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.

 

 

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“Uncle!”

Sometimes getting back into the routine of school days is a rough transition. That would definitely be the case this week. This is the first full week my boys are back in school and to add to the fun (not): my husband is out of town for work and there are major construction delays on the 2  shortest routes down the mountain to school.

I am really glad that we are getting our roads back to better-than-before. If you all remember back in September 2013 there was a nasty flood here and we had extreme damage to numerous roadways in Colorado, especially in the mountains. The construction has been on-going for the past 3 years, with the big job starting last year about this time.

What all this means for me though, is less time in my office at home. Being on the go isn’t too bad when I’m crocheting away on a pattern, but it gets a bit tricky when I need to do photography and video work.

I had planned to have an awesome Tuesday post for all my dear readers. Unfortunately, I finally had to accept reality since it is now Wednesday evening and I still don’t have the awesome post completed. I’m crying “Uncle” this time. Awesome post is being moved to my Saturday post instead.

But I won’t leave you with a completely empty plate. No starving children in Mama Andee’s house!

One of the good things about being trapped down in town this week, I had the opportunity to get lots of shopping errands out of the way. Seems like there are always little errands that get pushed off the day’s list when I come down during summer break.

This past Tuesday I took care of all my grocery errands, but I also made some time for errands that were a bit more fun. Like stopping by JoAnn’s and Michaels.

RH WaterLily

I needed some foam cushions for a project and knew that JoAnn’s would have the ones I wanted. I spent a few minutes having a wistful browse of all the lovely Ott-Lites they have in stock. I did resist that temptation, but a skein of yarn said it needed to come home with me.

RH Friends

I really like crocheting with Red Heart’s “With Love” yarn (very aptly named as well). It is nice and soft with a lofty springy twist to it. Great for making home décor or even wearables. I picked the Water Lily color because I thought it would play well with some purple that I had in my stash. Don’t they look nice together? Will be coming back to them later this winter.

There has been a lot of posting in social media about Caron Yarn’s newest product “Caron Cakes”. They are only in Michaels stores from what I understand. They did have them online at the Michaels website, but as of this writing they are out-of-stock. You can take a look at the various colors online though and see if there is a store near you that carries them.

Caron Cakes at Michaels

I wanted to see if I could find them in my local Michaels. The store I go to is located in Superior, Colorado in the same shopping area as my nearest Costco.  I decided I had time for a stop in Michaels before heading to Costco for groceries. I was pleased to see the yarn there, though they had already sold quite a bit of it.

My Caron Cakes

I had to adopt a few balls for myself. I decided on 2 balls of the purple toned “Bumbleberry” and 1 ball of the “Blueberry Cheesecake”. The yardage in each ball is very generous at 383 yards. It is a yarn that requires a bit more care, the instructions on the label say “Hand Wash. Lay flat to dry.” A little surprising as the fiber content is 80% Acrylic/20% Wool. The yarn is very soft in the ball and doesn’t have that slight scratchiness you sometimes get with wool blends.

Jessies Cakes Round-Up

I’m looking forward to working with this yarn and seeing what new designs it inspires for me. Meanwhile my good friend and fellow yarnie blogger Jessie has put together a Round-up of pattern suggestions for folks that are wondering what they can crochet with this yarn.

C2C Scarf 1

You can find Jessie’s suggestions and the links to the patterns on her blog: Jessie At Home. I was flattered that she included my C2C Basics Scarf in there.  Some of my other patterns that could work up nicely in this yarn are:

Granny Fans Redux - Andee Graves/M2H Designs

Granny Fans Redux, this is one of my paid patterns that has detailed charts and the instructions for 3 different styles of neck wear. The long runs of color in the Caron Cakes would likely give you fans in each color.

2nd PWT

Playing with Triangles Shawl, this pattern is available here on my blog and I have a “how-to” video on my YouTube Channel.

3rd PWT attempt

You can see in the above photo how fun the color changes were using Red Heart’s Treasure. With the Caron Cakes the color stripes would be even more dramatic. The squishy loft of the Cakes yarn would make a very snuggly shawl, perfect for a gift for a dear friend or family member this coming holiday season.

Enjoy the rest of your week, and be sure to stop by on Saturday for another fun pattern and video.

