Is it Summer Yet?

New Crochet Lace Cowl Design and a Free Coloring Page

I keep thinking our mountain summertime has really started, then the weather proves me wrong. This past week included 3 inches of hail, 45F temperatures and snowflakes in the air Sunday morning. Fortunately our mob of hummingbirds at the feeders every evening reassures me that they think it is summer. The bear has been visiting us too, so he definitely thinks it is summertime.

I haven’t been blogging as much because I have been a crazy busy woman getting ready for the CGOA conference (ChainLink) in Manchester, New Hampshire. Being on the Board of Directors means I am involved in a lot of behind the scenes planning of events. This is especially so as a couple of my chairs for committees have had to cancel coming to the conference.

With ChainLink only 2 weeks away I’m also figuring out what to pack. I always over pack on crochet projects, but I hate to not have something to work on, especially on my travel days. Getting to Manchester and back home is a pretty full day of travel from Colorado. Long lay-overs are much better when one has crochet to play with.

What is your favorite go-to project to work on when traveling? I like smaller projects like hats, cowls, slippers or mittens. They don’t require a lot of yarn, so it’s not too big a project bag. Speaking of cowls….

My latest published pattern is a lovely lacy cowl. I was given the gorgeous Suri Alpaca blend sock yarn above to design with at TNNA by the LGF Suris folks a couple years ago. Life happened (like it does) and it took me a little time to complete, but I am really happy with how it came out.

This is my Rhythm of Shells Cowl, published in my M2H Designs pattern line and available for purchase in my Ravelry shop. It is an interesting 4 row stitch pattern that is easy to memorize, but not so dull that it will put you to sleep. It starts with one of my Stacked Rows Foundations and ends with a pretty pointed border. The pattern instructions include a stitch chart. My sample took only 1 hank of the LGF Suris yarn to make and worked up light and warm.

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I also have a new coloring page for you to enjoy. Hopefully where you live it is actually feeling like summertime. Mandalas are very relaxing to color as well as draw. You can even have fun adding your own doodles to this mandala to add to your coloring relaxation.

If you would rather color some crochet themed coloring pages remember to check out my E-coloring booklet with FaveCrafts: “4 Inspiring Crochet Coloring Pages for Adults”. You can download them for free.

My current favorite pens for drawing my coloring pages with are my Staedtler Pigment Liners. This set of 8 different line widths is perfect for carrying with me whenever I want to draw. I tend to use the 0.3 size the most, so I’ve purchased extra pens in that size to add to my drawing supplies. If you can’t find them in your local shops click on the photo above to find them on Amazon.

For coloring this page today I used both Staedler Triplus fineliner markers and Staedler Noris Club Colored pencils. I like using fineliner markers for the small details when coloring to ensure that I get the intensity of color that I want. Where the colored pencils are good for laying out larger sections of color in a softer tone.

The Noris Club pencils are great for traveling with, the white layer around the core makes the colored leads more durable. They also seem to hold up better to being sharpened. The more durable leads do draw a little lighter, so I find I want to layer my colors more than with some of my softer pencils. You can click on the photo above to look at the variety of Staedtler Noris Club pencil sets available at Amazon. My set has 36 colors, which gives me a number of options when I am coloring and drawing on the go.

I’ve shared about the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners before, but it bears repeating. These are wonderful markers for both drawing, coloring and journaling. The colors are intense and I can use them for hours without the marker drying up. They are labeled “Dry Safe: can be left uncapped for days without drying up”. I haven’t tested that personally, since I live in a very dry environment. I have had other markers dry up on me while I am working, and that has never been an issue with these.

Whether you are crocheting or coloring I hope you are having a wonderful summer. I’ll try to get another blog post up before I leave for ChainLink, but no guarantees.

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The Secrets to Crocheting the X-stitch

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There was a little delay getting this post finished because we were preparing for adding a new family member. The little sweetie in the photo above. We have been wanting to get a kitten for about 7 months and this week everything came together for Ms. Areya (R-ree-Yah) to join us. I confess, part of the delay is because I am having way too much fun getting kitten cuddles. This is our first baby kitten in 14 years, so we are all enjoying her tiny time, she is just 8 weeks old. You will probably see her photo-bombing the blog a bit over the next couple of months.

