Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Focus: Marly Bird

Well friends, we have reached the end of the month once again. It's finally time for the Friday Focus! This month's featured designer is the very accomplished Marly Bird. Marly is both a crochet and knit designer. She is a published author and runs the popular Yarn Thing podcast. Are you ready to learn about this talented, vivacious lady? I am too! Take it away, Marly.

Who taught you to crochet? How long have you been doing it?
My Grandmother taught me to crochet in 1999 and [I]
learned to knit in 2004 from a dear friend.  The moment [I] picked up the hook and needles, [I] knew that [I] had found [my] home, and HAD to be a part of this industry.  In 2006, [I] said “Adios!” to the insurance world, and did just that.

Why do you crochet?
I used to crochet only for the joy of it but I crochet now for my job and for the joy of it! Best of both worlds. I am truly blessed.

Crochet Favorites
I have many favorites: My favorite hook is a Boye hook but more specifically I love my Addi Colour hooks. My favorite crochet designer is Robyn Chachula. My favorite crochet book...I don't have just one...but I do love my Japanese Stitch Dictionaries. My favorite yarn is Bijou Basin Ranch, Lhasa Wilderness (75% yak, 25% bamboo). And I am not just saying that because I am their creative director. Of all the yarns I use/have used it is still my favorite.

What are you working on right now?
I am working on designs inspired by the Outlander book series and I am working on a crochet book for Interweave to be published Fall 2015.

A few finished objects...
Wildberry Wrap: WHY SINGLE CROCHET ENTRELAC? It is no secret that I am a fan of knitted entrelac, I actually wrote a book about it (I Can’t Believe I’m Entrelac Knitting, Leisure Arts 2014). But I had never seen crochet entrelac made without a Tunisian crochet hook. I knew there had to be a way to achieve the same entrelac look with a normal crochet hook and any other stitch.
It became my mission to figure out how to do this. In my research, I came across one pattern that used single crochet entrelac to make a scarf. Well, I was certain I could improve on the pattern and create my own design. Hence, the beautiful wrap pattern you have here.
In this pattern you will find wonderfully written instructions that include placement instructions for stitch markers that act as visual cues of where to put your hook AND FULL CHARTS included at the end of the pattern depicting the different tiers that create entrelac. There will be no excuse at all for you not to understand this amazing technique once you are finished with this pattern!

Garden Party Sweater: Soft cotton and classic shaping form a posh design. The simple double crochet stitch pattern produces an artistic lace for a polished feel, while the oversized scallops add a touch of whimsy for a charming finish.

Goldenrod: I wanted to design a piece that had easy construction and a stitch pattern that was interesting lace. Cardigans are a staple in my closet and living in CO it can go from 80 degrees to 50 degrees in a matter of hours in the fall so it is always nice to have something that can be thrown on over anything. The Goldenrod fits the bill.
It is made in one piece beginning at the back, increasing for the sleeves is as easy as adding ch sts at the beginning and end of a row where indicated in pattern. The pattern st could be a little tricky if the crocheter doesn’t understand that on the first repeat row of the pattern st it is necessary to ch X number of sts then work into those chain sts before you are back to the original piece. The edging incorporates post sts to give texture around some solidity to such an open lace pattern around the body. Plus, the top chain draws the eye linear along the center of the body which is very flattering :-)
When I design, I try to make all my sweaters available in several sizes and flattering for all figures. This one in particular comes in several larger sizes and would fit just about anybody. Also, it is very easy to to customize and make longer if you want. It is as easy as doing one or two more repeats before adding chs for the sleeves (making sure to still end on the appropriate row number) then making sure that the same number of rows are added to the front of the sweater as well. 

Amazing! Marly is so wonderfully involved in so many facets of the yarn, crochet, and knit industries. What a well-rounded professional! You can catch more of her on her podcast, YouTube channel, and website. Thanks for sharing your work with us today, Marly!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What is WPI and Why is it So Awesome?

Water Polo Iguanas? Wonderful Pie Initiative? Wishing Penny Inscription? What exactly does WPI mean? You may have seen that acronym on a yarn label recently, along with a number. Here's the deal: WPI stands for Wraps Per Inch. Wraps per inch? What does that mean? Well my friends, as it turns out it means a lot when it comes to comparing yarns and achieving proper gauge in your crochet projects. Are you ready for a little lesson on WPI? Allow me to blow your mind and change the way you look at yarn.

