Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tutorial - Tunisian Crochet (beginner)

Many people confuse Tunisian crocheted fabric with knitted fabric, and it's true they share some similarities.

Tunisian crochet works in rows rather than individual stitches. Each row has a forward pass and a return pass (also known as closing)… and your stitches are not complete until you’ve made both passes. All rows are worked on the Right Side and there is no turning. Pretty crazy, right?

We’ll be able to go through it in detail over the next few tutorials, and soon your hooks will be flying! Speaking of hooks… traditional Tunisian Crochet requires a longer hook because loops created in the forward pass will remain on the hook until the return pass it completed.

They come in several different styles, afghan hooks, double ended hooks, stoppered, straight and corded. For our purposes of stitch practice, any style will work!

In regular crochet, hook size depends on the yarn and is usually outlined on the yarn label.  In Tunisian crochet, that label is a starting point.  I usually go up two sizes from the label for my Tunisian projects.

Just like regular crochet, Tunisian crochet has a few basic stitches that are the most commonly used:

Simple Stitch is single crochet inserted behind the front loop of the stitch below
Reverse Stitch is the same thing worked under the back loop of the stitch below
Double Stitch is simple stitch beginning with a yarn over, just like regular doubles
Knit Stitch is where the hook is inserted through the loop to the back.
Purl Stitch is simple stitch with the working yarn held in front.
There are other more complicated stitch patterns, but we'll cover them later.

All projects begin with a Foundation - a chain determined by the pattern.

Foundation/forward pass - insert hook into second chain, yarn over and pull up a loop.

Repeat for each remaining chain.

I like to use the back ridge loop of the chain to leave a nice teardrop shaped edge on the bottom. Do not turn! 

Once you reach the end of your chain it's time for the Return Pass.

Unless specifically directed otherwise, all return passes are worked in the same way.

Return/closing pass - All return passes begin with a chain one. The rest of the return pass removes two loops at a time.

Chain 1 though the last loop on your hook only - i.e. your loop count won’t change.

(Yarn Over (YO) and pull through two loops) repeat across until there is only one loop remaining. Do not turn!

One completed foundation row!

From here loops are pulled under those vertical bars.  The different stitch types are determined by how you insert the hook into or around those vertical bars - just like regular crochet depends on the teardrop shaped loops on the top of each stitch.

Once you've completed your pattern you're ready to finish or bind off.  There is a standard method for this as well, unless your pattern specifically directs otherwise.

See the little bit of space in between stitches after a return pass?  We need to finish working those loops.

The simplest way to finish is to switch to traditional crochet and slip stitch across. Insert your hook under the second vertical bar and pull up a loop all the way through the original loop on your hook.

Repeat for each vertical bar across (including the chain one at the end of the row) and fasten off.

Clear as mud?  Here... let me show you!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Weekend Update - CALs and Cakes

While I did finish a couple of projects since we spoke last, I'm going crazy about my blanket WIPs.  Two of the three use the new self striping cake yarns we see everywhere these days. 

Since I can't use Caron Cakes because they contain wool, I decided to find as many brands as I could to try.

Wool got me thinking about allergies, and what I have to do/organize ahead of time when we travel.. like 100% of my food. How about you?

Finished Projects:
Entwined Helix Scarf in Expression Fiber Arts Pearlescent Silk, Marmaid Tail
Beachy Sun Hat in Bernat Softee Cotton, Lavender Fields

Atlanticus CAL in rouge and violette - Premier Sweet Roll in Wild Cherry/Cherry and Baby Bee Sweet Delight in purples.  See the Hooked on Sunshine CAL

The Penny Drops CAL - Tunisian crochet, in Yarn Bee Sugarwheel in Go Go Cocoa, and I Love This Yarn in Coffee.

Cake yarns:
Lion Brand Mandala
Bernat Pop!
Premier Sweet Roll
Yarn Bee Sugarwheel

Cabled Slip Stitch Socks by Anna Lindmark
In Your Shoes Ankle Socks  by Pam of Pam Crochets
Twist and Shout Socks by Lauren Irving
Sunny Citrus by Nicole Cormier

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tutorial - Pretty Parasols

My crocheted parasols are conversation starters.  No matter where I go, if I have one with me someone asks how I made it and wonders in awe at the possibilities.

