Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Little Leaves Scarf

It sure feels great to bust some stash, especially with a project that works up lickety-split. This Little Leaves Scarf pattern by Marta Chrzanowska was a perfect break from my long-term projects. The leaves are so cute! The vine reminds me of those Nintendo vine stalks that grow into the sky. I used up two skeins of Patons Peruvian Wool but you could really use any yarn for this project. Working it up in thread and starching it could make a cool bookmark. In DK weight it could be a sweet, slender scarflette. In super bulky with the leaf pattern repeated it could be a nice throw blanket.

I made this scarf long for wrapping, about five and a half feet. I also lightly steam blocked it for crisp edges. Now it's all prepped and pretty in my Etsy shop.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Front Loop, Back Loop, and Both Loops Crochet

Most often when we're crocheting we insert the hook under both loops of each stitch. However, it is sometimes useful to crochet into the back loop only or the front loop only to achieve a particular effect. Today I'll show you how to crochet into the front or back loops as well as what the fabric looks like when you do.

All of my swatches are worked in single crochet but you can work any type of stitch into the front or back loops. My swatches are also worked in rows. When you're working in rounds your front and back loop stitches will create a different effect, but that's a topic for another day.

First let's look at normal single crochet. We work under both loops like this:

A few short rows of regular single crochet looks like this:

Regular single crochet is a crochet must-learn. It is used in many different situations. Plain single crochet fabric is a little bit dense and moderately flexible.

Now let's take a look at front loop single crochet, which is abbreviated as FLsc (double crochet would be FLdc, etc). You only work through the loop that is closest to you.

A swatch made entirely in FLsc looks like this:

Notice the pronounced ridges where the missed back loops are. The stitches also line up completely unlike in regular single crochet where they are arranged more like roof tiles. Front loop only crochet is good for color work for this reason. The fabric is also slightly less dense than regular single crochet as each row is a bit taller.

Finally, let's look at some BLsc aka back loop single crochet. This time the hook is inserted only under the loop that is farther away from you.

The resulting fabric looks like this:

Back loop single crochet creates a ribbed fabric that is stretchy. It's great for sock or glove cuffs. It is denser than regular single crochet.

Here's a look at all three side by side; FLsc, sc, and BLsc.

Each of these swatches is made of the same number of stitches and the same number of rows. It's true! You can see how much taller the rows are in FLsc and how much shorter the rows are in BLsc. If you haven't already, I encourage you to experiment with front loop and back loop stitches in single crochet and beyond. Let me know how it goes! One of my very favorite crochet textures is alternating front loop and back loop double crochet where you alternate every other stitch.

Have questions about crocheting in the front and back loops? Don't be afraid to leave a comment. I'm always here to help!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Early Post: Netflix Crochet Sightings

A post on a Thursday?? Yes, I know it's off-schedule. Thing is, Alex and I are traveling across the country for a wedding this weekend from today to Monday night and I'm not keen on bringing my lovely laptop all over tarnation. So let's just pretend that Friday came early this week! Wouldn't that be nice... I'll be posting on Monday as usual, but at 8 in the evening rather than 8 in the morning :)

Welp, I've been saving up some sightings and it's time to share. It's amazing how many crochet items are shown in popular movies and television shows!

Here's a "dainty crochet doily" that was shown on Adventure Time. 

This baby was nestled into a chunky crochet blanket on Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos.

Julianne Moore carried a crochet tote bag in several scenes of Don Jon.

Here's a granny hexagon blanket I found on Law and Order: SVU.

I spotted this crochet hat while watching The Natural.

Orange is the New Black has a million crocheted items and references in it, especially in its new season. There are multiple instances of crochet in every single episode. I recently found this one...

and this one...

and this one...

and this one, a triple whammy with the blanket, pillow, and eyeglass strap! There were a gillion more, but I got sick of pausing the show to take screenies.

