation to finish it.  And yet I'd like to get those needles back and feel free to start some more projects.....


Yep, that's a headless elephant. It's chilling, I know.  The pattern is clearly written, the yarn is excellent, and my crochet hook HAS GONE MISSING.  And I would like to finish this by the weekend.  I'm not one of those people who cringes at the idea of ripping everything out and starting all over, but I don't love it either.  And yet, that's probably what I'm going to do so I can start over with another hook.


 Oh look, it's a Wingspan shawl.  These aren't complicated, which is why nearly every knitter with an Internet connection has made at least one in the past year.  It's all short rows and garter stitches and colorful yarn and a Google images search is sure to blow your mind.  It would be a mindless dream come true if it wasn't my fourth one in 3 months. My motivation to finish this is completely gone even though this is for me!  And, once again, I'd like to finish this up because the weather's getting cooler and I'd like to use these needles for something else.  Like knitting a border all the way around this project:


My garter stitch fatigue may be due to the fact that I'm making two garter stitch projects in tandem.  I've gotten through the majority of this project, but I'm close enough to finishing the hood that I just don't want to stick with it.  As much as I love Elizabeth Zimmerman's simple and beautiful design, I'm almost tempted to tackle some project like cables in lace stitches (is that even possible?) right in the middle of this little jacket.

I'm sure that won't look weird at all.

I realize a few projects in my favorite hobby aren't quite as scary as pod people or a pandemic of flesh-eating viruses or being trapped in a car with a fussy baby while stuck in traffic as I try to flee a zombie apocalypse.  And yet these projects are hovering above my head like menacing specters.  They stop me from starting new projects and keep me from enjoying the thrill of trying more complicated techniques.  They're big bad bogeymen that I can banish if I just get back to work on them--which I hope to do right after I post this. 

I hope you're having a safe and happy Halloween this year! Feel free to tell me what scares you when it comes to crafting.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Learn to Crochet: Double Crochet Stitch in Foundation Stitches Left-Handed

Exciting fact: one day in (what I hope is) the very near future, I'll be able to embed these lovely video tutorials in posts so that you can just watch them right here on the blog.  It's going to be a great day, and all that arduous work of reading a blog post and then clicking over to another site and then clicking 'Play' will be a distant memory.  I feel tired just thinking about it.

Until that happy day, though, thanks for doing the heavy lifting.  You're the best, and I truly appreciate you stopping by to read about the glorious world of yarncrafting.

To show my appreciation and love, here's the link for the video for the double crochet stitch in foundation stitches left-handed.  Go on, click that link!  Power through it!  I believe in you, my brave little southpaw!

How long has it been since I've said that I love the fact that Leisure Arts has made videos for left-handed crocheters?  Because I feel like I should say it again: I REALLY love the fact that Leisure Arts has made videos to help left-handed crocheters.  I watch them and I'm always surprised at how different the process looks when it's performed left-handed.  I'm sure there are left-handed people perfectly capable of watching a right-handed tutorial and adapting, but I'm also sure that I would not be one of them.  I can't wait to be able to bring these videos directly to you because I think they're really something, and I hope you do, too.

Until next time, my little southpaw.*


*I won't say it again, I promise.**
**I'm probably going to say it again sometime.  Sorry.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Learn to Crochet: Double Crochet in Foundation Stitches

I can't get over how fascinated I am by foundation stitches.  I've heard about cast-on methods for knitting that use both needles and get you started with your first row, but I've never tried them for reasons like laziness and/or abject terror.  I'll probably have to suck it up and try that soon.

For now, though, there's still plenty of things to say about foundation stitches.  Today's video shows you how to make the double crochet stitch ("DC" in patterns) using the foundation stitches technique.

I love the look of double crochet stitches.

(I am also the kind of person who has opinions about certain crochet stitches.  You learn something new about yourself every day.)

