In the Beginning

I love teaching others about crochet and how to crochet.  I love it because teaching new crocheters (or mostly new crocheters) brings me back to my own beginnings playing with yarn and hook, as well as giving me the opportunity to look at crochet with fresh eyes.

During this summer’s school break I have been teaching crochet weekly to one of my son’s school friends and her grandmother (who knew quite a bit already).  My young student had been taught some of the basics from her grandmother, like chaining and single crochet stitch.  We have been playing with shaping in crochet and working in the round. 

It has been so exciting seeing this young lady take-off in her creativity with crochet.  She even sallied forth and made a hat without any pattern.  I was so happy to see the results of her experiments.

This fall the 3 of us will be organizing a Crochet Club as a weekly afterschool group for other students and community members to play with hooks and yarn. 

I hope for those of you that crochet and knit that you give yourself the gift of sharing your hobby with others every chance you find.  It is a fabulous confidence builder for everyone to be able to create something with their own hands as well as being a skill that they can pick up again at any time.

Then you too can delight in returning to your own stitching beginnings and gain new excitement and understanding of your craft.

Advertisements

Timing is Everything

I am currently faced with the challenge of finishing 2 rather large projects by the 24th of August. So I am reminding myself that I need to stop and stretch my body and particularly my hands regularly.

One of the things I love about crocheting is that it’s easy to reach a meditative state while working. In that state I become less aware of the passage of time. The smooth action of making stitch after stitch is somewhat hypnotic.

Unfortunately, once I do stop I become quite aware of discomfort and even pain in my body if I have been sitting there for hours crocheting. So what to do?

It’s a simple solution. A timer.

My favorite timer is my kitchen timer. I even leave it in the kitchen. When it goes off I have to at least get up to turn it off (it’s quite loud and obnoxious) and that action alone breaks up the static position I’ve been working in.  I generally set my timer for 25 minutes, but any interval between 20-30 minutes is helpful.

When the timer goes off, I stand up and stretch.  Other things I do…move the laundry into the dryer or take it out to hang it up, get a big drink of water, have a bite of chocolate (that’s in the kitchen too), pet the cat, check on my boys if they are in a different room.

Taking breaks like these can be the difference between being very productive or being laid up with injuries to our hands and bodies.  So sharing this lesson with all of you my dear readers will hopefully remind me to take care of myself as well. After all, Timing is Everything.

Yum Jelly!

As is known by many of my stitchy friends and my dear readers of the blog, I have a slight addiction to novelty yarns and crocheting with unusual materials (spaghetti anyone?).  So the first time I heard of Jelly Yarn I had to investigate.

The talented Vashti Braha had mentioned it one evening on the Getting Loopy podcast chat room. I was immediately intrigued and decided I must find some of it to play with.  Fortunately not too long after that I was at the Buffalo Knit and Crochet Show (August 2009) and Jelly Yarns had a booth.

My Jelly Yarn Purchase

Jelly Yarns is owned by Kathleen and Nick Greco, super nice people and lots of fun. Their booth was a bright fun corner of the market floor.  I was especially excited to find Glow-In-The-Dark and glittery Metallic (sparkles!) Jelly Yarn. I purchased a couple balls of the metallic and one of their “Glow in the Dark” colors.

If you can’t find Jelly Yarn in your area check out their website at JellyYarns.com (it’s also a great place to explore tips about using Jelly Yarn and to see the latest fun stuff they have planned).

The yarn is available in 3 different weights and 14 colors. Kathleen works with their manufacturer in Pennsylvania (another thing to love, this yarn is made in the USA) planning and developing new colors.  She also creates wild wonderful knit and crocheted art pieces and patterns from Jelly Yarn.

It is a bit strange to crochet with at first.  The yarn is 100% Vinyl, reminding me a bit of the lanyard lacing type stuff used to make woven key chain fobs in summer camp (way back when). This isn’t “yarn” in the fibery sense, but it is very flexible and I love the sculptural quality of it.  It is fantastic for beaded crochet with big hole style beads.

Kathleen recommends using a hand lotion or hand salve on your hook to improve the “glide” of the yarn over the hook and thru stitches.  Her favorite salve to use is Burt’s Bee Hand Salve.  She also recommends the use of a metal hook like the Susan Bates Silvalume.  I found I didn’t need the lotion or salve when using my Clover Soft Touch hooks especially as I wanted a loose stitch structure.  I do like the salve for tighter projects though. The finished fabric is very elastic with a structured quality and a slight grippy feel to it.

