Sunday, December 27, 2015

Nearing year's end...

I can't believe Christmas has come and gone already!  If you celebrate, I hope it was a good one for you.  
In all honesty, the last few months I've fought off not feeling well, discouragement about not feeling well, anxiety about insurance, frustration over miscommunications with some of the staff in my doctor's office, and sometimes just downright poor communication.  To say I wasn't in the mood for Christmas is an understatement.  I had days where I just wanted to skip Christmas and the year to be over already.

In the end, Christmas was pretty simple, but when all was said and done I think I enjoyed it more this year than I have in a long time.  We played lots of games, ate simple foods, and I pretty much had the philosophy that if it didn't really need doing, it didn't get done.  And that was okay!  I think I learned some things about keeping what's truly important a priority when spending time with family and friends.  At the end of the day what makes me happy is to know I enjoyed and loved these people.   And that they loved me.

And, as if that isn't enough, I'm happy to say I managed to crochet some small gifts with the new yarn I got in last weekend, and that makes me feel so good.  :^)

Adeline Fingerless Mitts:


and a Double Shell Headband:

The yarn used in both projects is Willow Wash Heather.  It's a soft non-pilling acrylic that just grows softer with washing.  While the color is lovely, I confess these pictures show it a little brighter than it truly is.  This color is called Mulberry Heather and it has purple flecks spun into the deep red yarn  It is a beautiful color and I wish I had ordered more. 

And now... it may be a lofty goal with only 4 days left, but I'm going to strive to finish the Arrowhead Blanket before the end of the year.  I'd love to start the new year with a clean slate.  So many new crochet ideas and projects have been inspiring me.  Nothing like starting some fresh new projects at the beginning of a new year.  :^)

To see what other Yoppers are up to this week, visit our thread on Ravelry by clicking on the graphic below:

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

'Tis the Sunday before Christmas...

...and I am recovering from a procedure done on Friday to hopefully correct Iliac Vein Compression Sydrome, in my left leg.  I was told I could resume normal activity the next day, but the next day (yesterday) I was in so much back pain there was no way my day was going to be anything close to normal.  I was given Hydrocodone for pain management, but I tried to go through the daylight hours on Saturday without taking anything, and by evening I was regretting that choice.

My husband and two of our sons, and our middle son's girlfriend attended a nephew's wedding in the afternoon.  I regret having to miss it, but I was pretty sure when I saw that my surgery date was the day before the wedding I'd not likely feel up to partying.  And I was not.

My oldest son came by in the late afternoon with some Chinese take-out for supper.  Shortly after that the rest of the family came home from the wedding and youngest son, oldest son, and I played some rounds of Love Letters (a new game to me).  As much as I enjoyed playing this card game, I was hurting so much I welcomed the sleepy-making hydrocodone to overcome and cause the pain to fade away for another night.

How again, you may be asking, is this a Year of Projects posts?  Well, life happens to us all, and being distracted last week as I anticipated this procedure, and with whatever it was I was doing for Christmas, I don't think I've worked on any crocheting since my post last Sunday.  But with all that behind me, hopefully I can finish a couple of Christmas gifts here in what I'm feeling like is now the 11th hour.

I did acquire some new yarn this week (actually two orders, some heathered Willow Wash from Willow Yarns, and some Stylecraft and James Brett Cotton On from Deramores).  Though most of it can't been seen, here's a picture of it all waiting to be entered into my Ravelry stash.  You can see the Willow Wash in Mulberry Heather on top that I'm hoping is enough to complete my Christmas gift projects.  Next Sunday, hopefully I'll have pictures of two finished projects.