Back to School again

This past week the weather has begun its swing back to cooler temperatures, at least up here on my mountain. It is getting us in the mood for autumn just as school is ready to start up again for my boys.

My youngest son is going into the 5th grade this year. It’s rather bittersweet as this will be his last year in elementary school. In our district 6th graders are in Middle School. So the Bean is looking forward to being one of the “big” kids this year. He also will have the opportunity to join band and learn to play an instrument. We will see if that happens. I’m trying to convince him that music is math, but he remains skeptical about it.

My oldest is going into 8th grade, his last year of Middle School. That means this year is going to be full of getting ready for his graduation at the end of the year and deciding what High School he’ll be attending for 9th grade. This will be the last year that I’ll be driving down or staying in town all day to pick them up after school. Starting next year they will both be able to take a bus home up to our little community after school.

For some reason our schools always start the new year with a short week. My youngest will be having his first day this coming Thursday and my other son’s will be that Friday.  I went on a massive shopping trip this last Tuesday and got all the required items for their return to school. I stocked up for my design office supplies too.

Pocket Folders

Inexpensive 2 pocket file folders, I use these for corralling my design notes when I am crocheting a new design and writing the pattern.

Spiral Notebooks

A stack of spiral notebooks, still my favorite to keep with me for scribbling ideas in or design notes when I am swatching for new designs. They also are a sort of ‘catch-all” for anything I need to write down. I fill them up and weed them out as the year progresses.

Pink Comp Notebooks

A few nicer looking composition notebooks that I’ll use when I go to conferences. The slightly smaller profile lets them fit nicely into my bags I carry during the conference.

Writing n Drawing Implements

I also picked up a few new writing and drawing implements. Haven’t used these colored pencils from Pentel before and wanted to see how they compare to others, and one always needs more highlighters and black markers.

Between all the back to school stuff I have been working on swatching for new design projects. It has been a reminder that even with the best ideas and yarn, swatches don’t always come out the way I envisioned. Unfortunately I wasn’t happy with how the yarn I had picked was working with the hook I had chosen. I ended up starting and frogging around 10 times when all was said and done.

The good news is that none of that time is wasted. I always learn a lot when swatching and get to know the stitch patterns I’m working with. I have almost an entire notebook full of notes to work from that will become future designs. I also found out that this was an amazingly durable yarn to withstand being crocheted then pulled out so many times.

I was using the left-overs from a skein of yarn I purchased at the Estes Park Wool Market a few years back. Textiles A Mano’s “La Jolla” a 40% Silk – 60% Wool blend worsted/aran weight yarn. I don’t know if they are still around as I didn’t see them at the wool market this summer and couldn’t get to their website when I was writing this post.

I had used part of the hank to knit my first ever lace project. It was a very large hank with approximately 500 yards in it, and I had plenty left over for swatching. I have 2 other hanks of this same yarn in different colors that I want to make into designs, so the swatching was to develop those designs. I’m hoping to revisit those ideas later this autumn.

The next 7 days should be very exciting. My family and I will be getting in a few last-minute summer vacation activities before the school schedule hits us full force. Then it all starts with my oldest and I stopping by his school this coming Wednesday for his locker assignment and getting his school photo ID. After that he is joining me at the Longmont Yarn Shoppe for my Causal Crochet group from 10:30a – 12:30p.

Mtn Top Beanie full view

He is going to be picking out the yarn for his new hat. He really liked my proto-type for the Mountain Top Beanie, but wanted a little calmer color.  Hopefully I will get it finished for him before the cold weather gets serious with us. If you want to make your own beanie for yourself or as a gift for someone else you can find the pattern in my Ravelry shop by clicking on the highlighted name above.

I’ll also be teaching a class at the Longmont Yarn Shoppe for this project on October 29th at 10 a.m. You can sign up for the class on the LYS website or by stopping by the shop.

I know some of you may have more summer vacation time ahead of you yet, so I’ll wish you a lovely break. For those of you that are in back-to-school mode like myself, buckle-up and away we go.

Spring Fever

This has been a really weird spring weather-wise.  Snow in the spring on my mountain isn’t that unusual, and heavy snow amounts even. But usually it is warmer. I’m beginning to feel like a yo-yo going back and forth with nearly summer temperatures and then returning to freezing winter the following day.

