TNNA Goodies

I’m back from my little break and I have so much news for you. It’s likely going to take a few blog posts.

This summer has been moving fast and it seems every weekend has been full of excitement. First June weekend was sheep adventures, second was TNNA, and the third was playing with my dear niece and her adorable family.

I’ve shared quite a bit about the sheep adventures, though there will be more to tell on that front. For the moment though let’s roll the clock back to the second weekend and talk about the TNNA Summer Trade Show in Columbus, Ohio. For those of you that are new to my blog, or have never heard of TNNA, it is The National Needlearts Association and is a trade organization for folks that sell all sorts of fiber, yarn, needle crafting tools and supplies. It also includes needlearts teachers, designers and bloggers. You can learn more about TNNA at their website.

I had a little shorter visit at TNNA this time than I usually do, but it was still super productive. I flew out of Denver late Saturday morning. Had one of the most relaxing and enjoyable flights ever because of my seat mates. The woman at the window was traveling with her King Charles Cavalier Spaniel and he cuddled with me for most of the flight. Might not have been ideal for folks that don’t love dogs or critters, but it was perfect for me. The woman on the aisle was also a dog lover, so we had a great time.

Saturday evening was the Business & Creative Services dinner. Lots of interesting conversations with colleagues and show vendors. There was a great goodie bag. I made sure to go to each of the vendors during the rest of the show to thank them for their sponsorship.

Sunday morning I had an inspiring class with Zontee Hou called “Become a Video Whiz”. Just Wow! I feel like my brain was so full after that class that I needed to sit somewhere quietly for a couple of hours and think. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option that day, fortunately Zontee always provides detailed slides and hand-outs that let me re-live the class now I am home.

I needed to spend my Sunday after the class on the showroom floor to meet with a number of yarn companies and to talk tools with some of the other companies (like the lively folks at Clover).

It’s always exciting to see what products Clover has, both the old and new. I’ve got a few to experiment with over the next couple of months, so be sure to check back for those reviews.

It was also a blast to see my friend Eloise. She and I have known each other for ages, long before she began working with Clover. We had a good chuckle when she started working with them and I told her they were one of my very favorite crafting tool companies. We were laughing at this show because she lives in Denver, yet the last 2 times we have seen each other have been at shows that we had to fly to. Life just gets too busy and crazy at times.

I also found some other booths I needed to check out. Like the “Knitting Abacus”, “Glowving” from Kreinik and “Brittany Knitting Needles & Crochet Hooks”.

It’s not a real TNNA show without a stop by Daven’s “Love & Leche” booth for beautifully scented lotion bars for keeping my hands from drying out up here on the mountain.

One of the most wonderful things about being at TNNA is the yarn. A rainbow of colors and so many beautiful soft fibers. I can get very lost seeing all the yarn. That joke about being overwhelmed by yarn fumes? It could really happen at TNNA. There are so many new yarns to see.

The pile of yarn above is what I came home with, there will also be some more coming to my house soon. I’ve been sketching and making design notes on each of these in preparation for creating gorgeous new crochet designs. Some of these yarns are brand new to me, so I will also be posting reviews of those yarns as I get to work with them.

Sunday evening I got together with a bunch of my designer friends and we went out to dinner at Bare Burger. I loved this restaurant. Local sourced and organic food, cooks and wait staff that actually know what Gluten Free really means plus fun, quirky décor like the awesome decoupaged bear heads hanging all over the restaurant walls.

One stop that was at the top of my list for TNNA was the Unicorn Wash booth. I met Melanie, the owner, at my first TNNA show. You might recall I mentioned her when talking about my marvelous book about sheep? It was her drawing that I won it from. I wanted to make sure to check in with her and discuss her products because I have another big piece of news. I am now a part owner with my neighbor Margie of a sheep flock.

I bet most of you aren’t that surprised, after all the sheep adventures of the last couple of years. It’s been my dream for a long time and Margie gave me the push I needed to do it. Life is going to be even more interesting and busy now, but I figure it will off-set the gap that is opening in my life as my sons are becoming ever more independent. I know one thing after only one week of working with the sheep regularly, I’m going to be getting in great shape.

Hang onto your hooks and needles my dear readers, it’s going to be a wild time on the mountain.

 

 

Visiting a new Mill.

The mutant To-Do list got pushed around a lot this week. I had plans, I had good plans, but then I got distracted by sheep things.