Double crochet stitches are very common, and one of the first stitches I ever learned to make.  The double crochet stitch is probably THE most common crochet stitch, but don't quote me on that.  I just know a lot of patterns call for them, they're used a lot in making granny squares, and I've all but marked my calendar for the day I get to start talking about granny squares.

Also? Shameless plug here: Leisure Arts has a book called 99 Granny Squares to Crochet.  I hope that blows your mind the way it does mine.  Granny squares are already incredibly versatile, but granny squares done nearly 100 different ways?!  Holy smokes!  Crocheting is so exciting! I don't quite remember where I was going with this post!

Man, crocheting is really cool.  That fact sneaks up and surprises me sometimes and then I get excited and inspired all over again.  Anyway, here is the video showing you how to do one of my favorite stitches, both to see and to crochet.  Enjoy!

And just remember what I said, okay?

Some of them aren't even SQUARE!  The mind reels.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Thoughts I Had While Staring at a Picture of My Stash


  • I should have moved the PEZ dispenser out of the way before I took this.
  • This is a gross amount of yarn.
  • This isn't even the yarn that's in project bags, attached to projects, hidden in a drawer at work, tucked away in my purse, oh crap I just looked up and saw a ball of yarn on a cabinet.
  • I'm really glad I got most of this tucked away before Cody came home.
  • I feel gross. 
  • This is several charitable donations' worth of yarn.
  • I'm really glad I found that cotton yarn so I can knit some washrags.
  • I feel weird that I don't know how to knit washrags.
  • I feel weird that I can lose yarn.
  • I have a lot more brown yarn than I thought.  So cozy.
  • I really like buying blue yarn. Why do I not knit with more blue yarn?
  • I'm cute in blue.  This is the narcissistic thought of someone who believes it's okay to have this much yarn.
  • I can use a lot of these scraps for amigurumi.
  • Or baby booties!
  • Dadgum, I have a lot of baby booties to make.
  • I noticed Evelyn trying to wear some doll shoes the other day.
  • My own precious daughter doesn't even have jeans that fit and I have all this yarn.
  • Okay, she doesn't have jeans that fit because toddler jeans are either too short, or too big in the waist.
  • I wonder if I can cross post this.
  • This is a lot of yarn.
  • I can't believe some kind of bug burrowed into one of the smaller balls!
  • It happens to everyone! Even the Yarn Harlot.  
  • I wish I could find a post to back me up on that.
  • I'm a little glad that I accidentally dropped the entire thing in the trash can.
  • Even if it was Cascade 220.
  • I need more plastic bags and tubs.
  • Maybe I need to get some of this yarn knitted/crocheted up into other things so I won't have to feel gross about this yarn.
  • I kind of wish I'd gone to the yarn store on my free afternoon.
  • Yarn.



Cross-posted and modified from my personal blog, with my own permission.  If any of you out there want to show me your stash, I would love to see it.  I want to see it so much I don't even care how creepy I sound right now.  Put a link in the comments!  Or just tell me how many skeins you have!  Or something!  I want to feel less alone and I'm genuinely curious about the fiberphiles (spell check doesn't recognize that) who read here.

In conclusion, yarn.  Yes, again.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Learn to Crochet: Half Double Crochet in Foundation Stitches

These titles are starting to crack me up.  How much longer can they get? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

The half double crochet stitch is a bit of a mouthful to be so small and uncomplicated, so I feel a little silly when I have to throw in words like "foundation stitches" in the mix.

DON'T PANIC!

There, do you feel better?  Would you feel better if I added a smiley face? 

Okay, now that I've gotten that Hitchhiker's Guide joke out of my system, let's move on. You have to take my word for it that long terms and multiple methods of doing things are actually positive aspects of crafting.  And then I have to come clean with you and confess that I don't think I'd ever heard of foundation stitches until about two weeks ago.  Crocheting is not my primary area of yarncrafting, and even though I've been reading more about it and trying more techniques, I'd just never seen references to foundation stitches in any of the patterns I'd looked at. 

