Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hookin’ Up! My Review of Poppy&Bee

Today is my day in the month-long Hookin’ Up project being run by Kathryn over at Crochet Concupiscence. I’m reviewing the blog Poppy&Bee, which is written by Natalie in New Zealand. I was excited to talk to Natalie, since New Zealand is one place I would LOVE to visit sometime. I’ve heard it is so beautiful there. One thing New Zealand is known for is its sheep, and where there are sheep there is YARN!

Poppy&Bee is a fairly new blog, just started in January as a companion site to Natalie’s online store of the same name. (Poppy & Bee are the nicknames of her two young kids by the way.) Natalie left her teaching job and is now a WAHM, selling her handmade crochet goodness and being home with her kids. What a great life! I know I at times fantasize about quitting my job and crocheting for a living, I bet others of you do too.

Reading Poppy&Bee, I feel like Natalie is taking me along on her journey as she establishes her business. Selling at craft markets, photo shoots for her website, networking with other crafters, oohing and ahhhing over new yarn. She writes with a nice friendly conversational tone, like we’re just having a chat over coffee (or would it be tea in NZ?) She has a fondness for owls, as do I, and this is my absolute favorite of her items:

Is that not ADORABLE!! (And the baby’s cute as a button too lol.) And she makes these hats in all sizes from newborn to adult. I’m in love.

I asked Natalie a few questions about herself so we could get to know her better…

When did you learn to crochet? I see that your blog is fairly new, what inspired you to start an online store for your crochet work?

I learned to crochet while still young, maybe 8 or 9 years old. My Mum and my grandmother are both very talented handcrafters and I was always watching them and trying out whatever they were doing. Crocheting took a very long hiatus until I had children, and I recently started up again after leaving full time work to be at home with Poppy and The Bee (my darling children).
The online store came about because I really am so used to being able to find things online myself, and enjoy the process of listing and presenting things online. I like being able to say ‘head over to’ – easy with no need for anyone to search through etsy or felt or anywhere else – even though I do list on those two sites as well. Being online allows me to spread the New Zealand Crochet love internationally too – and so many people are looking for the fine NZ yarns, and I am very lucky to have easy access to them here, and then to be able to make them into something yummy and handmade to share is fabulous!I would love to blog much more than I do, but I seem to run out of hours in the day to fit everything in! I’m working on a way to function without sleep – but am not having much luck yet.

(Natalie, if you find a way to do that, LET ME KNOW!)

What are your favorite things to make? Favorite yarn?

Ooooooh – favourite yarn at the moment is Possum (I know, I know – but in New Zealand they’re pests destroying our native vegetation). An amazing fibre with similar properties to Alpaca – and a lovely feel to it when working it. Mix it in with some NZ Merino and you have squishy yarn heaven. My fingers sigh when I start using it! Favourite things to make? I’m working through my hat phase at the moment – I have about 120 patterns in my ‘make me now!’ folder. I’d love LOVE to spend some more time on shawls and lace-weight work, but now that I sell what I make, it’s really hard to price them to sell with the hours and hours they take to make. The eternal dilemma of the crochet garment maker! I’ve started a pair of socks about three times, and love Amigurumi just for the frivolous distraction.
How hard or easy are you finding the WAHM life?

Loving it! I find it impossible to have enough hours in the day (particularly because I procrastinate about the sensible ‘Mum’ jobs like tidying, cleaning and groceries in favour of crocheting), but love being able to collect my children from school. The Bee tells me he loves having an ‘At the Door Mummy’ after school. I am a primary school teacher, and even though last year I taught where he went to school – I was never at his door at 3pm to collect him. Now he loves stumbling out for a big cuddle and tells me all about his day without having to wait. I do miss teaching and my cool and lovely colleagues I’m working on a way to incorporate it into crochet by running lessons and developing learn to crochet kits, but definitely don’t miss the hours and hours of prep!

So that’s Poppy&Bee! Natalie recently did an interview with New Zealand Handmade too, which you can read here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hookin' Up Project

So tomorrow is my day to post a blog review for the Hookin' Up project, which means that today MY blog is being reviewed. Jen at Rip It Good has written such a nice review of Twisted Strands, I'm so flattered, thank you Jen!

And be sure to check back here tomorrow when I'll tell you about a very special blog!

