By the Seat of my Pants

I had planned to get an earlier start on Halloween costumes this year, but once again it was a mad scramble to complete them.

My youngest had decided he wanted to be Kai from the Lego Ninjago series. I purchased a long sleeve red T-shirt for him from Target.  He had his ninja sword and head-band that he got at Lego Land when we were in California for Spring Break last march. So we were half-way there.

I had hoped to make some red pants and a Gee style jacket for him from some red micro-fleece I had on hand (Kai is always dressed in red in the show). I took his measurements yesterday, but being a bit rushed when designing the sewing pattern for his jacket I left it a tad small. The body fit him okay but the sleeves were super snug, no way a T-shirt was going under there.

Solution? Cut the sleeves off the jacket, which also was more of a “faux” jacket that pulled over his head. Belt was easy enough to make, just cut a length of  mirco-fleece.

Whoops, what about pants?

He had wanted to have boxy pants so he would look like a Lego “people”. So instead of having red pants I cut out 2 long strips of red micro-fleece and pinned them to some dark gray pants.  So glad that I have lots of small safety pins on hand.

At first he wasn’t too sure about this short-cut, but after we got him dressed in his costume he was very happy.

Soon I will have more details about the cape costume I made for my oldest. Fortunately J was very happy with it, though ended up not wearing it the whole evening as it was a bit heavy. That is 2 yards of the black fabric you see in the photo above.

The Hunt for Happy Skin

Many of you are aware I live in the mountains of Colorado. Which means I often have snow and freezing temperatures when it is warm weather season for everyone else in the country. One thing you might not realize is that Colorado is arid.

You see on the news about our fires and the worry about fire because of the drought conditions we are subjected to. But Colorado has always been a very arid state. Our average annual moisture level is around 18 inches, compared to the averages for places like Washington or New York states which are 38  and 40 inches.

What this means for my skin is a constant battle to keep it moisturized. Especially my hands.

These are some of the lotions and unguents that I have had the most success with.  The Shikai Borage Therapy and the Hugo Naturals All Over Lotion are the ones I use each time I wash my hands. I keep them right beside my desk. They are light and absorb quickly so don’t gunk up my yarn and hooks.

The L’Occitane Dry Skin Hand Cream I carry with me in my project bag, it is the most expensive of the 6 at $10 per .5 oz. Also absorbs quickly.

The Soothing Skin Salve is from a local shop called Rebecca’s Apothecary, and is my favorite to use on my hands right before bed. It’s especially good when I have little cuts or dry patches on my hands, and really great for helping my cuticles.

The DermaE cream and Hugo Naturals Shea Body Butter are my favorite after shower lotions, especially for elbows and heels.

All these lotions are great, but an important thing to also remember is to drink lots of water. Even being slightly dehydrated can make your skin dry and flaky. So drink up.

Winter Again

We have been having a bit of a warm weather reprieve, but today it ended. I think I was in denial that it was going to get cold again.  I had really been enjoying the warmer days.

But this morning I woke up to colder temperatures and late this afternoon it started snowing. Really wishing I had finished my snuggly sweater I’ve been crocheting for myself.  So I will be curling up under an afghan this evening while I get a few more rows done.

Our local school district sent out an email notice to check about school closures and road conditions in the morning. Ya Think?!

Himself is clearing off the snow, and I am firing up the woodstove. Could be a very busy day tomorrow if the boys have a snow day from school.

If the power goes out it may mean the end of my every day blogging streak. Hopefully not though as today makes 25 days in a row.

Beads & Jelly

It’s been a crazy busy week as I finished up design projects to ship to an editor. So tonight, after getting the projects blocking, I decided I deserved a little “play” crochet time.

I’ve been wanting to experiment with the “love-knot” from Vashti’s class I took in Manchester this past summer. She had talked about how fun love knots are to work with beads for simple jewelry.

I decided for my purposes I would use some of the Jelly Yarn “thread” or “super fine” and some iredescent E-beads I had on hand. The best thing about Jelly Yarn for working with beads is you don’t need a needle to get the beads on the “yarn”.

For this experiment I wanted to make the love knots about a half inch long, the springiness of the jelly yarn would cause them to open up nicely.

I started with a single crochet in my beginning chain, then I worked my love knots by pulling the loop on my hook up to 1/2 an inch long.

I slid one of the beads up to the base of my working yarn, then pulled thru a loop like making a chain.

Then, I worked a sc in the back bump of the chain stitch as my “knot” sc.

I repeated these steps for a while, and the photo above is what I came up with so far this evening.  I’m not 100% sure if I like it enough to keep it.  So I’ll look at it again tomorrow (or maybe in a few days) and decide. Time for a good night’s sleep now.

Zen and the art of Weaving in Tails

I used to hate weaving in tails when working on crochet projects. But over the years I’ve begun to regard this task as a nice break and meditative. I’m not sure what exactly changed my feelings toward this task that is dreaded by many of us yarny crafters.

