Reading and crocheting...two of my favorite things. Here's a Wednesday picture of a dishcloth (in progress) made from one of my favorite crocheted dishcloth patterns in a fun new colorway of Lily's Sugar 'n Cream cotton - Golden Mist Ombre (perfect for my 60's kitchen with yellow counter tops).
And my current read - Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.
When I first started this Starling Bag I thought I'd get clever with the stripe pattern - I fancied the teal stripes graduating in size as they went down the bag (skinniest stripes at the top, fattest stripe at the bottom). But after trying this graduated stripe effect, working from the bottom up, about halfway through I realized I would run out of the silver long before I ran out of teal so that killed that idea. And I have no desire to get more of this silver yarn - it's Knit Picks Brava worsted and not being particularly fond of it, I'm trying to use it up and be done with it. So I revised my plan with the stripes. And ripped... And re-did about half of what is pictured here.
For anyone who might be interested, I've written my review of Knit Picks Brava (an acrylic worsted) on this Ravelry project page.
I'm liking the even stripes fine, in the end. It may not look as clever as I originally hoped, but it should look nice. I know that top silver silver stripe looks wider than the silver one lower down, but they are the same width. It's a trick of the camera angle.
The bag should be done shortly now. I plan to finish the teal stripe I'm on, then add one more silver stripe and end with teal handles. I expect that will make a nice size project bag.
While the colors come out great in the natural outdoor light, the silver looks less vivid indoors. So I'm thinking it needs some brightening up. Maybe I'll attach some flowers? Or a motif or two? Then again, maybe I should decide what I will line it with first. A lining might give a clue as to what might brighten the bag up on the outside. Or maybe a pretty or interesting lining will do the trick all by itself!
I mentioned last weekend that I was getting back to my shawl. Well...the more I worked on it, the less I liked the yarn (made up into a shawl). I'm getting a better feel for what seems to work and not work when crocheting with variegated yarns and now I'm working on a post in that vein. So the shawl project is shelved and will eventually be frogged, but a new idea emerged from it. Win!
Looking forward to seeing what all my other YOP5 buddies have been up to this past week!
Seriously in need of something simple, but gratifying, I went looking for such a project. And I found it in The Starling Bag. The instructions are super clear and the designer has even provided pictured tutorials for any tricky parts (though seriously...her instructions are so clear, the tutorials are hardly needed). Don't let Future Girl's request for your e-mail turn you away. She has some seriously good resources there.
I decided to make the base of mine larger than the pattern directs and I'm double-stranding the worsted weight yarn, so this ought to be a sturdy (and large) bag. I'm living on the wild side and figuring out what sort of pattern of stripes I'm doing as I go. Whoo hoo! Gotta cut loose once in a while.
Yes, those are single crochets. The very thing my aching fingers were screaming over a few days ago. Somehow this isn't so bad, though. Maybe when the bag gets larger I'll start crying again, but for now I'm managing.
There are so many nice versions of this bag on Ravelry. Here's hoping I like mine enough to line it when it's finished. I have high hopes it will make a nice project bag.
And last night I started reading A Month of Summer by Lisa Wingate.
It's an interesting story told from the point of view of two women - Rebecca, a 40-something year-old who is called upon to help her father, whose health is failing; and Hanna Beth, the woman who took Rebecca's father away when she was a child, leaving Rebecca and her mother to struggle on alone. I have a feeling as the story unfolds, life will not be as it seems from Rebecca's scarred memories. And after weeks and weeks of rain, it's a beautiful day in central Indiana. Eighty degrees and low humidity - a rare combination for Hoosier summers. It is glorious.
Two happy little flowers on my Fuchsia plant. I love how they look like two ladies dancing.
Check out what others are knitting and crocheting at Ginny's Yarn Along.
While I've finished a few dishcloths in the last couple of weeks, I'm counting this chevron pillow as my first official YOP5 finished project.
I like it, but frankly I'm really glad to have it done. Working on this gave my fingers a workout. It's all single crochet, so the fabric is on the tight side. And all those ends!!! I think my fingers ache as much from sewing in all those ends as they do from the crocheting.
But I'm done! And that makes me happy. After I give my fingers a break, I'm going to try to knock out my shawl I started a month ago and promptly set aside.
Later today we're looking forward to having our three sons here. Their company will be very welcome as the husband is still recovering from foot surgery and he's pretty limited in what he can do and where he can go. He's grown bit glum about it all. I can't blame him. He has to keep his foot elevated most of the time, and it hurts to walk, anyway. We'll enjoy some Lasagna and then some games. Middle son is bringing Settlers of Catan. My current favorite game is Ticket to Ride, but we've had a request to play Settlers...so I guess I'm going to be giving it a go this time.
Do you have a favorite family game? If you have adult kids, what do you like to do when you're all together?
Well, actually, it's a big clunky sandal. But it will do the job of protecting his foot very nicely for a few weeks.
