Does It Count?

I have managed to blog everyday for the past 16, but today has been more than a bit challenging.

Say Hello to my Little Friend

I have caught a cold, or more apt to say, the cold has caught me. So I’ve been alternating between working on design projects and napping. As well as taking care of my family.

I don’t know if this sad short little post will count as a “real” post today. But it’s the best I can do.

Consider it a glimpse into the sometimes not-so glamourous life of a crochet designer with elementary school children.

Mama Maurine – My Crochet Angel

Sometimes, if you pay attention, life will give you a chance to learn and grow.  Such was the lesson of my relationship with my step-mother Maurine.  When my dad re-married I wasn’t too sure about the whole thing.  It took us a long while to find our balance with each other.  But over the years we became family, later on we even became friends.

Our friendship was founded on crochet.  When I started getting into crocheting again about 14 years ago we began to share our joy in playing with hooks and yarn.  Maurine was an avid crocheter.  She primarily made house-hold items like afghans, pillows, dishcloths and doilies.  Occasionally she would make some slippers or other small accessory type projects.

She was my “cheer-leader” as I developed  my career as a crochet designer.  She was supportive and encouraging about my efforts and celebrated each published and sold design for me.

Our last face to face visit was in March 2011, when I was thrilled to be able to give her a copy of the April 2011 issue of Crochet World that had my design “Field the Lamb” on the cover.  We had a great time looking thru the magazine at all the different patterns and she was so happy for my success.  She had me sign her copy, which made me chuckle.

Unfortunately, I had no idea that would be our last visit.  We spoke on the phone over the next months, then I was in super busy mode with spring time design work.  That September I got a call from my sister that Maurine was in the hospital and the prognosis was not good. This was the week before I was to leave for the Greensboro Knit & Crochet Show (ChainLink).  I called my father and asked him if I should cancel going on my trip, his response was that I should go, because Maurine would have wanted me to go.

My beloved step-mom passed away shortly after midnight on Tuesday, September 20, 2011.  My sister texted me that morning as I was traveling to the airport. My heart was so heavy as the plane lifted off carrying me far away from Colorado and Kansas. I was grateful that she was no longer suffering.

Maurine was afraid to fly, so she never went to one of these shows and I know she would have loved attending one. All the yarn and folks playing with it. The gorgeous crocheted and knit garments that you see everyone wearing.  For the Greensboro show I found myself seeing the show thru her eyes.

Every step and stage of my time in Greensboro went smoothly, and it seemed like Maurine was being my guardian and good fortune angel. When I met with  Carol Alexander we discussed a thread design of a crocheted angel in honor of Maurine.

Photo courtesy of Annie’s

You can find the pattern in the December 2012 issue of Crochet World, “Maurine’s Angel”.  Make an angel in memory of someone you love.

Last Minute Stitching

Well today is nearly over, so I need a quick post. Here is a funny picture my dear Jan and I staged after the Banquet Fashion Show. I was pretending to be crocheting on the skirt of my Evening Seaside Gown.  Which really wasn’t far from the truth, as I finished the last bit of stitching Friday night of the show.

The gown was a success on the runway during the Fashion Show and I even managed not to trip on the hem as I walked up the stairs to the stage. There will not be a pattern for this dress, though I will be using a lot of what I learned making it in future designs.


Well, today is my birthday. I’m not sure how it came around again so quickly, I would have sworn I had one of these just 6 months ago.

I’ve been very good to myself leading up to this birthday. Indulged in some yarn purchases, as well as some fun goodies for jewelry making that may or may not be used in my design work. Plus there was the whole “Trip to Reno” that was a kind of gift from my family.

Anyway, I think I have my birthday celebration covered, so I am giving a gift to one of my readers that commented on my Mountain Ruana post.  And the lucky winner is: Julie!  I’ll be in touch by email very soon to get your address to mail you the copy of “Warm & Cozy Crochet” that you won. Thanks for commenting on my blog.

Meanwhile, since I officially turn 49 today, I shall be contemplating the 50th year of my life. I think I need to take better care of myself.  Which sort of encompasses all manner of sins: Like getting more and regular sleep, eating a healthy hearty breakfast every morning (which means this is the last morning I am having GF brownies for breakfast), and getting some form of cardio exercise everyday.  I know from all my work as a health and wellness writer that it’s all a matter of “Move it or Lose it” if I don’t want the years to bring me to a grinding halt.

