Saturday, December 31, 2011

Potholder Palooza!

Wow, are holidays bad for getting blog posts up!  Sorry about that. I did spend the holidays creating though, so more patterns will be forthcoming very soon.  I may even put up a few extra posts a week to make up for my lag, assuming I remember.  

Anywho, as you may have noticed from the title of this post, I've switched gears a bit.  Wearables are being set aside in favor of some useful household tools.  In this case, it's potholders. 

The most obvious question is, why potholders?  There are tons of patterns out there for potholders and trivets because, lets face it, they're usually squares or circles and it takes next to no thought to make a circle or a square.  There are, of course, exceptions that can be found where someone got super creative and made an awesome trivet or potholder.  Those do tend to be thin on the ground, though.  The real answer is, my mom needed new potholders and I needed stocking stuffers (hence this being posted now.  I couldn't very well put up a post about mom's presents before she got them.  That would have been silly.).  Which brings up the second question, why not just go buy some?  The answer there is also pretty simple.  Store bought potholders suck.  They are way too thin, tend to be made from really cheap fabric, and don't hold up well to the standard abuse kitchen things get.   Mom and I are pretty rough of kitchen linens, they get changed out and washed often in the hottest water we can manage and usually get bleached as well.  Tea towels and potholders just don't stand up to that well for long anymore, but kitchen cleanliness is important enough that we aren't just going to stop washing them in the most sanitary manner possible. 

Once I started thinking potholders I needed to know what is expected from a potholder so that I could make one with all the necessary characteristics.  That process always makes me laugh.  I feel so ridiculous thinking "what do I expect from a potholder?" and "what should my potholder be able to do?" that I just start giggling.  I mean seriously, it's just a potholder. Still, if it doesn't do everything it's supposed to, what's the point?

My potholders need to be able to do a few things.  Primarily they need to be sturdy enough to stand up to kitchen abuse while maintaining their ability to protect hands and counters.  It's a plus if they look nice. Whether or not a potholder is pretty has no bearing on how well it does it's job, it's an extra in case you have to use it in front of people or accidentally leave it out.  The other two are the important part.  If the pot holder is going to protect anything it needs to be thick enough to do so.  I hate it when you get stuck holding a cookie sheet longer than you expected because you've eagerly removed the tray from the oven and realized you have no where to put the thing.  Then the heat starts coming through the oven mitt or potholder you're holding it with and your choices quickly become drop the tray, and everything on it, or stuff it back into the oven, which is still warm, and possibly overcook whatever you're making.  Anything that you use that way should be insulated enough for that not to happen.  Washable for me and mom means the potholder in question needs to be able to stand up to some pretty harsh washing conditions.  Super hot water and bleach on a weekly basis will tear up a bunch of stuff so it's got to be able to withstand that or it's useless.  At this point I know what I'm making; a super thick, ultra sturdy uber pot holder.  Now I have to decide how to make it.

Crochet gives more insulation than knitting, so I used crochet.  Using two strands of yarn together gives more insulation so I did that too.  I had to use a natural fiber type for the yarn because synthetics can melt if they get hot enough and I'm too lazy to test the yarn at varying temps to see what happens.  Who wants to make something that might melt?  Of the natural fibers, bamboo and silk are too expensive for something like this which leaves wools and cotton.  We wash kitchen things in super hot water so wool would be a bad plan, it felts and shrinks too easily, so cotton it is.  The cheapest and most easily available cotton yarns are Sugar 'n Cream and Peaches 'n Cream (the sort of knock off brand).  Happily, they come in lots of nice colors so they should work just fine.

The only thing left is to actually make the bloody things.

A quick note here, and I'll repeat this on all my pot holder patterns, if you save the left over yarn from this project you can use it for scrubbies (coming soon) later.  Trust me, you'll like them (they're awesome!).

Right, all the random rambling over and done with.  On to the pattern!

 Lyssa's Super Potholder Set

2  balls Sugar n Cream in blue
2 balls Sugar n Cream in green
I hook

Gauge: In pattern 5 st =2 inches (5 cm)

This pattern will make either 2 super thick pot holders plus 1 regular pot holder OR 5 regular pot holders. 

Potholder base size 1, make 1 in each color
Holding two strands together throughout, ch 22.
Row 1: In third chain from hook work 1 sc.  Work (Dc, sc) across work ending on a dc.  Ch 1, turn.
Row 2: Work (dc, sc) across ending on a sc.  Ch 2, turn.
Row 3: Work (sc, dc) across ending on a dc.  Ch 1, turn.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until piece measures about 8 inches (20 cm), bind off.

Hold the two pieces together and work a sc border around the entire piece using 3 sc in each corner. (Skip this step if you want 5 pot holders)

Potholder base size 2, make 1 in each color
Holding 2 strands together throughout, ch 24
Work as for base size 1, including joining step.

