Sunday, July 31, 2016

Slowly she goes...

I'm not sure where my time has gone this week, but it's not been into crocheting.  Much.  I did try to catch some of the Democratic Convention, and that is prime crocheting time. :)  Much like last week while trying to take in what I could of the Republican Convention I crocheted happily on both of my Spice of Life Blankets this week.  They are about half way done and I'm hoping to finish one during the Ravellenics which are to begin next Friday.

And I'm knitting another dishcloth.  No pattern, just a border of garter stitching with stockinette in the middle.

I guess there's some improvement overall, but I'm finding I have problems when I rip back to a mistake and start a row over again.  I think there must be a trick to getting the stitches back on the needle in the right direction.  The problem is I can't tell from looking at the stitches what the right direction is.  At the moment this remains a mystery, but I'm going to hope I'm able to figure that out.

On another fun note...  last month I won a drawing in the Red Heart Lovers' Ravelry group for their June CAL.  That month we were to try a new technique or learn a new skill.  I learned how to do tunisian crochet (simple stitch) and I made this Shadow Stitch Pillow.  Each person who participates in the monthly CAL is entered into a drawing for that month, and I happened to be one of the winners.

And a week or so ago I received my prize:

While it was fun to get some new-to-me yarns in the mail, I'm most excited about the Unforgettable yarn in the foreground.   I love this yarn for making scarves and what they sent is a brand new colorway (called Tealberry) and I'm looking forward to seeing how it works up.   I think I'm going to use it to make a linen stitch scarf for the Ravellenics.  :)

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

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Trying my hand at knitting again...

Except for crocheting a few rows on my two Spice of Life blankets, I've only done a little playing with yarn and knitting needles this week.  I've put on my YOP list that I want to challenge myself to learn to knit this year.  To work on something every month.  So this week I began.  Again.

And all I can say is...

Knitting.  is.  haaarrrd.

Actually, after a try at some simple garter stitch and stockinette - which I thought went pretty well (for me):

I decided to try my hand at a garter stitch dishcloth.

After trying out several video tutorials, I decided I really liked this one by Jewberly Emiris.  Her instructions are simple and clear (I think), she gets right to the point, and she's sweet and happy.

Not too bad, I thought, half-way through my first knitted dishcloth attempt.  I see some mistakes and the uneven tension, but I was beginning to think this knitting thing wasn't as hard as I came to believe the last time I tried.

But then I started decreasing and by the time I was done, this had happened:

When I finished I had no idea how it had gotten all pointy.  I was sure I was following the instructions.  Actually, this is when I went looking for another tutorial and I found Jewberly's linked to above.  Watching her video I realized I was putting an extra stitch in every row - where the holes are created.  So while I was decreasing, I wasn't doing it quickly enough.  That's how I got Mr. Pointy Head dishcloth there.  And by the took me 4 or 5 hours to finish that awful thing.   Sigh.

But realizing my mistake and following Jewberly's to-the-point video I set right to work to make a second cloth.   I thought this should be a breeze the second time.  Right?

Well...  on the needles it looked to me to be not too bad, but once I had the thing off the needles, I was like, GEE WILLIKERS!  It's worse!

It's square.  ish.   But wow, is it ever rough?!?  And I had no idea it was this rough as I was knitting it.  I think that troubles me most of all.  That I was happily (mostly) knitting along thinking I was getting this knitting thing.  Only to find this at the end.

There are some places where I see I dropped a stitch, and I can see where the tension is uneven.  But even with those things... I just wasn't expecting this!

Maybe I'm just not cut out for this knitting thing.

I feel like I have the movements pretty well (at least in making a garter stitch pattern).  I made these cloths mostly using continental-style knitting.  Easy and quicker than the English method, I find.

But there's a whole lot of some other stuff  I obviously don't have.  Stuff like even tension (Okay, I get that consistent tension will come with practice).  The ability to recognize when I've dropped or otherwise mangled a stitch.   (When I'm doing it - will this ever happen?)  And patience.  Aaah. That's the big one.    I'm just not sure I have the patience to endure what I may have to endure to get even mediocre at knitting.  I'm not even hoping to become a good knitter at this point.   But I'm not sure it's worth the pain and effort just to strive for 'not pitiful'.


