Chasing the Moon

As I’m sure most of you know, this past Monday was the Solar Eclipse that traveled across the US. Being we are a family of geeks, and we live only 3.5 hours south of where the path of totality was (the pink dot is approximately where we are in Colorado), it was definitely time for one more road trip.

Our kids started back to school the previous week but Monday was only the 3rd full day of school for them. We decided that this was a great educational opportunity and they could miss a day at school. We weren’t the only ones. Many of the Colorado schools had students missing.

I have to give complete credit to my amazing husband for pulling this together.  He decided we should go to Rapid City, South Dakota and spend 2 nights there. That way we could visit Mount Rushmore and then drive down into Nebraska on Monday morning into the path of the total eclipse and watch it.

I had always wanted to see Mount Rushmore and hadn’t realized it was so close to us. It was about a 6.5 hour drive, not counting stops for gas and food. He had even ordered an Eclipse watching kit that included 5 pairs of eclipse glasses to look at the sun safely.

We left home about noon on Saturday and drove all the way to Rapid City, South Dakota. The drive was beautiful and I crocheted on a swatch for a new shawl design. We got to our hotel about 7 that evening, had a quick dinner then called it a night.

The next day we spent exploring Mount Rushmore. So gorgeous there, and we all hiked up the stairs that took us to the foot of the sculpture. I took that photo from about half way up, the closer we got to the sculpture the more challenging it was to get a good photo. The trees are pretty grown up around the base and the fact we were looking up the presidents’ noses, not ideal photography conditions. Still beautiful and well worth the hike.

My oldest stayed with me as I hobbled up the 255 stairs, turned out we had picked the wrong direction to go on the path, if we had started to the left side of the sculpture we would have been going down stairs most of the way. Ah Well. If you get a chance to visit there hopefully you will learn from my experience.

When we got back to the hotel later that afternoon I was ready to put my feet up and crochet. I’ve been asked by Longmont Yarn Shoppe to design a crocheted shawl to help celebrate their 5th year anniversary.  I had been swatching with the yarn trying to figure out the right stitch combinations. Having some quiet time in the hotel room was great and I finally got the swatch and math to cooperate.

Himself and the kids were playing in the water park that was attached to the hotel. I joined them later to soak in the hot tub and have some dinner at the pizza place.  After everyone was water-logged from swimming we went back to our hotel room and packed up in preparation for an early departure the following morning.

By 7:30 a.m. Monday we were on the road and headed South toward the predicted path of totality. There was quite a bit of traffic headed the same direction, though nothing compared to what we were seeing on Google maps for the Interstate coming up from Denver to Wyoming. We had a couple of spots we were considering going to watch from, but we were concerned about cloud cover obscuring the sun.

We were watching our location in relationship to the path of totality so we knew, if we had to, we could just stop on the side of the road to watch the eclipse. We were heading toward Agate, Nebraska and passed by a scenic overlook that didn’t have a huge crowd. The sky ahead of us was beginning to look very cloudy and we were trying to decide if we should keep going or head back to the overlook. After about 15 minutes we decided to turn around and go to the overlook.

It was a great decision. There were around 25-30 other groups there, probably 50 people total. People from Minnesota, Iowa and New York (Long Island) as well as closer by.  Everyone had eclipse glasses and was ready to watch the sun as the partial eclipse began.

My youngest had science class homework for taking notes on about the eclipse. He had black stickers to overlap yellow sun stickers on the paper, he had to note the time and the percentage of coverage. So we decided on the times he would make his observations then set a series of alarms on my smart phone so he didn’t have to be constantly looking at his watch and missing the eclipse.

It was a great family experience as well as a science experience. The kids got a little impatient waiting for the totality to happen, but we treated it as a great learning opportunity for them.  Fact: Sometimes the waiting in scientific observation is boring.

Once the totality got closer everyone got really excited. The wind picked up and, being at one of the highest points in the area, we could see the dimness of the totality coming toward us. Those of us watching the sun as the totality happened suddenly couldn’t see anything thru the eclipse glasses.

When we took the glasses off we saw the beautiful ring of the solar corona. It was stupendous! The kids declared all the waiting had been completely worth it. My youngest pronounced this the best trip of the summer. Both kids are more determined than ever that they want to be scientists when they grow up.

Then we drove to Scotts Bluff to have a picnic lunch and stop by Brown Sheep Wool Company. We weren’t the only eclipse hunters that had decided to stop by Brown Sheep. They were really busy, but I managed to find some yarn and fiber to adopt. Quite a bit of that yarn will be presents for Christmas, including slippers for all my family. I had them pick out the yarn and color they wanted because they are getting a bit picky about what they will wear anymore. Believe it or not the hot pink yarn in the center isn’t for me, my oldest picked it out for slippers.