WPI is an essential piece of information when it comes to yarn substitution. Say you want to crochet a hat that calls for 200 yards of a particular worsted weight yarn, Vanna's Choice. You don't have any Vanna's in your stash right now but you do have 200 yards of Cascade 220, a different worsted weight yarn. You can just use the Cascade instead, right? I mean, they're both worsted weight... Unfortunately, the answer is "not necessarily". Just like two differently-branded hooks of the same size won't necessarily make the same sized stitches, two yarns of the same weight aren't necessarily the same. Take a look at the yarns in question. They are both worsted weight and yet they are not the same thickness.

What?! I know. It's terrible and frustrating. However, WPI is here to save the day. It's the great equalizer. Here's how to find the WPI of any yarn. Take a ruler and gently wrap the yarn around and around it. Push the yarn strands together into an inch and count how many strands there are. That's all there is to it! Here's Berroco Comfort Worsted. It has a WPI of 9.

The higher the WPI the thinner the yarn because more yarn strands can fit into an inch. In order to get an accurate measurement be sure you aren't yanking on your yarn and wrapping it too tightly as seen below.

So, according to WPI measurements, if I wanted to use Berroco Comfort in place of Cascade 220 I wouldn't encounter a problem. However, if I wanted to use Berroco Comfort or Cascade 220 in place of Vanna's Choice I might have some issues since the former is actually thinner than the latter, even though they are labeled with the same weight. This issue becomes even more pronounced the larger the yarn. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to check the WPI of a yarn that is labeled bulky or super bulky if you plan on subbing in something else. Some bulky yarns are closer to worsted in thickness!

Are you a little nervous about obtaining an accurate WPI measurement for your yarn by yourself with your ruler? You're in luck! Ravelry has got you covered and almost always lists the WPI of yarns in its yarn database.

As a final note, it's just fine to sub in a yarn that doesn't have the same WPI as the original yarn. Just be aware that you may now have to change your hook size in order to obtain the same gauge and finished item size as the designer's sample.

So there you have it! WPI measurements can save you a lot of trouble when using one yarn in place of another, especially when the finished size of the item really matters. Have questions about WPI? Ask away in the comments!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Flamies

Have you heard of The Flamies? The Flamies are a series of crochet awards for blogs, patterns, videos, magazines, designs and more. Neat, huh? The Flamies are currently sponsored by Red Heart.

Kathryn over on Crochet Concupiscence has a lot of good things to say about The Flamies. The nominations are now open, so go ahead and write in your crochet favorites.

I think it's wonderful that there are awards dedicated to crochet professionals. The crochet community is growing larger every day with the increase in the popularity of fiber arts and other hobbies. Do your part to encourage the crochet professionals that you admire and take the time to nominate them for a Flamie. Plus, who doesn't love filling out online quizzes? I sure do :p

Friday, November 21, 2014

How to Weave In Yarn Ends

If you want your crochet piece to have a long, full life it is important to weave in your yarn ends securely. Improperly woven in ends can come loose or even start to unravel. No one wants to see their hard work wasted and their beautiful item destroyed! Don't be shy or nervous if you're unsure of how to properly weave in yarn ends. Here's everything you need to know. You will need a yarn needle and a pair of scissors in addition to your crocheted piece.

When finishing your crochet piece, make sure not to cut the tail too short. A short tail will make weaving in very difficult.

Never simply cut your yarn tail off after finishing a piece. No matter how much or how tightly you knot it there's a good chance that it will eventually come undone and start to unravel.

Leave a tail that is about eight to twelve inches long so it will be easy to weave in. Thread your yarn needle. Yarn needles can be found in most common craft and yarn stores. 

Insert your needle inside a row of stitches on the back side, or wrong side, of the item. The more detailed your stitch pattern is the more creative you'll have to be with where to put your needle. You can also run the needle through the inside of stitches vertically if necessary.

As a general rule, carry the tail through at least three to six inches of stitches.

Pull the tail through evenly, not so tightly that you distort your stitches.

Now it's time to go back the other direction through the same set of stitches. However, make sure to skip over a loop, indicated by the blue arrow. Skipping over a loop will ensure that the first pass of the yarn remains in place.

Here's another view of me weaving my end back through the same set of stitches.

Here you can see that my tail has been woven in and is now sticking out from the same location as it was when I began.

At this point it's okay to trim the remaining end off with a scissors.