To soothe my weary fingers and wrinkled brow I'm putting the needles down for at least 24 hours and I'm going to crochet me a pretty dishcloth.  That will make my heart light again, I hope.

And just so I don't leave feeling completely defeated, I'm going to post a progress picture of my bright and cheery Spice of Life blanket I'm crocheting.

There now.  That's enough to make me smile again.

To see what other Yoppers are up to, visit our group on Ravelry.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cottony things...

I was inspired recently to make some drawstring bags, and this simple Round-base Goody Bag caught my eye.  I made this first bag in Hobby Lobby's I Love This Cotton yarn. The colors are Antique Gold, Old Leaf (which is no longer available), and Red.  This yarn makes a very soft fabric. And the bag would be a nice thing to hold something that needs some projection from getting scratch, scuffed or otherwise damaged.  What that would be, I haven't figured out yet, but it makes me smile to imagine it holding or storing something that it's dedicated to.

While I was making this first one, I wondered how I could make it taller or bigger around.  Turns out it's really simple.

Made according to the pattern with worsted weight yarn and an I hook, the bag should measure approximately 8-9 inches tall if completed as written.  If I want a bag larger in circumference I simply need to make a larger circle base.   It can be any size as long as the number of stitches in the beginning round is a multiple of 3.   And if I want a taller bag I simple add more "granny stitch" rows, or hdc rows until the bag is as tall as I want it to be.  Where the drawstring threads around the bag I did a row of double crochet stitches (instead of hdcs).  I just thought that would work better with the size drawstring I knew I wanted to create.   And I added some height by adding some extra rows of trim color yarn at the top.  I have a total of 34 rounds (from the center of the base to the top of the bag. With the changes I made, mine measures 11.5 inches tall and approximately 21 inches in circumference.

Then I was curious what the same bag would look like made with crochet thread.  So I made a smaller bag using a size E crochet hook, and a combination of Aunt Lydia, Artiste, and Red Heart threads - size 3 crochet thread for the pink and purple rounds, and two strands together of size 10 crochet thread for the salmon colored center.   This bag measures 7 inches tall and approximately 16 inches in circumference.  There's a 3 oz (or so) size ball of yarn in this bag - just to give you an idea of what could fit inside.

The cords on both bags are made with a simple chain (I didn't measure them, but trust me when I say you'll need a cord longer than you think you'll need) and then slip stitched back to the beginning of the chain.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with these bags, but they are cute.  So cute, I'm having to resist the urge to make more.  If I had a really good purpose for these bags, I'd make oodles more.


And this week I also crocheted my first (and possibly last) hand towel.  

I'm not unhappy with it, but it's significantly limper than I expected it to be.  I guess I've grown too accustomed to my thick store-bought terry towels.    I know from my experience with knitted and crocheted dishcloths (which I use exclusively) that once washed, they begin to look worn fairly quickly.  The nice thing about a dishcloth, though, is that when you get it wet it looks all pretty again (the colors brighten up and the shrunken cloth stretches out to its original size).  A washed  & dried crocheted (or knitted) dishcloth may not be the prettiest thing in the drawer, but my favorite ones are a delight to actually wash dishes with.  A towel, on the other hand,  is only useful if it's dry, and I just don't see this looking all that nice after it's washed & dried.  We'll see, I guess.  Glad I made one (I've been curious how much I'd like a crocheted towel), but let's just say I'm not picturing giving up store bought towels any time soon.

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The More of Less...

I'm continuing to crochet along on two Spice of Life Blankets.  The blanket below is the more vibrant one I'm making. At the moment it's feeling like quite a chaotic combination of colors, but I'm holding out hope that when the border goes on, the whole thing pulls together.  We'll see.

I do love how fast this crochets up and how interesting it is to change colors and stitch patterns.