This morning at 6:00 a.m. we made our way to the surgery center where the husband had surgery to clean up some arthritis and bone chips that had made walking very difficult. It was a fairly standard and uncomplicated surgery from what we understand, and if this is a success he plans to have the other foot done, too. And then we have high hopes that come late fall he'll be walking normally again.
To pass the time during the pre-surgery waiting and then his surgery I took along a simple crochet project (of course). I've been wanting to try spiral crochet, and this seemed as good a time as any.
Last night I found this (very well written) pattern for a crocheted spiral dishcloth and I was able to crochet almost a whole cloth this morning. Well, hey, lookie there. It's another dishcloth from Neatly Tangled - the same crocheter who created the hyperbolic dishcloth pattern I wrote about yesterday. Cool beans!
I like it. I like it a lot.
When I first started reading the instructions, I thought it was going to be kind of complicated and fiddly. But once I got going, it was really pretty simple. You do have to keep track of where you are and what color you're supposed to be using so you'll need at least one stitch marker, but this isn't hard. At one point I thought I messed up, but I continued on like I knew what I was doing and it worked out. We'll see when I do another one (and I will be doing another one) if the error was mine or if the pattern got confused about what color I was on. ;^)
I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but I'm thinking that this might be my favorite dishcloth now. I know. I know! Just yesterday I was in love with the hyperbolic dishcloth. What can I say. I'm fickle. Or easily tickled. I'm a sucker for a fun dishcloth, for sure.
The book next on the docket is The Communion of Saints by Philip Graham Ryken. I'm not very far into it, but the forward convinced me to give it a go. The first line is: "Americans have started bowling alone." And then goes on to expound on how independent and autonomous we have become as individuals in this culture, and in our churches. I get it. I feel the draw toward autonomy. I think I've always felt it. I tend to think it's my introvert nature that draws me there, but something tells me that's not the whole truth. And the draw is not wholly right.
The Christian life cannot be lived fully autonomously, but having recently been thrust into the reality of needing to find a church home - our wonderful little fellowship had to give up our building and our pastor retired over a year ago - and... well... we've been a bit disconnected ever since. We're in a sweet church right now, but the seeds of autonomy have been sown and it turns out it's grown weedy in here. I think I'm ready to uproot it. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit it's a little scary. Or intimidating. Or maybe it's just work. And I've grown lazy and more than a wee bit selfish. I'm hoping for some insight and inspiration from this book. I'll give a report when I've gotten deeper in. It looks promising.
To see what other yarn-lovers are making and reading, check out Ginny's Yarn Along at Small Things.
With several WIPs on the hook I found myself wanting some instant crochet gratification so I went looking through my files of easy crochet patterns. I came across A Practically Hyperbolic Dishcloth and decided to make one. And I loved it! Which meant, of course, I couldn't make just one...
I made three!
And, of course, I couldn't help but alter the pattern a bit. Because, well, I never seem completely satisfied until I've played around with a crochet pattern and changed it somehow. I don't know why that is, but on the third one of these I hit upon the perfect edited version (for me).
Now might be a good time to mention I used worsted weight cotton yarn and a size H crochet hook. Final size will vary depending on yarn, hook, and how tightly one crochets (I don't think I crochet particularly tight or loose).
First I made a green one and I followed the pattern to the letter. It had just the right amount of ruffliness, but it was just a tad too small for my dishwashing pleasure. The pattern says this should measure about 6.5 inches (that would definitely be too small for me). Mine measures 7.25 inches in diameter. Hmmm... maybe I am a looser crocheter than I thought.
A follow-up: After using these dishcloths over the period of a week or so, and washing them a couple times, I've concluded that I'm equally happy with both the 7.25 inch green cloth and the 8 inch pink cloth. While a 7.25 inch square dishcloth would feel too small, I think the ruffliness of these cloths gives the feel of more cloth in the hand. I'm a little surprised at this, but I've decided when I make more, I'll be following the directions to the letter (only adding another row if, for some reason, my crocheting is too tight and yields a smaller cloth)
On to my modifying the pattern a bit:
Next I made the orange one and I experimenting by added 2 more rounds (I repeated round 9 once, and then did a row where I crocheted 2 dc's in one stitch then crocheted 1 dc in the next 5 stitches - alternating that stitch pattern all the way around). The point of that last row was to try to "tone down" the ruffles. It did help, but it ended up making a big cloth. The orange cloth measures 8.5 inches. Not too big, maybe, but with the ruffles it just feels like too much cloth in my hand. I can use it, but it's not...perfect.
The pink one, though, was juuuuust right. See note above (just under the picture of the green cloth). I followed the directions in the link, but after round 9, I crocheted a round of single crochets (just one stitch in every half double crochet stitch below). Then finished it off with a round of slip stitch in every single crochet stitch. This cloth measures 8 inches across and the last two rows of single crochet and slip stitch in every stitch settled the ruffles down so that the waviness is pretty perfect.
It fits my hand and around my fingers perfectly. Making it an easy cloth to swish and scrub dishes with.
