Posted by: mamas2hands | September 16, 2018

A little Romance

The leaves are changing colors up here on my mountain and my thoughts are turning to warmer layers to crochet and wear. Just in time for my latest design for “I Like Crochet” magazine the Tied & True Cardigan.

I paired lace and satin ribbons in an open-sided kimono style cardigan for a design that is romantic, light and effortless. This pattern is ideal for first time garment makers as the project features no shaping but achieves stunning results. It’s worked in Berroco’s Ultra Fine Alpaca to create beautiful drape in the fabric.

This was my road trip project during our Spring Break trip, once you get the stitch pattern memorized it is a great one for some relaxing crochet with a pretty finish at hem and cuffs.

I really loved finishing it off with the ribbon ties at the wrists and fronts.

If you don’t have a subscription to “I Like Crochet” you might want to check out some of the new options they are offering for subscription services. You can get the Gold Club membership for half off currently, that is less than $24 for an amazing amount of content. Click here to see the options available.

Posted by: mamas2hands | August 31, 2018

Just for Fun Crochet

The strange thing about being a crochet designer and teacher is how little time I actually get to crochet. Especially crocheting just for the joy of it. Every once and awhile I break free and decide to crochet something just for fun. Recently my fun project was also about creating a lovely handmade gift for a very “crochet-worthy” friend.

Amanda, Me and Meghan

Amanda is the oldest daughter of one of my closest friends that I met soon after moving to Colorado back in the 1980s. She and her sister Meghan are like my nieces. Amanda is soon to be a mother for the third time and this baby is a girl. We had a party for her the second Sunday of August and I wanted to bring her a crocheted gift for the new baby.

My thinking when I was deciding what to make was that I wanted to use cotton. It’s a wonderfully breathable fiber and the yarns I was looking at are easy to care for. A definite advantage for a busy mom. Cotton is also a good fiber if baby is teething and wants to chew on the item.

I decided I would make a “lovey” for this gift. I like those little blankets with a head and arms in the center. They can do double duty as a cover and a toy. I wanted to make a bunny because the ears are perfect for little hands and good to chew on when baby has sore gums. To take the above photo I placed an empty water bottle underneath.

It was time to dig around in my stash and see what I had on hand. Since Amanda is so special to me I was willing to use some of my discontinued and carefully hoarded favorite yarns. In particular Bernat “Cottontots”. Easy care and wonderfully soft I was very sad when Bernat discontinued this line. The balls I have in my stash are all that I have available to use, fortunately I had a good selection of colors that would work well for the blanket part of this project.

I also needed a color for the bunny’s head and arms. I had a ball of Hobby Lobby’s “I Love this Cotton” in a nice tan that would be perfect. It didn’t take an entire ball for this project so I have enough left-over to use again. I find this yarn to be a little stiffer when crocheted up, but for a sturdy fabric it worked great for the “toy” parts of the lovey.

Since this was to be a gift for a baby I wanted the nose and eyes to be crocheted and firmly sewn in place. Fortunately I had some Katia “Mississippi 3” in lots of different colors, including black and a bright pink. Being that this is a fine weight yarn like a fingering or size#10 thread it would allow me a bit more latitude in the shaping for those pieces.

I started out my project by making the bunny’s head. Almost all the loveys I have seen just use a simple ball shape for the head. But I wanted my bunny to have cute little round cheeks. I also wanted ears that would stand up pretty well, so I would need a double thickness in the fabric. For the arms I wanted rounded paws on slender arms.

After some trial and error I had settled on the size and shaping for the ears, cheeks, head and arms. I had also worked out what I needed to do for the eyes and nose. Now it was time to crochet up all the various parts, that is the easy part, the challenge is sewing it all together.

Once I had the head finished I knew I didn’t want the typical attachment to the blanket. I had picked a circular center out stitch for the blanket so that it would give the look of a dress on the bunny. I crocheted the first 2 rounds in the same yarn as the head and arms, then switched to the soft purple Cottontots for the major part of the blanket.

I wanted the blanket part to be large enough to cover baby’s torso and legs in her car seat. So after I used all the purple yarn I used some yellow and green to complete the blanket edging. I wanted the yellow for the feel of little butterflies since Amanda is decorating the baby’s room with butterflies.

I finished the entire project with a day to spare. I even had time to crochet a pretty flower for the gift wrap, which is a good thing since I forgot to add a card. Amanda knew who it was from when she saw the crochet on the outside of the gift.

I have been asked by a number of folks about a pattern for this little lovey. I am working on how to do that since I used so many discontinued or hard to find yarns. I also did not measure the gauge of my work. Hopefully I will have a completed pattern available by March 2019 as part of my National Crochet Month celebration.

