Thursday, March 31, 2011

Crochet and Knitting Blog Week--Day 4

blog week

Day Four: 31st March. Where are they now?

Whatever happened to your __________?

Write about the fate of a past knitting crocheting project. Whether it be something that you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity

I've got a couple of good candidates for this one. First, I give you....



This is the very first project I made after I re-started crocheting a couple of years ago. I wanted a nice warm circular scarf that I could also wrap around as a hooded cowl. I went to JoAnns and picked a really pretty, soft yarn, Lion Brand Homespun. This seems to be a universal newbie crocheter experience--buying a bunch of Homespun and finding out it is incredibly hard to crochet with! Because of the yarn texture it is very hard to see your stitches, not a good thing when you're learning. I also misjudged the size and made it way too big. And it's heavy--it weighs about a pound and a half! Too heavy, too bulky, and it likes to choke me.


These photos may be the last time I wear the thing.

I'd also like to tell you the tale of another item, this one that I sent to the Knit-a-Square charity in South Africa, although I didn't actually crochet it myself. I found an old worn stadium blanket at Goodwill, brought it home and felted it into a nice warm piece of wool, about 2x3 feet. Not big enough for a blanket on its own, but could be sewn together with other felted squares to make it a good size. So I sent it off to South Africa. Several months later, in one of the e-newsletters that KAS sends out, I saw this photo:


Look at the boy in the background, wrapped in a blue and green plaid blanket. That's the piece I sent! Here's another photo of him, in the center front:


This made me feel so amazing, and made my small efforts seem so tangible. A little boy is warmly wrapped in something that I helped with. Seeing those faces really motivates me to make as many things as I can for charity.

If you'd like to know more about Knit-a-Square and how to help these beautiful kids who have nothing, not even a warm blanket to call their own, please visit their website here!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Crochet and Knitting Blog Week, Day 3

blog week

Day Three: 30th March. Tidy mind, tidy stitches.

Ugh, let me start off by apologizing to anyone who got an unfinished version of this post Monday night--I was writing it ahead of time and accidentally hit the "publish" button. Not very talented of me.

ANYWAY--here's the real post! Today's topic: Organization.

How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry.

Oooh, this is not going to be pretty. Notice the third sentence in that paragraph? The one that starts "Maybe you are truly not organised at all..." I think whoever wrote that was looking directly at me at the time. I was off doing something else when God was passing out the organization genes, no question about it. Well, even though no one mentioned that this blog week was going to involve airing your dirtiest laundry, I took up the dare to photograph my stash, warts and all. Maybe one of you will take pity on me and offer to come over and organize it for me lol!

My main stash storage:


There is some organization here, like I do have all the wool yarns in one drawer, all the baby yarn in another. But it's not terribly neat. And you can see all the overflow onto the floor and table. Now I do have a bit of organization of my patterns in the box you can see on the floor:


But I don't keep up with it as well as I should. I print so many patterns off the web, and somehow never seem to get them filed in this box.

This is the small storage I keep in the living room for things I'm actively working on. The pile of books on top are crochet books checked out from the library. Once again, there's not much rhyme or reason to what is stashed in the drawers here.


And yet another place to keep yarn! Next to the sofa where I crochet while I watch tv. Don't want to ever be out of arms reach from a hook and a skein of yarn!


And lastly, my main project bag. Also not neat and tidy.


I have made peace with the fact that I am never going to be an uber-organized person. Never. My desk at work is always cluttered, and yet I can usually put my hand on any file I need. Maybe I've learned coping skills over the years, I don't know. I definitely do like keeping my projects on Ravelry, it let's me track my progress and also keep track of patterns I would like to make. Maybe that will spill over into my off-line crafting chaos--baby steps, right?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Crochet and Knitting Blog Week, Day 2

blog week

Day Two: 29th March. Skill + 1UP

Here's the topic given us for today:
Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

Looking back over what I've done in the past year, I don't think I can point to any big improvement in my skill, or new techniques that I have learned. But I think my biggest change is that I've gained more of a sense of my own "identity" as a crafter. It's been less than 3 years since I picked up a hook, after more than a dozen years of not crocheting. And during that long "sabbatical", the internet transformed the world of crafting just like every other area of life you can think of. The amount of information available is ASTOUNDING. I felt like a little kid, every new project I saw made me go, "Oooh! SHINY!" I just wanted to do EVERYTHING. My queue on Ravelry (my list of projects I intend to start) got ridiculous, like 45 items. I was also well on my way to achieving SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy). I was the poster child for crafting ADD!