I know it's not that complicated to do if you are crafty minded - and now you will too!

First of all, the pattern you use depends on the umbrella frame you want to use, so decide that first. 

I went on ebay and bought a "lot" of old umbrellas from an estate sale.  They all had really interesting handles.  Some needed minor repair, and some were just used for spare parts.
Step 1: Patterns: Count how many ribs you have in  your umbrella frame.  Final assembly will be easier if you have the same number (or a multiple) of repeats in your crochet pattern.  You can find a pattern that already has the same number of repeats as your frame or you can wing it.  For example, the pattern I used for this parasol called for 12 repeats, but I only made 10.

You can use patterns specifically designed for parasols like these on  Ravelry, or any round doily pattern you like.  Try to choose one with enough open spaces to allow for some stretch. 

Step 2: Crochet: Follow your chosen patterns directions.  If you are using a doily pattern though, increase your hook size two or three sizes.  Too tight, and you're parasol will never open.

Start with a magic loop so you can adjust it during assembly.

Step 3: Measure.  Your crocheted piece should reach almost to the tips, but not quite.  You may have to get creative with your pattern to end on the row you like best.

 I had to add another repeat!
Step 4: Strip the fabric from your umbrella frame... you'll need a pair of scissors to cut the ties.  Noting where the original umbrella was tied will tell you how to tie your new fabric into place.

Start from the outer end of each rib, and move your way up to the center finial.  At the end of each rib is the tip used to tie it in to place.  Once you cut this string, the tip will probably fall off, so keep track of it.

Most umbrellas also have a loose tie halfway up the rib, which keeps the fabric from ballooning away from the frame.  Don't skip this step when attaching your new fabric.

Once the fabric is loose from the frame except for the very top, look very careful at the fabric tied under the finial.  Cutting the old fabric above that interfacing will help your frame maintain it's stability.  Leaving the interfacing there won't be visible once you tie your new fabric into place.

Step 5: Tie your new fabric to the frame, working from the top down this time.

Loosen your magic loop just enough to work the finial through and tighten into place over the existing interfacing.  Tighten and tie it off, weaving in any loose ends.

Gently lift the frame and line up each repeat of your pattern with it's associated rib.  Pay special attention in tying the same stitch of each repeat to a rib so your fabric is spread evenly across the frame.

Use a needle and thread to tie each repeat to a rib.  Wrapping it around the tip and back through the fabric and hole will make it more stable... just like sewing through a button several times.

Now it's time to carefully open up!  Rearrange your pattern repeats as necessary.  See how that interfacing works to keep the ribs in place?

Once everything is lined up, retie just below the part of the rib that opens and closes.   Use a needle and thread, tie off, and weave in any loose ends.

 A little glue in the tip of each rib helps if they seem loose!

Again, carefully open your frame, and make sure everything works without snagging or pinching. Making adjustments is easy enough, and happens to me on a regular basis so don't be shy about tweaking things.

If you like, add a tie and Victorian style tassel wrist band for carrying your parasol.  My tie is a simply one... chain the length needed to comfortable close the umbrella. Single crochet in each chain, rotate and single crochet in the opposite side of the starting chain.  Add a chain loop big enough to accommodate your button and fasten off.  Sew a button to the square end of tie.

I bought the tassel in the drapery department at my local craft store, and painted the plain wooden handle to go with the ashy gray thread.

Here's an example of a larger tie... I made a basic tie as above in pink, and then worked a row in black to match the button.

All that's left now is to make a cool drink, and find a nice spot in the park to fashionably sit in the shade!

I hope you enjoyed this peek into how to assemble a crocheted parasol, and I hope you make one soon.  If you do, let me know so I can include you in our weekly project update!

