Tag Archives: Crochet

Easily Distracted…

There are so many things that fascinate me, I have a hard time focusing on just one.  The Internet really doesn’t help with focus, it just brings more things I want to try.

For example, I’ve been a fan of Tech Knitter for a long time.  Her illustrations on the TECHknitting blog are amazing and incredibly helpful.  I’ve often wondered how she makes them, and finally took the time to find out that she uses Adobe Illustrator.  I don’t have Illustrator, but I went on a hunt for free vector graphics editor and I found Inkscape.  I downloaded the software on my iMac, looked at a couple tutorials, and fell down the rabbit hole.  Before I knew it I had spent the whole day creating illustrations.

The first one I did was a cartoon illustration of my latest crochet critter creations: the Whimsies.  The pattern for these little guys just popped into my head one morning, and before I knew it, I’d made 4.  One from each of the bright acrylic yarn colors I had on hand.  Here is what I came up with:

crocheted critters

The Whimsies

I’ve been trying to decide on the best way to get these guys out into the world, so for now they just sit in front of my computer and make me smile.  Since they were there, I couldn’t help but draw them to try out this new software.

Here’s my Inkscape interpretation:

The Whimsies, Illustrated

The Whimsies, Illustrated

After spending time on that, I decided to see if I could create something similar to the TECHknitter’s drawings but use it for crochet.  All of my little creatures start out making a ring of single crocheted stitches on an adjustable loop called a magic ring.  There are several webpages showing the technique with pictures, but I wondered if I could make an illustration that showed it.

It’s taken several hours, but I think I’ve got it.   I am a left handed crocheter, so I did the drawings left handed and then flipped them.  It all looks a little strange to me right handed.  I’ve decided to collect technical illustrations on a separate page on this blog, so look for the Technical Tips page at the top for the left handed version, along with this one.

created with Inkscape

created with Inkscape

Is it helpful, or just confusing?  I think I may add a couple more steps to show how to use the ring.  I learned a lot, regardless.  It was helpful for me to spend some time studying the stitches, it is fascinating how it all comes together.  I also learned a lot about Inkscape and am looking for excuses to use it.  🙂

I guess I should get back to cleaning up from my crazy cooking extravaganza, but I’m sure there will be more illustrations in the future…

Advertisements

New Experiences

I’ve jumped into the new year with both feet.  On my list of things to do:

  • Start an Etsy Shop
  • Eat better
  • Exercise More
  • Look for Work

With the exception of the last one, I’ve made progress on all of these things.

Etsy Shop

I’ve gotten my Etsy shop started, though my inventory is still small.  I need to learn to take better pictures and make more things to sell, but at least I’ve got a few items listed.  Check it out at stellarb.etsy.com.  So far I have a couple of cacti for sale, in case there are people out there that like Claude the Cactus, but would rather buy him than make him.  Since these cacti are made with different materials and are larger than the original, I have named the boys Clyde and the girl Cora.  Cora is sporting a flower that is as near as I can get to an actual Barrel Cactus Flower.  Here’s a picture of the love birds cacti.

I’ve also got the first in what I hope to be a series of tools for the knitter or crocheter.  I’ve been a serious fiber fanatic long enough to have made myself several custom accessories.  I hope to make the same tools for sale in coordinating fabrics on  my Etsy shop.  The first and most valuable tool I have is my vinyl pouch and stitch marker holder.  I never leave home without them.  I only have one fabric choice at the moment, but lots of other fabrics waiting to be used.  I also plan to make double pointed needle holders, and possibly a circular needle pouch, though I haven’t found a style/method I really like yet, so it could be a while.

I would appreciate any constructive feedback on the shop including pricing and shipping.  It is all new and I want to get it off to the best possible start.

Eat Better

Moving to a new place is always stressful, and I’ve never been good at creating routines, so it is no surprise that Scott and I have been eating out more than we should.  There is a restaurant here in Ames, called Hickory Park, that offers good food at reasonable prices and can feed my carnivore husband with all the meat he can handle, since I don’t have much meat in the house.

