Crochet

Not Dead, Yet!

Time, it’s run away from me again. That is mostly to do with work being very busy, getting struck down with a “mild” case of pneumonia, and… re-launching my business website. I’m taking Bittersweet online for real this time, and I can’t look back. It’s been a lot of work getting everything set up, and then the photography (oh, the photography). You can read about it here, if you like. Memorial Day is going to be a big day for us, we hope! Fingers crossed.

 

There’s been plenty going on the knitting and crocheting front, no worries there. It can’t be all work, all the time, or I’d collapse into a rather large puddle. Did I mention that I finished a pair of socks back in January? It only took me 9 months. These are my Plain Jane Sock Monkey Socks, named so because they’re a plain sock, done up in what I call the “Sock Monkey” colorway of my beloved Patons Sock. They are sturdy, warm, and perfect in every way. I even got the stripes to kind of match up, at least in a width sense! Woot.

 

Sock Monkey Socks

Sock Monkey Socks

 

I also cast on and finished my second Clapotis. I made my first back when the pattern was fairly new, several years ago, but it was a gift. This one, knit in Noro Kureyon Sock, is all mine. I call it my “Brushfire Clapotis”. It was the perfect take-along knitting project, much like a sock, only not quite as mindless. Still, I rarely had to refer to the directions once I got going, and once I switched to non-fiddly stitch markers, I was golden. Note to self: Do not use removable (crochet) stitch markers with thin yarn projects. They’re annoying.

 

Brushfire Clapotis. Sorry for the horrible image quality!

Brushfire Clapotis. Sorry for the horrible image quality!

 

High on my list to do this weekend, if at all possible, is to finally block my Follow Your Arrow shawl. Remember that? Yeah. Been done for months and it still hasn’t been blocked. I think I might give it away as a gift, before or after Rhinebeck competition I’m not sure. I like the colors, but they’re not screaming my name. Who knows, maybe it’ll grow on me once it’s blocked.

 

Woodrose Fritillary. Isn't it purty?

Woodrose Fritillary. Isn’t it purty?

 

My current project is another crocheted shawl, this one also in Patons Lace (acrylic/mohair).  It’s in the Woodrose colorway, which gets compliments everywhere it goes. The pattern, Fritillary, is free on Ravelry. Joy of joys, it’s charted! What a difference it makes, let me tell you. I’m about halfway done, perhaps a little further, and I’ll most likely give this one away as a gift too. Can’t give it to mom, though, she’s angling for one in the blue version of this yarn. I aim to please.

Better Late?

Despite the fact that it’s already spring, I am in fact still plugging away at my replacement hat. I’m stymied at the pattern I wrote up, however. Something rotten in Denmark, otherwise known as the lace portion of the top of the hat. Considering I was never really in love with that part I do believe I’m going to rip out my faltering attempts to recreate this nonsense and knit it plain. I would like to wear it at least ONCE before it’s too warm.

 

The hat in progress, brim folded down.

The hat in progress, brim folded down.

 

 

Brim folded up. Super warm!

Brim folded up. Super warm!

 

Normally I’d be done with the hat long since, but I’ve been struggling with pain lately. Namely my arms and hands have simply said, “nope, nope, nope”, while giving me the double bird flip-off. I haven’t knit in days, but at least I was really cranking it out up until this flare-up! The Follow Your Arrow shawl is done, but needs to be blocked, and I even made a Totoro(ish) for my boss. The amigurumi fits in the palm of your hand and is a belated Christmas present. She doesn’t mind how wonky he looks. Hey, I tried.

Totori(ish)?

Totori(ish)?

 

Hey, I tried.

Hey, I tried.

Once I have the hat off the needles I’ll be contemplating what else to cast on to accompany my Clapotis in the WIP queue. I’m pretty sure it won’t be anything ambitious, not unless I’m feeling better. Still, an on-the-go sock is always welcome. Winter will always come again and my feet appreciate the fruits of my labor. I might jump off the deep end and cast on for a special project I’ve been planning for quite some time.