Posted by: mamas2hands | August 17, 2018

ChainLink 2018

Yesterday was the first day of school for my kiddos, so I finally have some time and some internet bandwidth to get a blog post up. I definitely took a Summer Break from the blog this year. Lots of exciting things going on in my Crochet world and my Sheep world but I’ll be jumping around a bit with my posts the next couple of months.

Being that I am now on the CGOA Board of Directors a lot of June and early July work time was dedicated to helping get things organized for the ChainLink conference that was held in Portland, Oregon July 25-28. I flew out to Portland on Tuesday July 24 and didn’t come home until July 31. The extra days were because I also attended the Craft Yarn Council’s Certified Instructors Program, more about that in a later post.

Unfortunately the first morning back home I woke up with a nasty cold bug that has laid me low for nearly 2 weeks. Don’t these germs know I don’t have time for them?! I’ve been slowly playing catch-up with a couple of days this past week that I was on the go all day.

Let me tell you all about ChainLink though. As always it was a fun and educational time. I was seeing it from a slightly different angle this time with being on the Board. Maybe the strangest moment for me was when I got to the Business Meeting Thursday night and had to sit on the stage looking out at all the meeting attendees.

Though looking out at everyone made me realize how many crochet friends I have made over the years of attending conferences. This is my friend Sharon who I met at my 2nd Knit & Crochet show that was in Portland in May 2009.

One of the fun things about this trip was that my journey with CGOA all started with the Portland Knit & Crochet Show in September 2008. When I found out about that show I also discovered CGOA and joined that July when I registered for the show and classes.

That meant that this year’s conference was also my 10 year anniversary of being a CGOA member. This made for a full circle feeling too, with my first ever conference being in Portland and my first conference as a board member being in Portland as well. I’m a goofy geek, things like this make me smile.

Tuesday evening was all about getting settled into Jan and I’s room and re-uniting with lots of friends. The next day I was going to be very involved with Professional Development Day so didn’t have too late an evening. I was one of the first to arrive at the room for PDD, and helped with set-up. One of the first people I got to meet was Debra L who knew me because of Florence and her adventures on Instagram. So of course, we needed a photo with Florence and Debra before the day was done. I’ll get into more detail about Florence in a future post, you’ll be seeing her a lot in photos from this conference though.

I enjoyed attending the presentations of colleagues and especially found Tamara Kelly’s presentation about email Newsletters interesting. Lots of food for thought. That afternoon I did 2 short break-out presentations on “Face to Face; Facing your Fears”.  I was happy that so many attendees found my subject helpful. Once the afternoon presentations were over there was the final presentation by Salena Maestas on goal setting that was really inspiring.

Whether you are already a crochet professional or are looking at becoming one, the Professional Development Day at the conference is a really useful event to attend. 2019’s conference will be in Manchester, New Hampshire July 10 – 13, with Professional Development Day on July 10.

After PDD I checked in with my other committee chairs for the Design Competition and Fashion Show to see how things were going. Judging was wrapping up for the Design Competition and Fashion Show entries were looking a little sparse. Since the deadline for turning in Fashion Show garments wasn’t until the next day at 4 p.m. I hoped we were going to be seeing more turned in.

In between all the running around I picked up my conference merchandise. This is the gorgeous commemorative hook from Furls.

Wednesday evening was the start of classes at the conference and lots of folks were arriving that afternoon in preparation for taking classes. My roommate, and long-time conference attendee, Jan loves taking classes. She always takes classes in each slot that is available. Because I had already blown my budget for classes this trip with the CIP class I didn’t get to sign up for any of the CGOA classes this time. So I got to live vicariously thru friends that were taking classes. I spent my evening visiting with friends and took a dip in the hotel pool and hot tub.

Thursday seemed to go by in a blur. The morning started with the Volunteers’ meeting, which I missed. I’m not really a morning person and this was the one morning I had marked to sleep in. The Volunteers that attended the meeting were all given a Thank You bag with useful information and some goodies. If you are interested in volunteering with CGOA you aren’t limited to helping at the conference, though we really appreciate our conference volunteers. There are lots of opportunities to volunteer with CGOA to help with the various committees that keep our Guild running and growing.

That evening was the Business Meeting and the Market Preview. It was a good size crowd at both events. Our president, Linda Dean, handled most of the speaking duties at the podium with input from the rest of the Board. There was a bit of hilarity with the microphone since Linda is taller than most of us. You can see a video of the meeting on the CGOA page on Facebook still.

After the Business meeting it was time for the Market Preview. I missed the crowd for the actual moment of opening due to delays with leaving the business meeting. Everyone was very excited though. The shopping bags we were handed as we came into the marketplace were fabulous. Sponsored by Annie’s they were printed with “Of course I need more Yarn”, it’s bad when even your shopping bag is enabling you.

