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.

 

Gypsy Wools and Clover Felting Tool

I spent a good part of my Tuesday running shopping errands before picking up Thing 2 from school. Right before I headed over to his school I decided to make a quick stop at Gypsy Wools. They are a fun shop in Boulder that carry a variety of yarns and fibers, as well as embroidery supplies. They also have a marvelous selection of fiber crafting tools.

My main reason for stopping there today was to acquire a few more felting needles and 2 of the Clover Single Needle felting tools.

I’ve been doing a lot of single needle felting work lately and my hand gets a bit tired. Since finding ways to craft without injury is one of my touchstones, I kept thinking that I needed to create some sort of ergonomic handle for the needle. Then I realized that I had such a tool already. I purchased one of these Clover tools about a year ago and have used it primarily when I am doing details like adding yarn embellishments to a needle felting project.

It comes with a 40 gauge needle, which is one of the thinnest.  All the Clover Needle Felting tools recommend that when replacements are needed you use the Clover Needles. I do love their needles, but I have lots of other felting needles, and I decided to see how well they would work in the tool.

The tool breaks down into 4 pieces: the handle base, the locking handle top, the clear needle cap, and the needle.

What makes this tool so effective is the little notch on the top of the handle base.

That notch holds the needle in place, so the needle won’t twist in the handle and break when you are working. The top of the handle has a metal disc that is firmly held against the top of the needle when the top is locked in place.

This is the whole handle reassembled with the needle in place. The needle in this photo is 3″ long, so it fits perfectly in the handle and the clear cap can be placed over the needle when the tool isn’t being used. This is a handy feature as it prevents jabbing oneself when fishing around in your tool kit for what you need.

The cap can be moved to the back of the tool when felting, but I’m not a fan of using a pencil hold when doing single needle work.

The photo above shows my preferred position to hold my felting needle when working.

Using the Clover tool works beautifully with my preferred hold, I simply leave off the cap and the shape of the handle allows me excellent control of the needle with a much more relaxed grip.

I have found that I prefer to use the 3 1/2 inch long needles when doing single needle work. This means I can’t place the clear cap over them in this handle. I just have to be a bit more aware of where the sharp ends are when I’m reaching for a tool in my kit. Though, I am finding with the additional length from the handle top, I may be liking the 3 inch needles better when using the Clover tool.

I am using my Clover handle much more now, and decided that I needed more of them. This way I can have a different gauge needle in each handle. Which is what motivated my trip to Gypsy Wools today.

Now, you remember at the beginning of this post, I said that I had planned a quick stop to just get some needles and tools? As you can see from the photo below, I ended up with a bit more than tools. The very helpful (one might say enabling) Barb said, “Have you seen all our loose fiber we have on sale? It’s 50 cents per ounce” Whoops.

I now have 8 ounces of some wonderful dyed and natural colored fibers to play with. There was even a bit of fiber that was a partially felted sheet that intrigued me. It is probably a good thing I couldn’t stay longer or even more may have ended up in my basket. Some of the green stuff is a combination of wool and silk. I’m really looking forward to experimenting with needle felting it.

Despite all the running around today I did manage to get a little crochet time in. I’m still working on my “super secret” projects for a magazine, which means I can’t share photos of my progress on those right now. Of course, my crochet design brain never sleeps, so I also came up with an idea for a new project this evening.

I’ve been wanting to do something with this beautiful linen yarn from Juniper Farms for ages. I have 2 balls of it and have made a couple of tries that I ended up pulling out.  I’ll be crocheting some swatches with it tomorrow to see if this latest brain storm is going to come out as nicely as I hope. More on that soon.

A No Crochet Day

What?!!!

Yes dear readers, you are seeing that correctly. I did not crochet today at all. My boys are on their Spring Break from school and today was all about spending time with cousins, uncles and grandpa. I thought I might get a little crochet time, I even had my project with me just-in-case. But nope. There was no time to crochet.

There was lots of laughter.

Some really big hugs.

Kitten cuddles and baby snuggles.

But no crochet.

That’s alright, there will be time for crochet again tomorrow. Today was pretty perfect despite the lack of yarn entertainment.

Time out to Color

Today was a very busy day. Sadly there was not much crochet in it. There was yarn, the sorting of and moving of, but no yarn with hook action. Sometimes in the life of a crochet designer and busy mom, the background grunt-work has to take over a day. Even if that day is during National Crochet Month.