Flower Child, by Norah Gaughan is one of those patterns that haunts you. It has that charming mix of clever construction and clean lines that works on many figure types, and that flower detail! So lovely. I purchased the correct yardage in a substitute yarn (Knit Picks Cotlin) in a gorgeous Pomegranate color (wine/red). I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be a ton of fun to knit with due to the 100% plant fiber nature, but as long as it fits well I can tell you right now that I’d wear the hell out something like that.

So… we’ll see. First I have to finish the damned hat. No grumbling here, I swear.

FO: Monkey Blankie

Pattern: My own version of designs I saw on Ravelry
Yarn: Knit Picks Brava Worsted for the pink and purples, Deborah Norville Everyday Worsted, and Vanna’s Choice for the brown and beige (100% acrylic).
Hook: G
Started: November 7, 2013
Finished: November 20, 2013

 

Miss Monkey

Miss Monkey

 

Let’s just get it out of the way, right up front. I suck at embroidering faces on dolls. I’m sure that part of my problem is simply a lack of experience and expertise. That said, I’m sure that it’s mostly because I lack patience. So just ignore Little Miss Monkey’s poorly stitched features and instead just look at the whole. On the whole, I’m pretty pleased with how she came out! The monkey will be a gift for my niece whose birthday is a few days after Thanksgiving. FYI: I would have been done over a week ago if I hadn’t run out of the brown yarn and needed to get more.

 

All three of my favorite acrylics. Super soft and lovely to work with.

All three of my favorite acrylics. Super soft and lovely to work with.

 

I took my inspiration from this elephant blanket doll, but I didn’t care for the monkey version with no arms and the solid blanket body, so I winged it completely on my own. The blanket “body” was easy, it’s just a large granny square. The hardest part was using up the right color of leftover yarn in sections that wouldn’t cause me to run out early. I was just a wee bit short on the brown and had to buy another skein, of which I only used maybe 1/10th.

 

See how the face has eyebrow ridges? Neat.

See how the face has eyebrow ridges? Neat.

 

The head was more of a challenge because I needed to figure out how to make the lighter colored face section just so, with the bumps for the eyes, and then grow the rest of the head from there. I’m particularly pleased with how I got the top of the eye brow ridge to look all ridge-y like that. All in all, it came out really well, and the addition of the arms makes a big difference for me. She looks more like a doll, and less like a disembodied head on a blanket.

 

I almost forgot to give her a nose.

I almost forgot to give her a nose.

 

I would highly recommend any of the many patterns like this on Ravelry for anyone who would like to make a quick to crochet/knit baby gift that’s just a little bit out of the ordinary. It’s quick and easy to make, and best of all a good way to use up leftover yarn. They are pretty unisex too, so you can easily make “boy” versions of just about any of these type of dolls.

FO: Shimmer Cowl, Sort Of

Let’s go back over that cowl I made for my mom’s Christmas gift, shall we? She told me she really, really wanted an infinity loop kind of cowl, and I didn’t have anything else to go off of other than that. Mom and I scoured the JoAnn’s Etc. near my workplace but, though their selection is rather large, it seemed every color she liked was in a wool blend yarn… and she doesn’t “do” wool up against her neck by choice. Finally, we found Saturate by Deborah Norville/Premier Yarns. Like I said, it’s basically acrylic fluff suspended in a nylon mesh tube. Beautiful, and exceedingly soft.

I found a pattern that I liked very much and thought she’d enjoy as well and cast on. The Shimmer Cowl pattern was written for worsted weight and my yarn was bulky, but that’s good since she wanted a cowl you could loop over twice or leave hanging down long. It looked interesting, but not too complicated.

 

yarma_medium2 (2)

Life changing, I tell you.