Friday, July 15, 2011

FO Friday July 17th

I missed FO Friday last week too, what with being out of town, so I haven't had a chance to tell you about my wire and bead crochet class. It was awesome! We spent about six hours working on our necklaces, alot of that time was spent just trying to decide on what beads we wanted to work with. Making the necklace was actually fairly simple, you thread the beads onto the wire and crochet a chain, moving a bead up into your stitch every once in a while, however close or far apart you want them. The instructor kept saying "there aren't any rules, just do what you like, very freeeform"--that doesn't work for left-brained me, I need structure and patterns to follow lol! Another woman in the group is an accountant and we got a good laugh out of our need for "rules".

I chose a copper colored wire (28 gauge) and red coral chips for my necklace, along with a lot of other red and pink beads. The necklace has 5 strands, and the instructor did all the finishing for me, made the clasp, etc. So here it is....


It's just the right length for how I like to wear necklaces:


I wore it to my yarn playgroup last night and someone asked me right off "oh did you crochet your necklace?" I've gotten several compliments on it, which is fun of course. And the store where I took the class has an AMAZING selection of beads, so I bought some more and I hope to be making some more jewelry soon!

Head over to Tami's Amis blog to check out more lovely FO's!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WIP Wednesday July 13th

I'm back! I missed out on WIP Wednesday last week due to a business trip--I really tried to write a post before I left but it just did not happen. Too many things to do to make sure the rest of the family survives while I'm gone! If you have kids and do any traveling, you'll know what I mean.

The best part of traveling is that I get more time to crochet! Not only on flights and while waiting in airports, but during conference talks as well. On all four of my flights I made sure to choose an aisle seat on the left side of the plane, so my elbow could stick out in the aisle and not bump a seatmate while I crochet. You do have to be careful that your elbow doesn't get smashed by the drink cart tho. Now how many people do you know who pick their seat assignment based on their crafting? Yes I am a geek, I know it and I don't apologize for it lol.

So, I got eight squares done for Knit-a-Square during my 3-day trip! Not bad at all. And I FINALLY used up all the purple wool yarn that I got in the yarn swap back in February! As you can see, I have now moved on to green:


I also started a new scarf this week, the pattern is Clapochet, it's a crocheted version of a knitted shawl called Clapotis. I'm making it narrower as a scarf instead of a shawl, like I did for the Crocus Bud. I'm just not a shawl person, but I do like accent scarves! The yarn is YUMMY, it's a merino/cashmere/nylon blend, soooo soft. And the color is such a rich variegated earth tone, I love it.


So that's what's on my hook this week. Be sure to check out lots more lovelies over at Tami's Amis!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hookin' Up!

I wanted to let you in on a fun crochet blog project going on this month! Hookin' Up is being hosted by Kathryn on her blog Crochet Concupiscence. Each day one of the participating bloggers will review the next blog on the list, and I'm looking forward to finding out about some cool new blogs that I haven't discovered yet! On July 16th, my humble blog will be reviewed on Rip It Good, and on the 17th I'll be reviewing Poppy and Bee. You can see the whole blog list here, and as of right now when I'm writing this post, there is still one spot left for someone on the 23rd, so if you have a crochet blog and would like to join in the fun, send Kathryn an email!

In other news, my bead crochet class was AWESOME today! I am currently wearing my new necklace, and even The Teenager really likes it! I don't know if I can wait till FO Friday to show it off, so you might be seeing it sooner lol.

Have a lovely weekend!

2011--Mid-Year Review

Since 2011 seems to be half-gone already, impossible as that seems, I decided I ought to check in on some of my goals that I set for myself way back in January, both for craft things and the other parts of my life. I seems I may have fallen just a teensy bit off the wagon in terms of some of the things I said I was going to do this year. Oops.

As far as crafting goals, there are 3 things I said I wanted to do this year:

1. Knit-a-Square: I want to make at least as many blanket squares as I did last year, which was 108. Total as of 7/1/11 is 43. So I'm not halfway, but I have some good stitching opportunities coming up in the form of business travel and vacation, so that square count should be heading up nicely over the rest of the summer.

2. Bead crochet: This is actually a goal left over from 2010 as well, but today is the day! I decided the only way I'd get started is to take a class, so from 11-5 today I shall be crocheting with wire and beads--I'm psyched!

3. Crochet myself a sweater: Uh-oh, I forgot that I set this goal. And I STILL have no idea what sweater I would make for myself! I need to stop dithering and just pick something and DO IT.

