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.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

How to make a button stem for your yarny pumpkin...

After making several of these sweet little things: struck me that a bunch of these would make a super cute centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinner and fun little take-home gifts for anyone who might want one.   So, of course, I had to share my moment of inspiration here in my weekly Year of Projects post.  And since so many liked my button pumpkin stems on Wednesday, I thought I'd show step-by-step how to do it.

Using this pattern, a miniature pumpkin takes me just under an hour to make.  And the button stem took just a few minutes once I pulled all the materials together (wire, wire cutters, needle nose pliers, and a bunch of old buttons that I had previously cleaned and sorted by color). 

Select enough buttons to make a stem as long as you want it.  You'll want graduated sizes, and I like to use a variety of complimentary colors and materials (I used wood, plastic and even metal buttons).  Once you've picked out your buttons, stack them from largest to smallest.

As you stack them, they'll flop over on top of your pumpkin, but having them in order is important before you begin stringing them onto the wire.

Cut your wire about twice as long as you think you'll need:
I used 20 gauge wire.   You might be able to use thicker wire, but I don't think thinner wire will work.  You need a wire that is thin enough to thread onto the buttons, but thick (and strong) enough to allow you to push it through the pumpkin. I found 20 gauge wire flexible, but with just enough body for this purpose.   And 20 gauge is what I had on hand.  I almost always try what I have on hand before buying something else.

"Fold" the wire in half (make this a soft fold, or a curve - as opposed to a sharp fold). Trim one side of the wire shorter (it took me several fiddly attempts before this little idea occurred to me.  Do it. It will make it easier to thread buttons onto the wire):

Starting with the smallest button, thread it onto the longest wire end first, then pull the button down, slipping it onto the shorter end of the wire (through the opposite button hole), all the way to the "fold" of the wire.  Pull the wire tight:

Don't try to thread more than one button at a time.  If you thread more than one at a time,  you won't be able to see the button holes and you'll likely thread the buttons on crooked.  You always want to thread the buttons onto the wire through opposite button holes (this is important to pay attention to if your buttons have 4 holes).  Your stack of buttons should look like this:

To make pushing the wire through the pumpkin easier, cut both ends of the wire on the diagonal, making a point:

Decide which side of the pumpkin you want to be the top and push both ends of the wire into the center of the top all the way through the bottom. 

The wire ends will not likely come through the same place on the bottom.  Not to worry.  While you want them to be close to the center (and close together), it's fine (maybe better) if they don't both come through the center hole.

From the bottom, pull tight and twist the wires together by hand (this doesn't have to be perfect - just tighten and twist the wires together as best as you can by hand, making sure the buttons are snugged together on the other side of the pumpkin).  You'll want an inch or so of twist.  Trim the excess wire off.

Now, with a needle-nose plier twist the hand-twisted wire into a small circle and push the sharp edges of the wire up into the pumpkin:

And that's it!   Do this over and over again, with a variety of yarns and buttons, and soon you'll have a heap of pumpkins!

Just a few more and I'll be ready for Thanksgiving! 

To see what other Yoppers are up to this week, visit our thread on Ravelry.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Pumpkin Season...

I've been fixated on pumpkins lately.  I've yet to buy a real one this fall, but I'm happily crocheting yarny ones.  And this week I'm enjoying reading a cozy mystery, Basket Case by Nancy Haddock.  Autumn seems like the perfect time to read cozies, for some reason.

The yarn I'm using above is Vanna's Choice in Tangerine Mist.  I found a lone skein of this color on clearance recently and it was so inexpensive I couldn't not buy it.  Didn't know what I was going to use it for, but as pumpkin season rolled around I realized it would be perfect for this project.

Using my favorite, fail-proof small pumpkin pattern, I love making various sizes and colors of these pumpkins.  For giving and decorating.  You can increase the pumpkin size by either (or both) changing up the hook, and/or adding or decreasing the number of increase and decrease rows.  

They can be made taller by adding more (I'll call them static) rows in the middle (these rows are just straight single crochet all the way around with no increase or decrease stitches - they give the pumpkin its height).

While I enjoy seeing how different people finish their crocheted pumpkins off, my favorite way is to make a button stem.   I have  a lot of old buttons that are perfect for this.  After wiring a stem of buttons together I just stick the wire ends through the center of the pumpkin and twist the ends together, tucking any sharp edges up into the fabric to finish it off.   See my button stem tutorial here.

A simple crochet project that's fun and satisfying.  Visit Ginny's Yarn Along to see what other knitters and crocheters are making and reading this week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Summer's end...

I know it's been autumn for three weeks already, but it's really felt like summer.  Until recently.

With the wonderfully chilly nights we've had lately, and knowing autumn's first frost is around the corner, I was excited to still find one of late summer's delights.  I was watering my mums recently when I noticed some movement amongst the blooms.  I looked closely, and then suddenly saw a little (well, actually a fairly big) grasshopper moving along the tops of the flowers.