And I'm coming back to a book I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.  The More of Less by Joshua Becker.  I was skeptical that I'd find anything really different in a book on minimalism, but I do think I have found something different in this little book.  So much so that I'm planning on buying my own copy so I can re-read it and more carefully contemplate the profound points he is making.

I knew Becker was onto something I need to pay attention to when I read this:.  Ask yourself, Am I buying too much stuff because deep down I think it will insulate me from the harms of a chancy world?  And if so, what is that costing me?  I don't know if that means a lot without the context of his discussion on what motivates us to accumulate too much stuff, but when I read that I knew he had me. This is exactly what's going on when I buy something I don't really need (or sometimes don't even want) to buy.  It's the 'scarcity' mentality that causes the logical part of my brain to just turn off (or get staticky).  So much more from Joshua Becker here at

Aside from the personal benefit of having a book I don't have to return the library, I feel better about buying a book on minimalism (an action that is completely antithetical to the whole point of paring down) because Becker is using the proceeds of this book to fund The Hope Effect - nonprofit organization created to meet the needs of orphans.  I'm in no way associated with Becker or The Hope Effect.  I will be doing more personal homework, but today I'm just passing along some information I've dug up as I've become intrigued by Becker's message and how he is living out his passions and life purpose as a result of clearing out that which is just distraction.

Check out what other crocheters and knitters are making and reading at Ginny Sheller's weekly Yarn Along.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

On And Off The Hook...

It feels, this past week, as if I've made a grand start to my YOP year.  Very productive with lots of yarny goodness.

As of July 1st, I'm participating in a Ravelry Crochet A-Long of the Spice of Life Afghan.   When we were voting for an afghan to make together this was not my first choice (or actually among any of the afghans I voted on), but now that I've begun, I'm loving it!  So much so that I'm making two.  At the same time.

One in colors approximating the designer's original colors (using yarns mostly in my stash):

And a second one in a more earth-toned (sorta) palette with some pops of color:

It's great having two on the hook at the same time.  If I get tired of one, I can switch for some variety. But the real genius of doing two simultaneously (that I discovered this week) is that by working a section in the designer's colors first (which I know I like), I then know what those rows look like, how the stitches lay, and how one row plays with the rows preceding and following it. That's a great advantage as I ponder what colors to use next in the second blanket.  Not that I feel all that confident about my color choices, but it does help.   If you're interested in knowing what colors and yarns I'm using, click on the links preceding each picture.


Near the end of June, in the 2016 Weekly & Dishcloth CAL group  a small group of us recently took up the challenge to learn Tunisian crochet. We all made dishcloths:

After making a couple of these cloths, I decided to explore another tunisian stitch pattern and for the Red Heart Lovers' June CAL I started to make a Shadow Stitch Scarf, but feeling like the fabric I was creating was too stiff for a scarf, I took a deep breath, contemplated frogging it, but then got the great idea to make a pillow!

It's a simple thing, but I kinda love it!

I don't know how much I love tunisian crochet itself, in all honesty, but it's been interesting to learn.  And it's really not difficult.  Of course, the things I've made are among the simplest things to make (squares and a rectangle), but still... For first projects I was pleased with how well they came out.  I'm going to try to get some cabled tunisian hooks so I can make something larger.  I guess then we'll see how easy I think it is.

And I've recently discovered the 2016 Ravelry Ravellenic Games.  I'm hoping to participate on a team - just because that sounds like a lot of fun, but the only group I'm active in that I know is hosting a team is the Ravelry Red Heart Lovers' group. They are a wonderful, encouraging bunch, and I definitely want to join them, but if everything that team makes has to incorporate Red Heart Yarns I may have to go it alone for some "events" if I get the itch to make something with other yarns. Check out the Revellenics if you haven't already.  You can join a team, or participate as an individual in events. Some amazingly creative and energetic folks have put together a fun group activity to coincide with the 2016 Summer Olympics in August.

