2020 30-Day Minimalism Challenge

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Crocheted Linen Stitch Scarf

Yep, I've finished another scarf.  And the colors on this one make my heart happy.

I just love watching this Linen Stitch scarf grow - especially when using different colors of yarn.  One can combine various yarns in a seemingly infinite number of ways to get a unique scarf every single time.

This time I used Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable yarn in the colorways Meadow and Sunrise.  Together these two unlikely companions made a fun, cheery scarf - perfect for a crisp autumn day, or for brightening up a blustery winter day.

How to style it:

My preference for wearing a scarf is for warmth - simply wrapped around my neck, with the ends looped through the folded end of the scarf and tucked into my coat or jacket:

It's a non-fussy look for a non-fussy sort of gal.

But this one could be temporarily (or permanently) fastened at the ends to create a pretty cowl:

I like that look, too.

While I'm really tickled with this color combination, truth be told the colors probably aren't the best for me.  I crocheted this as a total experiment with no idea how it would be used.  Being as happy with it as I am this will likely be a gift for someone - either a friend, or an unknown someone - it doesn't matter.  I just hope it makes some else smile, too.  :^)

To see what other participants in Ravelry's Year Of Projects group are up to this week, visit this week's thread.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yarn Along...

A week ago I finally decided to pick up the knitting needles and give it go.  Sigh.  It's very humbling to feel competent at one needlecraft and realize you're almost completely inept at another (I posted my first attempt in Sunday's post).

After a week of practicing knitting and purling (and even getting Continental Knitting down pretty well - in fact I prefer it) I'm feeling better about it all.    I still prefer crocheting, but today I felt confident enough to start a simple dishcloth without fear I'd grow utterly discouraged. 

It's a simple pattern alternating a row of K3, P1, K3 with a row of knit stitches.  You can see the pattern beginning to emerge.  I've made some mistakes, but nothing yet that's making me despair.  Yet.  Truth be told, I'm actually a little encouraged that I can tell what my mistakes are.  That's new.  And a sign that I'm progressing.

And tonight I plan to start The Stolen Crown by Susan Higgenbotham.  I'm not sure what the story is, but after reading Higgenbotham's The Traitor's Wife I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a copy of another of her books.  I do know it's about kings, queens, courts, murder and intrique, and the time frame has some close relationship  to The War of the Roses.  And while I suspect Higgenbotham takes very seriously her literary license when it comes to writing historical fiction, I do expect to learn about (and more importantly become curious about) some historical events and persons I'm not very familiar with as I read this new-to-me novel.

To see what other yarnies are making and reading check out Ginny's weekly Yarn Along.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Octagon Baby Blanket

The words "I'm done!" have become almost a weekly challenge for me to finish projects begun.  I know when the weather encourages me to move to larger projects like full-sized blankets or possibly an intricate design, finishing a project each week isn't likely going to be a reasonable expectation.  But in these early weeks and months of this year's Year of Projects blog challenge I'm liking the motivation it's providing.

So...once again...   I'm done!   With the Octagon Baby Blanket I started early last week.

The picture above is an accurate representation of the colors and tones of the yarns used in this blanket.  Other pictures are edited to get them close to correct - just to explain some variations in tone and lighting.

I have not figured out a way to get an attractive picture of the whole blanket spread out (when I manage to get the whole thing in one shot it seems anticlimactic somehow), so hopefully I've captured the essence of the octagonal shape and managed a little intrigue.

I had to tweak the instructions a bit at the section breaks (it just wasn't as intuitive to me as it seemed to be for others who had previously crocheted this blanket and created project pages on Ravelry), but once I got something figured out that worked for me it became a very simple and intuitive pattern to work.  

In fact, except for having to count the stitches each time I finished a row in a section, it was pretty mindless.

One might say...a tad...monotonous.   ;^)    Every single stitch is a double crochet.  I find that patterns like this are perfect for creating a sort of meditative and peaceful space.  A perfect thing to do during periods of stress.  Not that I am under stress presently.  Just sayin'....
I decided to edge the blanket with a simple scallop edging.  I think it creates a sweet edge without being feminine, or even obvious. 


And now, in the spirit of  sharing with my fellow YOPers my progress on personal challenges, I present my first knitting attempt.  It's embarrassing, and awful, but I look forward to coming back to this post - months (or maybe years) from now and seeing the progress I've made.

