Sunday, July 5, 2015

Year Of Projects 2015-2016

I'm eager to be joining in a Ravelry Group of bloggers called Year of Projects. The concept is simple.   Each blogger creates a list (however s/he wants to fashion it) and for a year (July through June) posts about the progress made on this list.  Ideally, posts will be made weekly, but I'll start modest and make it my goal to post at least twice a month.

The first part of my list is about process.  I want to get freer with the idea of simply practicing and sampling different techniques and tools, and stretching who I am and what I know - as a fiber crafter. It will be nice if practicing and sampling produces some end products, but for the purpose of the first half of the list learning is the project, per se. So I begin with listing techniques or skills I want to practice, as well as some personal challenges. Then my project list is more like an idea mill (that will, no doubt, change) where I can plug in things that grab my attention (or as I start or finish them) during the year.

Here we go:

Techniques/skills/tools (to learn or improve):
Tunisian crochet - just try it
Knitting - it's been years!
Soft sculpture/Amigurumi
Use a crochet or knitting tool I've never used before
Try to learn how to read a charted crochet pattern
Make stitch markers
Challenge myself regarding photos of finished objects.
    Learn how to better use my camera
    Participate once a month in Ravelry: Project Photography group

Personal challenges:
Read 3 books on fiber or textile arts
Explore joining a local group of fiber artists
Get to know a charity/ministry through which I'd like to benefit others with my crochet or knitting
Create a crafting space that is inviting and that works well for me
     (both for working in and storage).


In the spirit of creating actual projects my idea list includes:

- Item(s) for the home
      both practical:
         a chevron pillow - in the works right now
      and purely aesthetic:

- A blanket inspired by Lucy at Attic24

- Something wearable (other than a scarf)

- Something vintage

- Something completely whimsical

- Something one of the guys in my family would wear/use

- Something(s) for charity ministry

- A "SURPRISE!" gift for someone

- Something amigurumi

- Write a simple pattern and make it available here and on Ravelry

- Get back to embroidery (this is wide open)

- Sew a top  (it's been years)

- Sew a skirt (even more years)

- Host a CAL project on a Ravelry group.  I was actually given this opportunity just before starting this challenge, so I'm plugging it in here as a personal encouragement.  I hosted the Week 26 CAL Challenge on the Kitchen and Bath group making Anemone Bath Puffs 

And this week I'm hosting the Week 28 CAL Challenge on the Kitchen and Bath Group making one of Wink's Mandalas.


Okay...that's good for starters.  I'm sure this will evolve over time, but I think I'll work best with a list that's open ended and idea-generating and, most importantly...flexible... as I progress through the year.

If this sounds interesting to you (to either join in with your own Year of Projects, or just see what others are doing), check out the Year of Project group on Ravelry.

Note:  You will need to be a member of Ravelry to fully access the links in this post.  Consider joining if you're not a member.  The resources there are astounding.  And membership is free and easy.

I'll end this post with a picture of my newest WIP.  It will be a couch pillow (the chevrons will run sideways on a narrow pillow, as opposed to up and down on a more squared off pillow.  The pattern is easy, so I expect this project will be finished pretty quickly!

Friday, July 3, 2015

A simple mandala...

My first mandala - made in honor of Marinke (Wink) whose lovely and colorful crochet designs have made many smile.   This will not be my last, I am sure.

While I have only gotten to know Wink after hearing of her death, I can say the world is a less colorful place for having lost this young lady.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Color Choices...

I'm making a chevron pillow as part of an online CAL (Crochet A-Long), and I was at first going for a bright mix of colors - thinking they'd look fun on our red couch.

That picture is small on purpose.  I'm afraid of blinding someone.  As much fun as this combination is to me, it just downright clashes with the couch.  So I'll need to find another purpose for that terrific riot of colors I've begun above.

Now I'm thinking about more subdued choices for my couch pillow.   The base will be dark brown, light brown, wheat, off white (that actually has a slight tint of rose to it - love it), and burgundy.  While the pictures don't quite capture the burgundy-ness of the yarn, the burgundy basically matches the couch.