When I returned home from the Buffalo show I made some single crochet bracelet “worms” for my boys from the Glow-In-the-Dark yarn.  I also strung a bunch of blue toned beads on the Silver Icing sparkly yarn with the intention of making some fun jewelry items.  Unfortunately life got busy like it does and I tucked it away to work on later.  This past Monday I was having a clear out of my working space and re-discovered the ball of yarn and decided it was time to play with it again.

So here is the fun and slightly funky bracelet pattern I came up with. Enjoy!

Glittery Beaded Cuff

designed by Andee Graves

Materials:

Jelly Yarn (100% Vinyl)  in Silver Icing color. Fine weight

Size J (6 mm) hook (I used my Clover Soft Touch – the matte finish of the metal seems to help)

79 – Size E beads (I used Blueberry Pie Mix [color 01] from Twisted Sistah Beads)

Large yarn needle for weaving ends

Gauge: 6 sc and 7 rows = 2 inches

Special Stitches

Beaded Single Crochet (bsc): Bring bead up close to work, insert hook in st, keeping bead to back of work yo and pull up a loop, yo and pull thru both loops on hook.

Double Beaded Single Crochet (dbsc): bring bead up close to work, insert hook in st, keeping bead to back of work yo and pull up a loop, bring second bead up close to work, keeping bead to back of work yo and pull thru both loops on hook.

Pattern Notes

My cuff is 2″ wide (5.1 cm) and 7 3/4″ around (19.7 cm). If you want yours longer for a larger wrist just add un-beaded rows at the end and beginning. If you want more beaded rows add 5 beads for each additional bsc row and 12 beads for each additional dbsc row. Remember you will need an odd number of rows in the end to make the finishing seam work correctly.

Jelly Yarn isn’t a fiber yarn so taking care of the ends is a bit different. Vinyl will stretch thinner and then relax back into its original size, so knots tied tightly in this yarn tend to stay put.  Read the details in the finishing closely to keep your bracelet from coming undone.

Instructions

First string all the beads on your yarn. This is easy to do because the yarn is stiff enough to act as your needle.  If you have extra beads you might want to add a few just to be sure you’ll have enough for this project.

Foundation: Chain 7, turn.

Row 1: Sc in back bump of 2nd ch from hook, sc in back bump of each ch to beginning of ch. [6 sc]

Row 2: Ch 1, turn, sc in each st to end of row. [6 sc]

Row 3: Ch 1, turn, sc in first st, bsc in each st to end of row. [1 sc, 5 bsc]

Row 4 – 12: Alternate repeating Row 2 and Row 3, ending with a Row 2.

Row 13: Ch 1, turn, dbsc in each st to end of row. [6 dbsc]

Row 14: Repeat Row 2. [6 sc]

Row 15: Repeat Row 3. [1 sc, 5 bsc]

Row 16: Repeat Row 2. [6 sc]

Row 18 17: Repeat Row 13. [6 dbsc] Aug 27,  2016: Thanks to June T. for pointing out that Row 17 was missing. I had mis-numbered the rows. Eep! It’s been on here wrong for nearly 5 years!

Rows 18 – 27: Alternate repeating Row 2 and Row 3.

Rows 28: Repeat Row 2, fasten off.

Finishing: Pull beginning and ending tails to tighten slip knot and ending knot.  Using tails sew top of Row 28 to bottom of Row 1, sew half way for each tail so they meet in the middle of seam.  Tie a square knot with the 2 tails. Weave the loose ends of the tails back toward the sides of bracelet and cut off so ends don’t show.

I am offering this pattern for free so the only tech-editor for this pattern is me. Please let me know if you run into a snag with the pattern.

Almost Forgotten

I’ve been such a busy little designer the past few months that I almost forgot I had 2 new designs coming out in the Autumn Issue of Crochet! Magazine.

Back in 2009, when I sold my first couple of designs, I would call one of my established designer friends all excited with each one.  She celebrated with me, but told me that one day I would be so busy with design work that I would forget that I had designs coming out in a publication.  Funny to realize her prediction has come true only a little over 2 years later.    

