Monday, June 30, 2014

Oops! Crochet Mistakes: Knowing When To Save It Or Scrap It

We've all been there in that terrible moment... the moment in which you realize that your project just isn't working. Perhaps the colorful yarn you chose is completely clashing with the stitch pattern. Maybe you didn't check your gauge and the top you're working on is obviously way too small. It could be that you made a mistake back on Row 12 but didn't notice it until Row 27. Whatever the particular tragedy, one thing's for sure: Something's gotta give. This project isn't going to turn out as expected.

What is a hooker or brocheter to do? After you've shed a tear or two (which is totally reasonable!) and set your project aside for a few days, it's time to evaluate its potential. I frog and/or alter things all of the time as a designer. It's true! I can't allow any mistakes to sneak into a pattern sample because that would be unprofessional and confusing for my customers. I also wouldn't want to continue on with a design that doesn't look quite right. I want my designs to look awesome! One of the marks of a skilled crafts-person is the ability to be honest about your piece despite the time you've spent on it. Painters paint over their work when it's not fitting their vision. Jewelers melt down metals when the wax cast didn't turn out right. Sometimes what's best for the project in the long term isn't very pleasant in the short term. Here are some of my Save It or Scrap It suggestions.

Save It if:

- The error is minor. If there are only one or two stitches out of place it's usually not worth pulling it all out. You will probably be the only one who notices.

- It can be re-purposed. Can the skirt that's too small for you become a present for your little sister? Could a washcloth in an unexpectedly strange colorway be used as a dust rag? Can your comically stiff hat be used as a bowl? It may be worth it to you to finish your project and use it in a different way than you originally planned.

- You don't mind making another. If you have the time and materials/money to make the project again the right way, you may choose to finish the current project and use it as a learning experience. This is an especially good option when there aren't any mistakes but the yarn and project aren't a good match for each other. 

- The yarn can't be frogged easily. If your botched item is made with a very fluffy mohair, an eyelash yarn, or another highly textured yarn it may be quite difficult to pull it out. Very slowly attempt to pull out a single row. If you're having a lot of trouble and it's clear that the yarn will be ruined if you continue, don't frog it. It's better to fudge the project to the best of your ability and not waste your materials than it is to ruin the yarn and throw it away. You may then wish to start the project over with new yarn.

- It is an almost-complete, very large item. If you're 3/4 of the way done with a king-sized blanket before you notice that you've dropped a stitch, think very carefully about how best to use your time. If you've got the time and want it to be perfect it's totally reasonable to frog it and start over. However, if this blanket is a gift that's due in a week you might be better off finishing it and masking your mistake with a cute border rather than spending hours frogging and winding the yarn before you can start over, ultimately making your project late. Use your best judgement.

Scrap It if...

- You just started. If you're less than 1/3 of the way done with your project when you notice things aren't right, just frog it. It's worth it to do it the right way.

- It's a small project that can't be re-purposed. Even if you have totally finished that hat for your brother before realizing that it's way too big, you should still frog it and do it over. It's worth a few hours of your time to re-do a smaller project and have the item be used than to leave it and have it sit on a shelf in his closet.

- It's an example of your work. Will you be selling this item at a craft show? Is it being entered into a competition at the county fair? It this a sample for a pattern you plan to list on Craftsy? No mistakes allowed. I take a pretty hardline approach to this. When giving a gift to a friend or keeping an item for yourself it may be okay if there are a few mistakes in the finished object. However, if you are representing yourself and your work to the outside world it's not okay to compromise on quality.

- The yarn is expensive but easy to frog. If this is a yarn that you spent a lot of time fawning over before being able to work with it, you'll want to frog your project if it's not going well. You'll be disappointed if you end up with a mediocre project in a gorgeous yarn because you didn't want to go through the hassle of frogging. If you can frog that $27 indie-dyed sock yarn without hurting it, you should do it.

Do you have any "oops!" stories? Did you decide to Save It or Scrap It? How did your project turn out?

