Festival and Conference Season Begins

A couple weeks ago I spent my Saturday at YarnFest in Loveland, Colorado. This is a great festival that is “local” for me. There are loads of classes and a fun marketplace celebrating yarn and other fibery fun.

I got to see a number of friends and had a little retail therapy time. My first stop and purchases were with the folks at Brown Sheep Company. I’m looking forward to making something summery with the pink yarn. Hopefully I can finish it before the CGOA conference in July.

I had lunch with my good friend Karen Whooley, she taught 4 classes at the festival. We had a great time catching up. Once she had to head back to teach her afternoon class I met up with my friend Susanna.

Turns out Susanna is nearly as dangerous an enabler to shop with as my dear friend Jan. I ended up purchasing a few more items than I had originally planned on. The gorgeous yarns below were too tempting.

This lovely fluffy dark yarn is a Cashmere/Wool blend. There is a little over 320 yards in the 2 balls, so I am hoping to create a lacy cowl or a shawlette. The fluffy halo of the yarn will make for a warm fabric even if it is created with very open stitch work.

Susanna had to bring me to see the yarns at the “Knit Stitch” booth. She had made a hat using some of their lovely hand-dyed yarn. I couldn’t resist this pink and lavendar yarn with it’s bit of sparkle, the color name is “Doodlebug”. I am planning to make myself a beautiful hat for next winter. I think it will look terrific with my silver hair.

A YarnFest tradition for me is to visit glass artist Jodie McDougall’s booth. She always has wonderful glass buttons and goodies. This year I had to adopt some adorable sheep earrings. I’ve been wearing them a lot since the festival. I especially love their little feet.

I was thrilled to see my friend Paula of KnitBaahPurl was at YarnFest again. I had to purchase one of her T-shirts for a new sleep Tee. I really loved this “now I lay me down to sheep” shirt, and it’s in a lovely lavender purple color.

Paula creates all sorts of fun sheep and yarn themed artwork that she sells on T-shirts, mugs, wine glasses, cards and other fun items. I especially love the ecumenical nature of most of her illustrations. No matter what your yarnie art…her artwork will fit the bill.

My final purchase of the day were some cute little stitch markers from the Longmont Yarn Shoppe booth. Who hasn’t played “yarn chicken” when finishing a project? The chicken may actually be inspiration for a crochet or needle felted sculptural piece in the future. I also found the little squirrel to be too cute to resist.

Looking back over all my goodies from YarnFest I’m realizing that I actually exercised some restraint. I stood strong against many of the temptations. Now I just need to crochet like the wind with all this yarn in my stash so I can get more yarn at the other Festivals and Conferences coming up.

In mid-June the Estes Park Wool Market will be here, that could be dangerous to my budget. I’m planning on joining some friends there to tour the vendor barn as well as check out the various critter barns.

The second week of July will be the CGOA conference, which includes a lovely boutique Marketplace. This year’s conference will mark the 25th anniversary of CGOA so there will be extra fun things happening there. If you haven’t had a chance to register for the show it isn’t too late. You can check it out at Crochet.org.

I hope to see some of you at a Festival or Conference this year. But even if you can’t join me at the ones I’m at, do a little research in your area to see if there is one going on near you. It’s a great place to meet fellow yarnies and take classes to expand your crafting skills.

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.

 

 

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.

It’s “I Love Yarn Day”!

Can you believe October is at the half way mark already? I know I’m finding it a big shocking.

But there are good things about reaching October 15th, the best being that it is “I Love Yarn” day. Of course I love yarn. Some members of my family might say I love it a bit too much, especially when it starts to take over the entire living room of our house.

Pile of Yarn

One of the ways folks are celebrating this day is by teaching other’s to play with yarn. Whether it is crocheting, knitting or weaving it is great fun to play with yarn. As you all know my favorite yarn craft is Crochet.

Later today I will have a video tutorial for my Fans & Lace Afghan Square up on my YouTube channel.  I like to make my annual Afghan Square a skill building project. Learning new tips and tricks when crocheting is one of my very favorite things about playing with yarn.  Passing those tips and tricks along to others is my next favorite.

In the Fans & Lace Afghan Square I played with making stitches in un-common ways like my “loose” slip stitch and my standing double crochet. I also worked stitches between stitches and into slip stitches.  The video uses a combination of stop motion animation and live action film to demonstrate everything you need to help you master these new skills.