Despite being late to the opening I manage to do a little retail therapy that evening. These lovely bangle bracelets caught my eye right away. They are made from Tunisian crochet hooks that are “seconds” from the manufacturers. Then the folks at “Renegade Yarns” bend them into circles to create the bangles. I actually bought 4 of them, the 3 you see above and a green one as a gift for Jan.

I also couldn’t resist this yarn at Newton’s Yarn Company. They had a table full of bags of Sale yarn. I loved this bright aqua color and thought the gold and bronze color would be a lovely accent color. Not sure what this yarn will grow up to be once I start working with it. Very likely some sort of wrap.

When Jan and I were comparing purchases later that evening she showed me a really neat shawl pin she had found. It was a beautiful semi-precious stone with a magnetic closure on the back. I decided I needed some of those too. I especially liked how you could wear the magnet backing under your garment so your wrap would really stay put.

Friday I spent some time checking in with my committee chairs and then went to the marketplace to look for the shawl pins. This is Michele of Rock N’ More Accents that makes and sells the beautiful pins, you can find her on Facebook as “Spinning Mind Designs”. I ended up purchasing 3 different ones because I couldn’t make up my mind.

This pretty pink and gray toned Rhodonite one.

This dyed Jasper one in Teals and Blues.

And a gorgeous South African Picture Jasper one. I liked this one because it has the look of wood and I thought could be a good neutral pin to wear with lots of my wraps.

The magnet is so strong you have to slide them off to open the pin. This was the closest I could lay the magnet backing to the stone before the magnets would pull together.

I took this photo so you can see the 2 pieces from the side of the back. They fit very snugly together.

I had to stop and visit the lovely Christine at Holy Sheep Balls because the name was so great. She had some gorgeous “art yarn”.

I couldn’t resist this Blue sparkly one.

I doubt I will make anything with it, I’m just going to wear it this winter as a “necklace” it will be cozy warm as well as decorative. I might very carefully do some knot work to hold it together as a kind of cowl shape.

I took a little break from shopping and had lunch with local friend Sarah and our other friend Amy (who was not feeling photographic). You might remember both of them from my adventures in Cama (Washington State) back in 2010. We had a lovely visit and lunch. I spent a little more time doing Board work, then took a break for a  little rest. Of course, I wasn’t finished shopping yet.

I had to stop by and see my friend Elf at RedFish DyeWorks. She always has such amazing colors and yarns. I couldn’t resist this “Starter Pack” dyed in colors picked from the photograph you see on front. I wanted to add a bit of purple to the palette too, but couldn’t decide on which one, so I got both. I have something very creative and exciting planned for this yarn.

Friday evening was the Excellence in Crochet event, where the winners of the Design Competition would be announced. There was quite a line waiting to get in because everyone wanted to get a Goody Bag. I got to spend some time with some of my favorite folks while we waited. That is Shari White, Pam Shore and Vashti Braha hanging out with Florence.

The Design Competition results were applauded and we had a wonderful presentation from Suzann Thompson about her crochet art exhibit. It wasn’t just about the exhibit, it was also about how to put something like that together and getting the community involved and excited about crochet. Very inspiring.

The Goody Bag was full of all kinds of fun stuff. Lots of yarn, both full size and sample sizes. Some wonderful pattern books and magazines also. The bag was from “Simply Crochet” magazine and it says, “Eat Sleep Hook Repeat”. They know us crochet folks well.

Saturday morning I was helping out at the CGOA Booth. We had a ball-winding station, were selling tickets to win a number of prizes and a “Selfie” frame that we helped attendees take their photos at. We were also answering questions about CGOA and encouraging non-members to sign-up.

I got to work my shift with Bobby, who was having a great time with Florence. He was the champion ticket seller for the drawings.

My good friend Kathy White came by and we had our photo taken using the selfie frame. After I was finished at the booth the rest of Saturday zipped by. I helped my Fashion Show Chair, Pia, with a couple of prep tasks for the Fashion Show.

Then ran around stopping to visit with various friends and making new crochet friends before it was time to get dressed up for the Banquet evening. Kathy had to have a cuddle with Florence again.

The Banquet is the last event of the show and it is always when we are all trying to get photos of and with everyone before we all have to say good-bye. They gathered everyone in the hotel lobby and took a large group photo. I got a few photos with friends afterward while we waited to go into the banquet.

Bonnie Metzer with Florence, getting Bonnie to hold still for very long is nearly impossible, so this photo is a bit blurry.

Some wonderful friends from the FreeForm group, Barbara Hynes and Mirto. Don’t you love their dresses? They both modeled in the Fashion Show.

Margaret Hubert wanted a photo with me and Deb Seda, so I handed off my phone for this one. Love this shot with us all laughing. Margaret was wearing her beautiful new sweater.