Even though frogging hurts in the short term, you'll be really happy when you've re-worked your project and it turns out beautiful. If you're sad about the time you spent on the item before finding the mistake, remember that this is a lesson learned and find peace in these words by the amazing Doris Chan: "No time spent crocheting is ever wasted."

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Focus: Julie Lapalme

Saturday waits. Sunday always comes too late. Friday never hesitates! That's right, it's Friday, and I'm in love. In love with what you ask? With crochet of course. Did you think I meant my husband? (Yeah, I love him, too :p) I am in a rather chipper mood at the moment. The designs of Julie Lapalme and her brand Little Squirrel Designs just have that effect on me. She's today's Friday Focus designer and she has some adorable stuff to show us. Julie's designs are full of life with a touch of sweetness. I'm really excited to share them with you today. Have a look!

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
Originally, I think my mom taught me to crochet when I was about 8. I had ZERO interest in it and thought it was extremely boring. My sister would crochet all these cute butterflies and I wanted to as well, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I later re-taught myself when I was 19. So, I have been crocheting for 11 years now.

Why do you crochet?
When I re-taught myself to crochet, I was sick and was looking for a way to pass time. I discovered that crocheting was actually relaxing and helped me feel less stressed and anxious. Also, in the end I got something really cool and handmade out of it. Then it sort of became an obsession. Who am I kidding. It’s not sort of, it is an obsession!

Crochet Favorites
My favourite hook/hooks are these steel ones that I taught myself to crochet with. I can’t remember the brand, but they are very basic, cheap hooks. But, I LOVE them. I have tried other hooks and always come back to my steel ones. I actually start to panic if one gets misplaced. I need my steel hooks!

My favourite yarn is anything Vanna’s Choice. Since I design and create things mostly for children, I like to use acrylics. They wash easily and you don’t have to worry about all your time and effort crocheting being ruined by a spill. Acrylics can be scratchy and hard, but I find that Vanna’s Choice is squishy and soft. I have never had anyone complain about the feel of it.

Honestly, I don’t really have a favourite crochet book. I do have many books about crochet and techniques, but there isn’t one I am constantly going back to.

What are you working on right now?
Right now, I am working on making a whole bunch of butterfly wings and turtle backpacks for a craft show I am attending in the fall. I haven’t been able to design anything for a while due to the volume of items I need to create for the craft show. It’s a little frustrating at times crocheting the same thing over and over, but I love when a child wears one of my items and it makes them smile. The possibility of having many children wearing my items and smiling pushes me through yet another pair of wings. But, I really would like to get creative!  Hopefully by November I will be back to designing. 

A few finished objects...
Little Heart Scrapghan: This is my most popular design. The hearts are an easy way to use up any leftover scraps you have hanging around. 

Little Sheep Lovey: I really love this lovey. I get a lot of requests to make these up for new babies. I love the feel of the Lionbrand Thick N’ Quick. This pattern works up really fast.

Little Owl Baby Blanket: This is my second most popular pattern. It is a lot of single crochet, but if you want to challenge yourself with cables, give it a try.

Such cute designs! I have seen several people on r/crochet make that Scrapghan and folks just love it. My favorite of Julie's patterns is her Big Bag with Fawn Applique. That little fawn is just so sweet! You can check out more of what Little Squirrel Designs has to offer on her website, Ravelry, and Facebook. Thank you for taking the time to visit us today, Julie. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Trip to Bainbridge Island

This past Saturday Alex and I took a lovely daytrip to Bainbridge Island. We both love being on the water, so traveling by ferry was super fun for us!

I love how the city looks from on a boat. It's such a different perspective.

The ferry ride is thirty minutes one way, so it's definitely a big part of the fun when you travel to one of the islands. I had been to Vashon Island before but this was Alex's first time to one of the Washington islands. It was such a beautiful day!

Bainbridge is a very nice island with a beach town atmosphere. There were many other tourists there with us, but not too many. It was easy to get a tasty lunch, visit the shops, and even grab some ice cream.

I spotted some pretty crochet necklaces in one of the shops we visited.

There were several large frogs hanging out around town. They're a fun Bainbridge feature.

