Gone Fishing!

This past weekend was the start of my boys’ Spring Break from school, and we are having loads of family fun time. Which means the blog may be a bit quiet for the duration.

I had hoped to have some blog entries finished up and scheduled to post during our busy time. Instead I’ve been feverishly working away on a number of design projects that needed to be mailed off.  I will be back to actively posting around April 4th, though I might sneak a few posts in earlier if I can. 

I hope everyone (in the Northern hemisphere) is having a lovely Spring time. And for my readers south of the Equator…Happy Autumn.

Finding Inspiration

One of the groups I belong to is the International Freeform Crochet Guild. Each year the group poses a challenge to its membership. The object being to create a freeform fiberart piece within the parameters of the challenge.

This year it is to create an interpretive piece inspired by a favorite artist or artwork.  Some of my guild friends are choosing to interpret music, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they create.

Last year I was too busy to participate in the challenge, but I am really hoping to participate this year.  When I first heard of this year’s challenge my mind went immediately to 2 of my favorite inspiring artists from the late 1800s early 1900s.  Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald. 

I had known about Charles Rennie Mackintosh before I found this book written by Alan Crawford for the World of Art series by the publishers Thames and Hudson Inc.  But the images of artwork created by his wife Margaret intrigued me even more.

Mackintosh was a Glasgow Architect with such buildings as the Glasgow School of Art and Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms to his credit.  He and Margaret collaborated on a number of projects and I’ve always loved the melding of Art Nouveau and Art Deco I see in many of the images of their work.

This painting by Margaret has appealed to me for a very long time, so it is my inspiration for this challenge. 

The photos of our challenge pieces are due to the organizer between April 2 & 15.  So hopefully the online exhibit will be up only a few weeks after that. In the meantime you can take a look at previous year’s challenges at the International Freeform Crochet Guild site.

Crocheting Kids

Yesterday was the last day of Crochet Club at my local school.  Since mid-October I’ve been teaching many of the 2nd-5th students (and their parents) the basics of crochet.  It has been a fun experience and I hope to do it again next school year.

Our last lesson was all about making hats from the crown down working in spirals using the half-double crochet stitch. One of my students was also learning how to make curlicues to decorate her hat with.

Even if you’ve never taught before, if you get a chance ,share your love of crochet with others.  I’m always amazed how much I learn from my student’s questions.  Seeing thru the eyes of a beginner, after 40+ years of crocheting, is a wonderous thing.

Now That’s A Ball of Yarn!

Back in January, when I went to TNNA in Phoenix, I was very excited to see and touch the yarns being offered by many of the companies at the show.

I was particullarly struck by the “Mohair Mountain” yarn from Universal Yarns.  One reason it caught my eye was that the balls were massive!

Each ball contains 660 yards of wonderfully fluffy yarn.  The colorways are mouth watering and best of all there are long runs of graduating colors which crochet up gorgeously. You can see all the wonderful colors at Universal Yarn website.

Hopefully, I will have some lovely new designs to show you in this yarn this year.

Everyone needs Hugs

One of my favorite things about crochet is using it to make gifts of love and support for my friends, family and even folks I’ll never meet.

It doesn’t have to be something fancy to give a “hug” to them. There are many wonderful patterns out there for afghans, lapghans and prayer shawls to make as gifts for someone you care about in your life, or even to organizations that reach out to folks in crisis.

My First Project Linus Blanket

One of my favorite programs is “Project Linus”. This wonderful organization provides blankets to children of all ages that are hospitalized or under-going a crisis. You can learn more about their program and ways you can help them out at their website.

Project Linus blankets don’t have to be crocheted or knit. They can also be quilts or fabric with edging treatments.

This is a simple blanket I made for my oldest son 6 years ago. It’s a wee bit ratty from all the love it has received over the years, but has held up well and is still his favorite to have nearby. I thought, in the spirit of giving and celebration of NatCroMo, I would provide a pattern for this blanket to my dear readers.

