Plarn Experiment #1

Plarn Spring Basket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cutting Plastic Bags for Plarn

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

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

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

Beginning of Basket

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

Adding on more Plarn loops

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

Finished Plarn part of Basket

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

Finished Basket

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

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Three Things I Love

I may not be the most knowledgable person on these three things, but I am passionately interested in all of them.

Crochet, Math, and Healthy Crafting

Everyday I am thrilled to discover there is more to learn and explore in each of these subjects.  Very likely I will spend the rest of my life happily doing just that.

In the world of Crochet I am growing as a designer.  Yet there are still stitches and techniques I’ve not mastered. In fact, there are many I haven’t even tried— Hairpin Lace comes quickly to mind.

That’s why I enjoy going to conferences like the Knit and Crochet Show in New Hampshire this July (AKA Chain Link). It is great fun taking classes and talking with other crocheters.  I am so inspired by seeing the work of others and learning new techniques and approaches to crochet.

In the world of Math I am a dilettante.  I haven’t any mathematical degrees or other honors attached to my name.  I just love exploring math theory, especially quantum physics and applicable geometries.  I am not a human calculator; in fact it is shameful that I often have to grab the calculator to do fairly simple equations.

Much of my passion for math and geometry has been revived by my work as a crochet designer.  I use math for figuring yardage requirements, shaping and garment sizing almost every day.  Geometry is also often a source of inspiration for me in creating designs.  A prime example of this is my “Lace with a Twist” wrap, which is a mobius.

In the world of Healthy Crafting I love to discover ways to maintain the health of my hands and body and then to  share that information with my fellow crafters and artists.

Ever since I took my basic anatomy and physiology classes in massage school I have been fascinated with how the human body functions and malfunctions.  During my time in school I found myself thinking that someone needed to translate the technical information so that everyone could understand simple and effective ways to maximize personal  health.  I retired from massage therapy this Spring with the goal being to concentrate further on this mission.

My career as a massage therapist enforced the value of taking good care of my body and particularly my hands.  My hands are still important tools in my work as without them typing and crocheting would be difficult.  Working with yarn and at the computer can challenge the  strength and endurance of anyone’s hands.

One could say that some of my expertise in healthy crafting has come about thru my own pain.  I’ve frequently overworked my hands while crafting.  Then halfway thru my pregnancy with my oldest child I started developing carpal tunnel symptoms.  I had to modify my lifestyle fairly severely and that included advice from my doctor that I would have to stop crocheting.

I did take a sabbatical from my massage work, but there was no way I was giving up my crochet (!!).  The solutions I came up with during that time are the foundation that I am building on now.  Writing and teaching on these methods is a passion, because I know how much richer my life is having crochet in it…and I want to help other’s avoid losing crochet (or knitting) from their own lives.

I have been writing articles on healthy crafting for the online quarterly magazine “Crochet Uncut” for a year now, and hope to one day publish a book.  You can find links to my articles here.

Tomorrow evening I will be talking with Mary Beth Temple on her Getting Loopy Podcast about Healthy Crafting, so come have a listen.  If you miss the show you can always download it later.

Angels in My World

I have been a member of the International Free Form Crochet Guild since Fall 2008.  Each year they have a challenge to create a freeform piece based on a particular theme. This year’s challenge theme was ” Somewhere in my World.”   I decided to enter a piece for the first time since joining the group.

Angels in my World - Finished Challenge Piece

It took me a while to decide how to approach the challenge.  I only had three months to design and complete my entry and to send a photograph to the coordinator (the lovely and talented Myra Wood).  So I knew I wanted to keep it small.

I thought about the theme for quite a while before being hit by inspiration.  I have been blessed during the past 20 years of my life to be surrounded by amazing, supportive and inspiring women.  Some are close friends, others are teachers and mentors. Some may have moved briefly thru my life, but all have left huge impressions in my world.

As I pondered the richness of having these women in my life I hit upon an idea.  Angels! In fact I knew just the angel drawing I wanted to use.  I didn’t want something too cutsie or twee.

I had been thinking about creating a mixed media piece utilizing FreeForm crochet for some time.  I started gathering yarn and paper with an eye toward this challenge.

A Palette of Yarns and Paper

My starting place was a graphic I had drawn years ago for an abstract angel.  I sketched and fiddled with the sizing until I had a size that I felt would work with the time constraints as well as the materials I had chosen.  The finished Angel is slightly smaller than an 11″x14″ canvas.

I used a combination of paper and cardstock cut to the shapes I wanted.  Then I crocheted fragments of various yarns and thread that were either worked into holes punched into the paper or sewn on.  My color palette was taken from a lovely handspun yarn that another fiberartist traded me for my first hand carved wooden crochet hook.  It is the multicolored yarn you see repeated thruout the final piece.

I plan to create a series of Angel pieces over the next few years using various mixed media, including fiberarts, painting, papermaking and wood work.

If you want to see more of the pieces in the show, you can visit the online gallery.  International Free Form Guild Show – Somewhere in My World

Getting Closer

I’ve been working on my office re-arrangements, but ran into a bit of a roadblock in the past two weeks when my whole family came down with a nasty cold virus.  Mother’s Day weekend I finished moving and re-assembling the work counter from my friend and got most of the major pieces of furniture in place.