Til next time...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Weekend Update - Sometimes Life Sucks

In December I touched on how my health affects my crafting... knowing that winter is the hardest season for me with my psoriatic arthritis.  It's also important to note how crafting affects my health!  Sometimes it's all I can do to sit in my chair and crochet.  Sometimes it's all my body can handle.  Sometimes its all my brain can handle.  Sometimes neither can handle it and the next morning I frog (riiiiiiippit) all the mistakes I made the night before.

Sometimes crochet is my life line.  It gives me something to focus on outside of my pain.  It gives me a creative outlet for my emotions as well as my time and energy.  It can even be my lifeline to reach out to others via working on projects for them or with them (like my Ravelry friends).

The last few months have been filled with ups and downs health wise, pain wise, crochet wise.  But the weather is getting warmer and my meds are kicking in... so here we go again! 

I've been getting hooked on crafty podcasts.  Do you listen in?  The only thing I've noticed is that I am a square peg trying to find a round hole.  LOL  They either focus on knitting, or socks, or fun indie yarns I can't use due to allergies... so you know what I'm thinking.  Is there anyone else out there who wants to chat about wool-free yarn and crochet?  Maybe it should be me?  What do you think?  let me know! 

You can find all of my projects in my Ravelry page, but here are some of my favorites:

Bridal Shrug - in Knit Picks Curio #10 crochet thread (also my favorite for parasols)
Hotel of Bees - in Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy, Lemonade/Silverstone
Going to Fall - in handspun Sheepy Shells by Blaine Fleece and Fiber, Indian Corn
Stained Glass Snowflake - in Caron Simply Soft, black and remnants
Lady Cordelia's Carpet Bag of Tragical Surprise - in I Love This Yarn remnants, knit charts from Anna Zilboorg's 45 Fine and Fanciful Hats to Knit
Outlander - in Handmaiden Sea Silk
Buckland Farewell - in Cascade Yarns Sun Seeker Multi, 121
Gryffindor hat and scarf - in I Love This Yarn
Hufflepuff hat and scarf - in I Love This Yarn
Hufflepuff Plaid - Berroco Modern Cotton  DK
Hufflepuff Parasol - Knit Picks Curio, Cornmeal/Ash
Taffeta laceweight - Wool free blend batts from Blaine Fleece and Fiber
Oops! Bamboo - Supernatural Yarns
Atlanticus CAL in rouge and violette - Premier Sweet Roll in  Wild Cherry/Cherry and Baby Bee Sweet Delight in purples.  See the Hooked on Sunshine CAL
Entwined Helix - in Expression Fiber Arts pearlescent silk, Mermaid Tail.

ETA: Here's where to find that tutorial on parasol assembly!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Weekend Update - Warm Hearts

Last week I talked about what's been going on with me health wise...

... Therapy means I work those muscles and tissues juuuuust to the point of being worked and not painful.  But it definitely reduces my desire to work with my hands.

I continue to get great information and suggestions from my therapy team and have hit the maximum benefit of my Remicade treatment just in time to spend time with the grandkids this weekend.

But you know me right?  While I might have slowed down crafting wise, I always fall back on certain project types.

In  particular, I like to lean on reaching our to other people by making hats and scarves for homeless veterans, or shawls for local hospice and prayer shawl ministries.

This cozy shawl has a very straightforward stitch pattern making it easy to do even when I'm feeling tired.  It's Michele DuNaier's Lady Edith's Comfort Shawl.  Michele is one of my favorite shawl designers because she does *all* the math.  Her patterns often include specific instructions on how to customize to your taste.

The dense edging adds weight to the fabric which will give it "swing" and help it stay in place.

This is especially nice for someone who it bed ridden or in a chair most of the day.  I know it will give comfort to the recipient as much as it did me in the making!  It is aptly named.

The other thing that comforts me is my family, kids and grandkids.  When we went to Zoolights, Grandson #2 reminded me that he has the biggest beanie collection of anyone, and he does!  I know I can count on him to love anything... but it reminded me that his younger cousins are of the age when characters they recognize are part of the fun. So I turned my attention to Christmas hats!

First, the most famous reindeer of all! 

Using this photo as inspiration, I used my Built for Speed beanie pattern as a base, adding the details that give it character.

You can read more on my Ravelry project page.