Evidently, neither the shower nor my excitement bothered him as he stayed pretty much in the same spot until I could get my camera from inside the house.   He patiently (or maybe warily) posed as I snapped away, finally sensing, I suppose, that I was no threat and he crawled on to new blooms 'till he eventually disappeared again.   I hope he found the water as refreshing as I found the droplets delightful resting on his back and head.

The older I get, it seems the more I notice how amplified everything is in the early weeks of fall.  The warmth of the sun seems to caress my skin instead of burning it.  The insects have become large and beautiful.  The sense of changing weather hangs heavy in the air...  Even the sky is bluer. 

I find late summer/early fall a season of anticipation.  The anticipation of the last cutting of flowers, ...putting the garden to sleep,  ...the deep chill that's coming, ...the blazing colors getting ready to burst upon us, ...and the end of the cicadas' songs.

With this autumn, in particular, I am mindful of the season of life I've recently entered.  It is an autumn, so to speak.  Age-wise, I'm definitely in my autumn season.  My chicks are fast flying the coop and I am once again getting my bearings on what a new stage of life means.  My bearings have calibrated slowly, but I've recently become free in spirit that I don't have to have all the answers.  Now it seems enough to just be asking the right questions.

When looked at in light of what God may have in store for me, this stage of life holds an optimism of perhaps a bursting forth with new vigor - if not physically, certainly spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. 

This autumn, perhaps more than in the past, I eagerly anticipate all things colorful and exciting.  Yet I daren't wish a moment of today away.  I don't wish away the fading flowers... the lingering, lazy bees and wasps...  the spiders' webs...  In the past I couldn't wait to be done with these things, and have it all cleaned up already.  This year I'm noticing them differently.  Savoring them.

The anticipation of the full blaze of autumn, every bit as much as the blaze itself, is a lovely time.  It's a too-short time.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A pumpkin treat bowl...

Another busy week and not much crocheting to show, but yesterday I whipped up this little pumpkin treat bowl as part of a CAL on Ravelry. 

It's a simple pattern, but my pumpkin didn't come out perfectly round.  I noticed that around row 5 or so I was off a stitch and tried several times to redo it and fix the problem.  But I wasn't able to see where I might be going wrong. Frankly, I wasn't sure I was doing anything wrong and I finally decided I wasn't going to fuss with it anymore.  And then the lid didn't fit like I wanted, so I adapted it - and I adapted the leaf (check out my project notes if you're curious about any modifications I made.)  While this little pumpkin bowl wasn't difficult, wasn't my favorite thing to crochet.

In the end, though, it's kind of cute.  And it fits my category of something whimsical (in my YOP list), so I'm going to be happy with it, knowing pumpkins (real or not) have a short shelf-life here and it will be packed away with other fall d├ęcor before the snows fly (hopefully, long before).  For Wednesday's Yarn Along I plan to show my favorite crocheted pumpkins.  These are easy peasy and come out right every time.  Come back and see!

To check out what other Year of Project members are up to this week, visit our thread on Ravelry.

If any of the links in this post are inaccessible, you'll need a free Ravelry membership.  Just click the ravelry button above and sign up!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I Love Fall. I Love Crocheting Afghans...

It's been a busy week. 

I was too distracted to try to start making anything complicated or try a new pattern, so about Wednesday, or so, I started making another linen stitch scarf  This scarf is pretty sedate compared to the most recently finished one, but I like it.  The two yarns I'm using are similar in tonal value, but one has some color running through it, while the other is just various gray shades.  When I picked the yarns I was hoping this would create a masculine-looking scarf.  As it's coming along the purplish pink color is the only thing that makes me hesitate about gifting this to a man.  Anyone else have any thoughts?

After more dry days in the 80's it turned gloriously chilly on Friday.  And Saturday was rainy.  All day long.   It was a wonderful day of reading and crocheting (and I confess, napping ;^).   Because it was finally cool enough I was inspired to pull out my Arrowhead Striped Afghan I started last spring (but tucked away once it got too warm to crochet something so large).  I have been looking forward to it being cool enough to crochet blankets again.

Here's a link to the pattern.  And today I found this video, too.  I'm only about a third of the way finished so it doesn't look like much, but see the arrow shapes formed with this stitch pattern?  It's one of those terrific patterns that is much more complicated looking than it really is.  And it creates a great cushy, thick blanket even though it's made with single-stranded worsted weight.  This stitch pattern makes it look like it's made with much thicker yarn.

Oh, how I'm enjoying the feel of fall.  Everything about this time of year enlivens my senses.  Makes me thankful that the dreary heat of summer is (mostly) behind us.  Warns me that bitter cold is just around the corner - clutching the coattails of autumn.  And crocheting seems to take on a new purpose.  A new pleasure.  The cold seasons make me especially happy I have this ability to create with yarn and hook.  :^)

To see what other Year of Project friends are working on this week, visit our thread on Ravelry.  In fact, if you're so inclined feel free to join in!   While our year runs from July 1st through June 30th, anyone is welcome to join in at any time.  I think.  It's a small, but supportive and creative bunch of knitters and crocheters.  I'm so glad to be participating (for the first time) this year.