Of course, no matter what, I will always celebrate my birthday. As a very wise friend told me years ago upon his 50th birthday, “Getting older is far preferable over the alternative.”

Amazing Slip Stitches

I’ve been crocheting for a very long time. And I’ve used many a slip stitch. They are a vital part of seamless construction and working in the round.  Two of my very favorite techniques in crochet.

But shortly after I joined Ravelry I started hearing about a technique called “Slip Stitch Crochet”. A fellow raveler and designer, David Burchall, was at the forefront of many of these conversations. He crocheted, and he wanted to crochet “masculine” fabric that he would be comfortable wearing. He liked the look of many knit fabrics but had not had good success with learning to knit. So David began to experiment with Slip Stitch crochet as a way to create the fabric he wanted.

About the time I was hoping to experiment with learning these new slip stitch techniques David went thru some big changes and disappeared from the Ravelry world for a while. So I put that pursuit on the back burner, and then life got busier for me as my “part-time” work as a designer turned into “full-time”. Once David was back and providing information on slip stitch again I was too hectic.

Then the classes for the 2012 Knit & Crochet Show came out. Vashti Braha was teaching Slip Stitch classes. I wasn’t able to take the classes in Manchester because they were offered on my busiest day with the CGOA Design Competition. But they were first on my list for the Reno Show.

I was so excited for the class to begin and Vashti did not disappoint. I’m generally pretty slow in class working on the swatchs, but I didn’t mind as Vashti touched upon each technique and provided a comprehensive 3 page handout that gave me all the information I needed to keep practicing.

Back Loop Sl St – Uber Stretchy fabric

Even though my tension was a bit wonky with the swatch I really liked the stretch of this fabric. Had a cushy feel that was really nice, I’m thinking my husband may be getting a hat for Christmas made with this stitch technique.

Bosnian Sl St /Back loop and Front loop

I loved the curl of the fabric with the Bosnian front loop sl st, reminds me of the rolled edges for neck and cuffs on many knit sweaters. (If you are wondering what that yummy yarn is in my photos, it is “Unforgettable” from Red Heart in the Tidal colorway)

I’m really looking forward to playing with this technique more and am hoping that Vashti will be offering more slip stitch classes at next year’s shows. Meanwhile you can visit Vashti’s website and subscribe to her wonderful newsletter to learn more about this enticing technique.

Comrades in Yarn

Whether you wield the Hook or the Needles (or some combination of the two) attending a Knit and Crochet Show is a great place for meeting up with friends and making new friends. In fact, for me it is the very best reason to come to the shows.

The first Knit & Crochet show I ever attended was the September 2008 show in Portland, OR. I came by myself because there were classes that I really wanted to take and I didn’t know anyone else that loved to play with yarn like me.

I left the show having met many wonderful friends, whom I am still in touch with. Most notably my dear Jan, Bonnie Pierce and Pam Shore. I also had the opportunity to meet friends I had beforehand only known online: Vashti Braha, Jenny Dowde, Laurie Wheeler, Sarah B, to name a few.

I am usually terrible about getting photos of folks at the shows, but this recent show I attempted to do better.

Linda & Doris

Linda Dean is a wonderful new designer whose enthusiasm and contagious laugh are a joy to be around.  And of course, the lovely Doris Chan is truly an encouraging and inspiring force to be reckoned with.

Some of the International FreeForm Guild group

It’s always great fun to spend time with this inspiring bunch, I first learned about the International Free Form Guild at the Portland 2008 show. But, this was the first show I actually got to visit with Prudence Mapstone and she was an absolute blast. I wish I’d realized that the folks in the back row of this picture were a bit out of focus. In the front row from left to right: Me, Mirtooli, Jorel; back row, Barbara H, Melba, Prudence.

Margaret Fisher

I was very charmed by the lovely Margaret Fisher, who surprised me by knowing what a geek I am. We had a very fun conversation about crocheting a moebius and our other odd geometric leanings.