I don't think I've ever before wanted so badly to get Christmas behind me and to be starting a new year.  I haven't written anything here about the leg discomfort I've been having, but I've been struggling with Iliac Vein Compression Syndrome (aka May Thurner Syndrome) since late summer.  And that is following two surgeries my husband had earlier in the summer, which followed an attack of vertigo I had in the dentist's chair this past spring when I was having a tooth prepped for a crown, followed by oral surgery for an infection in an old root canal, followed by a new root canal for the tooth that had been prepped for a crown.  Oh, and I almost forgot, one of our sons broke his hand in the late winter when he slipped getting out of his car and fell on the ice.  And another son recently had a health concern that sent us to the ER with him on a Sunday afternoon (thankfully that ended up not being too terribly serious, but it was another momentous medical encounter).  Whew!  On the outside I'm sure we've looked perfectly normal (and for the most part, we have been), but behind the scenes we we've been a non-stop medical variety show.

As we approach the celebration of the birth of our Savior, I'm feeling so very thankful.  Thankful for a faith that informs me that our existence and purpose is about so much more than this life here in these failing bodies, but while we're here, I'm also thankful for modern medicine and looking with great hope to new beginnings in 2016  :^)

A Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

It's not even BEGINNING to look like Christmas...

Not with temps finally dipping into the 50's after nearly a week of temperatures in the mid-high 60's, right here in the middle of December, in the middle of Indiana; and waking to fog so thick that when it finally burns off, the wet sidewalks look like it's been raining...  Or going to sleep to a thunderstorm - like happened last week, and waking to actual rain - like this morning.  Add to that trees starting to bud and birds singing like it's spring, and well, as lovely as all that is... it makes it a little hard to believe Christmas is next week.  But believe I must!  The calendar tells me so. 

So to help get me into the holiday spirit I crocheted a little Christmas doily.

It's made from the simple Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket pattern, only seriously shortened. I stopped after row 9 and finished with a row a sc's (making 3 sc's into the space in each point) then polishing it off with a row of slip stitches.   It's kind of sweet and the colors very traditional.   It seems perfect for accompanying a bowl of silver and red Christmas balls.

And I'm re-reading Christmas Jars by Jason Wright.  I remember loving this short story several years ago when I read it for the first time, but as I turn the first pages I'm realizing I've forgotten a great deal of it - which is a nice surprise.  With my simple Christmas decorating finished, gift lists being checked, I'm thinking this little book will surely put me in the spirit for Christmas finally.

Is it feeling like Christmas where you live?  If you celebrate Christmas or another winter holiday, what are you doing to prepare?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The pleasure of a humble scarf...

I finished my scarf!  Just in time for this beautiful Indiana record-setting 67-degree December weekend! 

Such an easy project.
I think I'm a little bit in love with my humble scarf.


It didn't occur to me until I was well into crocheting this that I would need to add more rows to get this to the size I wanted it to be since I wasn't using bulky yarn, or doubled-stranded worsted as the pattern calls for.  So half of the scarf is improvised, but from the row where the open spaces appear, it is finished as the pattern is written.  Improvising was super simple.  I just added more double or triple or single crochet rows until it was about as wide as I wanted it, then I finished with the final 4 rows of the pattern.
My shoulder has been giving me fits for the past few days and I haven't managed to crochet anything else.  It's not that it hurts to crochet, but since I can't think of anything I've done to hurt my shoulder  I'm wondering if it's gotten into its sorry state because of my crocheting earlier in the week.  I really don't know.
So as much as I'm chomping at the bit to crochet some more on my Arrowhead blanket, I think I probably need to not be working on that big thing.  :^(
Check out what other Yoppers have been up to this past week by clicking the graphic below:



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Just crocheting along...

Busy, stressful week.  Not much crocheting.  But plugging along on the Arrowhead blanket and it's growing, albeit slowly.

It feels slower than normal because it is crocheted long-ways.  Crocheting along the length of a project always makes for the sense that it's taking longer because it seems like forever before you can turn around and come back the other way.  But even while I'm moaning a bit at how long it's taking, I know at any moment it's suddenly going to be wide enough and I'll be exclaiming, "Wow, I'm done already?!?"

And finally, needing a break from beige, and realizing now that it's turned chilly and I don't have a scarf that will go with my coat, I decided to start making one.  So with this pattern and some newly acquired yarn (Lion Brand Heartland in the color Joshua Tree), I set to work.