 

The pattern has you start with a Foundation Single Crochet. Now, I haven’t done one of these before, but let me tell you… IT’S AWESOME. What a great way to start a project that has you cast on a large number of stitches! It’s very obvious in a bulky yarn, but I can see it being very unobtrusive in a lighter weight. So, that was fun. I worked half the larger fringe section because my yarn was so large, and then things got weird.

 

I like my stitch, so it's a win.

I like my stitch, so it’s a win.

 

The body of the cowl seems to be made up of some sort of solid linen stitch, but if you follow the instructions as written you’d end up with a netting like filet crochet. Apparently I’m the only one who had this problem on Ravelry, but that’s ok.  I just sort of winged it from there on out and I love the resulting fabric. It really works with the long color repeats beautifully. I also winged the upper lace border.  I gave the whole thing a good soak and then blocked the heck out of it to get some more width so it would hang longer on the neck.

 

And, voila.

And, voila.

 

Super soft and very classy.

Super soft and very classy.

 

Now all I have to do is wrap it up and see what mom thinks come Thanksgiving, which is our Christmas this year as mom and dad are snow-birding again this year and won’t be home for actual Christmas. Not a bad two-day’s work.

Post Rhinebeck, Past Due

I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I promise. I’ve just… retreated a little bit once we finally got through the rush and push of Rhinebeck and company during the show.  Amy , John, Baby Z and mutual friend Amanda all came up from Viriginia just before the show and stayed with us until Monday morning after it ended. It was wonderful to see them, and to meet the baby for the first time. Amy is such a great mom, and I love how her family of two is even better as a family of three. They were gone too soon, however, and I miss them all.

 

Friends make my heart very, very happy.

Friends make my heart very, very happy.

 

The booth was better than ever this year, and it's all thanks to my friends and family who helped me so much.

The booth was better than ever this year, and it’s all thanks to my friends and family who helped me so much.

 

Rhinebeck was, by the way, fabulous. As in, “oh my god, I can’t believe it went that well” kind of fabulous. It’s overwhelming though, you know? A good problem to have, don’t get me wrong! But I feel like butter spread thin across too much bread. There’s not enough of me to go around and I rebel by planting myself in my recliner and saying “enough!” So, I catch up on Netflix and my WIP list gets attacked with ferocity. The days get colder and trees grow bare. The fireplace gets set up with iron accoutrements and I put my foot down about needing fire to keep me warm. This the wooly time of year.

 

It was... wonderful.

It was… wonderful.

 

Despite the busyness of October, I managed to just squeak out that Cotton the Sheep doll I was crochet for Baby Z. Go me! I basically winged it once I got done with the first portion of the head (the face) because I couldn’t see what I was doing due to the boucle yarn I chose. I’m all right with that, however, and very pleased with how the doll came out. I didn’t get to see Baby Z play with it much during Amy and John’s visit, but they told me she’d face-plant herself onto the doll while playing on the floor.

 

Yay for Cotton the Sheep!

Yay for Cotton the Sheep!

 

I haven’t finished much else aside from a cowl for my mom for Christmas, started and finished in just two days in a brand new yarn from Deborah Norville called Saturate. Mom picked it out with me at JoAnn’s to go with her new coat. The yarn is a deliciously soft acrylic/nylon blend that’s basically yarn fluff encased in a slightly shimmery netting tube. The colors (grey/pink/wine) worked up in long, slow color changing repeats and since it’s bulky it took very little time to finish. It helped that one of the two days was a sick day, however. I just have to weave in the ends.

 

The cowl in progress.

The cowl in progress.

 

The current sock project is getting a lot more attention since I started working on it while I read at lunch. I foresee finishing it up before the end of the month. That’ll give me my last pair of socks for the year, probably. I’ve also started and almost finished a crochet monkey-blankie and a crochet shawl. More on those soon as I feel this has gotten rather longwinded.