Amy Shelton wearing her tiarra

Amy, one of the founders of Crochetville and current President of the CGOA, had a few of us worrying about her sanity when she was running about with a tiara on her head. But she is very fond of the sparkly. Don’t know if you tell from this photo, but the dress she is wearing is super sparkly too. Of course, those of you that know me well are aware I have a thing about sparkly as well.

Vashti and Ellen

The lovely Ellen Gormley and Vashti Braha. Ellen is a talented designer with some great books out, if you love interesting motif afghans you need to get her book ” Go Crochet: Afghan Design Workbook” and if lace is more your style check out her latest book from Annie’s “Learn Bruges Lace”.  Vashti is always an inspiration with her take on designing and crochet, she also helped keep us all in order and sane during the CGOA banquet Fashion Show.

These are just the photos I got, but there were loads of other friends there.

Come join us for all the fun and camaraderie in 2013. The Knit & Crochet Shows next year will be in Indianapolis, IN (July 17-21) and Charlotte, NC (October 2 -6).

Ready Set Sew!

Today I had to drive down the mountain for a hair appointment, so I decided to get a few other errands out of the way.

One of those errands was a stop at my local Jo-Anns store to pick-up some fabrics for costumes for this coming Halloween.  It was really hard to decide on just one, so I got a few different cuts of fabric. My boys were very excited looking at the fabric when I got home, my ideas are being usurped by them for new ideas.  Come back later this month and you’ll get to see what we came up with.

A Quiet Little Goal

I don’t know if all my lovely readers have noticed, but I’ve been blogging every day for the past 10 days.

Initially this run of posting was powered by my excitement about all the fun stuff from the Reno Knit & Crochet Show.  Then it became a quiet little goal, I began to challenge myself to blog each day and see if I could manage to make it to 10 days. Now that I’ve reached 10 days we will see how much further I can go.

I’m thinking I’ll take it an additional 5 days at a time. So if I can blog everyday thru October 14th that will be 15.  Will see what happens after that.

Feel free to cheer me on, encouragement is always welcome. And if you have ideas for crochet or hand health subjects you would like to see please let me know.

In the Bag

I’ve always felt the best project bags are those that are designed by other yarn-crafters. Because only a fellow addict can appreciate the various demands we make of our project bags.

Laura and her husband Nick at the Reno Show

This certainly holds true for the talented Laura Lundy the designer behind Slipped Stitch Studios. I was delighted to find her booth at the Reno Knit & Crochet Show, it was filled with gorgeous and fun project bags of every size you could think of as well as other marvelous project aids like Pattern Wallets and Magnetic line markers (so you don’t lose your place in the pattern when you have to set it down).

Of course I had to have one of her bags for myself.  I couldn’t resist this generously sized bag with the adorable sheep on it. Currently it is holding a sweater project without straining (I could fit even more yarn in there!).

Her bags are packed with all kinds of awesome features; like numerous pockets for all those goodies you need when you are on the go, as well as big expandable pockets that will hold your yarn separate from your project.

A really wonderful feature is there is nothing for your yarn to snag on, no zippers or velcro.  A drawstring closure at the top of the bag keeps everything in its place.

If you can’t wait to have one of these bags for yourself, pop on over to their website at to see all the wonderful helpful products available. Currently they are having a special promotion for Free Shipping on your order until October 15.

Playing with Yarn

When I design a project I think about the yarn a lot. All yarns are not created equal. By that I don’t mean that some are inferior to others, but some definitely work better for certain projects or effects than others.

An example:Worsted weight kitchen cotton rarely makes a nice garment, it tends to bag and sag with wear and can be very heavy.  It’s ideal though for dish cloths, bath scrubbies or even a sturdy market or beach bag.

The things I look at when choosing a yarn for a design often happen long before the design is even conceived.

Yarn for Design Swatching

I frequently purchase a single skein/ball/hank of yarn to try it out. I’ll play with different stitches and stitch patterns with various hooks to see how the yarn behaves and how the fabric looks. If I like any of those swatches, or if I think I might like them, I’ll wash and block the swatch to see what happens next. How much does it grow or shrink? Does it look better or worse?