There you have it! My yarn tail has been woven in. The tail may poke out a tiny bit after washing or a lot of use, but it can be carefully trimmed again in that case.

Weaving in ends is a simple but important skill for creating successful and polished crochet projects, yet it's not addressed as often in books and other learn-to-crochet texts as you would think. Do you have any questions about weaving in ends? Feel free to ask them in the comments!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Yarn Scrap Project: Swatch Bow

What do you like to do with your yarn scraps? There are many awesome large scrap projects out there. Bags and blankets are some popular options. However, sometimes you just want to use up your tiny balls of yarn without all of the fuss of changing to a new ball over and over again. What to do? Today I want to show you my very favorite scrap project. They are girly, they are fun, and they are instantly gratifying: Swatch Bows! Here's the scoop.

Here's my leftover bit of Mountain Colors from the review I did. So pretty! Can't let any of it go to waste.

Start by working up a rectangle. You can make your rectangle in any stitch you desire. In fact, this project is excellent for trying out new stitch patterns. I like half double crochet (pulling through all three loops is just so satisfying), so that's what I worked up for my example bow. When you crochet your rectangle keep in mind that the wider it is in comparison to the height the skinnier your bow will be. Experiment to find out how full you like your bows. After you weave in the ends on your swatch, cut a length of yarn for wrapping, about one yard long.

Pinch the swatch in the center and tug on the sides to shape your bow as you do. 

Position your loose yarn strand under your bow with about five to six inches on the short side.

Now for the center wrap. Wrap the long side around the center over and over until you have about 6 inches left. Move back and forth from left to right and back again as you wrap to make sure that the center is even.

Weave in both yarn ends tightly on the back side of the bow.

Voila! Now you have a sweet little bow. You can use your bows for so many things; magnets, hair clips, pins, embellishments on other projects... endless possibilities! If you're selling items at a craft show these bows are great because they are quick and pretty. Experiment with textures and materials to make all flavors of bows. Yay!

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Little Appreciation Goes A Long Way

Crocheters sure are a nice bunch. Something that really brightens my day is getting kind comments and messages about my patterns and blog posts from customers, readers, and followers. I get these kinds of comments when I least expect them (and usually when I'm having the kind of day when I need them!). Here are a few examples:

"Love it!! In all the years I've been crocheting, this is the first pattern I've ever bought for myself."

"I've been searching for ages for the perfect pattern for my Mum's christmas present, this is it! Thank you for sharing this!"

"I can not express in words how beautiful this is - I hope when the baby turns into an adult they keep it and pass it to their children"

"i’m in love with the texture and it’s so hard to find a good pattern for dark yarn. cant wait to get started! thank you so much."

"WOW. YOU are awesome."

Seriously, how sweet are these comments?! They really warm my heart. I recently got a great email from blog subscriber Sandra that I want to share with you this morning. Here's the text of the email.

"I just wanted to Thank You! for your wonderful blog! I get very inspired everytime I receive your email... I love to crochet and just a couple of years ago started to make my own things... I'm sending you some pics so you can see my crazy style, I hope you like monsters and dolls, that's my thing! :)

And again, thank you so much for your blog!!"
Here are the pictures of her work that she included.

So neat! Thanks for sharing, Sandra. Also, a big and sincere thank you to all of those wonderful people who took the time to show me appreciation and support. I promise to pay it forward :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Remix Friday: Princess Crown

I love all things girly. I am certainly of the opinion that people of any gender can (and should!) enjoy whatever styles and fashions that they want. It just so happens that the styles and fashions I personally love best are always girly. Sparkles, purple and pink, lace, ruffles, dresses, jewelry... count me in! Today's Remix Friday project is delightfully pretty. It proves that no project is too small to remix the way you want it... or to girlify! Check out what Kris made.

The Crocheter
Hi my name is Kris Webb. I learned to crochet 8 years ago when my former coworker/friend
(Hey Amanda!) gifted another coworker a beautiful baby blanket. She offered or I begged her to teach me and I was hooked, literally. I also have Amanda to blame/thank for introducing me to Ravelry. As we searched Ravelry for crochet patterns for our new daughters, knit patterns were speaking to us. We vowed to teach ourselves that same year. Who picks a sweater and a dress as first projects? 