I think part of my fondness came from teaching basic crochet to new hooksters.  Small flower and “yo-yo” projects are great for beginners, and it’s good practice weaving in the tails.

Afterall, the work we do on the finishing touches of our crochet can have a big impact on the final appearance of a project.

Weaving in ends doesn’t have to be that tedious. In fact it is a great way to change-up the tasks you are working on (different movements of the hands break up the repetition that leads to injury).

In 2010 I took a class at the Manchester Chain Link with Karen Ratto-Whooley where she showed us some neat tricks about end weaving. This was Karen’s Venetian Lace Class (which is well worth taking) and involved creating very open lacy motifs.  So the question became, how and where do you hide those darn tails.

Karen told us how her grandmother told her the “wrong side” of your work should look as nice as the “right side”. One of the tricks to making that happen is to hide your tail weaving so it blends with the stitches of your fabric.  Taking  your tail up and back along the tall stitches is a great way to disguise them.

Also weaving the tails so they go back over themselves helps to prevent them coming loose later.

A few months ago at the LambShoppe PJ Jam night my happiness with tail weaving was solidified.  I was very tired and didn’t have the brain cells for really crocheting anything ambitious. But I did have a pile of motifs that needed their ends woven in before I could start the next stage of the project. I sat there weaving in tails and focusing on visiting with my friends. By the end of the evening I had finished all the motifs in my bag and had enjoyed the company of my dear friends.

I recently sold a design that contained 52 3-colored motifs and an additional 36 1-color motifs. Trust me, that is a lot of tails to weave.  Fortunately my new found fondness for that task has served me well. I have found the Zen.

Hopefully all my dear readers will be able to approach this task with a bit less distaste in the future as well.

Pretties from PJ Jam

The third Saturday of the month is lots of fun. I go to Denver to hang out with all my stitchy pals during PJ Jam at my favorite Denver LYS: The LambShoppe. Of course one reason it is so fun is that I can buy yarn, tools and nifty buttons.

So I did. Plus being October is my birthday month I got a discount. I’ve some special plans for these sparkly buttons and yarn, but Shhhh…it’s a secret for now.  Hopefully I’ll be able to share with you soon, but for now I’m going to be a  swatching, sketching, designing fiend.

Sort of the crochet version of a mad-scientist.

Rhinebeck – On my Bucket List

This weekend is a lucky time for all my Northeastern stitchy friends. Many of them are going to the Mecca of Yarnieness: The New York Sheep & Wool Festival a.k.a. Rhineback.

Before I joined Ravelry I had never heard of Rhinebeck, but now it ranks up there with 1/2 carat diamond solitaire earrings on my wish list (and is more likely to happen).

Honestly, I don’t really know what happens at Rhinebeck or what all is available to do there. But I’ve heard stories that make me want to go exploring.

There have been words like Sheep, Alpaca, Hand-spun, Hand-dyed and Garlic Artichokes used. Someday I am going to Rhinebeck, I mean Garlic Artichokes people! Wow!

In the meantime, all my stitchy pals that have made it to Rhinebeck this year. Pet a sheep and/or alpaca, purchase some gorgeous hand dyed hand-spun and enjoy the Garlic Artichokes for me.

20 Days!

I can barely believe I’ve actually managed to blog everyday for the past 20 days (counting today of course).  I might even make it to the end of the month, though no guarantees.

One thing that makes all the writing and computer work I do go easier is my nifty ergonomic split keyboard and ergonomic mouse.  The keyboard slope and overall shape helps keep my hands relaxed as I type. Which is why I can type approximately 120 wpm.  If you are spending hours on the keyboard and finding you are experiencing pain a keyboard like this might be the solution.

Of course, no matter what keyboard and desk set-up you have, you still need to take regular breaks every 20-30 minutes to just move in a different way from the seated posture with hands on the keyboard.

Andee & Jan’s Big Adventure Part 2

As you likely can guess, the Part 2 of our adventure was the drive back to Colorado.

We planned very well for our departure and managed to be packed up, checked out and on the road by 8 a.m. We were just going to make a quick stop off the highway to visit a Whole Foods to re-provision some of the food we had eaten during our stay in Reno.

Of course, it wasn’t to be that simple. When we exited the highway I managed to take us in the wrong direction (I’m great at Geometry, total rubbish at Geography), fortunately we figured out that we were traveling in the wrong direction fairly quickly and got turned around.

Driving across Nevada was as boring the 2nd time around as it had been on the first. Added to the monotone of the scenery was that a haze seemed to be hanging over everything. But we had our music and lots of adventures at the show to talk about. We reached SLC at a decent hour (the sun was still up) and we had organized well for what we needed to bring to the room with us.

We each ate something for supper then had some fun snacking on chocolate. Had a bit of a “tasting” with the different flavors I had packed for us. Jan made me watch Football. Eek!

Next morning we were up and off quickly. Driving out of SLC we finally got to see the gorgeous scenery we had missed in the dark on the trip out to Reno.  The hills were actually quite lush with lots of greenery as well as dramatic rockscapes.  Many of the trees were sporting their autumn colors too. Jan was really enjoying the scenery, but since I was driving I could only give it a bit of attention.

