Bob’s Back!

My family and I have Olympic fever.  We can’t get enough.

The Winter Olympics have always been my personal favorite.  I remember going snow skiing with my Dad every winter when I was a kid and I think those experiences helped me appreciate the difficulty of the downhill skiers.  But I enjoy the snowboarding, luge, figure skating, ice dancing, and speed skating too.

The appeal for me goes way beyond the skill of each sport.  It’s about the hard work and dedication of the athletes.  It’s about overcoming obstacles with mental and physical strength.

I’ve startled my husband (who may be dozing on the sofa) many times with my outbursts of surprise or cheering on the athletes.  So much drama!

Bob Costas will be back covering the Sochi Olympics tomorrow

           Bob Costas covering the Sochi Olympics

This year, something or someone has been missing.  Bob!  I always look forward to Bob Costas’ Olympic commentary.  He was there for a couple of days and then gone for a week; an eye infection that made it hard for him to continue working being the culprit.  Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira tried to fill in, but I miss Bob.  It’s just not the same without him.  The news came tonight that I’ve been waiting for.

Bob will be back tomorrow!   Booya!

Up to the Challenge

Gerri Hat pattern designed by Marly Bird

Gerri Hat pattern designed by Marly Bird

Now that the holidays are over (hope yours were wonderful!) and I finished all of my gift knitting, I’m kicking it into high gear knitting hats for Halos of Hope.  Halos is a nonprofit that collects and distributes hand knitted and crocheted hats to cancer patients.

A few months ago, the KnottyGirls KnitCast decided to challenge other podcasters to see who could get their listeners to donate the most hats to Halos of Hope before Stitches West 2014.  Stitches events (there are several held around the country) are like conventions for knitters and crocheters.  I’ve never been to one, but some day… oh, yes, some day.

I listen to the Yarn Thing, Fiber Hooligan, and Knitmore Girls podcasts, all of whom are promoting the Podcaster Throwdown.  But Jasmine and Gigi, the Knitmore Girls, are the only ones of the three who are in the contest.  So, they’ll get my hats.

Marly Bird, of the Yarn Thing podcast, gave her listeners 2 free hat patterns on the condition that they would use them for Halos.  The Gerri is the one I’ve been knitting first.  So far, I have 8 completed and 1 almost off the needles.  Caron Simply Soft was on sale at Michaels, so I scored!  I bought more than I thought I could reasonably finish, but being one to jump in whole hog (oops!  let my GA roots come through there!), I told myself that it is possible.  I had the Gerri hat pattern memorized by the time the second hat flew off the needles, and I’ve been knitting every moment I can.  Each skein of Simply Soft gives me 2 Gerri hats with yarn left over.  I’m going to combine the left overs to create Marly’s Sous Chef hat.  It’s crocheted and I’m hoping it will go pretty fast.  Thanks Marly for the fantastic patterns!

9th hat almost finished!

9th hat almost finished!

I’m usually not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I made a few.  My first New Year’s Resolution is happening!  I WILL have these hats shipped off before February 20th!

If you knit or crochet, please consider knitting soft, comfy hats for Halos of Hope.  Here are their guidelines.  It’s a great cause and you don’t have to make the February deadline.  They accept hats all year round.

Plug It In, Plug It In

Image 7Yesterday was National Plug In Day and owners of electric vehicles all over the country are gathering this weekend to educate the rest of us about how great these rides are.

Did you know that, right now, there are ten 100% electric cars on the market?  You can buy any of these right now!  And there are eight combo electric and gasoline cars available for purchase if you don’t feel comfortable making the switch to electricity all at once.

Charging Station In Use

Charging Station In Use

My favorite electric car is the Tesla Motors’ Model S.  Why do I love Tesla?  They’ve made electric cars cool.  Just take a peek at the Roadster!  The business model makes sense. The Roadster was my first love but way out of my price range.  But I wouldn’t dare look down on them for that.  These owners were first adopters and invested in the company.  They helped pave the way for the next model.  The price has come down considerably for the Model S, and with the next model (rumors say it’s the Model E), the price will come down even more.