So, who do I think I am now? First of all, I have realized I am a CROCHETER. I've tried knitting, I've done "knooking", which is creating knit fabric with a crochet hook. And I've discovered that what I really like is crochet. It's my zen, my relaxation, my calming center. And I've found that I get tremendous satisfaction out of making things for others. I'm not a bag person, or a shawl person, or a hat person. But when I have a stack of blanket squares to send to Knit-a-Square, a charity which distributes blankets to AIDS orphans in South Africa, I feel like my small effort is going to mean so much to a child who has nothing.

Crochet has given me a way to be creative, a means to help others, and a whole pack of friends both in cyberspace and in real life. And I only see more and better things coming in the year ahead!

Oh,and don't forget to enter my "Books and Hooks" giveaway! I'll be picking the winners at 5 pm eastern (US) time on Sunday April 3rd.

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's Crochet and Knitting Blog Week! Day 1

blog week 2KCBWDAY1

Hello, and welcome to the first day of Crochet and Knitting Blog Week! Yes I know that's not the "official" title, and I certainly am non-discriminatory regarding the fiber arts, but crochet just has to get first billing here lol. ANYWAY--if you're interested in knowing more about the idea behind CKBW, you can read all about it here. I, and hundreds of other fiber bloggers, will be posting each day about a designated topic. So please--settle in and just come along for the ride!

Day One: 28th March. A Tale of Two Yarns.
Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.

I'll tell you right up front, I am NOT an exotic yarn kind of person. For one thing, I can't stand any wool next to my skin, except maybe 100% merino. And once we start getting into the really nice fibers, the price goes up beyond what I can justify. But the main reason I stick with "workhorse" acrylic yarns is that nearly everything I crochet is for charity, so I definitely want to get the most yarn for the best price!

So when we talk about "workhorse" yarns, two come to mind right away: Red Heart Super Saver and Caron Simply Soft. Just for grins, I looked these two up on Ravelry to check out the number of projects (the following are screen shots from the Rav page):

That's right, over 55 THOUSAND projects on Rav using this yarn. And then there's Simply Soft:


Again, well over 50 thousand projects. Someone sure is using these yarns!

But not me. The thing is, I don't really like either one of them. Red Heart Super Saver I find not to be soft enough to my liking. And Simply Soft has a nice soft feel, but the yarn splits like mad when I crochet with it. Drives me nuts! Alot of people seem to have this same problem with Simply Soft, but others like it just fine. So as much as I want to use inexpensive yarns, the Big Two just don't do it for me. What's a crocheter to do?

Enter: HOBBY LOBBY. Oh, my! I had heard from friends what a great store this is, and last fall we got the first Hobby Lobby close to me--I was there the day they opened! And Hobby Lobby has their own line of yarn called "I Love This Yarn". And you know what--I do love it! It's soft, it doesn't split when I work with it, and they have a big range of nice colors and weights. What does Rav say about it?


Looks like it's got quite a way to go to catch up to Super Saver and Simply Soft. But I will definitely be helping it to increase the number of projects. Oh, and if you like cotton, I Love This Yarn cotton is the softest 100% cotton I've tried!

OK, this was more than 2 yarns lol. I always tend to overachieve.

Please come back again tomorrow for Day 2 of Crochet and Knitting Blog Week!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Books and Hooks" Giveaway!

It's time for my final giveaway to celebrate National Crochet Month. And actually it's a double giveaway--I will select two winners this time around! Here are the prizes:

Book #1, "Crochet For Today"



Lots of nice patterns--afghans, baby things, sweaters and more.

And Book #2, "Geometrics" by Ruthie Marks.



This book has some amazing projects--I really love the square tote bag on the back cover! And of course the star afghan on the front is a very popular pattern.

The first winner I pick will get book #1, and the second winner will get book #2. And as pictured with the books, each winner will also get a brand new size Q plastic crochet hook! Somehow I ended up with FOUR of these in my collection, so I'm sharing my overabundance with my my lucky blog readers.