I know it looks awfully simple, and is!  No shame in that.  But the gal who created this has a surprise on the other side.  It's an asymmetrical design and I just love that aspect of it.  The originator of this design used bulky yarn (or double-stranded, I can't remember), but when I tried that I decided that I wasn't crazy about that much bulk.  For a cowl bulky is fine, but this is going to be a long scarf I'll likely want to tie up around my neck when it's really cold out.  I'm liking how this drapes and should be much more manageable for my purposes.  Hopefully I'll have a finished picture by next week.  (Clicking on the graphic below will take you to this week's YOP thread on Ravelry.)

A highlight last week was getting a visit from friends (fellow homeschoolers), who, along with their young children, have created a plan, worked their plan, and are finally in the active stage of living life on the road for a year or two.  It was so much fun...   hearing about how this has all come together, the things they are learning about in paring down their possessions, learning to live and travel in an RV, and to just enjoy their pure excitement and faith that God has His hand on this whole adventure - it was such a lift to my spirits.   We look forward to following their adventures at Vision of the Birds.  And taking more pictures a year or two from now to see how everyone has changed.

Our youngest son, Ben (age 20) is the tall one.

We love you and we pray you have awesome, amazing, God-filled adventures, Bird family!


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Loving Round Ripples...

This past week saw the finish of the first Round Ripple Baby Blanket that I started a couple of weeks ago.  I went bold and bright for this one and, hopefully, someday a little one will enjoy the colors and snuggly warmth of this fun blanket.

With Thanksgiving preparations this past week I didn't manage to crochet much else, but we did have a nice little celebration with the extended family on Thursday.  We hosted and everyone pitched in for a scrumptious feast.   Mmmm-Mmmm

And now I'm focusing on finishing up some projects that have been lingering (a Linen Stitch Scarf and an Arrowhead Afghan).  And waiting in the wings (actually sorted into a box) is yarn that is stocked and ready to become a Kilim Throw.  The Kilim looks so fun to make, I'm telling myself the Arrowhead Afghan needs to be finished before starting another larger blanket.  Let's see if I can keep that resolve...

Close up of the detail on the Arrowhead Blanket

Come see what other Yoppers are working on this week in our Ravelry thread.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Round Ripple Baby Blanket Finished!

I finished the latest Round Ripple Baby Blanket late last night - and good thing, too, as it was a gift for a baby shower this afternoon.

For anyone interested in making one of these, I strongly encourage checking out samples that Ravelry member, AFwifeCrochetNut, has come up.  Note:  AFwifeCrochetNut isn't the designer of the pattern, but rather she came up with the way to make a "ripple effect" in this blanket.  The link I provided takes you to one of these blankets she made, and in her project notes she gives instructions for how to lay out the pattern of rows so that they look like they're rippling outward from the center.  Don't be daunted if the written directions for this don't seem clear.  They weren't to me at first.  Read her explanation and study a close-up of the blanket and you'll see the pattern and her written instructions will begin to make sense once you work a sequence of rows that creates a ripple.  That's how it worked for me.  Now that I've finished this blanket I can say that how she created this cool effect is actually super simple. I don't even have to think about it now.

For the sake of transparency regarding my design process, I'm going to admit that this blanket was a bit of an experiment.  I started out with the colors Bright Green, Teal, 2 shades of Gray, and White.  Actually, I didn't start out with White, but I decided these colors needed the contrast of white to lighten up the whole thing and bring definition to the colors.  Okay, good enough...   I started somewhat daringly with that small circle of green in the center thinking I'd repeat it later in the blanket, but I found that following AFwifeCrochetNut's directions I would have a mammoth blanket if I ended up using the green and teal a second time in later rows.

It was a last minute decision, but I ditched (make that, frogged) the second repeat of green after giving it a try.   Then I tried just a single row of green, but even that didn't make me happy.  In the end, I decided to just go with a that green center as the only touch of green in the whole thing.  And act like it was intentional all along.  :^)

And then, I don't know...  it kind of grew on me.  Truth be told, I think I'd like that green center better if it was a tad larger (like maybe just one more row).  Ah and learn.  I have a feeling every one of these blankets I make will end up being an experiment, so I best get comfortable with that. 