In 2010, my life was turned upside down. We welcomed our twin boys into the world and relocated 4 months later when my husband accepted a new job. I left my corporate career and some wonderful friends behind to be a full time mom to my 3 crazy, silly, needy, wonderful children. I remember feeling like I lost a part of me after my boys were born. I had very little time to create and I missed it. I decided that I would make time. I gave myself 10 minutes a night, just a few rows. I was so tired but I could sacrifice 10 extra minutes of precious sleep time to make me feel like me. I eventually learned that I could crochet and knit while I nursed babies. Yeah for productivity! 

Most days I can be found daydreaming about my next crochet, knitting, sewing, craft project in between loads of laundry and trips to the park. I’m that mom that knits/crochets while waiting in the pick-up line at school. My children are my number one inspiration in all of my creative endeavors. My go to yarns. I love Malabrigo and Berroco Comfort for knitting. I mostly use Vanna’s Choice and Berroco Comfort for crochet. You just cannot beat the color selections and affordability of both yarns.

The Original Pattern
Toddler Princess Crown by Leanne Growden

The Story
For some special mother/daughter time I purchased summer tickets to a local theater.  Children are encouraged to dress as characters from the shows. I made this crown for my daughter to wear to the show Pinkalicious.

The Remix
I used crochet thread because it was the only gold yarn that I could find at Wal-Mart. I added extra rows of single crochet to achieve a taller crown.  I opted to make all of the points equal. I used a sewing needle and thread to attach pink beads to the finished crown.  I used watered down Elmer’s glue and saturated the crown. I dried it overnight around a large bottle of vinegar. I did use bobby pins to secure it to her head the day of the show, but the crown did hold its shape.

Crochet is... “Like my Grandma”. In many ways I am so much like my Grandma. She taught me to crochet a chain in the back seat of my parent’s station wagon on family vacations. I could make some very long chain snakes back then. I still keep a crochet turkey pin in my jewelry box that she made me. Bless her heart, she made us all one every year.

You can find me on Ravelry and Pinterest as kprobst4 (I like friends). I have ambitions to have a blog.  I even registered for one last year. Maybe someday I will slow down in between projects and actually post something.  An Etsy shop, nope, but maybe someday. I just cannot seem to move beyond that long list of things I would like to create for my own kids. On very rare occasion (when people beg), do I knit or crochet for profit.

So freaking adorable! Makes me want to make a crown... for myself! Fabulous job, Kris. Have a pinkalicious Friday my wonderful readers!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Alternative Uses for Crochet Hooks

Got some extra hooks lying around? Time to get a little silly! Don't try these at home, kids...

Alternative Uses for Crochet Hooks

Use your hook...

- As a back scratcher

- To pick crud out of your teeth

- For pulling tap dancing mice off of tiny stages when their act isn't going well

- As unconventional Christmas tree ornaments

- In place of a toothpick in a sandwich

- To play the triangle

- In your hair

- As a chopstick

- For picking out earwax

- To scratch your cat's chin

Have any other silly uses to suggest? :)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: 75 Birds, Butterflies & Little Beasts and 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet by Lesley Stanfield

The Good
The patterns in these books are totally gorgeous and adorable. They are easy to follow and the books are organized well. There are so many fun little dodads to choose from as well as suggestions for how to use them in projects. Altogether both books present a lovely arrangement of beautiful and imaginative add-ons for all types of projects. These little tidbits would make great instant gratification projects while you're in the middle of something large and involved.

The Bad
This one's going to be a little obvious... I wish that the knit patterns were crochet patterns so I could make them! However, this is likely a good thing in disguise since I should become bistitchual anyway!

The Verdict
On a scale of yes to no, both of these books are a yes.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Remix Friday: Snowmen

Do you get snow where you live? I grew up in Boise, Idaho which has very distinct seasons. The winters there are fairly snowy and icy. In fact, Bogus Basin ski resort was less than 20 miles away from where I lived! Now that I've been living in Oregon and Washington for the past nine years or so I rarely see any snow. Whether you see snow all of the time in the winter or none at all, today's Remix is sure to charm you. Take a look at these friendly fellows made by Rita.

The Crocheter
I learned to crochet from my Grandma Mae, who I was named for—Rita Mae Schaefer (Ravelry username RitaMae). I did a bit of crochet in grade school, a bit more in high school, then really didn’t pick it up again until about five years ago. Probably because it took me a full year of high school to make an afghan for my father’s Christmas gift! During the hiatus, I tried my hand at a hodge podge of other crafty things including stamping and cross stitch. Starting up again, I would find an easy crochet project, and then make a million of them for gifts. Currently I enjoy crocheting delicate, lacy items—usually shawls/scarfs—with specialty yarns purchased on vacations. I taught my youngest, LeeAnn, to crochet and she taught herself to knit—which she insists I should learn too. But there are still so many crochet projects out there calling my name! I have three grown children and 6 grandkids.