And what I'm contemplating adding is gold (which gives the combination a decidedly autumn feel):

And then look what happens when I add teal (and yes, that's a different color of gold):

Is it good, or is it bad?  I don't know if I have a problem with not knowing when to stop with color, or fear of being too bold with color.   In case you're inclined to share your opinion (and be my guest), remember...the red is really a burgundy (as opposed to a cherry red like it looks above).  And the teal has a slight bit more green tint (it's really not bright like it appears above).  And the off white has a slight rose tint that compliments the burgundy.   lol    So much for providing pictures.  I really need to figure out how to get true red and blue colors out of this camera.

Newsflash!   I just tried putting in the basket the teal without the gold and THAT'S IT!   I'm ditching the gold.   For now, anyway.  ;^)

Meanwhile, I've got something on the hook I've been meaning to whip up for a while now.  It's going to be a rectangular shawl and the pattern produces a kind of lattice-work design.

And I finally got my hands of a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo.   Admittedly, I'm only about a third of the way in, but I don't quite understand the attention this book has gotten.  It doesn't seem to me to be anything terribly new, nor Ms. Kondo's strategy very difficult as I've heard lamented across the internet.  But then I'm what some might call old, and probably have at least 2 more decades of decluttering under my belt than Ms. Kondo (nevermind that she started her "tidying" at the tender age of six.  But then again...didn't most of us when our mothers chided us weekly to "Clean your room!")? 

While there's "nothing new under the sun" ...and all that, in this book, I do recommend checking it out if you're needing to get a handle on your stuff.  Because whether or not it holds any magic for you, it certainly can provide another motivation to get rid of that which is bogging you down. 

When it comes right down to it, it's not that most of us really don't know how to "tidy", it's that we lack motivation, and sometimes are overwhelmed by the volume, are busy or even lazy, and well, yeah...just not getting it done.  Ms. Kondo won't likely motivate you to shake off the overwhelmed-ness you may be feeling - for that I recommend Peter Walsh and any of his decluttering books, or to show how old I really am, my first decluttering guru was Don Aslett.  He provides some serious motivation.  But Marie Kondo may just spark some interest in tackling your clutter once more with some resolve and give you the courage to tackle it in bigger chunks than you may think you can.  If clutter is getting the best of you, check out the KonMari method of "tidying".

Linked to Ginny's Small Things
Nicole's Crafting On

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Great Balls of Squishy Hyperbolic Goodness!

This week I'm hosting a Crochet-A-Long on a Ravelry group:  2015 Kitchen & Bath Cal.   I've invited the group to join me in making some Sea Anemone Bath Puffs.    You will need a free Ravelry membership to access the links above, but I've also explained below how to make (my version of) these:

Nevermind that Sea Anemones don't look like this, but since the name they've been given has me thinking of places like the Great Barrier Reef (not that I've been there, but...), they do sort of make me think of coral.   So...let's just think of these as Brain Coral's yarn cousins and have fun crocheting some wonderful hyperbolic "balls" of squishy goodness.

I know...they kind of look complicated, don't they?    They're not.  They are super-de-duper simple.   Yes, I just said super-de-duper, and you will too - after you've made one.  And, if super-de-duper simple isn't enough to make you run and get your crochet hook and yarn, let me add... I'm pretty sure they're impossible to mess up.

Have I convinced you to make one, yet?

Why do you not have yarn and hook in your hands, already?!?

I'll start with some general instructions and pictures of the first two I made.  Then I'll spell out the specific instructions of my modified puff (modified in ruffliness, size, and how I made the hanging loop).   

The short, simple, general instructions are in this link, or below using more words (because I always use more words.  And yes I know that's something to work on.  And I am.)  The short, general instructions will make a bath puff with no hanging loop.  You'll probably decide you want to make a puff with a loop and use the more detailed instructions further down - below the next two pictures - that explain how to start this puff with the hanging loop.  But I suggest reading everything here.  And not just because I wrote it. Read it because it will give you a clearer picture as you're starting out just how these ruffly puffs form - and will give you confidence that you really can't mess these up.

To start, simply chain 4 (or 3 or 5 - it really doesn't matter) and join the ends of the chain together to form a loop.  Then, crochet 2 single crochets in each stitch.  Or you can crochet about 8 single crochet stitches right into the loop - it doesn't matter..  Once you have a foundation of about 8 single crochet stitches begin crocheting 2 single crochets in each stitch - going around and around - you don't even have to pay attention to what round you're on.  You just stop crocheting when it's the size you want. 