Done, With a Side of Also Done

So, you all know that once late summer hits it’s all about the autumn show season and time to DYE-DYE-DYE, right? I mean, it’s not like I haven’t been dyeing here and there all year, but this is when shit* gets serious. It’s also a money thing. Jersey is a very good show for me and so I take that influx of cash and pour it right back into Rhinebeck. Speaking of Jersey, you can read my show wrap up over on the business blog here. The dyeing starts in earnest this weekend and I hope to be done by the end of the month so I’m not rushing like crazy the weekend before Rhinebeck. Wish me luck.

 

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Aleatha Shawl (with mods, crocheted).

 

Our crab apple tree is so helpful.

Our crab apple tree is so helpful.

 

In the meantime, I’ve finished up some of the WIPs I’ve had hanging around for the last few months. First up, we have the Alethea Shawl (with mods). What a PAIN IN MY ASS this shawl was. I pretty much winged it for the most part. I really, REALLY hate non-charted crochet patterns. Like, with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. If I had the software I’d have tried charting it on my own, but that’s neither here nor there.

 

Be honest, it's always all about the border for you too, isn't it?

Be honest, it’s always all about the border for you too, isn’t it?

 

I ended up with probably 1/3 of my skein of Afterglow left over. I’m going to put it in for competition at Rhinebeck, even though I don’t think it’s “show stopper” quality. You never know and it’s just $2 either way. This one is a gift, and I have a sneaking suspicion that SOMEONE opened their pie-hole and told the recipient they’re getting it. Maybe. I’d rather it were a surprise but even if it’s not at least I know the person already loves it.

 

Vogue Ruffled Wrap. Which, when done up in sock yarn, is actually more of a scarf.

Vogue Ruffled Wrap. Which, when done up in sock yarn, is actually more of a scarf.

 

Next up is the Vogue ruffled wrap that I started god knows when. I decided it was long enough sometime last week and that I really didn’t like the squared off, abrupt ending to each side. So, I made a decreased point on the working end and picked up my cast-on stitches on the other. That ended up looking kind of fugly but I’m past caring at this point. I just wanted it to be done!

 

Ruffles were done in short rows, and I learned how to purl backwards for this project.

Ruffles were done in short rows, and I learned how to purl backwards for this project.

 

Lots and LOTS of ruffled short rows.

Lots and LOTS of ruffled short rows.

 

 

Luckily, a bath and block helped even out the worst of it. I loved working with this yarn. It’s Yarn Tree, which is discontinued now, I think. I used 2.25 balls out of the 10 I bought years ago on Ebay. I’m so glad I have another bag of a different color for another project some day.

* I  just realized I almost never curse on the blog. This is odd because those who know me in real life can attest that I curse like a drunken sailor. One of my super-powers is creative blasphemy, in fact. 

Summer of Gifts

I’ve been knocking out the gifts items lately, which actually has been a theme for this year. I’d have to look back at my project notebook on Ravelry to be sure, but I think I’ve made a lot more gifts this year than I normally do, and certainly I’ve not bucked my norm and haven’t waited for autumn and “holiday knitting” to do it. I think it’s mostly to do with my new baby relatives. Actually, I’m sure it’s mostly to do with them.

Some have turned out better than others, but my recent gift projects have all taught me something valuable. For instance, this Ten Stitch Twist baby blanket in Aran weight yarn from JoAnn’s. Definitely a pattern I’d do again, but next time I’d like to do it in a brighter color with higher contrast color changes. You know, like Noro, but baby friendly. I also feel like it needs some kind of border. What do you think? Perhaps an i-cord? It’s a very bulky yarn, and acrylic, so that doesn’t really lend itself to lace. I won’t see the family it’s for any time soon, so I have time to figure it out. For now, I’m calling it done.

 

 

Done, for now.

Done, for now.