Lately this experimenting occurs as part of my search for a yarn to use in a design I want to publish or that I want to propose to a magazine or yarn company. I know what I want the yarn to do in the design, so I search for a yarn that will do that.  OR I know what a yarn will do and I come up with a design that I know will showcase that yarn well.

The road from this creative process to a published design can often be rocky.  Sometimes I will sell a proposed design, but the publisher wants to change the yarn I will use. That can lead to some interesting juggling if the preferred yarn responds differently to the stitch work of the proposed design than the original yarn.

Often it requires some re-calculations of the math to make the design come together.  Since this all happens at the beginning of the creative road it doesn’t distort how the finished design looks to the pattern using public.

What happens though when the pattern using public decides to substitute a different yarn than the one used for the original design?

Almost everyone decides to substitute yarns at one point or another.  It’s quite understandable. For some of us it may be that we have yarn in our stash that we feel would work nicely or we like the color of. For others the specified yarn may not be easy to obtain where they live, or may be outside the reach of their budget. But substituting yarn can be quite tricky.

Sometimes the resulting project is even nicer than the original sample that was pictured with the pattern. Unfortunately the opposite can happen to varying degrees.  I’ve seen instances where stitchers have substituted a different yarn that changed the gauge significantly, they then adjusted the math of the pattern…but are unhappy with the finished object.

All this is understandable, and it can even be entertaining as a stitcher to play with a pattern in that way.  But what yarn will you choose?

Four points to keep in mind when you want to substitute a yarn:

1) Pick something that has a similar fiber content.

If you are horribly allergic to animal fibers like wool and have fallen completely in lust with a pattern that was originally designed in a wool or wool blend yarn you may have some difficulties. You might be able to find a yarn that looks somewhat similar, but your finished object is going to block and wear quite differently from the original. If you are okay with that result, go for it.

2) Stay with the same size yarn.

Meaning if the pattern calls for DK weight yarn and you substitute a Bulky yarn you are going to have some BIG changes in your finished object (no pun intended). I’ve seen some stitchers decide to work a pattern in a heavier yarn without changing the size hook or needles they are using. Then they are unhappy because their project doesn’t have the drape or flow of the original.

If you are going bigger or smaller than the recommended yarn you need to change hook or needle size accordingly, and you need to figure out how your gauge will change to adjust the pattern.

3) Try to match the twist and elasticity of the original yarn.

This is a bit harder to do, because you need to be able to observe both the original yarn and the yarn you wish to substitute. Yarns using the same fiber content and of the same weight can still have a big difference in “give” due to the way they are created.

Take a close look and touch different yarns in your local yarn store and big box craft stores. You will see that some are much more elastic than others, even if they don’t have elastic thread added to them (there are a few sock yarns that do have elastic nylon added to create a very stretchy sock fabric).

If the original yarn in a pattern is very “cushy” or elastic and you substitute a tight non-elastic yarn the finished project will be much less stretchy and, in the case of garments, may not give you the fit you want.

One quick test for similarity in elasticity is to measure the yarn resting and stretched.  Best case scenario is if you can compare a couple of yarns you are considering to the original yarn.  Shopping at your LYS you may be able to use the knowledge of the shop employees to help you find a good substitute.

4) Swatch!

Yes, I know many of you hate to swatch. But when substituting yarn it really is critical.  It is far better to put in 20 minutes or less swatching, than to have worked days and weeks on a project to discover the gauge or yarn performance is completely off.

Once you finish a swatch let it rest before making any measurements or evaluating the fabric.  During the process of crocheting (or knitting) the warmth of your hands and the manipulation of the yarn can change the fabric.

I tend to lay my swatch out flat on my work table for at least an hour (sometimes overnight) before taking any measurements and evaluating the fabric.  If the finished piece will be blocked I block my swatch, this is particularly important if the yarn is natural fibers like cotton, silk or any animal hair/fur.

Another thing to consider is growth of the project. The weight of the yarn can change the fabric you create when the piece is large.  One way to evaluate that from the swatch is to hang it with weights on the bottom edge. I use clothes pins.

I hope these tips and this glimpse into my design process are helpful to you.  Play with your yarn choices and patterns to find the mix that gives you what you want. “Play” is the key word there, just have fun with it. Afterall, it’s all playing with yarn.