Margie’s Herd – June 2016

You may recall that my next door neighbor, Margie, has a small herd of CVM sheep. Yesterday morning she called me to let me know her sheep were being sheared. Unfortunately I was sleeping in because I had stayed up late the night before working on a project. As soon as I got her message though I headed on over to help her skirt the fleeces in preparation for sending them to a mill to be processed.

Neither of us had ever really skirted a fleece before, we had both see it done many times and had an idea of what to do, so we jumped right in. All the rejected fleece bits we gathered up for me to take home. I’ll be cleaning and carding them to use for the interiors of some of my needle felting creations. Some of the better bits may be used for color work on my needle felting creations since Margie’s sheep are a wonderful mixture of colors; blacks, browns, beiges, grays and creams,

Margie didn’t have a mill lined up for her fleeces, so she spent the afternoon researching online. Later that evening she called me and told me she had found a new mill in Estes Park that could process her fleeces. She had set up an appointment to take her fleeces there as well as getting a tour of the mill. She asked if I wanted to go along. Of course I said, “Yes!”

I had a number of things on my list to do this morning, but who can pass up a tour of a new fiber mill? I made sure to wind a hank of yarn into a ball to take with me to crochet on during the drive.

Margie picked me up at 8 a.m. and we had a fun time talking about sheep, fiber and yarn on the 45 minute drive to the mill.

It is a gorgeous drive to Estes Park from our neighborhood. Margie stopped for me to get a photo of the clouds on the mountain tops over Peaceful Valley.

We saw some Elk with velvet on their antlers only a few miles before the turn off to the mill.  I took this photo thru the truck window and the sunlight was working against me a bit.

Finally we were at the Willow Creek Fiber Mill and were greeted by Daniel and Kat. Daniel helped us unload the bags of fleece and brought them into the mill building.

This is the area where it all begins. You can see there were already a number of fleeces on the drying shelves. In the far left corner is the big washing machine that the fleeces are cleaned in. The hook hanging in front of the window is where the fleeces were weighted. Margie’s fleeces had a total weight of 35 pounds. A lot of that will be lost once all the processing is finished. A big part of the weight is the “grease” in the wool.

Daniel pulled out one of Margie’s fleeces to see how we had done on our skirting work and to give us some pointers for next year. He told us we had actually done a pretty good job and showed us some of the stuff to watch out for next time. Margie and I had been talking about next year that we should skirt the fleeces as the shearers finished them. That way the messy stuff doesn’t get bundled into the good part of the fleece.

We talked about putting covers on Margie’s herd this coming year to keep the fleeces cleaner. Daniel said they had used covers on their herd in the past, but were considering leaving them off this year. We were all laughing that after processing Margie’s fleeces that they might be running to put covers on their herd.

I was curious about the other machines for processing the fiber. Behind Margie is the room where the cleaned fleeces are picked, carded, drafted and spun. On the Willow Creek website they had photos of each of the machines. I understood what “picking” and “carding” were about, but didn’t recognize the term “pin drafting”. Daniel showed me some fiber that had been thru the pin-drafter and the combs in the machine that get all the fibers lined up in preparation for being spun. I was so fascinated that I forgot to take any photos of this part of our tour.

They asked us if we would like to meet their herd. There were 9 sheep total, 3 were lambs. They had sold their other lambs. I was having lots of fun with petting the lambs and some of the older sheep thru the fence. Their sheep were very friendly. They have 5 children so the sheep get lots of time interacting with humans. I told Margie I’d be happy to come over and help socialize her herd.

This little lady was just too adorable. I got some nibbles on my fingers from her.

Then it was time to head back home and get back to my mutant To-Do List. Margie wanted to make one more stop at the stables in our neighborhood so I could meet her newest horse. I was having a bit of operator error with my camera, so this was the best photo I got of him. His name is Woody and he is a Gypsy Vanner.  Such a handsome and sweet fellow. He was enjoying noshing on some fresh grass from Margie’s hand.

My First Coloring Page

Along with the lettering/calligraphy practice and all the playing with yarn, I’ve been turning my hand again to illustration and drawing. When the coloring book craze first started off I kept thinking, “I could draw those.” I’ve always drawn and doodled. According to my parents, since I was old enough to hold onto anything to make marks with.

I gathered up my paper and drawing implements and began doodling some ideas. I’ve always loved using templates to create basic shapes then filling in the shapes with lines or organic shapes. I purchased many of these templates during my college days when I was taking graphic arts classes. You can find similar templates thru art and hobby supply shops.

