Why You COULD Do Something Like That

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All of the work is totally worth it when you're cuddled up under an afghan you made yourself.

As an avid crocheter and knitter, I wear a lot of hand made items. And when I do, I hear people say to be all the time “I could never do something like that.” Although I suppose this is intended to be flattering, it drives me crazy! I’m nothing special. I wasn’t born with some special crocheting gene. I just tried it. At first it was horrible – the first sweater I ever made for was for my brother. It was over 20 years ago and the sleeves are actually two very different lengths. And yet, he still has it because I made it for him.

The second sweater I tried to make didn’t even get finished. I made the whole body, then the first sleeve, then the second sleeve. But when I finished the second sleeve I discovered it didn’t match the first one. The problem was I didn’t know which one was right. And I didn’t have enough yarn to make a third sleeve. It took so long to make that I couldn’t stand the thought of unraveling it. So that sweater got put in a bag where it still sits to this day, unfinished.

The first afghan I ever made was so small it was useless as a blanket except for a child (which wasn’t the intended purpose). I didn’t check my gauge – yes I know almost every pattern says to check your gauge but I didn’t think I needed that step for some reason. That blanket is currently used by one of my dogs when she’s in her crate.

The second? Also way too small – although bigger. And the pattern was really hard because it was full of popcorn stitches. Ugh I hate popcorn stitches.

The third took me 2 years to complete. But I finished it and it is beautiful and I use it to this day. Sure I look at it now and know that I shouldn’t have used a variegated yarn on that complicated cable stitch pattern, but I’m amazed how well its held up.

My point:

You may not love the first thing you crochet or knit. You may not even love the second one. Did you write a fantastic paper in school the first time you tried in kindergarten? Did you ride a bike on your first attempt? Was the first meal you cooked a gourmet one? Just like any other skill, it takes time and practice and patience. So the question is – is it worth all that? And I say “Hell yes!” I have been glad I knew how to crochet and knit for so many reasons. You CAN do it. And now days its easier than ever with all the blogs and videos on YouTube to help you out. I had to learn from pictures in a book for pity’s sake!

If I can help on your journey I’m happy to. Just post in the comments with your questions, concerns or doubts and I’ll help you get going in the right direction.

Happy crafting!

How to Count

Counting is harder that you might think

A stitch counter & a variety of markers. Note how some of the markers open and some do not.

It may seem easy at first, but counting things like stitches or rows can actually be kind of hard. This is especially true when you count 80 or 100 or even more of something. If you don’t believe me, sit down and try to count the number of paperclips in your paperclip holder. You will find that your mind wanders after a while and then you will lose count. The task is boring and monotonous after all. Its even more complicated when you may be counting over a period of days, weeks or even months (hopefully not years). Over all my time crafting, I’ve learned some tricks for how to count things – which is a big part of both knitting and crocheting. Here are some tips.

Using a Stitch Counter

A stitch counter is an invaluable tool. In fact, you probably want to have more than one. There are a variety of these items made but I recommend the kind that increments when you press a button. The other choice is the kind where you have to hand-turn the numbers – these slow you down. You can use this to count rows or stitches or even pattern repeats. And if you are counting something like rows, you can put your stitch counter away with the number you were last on right there. Just be sure to also write it down in case your counter gets jarred accidentally & increments for you.

Breaking It Into Chunks

It is much easier to count if you break it into smaller chunks. I usually find I can count to 10 without getting distracted. Plus 10 is a number that’s very easy to use mathematically. So, I will count 10 over and over again until I reach the desired number, keeping track of repeats. So if I needed to chain 182, I would count to 10 and click my stitch counter, then count to 10 again until I have done so 18 times, then I would add 2 more and be done. This is very accurate – I usually don’t even need to double check my count.

Count Out Loud

When I am counting a piece rapidly – like chaining stitches or casting on – I always count out loud. Sure you sound funny doing it, but even if you count under your breath there is something about vocalizing the numbers that helps me concentrate and keep from losing focus.

Counting Repeated Stitches

Sometimes you don’t actually have to count how many there are of something, you just a certain number of repeats. An easy way to do this is to use the first number to mark the number of repeats and then count from there. So, for example, if I had to do 5 double crochet stitches 8 times, I would count as follows:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5
2, 2, 3, 4, 5
3, 2, 3, 4, 5
4, 2, 3, 4, 5
etc.

Stitch Markers Rock!

