Sunday, November 30, 2014

Crochet An Ornament

I saw this pretty little ornament and got an idea of how to make it even cuter with crochet. This version of the ornament is embroidered on what looks like a felt background.  It's very pretty, but I think it would be even more attractive if we added crochet to it.

You can buy inexpensive rayon felt squares or yardage at your local craft store.  I prefer the yardage (more on that later) but the squares are a really inexpensive way to experiment.  You'd also need some crochet thread in size 10 (bedspread weight).  I'd recommend a metallic, but they are not fun to crochet with.  We can add the glitz later.

The better IMO felt choice would be wool felt.  You can purchase it at the craft or quilting store or make your own.  To make your own in a size that would work for this project, you'd need to use single crochet and wool yarn (not super washed) to crochet a square or rectangle from which you'd cut out this shape in the size you want - so maybe a 6 inch square.  If your felt is thin and lacks body, glue or sew together a double thickness.  Of course, any other shape you like would work too.

Then, using your crochet thread and some free fridgie or snowflake patterns online, make 2 or 3 or 17 that you like.  Then, glue (or sew) the crocheted motifs to your felt backing.  Then, if you are so inclined, you can spray lightly with some fabric glue and sprinkle with very fine glitter. 

Doesn't this sound like fun?  It would be a great project to make with the kids over a weekend (and after you've crocheted the motifs if they aren't crocheters).  If you want to get really fancy, you can add beads or crystals to your project instead of (of if you're really crazy along with) the glitter.

Oh, and about that rayon felt.  I have a rule about fabric.  It must be machine wash and dry or it doesn't stay in my house.  So, years ago when I saw a really cute (and very expensive idea) for boys' sweat suits appliqued with dinosaurs, I immediately figured out how to make them on the cheap.  I had 2 sons at the time and all my friends had 2 sons, so we got 4 moms, 8 sweat suits, some dinosaur coloring book cut-outs, and my felt along with needle and thread one morning.  I had purchased the rayon felt in red, blue, green, and yellow so we could mix and match.  I threw the 'dry clean only' felt into the washer and dryer the day before the big morning.  It didn't even really shrink.  It did, however, become quite wrinkled.  Quite.  But, those wrinkles looked just like dinosaur skin (ok, so I'm a time traveling clairvoyant).  We cut out our dinosaurs and sewed them onto those (pre-washed) sweat suits.  They could just as easily have been glued (with Aleene's Flexible Stretchable glue only).  Our boys (and my boys' little sister) wore those suits for years!  They retailed for $26/each at the time and we made them for about $7 each as the sweat suits were $5 each.

So, the moral of the crafting fabric story is - machine wash and dry it before beginning any crafting or sewing project.  Life's too short to spend it at the dry cleaner's (unless you're my husband's Harris Tweed jackets). I'll rant more on fabric another time.....

And, no, that's not one of my dinosaur appliques up there.  Mine bit the dust years ago.  This was one I found online, completely uncredited.  If it's yours, please let me know so I can credit it.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Crochet Dreaming

So, how do YOU find time to crochet?  After all the day's activities, I find that it's about 9 PM before I get to sit down to crochet.  And, since I'm a slow crocheter, it takes me quite a while to complete a project.  It also doesn't help that:

I have a short attention span;
I feel compelled to write every day (about something);
I am not terribly well organized;
I have way too many projects in mind, thus;
I have way too many works in progress at any given time.

That about covers it.  I do not have time that I read about others using for crochet.  I don't commute so no time to crochet while riding a bus or train to and from work.  I'm the main driver, so no time to crochet on road trips.

Boy, it sure sounds like I've got a lot of complaints!  The main thing is that crochet, for me, is supposed to be a hobby - an enjoyable, leisure activity.  But, since I'm a teacher at heart and hyperactive, before I realize it,  I find a way to turn most hobbies into some sort of 'cause'.

I teach crochet as enrichment in the school where I volunteer.  I founded and continue to helm (although it's not a very big job) a crochet club.  I feel compelled to share about my crochet by writing about it.  I guess for someone who didn't learn to crochet until I was 50 years old, I'm doing pretty well with all this.  The learning curve was very easy for me once I finally could 'see' the stitches.  It just all clicked one day, after having failed catastrophically in earlier attempts.  I went from zero to sixty in about 20 minutes and I've never looked back!

I have some great coping skills when it comes to prioritizing.  Crochet or house work?  Crochet, of course.  Crochet or laundry?  Hmmm.  That I can balance and do both.  Crochet or walk (see my other blog)?  I gotta walk.  I just gotta.  And, I cannot walk and crochet at the same time. Crochet or look at all the wonderful crochet blogs online?  Gotta check them out, don't I?  Crochet or sleep?  Plenty of nights I choose crochet.