Entering is easy! Just leave me a comment on this post saying you would like to be entered, and also let me know if you are a follower of my blog, that will get you a second entry. I'm going to run this contest through April 3rd, a week from Sunday. Entries have to be in by 5 pm eastern (US) time on the 3rd.

And one more announcement--March 28th to April 3rd is the 2nd Annual Knitting & Crochet Blog Week! (Or the Crochet and Knitting Blog Week as some of us prefer to call it.)  It's going to be very cool, there is a suggested topic for each day of the week, and hundreds of folks will be blogging as part of the fun. You can go here to read all about it and sign up to join in with your own blog.

blog week

Happy crocheting!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

For your Oooohing and Ahhhhing Pleasure

Today I just want to show you some beautiful crochet. I am so amazed at the talent people have, and often in their ability to complete items that clearly took months or even years to make. It's really fun to peruse some of these. First up we have Miroslava Gorokhovich:

Журнал Мод,Miroslava Gorokhovich

W-O-W. Check out all of Miroslava's photostream here on Flickr. It's just astounding!

Here's a gorgeous afghan that really has me thinking spring!

Finished African Flowers blanket
(Image by MyNameIsClare)

And thinking of spring makes me think of birds too, like this little beauty here!

I have to send you over to Flickr to see this next one but it's worth the trip--this is such a clever idea and it looks amazing.

Doilies on the stairs

Another awesome afghan, this one a sampler of many different crochet cable stitches. Every square is so well done, it's really terrific.

Crochet Cable Stitch Sampler Blanket
(Image by JRoKnits)

For all you Mario fans, this incredibly clever afghan was designed and executed AMAZINGLY by Gege of Gege Crochet:

Mario blanket whole

She blogged the whole process of making the blanket, you can read it here.

And last is a particular favorite of mine, crocheted afghans that look like quilts. The patience and fortitude required to make these is HUGE, as they consist of many many many small pieces that all have to be sewn together in the correct pattern. The following are done by Micki, aka thing4string:
Double Wedding Ring
double wedding ring afghan

Prairie Star
prairie star afghan

Tumbling Blocks
green tumbling blocks afghan

Hope you enjoyed this lovely eye candy, and have a fabulous crafty day!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Flea Market Mystery

On Saturday I went to a craft sale/flea market to look for anything interesting I could pick up cheap--I love yard sales and flea markets just like I love finding bargains at Goodwill, like my $10 afghan! Anyway, one of the tables had some crafting supplies, and for the excellent price of $2 I acquired this collection:


Now some of this I'm familiar with, the crochet cotton at the upper right, and to the left of that is some 26 gauge wire I can use for jewelry. But then there are these things:


The stuff on the far left, called "Tinsel Tex Braid" seems alot like what holds some of my little decorative Christmas bows together. The "Tinsel Tex Wrap" label was around one of the spools of gold stuff when I bought them. So I asked the all-knowing Google to find me info on "Tinsel Tex Wrap". Google decided I actually meant "Tinsel TEXT Wrap" and offered me an assortment of websites on the subject of making custom fishing rods and fishing lures. Google doesn't know me very well, does it? When I insisted I did mean "Tinsel TEX Wrap", the only thing that looked remotely craft-related was about floral arranging. So this is my mystery--do you know what this stuff is commonly used for? And am I crazy for thinking maybe I can crochet with it? I really want to try making crocheted wire jewelry, and this stuff seems pretty sturdy yet flexible. I'm willing to give it a try, but I'm just curious if anyone knows what this stuff actually is used for. And yes, I do sometimes buy things without knowing exactly what they are if I think I can find a use for them lol. I believe it's a condition called "Hey-I-might-be-able-to-use-that-sometime"-itis, and I know it must be genetic because my father is exactly the same!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We have a winner! Giveaway #2

Thank you to everyone who's been reading my blog! I've more than doubled my followers in the last 2 weeks and I am so grateful to all of you for coming by. Miss G did the honors this time of randomly selecting a name out of the lovely crocheted hat. The lucky winner of the cotton yarn and "101 Double Ended Hook Stitches" is......


Congratulations to Clara! Here's her comment on the giveaway post:

Clara said...
Oh yes, please enter me in your giveaway. I am one of your followers! I loved that movie too.

Clara please send me your snail mail address and the goodies will be coming your way. BTW, Clara's blog is Clara's Crochet Room, please go by and visit her. It's one of the first crochet blogs I started following and she's just great.