Sparkling Lace Shrug - DRG Publishing

This shrug was inspired by a Free-Form garment I made for the Fashion Show at Chain Link 2009.  I hadn’t created a pattern for it at the time but the lovely Carol Alexander finally persuaded me to create something for Crochet! based on it.  I had used yarns that were discontinued for the original, so she and I had a fun time finding yarns that would work. Once Carol and I had the yarns picked though it came together beautifully, and I wrote my first sized pattern.

Crystal Eyelet Table Runner - DRG Publishing

My house is quite small, and my two little boys tend to dominate it, so there isn’t much use for decorative touches on the table.  This is my first ever attempt at a table runner.  I’m looking forward to using it on our table at the holidays, the one time a year that I can justify “dressing-up” my table.

The Autumn 2011 issue of Crochet! Magazine should be available on newsstands and in subscriber’s mailboxes soon. Meanwhile you can see a preview of the magazine at the Crochet! website.  I hope you enjoy making these designs as much as I did creating them.

Let There be Light

One of the joys of “maturing” is that my eyes do not like to look at lots of crochet stitches without good light. They will punish me by creating whirling vortexes of pain in my head if I persist.

So every time I have seen a good sale on OttLites my little ears perk up. I do not work for the OttLite company in any way shape or form. I simply adore their lights, because they really do live up to their claims to reduce eye-strain.

Currently I own 5 different desk-style OttLites. I also purchased a portable OttLite that has a large rechargeable battery.  It reminds me a bit of those first mobile phones. The ones called “The Brick”.

It weighs about  3 1/4 pounds with an adaptor that allows it to be plugged into an electrical outlet that weighs an additional 1/4 pound. I purchased it because I wanted a good OttLite to use at classes at conferences.

Lighting in convention center rooms is typically not great for working on needlearts, and I usually find myself dealing with the aforementioned whirling vortexes of pain. Electrical outlets in these same rooms are also a bit hard to come by, so something that doesn’t have to be plugged in is quite handy. I purchased my “portable” OttLite in preparation for the Buffalo Chain Link conference in August, 2009. Thus began a bit of an educational adventure.

First of all, I think that the solid brickish nature of it alarmed TSA. It was in my checked baggage and when I opened my bags at the hotel I discovered a nice note from TSA telling me my bag had been searched.

Being that the light is actually pretty hefty I decided to use my small rolling carry-on bag to schlep the light and my other class materials about with me.  It was handy to have the light, but hauling it and the bigger bag around got old quickly.  By the end of the conference I was leaving the light in my hotel room to use while stitching there in the evenings.

I still use it a lot at home, it’s especially great to grab when I want some extra lighting for shooting photos. But it hasn’t gone to anymore conferences. Too much additional weight in my luggage and to lug about at the conference.

So I was very excited this past Thursday when I was doing some retail therapy at Michaels and I saw a small LED Flip Light by OttLite. I was even more excited to see that it was regularly $20 and on sale for $10. I quickly grabbed one of the lights to purchase, the light had a white housing and was just a bit bigger than a pager.

Unfortunately, I had not checked the package very well. After taking the package out to open it at home, I discovered someone had already opened it.  The compartment for the batteries was broken. It was a very sad moment.  Fortunately, my family and I were planning a trip to Denver the next day. So I put the light and the receipt in my bag to take with me.

That morning we stopped at the same store on our way to Denver and I exchanged the broken light for a new one. The clerk at the shop was very nice and I looked over the packaging to be certain it hadn’t been opened.  I set it aside and had a fun outing at the Aquarium with my family.

Once I was home again I quickly grabbed a couple of batteries and opened the package. I was talking on the phone at the time with my friend Stacy and she got to witness first hand my displeasure on discovering that the clip on the back of this light was broken.  The packaging had disguised that fact earlier.

The following day I was headed to Denver for my monthly stitching group meet-up.  Which was the reason for Stacy and I’s phone call…we were planning out our day and when to get together.  Of course, discovering I would have to exchange the light again put a wee dent in our plans. I would need to stop at Michaels on my way to Denver once more.

Then Stacy came up with the brilliant idea of me taking the light to a Michaels near where we would be having dinner in Denver.  That way she could purchase one of the little lights too and we would have more time to visit.  I decided to bring batteries, a small screwdriver and my utility knife with me so I could open the package and check that the light worked at the store. I really did not fancy another trip up the mountain and back down to get a working light.

