Friday, December 15, 2017

Review: Charley Crochet Cactus Kit from Global Backyard Industries

Today, I will be reviewing the Charley Crochet Cactus Kit from Global Backyard Industries. Disclaimer: I received this complimentary kit in exchange for a review. I am not being paid to write this review and everything shared here is my real opinion. Thanks go out to Global Backyard Industries for providing the kit.

So, there are 10 days until Christmas. How did we get here so quickly? Who knows. I am pleased to report that all of my (modest) shopping is done. Are you sitting there with no idea of what to get for someone this holiday season, be they crocheter or not? This kit could be a great solution to your problem! Since it is available on Amazon, you can buy it now and it will ship out quickly. Furthermore, the cactus it creates is quite giftable as well! Finally, this kit is priced very reasonably.

The kit comes with everything you need to create the cactus, even the hook! I trusted this to be true before opening it and brought it to my fiber group the other day, ready to work on it. The only thing it doesn't contain is scissors. The materials are of good quality.

The instructions were clear and the cactus was really fun to make. I was a little unsure about working with the green novelty yarn, but it turned out to be sturdy and just fine to work with. I love my little cactus! I haven't decided if I will give it to a friend or take it to work. Check it out!

How cute! I unhesitatingly recommend this kit.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Free Crochet Pattern: Ombre Lightning Scarf

The other day I told you all about the Royal Time Gradient Trio that I had the opportunity to work with. I'm happy to report that I have just finished the pattern I was writing with it. Here's the Ombre Lightning Scarf! This is an extra extra long and skinny scarf that is chic and wrapped many times. Pattern below.

- 600 yd (548 m) of fingering weight yarn; 200 yards of each of three colors
- US size E 3.5mm crochet hook
- yarn needle
- scissors

This scarf is about 10 ft (3 m) long and 3 in (7.5 cm) wide. 

sk = skip, dc = double crochet, ch = chain, st = stitch, rep = repeat, sc = single crochet

Scarf Base
With darkest color, chain 32.
Row 1: Sk 3 ch sts (counts as 1 dc). Work 1 dc into the fourth ch from the hook. Work 1 dc into each ch st across. (30)
Row 2: Ch 3, turn. Sk first st. Work 1 dc into each st across. Work 1 final dc into the top of ch 3. (30)
Row 3: Ch 8, turn. Sk 3 ch sts (counts as 1 dc). Work 1 dc into each remaining ch. Work 1 dc into first 24 sts. Leave remaining 5 sts and ch 3 unworked. (30)
Row 4: Ch 3, turn. Sk first st. Work 1 dc into each st across. Work 1 final dc into the top of ch 3. (30)
Rows 5 through 30: Rep Rows 3 and 4.
Change to middle color.
Rows 31 through 60: Rep Rows 3 and 4.
Change to lightest color.
Rows 61 to 90: Rep Rows 3 and 4.
Fasten off and weave in ends.

Make sure the right side is facing you. You will know that the right side is facing you if the little tips are curling up toward you. With the darkest color, attach with a slip stitch in the lightest corner. Work sc evenly up one entire side of the scarf. I worked 2 sc into each row end, ch 1 in the inner corners, 1 sc into each unworked dc, 1 sc into top of ch 3, and ch 1 on the outer corners. Fasten off and weave in ends.

Change to lightest color and attach with a slip stitch in the darkest corner. Repeat the same process up the other side of the scarf. Note that you will be working into the underside of the chain stitches instead of dc sts.

Optional Fringe
Once again, make sure that the right side is facing. With the middle color, cut 128 10-inch strands. Attach the strands in sets of four in every other stitch at both ends of the scarf. Use the Lark's Head Knot to attach the strands. Trim as desired.

I hope you enjoy this pattern! Let me know what you think in the comments. I could see this pattern being adapted for thicker yarn weights. If you try it, let me know!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review: Gradient Trio from Zen Yarn Garden

Today, I will be reviewing the Royal Time Gradient Trio from Zen Yarn Garden. Disclaimer: I received this complimentary yarn in exchange for a review. I am not being paid to write this review and everything shared here is my real opinion.

Gradient patterns are really hot right now. The bold ombre trend came up a few years ago, and now the focus has shifted to slightly more subtle color transitions. I love gradient projects. I think they are really classy. However, something that can sometimes be challenging is finding the right yarn for the pattern. Zen Yarn Garden has got you covered with their prearranged gradient sets. They even suggest patterns!

I am currently working with this yarn and it is a very pleasant experience. I'm using a smallish hook (3.5mm), and yet my hand is not tiring too much. I think it is because the yarn is very smooth and easy to work with. It is soft, yet it also provides good stitch definition.

Purple is my favorite color, so this is the perfect set for me. At first I thought I might find an existing pattern to work with. However, I got a flash of design inspiration and I've actually been developing a simple crochet pattern. Guess what? It will be a free pattern!