Note: All screen captures were taken by me and I would like to reference the Fair Use Act regarding criticism and comment.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Inline and Non-Inline Crochet Hooks

I recently wrote a review for Knitter's Pride Waves Crochet Hooks where I mentioned the terms inline and non-inline. It occurs to me that not everyone knows the difference and how it applies to them, and so today I thought I'd elaborate a little. There are two main types of crochet hook. There are many different types of handles, shapes, grips, lengths, sizes, etc, but when it comes to the actual hook part of the crochet hook there are two main types: Inline and Non-Inline. Let's take a look at a crochet hook diagram with labelled parts.

So what makes a hook inline or not? A hook is inline when the hook tip is flush with the shaft. Here's another picture for reference.

Here are two 9mm hooks. On the left is an inline hook. You can see that the hook and shaft line up. On the right is a non-inline hook. The hook part protrudes out a little farther than the shaft. Susan Bates and Boye are the two major starter hook brands. Susan Bates hooks are generally inline and Boye hooks are generally non-inline.

So, what's the big deal? Does hook type really make a difference? In short, sometimes. You may hear folks claim that one type is "better" than the other, but that simply isn't true. It's all down to personal preference. Inline users may say that non-inline hooks drop their yarn strands and are harder to wiggle into stitches. However, non-inline users may say that inline hooks split the yarn more often and grab onto stitches when they don't want them to.

How can you find out which hook is best for you? To borrow from Bill Nye, consider the following! How you hold your hook influences how comfortable each hook type will be for you. Knife holders generally prefer inline while pencil holders often prefer non-inline. The type of yarn you're using may be easier to work with if you switch hooks. For example, a non-inline hook will catch less on fluffy yarns and an inline hook may be better for precision when working with thread. Don't be afraid to try a new hook brand or type.

The type of hook you use should be dictated by what's most comfortable for you. Do you know someone who said crochet was too hard and they gave up on it? Maybe all they needed was to try a different hook. When teaching a beginner I think it's ideal to buy both a Susan Bates 6mm hook and a Boye 6mm hook so that they can try both and find what they like. What type do you prefer? Do you use both? Let us know in the comments.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Trip to San Juan Island and Island Wools

The San Juan Islands are located in northern Washington right next to the Canadian border. Last week I went on a fun getaway trip to San Juan Island with my Sunday fiber group. Such wonderful ladies! We had a blast, and of course we worked in a visit to a local yarn store on the island. Today I'm going to share some pictures from the trip with you, all taken by the lovely Toni McClory.

Being up on the deck of the ferry on the way to the island was so cold but so exhilarating!

The scenery was stunning. The Cascade Mountains kept us company all along our drive to the ferry and also during our ferry rides. Doesn't Toni take great pictures? 

After a nice lunch our first big stop was Pelindaba Lavender Farm. The bees buzzed happily as we browsed all of their lavender products. They had lavender mustard, chocolate, candles, wands... even ice cream!

Ah, delight of delights, the yarn store! Island Wools is tucked away in a quiet corner waiting for yarnies to pop in for a visit.

The store had a great selection of yarns including many of my favorites. If you're ever on San Juan Island, be sure to take a look!

Julie Packard runs the shop and has a gorgeous line of yarns, Whimsical Colors, that are dyed in store. Awesome work, Julie!

I absolutely could not resist taking home a few skeins for a special project. Stick around and you'll find out what it is! ;)

The whole day was so very wonderful. I'm so lucky to be surrounded by such caring, friendly, and talented crafters who I can geek out over fiber with.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Remix Friday: Moorfields Dinner Eyeball

Have you been creative this week? Have you been busy? I've been both! I've been zipping all over the place this week even though I have a broken toe. I broke it by stubbing it really hard while I wasn't watching where I was going. Maybe I need to get my glasses checked or pay a visit to the eye hospital that Tracy works at! Tracy's re-imagining of a simple ball pattern is really eye-catching. Let's take a look! *ba dum ch*

The Crocheter
My real name is Tracy Lamb, hence my Rav username MintSauce, but everyone calls me Minty.  I live with my husband Steve 15 miles from London.  I have 2 cats, Nikon and Wilson and one adopted cat from next door, Ziggy.

My favourite colour is orange, and I have a few favourite yarns depending on what I'm making.  If it's an amigurumi then it's acrylic, but for hats and fingerless gloves, it has to be Alpaca!!!