I'm pretty excited to have that little bit of ignorance cleared up, though.  I now have all the zeal and enthusiasm of a new convert when it comes to foundation stitches: You'll have a stretchier edge!  You don't have to worry about making the wrong number of chain stitches!  You can use this method when doing any type of crochet stitch!  Exclamation! Points!

If you're already a more experienced crocheter reading this post, you're probably sighing a little at all of my cheerleading and aggressive proselytizing, but you can't deny that it's a really handy thing to know.  If you're a newer crocheter, then you're really lucky to have have two types of beginning stitches in your arsenal.  Having options is the best.

So here's another option for you!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

One Afghan Seven Ways: Revamping A Classic

I know I've mentioned Ravelry a few times before, but I wanted to write a post about why I think Ravelry is so stinking awesome and how I wish everyone knew it.  Sorry if this starts to read like an ode to the best social network ever, but I'm in love.  It makes you crazy.

Chances are that someone's described Ravelry to you as "like Facebook, but for knitters and crocheters" but that's fairly inaccurate.  Thank goodness.  Yes, you can't view anything unless you have an account, but there's no newsfeed, which means you won't go from interested to resentful when you start to see your friends (yes, you can have friends!) finishing projects so much faster than you.

Also, no games.

A lot of people use Ravelry solely to keep track of their yarn stash, or their pattern library.  Other people live for the forums and probably spend more time on there than they do actually making things with yarn.  And then pretty much everyone gets on there for the patterns.

Oh man.

THE PATTERNS. 

The search filters you can use to look up a specific project for your specific yarn, needle, yardage, mood, etc., are pretty great, but my very favorite part is that you can see what other people have done with the pattern themselves.  This is the part where my favorite parts of the crafting community--a willingness to share creativity and wisdom with others--and my favorite parts of the online community--a willingness to share creativity and wisdom with others, but with pictures and links--come together.

I love knowing what other people are working on.  I love seeing how people can take a pattern and turn it into something a little more personal to suit their intended recipient or their resources.  I also love pictures.

To illustrate my point, I thought I'd search through the projects of people who made the Crocheted Rainbow Set.





This pattern is really popular among sales on the Leisure Arts website right now, and people seem very excited to be able to find it again.  I talked to Ravelers who had borrowed the pattern from friends, seen it at garage sales, or searched around eBay to find it because it's such a classic pattern.  One woman even said that her mother gave her the afghan she'd crocheted for her as a baby, so that she could make an afghan for her own baby based on this pattern!  Circle of life!

When I saw the pattern for sale on the website, I thought it was very pretty.  Pastels are lovely for babies, and it's such a pretty blanket.  But I also wondered if people had made changes with the colors or the yarn selections, so I looked through the project pages.

Oh wow.

There were people who had stuck with the pastel theme--it's a classic for a reason.  There were people who had used brighter yarn, and so their blankets were more Rainbow Brite than rainbow, which thrilled me to no end.

And then there were people who had just gone crazy with it.  I was floored.  I got so excited when I was looking through all these pictures!  I was sending emails to crocheters filled with exclamation points and gushing compliments and looking like a complete goober.  I regret nothing.  I've really been looking forward to writing this post, because researching it was so. much. fun. 

Look at all this goodness!

This is the Granny Ripple by cyhuffman.
She said she made this with scrap yarn, which I thought was incredibly impressive. (And now I know I'm not the only one who is curious about her stash.)



I love the cool tones of stashaholic's Baby's Best.  It still has a bit of the pastel look of the original, but it's still so different and creative.


This project is called Black and Blue by mva5493.  She mentioned that she uses Ravelry for a lot of the same reasons I do--to see what other people have tried with patterns and yarns.  If you get the chance, definitely click through to see the rest of her pictures of this project.  This color scheme is blowing me away.



This is crazycrochet's Rainbow Blanket.  I really like how the two different shades of brown look against the blue.  And I love that she took the current baby trend of brown and blue yarns and used them with a vintage pattern.  Some little boy is very lucky to have this afghan.