Work Counter in place
Computer Desk in it's new corner

Now I need to get my books sorted and back on the shelves, and bring over the many crochet books that are still in the house. They will now be living in my office.

Bookshelves half finished

It’s a daunting task to go though all my books.  So I am chipping away at that project a bit each day.  I may have to have a reading frenzy soon, as many of these titles are begging to be opened again.  I’ve amassed a great reference library for much of my health-related interests, and I am  well on the road to doing the same with my crochet/knitting books.

I still have more projects to complete for the office transformation: installing shelving over the work counter, installing 2 large bulletin boards for tracking schedules and projects, sorting and taking inventory of yarn and fabric, and finding new homes for the massage supplies that I don’t need to have on hand.  And of course, some plants remain to be re-potted.

Yikes, I’m tired just thinking about it.

Finally Celebrating Springtime

What most folks consider spring weather is a bit different from what it is like here on our mountain.  In fact we had 14 inches of snow and temperatures below freezing on May 11th and 12th.  

Spring Snow in my backyard

Today was sunny and the temperatures are on the rise.  According to our local climatologist we should be seeing real warming trends for the rest of the month.  In celebration of this I have a fun little pattern to share with all of you. 

Pretty Petunias

During those cold days I was comforted by my hanging basket of miniature petunias that my sweet boys had gotten me for Mother’s day.  They inspired me to create this little crocheted flower. 

Pretty Petunia 

Pretty Petunia

This pattern is text only currently, I may add a hand drawn stitch diagram later.  I worked the sample in some scraps of Caron’s Simply Soft with a G-6 (4 mm) hook.  My finished flower is 2 inches in diameter across the open blossom and about 1 inch deep. 

The flower is worked in the round starting with the base and creating a trumpet shape.  I began with an adjustable slip knot, though you can do Magic Ring if that is more comfortable for you.  Each round is slip stitched to the first st of the round instead of working in a spiral. 

Blossom: 

Finished Blossom

Round 1: Ch 2, 5 sc in 2nd ch from hook, sl st in first st. 

Round 2: Ch 1, 5 sc worked evenly, sl st in first st. 

Round 3: Ch 1, 2 sc in each st around, sl st in first st. [10 sc] 

Round 4: Ch 1, 10 sc worked evenly, sl st in first st. 

Round 5: Ch 1, (sc in next st, 2 sc in next st) 5 times, sl st in first st. [15 sc] 

Round 6: (hdc in next st, 3 dc in next st, hdc and sl st in next st) 5 times. Fasten off.* 

Stamen: 

Finished Stamen

Ch 2, work 5 sc in 2nd ch from hook. Fasten off. 

Finishing: 

Weave tails in both pieces.  Use needle to pull tails of stamen thru bottom of blossom trumpet.  Snug up stamen into bell of trumpet. 

Tails pulled thru Base of Blossom

*You can use a needle finish for last round of blossom for a neater look, just skip last sl st in pattern instructions.

I hope you enjoy making a garden of pretty petunias.

Sometimes Ya Just Gotta Wiggle

 

Sometimes Ya Just Gotta Wiggle

I was reminded of this basic rule by my 4 year old son the other day.  He had been quietly playing with a book and then coloring in his sketch pad.  Suddenly he jumped up and was moving all around, wiggling his body.

I was very entertained and after I stopped laughing, and he did too, I asked why he did that. “Sometimes ya just gotta wiggle,” was his answer.

And he is completely right.

Our bodies are built to be in motion.  That old saying about “Move it or Lose it” is quite on target.  I’m not a huge fan of the avid exercise regimen.  It may be fine for many folks, but I don’t do anything to extremes (with the exception of the consumption of chocolate…which is not a subject for today’s post).  But regularly moving about can help your brain be more alert and your body avoid injury.

Often when discussing preventing hand injury with crocheters and knitters I talk about taking breaks during your stitching time.  I’ve given suggestions on what to do during that break time.  Walk about, get a drink of water, maybe stretch…but wiggling works as well.

So the next time you take a break from your stitching try this.

Stand up and move away from your seating area so you have a bit of room around you. Stretch your arms up above your head then let them flop down by your sides.  Then wiggle your shoulders front to back and let your arms flop around like limp noodles.  Don’t worry about looking silly…trust me, you will look silly.  But you will also feel great afterward.

Just a few minutes of wiggling gets your blood flowing and helps your muscles re-balance from the restrictions of typicial stitching postures. Plus it will make you smile, possibly even chuckle…and laughter is always good medicine.

Lace Hat

I’m excited to announce that my Lace Hat pattern is now available on the Coats and Clark website.

Lace Hat

I designed this Hat to go with the Crochet Lace Fingerless Mitts.  The great thing is that 2 balls of the Heart & Sole yarn are just the right amount to make both patterns.  You can work the mitts first doing 2 at a time using 1 ball for each mitt, then use the left over amounts to stitch up a matching hat.

The pattern is for a deep hat that can be worn slouchy or pulled down “Cloche” style with the ribbed band providing a bit of extra warmth over your ears.  The open work of the stitch pattern in the crown means that this is a great hat for transitional seasons.  Like Colorado’s unpredictable mountain spring time.

Scan of Hat