It’s been taking me a little longer to cut it all together than expected. Of course I am running up against that corollary of Murphy’s Law, “If you are in a hurry, your technology will go on strike.” I’ve been having a bit of trouble with my computer and my camera deciding to be super slow.

Fingers crossed I will have everything sorted before my Saturday has run out of time.

*Update Saturday, October 15, 2016 6:45p.m. Sadly the video is not going to happen today. My computer ate all the work I had done on it the past 2 days, so it will be either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week before it goes up. Thanks for your patience.*

 

Picking colors for Free Form Crochet

Pile of Yarn from Scotts Bluff Valley Fiber Arts Fair
Pile of Yarn from Scotts Bluff Valley Fiber Arts Fair

Remember all that yarn I brought back with me from the Scotts Bluff Valley Fiber Arts Fair? I’m putting some of it together with other yarn from my stash to make a free form crochet scrumble.

When I made my first free form scrumble years ago I thought it would be an easy way to use up left-over odds and ends from my stash. That was when I discovered that one of the trickiest things about free form, is picking the colors of yarn to use together. I wasn’t all that happy with my first scrumbles, but I was intrigued enough to persist.

hank-ready-to-go

 

A great short cut for choosing colors is to pick out a multi-colored yarn that appeals to you, then match it with solid yarns in the colors that are in the variegated yarn. This is exactly what I did to begin this project. I used this hand-dyed yarn as my guide for picking the other colors.

If you are like me, a large percentage of your yarn stash is dominated by a couple of colors. In my case I have lots of Purples and blues. I purchased the hand-dyed hank of yarn knowing that I would have other yarns in my stash that would work with it. If you don’t already have a variegated yarn you want to use in your free-form project, look at your stash for color inspiration before purchasing one.

yarns-for-ff-project

In the end you want a variety of shades as well as colors for your yarn choices. I looked at lighter and darker variations of the colors in my variegated yarn. Like the very deep blue in the furry yarn, that deep color and texture will add some interesting effects to the final fabric. The bright Lime will create contrasting pops.

Hopefully I’ll have some pretty Free Form scrumbles to show you in the next couple of weeks.

Farewell Summer

Today is the official last day of summer on the calendar, though summer has been gone up here on my mountain for quite a while.

rdside-aspens

We have lots of fall color happening, this year we seem to be missing red. Many of our alpine plants that display red foliage in the fall are instead various shades of orange or brick. With all my love of science you would think that I would know why the colors of autumn are different from year to year. Not a chance.

Even without red I am enjoying the changing colors. Our fall color display is very meager compared to what happens in the northeast. Mostly the color change is subtle with the evergreens becoming a darker green and the old needles adding a tinge of rust color before dropping.

aspen-at-home

The aspen trees are gold again, though some of the trees on our property skipped the gold stage and went straight to brown. Others were speckled heavily with dark brown spots. Fortunately for my photography attempts there were a few making a pretty display against the blue sky the other afternoon.

my-new-lens-set

In hopes of improving some of my photographs I bought this set of lens to use with the camera on my phone. The set has 3 different lens, a Fish-eye, wide-angle and macro. The macro lens is actually part of the wide-angle lens. In fact, that has been the only issue I have with the set so far, it’s a bit tricky getting the wide-angle lens attached to the macro lens.

tiny-bag-full-of-lens

They all fix very compactly inside the handy carrying pouch, and it is all small enough that I can put them in my pocket when I am taking photos.

mtnside-reg-lens

I decided to try some of them out yesterday on my way home from “Casual Crochet Wednesday” at the Longmont Yarn Shoppe. I’ve been wanting to get a good photo of a particular section of the mountainside along the road up to my house. These scrubby bushes have been showing some beautiful orange leaves the past week and I knew they would be gone very soon. It was a little over-cast this afternoon, but I had a lot of fun clambering around and taking photos.

fish-eye-mtnside

I used the fish-eye for this shot.

wide-ang-mtnside

This is a similar shot using the wide-angle. You can see how the Fish-eye lens distorted the trees. I don’t have any macro shots for you right now. The macro lens is for really close-up shots, like less than 2cm from the object.

bright-mtnside

This is a shot of the same scene without any additional lens. In many ways I thought the regular lens captured the color of the foliage better.