I've been knitting for 47 years and crocheting for probably 20, although I put crochet down for many years and only started doing it again properly about 2 years ago.  I love learning new stitches, I have just learned crochet loop stitch and foundation chain.  One of my favourites is crocodile stitch.

The Original Pattern
Tiny Crochet Ball by Julie Kundhi

The Story
I work at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London and they were holding a dinner/dance, and I just thought it would be fun to wear an eyeball round my neck!!  The original ball pattern looked perfect, so I used that and added my own adjustments.

The Remix
I changed the original pattern to make it look like an eyeball, using blue, black and white plus pink for the main ball.  I also added some red blood vessels to make the eyeball more authentic!!!

Crochet is... Addictive, relaxing, fun!!!

How cool! I really love the added blood vessels. Thank you for sharing your creation with us today, Tracy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: Knitter's Pride Waves Crochet Hook Set

Today I'll be reviewing Knitter's Pride Waves Crochet Hook Set. Disclaimer: I received this complimentary hook set in exchange for a review. I am not being paid to write this review and everything shared here is my real opinion. Good, now that that's out of the way, let's get to the fun stuff!

The first thing I noticed about this set is how fun the case is. Mine is green, it also comes in pink. The case is nice and slender, perfect for tucking inside a bag when on the go. It also has that nice new case smell.

The next thing I noticed was that the hooks were *gulp* non-inline, meaning that the hook part and the rest of the metal handle don't quite line up, though in this case it does line up with the soft part of the handle. Up until now I thought I hated all non-inline hooks and could only use inline. Every other non-inline hook I've tried has been difficult for me to crochet with. I was worried that I wouldn't like these cute hooks (the colors even have names!) and that I was going to be sad. Never the less, I pulled out the sunny yellow 5mm hook and got to work on a simple hat with some Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend...

...and I LOVED working with the hook! I can't believe it! The hook is easy to crochet with. It moves in and out of the stitches very smoothly but doesn't let go of the yarn strand the way other non-inline hooks have. Yay! I barely even had to think about what I was doing.

I think these hooks must be superior because the little hook tip is just pointed enough to hold the yarn on the hook nicely but not pointy enough to cause splitting. My hat was done in no time! Now all it needs is some kind of embellishment. Perhaps a butterfly?

The "soft feel" feature of the hooks is great for folks with small hands like me. I'm a knife-holder and I crochet almost every day, so I sometimes get a bit of fatigue in my hand and wrist. These hooks fit so neatly in my hand that I don't need to hold them with a lot of pressure, saving me from discomfort. If you've got small hands and/or a bit of crochet pain, I'd definitely recommend these hooks. My hand wasn't tired at all after working up the whole hat in one go. Also, the grip has a pleasant smoothness to it, like a petal.

Could this set get any better? It turns out it could. It includes a 4.5mm hook! I feel like 4.5mm hooks are the unicorns of the crochet world. So many sets exclude them and yet they can be so useful. I have to say, I went into this review process intending to be generous and give the set away to a reader after I was through. But guess what? I love it so much and I'm so excited about the 4.5mm hook that I'm keeping the set! Muahaha! :p Sorry friends, this time you'll just have to get your own. Be on the look out for more reviews (and giveaways!) in the future.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Colorways to Live For

You may have visited my first Pinterest board dedicated to crochet, but have you seen my newer one?

My Colorways to Live For board is slowly filling up with beautiful colors and textures. You know how people often use the phrase "to die for"? Oh, this chocolate is to die for. That handsome gent has dark brown eyes that I could just die for. Well, these colorways are so pretty that you'll want to LIVE for them so you can work them all up! Plus, the colors make me feel alive.

See you over on Pinterest!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Remix Friday: Cockapoo Cozy

What day is it? Friday! What does that mean? It's time for Remix Friday! Join me as I celebrate another creative pattern adaptation. This one is particularly cute. Is your phone naked? Does it need a cute costume? Kate is here with us to share her awesome idea for clothing naked phones.

