Happy Little Hearts

I’ve been having fun playing with crocheting hearts.  

There is a bake sale fundraiser for my oldest son’s after-school care program every February.  I’m really not all that talented in the kitchen, especially when it comes to baking at altitude.  I decided this time to use up some of my worsted cotton and make heart shaped facial scrubbies for the sale. 

Handful of Hearts

I played around with various patterns I found online and made 10 hearts.  I wasn’t 100% happy with how they were coming out and kept tweaking the patterns.  Then today decided to try a completely different approach and since it is a quick fun little pattern thought I would share it with all of you. 

Here is the little Heart I came up with. 

Little Heart

Sample in photo is worked in Crème de la Crème (Coats and Clark) 100% cotton with a size H-8 (5.0 mm) hook and came out 3 x 3 inches.  You can use any yarn or thread you want to get various size hearts.  Use the appropriate size hook for the gauge of your yarn.  

Little Heart Instructions

Stitch Chart (c) Andee Graves/M2H Designs

Row 1: Chain 7, work a single crochet in the back bump of 2nd chain from the hook. Single crochet in back bumps of each chain to end. (6 sc)

Row 2: Chain 1, turn, work a single crochet in each stitch across (6 sc) 

Row 3-6: Repeat Row 2 four times. 

Row 7:  Turn square to work on one side of square, work 5 Double crochet(Shell) in the end of the 3rd row.   Loosely slip stitch in end of 6th row.  Turn square to work on next side, loose slip stitch in first  stitch,  work Shell in 4th stitch of side, slip stitch in next corner, ch 1. 

Round 8:  Work 6 sc evenly spaced on next side, ch 3, work 6 sc evenly down side. Work 2 sc in first dc, 2 hdc in next dc, 3 dc in next dc, hdc in next dc,  slip st loosely in 5th dc of shell, tight slip st in corner of original square, loose slip st in next dc, hdc in next dc, 3 dc in next dc, 2 hdc in next st, 2 sc in last dc of 2nd shell. 

Finishing:  Can end Round 8 with slip st into first sc of round…or use a needle join for an invisible joining of the round.

The Energy Equation

I have finally solved a problem that has bugged me for months.  How can I  be insanely busy and still not do all the things I think I should be able to do?  This question kept frustrating me because  I’m super speedy at most of the things I do.

I crochet quickly and I type somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 wpm.  I read like lightning– devouring entire books  in mere hours or at most a few days.  Turns out it isn’t a matter of how much time it takes me, it’s a matter of the energy it takes.

If memory serves me, physics addresses this particular problem.  There is an equation that goes somewhat along the lines of:

Energy + Time = Velocity.

An easy way to understand this equation is to apply it to driving  your car.  If you wish to travel a set distance,  the amount of gasoline required remains fairly constant, whether you travel that distance quickly or slowly.  There is some wiggle room in there depending upon the efficiency of your car engine and the condition of the road surface.  But the amount of gasoline remains equivalent for all practical purposes.

In the equation Energy is a constant. The variables are Time and Velocity.  For my purposes Velocity represents the Amount of Work I can finish.

Turns out the problem isn’t I’m running out of Time, I’m running out of Energy. And of course, less energy =  more time needed to complete the tasks on my To-Do list.  The real trick is how do I harness more energy?  The answer is…no one can.

Time management and good self-care can certainly maximize how the energy is put to use.  But in the end there is only a finite amount of energy available to me on a daily basis.

Recently there have been lots of new opportunities opening up in my life.  I have started designing crochet patterns and selling my art and fiber creations. Opportunities for teaching hand health/healthy crafting and crochet are popping up.   But since I am dealing with a  finite amount of energy,  I need to shift things around to make more room (and energy) for the new.

So I’ve finally bowed to the wisdom of the ages and the science of physics.  I’ve reached a decision that I’ve been seriously wrestling with the past four months.

At the end of April I am retiring as a massage therapist.  It is a scary thought. In many ways  I have identified myself with that profession for over 11 years (more if I count the years I was in training).

As much as I love working with clients and helping them to feel better, the thing I love most is educating them on how to care for themselves so they aren’t back on my table in knots too quickly.  I will eventually continue my role as an educator with my writing and teaching classes on those subjects.

Like all changes in our lives this one promises to have its ups and downs. But I am really looking forward to having more energy to devote to my family and my creative work.

Being a Hypocrite

Yep, I realized it is really the truth.  Because right now– in fact for the past 3 weeks– my hands and wrists have not been happy with me.  Sad to say,  I am wearing this brace on my right hand for most of my days and nights. It’s really fun to type with…. Not….