My favorite part of the trip aside from the ferry ride was *drumroll* the yarn shop! Churchmouse Yarns and Teas is located on the island.

The shop has a great atmosphere. It's very classy yet also inviting, kind of like Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa cooking show. The lighting is excellent and the displays are very nicely arranged.

Most of the samples were knit, which didn't surprise me. I did spot a few crochet items. Here are some granny square pillows hanging out in a cute project corner.

I got a few treasures. I'll be sharing them with you when I complete the projects that they are set aside for. All in all it was a wonderful day.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Crochet Waterlily

I finally sent out my package for the world record yarnbomb attempt. Aside from my Morning Glory Garland I also included this waterlily from a pattern by Esther Chandler. I hope that it likes its UK home.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Remix Friday: Chasing Chevrons Skirts

Hello there friends! It's Friday. That means it's time to celebrate another creative crocheter whose pattern changes made for a unique project. Today's post is short and sweet, just like the skirts made by Brittney Ragon. Her color choices and simple finishing touches turned an already beautiful skirt pattern into something truly delightful. These skirts show how something as simple as an applique combined with color choice can make a project personal and give it a whole new look.

The Crocheter
Favorite Color: Purple (me too, Brittney!)
Favorite Yarns: Bernat Super Saver, Vanna's Choice, Red Heart Super Saver
What Do I Do: I'm a stay at home mom.
Kids: 2 girls aged 4 and 2

The Original Pattern
Chasing Chevrons Skirt by Jennifer Pionk

The Story
I made two skirts, one for my 4 yr old and another for my 2 yr old.

The Remix
I added a cloud applique with a smiley face.

Crochet is... Exciting, Colorful, Fun

So cute! Is it weird that I want to make one for...myself? :p You can find Brittney on Ravelry, Facebook, and Etsy. Thanks for sharing with us today, Brittney!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Star Rug

When I found myself with some discontinued yarn I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. It's chunky and a bit stiff. After mulling through Ravelry I began this project, a pattern by Sami Jo Fitzgerald, but still couldn't decide what it was. A baby blanket? A throw? A cat mat? It was only when I put it on the floor to take a picture of it that I knew what it was...a rug! A cute star rug.

I used Lion Brand Chunky USA and an 8mm hook. This rug is now up for sale in my Etsy shop. I really recommend this project if you're looking for something without counting. It's also pretty portable and would be great for scraps as well.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Haikus for the Well-Intentioned Crocheter

a work in progress
languishing, still for so long
unfinished object

if only I had
my very own alpaca
to feed my habit

the local yarn store
a soft, colorful vortex
I cannot escape

I’m finally done
crocheting your Christmas gift
so what if it’s June?

is there an award
for the person who collects
the most pattern books?

did I drop a stitch?
no, that can’t be possible
it just ran away

a cat plays with yarn
it isn’t a comedy
it’s a tragedy

I promise I’ll stop
I’ll finally come to bed
right after this row...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Remix Friday: Seaside Theme Blanket to Annabel's Design

Hey, all! It's Remix Friday, the time when we celebrate creative crocheters who go above and beyond the patterns. I've already had such a great time sharing these special projects with you. Some of the stories are just so sweet that they need no introduction, like today's story of Mary, Annabel, and a wonderful crochet blanket. Here's how the Seaside Theme Blanket came to be.

The Crocheter
My name is Mary Walker and I have always liked to craft.  I used to knit when my children were young and then went onto cross stitch.  About 4 years ago I went back to crocheting and joined Ravelry and have been crocheting ever since.   My mum taught me to crochet when I was a young girl.

The Original Pattern
Noah's Ark Blanket by Michele Wilcox 

The Story
I have a long suffering husband of 35 years, 4 children [3 girls, 1 boy], and 5 grandchildren [2 girls 3 boys].   The blanket was made for Annabel who is my oldest grandchild, she is 9 and she designed the blanket after seeing all of the Noah's Ark blankets that I have made for all new family babies. She is a big fan of all things made by her Mummy or Nana.  Her Mum, my eldest daughter Libby also crochets and is on Ravelry.   I have put a photo of Annabel's design/drawing on my Ravelry page, also a photo of Annabel with her blanket.