This is just a little teaser picture. The free pattern should be posted sometime at the beginning of December. Speaking of December, I heartily endorse this gradient trio as a holiday gift. For a knitter or crocheter. If I have extra yarn after the pattern is complete, I'll knit it up and let you know what I think. For now, I am perfectly pleased to be crocheting with it. Thank you for the yarn, Zen Yarn Garden!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Gift Nature's Gifts!

Thanksgiving has passed and winter holiday decorations are popping up everywhere! Something I'm really happy about is that I am completely done with my holiday shopping. It's true! I got a jump on it this year and now I get to wrap all of the presents. I think wrapping presents is super fun!

However, I realize that I am likely an anomaly in having my shopping done. Most folks are just getting started. If you're looking for a gift for a crocheter, consider my book: Nature's Gifts for Baby. It can be purchased on Amazon and the Leisure Arts website (where it's on sale this weekend!), as well as in craft stores around the United States. Your giftee will be able to get a head start on all of the baby shower gifts that will be needed next summer as a result of this year's cozy winter moments *wink*.

 Still not convinced? Check out these reviews:

From Mikey of The Crochet Crowd: "Sara has gone that extra step to make the blankets look and feel special."

From Tamara Kelly of Moogly: "Aren’t they gorgeous!?"

From Kathryn Vercillo of Crochet Concupiscence: "I love the way that nature has inspired the pieces in ways that are both obvious and subtle."

From Susan Carlson of Felted Button:  "As you know--I looove making blankets, so this is right down my alley!"

From Susan Lowman of The Crochet Architect: "If you’re looking for some new crochet patterns to make for a favorite baby in your life, I hope you’ll consider this book with lots of creative designs!"

PS: Re-reading all of the kind words of the reviewers definitely has me misty-eyed. The crochet community is so kind and supportive!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Yarn at the Northwest Chocolate Festival

I have been going to so many events. It's been fun, but also exhausting. I recently attended the last event I'll be going to for a while. The Northwest Chocolate Festival was interesting and tasty, but also very crowded. It was located right on a pier with a pretty view of the Puget Sound. They had chocolate vendors visiting from all over the world. In addition to chocolate, they also had other specialty items like hot sauce and jerky. I sampled both kangaroo jerky and alligator jerky. I enjoyed the former... not so much the latter.

Why am I talking about a chocolate festival on a fiber arts blog? Well, as luck would have it, I actually found yarn there! Stellar Alpacas had a selection of yarn and goodies for sale.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Willow Cowl: Take Two

In my Vogue Knitting Live pictures, I was wearing a freshly knitted cowl. It was another Willow Cowl, made with gorgeous yarn that my friend, Toni, gave me. I had fun making the first cowl and wanted to try a second that was true to the pattern. I enjoy the result... but I won't be repeating a pattern again. I have found that I much prefer making something new each time, whether it be designing or working up someone else's pattern. However, I'm happy I made this cowl. It is very wearable and the colors are very me. I didn't block it; I like it the way it is. It's squishy and has a lot of movement. (I'm also lazy about blocking!)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Vouge Knitting Live Seattle 2017: Megapost!

Fall has shaped up to be quite a busy season for me! I've been to at least one event each weekend, I'm working on several projects at once, and my day job is as busy as ever. I was lucky enough to go to Vogue Knitting Live last weekend... and I'm only just getting around to posting about it today!

This was such a cool event. I had heard about it when it came by a few years ago, but I didn't end up going. I made sure to snag my ticket early this year!

The event was filled with art, presentation, classes, booths, and fiber lovers of all ages and crafts. I saw lots of great crochet. I think the fine yarn world is doing a much better job of being inclusive of crochet these days.

There was soooooo much delightful yarn! I really had to contain myself. Look at the lovelies above from Mary Gavan Yarns, Knit Picks, and Third Piece.

I absolutely fell in love with the gradient yarns of The Blue Brick, and the dyer herself kindly posed for a picture. Unfortunately, I snoozed on the hank that I wanted. When I went back, it was gone! How exciting are the sparkles?

Nicky Epstein had a booth showcasing her large "Teatime Bears," as well as toy animals made by knitters who had followed her patterns.

Laurinda Reddig, a super friendly crochet designer who I previously met at Urban Craft Uprising, had a lovely selection of crochet pieces out to show.

Gina Rose Gallina, whose pineapple I blogged about previously, was there showing off some amazing and whimsical art. She took the time to chat with me and share tidbits about her process. She is so friendly!

Mandy Greer's art was a mix of many mediums, crochet included. The blue artwork was made by many hands and brought together by Mandy. Such a neat aesthetic!

More amazing art was showcased by Suzanne Tidwell, Carol Milne, Claire Taylor, and Gabriele Meyer.

At the end of the event there was a yarn drop, hosted by Rowan. I got to catch yarn as it fell from the ceiling! It was really fun to line up with all of the other yarn lovers. I managed to snag two skeins from the same dye lot!

After the event, my friends Claire, Suzanne, and Caroline all joined me at a coffee shop. We worked, chatted, and reviewed our loot.