Linda Dean and I were sitting at the same table during dinner. We actually behaved ourselves well.

All the tables were decorated with crocheted roses around a candle.

During the Fashion Show, Nancy Smith modeled my Shining Day Wrap. It got a bit comical because she kept getting tangled in the lace.

We were all a bit tired after the banquet, but I got some last photos. Here is Carolyn, Susan and Shari.

Shari was having fun with Florence.

She said Florence needed to be in the poster for the evening’s Sponsor.

We got lovely good bags from Red Heart on our chairs.

Yvette and I had been having all sorts of fun thru-out the show, so we needed a photo of her with Florence. She was calling us “pocket book twins” because we were both carrying Vera Bradley bags of the same fabric. Behind Yvette you can see Pauline Turner. She was the recipient of the Hall of Fame award and gave a lovely speech and presentation before the Fashion Show.

My friend Pam surprised me with this lovely mug from Renegade Yarns. She says this is my new phrase, hmmmm is she trying to reform me?

I had looked at the mugs they had and meant to go back to get one but forgot. So this was a great surprise.

Pam also gifted me some yarn she won. She didn’t think the color worked well for her and knows I love corals and reds.

A Portland show isn’t complete without a photo of the lovely Bonnie Pierce and her husband Bill. We didn’t get to spend nearly enough time together but it was lovely to see them both.

I hope I’ve inspired you to join us at a conference soon. The best part of the conference is seeing crochet friends and making more. Plus there are wonderful classes to take. Check out the CGOA website at crochet.org for more information about upcoming conferences.

 

Posted by: mamas2hands | June 27, 2018

Feeling Sheepish

I keep hoping to do a nice long blog post about all the exciting stuff happening on the sheep farm. But all the exciting stuff is also keeping me super busy, especially when you add it to all the other things I am working on for crochet designs/classes, needle felting designs/classes and summer break family stuff.

In spite of all the madness, I am very happy I decided to become a partner with the sheep farm. Every time I go over to the farm to help with our flock I am smiling. This spring we have 11 new lambs. They are a lot of work but also great entertainment.

We will be looking to sell many of our lambs in the Autumn, though we will likely be keeping our 4 ewe lambs. Next year, if all our mature ewes have twins, we will definitely be looking to sell some of our sheep to other farms.

We had 3 sets of twins this year, plus a 4th set with only 1 survivor. The rest of our lambs were singles. We have a fairly wide range of ages of lambs with most of them being born in mid to late May. One set of twins came the last week of March and our last lamb came this past Friday, June 22.

I’ve been enjoying all the lambs, but these 2 are my favorites. We are calling them Cedar and Cinnamon. They both love getting scritches on their chins and ears. They also tend to snuggle with each other a lot.

The lambs all nurse from their moms, but after just a few days they start nibbling on the hay and lamb feed. They especially seem to like to snitch hay thru the fences when we have birthing pens set up in the barn. That white lamb in the front is Aspen and the grey multi-color lamb is Larch (or Andre the Giant as my partner calls him).  Larch is 2 weeks younger than Aspen and they are almost the same size.

Gertie and Gizmo are our oldest lambs. They were born the last week of March. Gizmo, the male, will be moving out of the ewe pen soon. Both of them are nearly as big as the adults at this point.

Since I last posted I have finished skirting and picking the fleeces that are going to be made into yarn. I also made a trip to the Alpaca ranch in Castlerock to get fleeces to blend with our wool. Hopefully I will have all the yarn back by the middle of July.

If all goes to plan we will be selling our yarn thru a couple of shops in Colorado before the end of October 2018.

Posted by: mamas2hands | June 11, 2018

Where did Andee Go?

It has been over a month since I last posted on here on the blog.  Things got a little crazy as the month of May drew nearer and the start of June has been almost as bad.

May was already looking to be a full month with deadlines for design projects, last month of school activities for my boys as well as shearing and lambing season at the farm. Then to add interest to it all my whole family came down with a very unpleasant stomach bug/fever thing that took 3 weeks to go thru all of us. It has really only been in the last 2 and a half weeks that I have felt fully recovered.

In the meantime the weeks march on and I’ve been playing catch-up. Been super busy on the sheep farm with shearing and lambing. I hope to share some fun posts with you about all that very soon. The above photo is most of our ewes after shearing. One of our oldest lambs, Gertie, is looking confused because everyone was skinnier and much less fluffy.

I have also been working on lots of crochet designs that will be published over the next 3 months.  Including my latest design that the Casual Crochet group at Longmont Yarn Shoppe is testing for me. Currently it is called “Testing Pool Shawl 2018” but I’ll give it a better name once it is ready for publication. Last year’s testing pool pattern was named after one of the testers, so we will probably do that again.