Sometimes you can use stitch markers to manage repeats. I find this especially true in knitting but it can be for crocheting as well. Just be sure if you are using stitch markers in crochet that you use the kind that open. Otherwise they will become a permanent part of your project!

Stitch markers are especially helpful in a situation where its hard to “read” your work (to tell what the stitches are after the fact). For example, when I created my first lace knitting project (which I know now is really eyelet knitting), I segmented the work into blocks where the pattern repeated, then I put stitch markers between the blocks. That way I know every time I get to a stitch marker where I should be in the work. This helped me find errors more quickly without counting my stitches. In fact, I recovered from several dropped stitches this way.

You can also use stitch markers to help you find your row in work. For example, I recently did a cable knit hat. The cable was to be done every 4 rows, but sometimes it was hard to tell how many rows I had worked. But when I started putting a stitch marker in the same row where I cabled, I could easily tell at a glance if I was at the right row to cable without having to use a counter.

This cape is very glittery and looks especially amazing in low light. The photo does NOT do it justice. Click image to embiggen.

Half-Moon Cape (includes pattern)

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This cape is very glittery and looks especially amazing in low light. The photo does NOT do it justice. Click image to embiggen.

Project Log: Half-Moon Cape

This weekend I finished a half-moon cape. This is the first project I’ve made which I intend to sell. I don’t have a store set up yet, but I will have once I have some more inventory. And I also am hoping to enter a few pieces (possibly including this one) in the art show at a Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention in May. I think it will look great with a corset!

I got the pattern for this from Joan in the Nebraska Knit & Crochet Guild. It’s super easy and I’ll put it here for you to use in a minute. The real trick is not the pattern but the yarn. Some patterns show off your skills and some just show off yarn – this is one of the later. Its fun because it gives you an opportunity to work with some yarns you usually don’t get to use very often. This is actually the second of these I made – the first was for my Mom for her birthday and was even more gorgeous (in my humble opinion).

Pattern: Start with by chaining 10 with an N hook. Hdc in 3rd ch from hook. Then hdc in each ch stitch across.  For the rest of the piece, hdc in each hdc across, adding 4 stitches every row (to ad st, 2 hdc in one st). Change colors when the mood takes you.

I find the easiest way is to always add one at the beginning & end and then randomly add 2 more over the course of the row. Its a very forgiving pattern, however. If you accidentally add 5 one row or 3 in another, it won’t make much of a difference.

I finished this particular piece with an I Cord knitted from some of the leftover Vanna’s Glamour (the only yarn I had left in any quantity – size 3 dpn used). I threaded it through the loops of one of the more open parts (which happened to also be in Vanna’s Glamour). This will allow the piece to be tied on. Although it can also be secured with a shawl pin or just left to hang on its own.

The extreme close up view of the cape shows the sparkly bits off to better effect.

Yarn:

  1. Lion Brand Vanna’s Glamour – ruby red colorway
  2. Lion Brand Martha Stewart Glitter Eyelash – garnet colorway
  3. Premier Yarns Fashion Jeweltones – red diamond colorway
  4. Jo-Ann Sensations Angel Hair Yarn – red colorway
  5. One other angel hair yarn (I can’t remember what it was – sorry)

Lessons Learned:

  1. Colors don’t necessarily have to match exactly to be used. Even though this cape uses several shades of red, it works in the overall piece.
  2. Texture is also a kind of sparkle. Not every yarn in this piece has sparkle to it, but the ones that don’t have an interesting texture (angle hair).
  3. I Cords are addictive. And they are better than a long chain stitch for many things because they look good from all sides and the ends are a lot easier to weave in and hide.

Tutorials & Patterns

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I’ve come across some great tutorials in the last week and I thought I’d gather them all here for your amusement.

Knitting

Tutorials

Patterns

Sewing

For other ideas, inspirations, patterns and tutorials (and to see photos for all these things) – be sure to follow my Pinterest board.

Purple flower bracelet made from scrap yarn.

Ideas for Leftover Project Yarn

Purple flower bracelet made from scrap yarn.

Many times when you finish a project you have leftover yarn. I really don’t like to add to my yarn stash (which is already big enough) so I try to think of creative ways to use up the leftover yarn. And if you are making something wearable and add another wearable item, it can give you a level of coordination that you just don’t get with store-bought items.