The highways going out of SLC are very twisty and pretty busy, which I found entertaining.  I think Jan was relieved when the traffic got lighter though.

We were having some difficulties with my I-pod player at this point so we decided to sing.  A road-trip song I know well from way back is “99 Bottles of Beer”, but it didn’t really fit for us. So we decided upon a yarn related version. We used up an hour of our travel time playing with variations of words and singing them to see how well they worked. Jan finally came up with the version that we liked best:

99 Balls of Bamboo on the Wall,

99 Balls of Bamboo,

Take one down it needs to be wound,

98 Balls of Bamboo on the wall.

Of course, I had a terrible time getting it right. I kept messing up and singing the old lyrics. It was definitely entertaining though.

We were then getting to where the terrain was opening up, and we were enjoying all the rocky scenery.  We stopped when there was a really long cargo train and took some photos.  The gorgeous stone buttes were hard to do justice to. I fixed the I-pod issue and we had our tunes back to sing with, instead of our improvised counting song.

Wyoming was adventure free until we reached Cheyenne. Once again a combination of road-work and my geographically challenged mind created a bit of interest for us.  We were still on I-80 coming into Cheyenne. We knew we needed gas soon and both of us were wanting a bathroom stop as well. So we pulled off at the first likely exit.  Could not find the gas station that was advertised on the highway signage, only spotted it as we missed the turn to get to it.

Back we went on the next highway entrance. I’m not even sure what highway this was, though I spotted signs that said we were headed toward I-25 (our route we would need for going south into Colorado).  We pulled off again and found a gas station, filled the tank and emptied ours. Then I decided it was time to invoke the Smart Phone.

I pulled up a Navigation Ap and we discovered we were actually very close to I-25, we just needed to get back on the highway we had been on and we would reach the I-25 South exit in just a mile. Yay! Back onto the highway we went.

Hmmmm….shouldn’t we have gotten to I-25 already? Look there it’s the “Sierra Trading Post” storefront. The scenery is becoming far less urban and more rural. Okay we are definitely going the wrong direction again. Pull off at next exit. Pull out Smart Phone. Yup, I-25 is back that-a-way.  And back we go.

I was never so happy to see signs for I-25 South.  Interestingly enough, once we were on I-25 the rest of the drive sort of flew by.  The traffic was heavier than I am generally used to on Colorado Highways, I think we had managed to hit it just right for when many commuters are heading home. We made it to our exit with no more misadventures.

We took a slightly different route home from the one I had taken Janet down the mountain. She wasn’t going to get to see very much more of my beautiful Colorado (until I get her out here for another visit) so we took a “long-cut” to get to my house.  It was getting on toward evening, but this route would only add 10 minutes to our drive.  Fortunately my geographically challenged issues don’t apply in my familiar stomping grounds, which meant we were in no danger of getting lost again.

We drove thru the little town of Lyons, which Jan made me promise we would investigate further on her next visit, and then took the St Vrain Canyon to Peak-to-Peak Highway. The look of delight on Jan’s face as we drove the rocky winding road let me know taking a “long-cut” had definitely been a good choice.

We stopped and took some photos at one point, and realized that there was a climber on one of the rock faces.

Red circle is where the climber is.

Looking at this larger photo you can get a feel for how big it is because the climber is just a speck.

Finally we were back home. We were tired but happy as we trekked up to the house from my garage. My family was all very excited to see us. Finally put the boys to bed and Jan and I sat on the sofa having our last face to face visit before her departure in the morning.

Morning I faced the hardest part of these visits with my dear Jan. Telling her good-bye until we will see each other again.  Of course the best part is, I have a wonderful friend who makes me laugh and loves yarn and crochet hooks as much as I.  It will be phone calls and emails until we get another chance to meet.

A Very Beary Christmas

Yes, I know it is early to be thinking about Christmas.  But if you are a crafter making your holiday gifts, it is really moving into the last stretches for getting those projects done. So maybe you need something quick to fill a few spots on your list.

A Bear for All Seasons
Photo courtesy of Annie’s/Crochet World

How about these cuddly little bears?  You can find the pattern for them in the December 2012 issue of Crochet World.  The brown bear is 3-dimensional and the white bear is flat, the pattern has instructions for both.

I really loved designing these little guys.  They are just big enough to add some fun to your tree, packages or as a simple gift.  You can change the size of your bears by using smaller or larger gauge yarns (or even thread), just remember to adjust the size of your hook accordingly.

Make the flat bear to embellish store-bought mittens, gloves, hat, scarves or even a sweatshirt or sweater.  Suddenly you have a special gift that took just a few hours to make.

The 3-D bear is perfect for a fun ornament for the Christmas tree. You could even use some sparkly yarns to make him a real stand-out. Or add some holly to his bow-tie. And if you want him to be a keepsake ornament, you could embroider the year on his tummy or back.