I also got to introduce my family to 3 members of the Brown Sheep Family; Brittany, Andy and Peggy.

After yarn shopping we drove to the Visitors Center at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Again we were in company with a lot of other folks, but we decided to go ahead and wait in the line to drive to the top of the bluff. We were really glad we did since the views from there were beautiful.

We managed to miss the worse of eclipse traffic returning to Colorado and Denver in particular. With all our stops in Nebraska we thought we would miss it entirely, instead we ended up taking some back roads and avoiding the interstate. We stopped for dinner and ice cream in Ft. Collins and got home at 10:21 p.m. We had 2 very tired kids the next day, especially by the end of their school day, for once I didn’t get any arguments about going to bed.

I spent a lot of our trip crocheting on the anniversary shawl design that I am creating for the Longmont Yarn Shoppe, it’s always good to have a crochet project for the road. The launch date for the shawl is September 2nd. You can see a little sneak peak video on their facebook page. I’ve been working lots of math and writing the pattern as well as crocheting the sample since our return.

I’ll have more to share with you soon about that shawl and some other designs for this Autumn. This weekend I’ll be selling some of my wire wrapped pins and other crafts at our local craft fair. It’s the first one we’ve had since the flood of 2013. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of local friends and spending time in our little park once again.

Taking Care of Yourself

My boys are back in school and that means Summer is over for me.  As I’ve shared a bit already, this Summer was a super full one for me, 2 big family trips and 2 work trips. I’m now back into the swing of design work deadlines and preparing for teaching at the Scotts Bluff Valley Fiber Arts Fair and at the Longmont Yarn Shoppe this Fall.

There is also the awareness that I need to get to work on making my gifts for the Christmas season (only a wee bit over 18 weeks to go) and the slew of birthdays coming up over the next 4 months. That means lots of crafting hours. I’m sure I’m not alone in the crafting crunch as the weather cools off for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.

I have a “survival” guide that I follow to be sure that all that crafting doesn’t lead to me being in pain. Today I want to share with you my top 5 tips to surviving the crafting crunch.

  1. Get enough sleep
  2. Stay well hydrated
  3. Take regular breaks
  4. Find some stretches that work for you
  5. Set realistic goals

Get Enough Sleep

I know, who has time for sleep?  I’m as guilty as the next person of cutting into my sleep hours to get more stuff done. But sleep is a major component to preventing injury. Getting enough sleep allows your body to mend and restore itself, as well as increasing the efficiency of your brain. You are much more likely to make mistakes in a project when you are too tired. It’s better to set aside the crafting and head to bed earlier, you will be able to work with greater clarity and speed after a good night’s sleep.

How much sleep do you need? That really depends, the typical recommendation is 8 hours, but some people need a little more and some a little less. Most doctors advise 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night. I know for me personally I seem to do best with 7 1/2 hours.

Stay well Hydrated

Our bodies are mostly water and we lose a lot of it each day thru respiration, elimination and perspiration. Drinking water regularly thru-out the day is one of the best things you can do for your health. Even mild dehydration can make us more prone to injury as well as causing mental fatigue. The classic recommendation is 12 – eight ounce glasses (96 ounces) of water thru-out the day. That doesn’t take into account different sizes of people and different activity levels.

My favorite formula for figuring out the minimum amount of water to drink thru out the day uses your weight. Take your weight in pounds and halve that number to get the amount of ounces of water you should be consuming each day.  Example – if you weigh 150 pounds you need to drink at least 75 ounces of water daily. If you are having a very active day, or you live in a hot climate, you may want to increase the amount of water you drink.

I say “water”, but there are many other drinks you can have that count toward your fluid intake.  Except caffeinated beverages. They actually act as a diuretic and remove water from your body thru elimination. So enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning, but remember to drink an extra glass of water to counteract the caffeine.

Take Regular Breaks

Taking a break doesn’t mean you have to stand on your head doing Yoga for 15 minutes, though that would be awesome if you want to do that. Taking a break means doing something else for a bit. I often have breaks built into my day by normal household maintenance chores.

Sometimes it is moving the laundry to the dryer, making myself some lunch, or taking the dog for a walk.  Just doing something different that gets me up and moving for a little bit at least every 30 minutes. It’s about the only way my house gets tidied, 10 minutes of cleaning chores every half hour.