The Crocheter
My real name is Kate Wood, and my Ravelry username is tinypantswood (it's a college nickname). When I'm not crocheting, I'm creative director for a web startup, working mainly with small businesses to improve their websites and web presence. I do a bit of a bunch of things -- graphic design, writing, etc. Mostly though, I'm crocheting, and working on many DIY projects -- my husband and I just bought a house, and we're in full-on nesting mode.

The Original Pattern
Easy Sleeve by Neesha

The Story
So when my parents first got iPhones (and dropped their landline, making this the only way to get in touch with them), my dad was constantly losing his phone, just leaving it random places. Eventually it got lost lost, and since I had just upgraded to a new iPhone, I sent him my old one. To help him keep track of it though, I decided to make a case for it as well. I wanted to make something sort of funny/cheeky, and also that would make the phone harder to lose (so kind of big, easy to find). I decided to make a phone sleeve to look like my mom's Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel/Poodle mix).

As soon as my dad got it, my mom wanted me to make her one. I wish I'd written down the changes I made either time I made it -- I've had people ask me for the "pattern," but I just winged it the first time, and the second time did the best I could with the photos I'd taken of the first one.

The Remix 
So basically, I was looking to make an iPhone cover that would be hard to lose. Working with eyelash yarn is a pain in the you-know-what, but I thought using a novelty yarn would help cushion the phone and make it more findable (my mom always says one of the main reasons she likes hers is because she can always find it by feel in whatever giant bag she's toting around). It also recreated Ruggles' (the dog's) fur pretty well.

I looked at a whole lot of different patterns for basic smartphone sleeves before I found one that worked for me (which is the pattern the Ravelry project links to) -- I also got a lot of guidance from another one too though, so it should get at least partial credit. I worked the pattern using the eyelash yarn held together with just a basic, easy-care acrylic (Vanna's Choice). Since both the yarns together were a bit bulky, I used an I hook -- even with that big a hook, the stitches still came out fairly tight.

To make it look like a dog, and hold the phone in place, I added a flap that continued off the back of the phone sleeve. Basically, after finishing the sleeve pattern (which was worked in the round), I switched to working in rows. I worked even for a few rows, then worked decreases at the ends of each row to taper it for the nose/muzzle. I also left a buttonhole where the "nose" would go -- I sewed a round black button to the sleeve which holds the head/flap closed, making it look like a dog face when the sleeve is buttoned closed. I also sewed little "eye" buttons to the flap -- this worked better than safety eyes, since the back side of the flap needed to be flat.

I don't remember if I made the ears as separate pieces and then sewed them on, or if I picked up stitches on the sides of the flap and went from there. They were just worked back and forth in rows, increasing a little at first, and then decreasing on the last rows to make a dog ear shape.

Crochet is... satisfying creative outlet (though the other 3 words I thought of were "stressful stress reliever"!)

I've gone from improvisation to pattern creation. I have some free patterns as well as some for sale on Ravelry, and I also have patterns and finished objects for sale on Etsy (which admittedly needs a major overhaul, but again, new house). My business name is Small and Great Crochet (since I mostly crochet creatures great and small).

Isn't that last pic so sweet? I realized after I contacted Kate about her adorable Cockapoo Cozy that I totally have one of her patterns in my Ravelry queue! How fun :) In addition to the links above you can also find her on Twitter. Thank you so much for sharing your creative cozy with us today, Kate!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Special Interview: Kathryn Vercillo

Remember when I mentioned Kathryn Vercillo and her cool crochet survey? Well, I've got a treat for you today! Kathryn is here to join us to talk about her crochet experiences. She is author of the book Crochet Saved My Life. Her blog, Crochet Concupiscence, is amazing and covers so much material that I once called it "the vortex of crochet". Kathryn is a lovely person with a lot of passion and talent. I'm very pleased to share her story with you.