Grandson #4 seems to like it!

Ok, he probably likes that big hug from his Mama, but maybe he's thinking she just looks so cute in the Santa Hat?

Next is Frosty the Snowman.

This is the photo I used to design the features, again using Built for Speed beanie in white, with 2 rows of red for his scarf.

You can find more details on my Ravelry project page.

Grandson #3 like Frosty best... and even wore it to school the next day.

He spent the rest of our visit singing!

You'll have noticed the Santa hat by now, and that was part of the trio.  Simple box hat worked to the same number of stitches as the other two by working both sides of the foundation chain in the round.

All three are made to adult size so anyone in the family can wear them... hopefully year after year.

These projects have warmed my heart in the making and giving, and they will certainly warm the hearts of the recipients... and hopefully yours too. 

Til next time... if you ever feel like retreating into yourself, try reaching out to others.  It works for me!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Weekend Update - Best Laid Plans

What day is it again? 

Welcome to the wonderful world of "flare-ups"... all of a sudden, all you can do is hang on for the ride and wait for it to pass.

All you can do is focus on *TODAY*...

... and if you survive today you get to do it all over again tomorrow - when it becomes the next today.

It happens to us all!  For me, my shoulder injury added an extra layer of SO NOT FUN. 

The possibility of shoulder surgery meant I had to cancel my Remicade infusion for Psoriatic Arthritis (because of the possible increased risk of post surgical infection).  Taking Tylenol #3 meant stopping the methotrexate for Psoriatic Arthritis because while they are both useful, they are both toxic to the liver. 

So along with the pain that comes from two large rotator cuff tears and neuropathy that leaves my entire arm feeling like it's on fire... I got to anticipate the PsA flare that was inevitable by postponing treatment. When the meds wear off, my fingers and toes feel like I broke them by slamming them in a door.  I have to watch helplessly as in a matter of days, the bone in my fingers are visibly and irrepairably damaged 'pencil in cup' style. That's in addition to the enthesitis...

Those who know my history know that a mild case of Spastic Diplegia (Cerebral Palsy) basically means I walk a bit funny, trip up a lot, and my feet and calves are constantly cramping (like 24/7 plantar fasciitis with a bonus 24/7 charlie horse).  Adding enthesitis of the heel to that combination is indescribably uncomfortable, and I only use those words because I can't think of any more accurate.

That said, since the orthopedic surgeon recommended physical therapy first to help determine how much of my pain is really from the tear and how much is actually from nerves compressed in my neck, I was able to get a Remicade treatment in (it's like magic!), and those symptoms are fading away.  I see the spine/pain doc later this month for another consult, and in the meantime my PT team has managed authorization of a TENS unit at home, which helps with shoulder pain.

The positives in the last few weeks allowed the flare to pass, and me to spend a lot of time hanging out with my grandkids - that makes managing the rest worth the effort it takes to manage.  I am one happy Gramma!

But where's the crochet right?  LOL 

Here's what has been off the hook...

I decided the simple repeat in Elisa Purnell's Tunisian Ripple Scarf was perfect. I added a repeat and used Tunisian knit stitch instead of simple stitch.  While working in lace yarn had it's moments, I love the drape!

The yarn is Miss Babs Mulberry Silk in the Biker Chick colorway.  If Santa is listening... Miss Babs Mulberry Silk is extremely high on my list of favorite yarns.  Although Miss Babs Wild Silk is pretty high up there too.

Speaking of cool yarns... I had 165 yards of Sirius Surprise handspun leftover after making a shawl.  I used it for Heidi May's slouchy Cade Cap!

Apparently, you can also tell I am a huge geek by peeking over my shoulder to Maleficent, a Quibbler, TARDIS, Merida and my Spectraspecs hanging on my Alex Kingston (River Song) autograph on my Shelf of Good Things.  Haha!

Last but not least, I dug into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Crochet by Kati Galusz.

It seemed obvious to start with these two beloved characters, but I will be making my way through the rest of the book as time goes on.

It's amazing what you can do when you focus on *today*.

Til next time...

Merry Christmas!