I think this might now be my favorite crocheted dishcloth. In fact, I'm thinking that a few of these tucked into a bridal shower gift would be a fun surprise. Or they'd make a nice hostess gift, perhaps. Especially done in bright, cheery colors! Or pastels for spring! Or Christmas holiday colors! Or in pumpkin orange at Thanksgiving! Okay...you get the idea. These are kind of perfect any time.
If you're not a member of Ravelry, why not? Membership is quick, easy and free! And I get absolutely nothing for referring you. What can be better than that? A no-strings-attached, endless supply of patterns and resources - with the touch of a few keys.
I'm continuing to work on the chevron pillow this week. Another 5 inches or so 'till I can sew it together. Yay!
With all the color changing I will say I feel much better now that I've sewn in all the yarn ends up to this point. Waiting until the end to do this job would make me dread it so. Doing it as I go makes for a much more exciting job of crocheting and watching the thing grow. And it also makes for easier crocheting as this pattern tends to want to pull in on the sides, bringing all those loose ends to hang and tangle with my free crocheting yarn. Unless I have a good reason not to, I try to sew in my ends as I go anymore (especially on large items). It makes me a happier woman as I'm finishing up a project.
And here are two other crochet projects underway that are waiting on the sidelines for me to get back to someday...
This week I'm continuing to work on my chevron pillow. I'm about half way done and am looking forward to seaming it up.
In truth... I'm sort of loving the colors, sort of not sure.
What do you do when you're not sure? I've decided to finish it, and hope I love it when it's finished. If not, ah well... it's a small accent pillow that will likely be an overlooked footnote in my decorating - certainly, not the focus of anyone passing through the family room. I will say I am loving the teal color. And am thinking a teal throw across the back of the red family room couch this winter would look awesome. I don't want to use this yarn, though - just not sure how it would hold up for a blanket - so I may be looking for something else in that vein. Then again, I really need to not be buying more yarn...
Okay...next up is a book review, but before I get to that, let me explain a few things...
A while back I decided to re-home a bunch of what I'd call young romance novels. Nothing embarrassing in the lot, just stuff I was pretty sure I wasn't all that interested in reading at this stage in life. For some reason I hung onto this one and last weekend I picked it up before giving it the old heave-ho, thinking it would be a quick decision.
I don't know how many times I have to learn to not judge a book by its cover, or its genre, or its companions... The cover alone is unappealing to me. It evokes thoughts of a lonely Amish girl from some nondescript time gone by. Now, I have nothing against Amish fiction, but I'm not particularly drawn to it either, and thinking it was a love story taking place within an Amish community is largely why I never got around to reading it. Nevermind that if I had simply looked at a map I could have seen that Liberty, Indiana is nowhere near (or on the path to) the beautiful northern countryside where there are some lovely Amish communities.
While the uninspiring cover alone was enough to stop me from reading this (until this past weekend), you'd think the story line would have gotten a pass. I had just finished The Last Runaway by Tracy Chivalier (a book about the Quaker community and their involvement with the Underground Railroad). When I read the first line of this new book, "Quakers in Union County, Indiana, were active participants in the Underground Railroad..." I uttered a low moan. While I had found it all pretty interesting when I read Chivalier's story, I really wasn't in the mood to read yet another book on the topic - not so soon. And not one with an uninspiring cover.
Well...was I ever in for a surprise. And a lesson on judging a book too quickly. Melanie Dobson is a fine story teller (from what I've read so far). She paints pictures with words that make me feel like I'm sharing the same tight quarters the runaway slaves lived in - sometimes for days or even weeks before their next transportation, or a dark enough night sky to make traveling by foot safe. Dobson also gives dignity to those same terrified runaway slaves, causing the reader to immediately connect and identity with a character. Nevermind that I've never gone to bed in dirty clothes I've worn for weeks, or fallen asleep fearing that in the morning I might find myself shackled to a horse walking my way back to the horror I had spent desperate weeks running from. I can almost imagine my sweat-stunk person laying against cool, clean floorboards; or can almost taste buttery biscuits served in the attic room; and I feel myself breathing a cautious breath of relief when danger passes.
In short, I'm impressed. In fact, I would say I like this book over Chevalier's. They're each captivating in their own right, but Dobson's book makes me feel like I'm reading a book that has more value as a true historical fiction than as a romance story. I whole-heartedly recommend it. And I'll probably be looking for more Melanie Dobson books to read in my future.
Now if someone could just do something about that cover...
I'm eager to be joining in a Ravelry Group of bloggers calledYear 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 where I can plug in things that grab my attention (or as I start or finish them) during the year.
Here we go:
Tunisian crochet - just try it
Knitting - it's been years!
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
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
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
and purely aesthetic:
- A blanket inspired by Lucy at Attic24
- Something wearable (other than a rectangular 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
- Something that qualifies as a container
- Swatch (do it, explore it, learn to appreciate it. I don't know. Just stop ignoring it)
- 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.
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 vertically on narrow pillow, as opposed to horizontally on a more squared off pillow. The pattern is easy, so I expect this project will be finished pretty quickly!
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".