Since I wasn’t already busy enough (ha!) I am also headed out for some business trips this month and next. I’ll be going to the TNNA Summer Show in Cleaveland, Ohio the end of this week, then the last week of July will see me traveling to Portland, Oregon for the CGOA conference.

Once the conference ends I will be staying in Portland for a couple of days to attend the Craft Yarn Council’s Crochet Instructor’s Program. Then I will be spending a couple of days visiting a friend that lives north of Portland before heading home.

Between my 2 business trips, we will have family coming to visit. My dear mother-in-law the end of June, then my younger brother is coming out for a working vacation after July 4th to help me repair our deck.

I think this summer is going to slip by way too fast. I promise to try and get more up on the blog the next couple of months. Though some of my posts may just be photos with short captions if things continue as crazy as this summer started.

 

Posted by: mamas2hands | April 26, 2018

The Anatomy of Your Stitches

No matter what your crochet skill level it is helpful to understand the anatomy of your stitches. This is especially handy when you are weaving in tails or repairing crochet fabric. It is also very useful when teaching crochet so you can show your students what to look for while working on their projects.

The anatomy of a Chain Stitch

The first stitch most of us learn in crochet is the chain stitch, it is used in many ways in crochet patterns.

Vs on front of Chain Sts

The tops of the stitches are the V that you see in the above photo. They are what the working loop on your hook becomes as you make each stitch.

Back Bumps of Chain Sts

The chain stitch doesn’t have a “post” or “legs”. There is simply the back “bar” or “bump”. You will see either term used in patterns. It will depend on the publication what terminology they chose. This back bump is formed by the working yarn each time you pull thru a new loop with your hook to make a chain stitch.

The anatomy of a Single Crochet Stitch

The single crochet stitch is usually the first regular crochet stitch we learn to make after the chain stitch. The instructions for this stitch are: insert hook in stitch, yarn over, pull up a loop, yarn over, pull thru both loops on hook. But where do all those various loops end up?

Like with the chain stitch, the working loop on your hook is key. When you finish a stitch you have a working loop of yarn on your hook (yellow arrow pointing to it in above photo).  That loop becomes the top of the next stitch you make, no matter what stitch you are crocheting it will still become the top of the stitch.

When looking at your single crochet stitches as you make them (this is the Right Side row) you can see 2 “legs” (vertical yellow lines in above photo), these are the bottom of the loop you pulled up thru the stitch. Looking at the single crochet stitches from the back side (this is the Wrong Side row) you can see the top of that same loop (horizontal yellow lines in above photo) just below the top of the stitch.

If you turn your work over and look at the stitches from the back you can see the path of the working yarn coming into the stitch and out of the stitch (marked with bright pink and arrows in above photo) forming the “post” of the stitch and the new working loop (top of next stitch) on your hook. The aqua and pink line shows the top of the stitch that had been the working loop previously.

The above image shows all the parts of the stitches in 2 rows. The top row is the right-side row being worked and the next row below is the wrong-side row stitches being worked into. Agua lines highlight the tops of stitches, yellow lines show the second loop made for the single crochet stitch, pink lines and arrows show the path of the working yarn and “back legs” of your stitches. If you look closely you can see that the pink back legs are wrapped around the top of the stitches in the third row below.

How do I work into my foundation chain?

Answering and understanding this is one of the most important skills to have in your crochet tool box. The typical start for a crochet project is to chain a length and then work back into the chain. Of course this often leads to the questions  about how to work into the chain. Which loop do you work under and how many of them?

 

Traditional method

One of the first ways I learned to work into a chain was by going into the center of the V on the top of the chain and catching the back bar and top leg of the V in the stitch being made. This is the more traditional way of working into a foundation chain.

 

Trad method free loops

This leaves a single strand at the base of the stitches in your first row. This can work well if you are working pieces of a garment that are going to be seamed together along the base of the foundation rows.

Trad method showing twist

The first row worked into the chain using the traditional method tends to have quite a bit of twist to it before you work additional rows.

Shells worked into chain

It also is more stable when you are starting a stitch pattern that requires multiple stitches worked into some of the chain stitches of your foundation. For example…shell stitches.

Another option is to work under both legs of the V on each chain stitch. I find this to be the most difficult way to work into the chain. It does give you a very stable foundation and the single strand at the base is free for seaming pieces together along the foundation. Working into a chain using this method is easier with a very loosely crocheted foundation chain.

 

The finished row will again have single strands at its base, but they will be a bit more centered. This row will have a lot of twist to it like the traditional method of working into a chain.

 

Sts wrkd in back bump base view

Arrow points to foundation chain’s loose Vs when stitches are worked into back bar.