This is about to change.  With the house, we inherited a large chest freezer in the basement.  So large in fact that, though we requested they take the freezer out of the house because it was old and we knew it was going to be hard to get out, they tried the night before closing and couldn’t get it up the narrow stairway.  Long story short, we’ve had this freezer plugged in to keep the compressor running without any food for several months, and I figure we might as well use it.

Though I’d prefer to eat fresh, locally grown food, there’s not much to be found in the middle of winter in Iowa, so I’m going the freezer meal route this winter. I’ve known about the book Frozen Assets for a while now, but I finally picked it up from the library and am going to give it a try.  The basic premise is to cook enough meals for a month in one day by preparing several meals from several recipes amd freezing them.  The book has a proposed grocery list and all the recipes you would need for 30 days of dinner entrees.  I don’t plan for us to eat completely from the freezer for a month and then start all over, but I am going to use it to “open the bank account” in our freezer.  I picked up another book titled Don’t Panic, Dinner’s in the Freezer, that suggests recipes that you just triple as you are making dinner to have two more in the freezer, and I hope use that one to supplement the Frozen Assets meals.  Couple this with the fact that my grandpa gave me his old Foodsaver vacuum sealer when I saw him at Christmas, and I’m ready to go.

The original Frozen Assets book has traditional comfort foods like meatloaf, meatballs, and ham and scalloped potatos that make it more calories than a lot of people would make for themselves these days, and as I was looking up the amazon link I found she has the Frozen Assets: Lite and Easy book coming out in June, 2009.  I think I’ll look into that one when it comes out.

So anyway, yesterday I went grocery shopping with the list from the book.  Just to get a feel for the quantity of food we are talking about, I bought 3 whole chickens, 9 lbs of ground beef and 2 lbs of bulk Italian sausage.  That’s just the meat.  🙂  I’ll start the cooking today, but I don’t know if I’m actually going to do it all in one day.

Along with all that food, I also bought the ingredients to make granola from scratch.  I’ve been eating oatmeal for the last couple years, and I’ve finally gotten sick of it, so I was looking for a way to make it tastier without paying large amounts of money for cereal.

I found this recipe with a google search and decided to make it.  IT IS DELICIOUS!  Even though I forgot the sesame seeds, I did add toasted almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, toasted wheat germ, coconut, raisins, dried apricots and dried cranberries.  It was really easy to make and they even have a video to make it simpler.  I’d  recommend this to anyone!

Here’s a picture from their post, just to make you want it more.  🙂  Scott really likes it, and he’s not a fan of sweet things, so you know it’s not too sweet.

very-large-spoonful-of-granola

And finally…

Exercise

This one hasn’t gone quite as well as planned, but we do have a treadmill in the basement I use every so often.  Shovelling snow and walking downtown have been my primary activities lately, and considering how often it snows, I exercise at least 3 times a week.  🙂

Sorry for the incredibly long post, but it’s been a while and I’ve been busy.  I’ll let you know how the massive cooking and freezing experience goes.

Gifts and a Tip

I think I may be raising the bar pretty high for myself, but with the time I’ve had this year I’ve made a lot of gifts. The move will probably change things, but I’ve really enjoyed it, so maybe not.

For Father’s Day, I made small things that I mostly started after our return from SF.

My Mom’s Dad got Danny the Daffodil who was waiting for a home, and my Dad’s Dad got a coaster that I double knit and felted with the 89th Infantry Division “rolling W” symbol as the design, but I forgot to take a picture.

For my Dad, I crocheted this silly little turtle using a pattern from Roman Sock. He turned out pretty well. I used Lily Chin “Chelsea” yarn and my only mods were to add an extra row of 5 stitches before decreasing for the top of the mouth. I also crocheted the pink mouth parts and sewed them in. The instructions for the underside were a bit vague, so I crocheted my “circle” with increases of 5 stitches to match the shell symmetry. His underside is a bit more rounded as a consequence. I stuffed him a lot so that the wires in the body wouldn’t be felt.

Turtle turtle mouth

For Scott’s Grandpa, I made another lamb. I had made a lamb in a sweater just like the first one for his Grandma for Mother’s day, so I knit the reverse from fuzzymitten‘s pattern for Father’s Day. This one I put in overalls knit from some unknown yarn I got at Stitches east in a market class.