The Original Pattern
Amigurumi Black Cat Door Stopper by Lion Brand Yarn

The Story 
Our church has an annual ladies dessert event, Advent by Candlelight, in which table hosts decorate their tables in holiday colors and themes, including lots of candles. As a table host with LeeAnn, we decorated our table with homemade snowmen to match my Sakura Debbie Mumm Snowman dish set.

The Remix
I single crocheted every spare moment with Peaches & Creme white cotton yarn. I based my guys on the Lion Brand Yarn Amigurumi Black Cat Door Stopper pattern, using my dish pattern as a guide of what each snowman should look like. Unlike the LB pattern, I began at the bottom and would add stitches or sc2tog randomly to get the bumps and dips needed. To make sure each snowman would stand on its own, I put a heavy ceramic coaster (purchased at a thrift store) in the bottom before the opening was too narrow and then stuffed each with fiberfill before closing them up at the top of their head.

LeeAnn helped me with the accessories—so some are knitted by her (sweater, checkered stocking cap, & checkered scarf) and others crocheted by me (patch-work scarf, ear muffs, & black skillet/pan hat) in Caron Simply Soft. I hot glued buttons for faces and made “carrot” noses out of different size/type orange pipe cleaners. We foraged a wash by the house for some sticks, sprayed them with a glossy sealer and I made a broom (using raffia for the bristles) and the arms. The nest and birds were craft store purchases.

Looking back, it was a daunting project…but as each snowman took shape, it was exciting to see the transformation. Our table at the Advent by Candlelight was a wonderful hit. We served ice cream “snowballs” sprinkled with crushed peppermint candies and Christmas cookies to our table guests for dessert.

Along with the dishes, the collection will be nice to pass on to one of the kids or grandkids. Crocheting is timeless, unique, and de-stressing. Something else to pass on to the kids and grandkids!

Such amazing details and personality on those snowmen! These ladies did such an excellent job and their table looks wonderful. Thank you for sharing your work with us today, Rita. TGIF everyone!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Crochet Challenge

Are you stuck in a crochet rut? Do you need a little extra motivation and a new idea to get you going? Sometimes crochet motivation can be a little elusive. Allow me to help you out by presenting you with a list of crochet challenges! Pick one or more challenges from the list below to spice up your hooking. We're in the thick of prime crochet season, folks. Let's make the most of it and hook up some stellar projects! When you're done be sure to tell us all about your successfully completed challenge in the comments.

- Finish a UFO that has been sitting around for way too long

- Crochet something in a color you don't usually wear (Tip: Neons are hot right now!)

- Learn a new stitch or technique that intimidates you (crocodile stitch, broomstick lace, tapestry...)

- Find something really cool on one of your Pinterest boards and hook it up

- Write your very own pattern

- Buy an expensive yarn you've been coveting and make something for yourself

- Close your eyes and reach into your yarn stash, then make something with the first yarn you touch

- Start the project that has been in your Ravelry queue the longest

- Work with a material you've never worked with before (mohair, plarn, thread...)

- Add a crochet edge or applique to a store-bought clothing item

- Make a new version of a project you really enjoyed in the past

- Pick up one of your pattern books or crochet magazines, open to a random page, and start that project

- Surprise someone you love with a small just-because crochet gift

- Teach someone to crochet

- Collaborate on a crochet project with a friend

Do you have some challenge suggestions? Be sure to share those, too!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mermaid Cowl

Autumn is a magical time. I may be biased (my birthday is in autumn), but I can't help but think that the chill in the air comes with a special spark of excitement, color, and wonder. Because of this it's the perfect season for unveiling my new, magical pattern. Introducing the Mermaid Cowl!

A big thank you to Katie for being my model! Isn't the cowl so fun and whimsical? The stitch pattern was completely invented by me. Although the crocodile stitch and the shell stitch are both excellent, I really wanted my Mermaid Cowl to look a bit more delicate and have a texture that was realistically scale-y. Hence the scale stitch was born! It probably already exists out there somewhere in crochet land, but I haven't seen it.

This pattern is available for sale on both Craftsy and Ravelry. I'd love to know what you think!