Geo 515 Coloring Page – 2017 – Andee Graves/M2H Designs

For those of my readers that would like to try their hand at coloring my finished page I’ve attached a PDF that you can download and print out to this blog post. Geo 515 Coloring Page 2017 – Andee Graves M2H Designs

I recommend using a nice heavy weight printer paper. If you are going to be coloring with pencils, look for a paper that has a bit of “tooth” to it. I purchased this ream of Neenah “Exact Vellum Bristol” a few months back and have been very happy with it. It is great for dry media like colored pencils, crayons, pastels and ball-point pens. I haven’t tried any of my color markers with it yet.

My pigment illustration pens work well with it too, as long as I don’t let the pen point sit on the paper surface too long. These pens are quickly becoming my favorites for final drawings. The variety of nib widths give me a number of options for thickness of lines and the ink supply is generous.

For this first drawing I drew a pencil sketch using my templates, then drew over the pencil drawing with my black ink freehand. A few of my lines came out a bit thicker than I wanted, but I wasn’t too concerned. I then scanned the drawing into my computer and used my graphics program to clean it up a bit. I printed it out on some of the cardstock and refined it with the pens, adding thickness to some of the other lines to balance out the original heavy lines.

I then copied this refined drawing on the heavy cardstock. I made a number of copies so I can try various “fill” drawings for the shapes. The drawing in the PDF is just my first try.

For those of my followers whose focus is on crochet and yarn crafts, don’t worry, I’m still designing and creating lots of fun crochet patterns. If all goes well the next month I’ll have a lot of exciting crochet designs and videos to show you very soon.

Learning Lettering

This weekend I’m running a bit behind. Our Friday was super busy, it was the last day of school for both the kiddos and there were ceremonies and socializing that kept us on the go all day. I was carrying around my crochet project, but only caught a few minutes here and there to work on it.

Saturday was our first “official” day of summer break, though you still couldn’t tell it by the weather. It was cold and damp all day. We even had a bit of hail, making me very glad I hadn’t purchased a hanging planter of petunias that I was looking at the other day.

Instead, we all hung out as a family watching movies on the television. Not the most exciting first day of summer break, but pretty awesome to not have to worry about the school schedule next week. I did spend some of my day inputting next Fall’s school calendar in my calendar app. I figured I would get it out of the way while I’m still in the “school” mind-set. Hopefully this means that the start of school in the Fall won’t sneak up on me.

I have my dreams (some might call them fantasies, but let’s not split hairs). It could happen, I even put in a reminder about getting school supplies before the shops are all sold out. For now I’m ready to be in summer mode with the kids.

One of my goals this summer is to practice handwriting exercises with the kids. Cursive writing and penmanship are not really taught in school these days, so I’m hoping to fill that gap with a little home education. This is also inline with my New Year’s resolution to learn how to do Calligraphy.

I’ve been working on that resolution. My first step when wanting to tackle something like this is to read all about. Being I’m a bit old fashioned that usually means books. I did update my way of reading the books this time. I purchased my first book as a Kindle book off Amazon, “The First Steps Series: Calligraphy” by Don Marsh; 1996, North Light Books.

This is a good “nuts and bolts” kind of book. Honestly I found it a bit of a slog initially, so I am treating it more as a reference book. When I feel the need to add to my knowledge base I go back to it. There is an amazing amount of jargon that goes along with this new art. I suppose there is also a lot of jargon in crochet and knitting, but they have been so much a part of my life for so long that it seems much more familiar.

I decided to focus more on the art of Hand Lettering, rather than the formality of Calligraphy. I was intrigued by the reviews on Amazon for the book “The Art of Whimsical Lettering” by Joanne Sharpe; 2014, Interweave Press. This is a really fun and inspiring book. Lots of samples in the book of Joanne’s work with suggestions and guidance on making your own hand-lettered work.

My favorite thing about this book is the encouraging tone of the book. Joanne starts the book off with a quote from “The Wizard of Oz” by Glinda the Good Witch, “You’ve always had the power”. A big aspect of the book is Joanne encouraging readers, that no matter how much you might hate your hand writing, it can be the basis of beautiful and artistic lettering. The book has loads of beautiful and inspiring examples of Joanne’s work. My head was buzzing with ideas once I had read thru it.

It was in this book that I read about the Pilot Parallel Pen. I purchased one and liked it so much that I purchased a set of them in 4 different sizes. They come with black and red ink cartridges and I purchased a set of 12 different colored cartridges as well. Currently 3 of the pens are filled with black ink, but I’ll be trying out the colors soon.