Other goals I set this year:

1. My physical well-being: I'm still walking about 4 days a week, and I feel pretty good. I have decided to try Tai Chi as an exercise to increase my balance and flexibility, I've got a couple of dvds, and if I just get out of this chair and stop reading everyone's great blogs, I might actually start doing the exercises!

2. Spiritual growth: I'm still listening to the Daily Audio Bible podcasts every day, so now I'm halfway through the Bible. This has been a real blessing to me, and I know I'll stick with it the rest of the year and finally have read the whole Bible!

Earlier in the year I was trying to set smaller monthly goals too, and let's just say that particular practice has fallen by the wayside lately. Life sure gets busy, doesn't it? But perhaps summer is a good time to try and get back in the swing of things, right? SO--in July I am going to set myself a goal of:

1. Use my tai chi dvds!

2. Clean up my spare bedroom/craft room--oh dear, it has gotten bad.

3. Do at least 2 family activities--hey, it's summer!

And how about all of you? Did you make any resolutions back in January? Let me know how you are doing on your own goals!

Friday, July 1, 2011

FO Friday July 1st

AUGH!! It's JULY! No no no, can't be.

Anyhoo, this week I can show you my finished prayer shawl:



I think it came out very nicely, and I finished it just in time, since I can't face having something big and hot on my lap when the weather tops 90 around here. The pattern can be found here if you are interested!

I also made a cute little something this week:

I think this heart is just adorable! I learned a new stitch too, the edge of the heart is done in Crab Stitch, also known as Reverse Single Crochet. It's not a hard stitch, although it feels kind of awkward at first, and mine definitely is not consistent all the way around. I watched a couple of videos on Youtube to help me get the hang of it, just search for "crab stitch crochet". The motif is part of the Teen Throw free pattern on the Caron Yarns website, and it's designed by Andee Graves who is an absolute sweetheart! She has a wonderful blog too, you can visit her here.

Tomorrow is my Wire and Bead Crochet class--can't wait! Maybe I'll have something awesome to show you next Friday. Have a great weekend! And check out more Finished Objects at FO Friday over at Tami's Amis.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

WIP Wednesday June 29th

Today's Work In Progress is a very l-o-n-g project--my crochet learning curve. Talk about something continually in progress! I guess I would consider myself an intermediate level crocheter--I can read patterns and charts, I can do alot of stitches beyond the basics, I've tried some techniques like Tunisian and mosaic crochet. On the other hand, I've never made something where fit was crucial, and I've tended to stick with "ordinary" yarns. So, the Crocus Bud scarf that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago was my very first project with sock yarn. Last I showed you it was being blocked:


And here it is all done!

Close up:

I really like it, but I noticed something when I put in on--it wasn't holding the block. The scarf was getting longer and narrower instead of staying in the nice open lacy pattern. I thought maybe it was just the weight of the yarn, the pattern calls for lace weight where mine is in sock weight. Or maybe I needed blocking wires instead of pinning it out. Or maybe I hadn't let it dry thoroughly when I blocked it. So I blocked it again, and let it dry for about 3 days, but still the same thing. So I asked around on Ravelry and learned a WHOLE BUNCH of stuff I didn't know about sock yarn! For instance, many sock yarns are a blend of wool and nylon, which helps the yarn "spring back" into shape better after it's stretched. That's a desirable property in a sock, right? But not so much in a lacy scarf. Dug out the label for my yarn--75% merino, 25% nylon. Eureka! There's my issue.

One raveler gave me a lot of helpful info to consider:

"More than anything, spring back has to do with quite a few factors and can’t necessarily be applied the same way to each and every yarn. Those factors are: nylon content; natural fiber content (is it superwash wool? is it low crimp fiber that will hold a block great, like cashmere, alpaca, llama, cotton? is it a toothier wool, like shetland, as opposed to a high micron count like merino? does the yarn have a high twist, lots of bounce, or low twist, little or no bounce?); manmade fiber content, other than nylon (rayons like bamboo block really well, acrylics can be “killed” with a steam block, but it has to be done very carefully so as not to melt the acrylic); and how the blocking is done."

Other helpful things I learned:

1. Sock yarn is generally "fingering weight", but a fingering weight yarn might not be sock yarn. Sock yarn is usually blended to be well-suited to socks (doh!), like my yarn with 25% nylon.

