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.

Earth Day: Top 5 Things You Can Do For The Earth

Every Earth Day, I revisit my list of what my family does to cut carbon emissions and use fewer natural resources.  What are we doing and what can we add to that list?  We’re not perfect, but we try to do what we can.

Here are our Top 5 Things To Show We Love The Earth (and you can do them too):

1. Recycleimages

Part of our community trash pickup includes recycling at the curb.  They accept #1 and #2 plastics, aluminum, glass, mixed paper, and cardboard. Every week, our bin is full!

In addition to that, we recycle our #5 plastics (storage containers, yogurt cups, etc.) at Whole Foods. They participate in the Gimme Five program where you just drop your containers into a bin in front of the store.  Preserve melts those plastics down to make toothbrushes, razors, tableware, cutting boards, and lots of other useful products.

Giant and Whole Foods also recycle plastic bags.  So, we save plastic packaging and turn that in.  We don’t have that many plastic shopping bags because we bring our reusable ones whenever we go into a store. Reusables aren’t just for the grocery store 😉   But there are plastic bags used in packaging that are definitely worthy of being recycled.

And Whole Foods composts too.  Inside the store, they have recycling and compost bins. I drop off my waxed cardboard containers (i.e. ice cream and milk cartons) and rubber bands there.

2. Compostphoto 4

Home composting isn’t as bad as it sounds. We collect the fruit and veggie trimmings, egg shells, banana peels, coffee grounds, and tea bags to turn them into rich, black soil.  Well, we don’t perform the metamorphosis, nature does that for us.  We just help the process along.

Composting doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t have to buy a fancy collection bin or a composting barrel.  I found a small plastic trash container and keep it under the kitchen sink.  When it’s time to be emptied, out to the far corner of our backyard we go.  Mix in some leaves leftover from fall and sometimes shredded paper (a great way to get rid of receipts!), and Voila!  It’s all converted, with some time and lots of help from our worm friends, into soil.

I use our compost for planting veggies and making our blueberry and blackberry bushes happy.

Between recycling and composting, the amount of trash our household contributes to the landfill is one 13 gallon bag every other week, sometimes less!

3. Collect Rain Water

We’ve had our rain barrel for about 6 years. We bought it from the Blue Ridge Eco Shop (so disappointed to hear that they’re closing). It holds 60 gallons and usually fills up in one rain storm.

The barrel sits on a paver base and the down spout empties into the top of it. There is a screen, so no mosquito problem. We usually use the spigot on the side to fill a watering can or bucket and water our indoor and outdoor plants.

It’s about time to reinstall the rain barrel. It spends the winter under our deck. But freezing temperatures are now over, so we’ll get it into place soon.  In the fall, we use up the water by filling our toilet tanks with it.  We could do this all spring and summer too.  Maybe that’s something to add for this year.  The water is clean – not potable – but clean enough to flush toilets.

4. Conserve Waterphoto

Speaking of toilets… We decided to save water there too. We filled a 1/2 gallon plastic milk jug with water and placed it inside our toilet tank. So, instead of 1.6 gallons, we’re only using 1.1 gallons per flush.  And the toilet works just fine. Multiply that times 3 toilets in the house and the savings really add up fast!

We added a flush mechanism to one of our toilets where there are 2 buttons – one for less water, and one for more.  So, it caters to your flushing needs.  It works great.

5. Yard Maintenancephoto 1 photo 3

Our reel mower is quiet, doesn’t give off any fumes, never needs any gasoline or oil, and cuts our yard just fine. The only maintenance it requires is to keep it dry (no rust, please) and sharpen the blades every once in a while.

We used to have a lawn maintenance company but decided to quit using all of those chemicals and fertilizers. Our grass hasn’t really missed it.  Dandelions have made a comeback this year, so we just dug them up with our trusty spade. They don’t go into the compost – never put weeds or yard trimmings in your compost.  Weeds go into a different pile to decompose.

Our lone power tool for lawn work is the electric weed whacker – mainly used for edging by my husband.

I hope these have given you some ideas to use in your home.  We all can do small things that add up to make a huge difference.

What is your family doing?  I’d love to hear your ideas!