If a pattern doesn’t specify which loop of the chain to use, I tend to use the back bar (or back bump). I like the way the finished foundation looks as it echoes the top of the stitches on the last row of the project. When putting an edging all the way around the finished project I find the base of this foundation easier and neater looking to work into.

Unless a pattern specifies a particular way of working into the chain you can do whatever works best for you. You only need to be consistent for the stitches of your foundation.

 

Chain w larger hook

If you find that your chain foundation stitches seem to always be tighter than the rest of your crochet fabric it can help to use a hook one size larger for the foundation chain, then switch down to the next hook size when you are ready to begin your first row of stitches into the chains. 

Finding the top of the stitch

Now you have an idea of where to spot the tops of your stitches in a chain, but how do you tell where the top of a regular stitch is?

The simple answer, just like for our chain stitch, the top of the stitch looks like a V.  If you stop and hold your work so the Vs appear stacked they are easier to identify. As long as you don’t remove your hook from your working loop you can manipulate your fabric without losing any stitches.

Am I working in the right direction?

Once you can identify the top of your stitch it becomes a lot easier to tell if you are working in the right direction.

Vs pointing away

If your pattern tells you to turn at the end or beginning of a row, then the Vs of the stitch tops of the row you are working into, should be pointing away from your hook.

Working in the Round

If you are working in the round without turning at the end of each round, then the Vs of the stitch tops of the round you are working into, should be pointing at your hook.

Where do I insert my hook in the stitch?

Insert hook under 2 legs

For your standard crochet pattern you are going to insert your hook under the 2 legs of the V in the top of your stitch.

Gap to Insert Hook thru

To avoid splitting your yarn look for the little gap on the side of your stitch just under that V.

Some patterns will give you special instructions about where to insert your hook to create different textures in your fabric.

Back loop

If your pattern instructs you to work in the back loop of your stitch.  This is generally referring to the back leg of the Vs after you’ve turned your work to begin your new row.

Front loop

The same is true for working in the front loop of your stitch. You would be inserting your hook under the front leg of the Vs after you’ve turned your work to begin your new row.

 

What if you need to work more than one stitch in the same stitch?

This can be tricky when you are new to crochet. Especially once you work the first stitch the V top of the stitch is obscured. My favorite trick involves manipulating the fabric.

Pulling up to find stitch

If you gently pull up on the stitch just made it becomes easy to see where the base of that stitch goes into the previous row. This hole is where you will insert your hook for your next stitches if the pattern tells you to work multiple stitches into a particular stitch.

Now you have a better understanding of your stitch anatomy time to experiment with some crochet swatches.

Chain 15, then work single crochets back along the chain (using whichever method you like) starting with the second chain from the hook.

Chain 1 and turn to work back along the first row of stitches working a single crochet in each stitch to the end of the row.

Right-side view of blue row

Wrong-side view of blue row.

If you change colors for each row of single crochet stitches you can see more clearly how the stitches fit together.

Posted by: mamas2hands | April 2, 2018

Beginner’s Mind

The further along the journey of life we travel the less patience we often have with ourselves regarding learning a new skill. I have often met people that say, “Oh I always wanted to learn to crochet, but I’m too old now.”

???!

No way! You are never too old to learn a new skill. In fact it has been proven that learning a new skill in our later years is a great way to increase the agility of our mental faculties. You just have to treat yourself with compassion and patience as you learn a new skill.

This is what is referred to as “beginner’s mind”. In many eastern teachings it is about beginning a new experience without expectation.  To just be in the moment.

I am often reminded of what that looks like when I am teaching young children. Whether it is crafts or math, teaching youngsters can be so engaging. They have no expectation of knowing how to do the task, they are completely in the moment of learning something entirely new or unexpected.

Sadly, children outgrow this most of the time about 8-10 years of age. Like the adults they will grow up to be, they have an expectation of how they should learn, instead of just being in the learning.

For me, one of the things I love the most about crochet is 40+ years after I first made my first stitches with a  hook I’m still learning new things. Sometimes these are things I learn from the teachers in my life, other crochet friends or students in my classes. There are so many things to discover and explore with crochet I’m never bored.

Even though National Crochet Month is over it is never too late to learn to crochet (or tackle a new craft). Just be kind to yourself and allow the new experience to happen without self-judgment. Have fun with being a beginner again.

If you are feeling like starting your crochet journey visit my “Getting Started with Crochet” blog post for some pointers. There are illustrations for both Left handed and Right handed crocheters on holding the yarn and hook.

 

Posted by: mamas2hands | March 26, 2018

Spring Break – Crocheting on the Road

Once again it is time for the boys’ school Spring Break. This year we decided on a trip to the Grand Canyon. It’s a shorter drive than going home to Kansas and Ohio and it is a destination I’ve always wanted to take the boys to. We had talked about going there last summer, but Arizona in the summer time seemed ill-advised for mountain dwellers like ourselves.