The typical recommendation is to take a break every 20 minutes. If you are having some pain in your hands/neck/back from crafting that is a good strategy. More frequent breaks keep your body from seizing on a particular movement or posture as the only muscle setting. If you are drinking enough water you will be needing a “bio-break” every 2 hours or so, and that counts as well.

Find some Stretches that work for You

We all have a spot that hurts the worse after a day of intense crafting, so it is important to figure out how to stretch or strengthen your “spot”. I tend to feel it in my hands and neck when I have over done the crafting time. When I worked as a massage therapist I had a series of stretches I used to keep my hands working for me.

These are my favorite hand stretches. I do them at least 3 times during my work day and once more before I go to sleep. You can read a bit more about these hand stretches in my blog post: Keeping your Hands Happy.

Set Realistic Goals

I always seem to be hit with inspiration for the perfect massive gift about 2 weeks before the gift giving occasion. This rarely works out well and can lead to crazy nights of crocheting with only a few hours of sleep (Yup, that is how I know the importance of sleep).  I have finally learnt to be kinder to myself and have set more realistic goals for my gift making. If you want to do a large project for your gift you need to give yourself enough time to get it finished.

One of the things I have figured out after too many insane crochet deadlines is that it will usually take you about twice as long to finish a project than you think it will. Partially this is due to the fact that there is more to finishing a project than just the crochet. There is also all the weaving in of ends and blocking/washing the item and so on.

If you are looking at a couple of weeks before a gift is due to be presented, then look to smaller projects. The following are some links to patterns that make great gifts and are quick to crochet.

Snowflakes are one of my first choices for a fast gift. They are easy to ship and make great embellishments. You can work them in thread and stiffen them or attach the points to a larger ring for a beautiful addition to any holiday décor. I’ve also worked them in yarn and used them to embellish commercially made hats, scarves or gloves for a personalized gift.

I have 3 free snowflake patterns here on the blog.

Frozen Star Snowflake – This was last year’s snowflake pattern and it is a super quick one to work up with only 3 rounds to work up. This one is really ideal to work in a thicker yarn to attach to another project or a commercially made item as an embellishment.

Lacy Snowflakes – This is my favorite snowflake pattern, it is a written instruction only pattern here on the blog – if you prefer charts along with the text you can purchase a PDF version of this pattern thru my Ravelry shop for $1.99.

Little Snowflake Ornament – This was the first snowflake pattern I shared here on the blog and it is a stitch chart only pattern.

I love hats, earwarmers and cowls for wearable gifts, they don’t take a lot of time or yarn to crochet.  I make a lot of hats for my family, it has become a bit of a Christmas tradition. I have a couple of hat patterns available for free here on the blog and a couple of hat patterns for sell in my Ravelry shop.

Whirlwind Hat – This is an intermediate level text pattern available here on the blog. I’ve included photos and a link to a video to help with learning the trick to working the spiral.

Simple Double Crochet Hat – This is a super easy hat that works up quick in double crochet stitches and a single crochet finish. Work it in variegated yarn for a colorful look, or use a solid yarn for a background that can be embellished with motifs.

Mountain Top Beanie – This is an intermediate level pattern available for purchase in my Ravelry Shop. The pattern includes stitch charts for the crown, sides and ribbing. The sample for this hat was worked in Ella Rae Lace Merino Aran yarn, a wonderful luxurious yarn that is so soft and colorful. Because the hat only uses 1 ball it is a fun splurge project.

Spiraling Crosses Hat – This is an easy intermediate level pattern available for purchase in my Ravelry Shop. The pattern includes a stitch chart of the crown and sides to help you with the placement for the cross stitches. The slightly cabled texture of this stitch pattern makes a good hat for either women or men on your gift list.

Perfect Fit Crocheted Hat – This is an easy level pattern full of all the tips and tricks I teach in my hat class. It is a great pattern for those wanting to create any size hat with any size yarn. You can purchase it in my Ravelry Shop.

Lace Hat – This pattern is available on the Red Heart website. This was one of the first designs I sold when I started out as a designer. For a time the yarn for this project was discontinued, but they have brought back a new version of “Heart & Sole” yarn.

Springtime Headband – This is a pattern on my blog that is great for a quick gift, you can usually get 2 out of 1 ball of Lion Brand’s Wool-Ease in worsted weight. It is an intermediate level pattern, but I have included photo tutorials for the 2 texture stitches used in the pattern.

2 by 2 Cowl – This pattern is an easy level and speedy crochet project, it also uses only 1 ball of yarn. You can find the text pattern here on my blog and there is a link on the pattern post to a video to help you with the foundation I used.