2. Many sock yarns are made with superwash wool, which can behave quite differently than other wools when you get it wet to block it, it has a tendency to grow alot but shrinks back when it dries.

I may try to steam block my scarf, or I may just frog a few rows to shorten it, since it's a bit long as is. Definitely was a learning experience for me! And I'll know a bit more going into my next "fancy yarn" project.

Be sure to head over to Tami's Amis for more great WIP Wednesday

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

WIP Wednesday June 22nd

This Work In Progress Wednesday is sponsored by......


Yes, summer vacation is FINALLY in progress here! Today was the last day of school, and I confess I am feeling a bit nostalgic. I walked Miss G home from school for the very last time. The last time we will ever walk home from school together, since next year she will take a bus to middle school--sniffle sniffle! Last Friday was the 5th grade closing ceremony, and it was so sweet. Then last night was the 8th grade closing ceremony for The Teenager, and "sweet" wouldn't exactly be the word I'd choose to describe it! There's a WHOLE lot of change that goes on between 5th grade and 8th grade! And speaking of changes:

Miss G, on her first day of kindergarten:


Miss G, at the end of 5th grade:


The Teenager, on her first day of kindergarten:


The Teenager, on her way to the 8th grade dance last night:


Ummm, wow. Where did those kids COME from?

In other news, I've got nothing new on the hook but I finished my prayer shawl and my scarf this week! I'll show them off on Friday. Now I'm trying to decide what to start next--gee, maybe I should peruse my huge Ravelry queue, ya think?

Hope you all are having a great week, and thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WIP Wednesday, June 15th

Woo hoo, I actually have something to show this week! Did you know that Saturday was Worldwide Knit and Crochet in Public Day? So I went out and crocheted in public! My yarn playgroup always has an event for WWKCIPD, in fact the first time I met these lovely folks was two years ago at this event. We had a great time and got alot of nice attention from passersby. I forgot to take photos though, darn it--I was too busy FINALLY starting on my Crocus Bud scarf. Last month I showed you the shawl pattern and my swatch here. Well, thanks to crocheting in public on Saturday and a couple of long meetings at work this week, I've got it done already and it is blocking as I type!

I think I'm going to love it.


Couldn't get the whole thing in one picture, it's about 6 feet long:


Like my fancy blocking mats? Yeah, beach towels. Whatever.

I've also done six squares so far in June for Knit-a-Square. I don't think I'm ever going to finish up this purple yarn!


Other than that I have been enjoying our FABULOUS weather this week, what a welcome break from the 100-degree stuff we've had recently. Oh, and I found an almost-new gas grill for $35 at a yard sale on Saturday! Ours is all rusted out and we were looking at new ones so this was quite the score.

If you'd like to participate in WIP Wednesday on your blog, head on over to Tami's Ami's and join the fun!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thankful Thursday June 2nd

Such an easy choice today for Thankful Thursday!

Happy Anniversary to the most amazing husband. I can't believe we've been married for TWENTY-SEVEN years! We're not possibly that old. But then again, I look at these young people and think "who in the heck ARE they?"

June 2, 1984:



I love you sweetheart!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

WIP Wednesday June 1

Holy crap, it's June already! And to be honest, the only thing I'm working on this week is keeping cool. We've been having a spiffy heat wave since Sunday, today was a bit cooler as it only got to 94 instead of 97 or 98! Tonight we are supposed to get some thunderstorms, I'm looking forward to a little relief.

So that's it, nothing to see here but a woman trying not to melt into a puddle. Oh, here's a good idea:


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

WIP Wednesday May 25

It's Wednesday again? ALREADY?? And the last Wednesday in May, too. Our weather is getting decidedly more summer-like around here this week. Don't like the hot and humid, nope nope nope. I'd better finish my prayer shawl before it gets too hot to have the thing on my lap!

But no prayer shawl to show today, instead I have a new square (and another started) that I've made for my favorite charity, Knit-a-Square. I'm rather behind on my goal of nine squares per month, but I know I'll catch up when I have vacation time and trips over the summer. Anyway, here's this new pattern I LOVE:


I'm still working through all the purples that I got in my yarn swap back in February, lol! Remember this?


I got this pattern from Skye's Images of Life blog. She starts with a chain 46, but for me a chain 31 gave me a square about 7 inches wide, then I added a hdc border to bring it up to 8 inches for Knit-a-Square. I think I will make several of these! And to see what other folks are up to for WIP Wednesday, just hop on over and visit Tami's Ami's blog.