I had also purchased another book in print form. “Hand Lettering: An Interactive Guide to the Art of Drawing Letters”, written and illustrated by Megan Wells; 2016, Peter Pauper Press. The reviews I had read of this book made it sound like one that I should have a physical copy of. It is sort of a workbook/journal style and has lots of pages that you can use for practicing your lettering. I am still reading thru it and trying the various exercises for practicing my lettering.

My favorite bit so far has been the author’s advice to not think of hand-lettering as writing, to instead approach it as drawing your letters. Now that might sound quite simple, but it really rang a bell for me. Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was struggling so much with what I was doing. I could relax and depend upon all those years of drawing to help me create lettering that I would like.

I’m still really in love with calligraphy and it will play a big part in any lettering art I create. I’ve been practicing with the parallel pens drawing various letters and words. Getting the hang of holding the pen properly is a big part of the process. I finally was ready to try to create my first real serious lettering project.

I used a pencil to create light lines on the paper to be guides for my letters. I also roughly followed the illustrations for writing italic style lettering. I picked one of my very favorite words.

I got really fancy with my letter “B”. But it still was a bit rough looking, the rest of the word needed a little cleaning up too.

I got out my new Staedler pigment pens to do the “drawing” part of my lettering to re-shape and refine the letters.

After all the tidying I was much happier with my work. I pulled the page out of my sketch book and copied it onto some heavy stock Vellum Bristol printer paper I purchased a few months back. I’m planning on playing with drawing and coloring on each of the pages to create different looks.

I also scanned my finished word into my computer, so I can play with it in my digital drawing program.

Like this.

I’ll hopefully have some other fun versions and more lettering to show you all soon. I’m excited about incorporating words and quotes in future art projects.

A fun exercise for you all in the meantime. Count how many words you can come up with that have “ea” in the middle and end with “e”. I’ll start you off with one of my other favorites: “Peace”.

Playing Yarn Chicken

Have you heard that term before? It’s a game a lot of us dedicated yarnies play, especially when we are working from our stash and may be cutting it close for having enough yarn to finish a project. As a designer I play this game a lot. Partly because I’m always trying to get the most from the yarn I am using for a design. This week though, I was just being silly.

I thought it would be fun to use up some of the orphan balls of yarn in my stash and make another “2 by 2 Cowl”. I especially wanted to try it in one of the long color changing yarns, and with a fiber content that would be more comfortable to wear with the warmer temperatures. Currently I am wondering about those warmer temperatures since we have been experiencing a record breaking late  May snow storm with below freezing temperatures.

I had come across a ball of yarn that I had lost the label to, but I loved the colors and it felt like it had quite a bit of cotton in it. I was pretty sure I had purchased the yarn at the Longmont Yarn Shoppe, so I brought it in with me when I went there this Wednesday for Casual Crochet.

Jane, the lovely manager at LYS, was able to tell me the yarn right away. It was Plymouth Yarn Company’s “Kudo” a blend of 55% Cotton/40% Rayon/5% Silk {sadly this yarn is discontinued now}. The original weight of this skein according to Ravelry is 100g and 198 yards. I must have used a little bit of it though, my skein was 95g. That number is going to be very important. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the skein before I started crocheting my new cowl.

I started my cowl while at the Casual Crochet meeting. By the time I was back home where I could weigh it, I had worked 9 rounds off the foundation. According to my scale I had used 50g of my yarn. I decided I had better weigh my remaining yarn too, just to be on the safe side. I had 45g left to work with still.

Now it was time for a little math. 95g of yarn to start with, 47.5g is half the ball. That means I had used more than half the ball of yarn to get to the end of 9 rounds.

95g divided by 50g = 1.9 x 9 rounds = 17.1 rounds. That means I have enough yarn for 8 more rounds.

I want to be extra sure, so I crocheted another round, then weighed my cowl again. 55g this time. That leads me to the conclusion that it takes 5g of yarn for each round. More math.

9 x 5 = 45 so 50 – 45 = 5g, which means my foundation round took only 5g of yarn. Making an assumption, my finishing round will take 5g of yarn.

95 divided by 5 = 19. 19 – 10 = 9 more rounds.

After all that math I decided that I should be able to work 17 total rounds in the stitch pattern for the body of the cowl, then one more round for the finishing edge.

When I got to the end of Round 15 I thought about stopping. I liked the width of the cowl and with the edging it would be a nice size for spring/summer wear. I took some photos comparing it to the first sample I had crocheted.

One of the fun thing about working with a long color changing yarn was the way it was striping in this pattern. It is also good for being able to see that you are working the “join and turn” part of the pattern correctly.