It might be that I’m getting older, but this past winter was really challenging for me in the health area. I’ve had persistant colds, stomach flu and just over-all sinus unpleasantness. Things got really interesting 2 weeks ago right before I left on my trip to visit Jan.

I have ridiculously sensitive skin and often deal with hives on my face and shoulders. A common trigger for these is accidentally ingesting gluten. Gluten is used in more foods that you would initially realize, of particular note are candies and chocolates.

I had consumed too many Easter chocolates after Spring break and at the end of April I had a bout of hives on the right-side of my face. Fortunately it cleared up after a week. Then the Wednesday before I left for Jan’s I started getting another break-out. But this time it was more severe.

My first Saturday at Jan’s I was a mess with it. Itchy and very uncomfortable. That patch finally began to heal up and a new patch appeared on my forehead and along the left-side of my face. Nearly my whole face looked swollen and red, not attractive and not comfortable either. The Sunday before I was to fly back home to Colorado more hives began to appear on my shoulders.

Early in my visit with Jan I began to suspect that I was experiencing Shingles.  There wasn’t much I could do while in New Jersey so I spent my first full day back home on the phone getting a doctor’s appointment. After looking at the newest crop of sores on me the doctor told me this wasn’t Shingles. Unfortunately it appears to be a bit of a mystery as to what it is. I’m not showing any of the symptoms associated with the usual culprits.

My doctor prescribed a short course of steroids and recommended taking over-the-counter antihistamines to help with the itch. I’m also sticking with my routine of cold compresses on the affected areas and being hyper-vigilant about what I eat. Fingers crossed that I’ll be all healed up in a week or so.

Meanwhile this has really cut into my crochet and design schedule.  Not to mention it was the reason I didn’t have any photos of me from my recent trip, I didn’t want to scare all my loyal readers.

I’ll leave you today with some more photos from my Longwood Garden trip.

LG Dragon railing

The massive conservatory there is filled with beautiful flowers and everywhere I looked was something to intrigue the eye. I really loved the “childrens” area that had whimsical ironwork thru-out. This dragon railing looked almost alive.

LG Birds Fountain

And this little bird fountain was very endearing.

LG Lace Hydrangea

Jan’s sister loves the Lace Hydrangeas, and I was really pleased with this photo of them.

LG Orchids 1LG Orchids 3

But where I really went crazy was the section filled with Orchids. So many colors and shapes, loads of inspiration for crochet motifs in the future.

LG Orchids 2

 

Playing with Sharp Objects Again

Brown Sheep Purchases

You saw those 2 big bags of fiber that I purchased from the Brown Sheep Company at the Yarn Fest last weekend. I’ve been having a lot of fun with them practicing my needle-felting skills.

When I took the class in January at TNNA with Jackie Huang he handed out thick felt pads for us to use while working on our projects. He said he had begun using those in his own work because the foam pads broke down too quickly when doing lots of needling to create flat pieces. Also the wool is better for the environment than all the plastics used to make the foam.

When I got home from that trip one of the first things I did was work on making my own felted pad. I started with some wool material that I had left over from felting old sweaters. Then I wrapped odds and ends of wool roving that I had in my stash around the square I had made. Didn’t take long before I had used up all the wool roving. That’s when I got the bright idea of asking the Brown Sheep folks to bring 4 pounds of fiber down for me to purchase at Yarn Fest.

Felted work pads

One of the first things I did when I opened the bag was begin to add to my “pad” and felt it with my Clover 5-needle tool. I’ve gotten my big pad quite firm and filled out now, so I’ve begun to make smaller ones that I can bring to share with students when eventually I start teaching.

The little pads are also great for perfecting my needle-felting techniques. I’ve learnt a lot just working on them and it gave me the courage to tackle something different.

Cookie Cutters

I had heard of using cookie cutters as “molds” for needle-felting, and I dug around in my cookie cutter supplies for a few that I could re-purpose. Every since I had to switch to a gluten-free diet I have not been making many cookies. My cookie cutters are plastic and because the needle might scratch or nick the surface of the plastic, I will not be returning these 5 cutters to my kitchen tools.

Bunny Cookie Cutter

I decided to start with the bunny cookie cutter.

Cutter filled with wool fluff

 

Cutter needling started

I filled it with wool fluff and using my 3-needle tool to secure it once and a while.