Even though it's not finished, I really wanted to include Krislyn's Bronco Baby Blanket because I love the idea of using a team's colors. 





Timeless1 named her project the Hidden Gold Baby Blanket.  I love the gender neutral look of this.


And these flecks are awesome.


Cassie1979's Crocheted Rainbow Blanket makes me really happy because, well, it is still a rainbow blanket!  It's also much larger than the standard Rainbow Afghan pattern because she used two strands of yarn and a Size N hook to make this.  It's stunning.



Actually, these are all stunning.  These are maybe one-tenth of the projects I looked at for this pattern, and I love them all.  These crafters should be really proud of their beautiful creations, and I'm incredibly grateful to them for letting me use their pictures in this post because I really thought everyone should see these.  I hope you're as impressed as I am!

Update: I accidentally left someone out!  I have 8 afghans!

This is Vibbedille's Granny Ripple!



Her message was a little hidden in my inbox because of similar project names, and I remember being disappointed that I couldn't show you this version because I thought it was so perfect for fall! And I love the little addition to the edging.  Gorgeous.  Just gorgeous.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Learn to Crochet: Half Double Crochet Stitch for Left-Handed Crafters

There are some things left-handed people have to learn to do with their right hands--start a car, take a picture with a standard camera, and my left-handed husband bats with his right hand because his right-handed dad taught him that way.

Crocheting should probably not fall in that category.  I say this for two reasons:
  1. I've tried to crochet as if I was left dominant just to see if I could before.  I nearly broke my brain and (even worse) almost messed up my project.  I know left-handed people are probably a little more flexible about this sort of thing, but holy smokes!
  2. There are videos for left-handed crafters.  Thank goodness.

 As I said in the half double crochet post for right-handed crocheters, the half double crochet (HDC in patterns) is a nice, solid stitch that's a little taller than a single crochet stitch and a little shorter than a double crochet stitch.  It's a common stitch, and I think it's a pretty one.

And now you left-handed people can join in on the fun if you've been waiting to learn!  No, really!  This is fun! Stop rolling  your eyes at me!

Okay, I think crocheting is fun.  But you probably do, too, if you're reading this.  Hooray!


Click here!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Learn to Crochet: Half Double Crochet Stitch

Half double crochet is a very common stitch, and that's why it's one of the first videos I'm setting out in this series.  Height wise, half double crochet stitches measure somewhere between single crochet stitches and double crochet stitches (no surprise there).  I think they look a little squatty, but in a cute way.  They're solid.

I'll post about the half double crochet foundation stitch later in the week, but I thought I would post this way of crocheting first because it's probably more common.  Chaining and then crocheting off of the chain has a firmer edge, and it's more likely to be used when working on hats, amigurumi, or any other project that needs to be worked in the round.

The term "half double crochet" is set out as "HDC" in patterns, and every time I see it I feel like I'm about to pull out some plumbing tools and do something incredibly difficult and complicated and probably messy.  But the half double crochet stitch requires nothing more than yarn and a crochet hook, and you don't even have to clean out from underneath your kitchen sink to get started.  Isn't that encouraging?! 

I say this only because if I had to clean out cabinets before learning to crochet.....well, we wouldn't be here.  I'm going to leave it at that. 

Ahem.

Are you ready?

This is the part where I imagine you're probably saying "Ready!", hook in hand and bright shiny potential in your face.

Click here!

Friday, October 19, 2012

In the Unlikeliest Places

I went to the state fair yesterday, which was great.  I looked at all kinds of stuff, which was great.  I even took pictures.

Most of them were not great. Actually, they were all pretty rough.

Obviously, that was bad.  I'd planned to take some pictures of the quilts and crocheted afghans and knitted sweaters and talk about how the simple act of just seeing what other people can make inspires me to try new things and get back to work on projects I've let hibernate.

But that didn't happen.