berocco-vintage-yarn

Once I was back home I got to admire my new yarn purchases. I needed a couple more colors of Berroco “Vintage” for my project I’ve been working away on. I’ll be able to share more about that in a couple of weeks.

ella-rae-seasons

I also got this lovely ball of Ella Rae “Seasons”, this is a fun color changing yarn that you may recognize from my Corner-to-Corner Scarf projects last fall. I worked a couple of samples with it. This ball is destined for a little experiment that is related to the project I’m using the “Vintage” for.  Are you curious now? Don’t worry all will be revealed.

frabjous-fibers-3ft-of-sheep1

Of course, just to give myself a bit of a carrot, I purchased this awesome tube of colorful fiber from Frabjous Fibers out of Vermont. I’ll be using it for needle-felting. Now I have to stay focused on the other projects before I can play with it.

frabjous-fibers-3ft-of-sheep

That might not have been my best plan though. I really want to play with this gorgeous fiber. Each color has lovely tonal changes in it and is going to be perfect worked into some fun sculptural pieces. I’ll be combining this fiber with some of the fiber that I got on my trip to the Scotts Bluff Valley Fiber Arts Fair.

Before too long I’ll likely be posting photos of our first snowfall, though I’m really hoping it will wait until October. I hope those of you that have been tormented with extremely hot summers are experiencing some cooler temperatures now. Enjoy the autumn colors, I know I am.

Crocheting in Longmont

Today I was at my crochet group in Longmont at the Longmont Yarn Shoppe, “Causal Crochet”. We had been getting together on the third Wednesday of each month for 2 hours starting at 10:30 a.m. This was our first meeting on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, and we will be having 2 meetings a month from now on.

If you are in the area you can join us at “Causal Crochet” for at least the next 8 months on the 2nd and 3rd Wednesday of the month. We will see if the schedule still works for everyone once summer rolls around.

Our group today discussed what our fall “Crochet-A-Long” project is going to be. Looks like we will be working on a blanket square. I’ll be putting the pattern up here on my blog and my YouTube Channel during the first week of October. That’s just 3 weeks away!

teaching-swatch-2

I was teaching a private crochet lesson today after the group met. This weekend I am teaching a “Learn to Crochet for Knitters” class, but one of the knitters that wanted to take it wasn’t going to be able to make the class. Instead we made arrangements to have a one hour lesson together at the shop. I think it went very well and she is well on her way to being able to add crochet to her knitting projects.

hank-of-green-berroco-vintage

It’s always so fun to see a crafter get the hang of a new skill. This was my little practice piece for demonstrating the stitches to my student. I was working with Berroco “Vintage” yarn. I have 3 hanks of the green color in my stash, left-over from another project and I decided I needed to add some new colors for a project percolating in my brain.

sunflower

Fall is definitely in the air up here on the mountain, even though it is late summer most days down in town. I’ve been seeing lots of sunflowers blooming everywhere. They are one of my favorite flowers, maybe that’s because I grew up in Kansas (The Sunflower State).

pile-of-berroco-vintage-yarn

I picked the 2 yellows and the brown to go with the green I already have. They really put me in mind of sunflowers. Will have to see what they grow up to be. Berroco’s “Vintage” is a great machine washable work-horse yarn that is a blend of 52% Acrylic, 40% Wool, and 8% nylon. The nylon makes it very durable, which is really nice for afghans, blankets and hard working hats or scarves for the family.

If you are feeling too impatient to wait for my new afghan square, you can check out some of them I’ve already published here on the blog.

Whirlwind Square - M2H Designs

Whirlwind Afghan Square: the pattern is here on my blog, and I have 2 videos to help you work it here on my YouTube Channel: Whirlwind How-To Part 1 and Whirlwind How-To Part 2.

My 2 squares today

Annetta Square: the pattern is here on my blog.

Hot Spot (Annetta Square #2) : the pattern is here on my blog.

Rnd 5 finished_edited-1

The Humble Granny Square: the pattern is here on my blog.

I hope all my US readers are enjoying some cooler temperatures and enjoying the last bits of summer. Soon we will have snow up here on the mountain. I’ll be digging out my warmer clothing in the next couple of weeks. The good news is, I will have lots of opportunities to wear some of my favorite scarves, shawls and hats again.