It looks like we will be having some fairly cool temperatures for the majority of our trip. We will also be doing a lot of driving. This means my packing is very creative. I need my warm layers of clothing so I can adapt to the weather as it changes. But I also need to have lots of “car crochet” projects as well.

What makes a project good for “car crochet”?

For me, I want it to be fairly small, something that will fit easily into a bag that sits on the car seat or in the foot well. It is helpful if it is also in a yarn that can be washed easily, getting in and out of the car on a trip with my family can mean dirt, mud and sometimes food ends up on the yarn. Fussy fibers like silk, mohair and baby alpaca need to sit the ride out, superwash wool and acrylics are more the ticket.

Berroco yarns for on the road

Berroco Yarns “Ultra Wool” is one of my favorite superwash wools these days. I’ll be taking a few colors of it with me on the trip and will be working on mittens and hats.

What are your favorite crochet projects for traveling?

 

 

Posted by: mamas2hands | March 23, 2018

Just a Suggestion

Sometimes I get questions about my patterns that are like the person is asking permission to make a change to how the they work the pattern. Here is the thing…if you want to crochet a project that looks very close to my sample in the photos…you need to follow the pattern as it is written; same yarn (could be a different color), same hook, same gauge. The pattern instructions I have written are to guide you in making a project very similar to the one I made.

But you don’t need permission to take things in a different direction, there are no Crochet Police. For myself pattterns have always been just a suggestion. A place to start, but not necessarily the place I’ll end. My mother has often said that I have never followed a pattern. I guess that is part of why I became a designer.

I think that some of my attitude toward patterns comes from sewing so much. Especially when sewing clothing, adapting the pattern to get the right fit is typical, most sewing patterns even have notes of where to adjust for size changes. No one sees any thing odd about this, though many of us feel overwhelmed by the challenge.

I’ve been asked how I learned to make those modifications in crochet. The simple answer is, a lot of failures.  I experiment all the time, and only 10% of those experiments become part of a design that will be published. The best advice I can give (and not just about crocheting) is “Don’t be Afraid of Failure”.

If you really want to hone your skills on adapting garments for fit, I recommend taking a sewing class. Most will cover fitting, and if you already have the basics of sewing, you will quickly see how you can apply these ideas to your crochet garments.

For a more gradual approach to modifying patterns try playing with substituting yarns. We yarnie types tend to accumulate yarn stashes over time, and wanting to work with the yarn you have on hand is understandable. It just means you need to a have a bit of flexibility in your approach to the pattern you are subbing with.

Using a heavier weight yarn and still trying to match the pattern gauge is a really bad idea. Instead you will want to experiment with increasing the hook size appropriately to the weight of the yarn you have picked. You may have to fiddle with the dimensions of your finished project to get things to come out as desired.

Also keep in mind the fiber content and tightness of the twist for the yarn you’ve picked. If it is very different from the yarn in the original pattern, you may be surprised by the results. Sometimes this is a pleasant surprise, other times not so much.

When substituting yarns your best friend is the swatch. For 3 swatches above I was trying out different size hooks with the same yarn to see which fabric I liked best. I know many crocheters hate to swatch, but it can save you a lot of heartache down the road. Working a swatch that is approximately 6×6 inches is usually enough to give you a feel for what the fabric is going to be like in a larger project. If there is intense blocking needed it is a good idea to block your swatch to see what result you will get.

For many of my design swatch experiments I often don’t cut the swatch from the ball of yarn. Instead I place the remains of the ball in a ziplock style bag sealed over the working strand. Then I handwash, spray and/or pin for blocking to see how the yarn responds. If it’s all a bust, I’ll eventually carefully unravel the swatch and rewind it on the original ball of yarn.

Now you have a few of my tricks to try out it is your turn to begin experimenting. Remember to enjoy the journey of discovery, after all crocheting is supposed to be fun.

Posted by: mamas2hands | March 19, 2018

2×2 Shawl

As part of my continuing celebration of National Crochet Month I am sharing a pattern for my newest shawl design the 2×2 Shawl. I wanted to create a top down shawl in a simple stitch pattern that is relaxing and meditative to crochet. It is a perfect project to work on when crocheting with friends.

The simple stitch pattern really lets the vibrant color changes of Lion Brand Yarns “Shawl in a Ball” shine. Watching how the colors will come together is half the entertainment.  I wanted a big snuggly shawl that would really provide some coverage so I used 2 balls of this yarn.

I had only 22 g/70 yds of yarn left from the second ball. My favorite thing about a top-down shawl is that you can stop wherever you want, depending on the size shawl you want and the amount of yarn you have.