The arts and crafts building of our state fair is a fairly large building.  The arts and crafts submissions to our state fair could fill at least four fairly large buildings.  Projects aren't so much displayed as they're almost stacked on top of each other, wedged between photography submissions, and draped on top of cabinets that shelve rows upon rows of canned goods.  Then there were the florescent lights, which washed out the colors of the yarns and made the quilts look garish.  Then there was my little camera, trying to do its little best and failing a little bit.  Then there was the fussy toddler, who didn't like to sit still in her stroller while I tried to take pictures through the glass of the display cases.

Lastly, and worst of all, there was a SPAM-frying competition taking place and the whole building smelled like fried SPAM and there was no escaping it and it was just so terrible.

I mean, fried SPAM.

I was the opposite of inspired.  I was a mix of nauseated, distracted, and kind of bored.

I love meeting people who make things.  I love seeing what friends are crafting, and even just browsing through people's project pages of a pattern on Ravelry is sometimes enough to give me an idea for something I want to try.  But sometimes, just seeing something someone else made just isn't that exciting.

Then again, sometimes it is.  I went on to find something that caught my eye.
 
And I found it here:


Why yes, those are cows in a cattle barn.  

And look at what else was in this cattle barn:



And then there was this!




A woman working in one of the offices had set out these little guys as decoration, and she let me take some pictures!  We chatted for a couple of minutes while my baby stared at calves and passersby, and I'm ticked at myself for not thinking to ask her what her Ravelry username is.  She said she's been crocheting for years, and loves crocheting dolls and teddy bears for her grandkids.  We talked about how durable her creations are even when kids are playing tug-of-war with them, and how she really enjoys crocheting and wants to do more knitting next year.

It was a really nice little talk and I stuck my head through the window of her office and saw an assortment of yarns and patterns that have been keeping her happy and calm through her twelve-hour days.  We didn't talk long before she had to help some other people, but it was a nice visit and I was excited to meet someone who likes yarn things--especially because I don't normally meet people like that unless I'm actively searching.

I pushed the stroller out of the barn, contemplated buying some lemonade (and then didn't. Why did I do that?!), and felt a little bit happier than when I walked in.

And: inspired.

I was so ready to try something new, that I actually took a break from writing this post to download this.

I can't wait to let you know what I try next.

PS: Have you 'liked' Leisure Arts on Facebook yet? If you haven't, click here and join the fun!  It's a happy place with lots of links, pictures, and lots of talking about projects.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Learn to Crochet: Foundation Stitches and a Free Pattern

Remember when I said that chain stitches were the foundation of any crocheted item?  Foundation stitches are also the.....um.....foundation of any crocheted item!

Simply put, starting your project with foundation stitches is another way to start your project as you're crocheting your first row.   As the nice lady says in the video, beginning your project with foundation stitches saves you the trouble of counting chain stitches on a large project and your finished product will have a stretchier edge.

And before I forget, here's the video for the left-handed crocheter.  I wouldn't want to leave you hanging.

Back to it: a stretchier first row helps you set the right tension for your project.  If you crochet your chain stitches too tightly, you'll have a hard time crocheting into the stitches and your crocheting may get a little puckered-looking by the time you have a few rows of stitches done in the right tension.  This probably won't be too noticeable on something like a scarf or a cowl, and you're likely to be the only person it bothers.  But if you're making a hat or a sweater--or even something that needs to be seamed together with other pieces of crocheting--you're going to notice that inflexible edge a lot.

(I thought about including a picture of how this has happened to me, but pride and my disorganized photo-organizing habits have saved your eyes from this horror.)

Not to be a fear-monger, but does anyone want to think about what happens if you're several rows in on an afghan and figure out that the problem with the pattern is due to the wrong number of chain stitches and you're going to have to rip the whole thing back?

Man, I really am getting into the spirit of Halloween!  I'll stop now before things get too terrifying.

My point is, foundation stitches are a great way to start a project and it's always helpful to know different methods for starting a project.