Boo’s Blanket

designed by Andee Graves

Finished size approximately 31.5″ x 42.5″

Yarn: Caron One-Pounder – 2 colors, plus a third color for border edging.

Hook: Size P 11.5mm

Note – Entire blanket is worked holding 2 strands of worsted weight yarn together. This is a child size blanket, but can be made larger by adding to the foundation chain in multiples of 2 and then working additional rows until you are happy with the proportions.

Close up of “Up and Down” stitch used for blanket.

Instructions (written in US Crochet terminology)

Row 1 – Foundation: Chain 85, working in back bumps of chain, sc in 2nd chain from hook, (dc in next ch, sc in next ch) 41 times, dc in last ch, turn.

Row 2: Ch 1, sc in first dc, (dc in next sc, sc in next dc) 41 times, dc in last sc, turn.

Rows 3-62: Repeat Row 2, 60 times. Fasten off.

Edging: Using 2 strands of third color. Attach yarn at any corner, ch 1, (sc, ch 2, sc) in corner st, [*ch 1, sk 1 st, sc in next st*, repeat from * to* to next corner, (sc, ch 2, sc) in corner] 3 times, repeat from * to * until reach beginning of round, sl st to first sc of edging and fasten off.

Alternate edging: Sc in every st with same treatment of corners as in first edging. Can do more than one round of edging to create a more substantial border by chaining 1 after the joining sl st, then working a sc in each sc and corner treatment in the corner ch-2 spaces.

I hope you have fun with this little pattern. Make a blanket for someone you love, or better yet, make 2 and send one to your nearest Project Linus chapter for a child that needs a hug.

Oh Nom!

Okay, most of the time I’ll blog about crochet techniques, yarn, art or design news. But today I must post about my discovery of a new flavor chocolate bar from one of my very favorite chocolate companies, Chocolove.

This is their new flavor “Currants and Almonds in Dark Chocolate”, they have also updated their “Cherries and Almonds in Dark Chocolate”.

Both are organic and fair-trade products which means reduced guilt on having a chocolate binge.  Better yet, the percentage of Cocoa content is 73% adding up to less sugar in the chocolate bar, which is healthier. Total Win!

Of course the Nom factor doesn’t need to be described to those of my readers who are fellow chocolate aficionados. As for the rest of you who don’t have the love for the chocolate, I extend my pity. ;o)

My Corner of the World

Sometimes, as a designer and mother, the line between work and home life is quite blurry.

This past weekend has been about creating a work space in my home that meshes better with my family life. We are looking into adding a dog to our family, but random balls of yarn and project bags are far too tempting to most dogs.

A necessity is to create a spot where all the yarnie stuff can be secured away from a curious pooch.

I already had this desk/hutch. It had been where I kept my old computer and took care of bill paying and was tucked away in a corner of our dining room. But it had become somewhat abandoned this past year, since the location didn’t work well for me to crochet comfortably there.

Now I have 2 of my work tubs stored in the bottom part of the hutch, with my laptop and a good lamp on the desk surface. Best of all I’m using my ergonomic split keyboard again, which is much kinder to my hands.

I’m still developing my plan for the best layout of my work area, but I think this is going to be a much better set-up than I was using, as well as being dog-proof.

Finding Colors

I love to play in free form crochet for art projects. One of the questions I get most often from crocheters interested in trying freeform is about choosing the yarns for a project.

But often the real key to a successful freeform project is choosing the colors.  I chose the colors for this piece using the advice of the wonderful Jenny Dowde.  She said that one of the easiest ways to get colors that play nicely with each other was to choose a multi-colored yarn. Then you find solid color yarns that pick up tones in the multi-colored yarn.

I choose some Lion Boucle’ in the Wild Berries colorway for this project. Then picked pink, orange and blue yarns from my stash that matched the Boucle’.

If you want to learn more about Jenny’s approach to FreeForm Fiberarts I recommend getting your hands on her books: Freeform Knitting and Crochet; Freeformations, Designs and Projects in Knitting and Crochet; Surface Works.