And I can't let today go by without mentioning another special Work-in-Progress. A very long-term project in fact, one that's been going on for exactly twelve years today! Happy birthday, Miss G--we love you!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WIP Wednesday May 18th

See, I promised, I do have something new for this week! I have started making a scarf using the Crocus Bud Shawl pattern. Here's the shawl:

205 colrainlacecrocusbudshawl

Pretty isn't it? It's a Valley Yarns pattern, and you can buy it here if you're interested.

I'm making it much narrower, as a scarf instead of a shawl. And I'm using a sock yarn instead of lace weight that it calls for. I made a swatch and blocked it, and I think it's going to be very nice!


I'm still working on my prayer shawl, hasn't changed too much since the last time I showed it to you. And I've made a few more charity blanket squares. I feel like I've been spinning my wheels a bit lately, time to get back in the crochet saddle!

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My finds from MD Sheep and Wool

I haven't shown you what I bought at the Sheep and Wool Festival last weekend! Now first may I say, I am pretty much on a yarn diet, meaning I don't buy new yarn unless I have a specific use for it. And there are literally HUNDREDS of vendors at this show, and I'm not much of a yarn connaisseur (wow I spelled that right first try). Some folks come to this festival specifically to pick up certain yarns from certain vendors, and some of that stuff is EXPENSIVE. Those weren't the booths where I spent most of my time.

First off, they have some really fun buttons to buy (the kind you pin on, not the kind that go through buttonholes). My FAVORITE one that I got last year is this one:


This year I found this one!


Man of the House is not amused. But I was happy because I actually found several with crochet mottos instead of all knitting sayings. Here's all that I bought:


I bought these two adorable little finger puppets:


And this pin:


And this magnetic shawl clasp--now I need to make a shawl.


I think this little cutie is my favorite--it's a little zippered felt pouch to keep things like yarn needles and stitch markers in. Adorable!


I also bought some things to help with my resolution to make some jewelry--beads, glass pendants, and little balls made out of felt. There WILL be jewelry making going on here!


And finally, yes I did buy a bit of yarn. I love to get a bargain, so I got these small skeins from a bargain bin of "mill ends"--the ends of a color run that aren't big enough to make a full skein. I plan on making some skinny scarves, or maybe even using them in some jewelry!


And all that fit in one little bag! Not like some of the people who were walking around the festival--when you're a spinner, you need a LOT of fleece!

What a good son!

And don't be too shocked, but I do have something new for WIP Wednesday this week--I promise!

Friday, May 13, 2011

How I spent my Mother's Day

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

Actually, I spent a good bit of the whole weekend here--9 hours over 2 days. The weather was absolutely perfect, and I had such a great time! Sheep judging, sheepdog demonstrations, great lamb to eat, and HUNDREDS of vendors selling everything a fiber lover could possibly want!

So what was there to see? There were sheep:

Guess what, more sheep

And more sheep:

Yep, they are still sheep

And more sheep!

And more

Somehow I got an awful lot of pictures of sheep behinds. They also have some very cute fronts of course:


Awwwww! And there were alpacas too! I love alpacas.

It's an alpaca!
Another alpaca
And even more alpacas!

And there were so many beautiful things to look at. Some were on display by vendors:

Love this green crocheted wrap

Map sweater

Some were entered in a judged competition. These next two pictures are felted--they look like watercolor paintings!

Flat felting
Another gorgeous felted picture

And other things were being worn by their creators!

Cute crochet hats!

On Sunday I watched the Sheep to Shawl competition--amazing! Each competing team has 5 members--a shearer, three spinners, and a weaver. And they have 4 hours to shear a sheep, comb and spin the fleece into yarn, and weave it into a shawl! Each team comes with their loom already warped (all strung with the threads needed to make the shawl), then as the spinners get yarn made, the weaver creates the shawl. It was so cool to watch.

Combing out fleece:

Combing wool

Three spinners and a weaver in action:

The whole Peddlar team

There was a junior team too:

The whole junior team in action

Their finished shawl:

The junior team's shawl

The 2nd place winner--isn't this gorgeous?

This shawl came in second place

And the winning shawl on the right:

So lovely, and all in under 4 hours

I have more photos up on my Flickr page if you'd like to see them. I had an absolutely MARVELOUS time, and I can't wait till next year!