Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My Brother, Dan

Readers, something crushingly awful happened on Saturday. Sharing it with you is something that will help me to heal, so be aware that today's post will be very emotional and personal.

My kind, loving brother Dan has passed away. Those of you who are regular readers might recall me posting about Dan's recent situation as the victim of a violent crime. While Dan fought hard for weeks, finding himself in and out of the hospital repeatedly, his body just couldn't recover from what had happened to him. He had lost almost all of his blood in the original attack, and subsequently endured infections, surgeries, blood clots, and other complications as a result of the stabbing. Even though he always had a calm, enduring approach to life, he was just so worn down and hurting. On Saturday morning his body couldn't take it anymore and his heart stopped. He was 26.

I talked to him the evening before he passed away. He told me he was proud of me and that he knew I would succeed in life. He told me how much he loved me. I am thankful for that conversation, even though I am angry and sad that it was our last and I didn't know it at the time. I'm not sure that I really understand that he is gone yet.

I would now like to share pictures of Dan and stories of our time together.

Dan and I loved imaginative play when we were young. We loved to race cars on the kitchen floor (red ones were his favorite) and play games with our stuffed animals. The stuffed animals would have Olympic competitions where we would toss them in the air and rate their aerial feats. Dan was also my "class", along with stuffed animal peers, when I played school. He was always so patient with me and played school for much longer than he might have liked, especially since he would rather play dinosaurs. He loved to play with plastic dinosaurs, lizards, snakes, and frogs.

He would lay still on butcher paper on the ground as I traced him a Peter Pan outfit yet again, with our stuffed animals as the lost boys. We loved to play lego. We played 'cave diggers', gathering all of the blankets in the house and scrunching them on the floor, crawling underneath and calling "Where are you?" We once opened the window to our room wide in the wintertime, covered every surface with white and blue blankets, and pretended we were in the arctic.

He was a very sweet little brother to a rather bossy big sister, something I didn't fully appreciate until I was an adult.

Dan's nicknames for me were "Sar" and "seester". I called him "Dandy Dan". He bravely vanquished spiders for me. I was once peeing and a giant spider came between me and the door. I called out to him and he, asking without needing to be told, said "Where's the spider?" I covered myself with a towel (I couldn't move or the spider would get me), and he picked the lock on the door to come in and save me from it.

He also vanquished spiders while we played the video game Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I would give him all of the instructions and he would carry them out. We liked to call the spiders "bastards" and "mean jerks." When the final cut scene came on at 3am one summer morning, our mother came in to his room asking "Why are you two still up??" We emphatically shushed her, leaving her very confused, and savored the reward of a game well played. It felt very transcendental to two teens at such an hour.

I once took him to the Western Idaho Fair. I was working my first job and had some tip money to spend. He spent all of the fun-money that I gave him trying to win me a teddy bear.

He loved our cat, Bentley, who had many funny antics. We laughed together a lot, sometimes at things that were totally absurd and made no sense to other people. He stood up for me, and sometimes he even fibbed for me to our parents in the way siblings do. After a while I had to start calling him my "younger" brother rather than "little." He was about 6'5 and I am about 5'2, so hugging him meant hugging his stomach, though he often bent down or knelt a bit to make it easier.

During my college graduation dinner, when I was quite nervous, he made me feel better and relax by making funny faces at me and communicating with me non-verbally from across the table.

My brother was strong and handsome. He loved working out and practicing martial arts. Children loved climbing all over him and having him pick them up. He wanted a family of his own, and while mourning him I also mourn the nieces and nephews I will never meet. He wanted to do something special with the guitar skills that he had taught himself, having become quite good through dedicated practice. He cared very much about others and was a dutiful son. Often he cared about others at the expense of himself.

I am so very angry and sad that he is gone. He was only just beginning to reach his potential, and I am sorry that the world won't know the man he was dedicated to becoming.

Thank you for reading. There will not be a blog post this Friday.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Upcoming Cowl Pattern

I've talked to you before about how I don't usually show my patterns as they are in progress. For some reason it seems very exposing to me not to have the complete control of presenting a completely polished product. Today, I am changing things up a bit and taking a risk :)

I am currently working on a cowl pattern. It is delightfully squishy and soft. Yesterday was a rather long day for me, and today I have the luxury of staying a little closer to home, so I hope to finish it soon and get it to my testers. Here is a sneak peak.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Quick Stop-in at Fiber Gallery

Although there are many delightful yarn stores in my area, my very favorite yarn store in Seattle is Fiber Gallery. They are very crochet friendly and offer many yarns that I love. I forgot to take pictures of the inside of the store since I was *ahem* distracted by yarn romance. Oh darn, I guess I'll have to go back sometime and take pictures ;)

Sadly, the owner of Fiber Gallery is selling the business. I really hope that it continues to maintain its awesomeness. Since I want to savor every moment of current Fiber Gallery goodness, I visited the store this past weekend with my friend Jodi who had never visited a yarn store before. Yep, you read that right, it was her first trip to a yarn store! She bought some neat Berroco and Malabrigo goodies. I walked away with Cascade Eco Wool for a special project that I'll be mentioning soon.