I decided to keep going to see how my game of yarn chicken would turn out. At the end of Round 16 I weighed my remaining yarn. I had 11 grams of yarn left, things were looking good.

Then this happened. I was just short of enough yardage to finish. Sigh I pulled it out to the end of Round 16 and worked my finishing round.

I’m actually very happy with how the cowl came out. I wasn’t too thrilled with the mustardy yellow being the finishing color, so removing 1 round actually solved that issue. I really love the striping effect of the color changing yarn in this design. I thought the changes at the join might be too harsh, but I don’t mind them at all.

The question now is, where did I go wrong with my math? I actually don’t think it was my math, it was my tension as I was crocheting. The blend in this yarn has absolutely no “give” to it at all, so as I was working the last half of my project my gauge got a bit loose. It was just enough that it made me use more yarn in my final rounds.

The looser finishing edge actually works out. I like the slight flaring that the cowl has. When it is worn with the foundation round at the top, the slightly larger edging round gives it a graceful fit across the shoulders. If I was working this cowl for a design sample I might be more concerned and would pull it out to rework the loose rows. Instead, this was just for my own entertainment, and will probably be added to my wardrobe.

In my opinion the most important part of playing yarn chicken is a willingness to re-imagine the final project. By eliminating a few rounds I made a beautiful cowl with the yarn I had picked, even though yardage and weight were quite different from the yarn I originally used in my design.

How about you dear readers, have you ever played “yarn chicken” with a project? Hopefully you were happy with your finished project once the race was over.

 

Is it a Rock?

The other day I saw a really cool video on FaceBook of rugs that looked like river rocks. I love river rocks. I have five medium sized ones that sit on top of my woodstove in our living room. They act as heat sinks as well as looking pretty. A heat sink is a solid or liquid filled object that retains heat and slowly releases it as the air around it cools. Occasionally I put one of my river rocks in a thick cotton towel to warm my feet on when the temperatures really drop up here on the mountain.

The rugs in the video were made with felted wool rocks by the artist/designer Martina Schuhmann from Vienna, Austria  (you can see the video on YouTube here). I was very intrigued since I’ve been playing with needle-felting so much. I decided to find out as much as I could about felting wool rocks or “stones”.  I first went to the artist’s Etsy shop to see if there was more information. You can check her shop out at: FlussDesign

In the video there is a close-up of one of her rocks being squeezed and it bounced right back.  That made me wonder how she was felting her rocks, were they solid wool or was there something else? Looking at Martina’s shop got me part of the answer. She stated that her rocks were made with a foam core.

I had the video on my facebook page and stated that I was wondering how she felted her rocks. My friend Angela sent me a link to a video on YouTube where they were felting around actual rocks. That got me wandering around YouTube looking at a variety of felted rock and other wet felting videos. I decided it was time to try felting my own wool river rock.

I dug out this piece of 1 inch thick foam that I had leftover from another project. It was a little dusty, so I gave it a good wash and hung it up to dry overnight. You can see in the photo above where it was clipped to my drying line. It wasn’t a very pretty piece of foam, but it was going to be enclosed in wool anyway. I drew an ovoid shape for my rock.

Once I had cut out the foam rock I trimmed up the edges to soften them. I figured wrapping the wool fibers and felting them around it would likely soften any hard edges, but I wanted to make this first rock as easy as possible.

Remember when I purchased that wool fiber from the Brown Sheep Company at the Loveland Yarn Fest last April? There was some interesting striped fiber in one of the bags. I had taken it out and placed it aside in another bag because I knew it would be great for a “special” project someday. It’s day had come, I thought it would be ideal for giving some “rock” texture to my felted faux river rock.

Before I started with that fiber though, I wanted to add a bit of my plain wool to the flat sides of my foam rock. Of course, my handy felting needle came out for this part of the project. I used the felting needle to tack the wool to the foam, just enough that it wouldn’t come loose.

I then did the same to the opposite side of my foam shape.

Now I had a little wool and foam sandwich to wrap with my special fiber. I set that aside for the moment.

It was time to lay out my fiber that would be the outside of my rock. I first pulled out drafts of fiber laying them out lengthwise on my work surface.

Next I laid out a second layer perpendicular to the first layer.

I was ready to wrap my little foam sandwich. If I do this again I will make my strip of wool fibers wider, I ran into some small challenges getting the core wrapped well.

I rolled the core up as snugly as possible with my strip of loose fibers. Then I was ready to use my felting needle to tack the fiber down well to the core.

At this point I had covered the entire core with the fiber and secured it well using the felting needle.