Strapped up for work

I write about and talk about hand health. All. The. Time.  It’s part of the reason I am known as Mamas2hands.  Yet here I am ignoring my own advice.  I know better.

I know that if I crochet for 3 hours non-stop, things will hurt when I finally get up to take that desperately needed bathroom break.  Not just my hands, but also my neck and shoulders, and even my backside from sitting in the same spot and basically the same position for all those hours.

Now for my excuses. You knew I would have some, right?  It’s all a matter of perception. I am just going to crochet for a few minutes or work on the computer for a few minutes.  And really, that’s all they felt like.  A few minutes.  But the reality is that Einstein never created a formula for perceiving time, even though he had calculations for the relativity of time.

Only the old saying, “Time flies when you are having fun” can explain it fully.  Though I would modify that  …Time flies when you are too busy to breathe.  So my body has forcibly reminded me that I may no longer ignore my knowledge and must instead take better care of myself.  Starting with…I will remember to breathe.

AND I will go to bed at a reasonable hour AND get at least 8 hours of sleep.  I will drink lots of water and cut down on the amount of sugar I eat. I will do my daily stretches and I will take regular breaks from the computer and crocheting.

Most importantly I will forgive myself when I screw up doing all the above, because like everyone else I’m not really a hypocrite…I’m only human.

How do you get Ideas?

This is the first question many of my crochet and knitting pals ask when they find out that I’m a designer.  Funny thing is…ideas are rarely the problem for me.  Just looking at yarn and hooks in my stash or flipping thru stitch dictionaries can start up my creative engine.

Some of my Inspiration

But–keeping the focus to make those ideas grow into designs is a whole nuther story for me.

In fact, I’m currently working on finishing the sample and pattern for a design I have already sold, while constantly fighting the distraction of new ideas.  For me,  handling the material is often the medium for growing new ideas (sort of my own version of a petri dish).

Back when I was doing lots of art work with polymer clay, I’d approach the studio with dread, thinking I had no ideas to work up.  Then I would start conditioning some clay.  Just running it thru the pasta machine and mooshing it around with my fingers would often start an avalanche of creativity that lasted for hours.

The same goes for yarn inspiration.  Simply working with the yarn is almost guaranteed to get my strange geeky brain throwing off all kinds of sparks. 

Fortunately I do have some self-control these days, although I do have to grab one of my sketch pads and jot down some quick notes before promising myself I can revisit them as soon as I finish what I am supposed to be doing!

Now if I could just come up with such will-power regarding chocolate….

Chainless Fears

Crocheted All Shawl worked in Rayon multi-colored yarn
My First All Shawl

My favorite foundation to use in my designs is the Foundation Single Crochet (FSC).  And it’s all Doris Chan’s fault–since I first discovered this technique in her books “Amazing Crochet Lace” and “Everyday Crochet.”

I had a deuce of a time getting the hang of the FSC,  as I had never worked a foundation the way Doris described. But I persisted because I REALLY wanted to make some of Doris’s gorgeous garments.

Doris’s All-Shawl pattern was to be my “ah ha!” moment.  I figured I could manage  the eight foundation single crochet stitches necessary to make my own All-Shawl.  Although I have to admit I first tried working SC into the back bump of the chains as a substitute– it didn’t work.

The real beauty of starting your projects with the foundation single crochet is that it produces a wonderfully elastic edge.  In contrast, a chained foundation gives you a rigid and constricted edge. While that might work for some projects, an elastic foundation is critical for garments like a skirt or gloves, which need to be able to stretch over various body parts.

I’ll be the first to admit that the FSC  is not the easiest technique to learn.  But  once you figure it out it is FanTasTic!

If you learn techniques better by viewing a video this is a good one to check out.  Or this one is helpful as well. 

If written instructions are best for you, Doris’s books have wonderful illustrations and instructions in them, or the glossary pages in the back of the “Interweave Crochet” magazine has both the FSC and FDC instructions and illustrations.

If you are on Ravelry.com visit the Everyday Crochet Group where this thread has awesome advice from Doris Chan herself as well as helpful suggestions from other folks on how they have gotten the hang of the FSC.

The Twists and Turns of a Moebius

I am a geek.  I freely admit this.  So it is fitting that the first design I ever sold would reflect my geekery.