I came away from the market with some lovely stitch markers and a case from Miss Purl. They can be used as either crochet or knitting markers. Isn't that cool!? I also splurged on a gorgeous skein of sparkle yarn from Fidalgo. It was such a great time! I'll definitely attend when it comes to Seattle again.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Yarn at Seattle Recreative

I love Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood. With a bar called The Angry Beaver, my favorite yarn shop called The Fiber Gallery, The Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company (the funds of which go to a non-profit tutoring center for kids), and Chocolati chocolate cafe... what's not to love!? The neighborhood suffered a tragedy last year, but it has mostly recovered.

Another neat spot in Greenwood is Seattle Recreative. This is a non-profit shop that receives donations of craft supplies and resells them. They use the profits from the sales to fund art programs. This place is so fun to browse; it is full of little treasures! As a teacher, it seems to me to be the ultimate representation of the phrase "I could totally use this for a class project someday!" They even have a yarn stash. Check it out!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Color Pooling in Crochet: An Exploration (with Bonus Knitting!)

Have you ever purchased a multi-color yarn that didn't work up like you expected it to? Perhaps the colors on the hank or skein didn't match what you wanted the finished object to look like. Perhaps an unexpected color pattern showed up along the way. When the colors of a yarn group up in particular places, that is called pooling. The color pooling in a finished object can really make or break it. You can have a lot of pooling or a little. The pooling could be patterned or random. There could be spots or stripes.

Here's the most important thing about pooling: It changes based on your stitch pattern. So, while it may be tempting to give away a yarn skein when the colors didn't thrill you the first time, wait! Try again. Another stitch pattern might make all the difference. Pooling can also be affected by the length of your repeat.

For this pooling exploration, I used a discontinued skein of Caron Simply Soft that my friend Vicki gave me, which hopefully represents something you might have laying around in your stash. I worked it up in a number of stitch patterns, trying to maintain around the same width.

In this first picture, I really like the pooling in the smaller stitches. The single crochet on the bottom left and the linen stitch on the top right look good to me. However, I don't really enjoy it in the taller stitches. The shell stitch at the top left looks a little muddy to me, and also has some vertical stripes going on. I also don't think this yarn looks good in the round at all, in either the double or triple crochet. What this tells me is that it could make a nice simple scarf, but I probably wouldn't want to use it for a hat.

I'm not the biggest fan of the pooling in almost any of the samples in this picture. The post ribs, v-stitch, double crochet, and triple crochet all look muddy to me. I think this is because this is a short color changing yarn instead of a long one, so in taller stitches there are lots of colors per stitch instead of just one or two. The knit garter stitch on the bottom right doesn't tickle me, either. However, the striped look of the stockinette above it is nice in a very different way from the single crochet.

There you have it, a small look at pooling. Have fun experimenting to find what looks best to you.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Crochet Basketweave Cowl in the Round

One of my most popular blog posts of all time is my basketweave stitch tutorial. It's easy to understand why; this is a fun stitch to work up, and the results are very attractive. One of my favorite basketweave projects has been my Carefree Crossbody Bag pattern. I also enjoy the basketweave stitch for times when mindless crocheting is necessary, such as on my commute or when distracted and chatting with my weekly fiber group. So, when I had some extra Berroco Ultra Alpaca hanging about, I decided to work it up in basketweave.

Sometimes you aren't sure what you are making until after you've begun. Such was the case with this particular project. This was my first time working the basketweave in the round, and boy was it fun. It looks crisper and cleaner than basketweave worked in rows because only the fronts of the stitches show on the outside. What my item eventually ended up becoming was an asymmetrical infinity scarf. I also included a little twist (ba dum tss!) on the basketweave by working up the lighter yarn in basketweave cables to vary the texture in addition to the color.

Working the scarf in the round made the finished product very warm. This is because the pocket in the center traps warmth. It would be an excellent choice for a very warm winter accessory.

Of course, Ranna didn't seem to mind the warmth. She is convinced that this scarf is actually some kind of cat bed. She murred and meowed while trying to get comfortable in it.

All in all, I definitely recommend working up basketweave in this way.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Berry Good Berry Bag Crochet Pattern

Fall is here! I love fall. Maybe that makes me "basic," but I don't care! I love pumpkin spice lattes, and pretty leaves, and candles, and crisp air, and all kinds of shenanigans. You know what else is a fall staple, especially in the Pacific Northwest? Berries. Berries grow all over the darn place out here; they happen to be invasive. Invasive or not, it's so fun to pick berries on the side of the road and eat them raw, turn them into pies, or even put them in a cocktail. You can pick your own berry with my new pattern, the Berry Good Berry Bag. It is available on Ravelry and Craftsy.

This sweet bag pattern is highly customizable. The sample is a raspberry, but you can easily create a blackberry, salmon berry, or blue raspberry with a simple color change. You could even make it into a bunch of grapes by using purple! You can also make it bigger or smaller by changing the weight of the yarn, changing the hook size, or adding more repeats.

Unlike many lined bags, this bag is worked in one piece. How convenient!

This pattern is for intermediate crocheters. The techniques used include crocheting in the round, working in front/back loop only, cluster stitches, detailed repeats, and some minor shaping.