Knowing How Much Yarn is Left

Well that can take a bit of math. But most yarn skein include not only the yardage, but the weight. Find out how much your yarn weighs per yard and then weigh your remaining yarn on a kitchen scale. This will give you an idea of how much you have left. If you don’t have enough left for the project that most interests you, consider adding another color yarn from your stash and making the item more than one color!

Finding a Pattern

One of my favorite ways to find a pattern, once I know how much yarn I have, is to search on Ravelry. If you aren’t on there, sign up NOW! It’s an awesome site. They have a fantastic pattern search that will allow you to put in the type of yarn you have, the amount, and the type of craft (knitting or crocheting) you want to do. You can search for free or paid patterns and with or without pictures. I do recommend selecting your language as well – its an international site. Once you find a pattern you like, you can add it to your favorites or your queue and see notes from others who have done the pattern before you. VERY helpful.

Wearable Ideas for Leftover Yarn

  • Make Jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, anklets, and slave bracelets can all be made with leftover yarn. And it usually doesn’t take very much yarn at all.
  • Wristers/Gloves/Mittens – fingerless gloves can be a great way to use up yarn but they take a lot more yarn than jewelry.
  • Scarves – You can base the thickness and length of your scarf on the yarn amount you have left.
  • Sock edging made with leftover yarn - I used the same pattern as I had used to add a border to my knitted poncho.

    Sock Edging – crochet a little edging to a pair of socks you plan to wear with the new piece. Just be sure you use lots of stitches to give it enough give to get it on your foot!

  • Headband
  • Hair decoration – you can attach a crocheted flower to a barrette or comb.
  • Brooch – attach a crocheted flower to a pin.

Household Ideas for Leftover Yarn

If you made something for the house – like a pillow or afghan – you might want to coordinate with an additional item in a matching color. Here are some ideas:

  • Pillows – it can be whatever size makes sense for the amount of yarn you have left.
  • Curtain Tie Backs – A big crochet flower or “scarf” can serve as a curtain tie back.
  • Curtain Edging – Add a bit of lacy edging to a curtain.
  • Cup Cosy – keep hot beverages in flimsy paper cups from burning your hands
  • Yarn for birds nests – You can put small bits of yarn out for birds to incorporate into their nests, adding color.

For some more great ideas, check Scrap Yarn Ideas.

Do you have other ideas for leftover project yarn? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

7 Reasons You Should Start Knitting or Crocheting Today

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The beginning of a project is often the best part. Well... except for the end of course.

When I talk to people who are not crafters, they often say they wish they could knit or crochet. But they usually follow it up with a list of reasons why they can’t do it. Common reasons are: not enough patience, not enough creativity, not enough time or just a general “I could never do something like that”. Well I firmly believe that anyone can learn to knit or crochet. Sure there are things which are hard to make, but there are also things which are easy to make. And its a very rewarding hobby. So I thought I’d present to you 10 Reasons You Should Start Knitting or Crocheting Today.

  1. It is a wonderful feeling when you wear something you have made in public, someone compliments you on it, and you can say “Why thank you, I made it myself.” And it doesn’t take a really complicated piece to get compliments. Often the ones with simple stitches and fantastic yarn get just as much attention.
  2. Everyone I have ever made a gift for using knitting or crocheting has greatly appreciated it. Handmade items make better gifts than anything store-bought because they are customized & personalized to fit that person to a T.
  3. Handmade items last a really long time and continue to look great. For example, I have a crocheted project bag I made in the 80s that still looks fantastic. Granted the colors are a bit dated, but I know if I hold on to it for another 10 years it will probably be back in style again. I also have afghans I crocheted decades ago that I still use on a regular basis.
  4. Crocheting and knitting give you something to do with your hand. This is great so many times but I find it helps to keep me from munching while I watch TV, gives me something to do during long phone calls, and even gives me an activity on plane flights.
  5. You can make an item exactly the way you want it. Heck, if you can’t find yarn in the color you want (highly unlikely) you can even die it yourself. Instead of being limited to what other people want to offer you for clothing or home accessories, you can make something to exactly fit your style.
  6. You can make just about anything. I’ve seen all sorts of wearables, jewelry, household items – its really just incredible the things you can make.
  7. Crocheting and Knitting are both very relaxing. Granted there are times of frustration, but the vast majority of the time I spend working with yarn is incredibly relaxing – almost like mediation.

What are some of the reasons you like to knit or crochet? Let me know if the comments.