It was time to submerge the rock in my bowl of hot soapy water.

Now it was just all about working the wet felt to shrink it snugly around the foam core. This is the really wet and messy stage of this project. I also think I had a bit too much soap in my water. I alternated going to my kitchen sink and rinsing my rock with cold water to shock the fibers further, and working with the hot soapy water.

I also used my felting stone when I started getting the rock closer to the shape I wanted. The felting stone helped me smooth the surface of my “rock”.

I had finally gotten it felted well and I set it out to dry overnight. It was still a bit furry looking and had some odd shaping issues on the “bottom” side. I knew I would be doing a little “fixing” with my felting needle once it was dry again.

The next afternoon my rock was dry and I was happy with the squish factor of it.  I wanted to correct some shaping issues on the bottom and ends. Especially this odd little flap that had formed at one end. Of course, real river rocks do sometimes have cracks and little protuberances, but I wanted my rock to be an “ideal” river rock.

Fortunately this was easy to fix, I just added some bits of fiber and needle felted them until they were smooth. No more flap. I continued shaping and smoothing my rock with my various needle felting tools. All of them joined the party; single, 3 and 5 needle tools. The 3 needle tool was especially useful for smoothing the surface of my rock with lots of shallow needling.

Before
After

I am pretty pleased with how this rock came out. You can see how much the fiber shrank from the starting size to the finished size in the Before and After photos above.

The finished rock is only a little bit bigger than the foam core. You can get an idea of the relative sizes by looking at the shape in the remaining foam.

The patterning on the rock from the “special” fiber actually came out very well. I definitely have a side I consider the “top” of my rock.

This is my finished rock from the bottom.

And the side. Any way you look at it is pretty “rock like”.

I learned so much making this rock, one of the most important things was how much work it is felting a rock. I’m sure with practice I would get faster and have better results. But I would say it would be worth every penny to purchase a rug or other item from Martina. There is an incredible amount of labor in her pieces.

I may make some more rocks, but I think they will become a pillow for the sofa and not a rug. I was thinking that I could crochet the backing for the rocks to be sewn to, or I might even needle felt the rocks to my crocheted fabric. That would be the ideal marriage of both my current favorite crafts.

 

Another Experiment with Plarn

Plarn Spring Basket

The last time I wrote about crocheting with plarn was nearly 7 years ago. I had made the basket pictured above using the green bags that our local newspaper was delivered in. That was my first experiment with working with Plarn.  Then life got busy with designing crochet patterns for magazines, books and yarn companies and I didn’t re-visit the Plarn experiments I had hoped to do.

For those of you that may not have ever heard of Plarn, it is yarn that is created by using loops or strips from plastic shopping bags. But it can be created or upcycled from other plastic materials.

This past weekend was super busy at my house. My youngest son was celebrating his birthday by having a bunch of his friends come up for a Nerf Gun Battle on our property. For those of you that are visiting my blog for the first time, I live in the mountains of Colorado and our property is about 2.5 acres of vertical land with lots of Lodge-pole and Ponderosa pine trees. A great place for a bunch of 11 year olds to romp and play.

Our property is bounded on 3 sides by the county road, but our wooded boundary is a little less defined. As a courtesy to our neighbors in that direction we put up a “Caution” tape barrier to remind the kiddos not to pass that. The birthday boy and I spent the morning putting up the tape. After the party I went out to take down the tape.

As I began walking along unwrapping it from trees and winding it into a big ball, I found myself looking at it and thinking, “This would be interesting to crochet with.” I also hated the idea of putting it in the trash to be more plastic in the landfill.

Part of the party set-up was that my husband purchased a bunch of the Nerf “Elite” darts for everyone to use. We now have a LOT of darts at our house. During the party I had tossed all of them into a 5 gallon bucket from a construction supply store. Frankly it’s a lot more container than is really needed. Lightbulb moment… I could crochet an awesome container for them from the used “Caution” tape. You saw that coming, didn’t you?

The tape is 3 inches wide and very thin, just like most of the plastic shopping bags out there. I have 2 pieces of it. One from the long stretch in the woods and a much shorter strip that was used for marking off a hazard area on the property that we wanted the kids to steer clear of.

I’m planning on working with the shorter strip first to see if I want to split the tape lengthwise. It will add a lot more work to the project, but may save my hands in the long run. In my first experiment with plarn I found the thicker strips to be more challenging to crochet, partly because of the larger hook size needed. I also discovered that I did better with a wooden hook, as the metal or plastic hooks I had tended to “grab” the plarn.