 

While I worked on the blanket I also worked up a couple of washcloths that ended up more like pot holders. They were supposed to be for my brother and his wife, who have recently moved to Minnesota, but now I’m not sure. The idea was to send a package with the washcloths and some nice handmade soap. I couldn’t find natural colored cotton yarn locally in anything lighter than worsted weight, and since they’re crocheted, I think they came out rather bulky and ungainly. I’m pleased with how they came out of the wash though. They were a little coarse as-is, but since the yarn (Bernat Handicrafter ) is 100% cotton, I had a feeling it would wash up nicely. They’re soft to the touch now, but I have no idea what to do with them now. Anyone want them? I’d happily mail them out to the first person who thinks they’d give them a good home.

 

Two slightly rustic washcloths(?)/hotpads(?) up for grabs.

Two slightly rustic washcloths(?)/hotpads(?) up for grabs.

 

Take two will be made out of this MUCH softer, finer, and more elegant yarn I got on a recent visit to Trumpet Hill. I nearly pounced on the last two of three balls she had left in Cream. The yarn is Bamboo Pop, by Universal Yarn, and it’s fabulous! The blend is cotton and bamboo, which gives the yarn a silky, buttery feel. It seems to be plied individually which means if you look very closely at the yarn you see how the color takes differently in the cotton and bamboo strands, and there’s a bit of shine. I’ve cast on for a knit washcloth pattern that is more traditional in shape and has a light texture. It’s the second option out of this set, the green one (Chinese Linen stitch).  I already want to make ALL THE THINGS out of this yarn, but unfortunately it only comes in tropical/baby friendly colors, and not the muted and jewel tones I prefer. Still, baby gifts? Oh yes.

 

It's like buttah.

It’s like buttah.

 

And yes, I’m still working on the Aleatha Shawl; also a gift. I’m into the modded “let’s make the leaves grow out of the spine more organically” part of the project, which means I’m in uncharted territory. And have I mentioned it’s not charted? I know, free pattern. I shouldn’t complain. I hope to have this done in time to submit as a dark horse to Rhinebeck. It’s not going to be a show-stopper, but I really don’t have much to submit this year, unfortunately. We shall see.

 

Alethea shawl in the sunset glow.

Aleatha shawl in the sunset glow.

Minty Fresh Forever

My right now is full of the icy, barely green-ish white yarn. It’s quite minty, if you like. It wasn’t on purpose, it just happened to work out that way. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever looked down at your WIPs and discovered you’ve got a whack-ton of varying shades of blue in the queue? Funny how that happens. It makes me wonder if I don’t sometimes sleep walk through yarn selection.

Let me introduce you to the shawl I’m working on right now. Meet, Aleatha. I’m working on the modified version, wherein the spine-to-leaf sections are more gracefully merged. The mods were graciously documented by a crocheter on Ravelry, huzzah! The shawl is a gift, a SUPER SECRET gift, with no particular deadline. That’s good, because the Tour totally knocked it out of my evening craft time rotation for the last month. The yarn is my own Afterglow, in the Betwixt colorway. I was going for Iceling, which is pale mint and white, but this instead. Happy accidents and all.

 

yarma_medium2

There’s a lot of really boring crochet going on before you get to the leaves.

 

My next introduction is a baby blanket born of desperation. We have a family member who’s due to have her baby any minute now and I don’t have anything knit up for her gender-unknown child. Enter my other pale green/white yarn, purchased at JoAnn’s at 50% off. I love the Sensations Rainbow acrylic. It’s very soft, has long and slow color repeats, and is a great value, even at full price. At $5 for a ball bigger than my head? It’s fabulous. I needed a gauge-less project due to the bulky weight of the yarn, and the Ten Stitch Twist Blanket was the perfect fit. It looks complicated, but as long as you know how to do short rows it’s really actually very simple. It would be much more exciting in Noro, but perhaps another day.

 

Short rows in the round.

Short rows in the round.

 

I will say, however, ten-stitch garter-stitch short rows make me VERY happy I taught myself how to purl backwards earlier this year.