Saturday afternoon I headed down the mountain and picked up Stacy.  We arrived at the Michaels store, which was one of the largest I’ve ever been in.  We began wandering around the store looking for the OttLites, but couldn’t find them.  Finally I accosted a Michael’s employee, who turned out to be the store manager. He quickly took us back to where the OttLites were displayed.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have the little flip light.

I had told the kind manager the tragic story of the 2 broken lights and he said he would check with some other Michaels stores to see who had them. In the process he discovered that they were supposed to have the lights in stock at his store. So he had us make ourselves comfortable in the store class room and he went on a hunt for them.

A little while later he returned with this package. I was excited because the light was PINK!  And not just pink but “in-your-face” Fuchsia Pink, one of my favorite shades.  Note: this photo was taken today after I had already customized my light with my 2hands logo. 

Fortunately they also had the light in white or black so Stacy wasn’t stuck with a wild pink light. She does not share my enthusiasm for pink. Though it’s a good thing there wasn’t a purple one as we might have had a battle over it.

A Wonderful Palm Sized Light

We opened the packages and put in the batteries I had brought to test that our lights worked. Then we did a bit of shopping in the store, made our purchases and headed off to have some dinner.  After dinner we went to PJ Jam where we both showed off our nifty new lights.

I am thrilled with my little light. It is very light weight in my project bag and the light output is marvelous.  The clip on the back will allow me to attach it to my clothing or on my notebook to use it easily at conferences.  It is also going to be very handy when I am doing color matching for fabrics and yarns when I go shopping.

If You can See It

One of my creative passions is sculpture.  I love to make 3 dimensional shapes. Doesn’t matter if it is yarn, clay, wood, wire, paper mache’, polymer clay, or some random combination of all/some of those.  Visual inspiration for my sculptures can come from anywhere.

Like this lovely little blue glass bird that I inherited from my maternal grandmother’s estate. I had always adored it as a little girl.  

My grandmother was a formidable woman, tiny, but intense.  She owned an antique shop that was housed in 3 buildings on her farm.  The buildings were large and primarily filled with furniture. 

Staying at her house was always interesting. The interior of her house was filled with lovely glass, crystal, artwork and antique furniture. It was a bit like being in a museum.  A museum where you are not allowed to touch anything.

But for some reason I was allowed to carry this little bird around. There was something about the weight and fit of it in my hand that gave me, and still gives me great happiness.

For my recent bird house art project I decided I would use it as inspiration for a bird to live in my bird house. I didn’t have a pattern for making the bird and knew I needed to work quickly because the deadline for the bird house to be delivered was coming up quickly.

It was time to brush up on my sculpting skills. Back in my first highschool ceramic sculpture class my teacher said, “If you can see the object you want to sculpt, you can sculpt it.”  At the time I thought she was a bit nuts, but I soon understood what she meant.

You have to see the shapes that make up the overall shape of the object you want to replicate.

For this bird the overall shape is that of a sphere with a smaller half sphere on top and a flattened cone for the tail, there are also small bumps on either side of the bird that hint at wings.

Circles, balls and tubes are some of my favorite shapes to play with in crochet. Crochet also lends itself to modifications on the fly, so I could change shapes easily as needed.

I knew that making my little bird would start with a simple circle using increases and decreases to create the main body and head. I also knew I would be embroidering eyes and beak as separate elements and crocheting the wings to be sewn on after the body was finished.

I crocheted my bird from fingering weight wool yarn to keep him small and have more shaping options. I started at the top of his head. After I had worked a few rounds to shape the head, I embroidered the eyes and beak. The beak was a combination of crochet and embroidery using #3 crochet thread.  Once the details for the face were embroidered I continued with the body of  the bird. 

I stuffed the bird as I worked to check the shaping, and would pull out enough stuffing to continue working.  After completing the last round for the body I closed the seam on the bottom with a whipstitch.

I decided to create the tail shaping by crocheting into the finished body using a couple of cluster stitches.

The finished bird is quite a bit different from my original inspiration, but the feel and shaping is close enough that I was quite happy.

So your turn dear readers, find something in your environs to inspire you and create. Remember, if you can see it….