Fiber Gallery is located on my very favorite street in all of Seattle because of its fabulous stores and eateries. Tragically, the street was recently rocked by a gas explosion about a block away from the yarn store that caused a lot of property damage. It completely destroyed one of my very favorite coffee spots, Neptune Coffee. Not only that, but The Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company, storefront and financial support for the writing and kid-centered programs offered by The Bureau of Fearless Inquiry, was also damaged. What a horrible thing to happen to such a lovely neighborhood.

In this difficult time I am very happy to support my local yarn store and to get a friend hooked on local yarn stores as well.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Learn to Crochet Lesson Six: How to Read a Crochet Pattern with the Essential Crochet Potholder

Welcome back to my learn to crochet series! By now you can chain, single crochet, and half double crochet like a pro because you have spent some time with lessons one, two, three, four, and five. Today you will learn how to read a basic crochet pattern. The Essential Potholder pattern will walk you through the steps of reading a simple pattern and doing simple finishing.

Crochet patterns contain several important bits of information that you need to start your pattern. The designer includes this information to help you get a result that is as close as possible to the sample. Hook size, yarns used, amount of yarn used, terms used, other materials used, and the size of the finished object are all things that may be listed.

Side note: Most designers also list the gauge, or how many stitches are in a given space when working with their hook and yarn. We won't worry about gauge today since you are just starting out. That will follow in another lesson. Also, gauge is most important when the size of the finished item matters quite a bit, as with a garment. Since it doesn't really matter if your potholder is a little bit bigger or smaller than mine, gauge is not as important right now.

Let's see the important tidbits for the Essential Potholder.

Yarn: Lion Brand Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend
         120 yards of Gray Pearl #550
Hook: US size H8 5mm hook
Extras: yarn needle
Terms: ch = chain, sc = single crochet, hdc = half double crochet, sk = skip, rep = repeat, sl st = slip stitch


Here is what the pattern looks like in written form. Don't worry! There will be a photo tutorial after the written pattern to explain each line.


Ch 27.

Row 1: Work 1 sc into the third ch from the hook. Work 1 hdc into the same ch. *Sk 1 ch, work [sc, hdc] into following ch*, rep from * across.

Row 2: Ch 1, turn. *Sk 1 st, work [sc, hdc] into following st*, rep from * across.

Rows 3 through 23: Rep Row 2 twenty-one times. 

You will now begin the border.

Border: Ch 1. Continuing to the left, work 1 sc into each row end (Side 1). Ch 1 to cross the corner. Work 1 sc into each base chain nub (Side 2). Ch 1 to cross the corner. Work 1 sc into each row end (Side 3). Ch 7 to cross the corner and to form the hang tab. Work 1 sc into each st (Side 4). Ch 1 to cross the final corner. Sl st into first st to join.

Fasten off and weave in ends of first panel. Make a second panel, but do not fasten off.


Place one panel on top of the other so that the stitches line up. Slide the hook into the first pair of stitches and work a sc. Work 1 sc into each pair of stitches all of the way around, treating each ch 1 corner as 1 st. When you come to the hanging loops, work 7 to 8 single crochet stitches around them. Fasten off and weave in ends.


So...what did all of that mean!? Let's get down to details.

"Ch 27. Row 1: Work 1 sc into the third ch from the hook."
 Ch means 'chain'. When you see a number after it, it is telling you how many chain stitches you will need. In this case we work 27 chain stitches. Next, the pattern tells us to work 1 sc, short for single crochet, into the third chain from the hook. The arrow points to the correct chain stitch.

"Work 1 hdc into the same ch."
Next we work 1 half double crochet into the same stitch as the single crochet. Yes, that's right, the very same chain stitch has two different stitches worked into it. That is one way that designers create what is called a stitch pattern, by working different numbers and types of stitches into the same place.