Now back to learning about crocheting the X-stitch…

The X-stitch is one of my second favorite stitches to use in my crochet designs. The fabric you can create with it is stretchy and has a pleasing texture. I often think that crocheting it is a little like dancing the two-step; 2 steps foward, 1 step back.

One thing I have noticed about this stitch (and a lot of crochet stitches) is that the written directions for working the stitch can sound very intimidating, when actually working the stitch is fairly easy.

Because there are not standardized terms for the name of all crochet stitches you can encounter a lot of different X-stitches. There are versions of the X-stitch out there that use taller stitches and more skipped stitches, so remember to check the stitch definitions in the pattern you are working to be sure that you know which version is being used.

My favorite version of this stitch is very simple. It is 2 double crochet stitches, worked into 2 stitches, with the second stitch worked over and around the first one. After reading that you are likely thinking I’m nuts to say it is simple.

In my Cliffhouse Cowl pattern I defined the X-stitch as: Skip 1 un-worked st forward, dc in next st, working around 1st dc, dc in skipped st.

Let’s break it down with an illustration.

Step 1: Skip 1 un-worked st forward (indicated by pink arrow),

Step 2: dc in next st (indicated by green arrow),

Step 3: working around first dc, dc in skipped st (indicated by pink arrow).

In this step you are crocheting around the post of the first stitch at the same time as you are working your double crochet in the top of the previously skipped stitch. The first stitch is surrounded by the second stitch.

Stacked or Staggered X-stitches

Stacked X-sts
Staggered X-sts

When you are working rows or rounds of the X-st you can stack them or stagger them. You’ll get 2 very different looks to your fabric depending on which you choose.

Cliffhouse Cowl –
Andee Graves M2H Designs

For my Cliffhouse Cowl the X-sts are stacked and worked in the round.

Spiraling Crosses Hat –
Andee Graves M2H Designs
Spiraling Crosses Gauntlets –
Andee Graves M2H Designs

In my Spiraling Crosses Hat and Spiraling Crosses Gauntlets the X-sts are staggered and worked in the round.

The stitch chart above shows both stacked and staggered X-sts worked in the round. The purple stitches are the 2nd dc of each X-st. When working staggered X-sts your join for each round will move to the right if you are right-handed, and to the left if you are left-handed (assuming you hold the hook in your left hand).

At the start of each X-st round the beginning chain 3 acts as your first dc of your first X-st. The lovely part of this is that your join in the finished project will not be as obvious as it can look with other stitch patterns.

Second X-st of Round

It can be a little tricky to see where your next X-st should be worked after working that starting X-st in your first round. The stitch that you joined to for your foundation looks like it should be your first skipped stitch (indicated with yellow arrow this is the stitch that the slip stitch join was worked into for the previous round or foundation), but it is the next stitch over (indicated with pink arrow) and the first dc will be worked in the next stitch (indicated with the green arrow).

When you get to the end of your round you will finish your last X-st and then slip stitch tightly in the third chain of your beginning chain 3. I find it really helps to place a locking stitch marker in that third chain at the beginning of the round, then when I get to the end of the round it’s very easy to see where to join to.

My favorite locking stitch markers are made by the Clover Company. They are flexible and durable and come in a couple of sizes, colors and styles. I have lots of the orange and green ones that I’ve added to my project bag over the years. If you can’t find them locally you can purchase them on Amazon, just click on the photo above and it will take you right to them.

The new stitch markers from Clover that I have been falling in love with are the “Quick Locking Stitch Markers”. They come in sets of 2 colors for each size, or you can get the variety pack that has a nifty carrying case with 3 different sizes. I really love these markers because they are super flexible and they are little sheep shapes. If you can’t find them locally just click on the photo above and it will take you right to them on Amazon.