Farmer Lamb

A note about eyes

I thought I’d share how I put eyes on my various creations. It is a technique that I learned from Debbie Kesling’s book How to Make Enchanting Miniature Teddy Bears back when that was my hobby of choice.

If you are using beads, the eyes are added after the head is stuffed and attached to the body. I usually use at least 4 strands of thread to secure the eye. I run the thread from the back of the head at the base of the neck on the opposite side up through the position I want the eye, thread the bead and go back to where I started (with some fabric between the ends). I then tie a single knot at the back of the head, thread the other eye, and then pull tightly on the threads to make the eye set deeply and double knot the threads to secure the eye. After knotting a couple more times, I thread the ends back through the head and trim off. Here is a graphic that tries to show this process.

You can do something similar with safety eyes if the post has a hole in it. I partially stuff the head, thread the post with the ends of the thread coming out near the neck opening, stuff the head, sew it onto the body, then pull and knot those threads. It can be a little tricky, but usually helps with facial expressions.

A little update…

I don’t have much to show this time, since I’ve been busy making Mother’s day Gifts, but I did manage to make a replacement case for my knitting notions.  The one I purchased as a set from Clover when I first started knitting was looking pretty ragged and allowing things to fall out.

I’d been wanting to try sewing with vinyl for a while, and when I saw a remnant at Walmart for 85 cents, I decided to try.  Working with vinyl is a little tricky, since you can’t pin it and it tends to stick to your sewing machine.  But with one rework to use wider bias tape on the sides of the bag, it worked out pretty well.  The zipper is the most expensive part.  🙂

notions case

In other news, we are headed down to Baltimore to see Scott’s brother and sister-in-law and go the the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  It looks like a big event with 250 vendors and lots of sheep competitions.  It should be a lot of fun, even if it rains.  They even have a “Sheep to Shawl” contest that starts with shearing and ends up with a complete knit shawl.  I don’t know how long that takes, but they start Sunday morning, so it can’t be more than 1 day.   I think it would be a rather exhausting day, to say the least.

I’ll do my best to take pictures and post an update when we get back.

One last thing:

I got a comment from Vanessa on my Cotton Crochet Cloche pattern about adjusting the size for her daughter.  Since I was editing the pattern anyway, I’ve gone ahead and posted a 14″ head version and an 18″ head version for infant and child. They are tabs on the same spreadsheet.  Just look for the links in the upper left hand corner of the page.

It’s all about the warm fuzzies…

The fiber arts are by nature solitary activities. Only one person can hold the needles/hook/roving at a time. Even if each person knit an arm of a sweater, it is unlikely that they would be the same in gauge, etc. That being said, one of the things that drew me in and continues to amaze and inspire me is the fiber arts community.

I got started on crochet when my friend Suruchi came over to my apartment around 2000 and showed me the basics. After showing me, she found an e-bay seller that had a bunch of random crochet hooks for cheap and got them for me. We made hats and scarfs for a while, then I put it down. Work, etc. were more pressing and at the time my main hobby was making miniature bears. These are just a few examples.

Santa Bear Travis' dog Gardner bear

I did pick up the crochet hooks and yarn a few times to make a couple afghans for myself and Scott and a couple of scarves for christmas, but I also tried my hand at watercolor and took a stained glass class with Scott. In 2004 and 2005, we spent many hours working on glass projects, since northern California has perfect weather for outdoor glass work.

It wasn’t until we moved from CA to Texas and I wasn’t working, that I really started to get into crochet. It was too hot to do stained glass for very long outside ( and the mess is too much for an indoor project) and I spent a lot of time on the internet. By then finding patterns on the internet was easy, deciding what to make was the hard part. Since I had so much time that summer and fall, I started making afghans. I had gotten a book from Scott’s Grandma and tried a couple patterns from there. I made 4 afghans that fall, and though the warm fuzzies I got from giving my handmade gifts were fantastic, I was pretty exhausted with the big projects.