Cutter shaping up

Then I switched to a single needle to work more on getting some shaping in place.

Cutter removed from felt shape

Once I removed the cookie cutter you can see the shape I had.

Flat backside of bunny shape

I carefully removed the shape from my pad and you can see how flat the back is.

Bunny Cookie Cutter Reversed

I then had the brain storm of making a reverse image of the bunny so I could join the 2 pieces together to make a 3D bunny sculpture/toy. Puzzled over this for a moment then had an “Ah-ha!” moment when I realized I could use the cookie cutter from either side since I wasn’t needing to actually cut anything.

I filled and formed the other half of my bunny, then placed the two with flat sides together and carefully used my single needle to join them. I was pleased I managed that without poking myself. Things did get a little involved with adding to the bunny to fill out the shape of the body, head and legs. I also cut the ears away from the body and added some wool to soften the cut area.

Needle Felted Bunny 1

Finally I had a little natural wool bunny.

Needle Felted Bunny 2

Next I wanted to add color to my bunny. So I spread bits of colored wool roving on the surface of the bunny, then needled them to secure them. He still needed a nose and mouth.

Finished Bunny face

I added the nose and mouth, as well as a bit more shaping to his head. I also detailed his eyes more.

Fluffy Bunny bum

Last of all was adding more fluff to his cotton tail.

Though this experiment worked out, I don’t know that I would make another using this same method. But it is all a learning process. I think the cookie cutters would be really good for making 3D images on a flat surface like a pillow or bag.

I’ll keep on experimenting and learning. This is definitely getting addictive. I’ve ordered more needle-felting tools and will be sharing my thoughts on them later this Summer.

Connecting with Crochet

Yesterday was quite the crochet day for me. I taught the “Learn to Crochet” class at the Longmont Yarn Shoppe. I always have a great time teaching and love it when my students have that light bulb moment when things begin to work for them.  It’s also a great reminder of what it’s like to be at the beginning of the crochet journey.

Then I ran a few quick errands in town and headed back home. At home it was a flurry getting my boys herded up so we could head over to a friend’s house for a 50th birthday party. There were lots of kids there and our hosts have a nice trampoline that my boys headed straight for.

Meanwhile there were only a few people I knew, so I said “hi” then found a well-lit spot outside to sit with my crochet and keep an eye on my boys. After awhile I got a bit chilly so I came back inside.

One of the other women at the party asked me about a someone in Jamestown and if I knew them. Turned out we had a mutual acquaintance. We introduced ourselves and had a chuckle when it turned out her name is Annette, though pronounced the German way, the “e” at the end sounds like an “a”. We chatted about living in the mountains and wildlife visiting my home.

While we were talking I was crocheting on my project and she asked me about my crochet. She is from Germany originally and both knits and crochets, though she said she was a bit out of practice. She told me that she had started a crocheted blanket project about 2 years ago, but had gotten a bit stuck when she went back to work on it.

Her husband had to run their teen-age daughter home about then and Annette asked him to bring her project bag back with him. When he returned the 2 of us dug thru the bag. There were a number of completed squares, but they were very tightly crocheted and we talked about how they would work in a blanket.

Annette with her inspiration photo and squares

She had been inspired by a photo of a crocheted blanket in a catalog. She had the original inspiration photo in the bag. So we took a look at it together. Her squares were pretty different from the squares in the blanket so I asked her if she would be interested in trying something different.

Close up of Square

I grabbed a ball of the yarn she had and began designing a different square there on the spot. I was having a great time playing with yarn, and we talked about crochet and our families as the square took shape. She liked what I came up with and thought it would be a nicer blanket than the tight squares she had done. Since she had made so many of those I suggested she use them for a pillow that would carry the same colors as her blanket.

My 2 squares today

Today I experimented a bit more with the square pattern I had come up with last night and made these 2 versions. The difference between the 2 is in where I decided to make the color change. Instructions for the squares are below and, in honor of my new crochet friend, it is named the Annetta Square.

ANNETTA SQUARE

designed by Andee Graves

Skill level:   Intermediate

Materials:

Worsted Weight yarn

I-9/5.5mm hook

Finished Size:

Approximately 3 7/8” square

Gauge:

First 3 Rounds = 2.25”

Special Stitches:

3 double crochet cluster st (Cl): (YO, insert hook in indicated st or sp, YO pull up a loop, YO pull thru 2 loops on hook) 3 times, YO pull thru remaining loops on hook. If you are having trouble with this stitch check out my blog post “Crochet and Springtime” for a tutorial on it.