Tesla Roadster

Tesla Roadster

 

Electric cars are made here in America with American energy.  Electricity is a much better power source than gasoline in many ways.  Think of the miles the oil travels, the spills, and the processing that goes into converting it to gas.  Even though electricity isn’t perfect (ie. nuclear and coal), the environmental impact is nothing to take lightly.  Not only do electric cars cut out all of that oil processing and transportation, but driving an electric vehicle also gives off absolutely no CO2 emissions.  Electric utilities have extra energy at night when demand is very low, as the plants have to continue to run.  So, some utility companies are giving owners of electric cars cheaper rates for charging their cars at night.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Maintenance is very minimal with electric cars.  No oil changes, engine flushes, or routine 3,000- or 5,000-mile trips to the auto mechanic.  An electric engine has hardly any moving parts, so that eliminates the usual amount of maintenance needed.  So, if you’re looking at the overall cost of operating a car – not just the initial purchase price – an electric car is vastly superior.

Range is one of the concerns people raise when talking about electric cars.  That is quickly becoming alleviated.  Tesla has been partnering with Solar City to place solar charging stations at owners’ homes and at Supercharging stations around the U.S. and Europe.  They have a fantastic map showing the expansion of their Superchargers. Model S drivers who have selected this option can charge their cars at Supercharging stations very quickly – half a charge in 20 minutes!  And with the range of the Model S being 265 miles on a full charge, that’s the quickest out there!  And it’s free!

And if you like the idea of going electric but can’t quit gasoline cold turkey, the Chevy Volt is a good start.  I poo-pooed them for a long while because they marketed it as an electric car.  They made it sound entirely electric.  We were at the Washington, DC auto show a few years ago and discovered that it’s not all electric.  It has a gasoline engine.  When we started asking questions of the rep, she was stumped as to what to say.  We felt lied to.  Now, I’ve noticed that they are advertising it as an electric with a gasoline generator, which is more honest than saying it’s all electric.  We spoke with a Volt owner for a long time yesterday.  He loves his car and charges it in his front yard (he doesn’t have a garage) using a regular 110V outlet on the outside of his house.  It’s charged and ready to go in the morning.  He’s driven his 2011 Volt for 23,214 miles and only used 67.9 gallons of gasoline.  He talked about how smoothly it drives and the switch-over from electricity to gasoline is not noticeable.

That’s another thing that electric cars have – get up and go!  All of the owners said that these cars move.  No waiting.  When you mash the pedal, it immediately goes.  The Tesla Model S goes 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds!

We spent a few hours yesterday morning talking with owners of Tesla Roadsters and Model Ss, Chevy Volts, Nissan Leafs, and Fiskar Karmas.  They were all very enthusiastic about their vehicles and eager to answer any questions.  One owner even let us take the seat in her Tesla Model S!  Heaven!

Tesla Model S Interior

Tesla Model S Interior

Tesla Model S Frunk

Check out the Frunk – the trunk in the front.  No, there’s no engine in there, just space for groceries or whatever you’d like to tote around.

Tesla Model S optional 5-point harness child seats in rear

Tesla Model S optional 5-point harness child seats in rear

If you didn’t know about the events yesterday, you may find some in your area today.  There will be EVs on the National Mall at 3rd St NW.  Check out their website to see if there’s an event near you.

Sign inside a Chevy Volt

Sign inside a Chevy Volt

Crochet-a-Long: Part 2

Colorfully Modern Cardigan

Colorfully Modern Cardigan

Drum roll, please… It’s finished!!  I really enjoyed crocheting this sweater.  It’s nice and soft and warm.  I wore it to brunch with my hubby to celebrate our anniversary.  We sat outside and I was nice and toasty even though the wind kicked up a bit.Kelly Modern Cardigan

Now, for the scoop on how I finished the Colorfully Modern Cardigan.  I worked the pattern as written until I got to the trim for the sleeves and neckline.  Then, I switched it up a bit.

The pattern says to work the surface slip stitch from the wrong side.  But, if you do that, the “V’s” of the slip stitches will be on the wrong side of the fabric.  I wanted mine to show, so I worked with the right side facing me.  I worked 2 rows of it on each sleeve.  For the neckline, I wanted it to be wider, so I worked some sc back and forth around the neck.  Some decreasing was needed a few times to prevent a little ruffling that started to creep up on me.  Back!  Back!  I ripped back and tamed that neckline with decreases.  And with the 4 rows of surface slip stitch, it’s perfect.

Surface Slip Stitch at Neckline

Surface Slip Stitch at Neckline

I also decided not to sew a snap at the front top trim.  I’m still thinking about what I want to do for the closure.  It’d be nice to have something, even if I create loops and place a few buttons.  The double crochet posts might even work as loops if the buttons are small enough.  But the buttons will have to be subdued.  There’s too much going on with color and texture in this sweater to have busy buttons.