There's more I could share (I said I've been productive), but I think I'll save some stuff for next week. For now, if you'd like to see what other YOPpers are up to, check out this week's thread.  Our small group of participants doubled, I think, as we began this new YOP year.  I'm looking forward to being inspired by all the wonderful creations everyone makes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Yarn Along...

One of my simple pleasures is browsing crochet books - actually, I enjoy browsing any books that involve creative pursuits, particularly if they involve textiles.  My latest library finds are AUSTENtatious Crochet by Melissa Horozewski and Vintage Crochet by Susan Cropper.   The projects in AUSTENtatious range from items for the home to accessories to actual garments to some small items for a child.  And sprinkled throughout the book are all sorts of tidbits that will, no doubt, interest a Jane Austin fan, or history buff.   Honestly, there aren't many actual projects I'd consider making, but it is an interesting idea for book.  I've browsed the book several times just because there's too much to take in during one browse.  Vintage Crochet is similar in that while there are few objects I'd be interesting in crocheting, it is a nice collection of vintage-y looking crochet projects that I find inspiring - just for the ideas.  Though something worth noting, I think, is that the pillows pictured on the cover are not included in the book.  Odd, but true.  I looked.  Several times.

And this past week I've begun crocheting the Spice of Life Blanket.  Actually, I'm making two - one in as close to the designer's colors as I can manage and the other blanket in more earth tones, sprinkled with bright red, gold and terracotta, along with some peaceful blues.  I'm aiming for something in Tuscan colors.   I can't quite tell yet if I'm going to be successful at the Tuscan color scheme, but I'm finding the color changes and the changes in stitch patterns to be very interesting in this blanket. And besides...  with temps in the 90's this week, combined with stifling-high humidity, two blankets sounded like the perfect things to begin crocheting this week.  

Linking with Ginny Sheller's Yarn Along

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Year of Projects July, 2016 - June, 2017

I'm looking forward to joining fellow bloggers again in my second Year of Projects. The concept is simple.   Each blogger creates a list (however s/he wants to fashion it) and for a year posts about the progress made on this list.  Ideally, posts will be made every Sunday (July through June).   Clicking here or on the image above will bring up all my Year of Project Posts for 2016-17 (most current posts first).

The first part of my list is about processes. Techniques and new skills I hope to challenge myself to do, to learn, to practice go here.  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. Then the second part of my list (Projects Completed) is basically 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 - learn new stitch patterns.

Knitting - practice - use Moogly's tutorials (?)
             - make one knit item a month (even if just a dishcloth)

Soft sculpture/Amigurumi

Use a crochet or knitting tool I've never used before.

Try to learn how to read a charted crochet pattern.

Challenge myself regarding photos of finished objects.  Learn about and practice better picture-taking. Learn how to better use my camera.
         Read and apply lessons in Understanding Exposure
         Participate in Ravelry: Project Photography group:
Read & review 1 book on fiber or textile arts.

Explore joining a local group of fiber artists.

Attend a fiber arts festival.

Attend some craft fairs to see what other's are making.

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).


Projects Completed

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

- Item(s) for the home
      practical, but pretty:

      and purely aesthetic or whimsical:
         Mountain Pillows
         Kitty Softee Pillow

Sew a project bag (a bag to hold a crochet project and accompanying yarn)
- A blanket inspired by Cherry Heart
          Spice of Life Blanket 

- A shawl or poncho
- Gifts        
- A garment

- Something made with thread

- 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
- A container  (a basket, a bowl, a box...)        

- Any number of items that just strike my fancy, but don't seem to fit anywhere else
- Crochet a large project and reveal parts in weekly posts

- Knit items

- Try felting

- Embroidery and/or cross stitch (this is wide open)

- Sew something for the home

- Sew an article of clothing 

- Crochet (or knit) from my stash - goal: diminish stash by 50%

- Crochet my library - crochet from books or publications I own

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

Several things are currently on the hooks, but I'll just leave you with the colors I'm working from in my Spice of Life Blanket:

Happy New YOP Year!