I'm not recommending my 'coping skills' when it comes to crochet.  You'd have to have the sweet, accommodating, cooking-loving, mess-ignoring husband I have (and you MAY NOT have him).  So, I guess I'll muddle along this way unless someone has some magical cure for my dilemma.  Sound off, please, if you do!

That picture above is My Brain On Yarn but you can see where it came from originally by looking here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Crochet Shawls, Shawl Pins, And Alternatives

I never thought I would want to wear a shawl.  I'm too warm most of the time.  But, then I learned to crochet!  There were so many shawl patterns that intrigued me that I had to make a couple.  At first, they were gifts for my mother or some other 'old lady'.  Well, since I've finally grown into the almost totally head of white hair I've had since my second child was born a gazillion years ago, I have come to appreciate the light weight draft dodging that a shawl allows.  For myself, I make the ones with no tails and no fringe.  That V hanging down my back just gets messed up, caught in a seat belt, or stretched out of shape.  Worse things happen to the fringe.  YMMV.

Now, having become a member of the old lady club and donning a shawl from time to time, I discovered the need for something to hold the shawl in place as I went about my daily activities.  Shawl pins are often beautiful works of art, but they are also often not in my budget.  I came up with a few alternatives that might work for others.  Here they are:

1. Barrettes - Once upon a time I had long, thick hair and I used barrettes.  Being the jewelry collector (ahem, maybe hoarder) that I am, I still have a couple of those barrettes from the last century.  One is a real work of art - probably cost less than a dollar - as it is the shape of a butterfly and spells out the work Peace.  Am I dating myself here?  It works perfectly to hold my shawl in place without causing any harm to the yarn.

2. Clip earrings - which I have never worn.  As one of only two granddaughters on my mom's side of the family - and the only one interested in jewelry (costume or valuable), I have inherited or been gifted everyone's old collection.  There are some stunning clip earrings that work well to hold a shawl in place.  They are smaller than the typical shawl pin or my barrettes, but they add a bit of bling and that's not a bad thing.  Just be sure they snap closed tightly.

3. Twist ties and pipe cleaners - yeah, really.  They may not make the fanciest shawl 'pins', but they'll work to hold things in place and you can add a pretty button so that no one sees the twist tie or pipe cleaner.  Chenille stems, or what we used to call pipe cleaners, come in a wide variety of colors, including seasonal colorways and metallics, and are easily reusable a few times.  Same for twist ties, although the color choices aren't many.  I save every twist tie that comes into my home.  There are some in a gold-ish color and some that have an opaque, white-ish plastic coating over the wire.  Plus, they are free!  Adding a button is easy enough and can add some pizzaz.

4. Chop Sticks or pencils - the pencils are purely practical because everyone has one.  But, unless you're a classroom teacher, it's probably not the best choice.  Chop Sticks, OTOH, are free or very inexpensive and can easily be covered with inexpensive acrylic craft paint to match your favorite shawl.  I have no idea where you can buy a batch of Chop Sticks, but most Chinese restaurants in these parts give a pair away with each meal, even if you don't know how to use them.  If you wish to branch out with your crafting, you could easily cover a pencil or chop Stick with some Fimo (or similar plastic clay requiring heat to set it) to make a decorative real shawl pin of your own for a couple bucks.

5. Other pieces of jewelry - like those brooches we all have rolling around, unused, in our jewelry box.  Again, I have a round one, about 1.5 inches tall, with my initials engraved on it.  I haven't worn it as a piece of jewelry in a long time.  There are other similar pieces in my jewelry box.  These pieces will have a pin closure in the back that allows you to gather an inch worth of yarn into the about half inch closure.  Some brooches are too small for this use.  For this use, the click backs work better than the sliding circle closures so your yarn doesn't get snagged.  But, I have used both with no difficulty or damage.Bigger works better with this choice.

6. Floral Wire - on which you've slid a bunch of seed beads or other small beads.  Floral wire is inexpensive and comes in about 4 colors (dark green in most common, but there are also silvertone and goldtone availabe and a base metal version of indeterminate color I'll call pewter).  Floral wire and a small bag of beads can be found at most stores like Michael's, Joanne's, Hobby Lobby, and more.  This allows you to color customize your shawl pin with a minor financial investment.  There's a lot of floral wire on a spool, so think of other ways to use it.  I use it to tie things onto the wreaths I make for each season.  If you are not familiar with floral wire, it's actually the same weight and has the same flexibility as twist ties.  I believe it's the wire used inside of the twist ties.