Lace With A Twist Wrap – DRG Publishing Photo

I had thought a lot about making  a Crocheted Moebius as a sort of Poncho/wrap.  I had seen many patterns, but most were having you make a rectangle then add the twist and seam the ends together.

One of the lovely things about crocheting a moebius is that you can make a “true” moebius.  Taking a flat foundation, you twist it 180 degrees before joining in a ring.  That twist is the trick.

In case you aren’t certain what a moebius is, here is a photo of one made from a strip of paper.

Paper Moebius Strip

In Geometrical language a Moebius is an object with only one side and one edge.  Though, as you can see from the photo,  it appears to have 2 sides and 2 edges.

If you make a moebius yourself with a strip of paper you can test this.  Cut a strip about 1 inch wide and 10 or 12 inches long.  Twist the strip once and staple the ends together.  You can use a pencil to draw a continuous line that will meet up with the beginning point.

That line is drawn on the one side of the moebius.  When I made my moebius for these photos I used pinking shears on one edge so you can see how the edge becomes continuous.

That continuous edge works to your advantage when crocheting a moebius .  Each crocheted round creates what appears as a row on either side of your foundation round.  So it gives the look of 2 sides.  It’s a bit mind-boggling at times (one of the reasons I like geometry) and looking at the finished garment you would be certain there are 2 separately worked sides.

One trick with working rounds this way is to turn each round, otherwise you end up with one side of the foundation that is the “Right side” and the other the “Wrong side”.   By turning at the end of each round and working back the way you came you avoid that problem and the finished garment will appear more balanced.

Being the geek that I am, crocheting a moebius is a great deal of fun.  I find it lovely to work 1 round and end up with double the fabric length.  I know that technically I am not really doing less stitches for the accomplishment…but it is still a fun illusion.  For “Lace With A Twist Wrap” after 13 rounds from foundation to finishing it’s a wrap.

Addendum January 3, 2013: I’ve had requests for this pattern from a number of folks. I don’t own the pattern, it belongs to Crochet! Magazine/Annie’s Publishing. You may be able to acquire a back issue of the March 2010 magazine or if you get a digital subscription. Or contact Crochet! Magazine thru their website www.crochetmagazine.com. Hope that helps those of you on the search for this pattern. 

2010 – A Yarn Odessy

Here I am a few days into 2010 and trying to fulfill one of my New Year’s Resolutions–namely, to update my blog every week.  We will see how well I’ll pull this off.

January should be a good testing ground to see if I can master the time management skills needed to stay on top of submitting design proposals, swatching for new designs,  and meeting deadlines for designs that have sold.  And these are  just the work related items on my to-do list.

A piile of various Big Box and LYS yarns from my stash
A few skeins from the Stash

Another personal resolution is related to the quantity of yarn that is slowly taking over every corner of my home.  Thus the Yarn Odessy title of this post.

The yarn stash needs to be inventoried.  I have a bad habit of purchasing yarn because I have no idea what I actually have on hand.  Then there are the times when the “Oh Shiny!” reaction kicks in and I have to adopt at least one ball of that yarn.

The yarn stash needs to be sorted into storage containers and matched with the inventory.  I have attempted this  numerous times in the past with minimal success….Okay truth be told, it only stayed manageable for about 3 weeks…then it all started to unravel (and the stash  has never been matched with any sort of inventory).

The yarn stash needs to be sorted by usage-Free Form projects, design swatching, and project completion.  This is the point where I completely lose momentum, even when I make progress with the other 2 ideas.

It’s a faulty system.  Digging thru the yarn to decide its ultimate destination becomes far too seductive.  All I really want to do is start playing with the yarn.  Before I know it, the 2 hours I scheduled to sort are past and it is time to make dinner for the family.

Well, now you see why I call this an Odessy.  Ulysses had better luck with Homer than I likely will have with my Yarn.  At least I will have a great time.

Happy Hooks – or Why I’ve been ignoring the Blog

Approximately a month ago I purchased a set of Etimo hooks.  You may have heard of these wonderful hooks when Doris Chan blogged about them this past summer, or read about them recently on the CLF group at Ravelry.  They are from the Tulip Company out of Japan.

They are a lovely light weight and very comfortable in my hand for hours of happy crocheting.

I had purchased 3 of them at Chain Link in August and have really loved them.  In fact, I had been kicking myself for not purchasing a complete set when I had the opportunity.  So when MissJulep tweeted that she had sets for sell at her Etsy shop I was on it!

A few days later my package arrived.  It was like Christmas coming early!

