Time for Mittens Again

 

Yep, it’s the 12th of October and this is the view out my front window.  One of the joys of living on a mountain.  I love the snow and am happy about the moisture, just wish I had been ready for snow that sticks.

Was already looking at crocheting up some mittens for myself, definitely the project to start now.

New Foundations

As many of you that have worked my designs know, I love simple foundations.  Any pattern that asks me to chain more than 50 to start out tends to make me cranky.  A cranky Andee is not that fun to be around, just ask my family.

My favorite designs begin with what I like to call “small starts”.  Nothing makes me happier than to have the beginning directions in a crochet pattern say, “Chain 2, single crochet in 2nd chain from hook.”  Or a variant of that. Which is one of the many reasons I love the foundation single crochet (FSC) for my designs.

But, I know not everyone has my fondness for the FSC.  In fact, it took me a very long time to become friends with the FSC.  I purchased Doris Chan’s books “Amazing Crocheted Lace” and “Everyday Crochet” years before I felt able to tackle the FSC.

I would drool over her patterns and attempt over and over to do the FSC.  Finally one day it all came together and I have mastered the FSC (or at least have a good handle on it).

Recently, I wanted to do a shawl design that would require a long foundation to work off of.  The idea of starting a pattern with nearly 200 chain stitches made me break out in a cold sweat.

I also knew there were quite a few folks that would not be too happy with me if I started it off with that number of FSC (I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to make a foundation with that many FSC). What to do?

I wanted a foundation that wasn’t a complete pain to work, that would look attractive on its own.  Something that wouldn’t need an additional edging to seem complete.

I started looking at single crochet stitches.  What would happen if I worked a bunch of single crochets one on top of the other, then worked into the side of them for the rest of the garment?

Now, I’m pretty sure some other designer has done this at some time or another, though I can’t recall having seen it.  Happily the resulting foundation is stretchy and attractive. Basically everything I was looking for.

One thing I did observe is that with my style of crochet the foundation made this way seems a bit too loose.  I adjusted for this by working the foundation with a smaller hook than that used for the body of the shawl.  Knitters have been casting on for ages with different size needles than the rest of their project is worked with.  So I was borrowing from that tradition.

It could also work to just be very aware and crochet the foundation stitches a bit tightly with the larger hook, then work with a more relaxed gauge for the remainder of the garment.

Either way, this may become one of my favorite new techniques for foundations.

Super Secret Projects

I know I’ve been a bit slow posting lately.  My recent blog posts could convince you that I never crochet anymore.  It isn’t true. 

Piles of Work

I’m actually working on 7 different crochet projects, but as is often the case for designers, I can’t tell anything about them. I am really looking forward to being able to share the stories of each of them and celebrate with my stitching friends once the designs are published. 

Also I still have lots of work to do for getting my Design Office and Art Studio spaces in order.  Hopefully then I’ll be working smarter instead of harder. Of course, everything was a bit side-lined with the wildfire excitement, but I’m back on task again. 

Thanks for popping in once and awhile.

CLF Crochet Retreat

Oh boy, I can hardly wait! In just a little over a month I take off for the Crochet Liberation Front Retreat at Camano Island.  This is going to be a fun time of stitching with pals, taking classes and enjoying the beautiful North West.

Photo from CLF Website of the Ocean at Cama Beach

I have a passion for the ocean. Maybe it is because I was born and raised in land-locked Kansas, and currently live in land-locked Colorado.  The rhythm of ocean waves is one of my favorite sounds. 

Combining the joy of being near the ocean with the joy of crocheting and comaradery of fellow CLF friends. Heaven!  If you haven’t registered for the retreat yet go check out the CLF website.

If being there everyday isn’t an option for you, there are day passes available.  You can join in the retreat activities of the day and take a class or two.  There is a great line-up of classes and teachers, and I’ll be giving a talk Monday evening on Crochet Ergonomics.  Hope to see lots of folks there.

A Different Point of View

One of the wonderful things about going to the Knit and Crochet Shows has been the opportunity to learn from other crocheters.  I’ve learned new techniques and finishing tricks both in classes and just sitting stitching in the lounge with others.  I’ve also discovered ways of looking at crochet fabric that I had never considered.    

I’ve always thought of myself as an “outside the box” kind of thinker.  But one of my teachers at Chain Link this year showed me that she isn’t even thinking “inside the room”.  This would be the lovely, talented and brilliant Dee Stanziano.    

Dee Stanziano and Me at Chain Link 2010

I had the pleasure this year of taking the class “Pushmi, Pullyu” with Dee.   She has an amazing eye for crochet fabric and an insatiable curiosity about how it is created.  Her understanding of how the fabric of crochet can be influenced by the way we hold our hooks and manipulate the yarn is a bit mind-boggling.     