The Remix
The changes I made are really what Annabel wanted.   To include herself, her brother William and her cousins Eva, Sonny, Oscar and Owen.  I enlarged the fish and turtle patterns, as the blanket was on a larger scale.  Annabel wanted a seahorse, starfish, beach umbrella, sun and clouds, so that is what she got.   She really loves her blanket and she made me a beautiful butterfly wind-chime in art class for me as a thank you. 

Crochet is... I LIVE CROCHET!

[Here is] my Ravelry Project Page where people can see my work.

Do check out her page! She has tons of awesome detail pictures of the blanket. It just tickles me to no end to feature this blanket today. What a beautiful family project. Wishing happiness to you and yours, Mary! Great job.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Vintage Crochet Illustrations

The other day my friend Toni brought a bunch of her favorite crochet books to the needle arts group I meet with on Sunday afternoons. I had a great time looking through her books, but one of them stood out above the others. It was a vintage crochet book called The Complete Book of Crochet by Elizabeth Mathieson, published in 1946. The book itself was a 1947 edition.

The thing I found so remarkable about this book was its absolutely delightful vintage illustrations. I thought I'd share a few of them here today for your viewing pleasure. Please note that all of the images are the property of the author and the publisher. If you pin them please be sure to note in the description that they are from Elizabeth Mathieson's book. Enjoy!

What a fun bit of crochet tradition and history!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Anatomy of a Blog Post

A lot has changed around here recently! I wanted to take this opportunity to give you a tour of my blog and tell you about its new look. I also want to acquaint you with features that you may not know about. I plan on adding a few more things, like social media links, but for the most part my blog should look like this from now on. Ignore all of the little toolbar symbols. I see those since I am the admin :)

This is my new logo! It was created by Dale Cody with input from me. I really love it! I changed the colors of the borders and links to go with the new logo. I also used PicMonkey to create a new star background.

Here's a regular blog post. You'll notice that I recently moved from white-on-black to black-on-white. I did this to improve readability after listening to readers' comments. When it comes to links, un-clicked links are now dark purple and clicked links are light purple.

If you click the 'About Me' tab under the banner it will take you to a page with a picture of me, a short bio, and links to my Ravelry, Craftsy, and Etsy. It also shows my contact email:

Under the 'Media and Press' tab you'll find a list of places that my blog and patterns have been featured. This list isn't complete since it can be rather hard to track how far things have traveled, but I do my best to keep it up.

Now let's look at the sidebar on the right. You can sign up for email notifications with the 'Illuminate Your Inbox' tool. You can subscribe via RSS feed using the subscriber buttons below that. If your feed isn't represented you can always copy a link to my blog and add it to your reader's database.

Here's a newer feature: ads. The ads will rotate and look different all the time. I added a small ad because I spend hours a week running this blog. Since crochet design is my career, I deserve to get paid for the time I spend and the information I provide. This decision was heavily influenced by a wonderful interview between Marly Bird and Tamara Kelly of Moogly.

Further down the sidebar you can find my Craftsy widget. You can hover over the pictures and scroll down to see more patterns. Click on any pattern for more information. 
Next you have a list of popular posts that readers enjoy. This list will also change over time. In the sidebar un-clicked links are white and clicked links are purple.
I am listed as an associate professional with CGOA. I have a CGOA banner on my blog because I adore CGOA and the camaraderie it encourages between crocheters of all ability levels. Membership includes a subscription to Crochet! Magazine. 

The blog archive contains all of the blog posts I've ever written. 

Finally, you see the 'Sparks' section. Each of these sparks is a tag to posts on that topic. If you're looking for something moderately specific like a color or a shape, this is the place to look.

So, them's the haps! If you have any questions about the new changes please let me know in the comments. How do you like the new look?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Remix Friday: Mexican Waves Scarf

TGIF! Gotta love Fridays. Fridays just feel so exciting and festive. There's so much potential and so much fun to be had. Are you going to have some fun with crochet this weekend? I know I am! Adrienne, the creator of today's Remix Friday project, sure knows how to have fun. She worked up a new spin on a great pattern that really brings out its flavor. 