You are free to laugh.  In fact, I insist that you do.  Believe me, I have to laugh at this or I might just cry: 

As is, I'm going to have to challenge myself to keep picking up my knitting needles to practice because my overwhelming inclination after knitting the above swatch is to simply give up. 

While some of the process came back to me (I had knitted once upon a time as a teen), I found it impossible to keep a consistent tension and have no idea where some of those stitches disappeared to.  It didn't help, I suppose, that I kept switching back and forth between Continental and English, but my lands....look at that mess!  lol  And the edges are just depressing on the stockinette part.  They don't show because they curl under, but all of my edge stitches are loose and loopy.  Hopefully through practice I can conquer that, but I found that the most discouraging thing of all.

And don't get me started on purling Continental-style.  Let's just say...it seemed to me much like trying to eat ice cream with a fork while standing on my head must be.  It is not natural.  Knitting Continental-style wasn't too hard for me, but purling holding the yarn in my left hand...  On my. 

I imagine I'll be practicing knitting squares and rectangles for some time.  I'll make it a goal of mine to post a monthly (at least) picture of my knitting progress.  I see a lot of dishcloths and scarves in my near future.

Speaking of scarves, here is a progress picture of the latest linen stitch scarf I began crocheting this past week.  I think combining the nothing-in-common-colors of yarns is making an interesting looking scarf for autumn.

That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.  The bright riot of colors in the one yarn would, no doubt, create an attractive crocheted or knitted fabric, but I rather like how the muted tones of the blue and beige colors of the other yarn tones down the loudness of the first yarn.  And yet, the end result is still fun and cheery.  This was a project that was purely for the experiment of seeing how these two somewhat disparate colors and tones would work together (or not). 

Visit Ravelry to see what other YOPers are up to this week.   A free (and no-strings attached) membership with Ravelry is required to see most of the links on this page. 


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Yarn Along...

Today was DH's second foot surgery in two month's time - and that meant hours for me to just sit.  And crochet.  I decided to take along two different colors of Red Heart Unforgettable yarn and see what might come of combining them in this linen stitch scarf I've come to love.  At first glance these two colorways don't appear to make good companions.  I give you Sunrise (on the left) and Meadow (on the right):

Would you have put these together?  If you're color-cautious like me, probably not.  Except for the small bit of greenish blue that's occasionally spun into the Sunrise color that gave me courage to try.  The blue-ish skein doesn't vary a lot, but it does have some beige spun into it, which helps to work with the small amount of neutrals in the Sunrise.  So I took the plunge.

As I crocheted a couple rows I had my doubts, but after four or five rows I think it's actually working.   In fact...  I kind of like it.  Good thing, too, because this loosely spun yarn is a bear to unravel.

And looky there.  Together, the two yarns kind of match the book I'm reading!   A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner is a captivating read.  Two stories run alongside each other in this novel.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 and the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001.  Actually, several mysterious stories are woven around a beautiful scarf that appears in the first chapter - and that's all I'm going to tell you.  It's all I can tell you.  I'm only half way through, but I'm pretty confident I can recommend this book as an interesting read if you enjoy women's fiction.  Or, perhaps, even if you simply enjoy a good story.

Join other yarnies at Ginny's weekly Yarn Along to see what's being read and created, literally around the world this week.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Baby, it's a crazy eight-sided blanket!

I've been working on this Octagon Baby Blanket for a week now.   The yarn is Bernat Baby Coordinates in the color Fun Prints.  And this is the pattern I'm using.  It was pretty fast going at first, but now that the rounds have gotten longer it's slowed down a bit.  It's an enjoyable project, but after crocheting each row of every segment, it's very important to count the stitches just made (I've learned the hard way).  Yes, that means counting every single stitch.  A tad tedious, but oooh, the trouble I've seen when I didn't. 

I expect I'll have it finished in a day or two and it will need a blocking (or maybe just a light steaming) to flatten out the edges.   I'm trying to decide if I will trim it in single crochet with a solid blue that goes with the print, or just finish it with the same yarn.  The pattern has directions for a picot edging, so that's a possibility, too.  Simple, clean edges seem nice to me for a boy's blanket, but infant blankets can be a bit daintier without looking girlish, necessarily.  Then again, maybe "daintier" isn't the word I'm looking for.  I'm open to suggestions on the edging.

