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.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Freebie Friday - Crochet Seafarer's Cap by Beth Hall

OK, I admit it, I did not design this weeks free pattern. 

But I've had several people ask me about this style of construction and it's a technique worth knowing.  It uses stitches of varied heights - including our stitch of the week half double crochetSingle crochet and slip stitches are used to create shaping at the crown as well as a thick stretchy brim.

In fact, this free pattern is my most favorite for hats donated to charity, because they are very warm and the brim can be rolled down over the ears. 

Let’s take a closer look at the Crochet Seafarer's Cap by Beth Hall for the Seamen's Church Institute. Please refer to the pattern for specific instructions. All stitches are worked BLO.

Row 1 - Worked directly into the chain, I like to use the back ridge loops.

See how it looks different when you switch from slst to sc?

And again when you switch from sc to hdc? Place a marker in your first hdc as a reference point.
Place a second marker in your last hdc as a reference point. Move these markers up each row until you feel familiar with how the stitches look.
The slip stitch rows can be confusing if you can’t identify the proper loops. be sure to tilt the top edge toward you in order to see the entire last row, and most importantly that back loop.
Work 16 slst - up to your hdc marker, then ch1 and turn, working back toward the edge. These are the short rows that make the brim extra stretchy.
Turn that top edge toward you to see your working loops!

As you turn again at the edge, you’ll have a “step” at the end of the slst rows.
Just work right down into the first hdc. Again, tilt that top edge to find that back loop.

Work the rest of the row down, alternating rows of 6 slst and 3 slst at the crown. Repeat these rows to length.

After several rows, you can see how the stitch changes are going to shape the hat, wide stretchy brim, softer fabric in the middle, and narrowing at the crown so it will be nice and flat.
When you're ready to start seaming, bring the edge with your starting chain up in front of your working row, and slip stitch through both edges at the same time.  I like working under both remaining loops of my starting chain, and the back loop only of the working row.  I think it makes for a tighter, better looking seam.

You can see the difference between the way the seam looks on either side of the fabric.  Turn the hat so that the "right side" or outer side is the one you like best.

I hope you make as many of these fantastic caps as I have... and if you do... be sure to share some with your local homeless shelter or veterans resource center.  It will warm your heart to help them stay warm!