I’m definitely going to make another one of these and probably in a solid.  But first, there are a few other projects I’d like to tackle (it is football season, after all!).

 

Crochet-a-Long

I saw Lion Brand’s Colorfully Modern Cardigan pattern and decided to jump into their crochet-a-long (CAL).  Isn’t it cute?  I love the colors and the vertical striping created by the front post double crochets (FPDC) – and pockets too!  If all goes well, I’m thinking of making some of these as gifts.  But this one is mine!photo

If you’ve never been part of a CAL, you should try it.  Really!

The way it works:

The host of the CAL has a blog and guides participants through yarn substitutions, gauge, and each step of the project.  Photos posted of the various steps and techniques really help too.  And the participants have a conversation online by posting their problems, solutions, and photos.  Everyone helps each other.  It’s really exciting to see the same pattern worked in so many different color combinations and with modifications a few participants make.  It’s like attending a class, but you can do it at your own pace AND in your pajamas!

yarn Modern CardiganI wanted to get started as soon as possible (no time to wait for shipping! Must…Start…Now…), so I went to Michaels and pondered colors for what seemed like an hour.  I decided on the Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn in Folklore, Ginseng, and Southwest and Vanna’s Choice in Charcoal Grey and Chocolate.

After swatching and many trips to the basement for different sized hooks, I finally got gauge with my Susan Bates Crystalites size L (8.0 mm).  I know, I hear ya.  Swatching isn’t fun for me either.  But I learned my lesson long ago that if you want something to fit, you have to just do it.  Just take a deep breath, swatch, and measure.  I repeat to myself, “It’s worth it.”  I definitely don’t want to spend precious hours on a sweater only to discover that it doesn’t fit.

Here’s a photo of the Back in progress.  Modern Cardigan2I’ve placed stitch markers to remind me of the sections between the FPDCs where there are 2 sc instead of 3 sc.  It’s going really well.  I have my yarn balls sitting next to me in order, which makes it very easy when changing colors every 2 rows.  I know exactly which one is next without having to look twice.

The FPDCs create the raised texture and slimming vertical lines.  I really enjoy working this stitch.  In The Crocheter’s Guide to Yarn Cocktails, I designed a purse with it and created a cabled-look.  And I’m designing a sweater now using FPDC and BPDC (back post double crochet) as well as other stitches to create an Aran sweater look.  Look for my post in a few days about this doozy!  Whew!

Modern CardiganHere’s a close-up of the FPDC.  These are worked around the posts of each other for straight lines with a row of sc between each FDPC row.

I’m making good progress.  Crocheting is so much faster than knitting!  Don’t get me wrong, I love knitting.  Each has it’s own pros and cons depending on what type of project and yarn you choose.  But that’s a topic for another day.  Ready for the armhole decreases!  Yay!

 

 

Raddle Me This

While visiting my parents this summer, my Dad presented me with a beautiful raddle he made.  A “what?” you say?  A raddle is used to keep the threads separated and in a nice, even order while warping your loom from back to front.  So, if your pattern (weavers call it a draft) says you need 10 ends per inch (epi), then you’ll have 10 yarns in between each pin.

The pins are spaced an inch apart.  You can have them in 1/2-inch spacing, but I went with an inch to start with.  I bought the pins from Webs.

When warping your loom, the raddle is clamped to the back beam and the correct number of yarns are placed in between the pins.  The top piece is lowered over them (there’s a routered groove in the center underside of the top piece).  These top and bottom sections are held together by tightening the wing nuts.

I measured my Dundas table loom and made a sketch of the raddle for my Dad to use as a guide.  He’s a master at woodworking!  He even placed an inlay of ebony to mark the middle.

Raddle

Raddle Closeup

 

 

 

 

 

I searched online for a clamp like the ones I’d seen at weaving class.  But to no avail.  My Dad came up with a way to make a clamp, so that’s what we’ll do… just a few more measurements.

Having fun crafting things this summer?  I’d love to hear about your creations!

Ready to PLY

ImageI was surprised and delighted to find out (where have I been?!) that a new handspinning magazine has hit newsstands!  I let my fingers fly at my computer to find out more.

PLY is the brain child of Jacey Boggs (of Spin Art fame) and startup money was raised at Kickstarter.com in December and January.  For more about PLY, check out this fantastic interview with Jacey Boggs at SpinArtiste.