The set is in a lovely carry case that neatly and compactly holds the full set of hooks (plus 2 of my extras), and comes with small scissors, 2 yarn needles (large and medium size) and a 4 1/2 inch ruler.  I added a few of my Clover locking stitch markers and now have a great go-anywhere crochet kit.

Instead of keeping my blog updated I have been a crocheting whirlwind with these lovely hooks.  I hope to soon have lots of new crochet projects to show you,  if I can tear myself away from crocheting long enough to take some pictures!

Lace Fingerless Mitts

Coats Photo
"Heart and Sole" Mellow Stripes color

Hooray! My pattern for Crochet Lace Fingerless Mitts is available on the Coats Website now.

This is a fun intermediate project that is also quick to stitch up.  Red Heart “Heart and Sole” yarn makes for a colorful pair of mitts.  The yarn is available in 14 different color combos as well as 3 solid colors, so you can find the perfect match to any outfit or mood.

I love fingerless mitts.  Living on a mountain it can be quite chilly, yet having my fingers free while I am typing or crocheting is also handy.  Fingerless mitts are the answer for me.

Sometimes making a pair of anything is a challenge for me.  Seems like I get the first one done and then it takes a very long time for me to even start the second one.  I’ve heard this malady referred to as “Second Sock Syndrome” and the usual solution is to work both socks (or mitts) at the same time.  It’s more unusual to see 2-at-a-time in crochet, but I have managed to do it.

Stay tuned to this blog for my directions on working the two mitts at once!

The Continental Divide

This past Saturday I attempted to learn how to knit continental style. 

ContinentalDivide-1
The Necessary Yarn

Now the word “Continental” inspires romantic visions of sophistication and elegance in my mind.  This could possibly be due to the fact that I was raised in the wilds of Kansas.  Continental knitting it turns out has nothing to do with elegance, at least not in my hands.

Knitting is not really my talent.  I can sort of knit using the English style, where one “throws” the yarn.  I generally need to have an illustrated knitting book open for prompting each step.

After a bit I am zipping along with basic knit and purl stitches (which is about the time I get in trouble with unintended increases or decreases). I have even been known to make a square that has a close resemblance to a flat four-sided object with 90 degree corners (sometimes by a judicious application of force to reshape the wonky).

I’ve been crocheting for nearly 40 years,  so it has been a very long while since I was at the “just learning” stage.  I am discovering in my knitting adventures that I am at the very beginning, in fact at times I wonder if I am in some twilight region that precedes the beginning.

Being I am a brave and adventurous soul I decided I wanted to get better at knitting.  Many knitters, that also crochet, had promised me that knitting continental style is much easier to learn since you hold the yarn similar to crochet.   This sounded good to me, though possibly I was simply delusional.

I made plans with a friend that I see at The Lamb Shoppe’s monthly Pajama Jam to teach me how to knit continental style.  My ambitious idea being that I would make a hat for another friend’s soon to arrive baby.

I had packed a few sizes of needles from my meager stash of knitting accoutrement into my project bag for the evening.  It was decided after a confab that I would use my Size 7 needles and worsted weight yarn knitted flat then seamed to construct the hat.

Being I did not have a yarn with me that would fit the bill, and was fortuitously in a yarn shop at the moment, it was time for yarn shopping.  For once I did not dilly dally at this most wonderful of errands and quickly decided on Cascade 220 Superwash Paints in the lovely Tropical Seas colorway.

I then cast-on using my crochet hook (I was informed that what I was doing was considered a provisional cast-on, but it would work) and began to knit my first ever swatch continental style.  It took a bit of time, but I eventually was working at a steady clip with knit stitches and accomplished a few rows of garter stitch.

Some of my friends at the table with me were highly entertained at my method of knitting.  One went so far to say that I was crocheting my knitting.  I replied that it was perfectly sensible that I would as I am a crochet designer.  I was beginning to feel fairly happy with my knitting progress, when I was told it was time to learn to purl.

Hmmmm, another word with mental picture issues.  In my mind (and experience) pearls are iridescent lovely gems, and though the word “purl” in knitting sounds similar this stitch is certainly no gem.  When my helper told me that purling isn’t anything to be afraid of I knew I was in serious trouble.

My rows of knit stitch had only taken me about 40 minutes. 2 hours after I had started my first row of purling I finally finished it. Let’s just say now that my friend’s baby is likely to be in kindergarten before I get a hat knit (I may be whipping up a crochet one just in case).

My 3 meager rows of Continental Knitting
My 3 meager rows of Continental Knitting