Looks like I’ll be doing some “swatching” with my plarn before I am neck deep in this experiment. I want to create a wide bottomed tote with large handles integrated into the top edge. The kids can then carry it easily, or even hang it up by one handle as a “target”. The best bit about that? They will be putting the darts away when they hit the target. Maybe that will make them want to clean-up more? Well, a mom can dream.

Experimental Swatch #1

I worked with the tape 3 inches wide, the size it comes off the roll, and crocheted with a 10mm size wooden hook (Uncle Cy’s Woodshop hook). I loved how cushy and thick this fabric came out, but I really felt like I was fighting with the plarn and the hook. I was only working 3 rounds for these swatches and by the time I had 3 finished for this one I was wiped out.

Experimental Swatch #2

I split the tape to 1.5 inches wide and used my size 6mm metal hook (Clover Amour). This hook worked great with the plarn and cutting the tape to half its original width definitely made it easier to crochet. The metal Clover Amour hook is so smooth it was like Teflon, it slid thru the plarn with ease.  But…I felt like the fabric was too thin for what I want the tote to be. It was also really tedious to cut it in half.

I used scissors to cut the bit I used for the swatch.

I also experimented with the idea of cutting the tape while it was on the cardboard roll that it came on when I purchased it. There was some left-over on the roll. I used a utility knife to cut thru it. That worked okay, but re-winding all the tape in the big ball did not hold a lot of attraction for me. I might play around a bit more with the left-over tape to crochet a wearable pouch that the kiddos can use to carry extra darts in when they are running around.

Experimental Swatch #3

Went back to the wider tape again. This time I used a 10 mm plastic hook (Clover Amour). I was hoping the larger Clover Amour hooks in plastic might have a similar smoothness to the smaller metal ones. The hook was much less “grabby” than some of the acrylic hooks I had worked with in my first plarn experiment. Unfortunately it was still a bit of a fight. I really felt I was having the best result with the metal hooks or maybe it was the smaller sized hook?

The photo above is Swatch #3 and Swatch #2. You can see the difference in size for these 2 swatches. I really wanted to work with the tape at it’s original size. For one thing, it would mean fewer rows to crochet the size of tote I had in mind. The thicker fabric would also be more durable with the amount of use I’m figuring this tote will get.

I messed around with trying to crochet with my J/6mm metal hook and the wider tape. It was a lot of work and I had to keep reminding myself to pull all my loops out bigger than the hook shaft size. I tend to be more of a “rider” style crocheter so I keep my loops pretty close to the size of the hook shaft and it’s a hard habit to break. I really needed a metal hook in the larger sizes, like 9mm or 10mm. This is when it comes in handy to be an avid collector of crochet hooks.

Back in 2014 I took a trip to visit Jan and the 2 of us met up with a bunch of friends at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in NYC. Both of us purchased sets of the Hiya Hiya crochet hooks there. The majority of the hooks in the set are metal including the larger sizes: 8mm, 9mm and 10mm. I dug this set out of my “hook drawer” and decided to give the 8mm and 9mm a try. Metal and smaller, but not so small it would be a fight.

Experimental Swatch #4

Well the 9mm size hook was good, but the hook shape was still a bit of a fight. The bulb like point and tapered throat of the Hiya Hiya hooks is very similar to the Boye hooks, but not ideal for this project. I did like the size of my stitches and the metal was definitely easier with this plarn.

Experimental Swatch #5

Time for a bit more digging in my hook drawer. Ah ha! I found I had some of the larger metal hooks in the Bates Bamboo handled style. I even had a 9mm one. We have a winner! This hook worked the best with the plarn and gave me the size stitches I wanted without fighting.

It’s still a bit tiring to my hands to crochet with the plarn, even with the best hook for the job, so I’ll be working on this project a little bit each day to save my hands (and my sanity). Once I get it further along I’ll show you what I came up with. I’m just hoping I’ll have enough plarn to finish the job. I do have a back up plan if I run out though.

Getting into the Swing of Things Again

Well, it’s been a bit of a hectic re-entry to life in our “normal” routine. We have had lots of snow and some very cold temperatures since our return, not what one would think of for Spring weather, though fairly typical for our springtime. I had quite a few things scheduled for this week, which would have been fine if I hadn’t had the wild 4 weeks preceding this one. I’m slowly chipping away at the mutant To-Do list though.

One of the best things about coming home from Spring Break was picking up our mail. This nifty little box was waiting for me from my dear friend Bonnie Pierce.