I took a little time to relax this evening though and play. Instead of hook and yarn I decided to play with color pencils and my lovely Franklin Habit book “I Dream of Yarn”. This was my first time actually coloring in it. I’ve sat down with it numerous times since acquiring it, just looking at all the lovely drawings has been happy making for me.

But to be honest I have been a bit afraid to put color to them because then they would be done. Or, gasp, I might “ruin” them. Yup, even I have that nasty little voice sometimes that beats me up and tells me I’ll do it “wrong”. Today I told the little voice to pack her bags and go on a long trip. With everything that has been going on for me and my family the past month I needed some soothing coloring time with my buddy Franklin.

I decided to start with this wonderful drawing of lots of people knitting and crocheting. It reminded me a bit of crochet motifs with just the shaping of it, and the wonderful support I have from other yarnie friends from all around the world.

I think this picture will end up being extremely colorful, I want to make each of the little people have different color garments and projects.

If you haven’t gotten into the whole adult coloring book scene I understand. I haven’t been doing a lot of it, I usually want to draw my own pictures to color. But there is something very relaxing about taking a half hour to color a picture that is already there. I enjoy making color choices and playing with how I will texture and shade my colors.

Of course, when the drawings are fun fantastical versions of Franklin’s dreams of yarn (that really could be mine as well, though mine would have loads more crochet hooks) it is even more fun. Afterall, yarn is our common thread.

More Books and Fiber to Play With

It’s been a busy week since my last post. I’ve been working on 5 different things all at the same time, a couple of them were to do with opening my Etsy Shop.  I have set the 15th of January as my goal for getting my shop open, that is tomorrow. Eek!

I may only have a couple of listings when I open my shop, but I figure you have to start somewhere. Funny thing is, the making items part is actually the easy task. It’s the getting all the information online and figuring out how to do all the listing stuff that slows me down. I’m hopeful that once I’ve gotten some practice listing items on there I will be faster.

Meanwhile there is yarn and fiber stuff happening too. Last night I was getting ready to do reading time with my boys and my husband said, “Oh I forgot, you got a huge box in the mail.” Then he handed me the box.  It was from my friend Pam in New Jersey.

We spoke on the phone a few weeks ago. She was doing some clearing out and she wanted to see if I would like any of the stuff she was getting rid of. At first I said “No” because my own studio needs a serious clear-out. She wasn’t giving up that easy though, and began to tell me about some books she thought I would like.  She also knows I have been doing needle-felting and offered some roving and felting tools that she thought I would find useful. Plus, as she put it, the roving would make good packing material for the books.

new-books

By the end of the conversation I had agreed that the books sounded very interesting. Here they all are: 3 books about crocheting with wire, 1 about wire-wrapping, and the last is any interesting book about Textile Techniques in Metal. She even included a couple of articles from Bead & Button issues that were about crocheting with wire. Very distracting and fun.

big-bag-of-roving

Then there was the colorful bag of roving.

roving-and-hankies

I was expecting wool roving, but Pam included some lovely alpaca and silk as well.

silk-hankies

Look at this beautiful stack of hand-dyed silk hankies. Pam and I have similar tastes in colors, so these just about jumped out of the bag into my hands. I haven’t played with silk in this form before, though I have read about it.

needle-felting-tool

Last of all was a handy Needle-Felting tool from FeltCrafts. This will be very useful when I am working on some of my larger projects.  I’m looking forward to testing it out. Don’t you love the fun little container it came it? It is really nice when one can keep all the sharp things gathered up.

I am very glad that Pam talked me into acquiring these new goodies, now I just have to behave myself and get some of the other stuff on the Mutant To-Do List done before I play with them.

 

Learning Something New

Earlier this month I shared with you my efforts to organize my bead stash. The primary motivation for that was because I am playing with designing jewelry again. Sometimes that means using beads and other jewelry components in my crochet wearables. Other times it means getting out the wire and jewelry making tools to create fun and sparkly pieces.

tools-and-supplies

As I’ve been organizing things and working on various jewelry designs, I became interested in metal stamping. This is a great way to add words and even quotes to my jewelry pieces. Which meant acquiring some new tools and supplies.