And speaking of giveaways, I was a lucky winner this week as well. I won a copy of the new book "I Can't Believe I'm Crocheting Socks!" I have to admit I have not crocheted a single sock in my life thus far, but now that I'll have this book, I'm going to have to give it a try. The giveaway was on Two Hands Healing and Creative Arts, a blog written by Andee who is not only a fabulous crocheter but also a published designer! Please drop by and visit her blog as well, she's such a sweet person. I've "met" so many great folks through blogging and Ravelry!

We had an absolutely gorgeous spring weekend around here, and I'm rather sad to go back to work tomorrow. Hope you had a lovely weekend in your corner of the world. I have one more giveaway in store for Crochet Month, so stay tuned!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Right Tool for the Right Job!

(That's a quote from a movie, bonus points if you can name the speaker! Hint, it's said with a Scottish accent.)

Hello! I promised we'd get back to yarn today. I want to show off my fabulous new tool. Almost every true "project" requires the acquisition of at least one new tool. Even Man of the House agrees with me on this, although his definition of what constitutes a "tool" probably differs from mine. A couple of weeks ago I showed you this wool afghan I got for $10 at Goodwill and am frogging to reuse the yarn:



This was the first batch of yarn I had frogged, all ready to be wound into balls on my handy ball winder, and I decided to try winding the yarn without using a swift.

(Swift: 1. n. An adjustable device on which a hank of yarn is placed in order to wind off skeins or balls. 2. Slang: smart, clever)

A typical yarn swift:


The choice to do it without a swift was less than swift, let me tell you! I ended up with a tangled mess of green yarn. NOT happy. Now here's the thing about yarns swifts--they are expensive! Like $60 or $70 expensive. Really hard for me to justify, especially since I don't need it that often. And spending that kind of money would kind of negate my frugal find of $10 for the afghan. But I recalled having seen on a blog that someone had built herself a swift out of ordinary household items, thusly:

tilta swift P5180052

There's a whole blog post here about how to make one yourself. Pretty clever and resourceful! I tried to duplicate this, but somehow it just didn't work well for me. I ended up with yet another mess. But I am now happy to report that I am the proud owner of a lovely, useful, and reasonably priced yarn swift--behold!


I found this at Scott's Mountain Crafts, and I couldn't be happier! I've used it to help me wind several balls of yarn and it works very well. It takes about 5 seconds to set it up for use, and it's nice and compact for storage:


Best of all, it was under $30 including shipping. Perfect for me! If you've been considering getting a swift without breaking the bank, I think you'd really like this.

Do you have any favorite tools for your yarn projects? I'm always looking for things I didn't know I needed!

Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WIP Wednesday--March 16

Happy Wednesday! The weekend is getting closer, hooray. I know Wednesday is my usual day to show you some work-in-progress I've got going, but today I want to show off a very special Finished Object instead.

Taa Daaaa!!!!


Yes, Miss G got her braces off yesterday!! We are all very excited. It's been over 2 years of trips to the orthodontist, food restrictions, pain and nuisance, but what a beautiful smile now. She keeps telling me her teeth feel strange, I'm sure they do! She gets her retainers tomorrow but only has to wear them full time for a couple of weeks, then only between dinner and breakfast. No worries about accidentally throwing them away with the lunch trash at school.

Thanks for letting me crow about this today. Back to yarn stuff tomorrow, I promise!

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Giveaway!

Congratulations again to Carol, who won my first giveaway. I hope she makes lots of marvelous things using her new book! And now for my second little contest in honor of Crochet Month, I have another great book for you:


Double-ended hook crochet, also called Crochenit or Cro-hooking, is worked similarly to Tunisian crochet. The primary difference is that in Tunisian you never turn your work, whereas in Double-ended hook crochet you turn the work after some rows. This book has great instructions for how to do the technique, and beautiful color photos along with the stitch patterns. If you've not done Crochenit before, what better time than Crochet Month to learn something new?

(If you would are my winner and would really prefer a knitting book, I still have Top Notch Knits available for you to choose.)