And then I just need to figure out how to photograph it nicely so the octagon shape shows!   Or maybe just the hint of the octagon is enough?

To see what others YOPers are up to visit our weekly thread on Ravelry.  They're a creative and busy bunch.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Yarn Along...

I was suddenly inspired this week to use some baby yarn I had in my stash, and when I came upon the Octagon Baby Afghan I knew this would be a great project for this yarn.

The yarn is Bernat Baby Coordinates in the colorway, Funny Prints.  It seems a funny name for such a sweet and fairly traditional mixture of baby colors, but there you have it - Funny Prints.  It's a lightweight boucle yarn that I now have some mixed feelings about.  It's not as difficult to crochet with as thick boucles can be, but it does have some drawbacks - namely, bits of the white shimmery thread that's spun onto the sport-weight variegated yarn sometimes stick out a bit - making me wonder if it will be likely to snag.   It really is pretty, though.  For the short time that such a baby blanket might be in service, it will surely stay nice looking.

As for what I'm reading... The Violets of March by Sarah Jio is an interesting story.  From page one, it had me hooked.  As thirty-something year-old Emily and Joel are finalizing their divorce and Joel is headed into a new marriage, Emily leaves her apartment in New York and travels to visit her Aunt Bee in Washington state.  Bee lives on Bainbridge Island, which proves to be both a respite for Emily as well as a place of new beginnings.  Shortly after arriving Emily finds a 50+ year-old diary and is swept up in the story it tells, while, at the same time, a drama is weaving itself in front of her in strange ways.   While I can't say I see what's coming, I'm pretty sure the story in the diary will soon converge with the lives of those Emily is interacting with.  This is my first Sarah Jio book.  I have a feeling it won't be my last.

Visit Ginny at Small Things to see what other yarn lovers are knitting and crocheting and reading this week.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Chunky Cowl Puts Me In The Mind Of Autumn...

I finished the Chunky Color Block Cowl yesterday.   It's so soft, and squishy.   LOVE!

The pattern is super easy (though I will comment below - near the end of this post - on how I made it work better, I think), and this yarn is pretty scrumptious to crochet with.  That said...I did notice that it splits when crocheting with it.   It didn't keep me from enjoying crocheting this cowl, but the yarn did split.  A bit.  Especially yarn that I ripped out and crocheted with a second time.

That said, I'm super pleased with how this turned out and I will probably choose to use this yarn in other projects.  The yarn is Lion's Pride Woolspun and I chose the colors Cranberry, Sparkle Mix, and Oxford Grey.  

In case it isn't obvious, or anyone is wondering, the Sparkle Mix doesn't sparkle.  It's totally matte and is a pretty mix of gray, black, a sort of coral, a bit of bright red, and cranberry.

I used a size P hook to get these scrumptiously large stitches:

There are certainly bigger and chunkier cowls, but with this stitch pattern and yarn, this is a cowl you can snuggle up inside.    In fact, if you're skinny enough, you can pull it down over your shoulders to take the chill off for a few minutes if you're wearing this inside.  You should take this possibility into consideration and add more stitches to the beginning row if you think you'll want to do this.  I added 10 stitches - and I think my cowl would pull down over the shoulders of a female who's size medium or maybe even large.  No guarantees here.  I can't possibly know how wide someone else's shoulders are or if this would feel comfortable to them.  It's just an idea.

The above picture shows off the pretty slant to these stitches.  This is the Herringone Half Double Crochet stitch (HHDC).  I'd never done it before, but the instructions at the link (in the very first line of this post) are clear and simple.  It really is a lovely stitch - for anything from scarves to blankets.  I'm so glad to have it in my personal "stitch bank".

And if all of that isn't enough, the thing that really makes me in love with this cowl is that when crocheted in a color block style, it's like having two cowls in one -  it can be worn with either color at the top - changing the look, depending on which color looks best with your complexion, outfit or mood, even.

I love it both ways.