Hey, Kathryn! Tell us a bit about you.
I’m a mid-thirties San Francisco based freelance writer originally from Tucson, Arizona. I’ve done a variety of different writing and crafting over the years but have really found my niche in the intersection between creativity and psychology. I love exploring the ways that creative pursuits (particularly writing and crochet) can help us achieve healthy, fulfilling experiences in life. This is the work that I’m doing now and that I’m driven to continue doing. Last year I started a graduate school program to get a degree in Integral Counseling Psychology, which is a combination of Eastern and Western psychological whole-body approaches to wellness. I hope to keep adding what I learn to my perspective on using crafting to heal.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
I originally learned to crochet from my mother when I was young. She’s a really creative woman who introduced my siblings and I to a variety of different arts and crafts throughout our childhoods. I didn’t stick with crochet at the time but when I went through the worst period of my depression, which I wrote about in Crochet Saved My Life, I decided to learn again. She helped me a little bit, although it had been so long since she’d done it that she had to re-learn as well. I got myself a kid’s crochet book out of the library in 2009 and taught myself from there. Mom and I have both been crocheting again ever since.

Crochet Favorites
I’m a Boye girl when it comes to hooks. Lately I’m loving bigger sizes (L, N) but the G/H is always a good go-to for any project. In yarn I like softness so baby alpaca, cashmere blends and silk blends top my list. My favorite basic crochet stitch is the hdc, my favorite advanced technique is broomstick lace and my favorite pattern is a repeating fpdc, bpdc square.

How did you get into writing and blogging?
I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. It’s always been a passion of mine. I did a series of other jobs throughout my late teens and early twenties (bookstore work, daycare centers, group homes, portrait photography, social work) but I just kept coming back to writing. I decided to make it my full-time career about ten years ago.

In order to make a living at it, I had to take on just about every writing job that came my way. I’ve written everything from gadget reviews to horoscopes. And that’s how I fell into blogging. I didn’t really know much about it when I was hired as a technology news blogger but I learned the ropes quickly and soon realized that I really love the medium. I write other things as well (articles, columns, books) but blogging is great because it’s interactive, real-time, and conversational. I’ve done blogging for other people as well as for myself. I started Crochet Concupiscence in January 2011 as a creative outlet where I could share my growing love of crochet and connect with the crochet community. Most of my blogging time now goes to that blog because I love it so much.

How do you find all of the awesome content that you post on your blog?
I really love staying on top of everything that’s going on in the crochet world and the blog kind of gives me a good excuse to do that. I subscribe to about 300 crochet blogs through my Feedly reader and I try to read most of those posts each week, sharing the best ones in my Link Love roundups on the blog on Saturday. I also subscribe to a number of crochet newsletters and magazines and try to get my hands on the new crochet books when they come out.  

In what ways did crochet help you with depression?
I dealt with chronic depression for about fifteen years, although I didn’t know that’s what it was until it hit a crisis point in my late twenties. It got so bad that I was barely getting out of bed, barely making ends meet and feeling really awful about myself. There weren’t many things that I could do but I kept reaching for inspiration to pull myself out of the darkness. I remembered that I liked crochet as a child and that’s when I decided to learn it again. It was magical in the way that it began to help me.

Crochet was something that I could do alone, in my house, no matter how bad I felt. It was soothing, because it would break up the ruminating mind that made my depression worse and it would calm down the anxiety that accompanied that depression. It was healing because it helped me to feel creative and productive again. I was having trouble writing because my mind was just so dark at the time but I could create again with my hook and yarn. I’m no longer in that dark place thanks to crochet as well as therapy, medications, life changes and a strong support system. Crochet continues to be a daily party of my wellness plan to keep me from slipping back into that place.

What inspired you to write Crochet Saved My Life?
I started sharing some of experiences with the benefits of crochet on Crochet Concupiscence and kept getting amazing responses from other people who had found crochet to be healing. I could see that this was something that a lot of people had experienced but I did my research and not too many people were actively talking about it. There were snippets of information here and there but no single source for better understanding how crochet heals. I saw that as an important thing that was missing from this world and decided to share my story.

As I was writing it, I continued blogging about the topic and asked other people if they wanted to share their crochet health stories. The response was overwhelming. I knew that I had to share the stories of some of these other women as well. Although I initially began the project to tell my story, I was inspired to keep going with it because these women had trusted me with their stories. In the end, about two dozen women were interviewed about their experiences and their stories were shared in Crochet Saved My Life along with the available research. 

