Crochet for Crochet’s Sake

March is National Crochet Month and I’ve been giving some thought to why I love crochet so much?  

FreeForm Doodle Lace

Is it the enjoyment of the action of crocheting itself?  Or is the attraction having a lovely item to wear or use?  Do I crochet for it’s own sake or to create an object? Basically it comes down to a question of Process or Product.  

For me there is added to the concept of process the allure of designing.  Much of my design work is process.  Swatching and experimenting with various yarns, hook sizes and stitch patterns just to see what I get.  I may have absolutely nothing in mind when I start this process, my only goal is exploration.  Often times these experiments add to my knowledge, but that may be the only gain. 

Does that make the process a waste of time?  Personally I don’t view knowledge or entertainment as a waste,  so for me the process stage of design work is very rewarding.  As I like to tell my students in the various art and craft classes I’ve taught, “There is no such thing as Failure, there is only Discovery.”  

The process of crocheting is one that I have always enjoyed as well. 

My return to Crochet as my main hobby came about 12 years ago when I hurt my ankle and was forced to spend a great deal of time off my feet.  I found crocheting and it’s rhythm to be very soothing.  

I was also re-intrigued with the idea of “weaving” with a hook, using a single tool to create fabrics in a variety of dimensions and shaping.  All these years later that fascination is still fresh for me.  To suspend expectation and just revel in what comes off my hook. 

Taking your Yarn for a Walk Fragments
FreeForm fragments from Jenny's Class

Maybe this is one of the reason’s I love to play with FreeForm crochet.  Gathering up a variety of harmonious colored yarns of various textures and weights and then creating “fragments or scrumbles” is very relaxing to me. 

Often I am asked what I am making, or what will those become.  Most of the time I have no idea.  Seems I may be deeply entrenched in the process side of crochet.   Eventually I do make a product with my hours of stitching, but the joy in the process is why I continue to crochet.

If you are curious about FreeForm crochet and have never tried it there is a great CAL/Game going on in the NatCroMo Party group on Ravelry.  It’s not too late to give it a try, and it’s a wonderful introduction to freeforming.  

Or check out some of the beautiful and inspiring books out there.  I recommend, Jenny Dowde, Myra Wood, Prudence Mapstone and Renate Kirkpatrick as great authors to start with.

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Yarn!!!

I already have a stash that is, shall we say, a bit out of hand.  This problem is not helped when I go down once a month for PJ Jam at the LambShoppe in Denver.   

Playing for hours in the shop with my stitching pals surrounded by glorious yarn enticingly displayed.  Let’s just say….Resistance is Futile.   

My treasure pile of Yarn

Somehow these 6 had to come home with me.   

Berroco won the most attention.  2 hanks of the luxurious Ultra Aplaca, a wonderfully affordable Aplaca/wool blend.  Also the gorgeous glowing blue hank is Berroco’s Lustra, a wool/tencel blend that has a beautiful sheen.   

Still in an Alpaca mood I found a beautiful hank of Misti Alpaca Chunky in a light lavender color.  This is 100% baby alpaca and so soft that I just want to use it for a pillow.  

Next I was attracted to the display of sparkly mohair blends (remember we discussed this novelty yarn addiction of mine in a recent post).  So Trendsetter’s Dune was added to the pile.  

Now a bit of green was needed to balance the purple alpacas and the sparklies.  So I added the ball of Frog Tree sport weight 100% Alpaca.   

4 Hanks with a Destiny

Amazingly enough there are valid reasons they all needed to be added to my stash (well, maybe not the Lustra).  Currently the destiny of the 4 hanks above is a secret, but I hope to give you some clues soon.

The Novelty of it All

It is the outcast.  The “red-headed stepchild” of the yarn and fiber world.  But I love it.  You know what I’m talking about…Novelty Yarn.   

There is Fun Fur and Sparklies and combinations of both.  There is Ribbon and Boucle’ and Pom-poms.  I revel in it all.  I have a supply of novelty yarns that is bordering on the ridiculous in my stash, and I am completely unapologetic about it (I actually don’t have any Pom-Pom yarn…may have to correct that next shopping spree).  

Some of My Stash of Novelty Yarns

Sadly, some of my recent most favorite novelty yarns are now discontinued.  Occasionally I find them on sale somewhere languishing un-loved and under appreciated in a sales bin.  A few of them always seem to find their way home with me.  

Some of them can be a bit tricky to crochet with.  But I love the special effects that can be quickly added to a project by using some novelty yarn. 

After all, one needs Novelty yarn to create a Pocket Monster…..  

Pocket Monster
Purple Pocket Monster

Or the fuzzy fringe for a Felted Fiery Bowl….  