I met Bonnie and her husband Bill at the first ever CGOA conference I went too. She was wearing one of her gorgeous Free Form crochet capes and I practically attacked her to look at it closer. I was completely on my own at that show, but Bonnie and Bill took me under their wing and included me in many of the group events they were involved in.

They even rescued my hook case that I had left laying on the table one afternoon. Bonnie and I chuckle about it every time we get together. But it has been far too long since I last got to spend some in-person time with Bonnie. Fortunately we stay in touch online thru social media and messaging.

Recently Bonnie and I decided we needed to have a piece of each other’s work. These 2 drop-dead gorgeous scrumbles are what Bonnie sent me. I’m so inspired by her work, though a little chagrined at how clunky and chunky my own Free Form efforts look. Bonnie is truly a talent with her Free Form artistry.

She is well known for her bullion stitches. Which she had tried to teach me numerous times with limited success.

This flower with the sparkly embellishment is currently my favorite bit on this scrumble. But every time I look at them I see something that delights me.

When Bonnie and I met in Portland in 2008, one of the things we bonded over was Chocolate. We both have a love of wonderful dark chocolate. She told me about a Portland chocolate company called “Moonstruck” and shared some that she had with her. It is marvelous stuff and whenever I find the brand I purchase a few bars, but it is rather scarce in Colorado.

So it is very fitting that Bonnie included some delicious chocolate in the package too. I’ve got to get my piece finished to send to Bonnie now and will have to hunt down some special Colorado chocolates to include. This might require me attending the Chocolate Festival again, sigh, the sacrifices I make for my friends.

I’ve been busy with working on developing classes since our return from our big trip. This cute little needle-felted sheep is one of them. I’m finding the needle-felting quite addictive, I think the total attention that is required is a great form of meditation. That’s been very good for me as I process everything the last 4 weeks has thrown at me and my family.

I hope you are all having a beautiful springtime. April is looking to be another fast-moving and busy month. I’ll try to keep up with the blog and (fingers crossed) to have some more videos for you very soon.

On the Road Again

20170328_162336Well today involved some crocheting as we are on the road again. I do have Willie Nelson’s song playing in my head (if you don’t know the song you can check it out on YouTube {Warning – You may have it stuck in your head after listening}).

I’d hoped to do some drawing during our stops along the way. I’ve had a couple ideas percolating around in my head for awhile and would love to get them on paper. I managed to leave my drawing pens at home so I had to make a quick trip to Michaels last night to get some replacements. I was so excited, for once I actually had my coupon with me in my wallet. I picked out these Staedler pens partly because I loved the little case they came in. Things to keep the pens corralled together are always a good plan in my book.

I haven’t gotten much drawing time today so far, though I will do more tomorrow once we are at Nana’s house. I tend to take a back-seat and let Nana have full reign with the kids. It’s fun for everyone.

Whispering Wind Cowl

I enjoy creating moebius style cowls but decided to challenge myself with designing a simple tube style cowl with this design. I wanted to create a crocheted cowl that would have a very graceful drape and would be a lovely accent piece to wear indoors, but could also serve nicely as a warm layer under a coat or jacket.

First order of business was chosing a yarn, I picked Berroco’s “Folio” yarn. This luxurious yarn is an Alpaca/Rayon blend that feels like cashmere, with marvelous drape and warmth. I paired the yarn with a simple mesh stitch pattern to allow the yarn to really shine.

Collette’s first modeling gig

Next I gave some serious thought to how I wanted to work the foundation and how to finish the opposite end of the tube to compliment the foundation. I usually like everything to be very precisely matched. It’s probably the math part of my brain dictating terms. I decided to give myself permission to have the finishing edge be different from the foundation.

Freedom!

Funnily enough, the 2 edges don’t look all that different. But never fear, I will be playing with this some more and there will be some very different edges in the future. I just wanted to get my toe wet this time around.  I have definitely found a new fascination. Throwing out the idea of precise matching has stirred up all sorts of creativity in my brain.

I used my stacked row foundation to start this cowl, then the rounds of mesh stitch are worked off one side to the desired length. In this pattern I have written the instructions, and worked the sample to be 31 inches around and 13 inches wide from foundation to finished edging. I’ve also included instructions on how to modify the pattern to make a wider cowl (deep enough to be pulled up as a hood), or a longer cowl that makes it more like an infinity scarf.

You can purchase the pattern in my Ravelry Shop for $4.99.

You can use a different yarn than I chose for the sample, but I would strongly recommend a yarn with a large percentage of fine alpaca fiber or rayon. You want the yarn to be very fluid to get the fantastic drape you see in the photos.