FO: True Love Shawl #1

True Love in action, shot #1.

True Love in action, shot #1.

 

Pattern: True Love by Michele DuNaier
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden Sock, colorway S279
Hook: J
Started: 4/30/13
Finished: 5/20/13
Notes: I worked only one row of wheel/fans for the trim because I ran out of yarn in the middle of trying for the two-row version. I used 2.8 skeins of NSGS from my stash.

 

True Love in action, shot #2.

True Love in action, shot #2.

 

As always, Michele’s patterns are a joy to crochet, with True Love being possibly my favorite so far due to its versatility. For instance: I broke my own shawl rule (quiet yarn for busy pattern) with this one, but in a calculated way. Normally I’d never use a so strongly variegated a yarn for a shawl that wasn’t primarily plain, but here I took a gamble on Noro’s long color repeats and it worked. Yes, the stitch pattern recedes into the background, but somehow it still works (at least for me). The point here was to be a stash buster project and in that it definitely succeeded.

 

What a nice figure she has.

What a nice figure she has.

 

For some reason I wasn’t sure I’d like the shawl for myself, being so multi-colored, and so I’d decided that it would be a gift. Of course then I wore it all weekend at Cummington due to the cold and fell in love with it’s comforting weight and how securely it stays on the shoulders. Too bad for me, however; I’ve already assigned a giftee in my head and that’s that. I know she’ll love it. What’s the occasion? Being a friend who stuck by me through thick and thin these last few dark years, even if ‘just’ from afar. Those ended up being fewer than I’d thought, and are all the more precious for it.

The pattern had enough variation in it to be enjoyable, but I’d definitely consider it an intermediate level project. Honestly, an advanced beginner could do it, it’s just two or three basic stitches throughout, but a rank beginner might become overwhelmed by all the charts and the time commitment. Michele’s patterns are all written and charted, so there’s no hassle there for either camp. I’m a chart girl all the way, and I like how clearly hers are presented.

 

See, the colors and pattern still work! Magic, I tell you.

See, the colors and pattern still work! Magic, I tell you.

 

The next time I make this shawl it will be in my own yarn, and it’ll be a two-color kettle dyed version. Because the shawl is broken up into distinct sections with dividers it really lends itself to carefully planned color changes. There are a few really inspired versions on Ravelry that convinced me to give it another go. The difference between the two shawls will be striking and I can’t wait to see it take shape. The next one won’t be for me either, I’ve dyed two new colorways especially for the intended recipient. I think she’s going to flip when she sees it!

But For the Blocking

Huzzah! True Love, she is done. Now all that’s left is a good block, which will most likely have to wait until after I get back from the Massachusetts Sheep & Wool Festival this weekend. I finished it up Monday night and had plenty of yarn left to spare. Not enough for another repeat of edging, mind you, but enough that I can happily call the shawl done and decide who the recipient will be.

Do you ever knit or crochet something just for the fun of it? While most of the time I make things for myself, I often make gifts for friends and family. However, I’ve never made something without knowing who it would go to ahead of time, so this feels strange. It’s going to be glorious once it’s blocked and I know that whoever gets will have to love it. How could they not? Well, at least not as long as I pick someone who likes lots of bright colors. Come to think of it…

 

Boring, but trusty.

Boring, but trusty.

 

I probably won’t start anything new while I’m getting ready for the show. I have a travel sock that’ll fit the mindless knitting bill well should I want to stitch. Most of the time I just spin at these shows anyway, and it’s not like I’ve been pouring on the fiber these days so that’s good. Circe misses me, I’m sure. I’ll swap out the bobbin of roving I’m working on for some of my own fiber and demo something soft and pretty.

If you’ll be at the show please make a point to stop by the booth in Barn 5 to say hello. I’ve said it before: I love meeting readers and customers. I might even hug you, so watch out. Oh, and as always, if you wish me happy birthday you’ll get 10% off your order (not valid with any other offer).

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