A short excerpt...
“I couldn’t do almost anything and yet the one thing I could do was to move a crochet hook back and forth through yarn, repeatedly pulling one loop through the next to create fabric out of air so thin I could barely breathe in it. Since it was one of the only things that I could do, it became imperative to my mental health that I go ahead and do it. When I first started to crochet, that feeling of temporary relief from the muted chaos of depression was the only reason I was crocheting.”

What projects are you working on right now?
I just launched a crochet health survey to collect information about how crochet helps heal people. I want to gather more detailed crochet-specific information than what exists out there already, so this is the project I’m most excited about right now. I’ll be doing an in-depth analysis on the results and putting together a report and probably some articles.

I’m also putting the final touches on Hook to Heal, my next book. This is a creativity workbook of exercises for crocheters who want inspiration for using crochet to heal, delve deeper artistically, etc. It’s got a 2014 release date although I’m not sure yet of the exact month it’ll be out.

In crochet, I’ve always got some large blankets in the works and that’s true now, of course. I’m currently exploring more with crochet art and playing around with some variations on hyperbolic crochet for that. In technique, I am exploring how to match different variegated yarns (playing with patterning). And I’m starting to make some washcloths to pair with soap/ lotion for Christmas gifts this year.

What are your goals for the future?
I really feel that I’ve found my niche in using writing to help others explore healing through creativity. I’m not sure where that will go in the years to come but I’m open to the journey. In the short term, I’ll be continuing with my Masters Degree program and will likely move into a PhD program after that. I’ll keep on book writing, blogging and crocheting! 

Wow! What a resilient and inspiring woman. Thank you for being so open and for helping others. We'll all be on the lookout for great things from you in the future.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Secret Garden Baby Blanket

Pattern releases are an exercise in delayed gratification. After I come up with an idea it can take between one and three months for the pattern to be written, error checked, and tested. Only then can I release it with confidence. I've been waiting for this pattern to be ready, and today it is! I am pleased to show you The Secret Garden Baby Blanket, based on the beloved children's book by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The pattern is now available on Ravelry and Craftsy, and the sample blanket is listed on Etsy. As for me, I'm finishing another pattern today to start the process all over again!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Remix Friday: Klimt Babette Blanket

Happy Friday, friends! It's time for Remix Friday, a celebration of innovative pattern alterations made by everyday crocheters. I've been holding on to this project for a while, so I'm really excited to share it with you! Today's featured object is a beautiful intersection of crochet and art. Liz had such a glorious idea and made such excellent color choices. Here's the story of her stunning Klimt Babette Blanket.

The Crocheter
My real name is Liz - on Ravelry I'm Harrysmum and I'm Sew What? on Flickr.  I'm a bit of a textile craft tart - I sew, knit and crochet but my latest passion is quilting.  I work full time in a high school and have two children who do all the usual after-school activities so crochet is an ideal way to use my waiting time usefully!

The Original Pattern
Babette Blanket by Kathy Merrick

The Story
I fell in love with Kathy Merrick's Babette Blanket, I loved it's random appearance, which was a clever combination of different sized squares.  I'd only just learned to crochet so had to teach myself how to make Grannie Squares before I went on to learn how to make the Babette squares.

The Remix
When I first saw the Babette blanket I was reminded of Klimt's "The Kiss" painting.  I took the children to see an exhibition of his work at the Tate in Liverpool and was inspired by his use of colour and texture, especially the rich golden tones. It was easy to see how The Kiss could be captured in the Babette pattern, so I set to with a handful of gold wool and the all important black! I didn't have the technical skill to create the floral roundels in the painting but realised that splashes of colour would capture the essence just as well!

I designed each section with coloured pencils and graph paper, so not quite organic but I couldn't have planned it all from the start!

Crochet is... Versatile, colourful, fun

No blog, but feel free to follow my crafty makes on Flickr and Instagram.  

How absolutely inspiring! This blanket is the true essence of Remix Friday. Liz selected a good pattern, saw the potential for a custom creation, and then blended the pattern with her own dream to create a truly unique masterpiece. Wow! I just love it. Thank you so much for sharing this splendid finished object with us today, Liz!