Along with the book I am offering up some lovely yarn this time:


Isn't it pretty? The colors really put me in the mood for SPRING! The top yarn is Natura 100% Super Cotton worsted weight in lovely Orchid, a total of 7.5 oz, otherwise known as 210 g for those of you metric folks. Oh, and I have absolutely no idea what "Super Cotton" means and what distinguishes it from ordinary, mild-mannered cotton. Maybe it has a cape:

Sorry, I digress--I just love that movie! Anyway, back to the yarn. The other yarn is Patons Cotton DK in "Mad Magenta", 5.25 oz (150 g). It makes no claims of super powers, but you could make something super-pretty with it!

So--the giveaway! Same routine as before, just leave a comment on this post to be entered, and if you are a follower of the blog please mention that to get a second entry. That's it, easy as falling off a log! But don't do that, the water is realllly cold this time of year. Oh, I'll do the drawing at 5 pm next Sunday, March 20th. Good luck and happy crocheting!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Giveaway #1 Winner!

Today's the day for my first giveaway. The Teenager offered up a lovely crocheted (not by me) hat for the drawing:


A bit blurry, but there are the names in there:


And the winner, drawn randomly by the teenager is:


Congratulations Carol! And I'm sorry for the quality of the photo, I know you are not blurry in real life!

Carol's comment on my giveaway post:

"Love the crochet motif book, haven't seen it before. My first visit, just popped over from the Lucy Group on Ravelry. I shall be following your lovely blog.
Happy crochet month.
Carol xx"

Happy Crochet Month to you too Carol! Send an email with your address to jbkcrochet at gmail dot com and I'll get the book right out to you.

Well that was very fun, and I'm so happy for all the new people who have come by my little blog in the past week. I'll be posting another giveaway tomorrow, so make sure you visit again!

And today I leave you with another photo of very cool crochet. I want to go out and buy a car with an outside spare just so I can do this!

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

For the Healing of AIDS

Today's post is a more serious one that my usual. March 6-12, 2011 has been designated as the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. Here is the mission statement from the website:

"The National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS is the coming together of all people of faith to unite with purpose, compassion and hope. Through the power of God’s love we will educate every American about HIV prevention facts; encourage and support HIV testing; advocate for the availability of compassionate care and treatment for all those living with the disease in every community in America; and love unconditionally all persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS."

As I've mentioned here before, the charity that I support most through my crafting is Knit-a-Square in South Africa. This wonderful organization gives blankets, hats, sweaters, and hope to orphaned children, most of whom have lost their parents to AIDS. The need is staggering--it is estimated that there are 14.8 millions orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, including 1.9 million in South Africa where Knit-a-Square operates. It's so simple to help--just knit or crochet 8" blanket squares and send them to Knit-a-Square. The squares are sorted and bundled, then sewn into blankets to be distributed to orphanages. At times they also request hats, sweaters, and even "cuddles", little sleep sacks to keep babies warm and cozy.

Please consider using your talents to help these children who have so little and need so much! You can find all the information you need on the Knit-a-Square website, and I'm happy to answer any questions as well.

I thank you, and so do these children!



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

W.I.P. Wednesday--March 9th

Hello and greetings to all of my readers! I'm so happy that several new folks have found my blog, and I'm looking forward to picking a winner of the giveaway on Sunday! You can enter anytime up till 5 pm eastern time on Sunday. That's 5 pm daylight saving time by the way--those of you in the US, don't forget to "spring forward" this weekend. I hate losing that hour of sleep but I love having it stay light later in the evening.

So it's Work-in-Progress Wednesday here, and this week I can show you the start of my new prayer shawl:


I think this is the first one I've made that is worked lengthwise--starting off with "chain 190" was a little intimidating! And with such long rows it's taking a while for the pattern to show itself, but I hope to make more progress on it now that I'm getting familiar with the pattern. It's a free pattern too, you can get it here.

And here's a close-up of one of my favorite crochet helpful hints:


When I stop working on something, I put a locking stitch marker in the live loop, and slip on an alphabet bead with the letter of the hook size I'm using. This way I don't misplace the hook, my work won't unravel, and I know what the hook size is! It's SO helpful to me since I can't rely on my memory for squat anymore, and I may not be using the hook size in the pattern--this way I always know which hook to pick up.

Oh, I also have an FO (finished object) to show you--my shamrock garland, adorning my desk at work!


It came out pretty cute I think!

I'll wrap up this WIP Wednesday post with the VERY BEST work-in-progress that I have seen this week:


The very first blooms of the year in my garden--Mother Nature is definitely working on spring, and I am soooo thankful!

Have a wonderful day!