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!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Weekend update - The Most Wonderful Time

C'mon, sing with me... It's the mooooost wonderful time of the year!  My favorite for so many reasons, birthdays, holidays, cooler temperatures (you know, long sleeved t shirts instead of short sleeved ones!)

We got together with all the kids and grandkids the weekend before Thanksgiving and had a picnic brunch in the park, and then spent a few hours at the zoo. 

It was a beautiful day, and we were able to wear comfortable clothes, and use our outdoor voices. It gives me the chance to rotate through everyone and at least spend a moment or two with them as we walk along... and gives everyone the chance to have a more peaceful holiday without having to juggle schedules as much to fit everyone in.

I spent Thanksgiving Day itself boxing up the additional hats. gloves, and cowls I've been  crocheting for homeless veterans served by the Michigan Veterans Foundation. 

Together, the Crocheters of Awesome filled a 16 inch square box.  That's about 50 people that will be a little warmer this winter.

In November I also crocheted a couple of soft yet colorful hats for a friend undergoing chemo treatment.  I used Berocco Modern Cotton yarn, which is soft and lighter than many worsteds without being "sweaty" like some acrylics can be. I also chose patterns that could be worn looser around the face to keep them comfortable.

My first choice was Mamachee's Water Reeds Hat. I really love the smooth texture of the spike stitches and will definitely make this one again.

She wanted a flower on  the side, so I added a Five Petal Rose from Crochet Bouquet.

Next, I wanted to go with something a bit more fun and funky and decided on the Castaway Hat also by Mamachee.

My favorite feature in this pattern is how the shape is built in!  Plenty slouchy on the top, but without being overly bulky underneath.  I have to make another one in a long color change yarn like the example in the pattern.  So pretty!

OH!  I did manage to finish that Tunisian knit stitch blanket for my grandson, approximately twin sized and very cozy.  2,952 yards of hugs.

He told his parents that he loves his new blanket... all this Gramma needs to know. 

My current WIP is a Tunisian knit stitch ripple scarf.  The ripple comes from timing the increases and decreases just right.

It's a bit slow going at the moment because I am mid-flare with my psoriatic arthritis.  It is hitting my hands particularly hard this time.

So I work a few rows on the scarf (in delicious Miss Babs silk, colorway is Biker Chick)...

... and then switch to Recolor for some point and tap creativity.

If you haven't tried therapeutic coloring, I highly recommend it! 

Whether you use pencils and paper, or apps like Recolor, the benefit of doing something that peacefully engages the mind is invaluable, particularly for those living with chronic health concerns.

Lastly... another earworm for you.  C'mon, you know the words!

This brilliant ornament uses Tracy Fromm's Lighted Snowman Ornament pattern.  She also has other holiday related characters.

In the coloring mood, I used Sharpie markers to draw the face.  Drawing on yarn has its challenges, but then so does snowman building so I figured it was fitting.

Til next time... Happy holidays!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Freebie Friday - The Basic Guy Hat

Once you know how to make the Built For Speed Beanie fit every time, the whole wide world of hats opens up. 

You can decorate it, embellish it, use shapes and colors and make them the droids you're looking for... or vary up the stitches used, add some simple stripes or texture.  

The Basic Guy Hat is the one my friends and family request at Christmas.  You can find it here on Ravelry, or you can download a .pdf here.

Instructions for three types of hats are included, a basic stripe in single crochet, a textured post stitch in double crochet, and for the fan who is a real fanatic, the Un-Basic Hat - earflaps, mohawks, color, the works. Try it in their favorite team colors and thank me later.  ;o)

I'd like to take a moment to go through the first few rows of the Post Ridge Hat in more detail because I get questions on a regular basis about how to keep the ridges straight. 

The first few rounds are so close together it can be difficult to see where those post stitches should be placed.

All rounds begin with a chain 3, and end with a slip stitch to join.

Round 1: Using main color, 12dc in a ring.  (Use Magic Loop or chain 3 and 11 dc in first chain)

Round 2: Ch 3, front post double crochet (fpdc) around post directly below chain 3.

Repeat *dc in next stitch, fpdc around post below the same st* around.

24 dc

Round 3: Ch 3, fpdc around post directly below ch 3.

Repeat *dc in next st, dc in next stitch and fpdc around post below* around.

 End round with a dc in the top of your slip stitch join. 

This keeps the post stitch ridges in line with each other, your beginning chain 3's right up next to one of the ridges helps camouflage it as you go along.

Round 3 has 36 dc

Continue working rounds in this way, increasing the number of stitches between post ridges as you go.