The first issues were available in June!  I’m already late!  If you have a copy, let me know what you think of it.

I have subscribed to Spin Off magazine for many years and didn’t waste any time signing up for the first issue of PLY.  There’s always more to learn.  My first issue will be arriving soon!

Just think, another source for fun and informative handspinning techniques!  One that will challenge my brain and my creativity.

Time to dust off the wheels.  Mine have been neglected for a couple of months while I was in weaving mode.

Chained to My Seat

I just can’t get up!  I’m glued, or “chained,” to my chair because I’m too engrossed in making chain maille.  This is a technique where jump rings are opened and attached to one another in various ways.  There are lots of different styles and some even call for using various sizes of jump rings in the same pattern.

I started playing with chain maille when I decided to add it to my class offering at Michaels.  Beginning and Intermediate classes are on the schedule.  I’m also going to teach a workshop at my mom’s handcraft group next month.  So, I’ve been playing with the Orbital Ring, Byzantine, Turkish Round, Full Persian, Half Persian, Japanese 12-in-2, Helm’s Weave, and Dragonscale patterns.

And I’ve also experimented with different jump rings. I like the Artistic Wire ones because they are cut straight across. This ensures a nice, neat, and virtually seamless join.

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Byzantine

This Byzantine necklace was worked with regular jump rings found at Michaels.  Their joins are very uneven but they make perfecting testing rings.  I loved working the Byzantine pattern so much that I decided to continue on – making what originally was a bracelet into a necklace!  I’m going to embellish this one a bit with some Swarovski crystals.

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Turkish Round

Here is my Turkish Round bracelet. This one is more complicated than the Byzantine. As you can see, the rings fit very closely together.  That makes for close quarters getting the pliers where they need to be to close the jump rings. By the way, the pliers needed are a pair of bent chain nose and a regular pair of chain nose.  Or, you could use 2 pairs of bent chain nose.  I use one of each.  The bend at the tip of one of the pliers allows you to maneuver your hands without your knuckles bumping against each other. And the smooth surface inside the mouth of the pliers ensures that you won’t mar the surface of the jump rings. Needle nose pliers don’t work for this because they have teeth, or grooves, inside their gripping jaws.

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Japanese 12-in-2

Here’s the Japanese 12-in-2 daisy. I decided to stop at this point thinking that it makes a nice earring or pendant. This piece and the Turkish Round are made with the Artistic Wire jump rings.  You can see in portions of the designs that the joins are much smoother than the joins in the Byzantine necklace.

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Chain Maille supplies

So, here’s what you need to get started –  2 pairs of chain nose pliers (the bent nosed ones are on the left) and some jump rings!  If you want to create a bracelet or short necklace, you’ll need a clasp too.  After opening a bunch of jump rings, I line them up with the right side of the join curling up into the air.  I’m right-handed, so it’s easier for me to pick up an individual ring in just the right spot to immediately place it in the chain maille weave.

So many possibilities! And so little time! Got to get back to my chain maille projects.

Hope to see you in class!

The Crochet Dr. Will See You Now

Handmade items of any type are treasured.  I understand this because I know the time it takes to create them and the love that goes into each one.  My parents create all sorts of wonderful items.  My Mom likes to sew, knit, crochet, rug hook, cross stitch, embroider, tat, quilt, bead, spin fiber into yarn, paint with watercolors, and cook.  My Dad likes to build scale model live steam engines, rebuild cars and boats, invent, tat, cook (especially biscuits and apple pie), make spinning wheels and other tools from wood, and is an all-around engineer.  Their creations are precious to me.

Sewing the Seams

Sewing the Seams

So, when I was approached to repair an afghan treasured by a daughter who had recently lost her mom, I agreed to the challenge.

The goal: to fix all of the holes invisibly.

Her mother made this afghan by crocheting wool yarn into motifs of greens and yellow and sewed them together.  I knew wool was the fiber content since there were signs of felting.

I went to several yarn shops in my area until I found the perfect yarn.  100% American wool, spun in a smooth worsted weight, and in the right shade of green!  I spent many hours on the floor in my living room stitching up obvious holes and shoring up sections that needed some love.  Luckily, none of the motifs needed reworking, only the seams needed attention.

The hug and elated face of the daughter when I handed her the finished afghan meant the world to me.  She will have many more years of enjoying a treasured item her mother made.