In the end, it was very favorably received at the baby shower today.  That said, it was the fifth crocheted baby blanket opened, so I think I may come up with another gift idea for the next shower I attend.  I loved using baby blankets when I had babies, and I was happy to have several, so I don't know that multiple gifts of baby blankets is a bad thing.  But it is a little embarrassing to be the giver of the fifth, and final one opened.  lol

To see what other Year Of Projects participants are up to this week check out our thread on Ravelry.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Another Rounded Ripple Baby Blanket

I know, I know...I'm not finished with the baby blanket I started last week, but I decided I wanted to try another color scheme and am thinking this one will be for a gift for an upcoming baby shower.  It's one thing to be a little unsure of something I'm randomly making (as was the case of the blanket I showed on Sunday), but it's quite another thing to be questioning a gift for a specific someone.   So the following blanket is being made with more intention, but my color choice and placement is still a bit of an experiment.  I'll be finishing it with some rounds of white followed by green and teal.  I'm really hoping the finished effect is nice and has a bit of "style". 

Pictured is my non-rainbow version of the Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket

And autumn being my cozy mystery reading season, I'm almost finished with another one.  All Sales Final by Josie Belle is a fun and light read.  Maggie, a consignment shop owner and her fiancé, Sam Collins, find themselves with a haunted house they've just bought.  It's really not spooky, but kind of entertaining as they uncover some interesting secrets the house has been holding for many, many years.

Check out other yarnie goodness at Ginny Sheller's Yarn Along this week!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rounded Ripple Baby Blanket

This past week I was inspired to try crocheting a rounded ripple baby blanket.  The pattern name is actually called Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket, but the most beautiful I've seen aren't rainbow-hued at all.  For my first one I opted to go bold and bright.  I didn't have to think too hard about color that way.  As long as the colors complimented each other in some way, I figured it would work.

I like how crisp the colors I'm using look together, but I confess...  I'm a little unsure over whether it's too much - maybe a little too bold for a baby blanket?  I'm thinking as I'm working on this that while I love colorful things, my eye is also very drawn to neutrals and more subtle color shifts.  Now that I know how easy this pattern is to do, I'm looking forward to trying to make a gradient one soon.

I do love the pastel rainbow ones for a newborn, and I've "favorited" so many various ones on Ravelry I could spend the rest of my days making these and never run out of new ideas for color and color-placement.   It is a rather addicting pattern.  Well written and very easy to do. 

Another project I finished this past week was this hat:

This is another well-written crochet pattern and very easy to do.  And interestingly...I found out (when I turned it inside out to weave in the yarn ends) the hat looks great on that side too.  I don't know if the pictures show it well, but on the outside the pattern makes rows of bobbles, but on the inside, it appears there are subtle ridges.  As long as the yarn ends are woven in carefully, this hat is totally reversible.  While it's the same color inside and out, it's still kind of cool to have two patterns that could work as the outside.  Below is a picture of the hat turned inside out, showing the ridges:

And I can't resist posting one last picture this year of my fuschia plant.  We've had such a wonderfully mild autumn so far I still have some blooms left.   I haven't even really protected this plant from the frosts we've had (maybe I pulled it close to the house a few times, but that was all), and it's just kept on blooming.  I don't know when cold weather will overtake it, but for now I'm still enjoying my pretty purple and red "dancing ladies".

Speaking of how nice the weather has been...   today it's in the mid-60's (in central Indiana) and I decided to trim up my potted mums to see if I can't coax some more blooms out of them in time for Thanksgiving. 

To see what other Year of Projects participants are working on this week, check out our thread on Ravelry.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Another Cowl...

Another item finished!  I finally finished my Sandy Cowl (that I call my Wine Cowl).  If you're curious why mine is longer than the one at the link above, you can see the modifications I made to the pattern on my project page.