Lion brand afghan B & W afghan

My family obviously knew I was hooked (pun intended) and my brother and girlfriend got me a Crochet Pattern-a-day calendar for Christmas. In there was a ThreadTeds pattern for a bear. This brought me right back to making bears.

razbeary gold bear

At the same time, I found Flickr and started posting and browsing pictures. Through Flickr and blogs I learned about amigurumi and was particularly inspired by Elizabeth Doherty’s work. I started reading crochet blogs a lot, and finally started my own infrequently updated blog. I was happy with crochet and didn’t see the point in knitting, in fact some of the ladies at NASA tried to teach me to knit in 2003 for a co-worker’s baby, and I refused to learn. I crocheted a teddy bear instead. 🙂

In the fall of 2006, a confluence of events caused me to take a new look at knitting. I looked for a couple of books online and settled on the Stitch ‘n Bitch Handbook and Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Those two books got me into knitting. When I got Knitting Rules, I had never heard of the Yarn Harlot! I found her blog, read her book and never looked back.

After several years on my own, I had finally tapped into this huge community of witty, talented, inspiring people willing to share their experiences and funny stories. It was still a community tied together by links and web rings. There was no good way to find all those little blogs or people’s patterns unless someone had linked to them. Through that network, I found out about Ravelry. On July 3, two months after moving to New Jersey, I got my invitation to this amazing web community.

Using this awesome resource, I have found patterns I never knew existed, learned from others about yarn substitution and found a reason to blog more often. It is the warm fuzzy feeling I get when someone leaves a comment or “favorites” my project or pattern that inspires me to do more.

Being able to see that 42 people have “favorited” my Claude Pattern and that 18 people have it in their queue is such a great feeling. To think that my little warm fuzzy could generate so many warm fuzzies for me, is just amazing.

Speaking of warm fuzzies, I guess I should show you my most recent project.

Little Lamb Little Lamb

This little lamb is a pattern by Barbara Prime at Fuzzymitten.com. The pattern is very well written and makes me rethink my previously held belief that crochet was the only way to make toys. It seems that if you know how to use knit stitches for shaping well enough, you can make very elegant patterns. I’m not at that level, but using someone else’s pattern was great fun. You do have to worry a little bit more about stuffing knit toys, since they tend to stretch a lot more than their crochet siblings.

The yarn for this project is Lion Brand Fisherman’s wool in Natural and Nature’s Brown. The sweater comes from the Natural Fisherman’s wool I dyed with Kool-Aid. I made the top down raglan cardigan for him on size US6 needles without a pattern. Garter stitch neck, button bands, bottom and cuffs, made it pretty simple to make. I used yo button holes so that the cardigan really can come off.

His eyes are hematite beads.

I’m so pleased with how he turned out, that I decided to keep him, rather than send him off as a gift. I have almost finished knitting a second lamb who will take the journey instead. 🙂 This time I kept track of how long it took to make and after adding it all up, it took 5 hours to knit and assemble the lamb without accessories.

People are always asking how long it takes me to make something, so I have decided to start keeping better track of time. Obviously I don’t knit things because it is cost effective, but it is interesting to track.

I also made myself a summer hat. After looking around and not finding a pattern for a cotton cloche, I decided to make my own. I haven’t really settled on the hat band yet, so this one is not attached.

hat front

The hat is crocheted with two strands of King Tut Cotton I got from our Twisted Stitcher’s Yarn swap . I used a size I hook with the yarn doubled so that it has more structural integrity.

I have written the pattern in spreadsheet form here if anyone is interested.

The band is knit using the pattern for this lace headband, but I would definitely add a garter stitch edge if I made it again. It just curls too much, even after blocking. The flower is the Spring Daisy on this page.

The brim increases start just behind the ears and go out just beyond the edge of my glasses. I like the style of cloche hats and look forward to wearing it this summer. It is also easily stuffed in a bag, which is another requirement when I look for hats.

Catch up post: featuring FOs and dying

At the end of March, there were a couple more birthdays, and here is what I sent.