Yesterday evening I began to experiment with metal stamping. My sons were both very interested in what I was doing. This is definitely not a quiet craft. Both boys actually gave it a try.

thing-1-and-i

Then my oldest decided to be in charge of handing me the letter stamps I needed. This little disc of aluminum was our project we worked on together. Not too bad for a first attempt.

my-first-experiments

One of the fun things about this craft form is bashing the stamps and metal with hammers. It’s a great way to take out some controlled aggression. I was being a little timid at first, which is why that first piece had some rather faint impressions.  I soon overcame my timidity though and gave the stamps a hearty whack as needed.

2nd-alum-experiment

I made this little silvery aluminum disc next. I found I’m really not wild about aluminum, especially when it is this thin. It’s surprisingly strong, but super lightweight. I dropped this disc at one point and it practically flew away. I was hunting for it for 20 minutes. These discs would be great for earrings though, as being so lightweight they wouldn’t pull on the earlobe.

natural-brass-blank

Next I played with a brass blank. These blanks were labeled “natural brass” and don’t have that gleaming yellow color that I’m used to. Brass is a harder metal than aluminum, so it took more force to create a good impression on the blank.

final-project-of-the-evening

I am still figuring out the exact method for placing my stamps before striking them. I actually made a little mistake on this piece, but corrected it. Can you spot it?  Even with the mistake I’m pretty happy with how it came out.

You may be asking, “Are you nuts taking up a new craft during the madness of Christmas?” or even, “Where are you going with this Andee?”

If you have been reading my blog for very long, you already know the answer to the first question. Yes, I’m nuts. That said, I also find learning new things to be a good way for me to manage stress. In some ways this is all an early Christmas present to me.

Where I’m going with this is yet to be seen. I am playing around with the idea of finally getting my Etsy Shop going. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, yet it hasn’t ever come together.

compact-storage

Or this could just be a stop along my art journey as I keep expanding my creativity. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I find new creative energy for my crochet work by exploring other (sometimes un-related) crafts. For the moment this new craft isn’t taking up a lot of room mentally or physically…. and I’m having a lot of fun playing with hammers.

 

 

Some Crochet Surgery

I’m way late with my mid-week post, but I have been having a Whirlwind of a week.  Clearly I jinxed myself naming my newest hat pattern that.

the-oops-moment

Amongst all my other tasks I’ve been tackling, I’ve been crocheting my latest Playing with Triangles Shawl and ran into a little problem. I had finished the second beaded row and cut my yarn when I discovered that one of my V-stitches in the beginning of the row only had one leg of the V.

It had taken some time to work that row because each V-stitch had a hoisted-on bead on the chain one. I really didn’t want to pull out the whole row and re-do all those beaded stitches. Plus I wasn’t sure I would have enough yarn to finish the whole row once I put in the missing double crochet stitch.

preparing-for-surgery

Instead I decided to do a little surgery on my project.

the-first-cut

It’s a bit un-nerving taking scissors to my crochet work, but I am getting more comfortable with it all the time. This row wasn’t so bad, since it was the last row I had worked. I wouldn’t have to incorporate the new stitches with a row above.

unraveled-back-to-mistake

Unraveling to where I need to work the missing double crochet.

beginning-repair
Starting repair
ready-to-add-new-yarn
Ready to add new yarn

 

pulling-up-new-yarn-loop-with-old-yarn-loop
New Yarn and Old Yarn loops on hook
pulled-thru-old-yarn-end
Pulled thru old yarn end

 

created-new-beaded-ch-st
New beaded chain-stitch made
unraveling-to-beg-of-next-v-st
Un-raveling to beginning of next V-st.
securing-top-of-st
Securing top of stitch
preparing-to-join-2-vs
Preparing to join the 2 V-stitches

After all the cutting and un-raveling I joined in some new yarn and crocheted the stitches I pulled out. It is a little hard to see what I was doing with these stitches since the new yarn and old yarn are the same color.  But this is more just to show you that no one is perfect.

all-done

Surgery is over and the patient has survived.

repair-worked-over

Once the extra tails are woven in, you won’t be able to see where the surgery even happened.

I’m reminded of something Margaret Hubert said in a class I took with her, “Admire your work often, you’ll catch your mistakes sooner.” I’ll be admiring my work a lot more before I cut my yarn from now on.