AND!  If you follow along with the video, you'll know how to do the single crochet stitch!  You're crocheting now!  High five!  Here's a free scarf pattern!

I know, I know.  A scarf.  But scarves as a beginner's project are cliched for a reason.  They're straight, simple, and scarves.  I'm sure my personal bias for scarves is showing now, but whatever.  We're settling into fall, the air is cooler, and this scarf idea is super cute.

Just a tip for reading patterns: "ch" means "chain" and "sc" means "single crochet."  You'd probably figure that out on your own, but I thought I'd mention it just in case.  

I also think I should mention that the pattern tells you to chain your beginning row, but there's obviously nothing stopping you from trying out your new skills at crocheting foundation stitches.  Do it!  It's going to be fun!  You're crocheting!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Learn to crochet: Learn to chain left-handed

I was talking to my husband this weekend about the fact that Leisure Arts had made HD videos (also available on their website) and how I thought that was cool, but he just snorted and asked if anyone really needed to watch a crochet tutorial in high definition.  I promised to show him some of the videos I've watched online that were so fuzzy and shaky that I nearly got car sick.  When the simple act of trying to learn a new technique reminds you of watching The Blair Witch Project, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong with your crafting experience.

He seemed to find my comparison a little dramatic (it's almost time for Halloween.  Maybe I just have scary movies on the brain), but then he's not interested in yarn crafting.  Maybe I should have told him there are tutorials for left-handed people like him.  I don't know if that would have convinced him, but I still think the left-handed tutorials are exciting!

In knitting, left-handed crafters are usually told something to the effect of "See what I just did?  If you're left handed, just do the reverse of what I did.  It's that simple!"

Actually, left-handed people are usually told this when they're trying to learn anything.  Or so that left-handed husband tells me.  He also told me it's usually not that simple.

And in crocheting, it's apparently really, really not that simple.

So here's  a video showing you how to crochet your beginning chain if you're left-dominant.  Rejoice, 10%--20% of the population! Your HD crafting tutorial videos are here and your days of muddling through instructions lost and alone are over!

Click! Right! Here!

The 'right' pun was unintended.  I'm sorry.

But I think this is exciting!  I'm a very visual/tactile learner, and it's really helpful for me to watch an instructional video as I attempt to follow along (usually 3 or 4 times in a row).  The idea of trying to translate instructions for myself as I'm trying to learn a new skill would probably discourage me from even attempting it, which is why I think this is awesome.  I hope you do, too.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Learn to crochet: Learn to chain

I love crocheting.  I'm primarily a knitter, and so I kind of forgot how much I liked crocheting for a while.  But then I started crocheting more and more this year because I got sucked into the amigurumi trend.  Since I've started knitting more, I realized one of the things I like so much about crocheting is that the Size H crochet hook you use for an amigurumi Easter egg is the same Size H hook you use for a granny square potholder, which is the same Size H hook you use for an afghan big enough to cover a king size bed.  With knitting, you need different lengths and types of needles for different projects.  Not so with crochet.  Even better?  If your crochet hook falls out of your project, you're fine.  You just pick it back up, place it back in your one loop, and go on about your business.

(We don't have to talk about what happens when all those knitted loops fall off the needle.  It's too upsetting for mesomepeople.)

Crocheting is a great car-trip activity, and most crochet projects go faster than knitting.  Did I mention amigurumi?  Can I mention it again?

I really didn't want to write this post without showing you those little owls.  So cute!


There's just something about crocheting--I don't know if it's the texture of a crocheted item, or the look of granny squares, or if it's just that crocheting is a much more accessible activity for some crafters.  Whatever the 'something' is, I just like crocheting and I think everyone else should too.

Now that I've convinced you, here's how you get started!

The first step in crocheting is making a chain.  Here's an HD video showing you how.


Some people never learn anything more about crocheting once they learn how to make a chain.  I have a sister who is one of those people and her house has a lot of very nice garland around Christmas time!  But there's really no need to stop there!  Now that you know how to pull yarn through a loop, you can do anything!