It was so easy, it's ridiculous how long it took me to finish this cowl.   Mine is made with Knit Picks' Brava in the color Wine.   I love the color, but I'm not so sure now what I think of the yarn.  Earlier this year I finished an afghan using Knit Picks Brava and my overall review of that yarn was unfavorable.  I used the color silver in that blanket and that yarn was on the thin side of worsted and many skeins had knots and unevenly spun places - to the point of frustration and some serious waste.   This wine color was thicker (more what I'd expect in a worsted-weight yarn), and I didn't have many problems with knots.  It was actually a pleasure to crochet with. 

That said, in this cowl, I think this yarn produced a little too stiff of a fabric.   I'm curious how it may soften and even drape after I've washed and dried it.

The pattern was easy, but I had some trouble with the joins (getting them to look smooth and be invisible).  I'm not sure someone else would see my joins and notice the awkward seam.   But I see it.  And it bugs me - a little.  I'd  kind of like to try this again without creating a seam - instead crocheting each row round and round (without turning), and just ending when I'm done.  I don't know why it wouldn't work.  But I do think I'll find me some softer yarn if I decide to make this again.  The designer of this pattern used Lion Brand's Heartland yarn, and hers looks pretty drapey. 

That's about it.  I've been focusing lately on finishing some projects and for some reason that has slowed me down.  I guess it's not as exciting to plug away on WIPs as it is to start new projects. ;^)

Check out the Year of Projects thread on Ravely to see what other Yoppers are working on this week.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Yarn Along...

I don't think I've made very much progress on my Sandy Cowl since last week, but I am back at it.  This simple cowl WILL be finished by the weekend.  I hope.  I just really want to be able to call it done - it's pretty, and simple, and there is just no good reason why it's taking me so long.  Well, except that other projects have tempted me more, possibly.  Yeah, that could be the reason.  ;^)

And in spite of it being 75 degrees outside on this near record-setting November day in Indiana I am reading The Christmas Sweater.   Twelve year-old Eddie makes something of a mess of Christmas when he opens a less than desirable gift (a hand-knitted Christmas sweater) and is less than appreciative of it and his actions lead him to serious regrets.  As Beck lets us into the mind of self-tortured 12 year-old boy, I find I am transported back to my own childhood and I can relate to the disappointment Eddie feels and the actions he displays.   Something tells me that Eddie is going to find out the true meaning and cost of the gift of love - and the Christmas sweater is a key to that discovery. 

To see what others are reading while they yarn-along this week, check out Ginny Sheller's Yarn-Along.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Curlicue love...

Last week I showed a picture of my first Curlicue Hat and said it wasn't the last I was making.   These hats are fun and easy to make so it's a little hard to resist the pull of making more.  Here's a link to the pattern for anyone who might be feeling the pull to give it a try.  ;^)

Fortunately for me I thought of some young girls I could make some for.  So I finished three more this week.  They are going to sisters, and I wanted them similar to each other, but not identical, so I chose three different colors of the same yarn.

After trying out several different yarns that I either had on hand, or could buy locally, I found Red Heart Gumdrop yarn to produce the most satisfying results for the young ages these are made for.  The colors are bright and fun and the variegation is short and scattered enough that pops of color appear pretty randomly, as opposed to pooling or creating odd or irregular stripes in the finished project.  I don't think I could be more pleased with how these turned out.

Here is the first hat, done in the color Apple (the green is more vivid than it appears in this picture):

And then came Grape (this color, too, is a bit more vivid than it appears here):

And finally...Cherry (this is pretty true to color - though I think the picture could have been crisper):

As a yarn review, I want to say I love how this yarn crochets up in terms of the proliferation of pops of colors, and absence of pooling or irregular striping.  Being completely honest, I like it better crocheted than knitted (having looked at various knitting projects created with this yarn).  The pops of color just seem to beg for larger stitches to show them off.