Fiery Felted Bowl

Or adding sparkle to a Free Form Lace Shrug….  

Free Form Lace Shrug

According to a friend of mine that went to the January TNNA show there was talk that novelty yarn is making a comeback. 

Be still my heart!

How To Make a Travel Niddy Noddy

When I first stumbled across Ravelry, I ran into a lot of terms and tools that I had never heard of before.   I was especially intrigued by two spinner’s tools- Nostepinnes and Niddy Noddy’s.  Not only are they  great tools for winding and measuring yarn, I was pretty sure that I could easily make my own versions to use for my crafting.       

Nostepinne with partially wound Ball

 A Nostepinne is used to wind a center pull ball or cake by hand.  Using the Nostepinne is a wonderfully contemplative way to rewind small bits of yarn or to make balls from delicate yarns that can be damaged by the more mechanical winding methods.     

PVC Niddy Noddy with yarn wound on it.
PVC Niddy Noddy with Yarn

A Niddy Noddy is often used by spinners and hand dyers to “skein” the yarn.  Depending on the size of your Niddy Noddy you can also use it to get a  measurement of the yardage you have.  I use my one-yard Niddy Noddy to measure out small hanks of color for free form crochet projects, or for trading with other freeformers.  I have used my two-yard one for dying yarn.  The best bit is the 2 yard skeins/hanks fit nicely on my swift for winding later.  Whether with the ball winder or the nostepinne.       

When I checked with fellow crafters on Ravelry I was pointed toward  PVC piping from the local DIY store as an inexpensive way to make a niddy noddy.  So I first made one out of that.  But I found it a bit bulky and heavy.  Using it got to my wrist after a time.      

I went in search of a lighter version.  I then discovered there was a variety of PVC piping that was thinner in diameter and much lighter weight called CPVC HiTemp.   I purchased a 3 foot length and some connectors and headed home to my studio to create a Travel Niddy Noddy. 

Travel Niddy Noddy in pieces with Storage Bag

It is a travel one since I can easily take it apart and bring it with me in a storage bag.  This works with the one-yard Niddy Noddy, but the center bar for the two-yard version is too long for my current storage bag.  The following are my steps for making it. 

Step One: Gather all the tools and supplies you’ll need.  In my case this was a 3 foot length of CPVC Hi Temp pipe, 2 T-connectors, 4 end caps, a marking pen, wet/dry sandpaper and a hacksaw.  Not pictured but very necessary is a tape measure or ruler.      

My Supplies and Tools

Step Two:   Mark your length of pipe for cuts to make four – 2 3/4 inch bits for the “arms” of your niddy noddy. You can make the arms longer if you wish,  these are the spots where your yarn wraps round,  for thicker hanks it helps but it also makes it a little harder to remove the hanks. You also will need to cut 2 lengths for the cross bar. Mine were 8 and 17 inches.     

The cut pieces before Assembly

Step Three:   Sand all the ends of the cut pieces, especially the cross bars and the end of the 2 arms that will have a removable cap. You want the T-connector and the end caps to be snug but not so much you can’t remove them.  I then used epoxy to attach the arms to the T-connector.  I also marked the 2 end caps that would be removable.     

Assembly layout

Step Four:  Now you can put the pieces together to use to skein or measure your yarn.  Twist one T-bar to make the arms at a 90 degree angle to the other T-bar.  Your niddy noddy is ready for use.  Once you’ve finished skeining or measuring your yarn removing the end cap will make it easier to remove the yarn. 

Assembled 1 yard version

Or using the longer cross bar gives you a 2 yard version of the niddy noddy.      

Assembled 2 yard Niddy Noddy

Now I don’t know how I ever lived without them. Well those and my Swift and Ball-winder. I purchased the later two, but the former two seemed relatively easy to make on my own so I asked some questions, looked at some photographs and decided to take a run at it.  I hope you enjoy your own Niddy Noddy, despite the odd name it is a very useful tool for any fiber artist.

The Best Laid Plans

The past 2 weeks have been the Ravelympics on Ravelry while the actual Olympics were taking place in Canada.  

My Ravelympics Badge

I have been having such fun participating in them that the blog has been sadly neglected.  And of course all the other fun stuff going on in my life…like living in Hurlsville while the entire family came down with the stomach flu.

In a few short hours it will be a new month.   This March I hope to post some fun bits about creativity, the unveiling of my independent pattern line and some helpful “How To” posts.

Now if you are betting type you could likely get some decent odds on whether any of this happens.  But it’s always fun to try to plan ahead…even if the best laid plans can often go astray.  See ya soon.

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.