And if you are trying to decide which one to pick up, be sure to check out my post Difference Between Knit & Crochet.

Detailed view of the lacy part of my second attempt at lace knitting.

Beginning Lace Knitting

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Project Log: Shoulder Snuggle

Detailed view of the lacy part of my second attempt at lace knitting.

Attempt 1: My first attempt at lace knitting was a disaster. Follow my Choosing a Yarn post tips and save yourself some trouble. I used Patons Lace Sequin in black, so I broke rules number 1, 2 AND 3 in this attempt. The yarn has sequins so its really hard to unravel, it is black and has no sheen to speak of, and its very fine weight. It was very frustrating so, let’s move on to attempt number 2, which was more successful.

Attempt 2: I created a poncho in plum. I was very happy with how it turned out, although I found that part of the pattern to be very confusing in how it said to do the decreases.  I’m still not sure it did it correctly but other knitters I showed the pattern to also found it to be confusing. At least it wasn’t just me!

This pattern was a great one for beginning lace knitting. And, since it’s knit in the round, there are very few purl stitches (which is always a bonus).

The finished product. Note the drawstring.

Patterns:

  1. Shoulder Snuggle by Drops Design
  2. Around the Corner Crocheted Borders by Edie Eckman – #101 (for the border)

Modifications: I had leftover yarn (which I hate) so I added a crocheted border to the piece. However, it stretched as I wore it and tended to fall off my shoulders so I also added a draw-string around the top border (thanks Joan for the suggestion) – its just a crochet chain stitch. I also made a bracelet in the same yarn and crocheted a sock border (pictures will be in an upcoming post about ways to use up leftover project yarn).

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Plum Perfect

Lessons Learned:

  • Adding a crocheted border can use up extra yarn and add a nice extra touch to the piece.
  • How to weave in ends properly so they don’t show through the work.
  • A whole mess of stitches – YouTube is a great resource to look up how to do a stitch that’s new.
  • Always wash/block your knitting before you wear it.  It makes a huge difference in how the stitches lay. In this case, the poncho was kind of puckered where the decrease stitches were at the top. And the lace was much tighter and puffier – it stretched and showed more after washing.

Drawstring with Flower Ends

Pattern & Instructions for Drawstring

Here is the pattern I used to make a drawstring for the poncho.

Drawstring

Ch st enough to go around your shoulders plus about 8 inches.

Thread it into the Poncho

Pick a spot to be the center (in this case the ending garter st made 4 apparent “rows” – I picked a spot half way between the 2 of them). Count a number of stitches to which makes about 1 inch (“interval” here and throughout) (I did 6 in this case). Thread the drawstring up through the poncho using a crochet hook, count out the interval, thread the drawstring back through the poncho.

Lay the poncho flat so its folded in half with the stitch you just made in the middle. On the opposite side from your stitch (front of the poncho), place a stitch marker to mark the center of the stitch .

Weave chain into the poncho using a crochet hook counting out the interval between each time the drawstring goes through the poncho. Do this with both sides of the drawstring.

Making flowers (to hold the drawstring in)

Join yarn to end of drawstring and ch 4, (sc in first ch, ch 3) rep 4 times, sc in first ch. Join with sl st to space formed by first ch 3.

Bind off & weave in ends.

My Visit to An Awesome Yarn Store

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I just visited the most amazing yarn store. Its called Personal Threads and it was like a religious experience to visit there. They had the most beautiful yarns. I wanted to buy them all. Well… at least half of them. It was completely overwhelming. It took me 2 hours to pick out 2 yarns! I think my favorites were the silk yarns, but I also loved all the yarn with “bling” in it – sequins, beads, metallic threads, etc. Of course the mohair yarns were also great. And the ones that combines more than one of those things were just irresistible. I spent way too much money and got yarn for 2 more projects (taking me up to 7 projects pending – yikes!).

Not only was the yarn great, but they had the store arranged in a way that really made it easy to see everything there was to offer. Basically they had one sample of everything out on the floor with more “in the back”. And the samples were on neat little shelves so it was easy to see all the choices. In addition, they had patterns I haven’t seen anywhere else. Some were in the form of books but they also had a large bookshelf of binders filled with both free and for-fee patterns. And they had some great samples of work done with their yarns around the store – things you just have to touch and ooh and ah over. All the natural light really helped see the best each yarn had to offer.