*Sk 1 ch, work [sc, hdc] into following ch*, rep from * across.
When you see a set of directions surrounded by asterisks (*), this means that the directions will be repeated. Sk means 'skip', so we skip 1 chain stitch. Into the next we work 1 single crochet and 1 half double crochet as before. See the brackets ( [ ] )? They are telling you that everything inside of them will go into the same stitch. In summary, we will now repeat everything inside the asterisks until the end of the row -- We will skip 1 chain stitch, then work 1 single crochet and 1 half double crochet into the very next stitch... and then do that same thing again and again! All of the preceding sure was a lot of text for a fairly simple process. This is why crochet terms and symbols exist, to shorten directions and make them more user-friendly.

"Row 2: Ch 1, turn. *Sk 1 st,"
We know how to chain and turn! We learned that in previous lessons. Go ahead and do so. Then notice that you will be skipping the first stitch of the row. 

"Row 2: Ch 1, turn. *Sk 1 st, work [sc, hdc] into following st*, rep from * across."
These directions look familiar, don't they? They are the same as the directions from Row 1, but this time we will be working into actual stitches instead of chain stitches. Every other stitch will be skipped, and those that are worked into will have 1 single crochet and 1 half double crochet. You can see that the stitch pattern is starting to emerge. 

Here we are at the end of Row 2.

"Rows 3 through 23: Rep Row 2 twenty-one times." 
Remember, 'rep' means repeat. To continue with our panel, all we need to do is follow the directions in Row 2 over and over until we have twenty-three rows in total. Since we already had two rows by the end of Row 2, we only need to 'repeat' twenty-one times to get to twenty-three.

"You will now begin the border. Border: Ch 1. Continuing to the left,"
 This is just how it sounds. The flat part of the panel is done and now we need to work stitches around the outside to make a border. Since we work from right to left in crochet, you will be continuing to the left.

"Border: Ch 1. Continuing to the left, work 1 sc into each row end (Side 1)."
There are two types of row end. The first is made of the very last stitch of a row. This is lined in pink above. The second kind is made of turning chains. The ch 1 turning chains are line in red above. You after you ch 1, work 1 single crochet into each row end until you hit the next corner. Tip: Since there are 23 rows, you should end up with 23 single crochet stitches. 

Here are some single crochet stitches that have been worked into the row ends.

"Ch 1 to cross the corner. Work 1 sc into each base chain nub (Side 2). Ch 1 to cross the corner. Work 1 sc into each row end (Side 3)."
When you get to a corner you will need a way to continue around to the next side. By chaining 1 we are able to bridge the gaps. Then we can keep working single crochet stitches around the outside of the panel.

"Ch 7 to cross the corner and to form the hang tab. Work 1 sc into each st (Side 4). Ch 1 to cross the final corner."
This is just how it sounds. Instead of chaining 1 to cross the corner, this time we are chaining 6 extra stitches to make a little loop for hanging the potholder. Then we continue working down the final side, 1 single crochet in each stitch.

"Sl st into first st to join."
Now that we have come full circle (tee hee), we need to join the round. See where the arrow is? That is our very first single crochet stitch of the border. That is where you will insert your hook for the slip stitch.

You insert your hook.

Yarn over and pull the loop through.

Then keep on pulling the yarn until it has gone through the working loop on your hook.

"Fasten off and weave in ends of first panel. Make a second panel, but do not fasten off."
Here is our first panel in all of its glory. You can stop here if you'd like. However, If you want a thicker potholder you can go thorough all of the steps in the "Panel" section again, stopping right before you fasten off. You will want to keep the yarn attached and a working loop on the hook for finishing. The finishing section is where the designer tells you what you need to do to put the final touches on your object.

"Place one panel on top of the other so that the stitches line up."
Here are the two panels, all lined up. You can see that the stitches mirror each other and pair nicely.

 "Slide the hook into the first pair of stitches and work a sc."
Here you can see that the hook is under both loops of both stitches. This set of stitches is the very first from the border.

 "Work 1 sc into each pair of stitches all of the way around, treating each ch 1 corner as 1 st."
Just as the pattern states, continue to match up your stitches and crochet a single crochet stitch through both of them at once. You can see that this is joining the two panels together to make one, thick potholder.

 "When you come to the hanging loops, work 7 to 9 single crochet stitches around them."
Instead of working under the tight loops of the chain stitches, you will simply be working around them. This is much easier and looks nicer.

 Like so. Then you continue working into stitches as before.

Fasten off and weave in ends.
You did it! Your potholder is now complete!

As a new crocheter, patterns may be a bit frustrating at first. Don't worry, you'll eventually have a light bulb moment and things will come together. Take it slow and don't be afraid to rip out and start over. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Happy hooking!