7. Lobster Claw Barrettes - Those huge (but they do come smaller) holding up large handsfull of hair.  Not terribly attractive but fantastically functional.  I bet you could find this one or maybe some cuter ones as the dollar store. 

8. Ponytail elastics - Again, totally functional if you have a lot of  hanging crossover in the front of your shawl.  I actually have made some to accompany a shawl.  Using the same yarn as your shawl, crochet around a ponytail holder (see patterns for scrunchies) then pull the two fronts of your shawl through the 'scrunchy' to hold the shawl in place.  Use the ponytail elastics that do not have the metal clasps.

So, don't hesitate to wear a shawl because you can't afford a pricey shawl pin.  Still, if you do decide to splurge, know that you are often supporting a local artist, and that's a good thing,

That barrette pictured at the top of the article can be found on at the shop of Kapelika.  I did a search and found many, many shawl pins, or in this case both a barrette and a shawl pin.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Crochet Virtuosa Comes Forth

I've been blogging a long time in various arenas around the internet.  You may know my walking blog.  It's my true labor of love.  And, I blogged for years about crochet for my favorite crafting source online .  If you're interested in general crafts in addition to crocheting, don't miss all the wonderful free patterns at craftgossip.  Shellie and Vikram run a classy operation and are dedicated to bringing all the best links and patterns to their readers.

But, a few months back, I had to step away from the blog.  Life changes and I no longer had the time to devote to a crochet blog as active as that one.  In the past couple weeks, there have been crochet things I wanted to share, so I decided to make a tiny foray back into crochet blogging.  So, this is it!

From time to time - maybe 6 times a week or once in 6 months, I'll have some crochet info to share and I'll do that here.  I hope you'll follow me, by clicking on that little box to the right. That way, whenever I write some words of crochet wisdom - or insanity - you won't miss them.

What I want to share with you today is a variation on one of my favorite patterns Baby's Best Bumpy Stitch created by Tanya Naser.  Using Tanya's stitch pattern, a very simple combination that's totally addictive, I've crocheted blankets, scarves, a headband, and a wonderful shawl.  It works superbly with any yarn and suitable hook size combination.  Hmmm.  Actually, I'm not so sure it would be shown to its best advantage with a mohair yarn.  But, you can try that and tell me about it.

You can see in the detail picture that the stitch creates a sort of half circle stitch - maybe half of a Catherine's Wheel   Do  you see it?  BTW, I am totally in love with the Stitch A Day Site.  It's great to have that kind of motivation dropped into my inbox each day.

So, my newest adaptation of this pattern, the Baby's Best Bumpy Stitch, is for one of my newest scarves.  I'm not a huge fan of having to edge a pattern.  I much prefer to use a stitch combination that creates an interesting edging itself, elimination the need to add an edging unless I really want to.

I'll actually show you a picture of my latest variation soon.  Promise.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crochet - To Edge Or Not To Edge

I'd recently written about self-edging stitch patterns and how I prefer those to stitches that require an edging. Here's more on that topic:

The afghan shown above is one I made for a baby shower.  You can see how 'square' the edging is.  That's with no special treatment.  This is a corner-to-corner afghan, worked on the diagonal, and is especially well suited to self striping and variegated or ombre yarns.

The diagonal box stitch (scroll down about 3/4ths of the page to see the stitch and video also called the Diagonal Crazy Stitch -by me-) creates a nice self-edging, but it is easy to work an edging onto if one wishes.  Same for the Best Bumpy Stitch.  So far, I have yet to add an edging to any of my Best Bumpy Stitch projects.  I have added edgings to several of my diagonal box stitch babyghans.  In face, one of my best 'stand by' patterns for baby is to work up a baby afghan in white then wait to learn the sex of baby and add the appropriate color edging OR the color that I now know new mom will want to the afghan.

I've also discovered a secret for color determination.  More likely, if you make very many items for baby, you've figured this out long ago.  Here's my trick:  I go to the Baby Registry at BabysRUs and see what items mom has chosen.  Then, I can make something to match - or at least something mom won't hate.

I much prefer bright colors for baby, but if mom is a strong fan of pastels -as in every item she's registered for is a pastel - then I will crochet a pastel blanket, sweater, or whatever.  Most every baby gets an afghan from me since they are pretty quick to work up.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Who Doesn't Love A Crochet Giveaway?

No one - that's who!  So, go to AllFreeCrochet to see their latest Giveaways.  Right now, they have FOUR active Giveaways!  I'm entering 3 of them.  How about you? 

Ooops.  I forgot that if you're reading this and go to the Giveaway page, I've created competition and less chance for me to win.  Oh, well.  It's all in the Crochet Family. 

May the best crocheter/yarn lover win!  Just stay away from that yarn pictured above.  That's what I wanna win most.