For my Dad, there was another Claude the Cactus.  This one was made with Lion Brand Jiffy in Avocado and  Fun Fur.  The fun fur I used on the first  Claude was probably 5 years old, and it seems that the product has changed somewhat.  The new Fun Fur seems to be a single thread sticking out, where as the old stuff had 2 or three threads twisted together.  This means that the new stuff is much finer and higher density, which hides the green.  To counteract this, I gave Claude II a haircut.  I trimmed ~1/4 to 3/8″ of fur off all over his body to make sure the green could be seen, and I trimmed even more around the eyes.

I also found some novelty yarn at AC Moore that worked perfectly for gravel and freestyled a pot for him out of some TLC acrylic, as well.  I put a little bit of stuffing between gravel and pot bottom, but not much.

Dad's Cactus

For my Grandpa Z, I knit a teddy bear from the Prima website.  I used Lion Brand Fisherman’s wool for the body and some green mystery yarn I got at my Market class at Stitches East in Baltimore last October for the sweater.  The only modification I made was to lengthen the legs.  Where the pattern says to knit 9 rows of reverse stockinette, I knit 13.  I used a 30 mm doll joint to connect the head to the body so that it would turn, and I string jointed the arms and legs with yarn.  Eyes are onyx beads and nose is embroidery thread.  I dreaded sewing the pieces together by hand enough that I stitched the head and body pieces together on the sewing machine.  In retrospect, back stitching with yarn isn’t so bad, and I could have done the whole thing without too much trouble.

Grandpa's Teddy Bear

More recently, I tried dying yarn with Kool-Aid.  I had about 67 yards of Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool in Natural from a project I can’t blog about until June, and I decided to experiment with dying.  I read a little about dying with Kool-Aid, and when I went to the laundromat, I stopped into the grocery store nearby to buy some Kool-Aid to play with.  The flavors were limited, so I got Tropical Punch, Cherry and Grape.  I wrapped the yarn around the dining table and chairs to make a really long loop.  I then soaked the yarn for a while in a bath of woolwash and water for about 15 minutes.

I set up my 3 plastic tubs with 2 packets of kool-aid each and distributed the skein between the three.  After  4  two minute heat cycles in the microwave (with ~ 10 to 15 minute breaks between) all the color was absorbed and it looked like this:

( clockwise from left: grape, cherry, tropical punch)

Kool Aid dying, after the color is sucked up

I then let it cool, hung the skein on the curtain rod to dry, and then wrapped it into a skein around my swift.

Kool-Aid Dyed yarn

Still not sure what I will do with the yarn, but it was a fun experiment.

Last Thursday, I went to our Twisted Stitcher’s Meetup  where we had our quarterly yarn swap.  I didn’t take very much in, but I did bring a bunch home.  One was this intriguing DK weight yarn of unknown composition that belonged to someone’s mother.  I had no good way of knowing how much was there, so I decided I would knit a shrug.  I swatched some fancier lace patterns, but they got lost in the coloring of the yarn, so I ended up choosing a simple eyelet pattern from the Barbara Walker Treasury, book 1.  It is Quatrefoil Eyelet (pg 171) and I used the Lace Rib (pg 48) pattern for the edging.  I used standard raglan shaping  ( knit in front and back on either side of stitch marker on every knit row).

I haven’t blocked it yet, but I’m afraid it is going to grow.  I probably should have separated the sleeves earlier, but it looks okay right now.  I will post new pictures after I block it, but I couldn’t help wearing it today.  It was 67 and beautiful outside, so Scott took these pictures.

Swap Yarn Shrug

Swap Shrug, Back

Without posting about the project I’ve been working on as a gift for a friend, I think this about catches up my fiber endeavors.

Spring, where are yooou…?

Danny Daffodil  Danny's side view

Danny Daffodil would like to take a moment to point out to Spring, if you are reading this, that it is high time you let the sun shine in.  He’s ready to play, but still worried about the cold.  He’ll even show you the way.

Danny is freeform crocheted out of Caron Simply soft and Red heart Soft yarn.  For some reason, I had a picture of a flower guy pop into my head and I just had to make him.  Probably one of the stranger dolls I’ve made, but he’ll keep Claude company.  🙂