Fine, maybe not anything.  But you know how to set up the foundation of a crocheted project and that's the only place you can start.

It's only going to get more exciting from here!



Monday, October 15, 2012

Hello!


Hi there!  I'm Jen and I'm incredibly excited to be posting with Everyday Life at Leisure!



I enjoy a variety of crafting projects, but knitting and crocheting are my absolute favorites.  I've been doing both for about 20 years, but decided just a couple of years ago to really get serious about learning new techniques and read through a pattern without crying.  I'm happy to say that learning new things has been more exciting than scary, and I typically keep my crying to a minimum.  My biggest motivation to make more than scarves was the birth of my daughter.  Once she came along, I suddenly had almost no free time and wanted to make the most of what little spare time I did have.  Also, baby projects are small and I love the satisfaction of finishing up a project in just a few days or weeks. 

Also, I am vain and love hearing people say "Oh, that [handmade item she is wearing] is just so adorable!"

Ahem.  Sorry.

Also?  I love yarn, and how it feels and looks and how there are so many types.  I love working with my hands.  I love creating things for people I love.  This is why I love knitting and crocheting and that's why I'm really looking forward to talking to you about them. 

I'm going to spend the next few weeks talking about crocheting.  Leisure Arts has a ton of resources and ideas for crocheters and I'm happy to get to try them out, tell you about them, and probably learn a lot in the process.  There will be projects!  Links to ebooks!  Video tutorials (thank goodness)!

I can't wait.

One-Of-A-Kind Fall Leaf Pincushions


Now that it’s officially Fall, I can’t wait for the leaves to start changing colors.

In the meantime, I’ve developed a yen to bring a little of the season in the house with some handmade Fall Leaf Pincushions. I consulted with Anne and Becky, the clever ladies in our design department, and here’s how to recreate the One-Of-A-Kind Pincushions that they came up with:

Felt Leaf Pincushion

You’ll need:
• a leaf
• two colors of green felt
• gold, rust, lt green, & brown embroidery floss
• embroidery needle
• fiberfill
• a real acorn cap
• a felt ball
• craft glue

Instructions:
Use 3 strands of floss for all stitching.
1. Find a leaf that makes you happy.

2. Trace around leaf to make a Leaf Front/Back Pattern.
3. Trace around the inside of the Leaf Front/Back Pattern to create a Center Pattern.
4. Using Leaf Front/Back Pattern, cut Leaf Front and Leaf Back from darker green felt.
5. Using Center Pattern, cut one Center from lighter green felt.
6. Pin Center to Leaf Front and use gold running stitches to sew in place.


7. Use rust stem stitches to freehand veins in Center and stem.
8. Use lt green running stitches to sew Leaf Front to Leaf Back, leaving a small opening for stuffing. Stuff and close opening.
9. Sew around the edge of the Leaf with brown whipstitches, leaving a long end of floss at the stem end.


10. Thread long end of floss through acorn cap and felt ball. Glue ball in cap. Knot floss and trim end.

Fabric Leaf Pincushion

You’ll need:
• a leaf
• stripe & solid fabric
• pinking shears
• brown embroidery floss
• embroidery needle
• fusible web
• brown rick rack
• fiberfill
• sewing machine & brown thread


Instructions:
1. Find a leaf you like.



2. Trace around leaf to make a Leaf Pattern.
3. Using Leaf Pattern, cut Leaf from solid fabric.
4. Based on the size of your Leaf, decide how big you want your pincushion to be and draw an appropriately sized square for a Top/Bottom Pattern.
5. Cut Top from stripe fabric and Bottom from solid fabric.
6. Follow package directions and use fusible web to adhere Leaf to Top.