Dee promised by the end of her class we would be forming new neural pathways and looking at our crochet in a whole new way.  She was correct in her predictions (and when she made us crochet with our non-dominant hand her promise that we would curse her name also came true).   I am now having a great time playing with different approaches to creating stitches in my crochet designs.    

Of course one of the benefits of taking this class for me is a better understanding of both the visual differences in fabric, as well as the way left-handed crocheters compensate with their grip and movements in crochet.  Since the majority of left-handed crocheters learn from right-handed folks, like myself, I’m hoping this will improve my skills in teaching them.  As well as giving me a look into hand-health issues for left-handed crocheters.    

In many ways Dee is contagious in her enthusiasm for Crochet, the CGOA and just life in general.  We should all be so involved and alive.  I strongly urge you, when the opportunity arises, take a class with Dee.  It will be money well spent and will gift you with the opportunity to see your crochet (and possibly even life) from a Different Point of View.

Going Round and Round

I love to crochet in the round.  Maybe it is because I’m always going in circles anyway.  

 

I have spent many an hour figuring out how to translate a favorite stitch pattern into a design that can be worked in the round.  Whether it is a tube, mobius, or some adaptation of the granny square, I love going in circles  (or sometimes spirals and squares). 

There is a sculptural quality that can be harnessed in crocheting in the round. And  working in the round can change the appearance of stitches in ways that I find texturally interesting.  This technique allows me to make adorable amigurumis, warm hats, various and sturdy bags, or drapey and luxurious wraps and sweaters.  

 

Other things I love about working in the round…  

Eliminating seaming: This has to be my top reason for working in the round.  I have always found seaming crocheted (or knit) fabric by hand to be the most tedious of tasks.  I can do it, can even do a lovely job of it, but I just hate it.  So I often chose to work in the round (and design in the round) to be rid of this task.  

Unique opportunities for pretty edgings: I find the edgings to look much cleaner when one doesn’t have to work into sides of rows.  

A fondness for the tops of stitches: Admit it, don’t you think the tops of stitches look so much prettier than the sides?  Not only do you get a beautiful finish to all edges of your project, you are always working into the tops of stitches or the chain spaces between stitches.  It’s all nice and orderly…which appeals greatly to my inner math geek.  

An economy of Yarn:  When one is winging it creating your own design from a stitch pattern in your favorite dictionary or just doodling with the yarn…it’s very nice to be able to pick an easy stopping point.  I have made many a baby blanket as a gift by grabbing a few skeins of appropriate yarn from the stash and working a round or square flat pattern until I ran out of yarn.  None of my recipients have complained so far.  

The joy of starting small: I’m not that fond of working a lengthy foundation chain to begin a project.  So working in the round generally means I can start small and allow the increases in the stitch pattern to make the item grow to a usable size.  A recent example of this is my Flat Fuzzy Friend pattern in the Summer issue of Crochet Uncut.  Each piece for that pattern starts with chain 2 work in 2nd chain from hook, as small a start as you can get.  

Flat Fuzzy Friend

When working in the round your best friends are stitch markers.  They come in very handy for marking your increase points or at least the end of each round (particularly helpful when working in spiral rounds).  I also like them for helping me to locate the stitch for corners in square shapes.  

Some of my Favorite Stitch Markers

Generally, when doing flat circles in the round there are increase rules that help you keep the circle from cupping or ruffling.  Typical rule of thumb is you increase by the same number of stitches as are in your first round.  For single crochet that is 6, half-double 8, double 12 (US Terminology).   

Another tip to keep in mind when working a flat shape in crochet if your stitches are starting to lean to the right you need an increase.  This is especially helpful if you are mixing up the height of stitches you are using. 

Hopefully these tips will help you feel comfortable crocheting in the round as well.  It isn’t hard once you get the hang of it and you may find working in the round will become your favorite way to crochet too.

Flat Fuzzy Friend

My first published toy design is available in the Summer 2010 issue of Crochet Uncut.

Flat Fuzzy Friend

Everyone needs a cuddly little friend to keep them company.  I was inspired to create this design by my 2 sons.  They love having a toy along on our hikes and this fella fits nicely in their back packs.  He is also washable, a definite plus with my little mud monsters.

This is a quick crochet project that only takes a bit of yarn.  The sample for the pattern has 45 yards of Lion Brand Jiffy (bulky) and 40 yards of Vanna’s Choice (worsted).  Scrap substitution is fine too, though I would recommend double stranding for the body circle if using worsted to sub the bulky weight yarn.

I’m thinking I’m going to be making a bunch of these little guys in the next few months.  With embroidered eyes they would be fabby baby toys and wouldn’t take up a lot of room in a diaper bag.

I hope everyone enjoys making their own Flat Fuzzy Friends and shares photos on Ravelry.

Kid Cuddle Test

Also, if you are looking for a way to make your favorite hook more comfortable I have an article on modifying hooks in this same issue.