I like to add one round of an alternate color.  The post stitch ridge gives it a little jog that makes it look more complicated than it actually is to crochet.  If you aren't sure how to change colors in the round, check this week's tutorial.

A few rows of alternate front and back post stitches for ribbing, and you've just made someone's new favorite hat!

Pair it up with some Basic Fingerless Mitts, and you've just made someone's holiday!  Til next time...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tutorial - Color Changes

Changing yarn colors doesn't have to be complicated! 

In fact, it can be very straight forward if you remember to always change colors in the very last yarn over (yo) of your stitch.

You heard right, no matter what stitch you're using, change in the last YO.

Here's how I changed yarns to add a stripe of contrasting color to a hat in double crochet ribbing (post stitches). 

You can see that I've worked my stitch to the very last yarn over (yo) - the one that removes my last pair of loops and finishes the stitch.

I hook my new yarn and pull it through.

The loop on my hook becomes the "teardrop" shape at the top of my next stitch, so I'll have one complete stitch in the old color, and one complete stitch in the new color.

Here's how that looks like on the wrong side (WS) - where you can see I tied my strands together to keep the new color from slipping.

After a row in my second color, I switched back to my main color by grabbing it for that last YO.

Here's how a few of those stitches look together.

This hat was worked in the round. 

You do the same thing when changing colors at the end of rows worked flat and turned rather than joined.  Use your new color for the last YO of the last stitch in your row before turning.

But wait!  There is an exception to every rule. 

Now that you are all set to make all your projects stripey... for joined rows, especially joined rows that begin with a chain of any length, it makes sense to change colors when you join instead.

In this case, I've finished my double crochet in my first color and inserted my hook for the join.

I will pull that loop of my new color all the way through.

And work my chain in the new color.  This allows the two rows to be completely distinct from one another.

Here, let me show you:

If you were hoping for more information on "color work", never fear.  We'll go into more detail about the different techniques like intarsia, tapestry and stranded/fair isle in future tutorials.  Hope that helps you keep it colorful!  Til next time...

Tutorial - Magic Knot (aka Invisible Knot)

Tired of weaving in a bazillion ends every time you have to add new yarn?  Give Magic Knot, aka Invisible Knot a try.

It works.  Seriously. Try it.  Go on, we'll wait.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Freebie Friday - Basic Fingerless Mitts

When we learned about basic crochet stitches, we learned that to work an "increase" typically means working two stitches into the same place. 

This week's pattern will give us the opportunity to practice making increases in a way that will create a "gusset" or widening of the fabric.  We're going to use a gusset to allow room for thumbs in a pair of fingerless mitts.

The pattern is available on Ravelry, or you can download a .pdf copy here.  There are lots of photos making is suitable for adventurous beginners.  Of particular interest is the Appendix, which will help you resize it to fit anyone, and give you ideas on how you customize it by adding a little flair.

Let's go over how using increases can create that extra room.  Our gusset begins with a single crochet increase, a regular single crochet, and another single crochet increase for a total of 5 stitches.

I've placed markers on the outermost stitches, that is, stitch #1 and stitch #5.  We'll move our markers up as we go.

After working an increase row, work an even row (without increases).  This helps keep the fabric from puckering our bunching up too quickly.

The next increase row calls for an increase in the first stitch and the last stitch, which means my gusset is now 7 stitches wide.

Move markers up, and work an even row before the next increase row.

You see where we're headed, right? 

Alternating increase rows and even rows, we widen that section of fabric from 5-7-9-11 and finally 13 stitches in between markers.

The next step is where we turn the gusset into a thumb hole.

Crocheting right up to the first marker, skip 13 stitches and work into the 14th stitch.

Here's how that looks from the top...

... and how it creates a row of stitches we can work future rows into.

Here's how those gloves look when they're finished!

Here's some of the ways I've taken this "vanilla" pattern and spiced it up a bit!  How about changing up the yarn?  This pair is in JoAnn Sensations Rainbow Boucle... with that wonderful gradient color and texture.

A stretchy alternate color cuff?

My grandsons ask for "those things on the side so you can climb buildings" - making them instant Super Heroes. 

A photo tutorial on how to make the spikes is included in the pattern!

If you ever need extra mother-in-law points, add plastic scales from The Ring Lord and make Dragon Scale Gauntlets.

I can attest to the point earning power of Superawesomeglowinthedark Super Hero scale gloves.

Or simply jazz up the fabric by adding an  inch of a different stitch pattern after closing the gusset.  In this case, I added a row of broomstick lace.

Whether you like them plain or dressed up, gussets are a wonderful thing!

Til next time... keep warm out there.