7. Machine stitch edges of Leaf to Top and create Leaf veins. Add accents to Leaf veins with one strand of brown floss.
8. Stack Front and Back with right sides together and rick rack sandwiched in between. Sew Front and Back together, leaving an opening for turning. Turn, stuff, and sew opening closed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dyeing Wool Yarn with Kool-Aid®


I’ve discovered a new obsession—Yes, it’s true! YOU can custom dye your own wool yarn with Kool-Aid®! It’s quick, easy, and fun. Experiment with your favorite colors and then knit something cool like our Felted Mini Clutch.
You’ll Need:
• Kool-Aid® unsweetened drink mix in desired color
(1 package per ounce of yarn)
• Liquid dishwashing detergent
• Large microwave safe dish
• Microwave
• Light colored 100% wool yarn (white or ivory works best) We used Patons® Classic Wool Merino - Aran #0202
Prepare Yarn:
1. Wrap yarn into a ring approx. 36" across. We used approximately two ounces of yarn. To keep strands from tangling, use 6" pieces of yarn to tie the ring together in at least four places.
2. Fill the dish with warm (not hot) water. Add a few drops of dish detergent; gently mix (a few bubbles are OK, but you don’t want a fluffy bubble bath). Place the yarn ring into the dish. Gently submerge the yarn in the water. Be sure to fully saturate the yarn. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. This opens up the yarn scales to accept the dye. Do not stir the yarn; this can cause felting. After 30 minutes, gently squeeze the water out of the yarn. Do not rub the yarn. Rinse the yarn in the same temperature water as it was soaking. Squeeze water out of yarn.
Mix & Dye:
You can dye with one or more colors. We used two colors – Berry Blue and Orange. Beautiful greens and golds resulted where the two ran together. Have fun and experiment with your favorite colors!
3-4. Empty a package of Kool-Aid® into a cup; add 8 oz. of water and stir to dissolve. Place the yarn back in the dish and spoon dye onto yarn. Be sure the yarn is completely saturated.
5. Place the dish in the microwave and heat on HIGH for 2 minutes. Allow the yarn to “rest” for 2 minutes. Repeat this process until the water in the container is either clear or only slightly cloudy (ours only needed one heating). This means that all of the dye has been absorbed into the yarn. Allow the yarn and water to cool. Rinse the yarn in the same temperature water as the cooled water (shocking the yarn with cold water can cause felting). Gently squeeze out water and hang yarn to dry.
6. Once it is dry, wrap your yarn into a ball and you are ready to knit, crochet, or knook!
Click here for a download of our Dyeing Wool Yarn with Kool-Aid® tutorial and here for our Felted Mini Clutch downloadable pattern to knit. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Start of a Sewing Library

I carried two sewing books home from Leisure Arts with me to look at over the weekend: The Best of Sew Simple Magazine and Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Sewing. These books may very well be the beginning of my sewing library (right beside Pat Sloan’s I Can’t Believe I’m Sewing, of course).

Along with great info about sewing techniques and supplies, The Best of Sew Simple Magazine is packed with a treasury of over 50 of Sew Simple magazine’s projects! You’ll find quick and wonderfully basic accessories to make for your home, kitchen, wardrobe, and more! Here’s a peek at some of my favorites:

Patchwork Potholders (I love potholders! There can never be too many potholders in my kitchen!)

Flange Accent Pillow

Zipper Tote

Broomstick Skirt

Bangle Bag (How neat is this little bag that just hangs from your wrist, leaving your hands free?)

Perky Pocket

Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Sewing is the perfect resource for both the beginner and the sewing master! Featuring sections on the history of sewing, sewing basics, hand sewing, machine sewing, construction essentials, custom elements, and specialty sewing, this 240-page book also includes twelve projects! Take a look at the ones I wish I had enough sewing savvy to make:

Singing Canary Pillow (I’m also coveting that cool lavender chair!)

Scrappy Cottage Quilt

Berry Pie Pincushion

Let It Rain Yellow Slicker (It never even occurred to me that I could sew my own raincoat! What fun!)
Do you have these books in your sewing library yet? You might want to think about it!



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