Now then... as much as I like how these hats turned out, I need to also say I'm not sure I'm a fan of the yarn itself.  And that hurts my heart.  A lot.  It hurts because it's soft and pretty perfect for baby and children's items, but it is terribly splitty when working with it.  And of course, frogging and reworking it just makes it more splitty.   I disliked this splitting tendency so much that I ended up returning the extra skeins that I had purchased when I was first enamored by the various fun colors.  Well, that and I was enamored at the sale price and an additional coupon discount I was able to use where I bought it.

The texture of this yarn when working with it is reminiscent (to me) of Caron Simply Soft.  But it's also similar to Red Heart Soft yarn.  I've used both, and I while I prefer working with RH Soft over Caron SS, neither of these yarns are my favorite to work with.  Having said that, the items I've made with RH Soft and Caron SS are beautiful.  You'd never know looking at the finished projects that I struggled with the yarns.   The reality is this Gumdrop yarn is somewhere between these two yarns in terms of softness, spin, and feel of the finished project.   For anyone unfamiliar with the above two yarns this paragraph may be useless, but if you either love or dislike the above yarns, this may be helpful.  And keep in mind... I'm just reporting what my personal experience and opinion is.

I'm not saying I wouldn't buy it again, but if I do buy it in the future, I will be selective and only buy for a specific project.  I know me  - if I buy it at a great price to stash it, it will nag me as a difficult yarn and I'll likely resist using it.  If I buy a small amount for a specific project, I'm much more likely to work it up because I'll be so eager to see what it looks like again.  

Having just explained that splitting is a problem with this yarn, I will say different colors seem to split differently.  Cherry was, by far, the least splitty and Apple the most (of the three colors used here).   Happily, that works for me because Cherry is my favorite color.  :^)   I do think I want to try out all the other colors, though. I'm really wishing I had picked up a skein each of Smoothie and Orange as well.  Having seen some finished projects using those colors, I've got a feeling they may be among my favorites too. 

In short, if you're in the market for easy care acrylic for children's items I recommend the yarn for its pleasing palette of colors.  And it finishes up nice and soft.  But be forewarned that it may split as you work it, so know your tolerance for that and buy (or not) with that in mind.

To see what other YOPers are up to, visit this week's thread on Ravelry.  There's always something interesting in the works.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Curlicue Hat

Another busy week with only a hat to show for my crocheting efforts.  But what a cute hat it is! 

My first Delaney Hat:

I say "first" 'cuz  it's definitely not my last.  I'm just showing you the top because that's what's so cute about this hat.  The pattern is super simple, but there's a trick to getting tight curly curlicues.  You need to crochet under just one strand of yarn.  It's easy once you figure that out, but I started this thing several times with unsatisfactory curlicues before I finally went looking for a YouTube video demonstrating how to make them.  It was a lightbulb moment, and the hat was simple and fast after that.  Another thing is, if you want a cuff on the bottom, I'm pretty sure this needs to be made a little longer than following the pattern will give you.   This first one I made looks fine as is, but I think the next ones I make will be a tad longer so a cuff is an option.  I hope to make some more of these for little girl gifts.  This one is made with Vanna's Choice in Rose Mist.  I have some Red Heart Gumdrop yarn waiting in the wings for my next ones. 

To see what other Year of Projects participants are up to, check out this week's thread on Ravelry.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Yarn Along...

This week I'm enjoying the beautiful Indian Summer weather we're having and finding some time to crochet outside.  I'm hoping to soon finish up The Sandy Cowl - crocheted with Knit Picks Brava in the color, Wine. 

And a couple of days ago I began The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron.   It's a Christian Historical Fiction with two stories running concurrently.  Modern day Sera is an art dealer with a New York gallery who's trying to obtain an old piece of artwork featuring a violinist, but she encounters obstacles.  And Adele is a young violinist in Nazi occupied Austria in 1942 who suffered the consequences of attempting to help Jewish friends escape.   I'm just a few chapters in and I'm hooked!

Check out Ginny's Yarn Along at her beautiful Small Things Blog to see what other yarnies are making and reading.