2×2 Shawl

Designed by Andee Graves

Skill level:       Easy

Finished Size:

2 balls = 74” (187.96 cm) wide x 32” (81.28 cm) tall

1 ball = 54” (137.16 cm) wide x 18” (45.72 cm) tall

Materials:

Yarn

Lion Brand Yarns “Shawl in a Ball” 58% Cotton, 39% Acrylic, 3% Other fiber (5.3 oz/150 g, 481 yd/440 m)

2 Balls of Color # 201 – Restful Rainbow

Hooks

J-10 / 6 mm

Notions

Yarn/tapestry needle

Stitch markers

Gauge:

Approximately 14 stitches and 5.5 rows = 4” (10.16 cm)

Special Stitches or Abbreviations:

PM – Place stitch marker

Pattern Notes:

Shawl is worked top-down with 3 increase points from a stacked rows foundation. 

If you wish to make a smaller shawl work the instructions for the body of the Shawl for fewer rows being sure to stop with a repeat of Row 4, then working the edging row (Row 35) to finish.

Instructions:

Foundation Rows

Row 1: Ch 2, sc in second ch from hook.

Row 2: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in sc.

Row 3: Ch 1, turn, sc in first dc.

Rows 4 – 41: Alternate repeating Rows 2 and 3 (ending with a Row 3).

Shawl Body

Row 1: Ch 3, turn to work into sides of sc rows, (3 dc, ch 2, 2 dc) in first sc row, PM in ch-2 sp just made, *ch 2, skip next dc row, 2 dc in next sc row*, Repeat from * to * 8 times, ch 2, skip next dc row (2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc) in next sc row, PM in ch-2 sp just made, Repeat from * to * 9 times, ch 2, skip next dc row, (2 dc, ch 2, 3 dc) in last sc row, PM in ch-2 sp just made. [23 ch-2 sps, 50 dc]

The marked ch-2 spaces will be the increase points for the rest of the body of the shawl.

Row 2: Ch 3, turn, skip 1 st, 3 dc in next st, ch 2, skip 1 st, (2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc) in marked ch-2 sp, move marker up to ch-2 sp just made, [*ch 2, skip next 2 sts, 2 dc in next ch-2 sp*, Repeat from * to * until work in marked ch-2 sp, (ch 2, 2 dc) in same marked ch-2 sp, move marker up to ch-2 sp just made] 2 times, ch 2, skip 1 st, 3 dc in next st. [27 ch-2 sps, 58 dc]

Row 3: Ch 3, turn, skip 1 st, 3 dc in next st, skip 1 st, 2 dc in next ch-2 sp, ch 2, skip 2 sts, (2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc) in marked ch-2 sp, move marker up to ch-2 sp just made, [*ch 2, skip next 2 sts, 2 dc in next ch-2 sp*, Repeat from * to * until work in marked ch-2 sp, (ch 2, 2 dc) in same marked ch-2 sp, move marker up to ch-2 sp just made] 2 times, ch 2, 2 dc in next ch-2 sp, skip 1 st, 3 dc in next st. [29 ch-2 sps, 66 dc]

Row 4: Ch 3, turn, skip 1 st, 3 dc in next st, ch 2, skip 3 sts, 2 dc in next ch-2 sp, [*ch 2, skip next 2 sts, 2 dc in next ch-2 sp*, Repeat from * to * until work in marked ch-2 sp, (ch 2, 2 dc) in same marked ch-2 sp, move marker up to ch-2 sp just made] 3 times, Repeat from * to * until work in last ch-2 sp of Row, ch 2, skip 3 sts, 3 dc in next st. [33 ch-2 sps, 70 dc]

Row 5: Ch 3, turn, skip 1 st, 3 dc in next st, skip 1 st, 2 dc in next ch-2 sp, [*ch 2, skip next 2 sts, 2 dc in next ch-2 sp*, Repeat from * to * until work in marked ch-2 sp, (ch 2, 2 dc) in same marked ch-2 sp, move marker up to ch-2 sp just made] 3 times, Repeat from * to * until work in last ch-2 sp of Row, skip 1 st, 3 dc in next st. [35 ch-2 sps, 78 dc]

Rows 6 – 34: Alternate repeating Row 4 and Row 5 ending with a Row 4.

Stitch count at end of Row 34 [123 ch-2 sps, 250 dc]

If using only 1 ball of “Shawl in a Ball” stop at Row 22. [87 ch-2 sps, 178 dc]

Edging

Row 35: Ch 2, skip 1 st, sc in next st, ch 2, 2 dc in next st, *skip next ch-2 sp, sc in next st, ch 2, 2 dc in next st*, Repeat from * to * until work in next to last st of Row, slip st in next st. Fasten off. [124 sc, 124 ch-2 sps, 248 dc]

Finishing

Weave in tails and block.

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