Slip Sliding Circles

If you like to make hats from the crown down or amigurumi (toys), knowing how to get a tight circle is a handy skill.

My favorite method for these types of projects is the “adjustable slip knot”. This is a technique I first heard about in a class I took with Dee Stanziano, though it took me a while to play with it. I use it all the time now.

The trick with a slip knot is if the beginning tail or the working yarn tightens it. Generally speaking, the working tail is best for projects like afghans, scarves or garments.  But the beginning tail end is ideal for hats and toys, or anything sculptural where you need a tightly closed ring. I call this slip knot an Adjustable Slip Knot, because you can adjust the size of the loop even after you have worked into it.

To make an adjustable slip knot: Wrap the yarn around 2 or 3 fingers to make an X. The working end of the yarn should be on the bottom and the beginning tail should cross over it. Then use your hook or fingers to reach under the bottom strand to pull up a loop from the top strand.

The best thing about the adjustable slip knot is that you don’t have to fight to make all your stitches into the same spot. If your beginning tail is long enough, you can open the loop as you make stitches. This is loads easier to count your stitches to know if you have the right number in your starting round too.

Once you are finished with the first round, you give a gentle tug to the beginning tail to close the loop. Voila! you have a nice snug first round that did not involve any hair pulling.  Now you can proceed with either concentric rounds or working in the spiral to complete your project.

Give it a try on your next project and see if you don’t love this method as much as I do.

Measuring Up

Tape measures are one of the handiest things to have in your project bag. Measurements are an important part of creating crochet projects, especially if you are making garments. Personally I use them a lot when working out designs.

Of course, like all the tools of my trade, I seem to be constantly searching for my tape measure.  So I am always on the hunt for inexpensive tape measures when I’m out shopping. My brilliant idea being if I have one in every project bag, I’ll have one whenever I need it.

I’ve seen a number of lovely “covered” measuring tapes. Some of them even have crocheted covers, and though I’ve admired them, few have instilled in me the desire to purchase one. 

Friday I was at the local hardware store (McGuckins in Boulder, CO), it is one of the best stores for finding amazing and fun stuff to use in creative pursuits.  I discovered some nifty round retracting measuring tapes for the very reasonable price of $1.60.  So I tossed a couple of them in my basket and decided it was time for some experimenting with covering them in crochet.

This gorgeous Aunt Lydia’s Classic 10 thread was in a range of colors that I love, plus it would make it easy to spot my tape in the bottom of most all of my project bags.

I didn’t have a pattern for this. Instead I did my favorite type of crocheting, “Seat of the Pants”.  

I began with the plain side of the tape measure. I started a simple single crochet spiral round and kept holding it up to the tape casing to see if it was big enough.  My spiral tended to “dome” a little in the center, so I wanted to have the final circle be small enough that it would fit tightly around the casing.

Once I reached the size needed, I worked a row of single crochet off the wrong side of the final round. I left a gap between the beginning and ending of the row for where the tape would feed out. I worked a couple more rows to cover the flat edge of the tape casing, then fastened off with a very long tail. The tail would be used to sew the 2 pieces of the cover together.

Next I chained a ring to just fit around the button of the tape, and crocheted 18 single crochet in that ring. The circle on the opposite side was 12 rounds, so I counted the first round on this side as round 3 and worked out from there. Once I had 10 rounds I fastened off and wove in the center tails for both sides as well as the ending tail for the 2nd circle.

I then placed the 2 pieces around the tape measure, lining up the opening on the edge with the tab for the tape. I used the long tail from the first side to whip stitch the edging to the “button” circle, stretching and positioning the circles to fit well on the casing.

The little tab cover was just a chain long enough to wrap around the tab, then rows of single crochet to the length I needed to cover the tab. I folded it in half and used a couple more rows of sc to join the top edges and make a shaped point. Slipped it over the tab and sewed thru the opening of the tab and along the open side.

I now have my own little covered tape measure. Hopefully this one won’t get lost for awhile.