Kellie Cowl – This pattern is available for purchase in my Ravelry Shop and is an intermediate level project. It would make a great gift for someone living in a warmer climate, or for those that don’t feel the cold all that much. The pattern has stitch charts to help you with the tricky parts and clear text instructions. It takes only 1 ball of the specified yarn and if you add the optional beads it is a fun dressy accessory to wear anytime of year.

These 3 moebius style cowls are quick and fun to crochet. The patterns are available individually in my Ravelry Shop.

Twisted Vs Cowl – A super quick project worked with bulky yarn and a big hook. The text pattern includes a photo tutorial about moebius construction.

Anna Moebius Cowl – Named after a friend’s grand-daughter this cowl is another fast one to work up in a chunky yarn. Pattern includes stitch chart and is an easy intermediate level project.

Twisted Garden Cowl – This pattern is an intermediate level project, with an interesting stitch pattern. This is still a small enough project to complete quickly, and is entertaining for more experienced or intrepid crocheters.

For those that don’t feel like working the moebius off a twisted foundation, there is always my Springtime Cowl. This pattern is available here on my blog and used 2 balls of the yarn for the sample. It is a simple stitch with the twist added when the 2 ends are sewn together.

If you have made it this far in my post I have a special gift for you. A 10% discount for any of my patterns over $3.50 price point. The code is: Crunch2017, and will only be valid until Friday, August 25th, 2017 at 11 p.m. Mountain time.

I hope this helps you all get started on the gift projects you need to complete and that you all survive the crafting crunch.

 

Having too much Fun!

Wow! This summer is nearly over for me, the kids’ first day of the new school year is this coming Wednesday. Sigh.

We have had an incredibly full and fun family summer. Both of my kids are at a great age for really active trips.

We just got back from visiting Mesa Verde National Park in Southern Colorado. A truly amazing and magical place.

There was a lot of hiking, climbing and learning going on. Our first tour started with a 32 foot ladder that we had to climb, to get into Balcony House, was just about my undoing.  I was very happy when I reached the top. If I had known what I would have to climb again to get out of Balcony House I might have turned around at the base of the first ladder. Our Park Ranger guide was Michael and he was super informative about the history of the site.

After Balcony House the hike in to tour Cliff Palace seemed easy. It was also easier to get good photos of the actual site.

We were staying in Farmington, New Mexico so we also did a quick visit to the 4 Corners Monument. My youngest wanted a picture of all 4 of us standing in different states. So we decided that a photo of our feet would work well. He had managed to find some mud to step into right before we took the photo. Truly my child, he can find mud in the desert.

The views as we were driving around the 4 corners and Mesa Verde area were just astounding. Everywhere made me want to break out my paint and brushes. The colors of the soil, rocks and greenery were pulling at me the whole time. I did very little crocheting despite having a project available, my eyes were too busy feasting on the scenery.

On our way home we stopped at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, though we weren’t able to stay long as the skies opened up and there was intense rain and hail.

I’ve really been bad about blogging this summer. Partly due to traveling so much, and then needing to recover once I got back home. I’ve also been doing a lot of learning. Sheep, Wire working, Yarn engineering, Video making and even some Crochet classes.

The 2 crochet classes I took this summer were at the CGOA conference in Chicago. Both classes I took were with the lovely and talented Myra Wood. I was so excited to see Myra teaching at the conference this year as she always has a wonderful approach to fascinating aspects of crochet.

I took her “Creative Crochet Lace Shawl” class. I know, you would think I already knew as much as I would ever need to know about crocheting lace shawls, but that isn’t the case. Myra was demonstrating her approach to basically crocheting a free-form but symmetrical shawl.

I’m a swatch it, do the math, then crochet it kind of person. This class really stretched my comfort level and helped me loosen up a bit and experiment with my creative side more. Something I used to do a lot before becoming a designer. It was a great class and I came out feeling really inspired.

The second class I took with Myra was “Tubular Bead Crochet Ropes”.   I’ll be honest, I really thought this would be a super easy class for me, in fact I wondered if I should even take the class. I’m so glad I did.  It turned out to be far more challenging than I had expected and I am excited to play with the techniques further.

The bit of beaded tube you see in the photo took me nearly the entire 3 hours of the class to make. But I now understand the technique fully, something I was in doubt would happen about an hour into the class.

I’ll be sharing more about the CGOA conference and all the adventures Jan and I got up to in the big city of Chicago. I’m going to be doing at least one blog post a week up thru the middle of September, then I’ll be getting back to my regular schedule of twice a week. I might sneak in a few extra if I can find the time.

Meanwhile I hope you are all having a wonderful summer, and for those of my readers that are contending with winter…I hope you are staying warm and cozy.