And this is what you get (or something like it):

As you crochet, you may decide you prefer your puff to be looser (for the ruffles to not be so dense or compacted). Changing this up is easy - instead of crocheting 2 single crochets in every stitch, just crochet 1 single crochet in some stitches - or even for a whole round.  Or alternate crocheting 2 single crochets in a stitch, and then 1 single crochet in the next stitch - back and forth.  Or any number of single crochets in any given stitch.   The more single crochets you have in each stitch (and, consequently, in a round), the tighter and curlier will be the ruffles.  You decide just how tight and curly you want this to be.   You can religiously crochet 2 single crochets in every stitch in one row, and then be completely random about it in the next row.   It really doesn't matter - as long as you like what you're producing.  It really is that simple.

Here’s a picture of the second one I made with looser ruffles (and it’s also a tad smaller):

Okay, now for the detailed instructions for how to make a puff by starting with the hanging chain:

Start by chaining about 25 (you can chain more or less, depending on how long or short you want that hanging loop to be).

Then starting with the second chain make a row of slip stitches back down that chain. This makes nice “cord”:

Slip stitch the two ends together to make a large loop:

From here crochet 3 chains:

And join them with a slip stitch to the bottom of the hanging loop:

Now crochet 3 more chains and join them on the other side of the hanging loop (basically you’re making something of circle at the bottom of the hanging loop (the shape and look of this base is not terribly important):

From here, simply begin crocheting 2 (or even 3) single crochets in every stitch (or make 9 or so single crochet stitches into the two small loops (this part may feel a little “fiddly”, but the good news is, this doesn’t need to be perfect - you just need to establish a base of about 9 single crochet stitches, though the exact number doesn’t matter):

And then keep going around and around, crocheting 2 single crochets into every stitch. By round 4 or so, you’ll begin to notice the circle of yarn begin to ruffle:

Again, after experimenting, I’ve concluded I actually prefer my finished puff to not be as dense as the original pattern creates. I like it a little looser - especially for a bath puff. To achieve looser ruffles, you simply switch back to making 1 single crochet stitch in the stitch below (instead of 2 single crochets).  

You can crochet single crochets in stitches randomly, or for a whole round, and then begin crocheting 2 single crochets in every stitch again. I found that sometimes I even forgot if I was supposed to be crocheting 2 single crochets or 1 single crochet in every stitch. And guess what? It doesn’t matter!!!

This is all so completely flexible - again, the density of your puff and its ruffliness is dependent on how many single crochet stitches you make in each stitch as you crochet along. You can change this up throughout the whole thing. If the ruffles feel too loose, double up on those single crochet stitches. If it starts feeling too dense, single crochet for a while.  Really... it’s pretty hard to mess this thing up.

I like to finish my puff by crocheting a single crochet stitch in every stitch for the last round. Or slip stitching all the way around looks nice, too.  This isn’t necessary, but I think it might make it just a bit smoother. And it’s fun to add a different color on that last round.

When adding new colors, just add them at any point. You do not need to keep track of the beginning of a round because it won’t show when the puff is finished, and when you’ve gotten your puff to the size you want, you can just stop by making a slip stitch into the next stitch in the row below and you’re done!

This is a great project for using up scraps of cotton yarn. I would guess that it takes approximately a full 3 oz. skein of something like Lily’s Sugar ‘n Cream, but since I like mixing colors up and using a combination of yarns, I never used a full skein of anything.   If you don’t want many ends to weave in, choose a variegated for an effortless change of color.

The variations possible on this puff are pretty endless.  And if you try it, you'll probably find you can't make just one.  Fortunately, you don't have to!

Linked to Small Things Yarn Along
Frontier Dreams Crafting On

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Another Linen Stitch Scarf

I finally finished weaving in the ends of my fourth linen stitch scarf!  The yarn is Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable in two different colorways:  Echo and Petunia.

While time consuming, this is a super simple stitch pattern that produces a very gratifying end product - especially with color changing yarn.
And while I want nothing more than to make more of these scarves - again, because they are so gratifying to watch develop, I am finally moving on to other things.  For a while...