The Crocheter
"My name is Adrienne and I'm a Maker. By day I guide faculty in teaching & learning with technology and brainstorm ways to innovate in the classroom. By night, I make things: knitting, crocheting, jewelry, Arduino, refinishing old furniture, Modge-Podging old surfaces, modular origami, and baking new recipes."

The Original Pattern
Nancy's Waves Scarf by Cori Dodds 

The Story
"I found the yarn first. It reminded me of these wooden Mexican beads I found at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show. It's a sock weight and I had no idea what to do with it, but knew I wanted a scarf. I've made numerous versions of this, I prefer it thicker width (the yarn doesn't block at all and pulls inward after just a few minutes wearing it.)  I've given all mine away as gifts, time to make another! I hoarded the yarn --- bought up some 50 skeins when it was on sale at JoAnn!  I also bought up a bunch of the beads (Blue Moon). Eventually I might make a few to sell locally."

The Remix
"The original pattern has the waves going horizontal. I really liked the idea of vertical waves, elongating the look. I also wanted to add silver beads. The other alteration was the fringe, my very own design! Took me AGES to figure out the fringe I wanted...I don't remember how I came up with this...I may have seen something and tried to copy it. The varied length fringe bits make it really fun and really make the scarf. It's the fringe people compliment me on!

Crochet is... "Perfect project cycle. Seriously - during the day I can have projects last months and months (if not years). A crochet project is the perfect cycle and it's rewarding to finish."
So pretty! I love the extra sparkle added by the silver beads and the vibrant color of the yarn. Thanks for sharing your lovely scarf with us, Adrienne!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Crochet Morning Glory Garland

Remember when I told you I had more info on fun collaborative crochet projects? Well, a group of yarnies in the UK is working on the coolest project ever... a world-record breaking yarn bomb!

 The Craft Club is working hard to gather over 4,000 crochet items for a massive yarn bomb in Essex County. They are accepting submissions from all over the place, so you can get in on it too! The contact email for details on where to send your crochet items is

The massive art piece will first see the light of day at Metal's Green Village Festival, a craft fair, on July 12th. Make sure to get your stuff to them before then if you want it to be seen by the thousands of folks who attend. Keep in mind that it may take 10 to 14 days for your package to reach them depending on where you are in the world, setting a closer deadline of the last week of June. Then on August 25th the yarn bomb will make a special appearance at a local children's hospice to delight families and care workers.

I am so charmed by this project! The theme of the project is a magical garden. Take a look at the event poster to the left for ideas about what to make. I am going to be working up a few fun patterns from my Ravelry queue and hope to send my package out by the end of the week. However, that just isn't enough for me. I mean, a magical garden??? How freaking awesome is that?! The gears got to turning today and soon enough I had written a brand new pattern in honor of the event. It's my Morning Glory Garland! I'm sharing it with you here on the blog this time in case you want to work it up for the cause or just for fun. The pattern follows after these pictures.

I used about 1/5 to 1/4 of a skein each of Vanna's Choice Solids in green, white, and purple. Keep in mind you will need more yarn if your project is longer than mine, which is relatively short. I used a 5mm crochet hook to make this project. However, you can use whatever yarn you may have on hand and a hook that is .5 to 1 mm smaller than the yarn recommends. Gauge is not important for this project.

Tip: Do not weave in any of the green ends as you go. We'll talk about them in the finishing section of the pattern.

With green, work any number of foundation single crochet stitches until your vine is the desired length. As an alternative to fsc, simply work up a chain to the desired length, turn, then work 1 sc into the back loop of each ch across starting in the second ch from the hook. If you'd feel more comfortable with an actual number, make your vine a multiple of 8 sts.

Ch 1, turn. Sl st into each st down the vine until you get to a good spot for a leaf. How far down you go is completely up to you (I worked down about 8 sts).