Lace Embrace Shawl

So back in January when I ended up in my wrist brace for a time, it was because I was crocheting like a fiend on this project: 

Lace Embrace Shawl

And now the secret is out.  My lovely shawl is just one design in the new line of Debbie Macomber Blossom Street Collection yarns being offered from Universal Yarn.  It is crocheted from 6 balls of “Rosebud” a lovely DK weight superwash fine merino yarn that blocks like a dream. 

If you would like to get in on the action early you can pre-order the  Debbie Macomber Blossom Street Collection – Book 1.

The Breaking Point

Time flies when you are having fun, and even when you are just working hard.  But if you don’t take regular breaks during your work, the fun is likely to be replaced with pain.  Not a good thing in most people’s book.   

When I talk about taking breaks, people who are working on a deadline project just shake their heads at me. Who has time to take a break?  But taking a break doesn’t mean that you always have to have a yoga moment.   

A Simple Hand Stretch

Taking 30 seconds to stretch your hands and breathe deeply every 20-30 minutes can save you hours or days of hand and neck pain.   

Our bodies are designed to move.  Just getting up and doing something different for a moment can make a difference.  Move the laundry into the dryer, take a walk to the bathroom, or get a drink of water.  Doing another task is as much a break as stopping to stretch.   

Ideally, you should take a break every 20 minutes.  It’s easy to get so engrossed in the task at hand that an hour can slip by un-noticed.  Setting a kitchen timer for 20 minutes can be a handy reminder. 

You don’t even have to get up from your seat every time. Just set down your hook (or needles if you’re knitting) and wiggle a bit in place. You can stretch your hands, lift your arms above your head looking up at your hands, then twist from side to side.  That might take all of a full minute, then you are back to working on your project or previous task.  

A wonderful result is you will find yourself feeling more energized and better able to focus.  Keep in mind that the longer you wait to take a break,  the longer and more active the break should be.   

Making breaks a habit while stitching or even working at your computer can help you avoid ever reaching your Breaking Point.  And allow you to enjoy many years of pain-free stitching and typing.

Plarn Experiment #1

Plarn Spring Basket

I had never heard of “Plarn” until I read Amy Swenson’s book “Not your Mama’s Crochet.”  In it was a pattern for a hand bag made with plarn.  I thought the idea was genius.

After all, the number of plastic bags that routinely take over my household pantry is ridiculous.  And this is in a household that uses our own market bags for much of our shopping.

Our newspaper is delivered in green plastic bags most of the time.  We reused them for various things, but I kept thinking that they are a great color for making Plarn.

I gathered a bunch together in my crocheting area, as I knew it takes quite a few to make a significant length of plarn.  Unfortunately, before I could do anything with them, my husband and father-in-law cleaned out the recyclables and tossed my collection.

So I started collecting again. This time I made sure that all my family understood these were being saved for a purpose.  I kept gathering them and placed them all safely in a container in my crafting room.  Then life got a bit busy…our second child arrived,  I found Ravelry, time kept marching forward.

A few months ago I joined the Laughing Purple Goldfish Group on Ravelry.  Sharon Maher , who is Laughing Purple Goldfish Designs, is a wonderful and inspiring voice for designing and encouraging the use of “up-cycled” materials in our fiberwork.  Each month she has been having challenges to get folks to look at non-traditional materials for crafting supplies.

The challenge for May was to create something using the “Ubiquitous Plastic Bag.”  The demo project used a technique for fusing plastic bags (which I plan to try out sometime too), but I decided to finally experiment with Plarn.  I went to my container of plastic bags and picked out a handful of bags to use.

Cutting Plastic Bags for Plarn

To cut the loops I first slit the sealed bottom of each bag.  Then I folded the bag in half, cut at the fold and repeated that until I had a bunch of one inch wide loops.

I then joined the loops together, by overlapping and pulling the bottom loop thru the top loop, then back under itself like so:

After awhile I had a decent sized ball of plarn and began crocheting a circle.

Beginning of Basket

The really fun thing about working on this project was that I could create more plarn as I needed by joining more loops onto the end of the working plarn.

Adding on more Plarn loops

I did find working with the thickness I had a bit difficult and wouldn’t consider plarn to be very hand friendly.  A  wooden crochet hook seemed to be the best tool for the job.  My plastic and metal hooks both “stuck” too much to the plarn.

Finished Plarn part of Basket

I had in mind an idea of making an easter basket using the plarn and adding some scraps of yarn from my stash.  I also added a flower.

Finished Basket

I learnt a number of things working on this project.  I didn’t like working over the knots where the loops joined. And, as the loops were short,  there was a knot to deal with frequently.  Next experiment I will try working with strips of plarn and possibly will cut them thinner too.  I’m too enthralled with the idea to give up quite yet.