Beginning 3 dc cluster st (Beg Cl): Ch 2, (YO, insert hook in indicated st or sp, YO pull up a loop, YO pull thru 2 loops on hook) 2 times, YO pull thru remaining loops on hook.

Instructions

Rnd 1: Starting with adjustable slip knot, ch 2, 6 sc in 2nd ch from hook, sl st to first sc of Rnd. [6 sc]

Rnd 2: Ch 1, sc in same st as join, (ch 1, sc in next st) 5 times, ch 1, sl st to first sc of Rnd. [6 ch-1 sps, 6 sc]

Rnd 3: Sl st and Beg Cl in next ch-1 sp, (ch 3, Cl in next ch-1 sp) 5 times, ch 3, sl st to top of Beg Cl. [6 ch-3 sp, 6 Cl]

Change color here to get suspended flower look

Rnd 4: Ch 1, sc in same st as join, (4 sc in next ch-3 sp, sc in next st) 5 times, 4 sc in next ch-3 sp, sl st to first sc of Rnd. [30 sc]

Rnd 5: Ch 1, sc in same st as join, sc next st, (2 sc next st, sc in next 4 sts) 5 times, 2 sc next st, sc next 2 sts, sl st to first sc of Rnd. [36 sc]

Change color here to get circle in square look

Rnd 6: Ch 1, sc next 2 sts,(*hdc next st, (dc, tr) next st, (tr, ch 2, tr) next st, (tr, dc) next st, hdc next st,* sc next 4 sts) 3 times; Repeat from * to * once, sc next 2 sts, sl st to first sc of Rnd. [16 sc, 8 hdc, 8 dc, 16 Tr, 4 ch-2 spcs]

Rnd 7: Ch 1, sc next 6 sts, *(sc, ch 2, sc) next ch-2 sp,** sc next 12 sts*; Repeat from * to * 2 times, then Repeat from * to ** once, sc in next 6 sts, sl st to first sc of Rnd. [56 sc, 4 ch-2 sps]

Fasten off

I really like how these little squares came out. I hope you enjoy making some to use in your projects this spring.

Seated for Crochet (Part One)

This post today is actually dedicated to my good friend Julia (@AberrantCrochet). Sadly, we don’t get to see each other much, but we communicate online. She recently tweeted a photo of a chair someone had decorated using crochet motifs.

B9LKXVlIMAABNsN

I thought this chair was really fun, and it reminded me that I really want to crochet a chair “cozy” for an old beat-up chair of mine.

chair uncovered

Originally this chair belonged to a friend from massage school. She was getting rid of it and I took it off her hands. There was something about the shape and size of it that really appealed to me. Still does for that matter.

The upholstery was in rather worn condition, but I decided to sew a polar fleece covering for it and put it in my massage office as my “client” chair. It served that purpose well for many years.

Reading Chair in Boys' room when it was new.
Chair moved into Boys’ room as Reading spot.

Then I got a small sofa for my office about 7 years ago and I moved the chair to my boys’ room for a reading chair.  Between dogs and boys the polar fleece cover has taken quite a beating. Which is what originally got me thinking that a colorful covering crocheted in 100% acrylic yarn might actually hold up better.

I’m going to use the old polar fleece cover to create a template that I will crochet pieces to fit. That way the chair can still be in use while I’m making the cover. Another option would be to crochet “scrumbles” and pin them to the chair until there are enough to join them together. But I want the boys to be able to continue to use the chair while I work on this project. My goal is to have it finished by the end of 2016.

Next step in this project will be to pick out the yarn I’m going to use. I have a lot of acrylic yarn in my stash, so it is going to be mostly about deciding what colors I am going to use.  I also need to decide what style of crochet I’m going to use.  Will it be a “Free Form” scrumbled looking piece or will it be more large swatches of more regular crochet fabric. I suspect it will be a combination of both once I really get working with hook and yarn.

I’ll keep updating here on the blog as this project evolves. This one will take some time, mainly because I’ll be fitting it in around my other crochet work.