If you like the look of chunky cowls or know someone who does, this is an easy project, and would make a nice gift.  Once I knew exactly what I was doing, I'd say this took no more than two hours to whip up.  You could make one (or more) of these on Christmas Eve, for giving in the morning!   Not that I've ever... you know... done anything like that myself...     Ahem

As I wrap up here, I'll offer a few notes for working the pattern for the benefit of anyone who might be interested:

When crocheting in the round, a common problem that occurs is a slanted seam.  I struggled with this at first, but after searching online for solutions I came up with my own method of conquering this (with this cowl, anyway).  Here's how: 

  • First of all, each color segment is seven rows tall.  While crocheting six rows of the same color I simply crocheted round and round, aware of where a new round began, but not doing anything differently when I began a new round (except for rows that involved color changes - as explained below).  I just kept count of the rows - which is easy to do since the rows are obvious and very easy to count, but if you fear you'll lose track just use a stitch marker.   

  • When I began the last round (7th row) of each color, I joined the new round to the previous round with a slip stitch, chained one, then a HHDC in the same stitch I had just slip-stitched into (this is the typical way to join a round when crocheting in the round),  and then I crocheted around as normal, joining the new color at the end of that round in the chain one (or maybe the top of the HHDC stitch - sorry, I can't remember which, but it's easy enough to figure out when you're there).  Then I simply crocheted 'round and 'round until I was ready to begin the seventh row of that color.  And I repeated the process explained in this paragraph with the third color.  When I made the final row I was going to crochet I also did this so that I'd have a raised stitch to join into at the end, thus making a smooth edge.

  • Doing the above created a raised stitch in the last row of a color where, when I was ending the row, I could easily add the new color; but by otherwise crocheting in the round without joining rows  with a slip stitch and chaining up one every new row, I prevented the creation of any noticeable seam through the whole of the scarf.   Another tip I found online is to really tighten up that slip stitch and the chain one when beginning a row that way (again, this is the traditional way to crochet in the round).   Making those tight stitches isn't very easy to do with a chunky yarn and a fat crochet hook, but when I needed to make them I made those two stitches (the slip stitch and single crochet) as tightly as I could.

And that's it!  When I was done I had a three-colored cowl that looked essentially seamless.  And now I can't wait to give this cowl pattern another go - either in more chunky yarn, or I might give a worsted weight yarn a go the next time.

And now, if you'd like to see what other crocheters and knitters are working on check out this week's Year of Projects Thread on Ravelry.   If those links don't work for you, you can join Ravelry today.  It's free and it's easy!  And it's the best database resource around for yarnies all over the world. 


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Yarn Along...

Last night I started crocheting this Chunky Color Block Cowl.   It wasn't exactly part of my plans, but I was tempted into buying 6 skeins of Lion's Pride Woolspun last week when it was on sale and Michael's offered $5.00 off any $20.00 purchase of Lionbrand yarn.  Of course, since it was on sale for 4.99 I had to buy that sixth skein to bring my purchase up to (and over) $20.00 so I don't know how much I really came out ahead in the end.  But it seemed a good enough price to give this new-to-me yarn a go.

I picked out colors from the new Prints and Mixes collection.  My colors are Cranberry, Sparks Mix, and Oxford Grey.  I know...really?  I needed another gray??? 


It's the first time I've used such a large crochet hook.  It's a P.  And I only have one hook larger than this one - a Q.  It's not hard to crochet with, but it is a bit awkward and takes some different handling than my smaller hooks.

And last night I finished I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak.  From the very beginning I've had mixed feelings about the book.  As I said last week teenage angst is something I don't care for, and this YA book is full of the male version of it.  But the ultimate message of the book is a profound one (I can't tell you what it is or I'd be giving away too much).  I do think, though, that it could have packed a bigger punch. And I think it could have had a more believable ending.  I don't mean the very end, but the explanation in the last chapter of what has gone on throughout the book had at least one totally unbelievable aspect to it - which, to me makes it feel rough and a bit rushed. 

But even with what I thought were shortcomings it was a thought provoking book and I can't say I regret spending the time on it.   If teenage angst (especially sexual angst) is something you tolerate well you might really like this book.   I really don't so my recommendation is ...I don't know... a cautious one.  If you're the least bit curious, I can at least recommend it enough to say "give it a try".

Check out Ginny's weekly Yarn Along to see what other yarnies are up to.  Just click the button below.