Ch 16. Starting in the fifth ch from the hook, work 1 sc into each back loop until you reach the original vine again. You have just made one leaf stem. Starting in the next un-worked st, continue working sl sts down the vine until you reach a good spot for a flower.

To make a flower stem, ch 8. Starting in the fifth ch from the hook, work 1 sc into each back loop until you reach the original vine, just as you did with the leaf stem.

Continue in this manner until you reach the end of your vine. I ended up with three leaf stems and two flower stems. You can add as many leaves and flowers as you want and put them as close together or as far apart as you like. If you're working on a multiple of 8 and want your leaves and flowers to be regularly spaced, simply work a stem after every eighth sl st. Your stems might curl a bit like mine did. Fasten off.

You will work 1 leaf into the circle at the end of each long leaf stem. You formed these circles when you skipped 4 sts while working into the back loops of the chain, and you can see the circle in the flower stem picture above.

Working from right to left with the right (correct) side facing, attach green to the circle with a sl st. Ch 4. Work 5 tr into the circle, then 2 dc. Ch 2. Work 2 more dc into the circle, then 5 more tr. Ch 4 and sl st into the circle. Fasten off. Tug on the leaf a bit to shape it. Repeat these instructions for every long leaf stem.

Flower Caps
You will now be working into the circles at the ends of the flower stems, just as you worked into the leaf stem circles before.

Attach green to the circle with a sl st. Ch 1. Work [1 sc, ch 4] four times. Work 1 more sc. Sl st into the first sc to join. Fasten off leaving an 8 inch tail for sewing. Repeat these steps for every flower stem. Set vine aside.

Morning Glory Flower
The flower is worked with right side facing the whole way, no turning. The first part of the flower is worked in spiral rounds. 

With white, start with magic circle. Alternatively, ch 2 and work Round 1 into the second ch from the hook.
Round 1: Work 5 sc into the ring. (5)
Round 2: Work 1 sc into each st. (5)
Round 3: *Work 1 sc into next st, then 2 sc into the following st*, rep from * one more time. Work 1 more sc. (7)
Round 4: Work 1 sc into each st. (7)
Round 5: *Work 2 sc into next st, then 1 sc into the following st*, rep from * two times. Work 1 more sc. (10)
Round 6: Work 2 sc into each st. (20)
Work 1 sl st to join the round. We will no longer be working in a spiral. We will, however, still continue working with right side facing. Each ch 3 counts as a st.
Round 7: *Ch 3, work 1 dc in next st, ch 3, sl st into next st, work 1 sc in following*, rep from * four times. (25, plus an extra sl st)
Work 1 sl st in next st. Fasten off white.
Attach purple with a sl st in any sc.
Round 8: Ch 3. Work 2 dc in same st as ch 3. Skip ch 3, sl st into the top of the following dc. To complete the round, work 3 dc into each sc and 1 sl st into each dc. Sl st in first dc (not the ch 3, even though it counts as a st) to join. (20)
Round 9: Ch 3. Work 2 dc into the same st as the ch 3. Work 3 dc into each remaining st around. Sl st into first dc (not the ch 3) to join. (57)
Fasten off and weave in all ends of the flower. Make as many flowers as you have flower stems/caps.

Flip each flower inside out so that the right (side) is on the inside of the flower and the wrong side is on the outside of the flower. Push your pointer finger into the center of each flower and scrunch the petal with your other hand to encourage a slight ripple. Place the white butt of a flower in the center of the first flower cap. Sew the cap onto the flower with the leftover green tail.

Finally, time to get to those green ends! A real morning glory plant has thin wisps of vines all over it. To recreate that look I used a yarn needle to artfully wind my green ends around and through the stitches of my vine after making sure the attached end was secure. I didn't use a particular method, I just messed around! If you'd prefer a cleaner look, you can weave in all of your ends as usual.

I'd love to see your Morning Glory Garlands! I'll be listing this pattern on Ravelry if you'd like to add a project page. Also, if you're going to send some stuff to The Craft Club for their yarn bomb, tell us about it in the comments!