Add to that the super friendly and helpful staff. They were very understanding of how hard it was to pick just a few yarns to take home. They were great help in find a pattern, too. And they were nice enough to check back with me frequently to see if I had any questions and always willing to answer any question I had.

I ended up with a lace weight yarn to make a knitted wrap (a pretty ambitious project, actually) and a silk yarn with beads for a small scarf (probably). I’m really looking forward to working with these yarns. You’ll be seeing more about it soon.

The finished sock.

Knitting My First Socks

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Project Log: “Father’s Day Socks”

Ed models the sock from the top. I made him put it on as SOON as he got home.

I used a pretty basic pattern so I’d be able to concentrate on the mechanics of the sock. I also used a fairly light-colored yarn so I’d be able to see the stitches easily. I also decided to use 5 double-pointed needles (dpn). The socks are intended to be a present for my boyfriend. I have far more experience with crocheting than I do with knitting. Until recently I had only really done knits and purls. So I figured this would be a challenge for me.

The hardest parts were:Joining the stitches after I cast on to the dpn. I was paranoid about them twisting and I found all those needles to be very awkward and unwieldy.Figuring out how to do the heel. The part where you shape the heel wasn’t too hard because the instructions were very clear, but when it said to pick up the stitches along the heel flap, I had no idea what it meant. I found this YouTube video to be very helpful, although from what I can tell there are a LOT of different ways to do this and no one is right.

Pattern: Father’s Day Socks from LionBrand.com. You will need to have a free account on LionBrand.com to access it (which I recommend highly as they have some nice free patterns).

Yarn: Deborah Norville Premier Yarns Serenity Sock Yarn (2 skeins) in the Aquamarine colorway. I’m not terribly happy with this yarn. Not only did it not stripe very well, but it pooled colors quite a bit and it had a few thickened spots in it.

Pooling of colors with variegated yarn. Thankfully its on the bottom of the foot.

Lessons Learned:

  • In order to make the first row lose enough, you can use a needle 2-3 sizes larger than the one you plan to knit with for casting on. I did not do this. I thought I cast on nice and lose but when I had gotten a bit into the pattern realized it still was a bit tight. So I fed some of my yarn tail back through and made it loser (not an easy process). Or you can experiment with some alternate, stretchier cast-on methods.
  • It helped me to turn the sock inside out. That way the needles I cared about the most were on the top.
  • You can secure your dpn with a tiny rubber band on each end holding the needles together so you don’t drop stitches while its in your bag.
  • Be sure that the needle you pull to work with next is NOT one with stitches on it.
  • Make the first few stitches on a new needle especially tight to prevent laddering.
  • Put the stitch marker after the first stitch so it will stay on the needle. Just remember that the beginning of the round is actually the first stitch, not the second one.
  • A friend of mine told me that you can avoid the color pooling if you knit alternating rows either from 2 balls of yarn or both ends of the same ball of yarn (thanks Deawn).

The finished sock.

The whole big GroovyGhan in its entirety. It's really quite large.

The GroovyGhan – Super Cool Afghan

The whole big GroovyGhan in its entirety. It's really quite large.

Project Log: “The GroovyGhan”

One of my favorite projects lately was the crocheted GroovyGhan. It had been a long time since I’d done an afghan because they always took so long. But I guess my speed had increased dramatically because this one only took a few months to complete. And I love the end product.

When I started the first square – which is a good old-fashioned granny square – I got very worried that the colors would be way too much. But as I worked more and more I loved it more and more.

Pillows forms were 18" and 24". I added the fun fur in the middle AFTER I finished the entire square.

Pattern: GroovyGhan

Modifications: I accidentally ordered way too much yarn, so I made it 2x the size the pattern called for. Then I STILL had a bunch of yarn left over so I also made pillows to match. I didn’t have a pattern for the pillows: I just took one of the squares and made it a lot bigger.

Yarn: Mostly Caron Simply Soft with some stash yarn thrown in (Bernat Super Value). The Caron is significantly softer than the Bernat.

Lessons Learned:

  1. When you crochet pillows, make them smaller than the forms. They will stretch to fit but if you make them the exact right size, the yarn gets saggy and they don’t look as nice after a while.
  2. Before you start a project, don’t forget to check your stash for yarn you can use!! Yes I already knew this but I am really bad about actually doing it.
  3. Don’t be afraid of bright colors.
  4. Triple check your yarn amounts before you order.