Measures about 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches (22x22 cm)

Striped potholder
Holding 2 strands together throughout, ch 22.
Work as for the other sizes, changing colors every 4 rows.
This piece does not have a border, I ran out of yarn before I could edge it.
Measures the same as the base size 1 potholder.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Super Simple Scarf

I had a ball of yarn to play with at lunch one day.  I was working on other ideas so I didn't want to do anything really complicated.  Simplicity sometimes gives you really good results, so I kept it simple.  This particular scarf is so easy to make that it doesn't even really need a pattern.  I'll give you one, of course, but it's another that can be easily modified. I know, I know, it's a rectangle.  I couldn't think of an interesting way to make another shape and wanted something easy so the super simple scarf looks like a normal scarf.  The fabric of the scarf is a very simple pattern stitch that I haven't used in a few years.  I came across it in a few of the crochet books I got from my grandma.  The pattern is called a double stitch and, for some reason, it doesn't seem to be widely used an I'm not really sure why.  It's no more complicated than your average single or double crochet, doesn't noticeably use more yarn,  and it makes a really nice texture.  I made two blankets for friends with this stitch a few years ago and I was very pleased with the look and the warmth of said blankets.  Still, even searching Ravelry for it turned up a designer called Double Stitch (they've got some neat looking stuff, by the way) but nothing that was obviously the stitch pattern.  All Google found was how to make double crochets, not the stitch pattern.  I find it odd because usually the internet knows about more obscure patterns and things.  Not in this case, it appears.  Who knows, maybe it will gain some traction.  I know I like it, maybe you will too.

Super Simple Scarf

I learned to tie tie knots for this one because it's so long.  I like the look it gives.

Naturally Caron Spa yarn, 1 ball per scarf size.
K hook 

12 sts in pattern = 3 inches (7 1/2 cm)

Stitch pattern:
Double stitch- You work this stitch form like you're making overlapping single crochet decreases.  For an example, if you have 4 stitches you ch 1 then bring up yarn (as you do to make a sc decrease) in sts 1 and 2 then pull through 3 loops.  You then bring up yarn in sts 2 and 3 and draw yarn through all three loops, then 3 and 4, and finally 1 sc in st 4.  The last 1 sc is essential, it's what keeps your piece from decreasing.
Bringing yarn through first and second stitch
Completing the double stitch by pulling through all 3 loops

Close up of double stitch pattern

Mini Scarf
ch 9.  In the second chain from the hook start the double stitch pattern and work it back and forth until the scarf is your preferred length.  I was using up yarn so mine is super long, a whole 84 inches (213 cm).

Wide Scarf

ch 13  and work as you did for the mini scarf.   This one I made a bit more reasonable, it's only 59 inches long (150 cm).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lacy Honeycomb Afghan

It's done! My bright yellow project is done!  Sadly, it isn't as large as I was hoping it would be.  I used the Sayelle yarn my friend had given me and, as it was in finite quantity, so was the resulting afghan.  It is, however, large enough to count as and afghan or blanket.  For that I'm grateful.  Especially since I had hoped for a bright yellow afghan to go on the bright purple couch that I want.  Yes, I've found furniture.  It's somewhat custom made so I won't be ordering it for a while since having it delivered during snow storm season seems like a bad plan.  In the mean time I have a happy yellow blanket to add to my collection of winter nesting materials.

Lyssa crocheted, cat approved.  I don't think there's a more compelling argument for the snuggly-ness of this one, even if I thought it needed it!  (-:

I have been struggling a bit with other pattern designs though.  All the dreary, cold days seem to be sapping my creativity.  Plus I tried to get a cold earlier this week, though I managed to fight it off with the cunning use of sudafed. It worked, which is good because being sick doesn't help with the creative process and I need all the creativity I can get.  I really want to create another blanket pattern, too.  The purple couch gets the yellow blanket, but my bright green loveseat is going to need a blanket too.  I'm thinking either bright blue or fuchsia.  I would prefer the fuchsia, but I'm not sure I can find enough affordable yarn in a bright enough shade.  I shall have to go yarn hunting soon. 

Lacy Honeycomb Afghan

approx 9 skeins (36 oz) Sayelle yarn.  Sayelle is discontinued and I do not have yardage information on it.  Red Heart or I Love This Yarn should be roughly comparable.
I hook

Finished size:
51x60 inches  (130x152 1/2 cm)

Motif Gauge: 
4 inches (10 cm) flat side to flat side and 5 inches (12 1/2 cm) point to point.

Motif pattern:
ch8, join into a ring
Round 1:  18 hdc in the ring, join
Round 2: ch 7, sk 2 sts, dc.  Ch5, sk 2 sts, dc* around join last ch 5 to the second chain of the ch7(makes 6 loops)
Round 3: ch2 , 2 dc.  ch3, 3 dc.  (3dc, ch3, 3dc) in next 5 loops.  Join to the ch 2, break off.

Make 1 pattern motif.  When you reach round 3 on the second motif, join it to the first one by (ch 1, sc to the other motif, ch1) in place of the ch3.  Your first row will only have 2 joins per motif.  Once you start working the second row your motifs will have between 2 and 4 points where they will connect.  Make 13 motifs for you first row, 14 of the second, 13 for the third, and so on until you have 7 rows of 13 and 6 rows of 14 for a grand total of 175 motifs.  I recommend weaving in ends as you go for this one, it's less to fuss with later.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Snow Flowers

Being a desert child anything that takes the bright, shiny, warm sun away is horrible.  Cold is to be avoided at all costs.  As is snow, ice, and other bits of cold that try to follow you about.  Snow should be decently kept in the mountains where it can be visited and then left behind.  This whole covering my house thing, after 15 years I'm still not OK with it.  The only good thing about cold is that I can wear lots of things made from yarn and I am a big fan of that.  But lately I've been feeling the icy grip of winter tightening on the world.  In other words, it's been freaking cold!

Gift giving is also approaching, which works nicely for the yarn stuff, talk about convenient.  It's cold, gifts are needed, and I play with yarn.  (-:  I don't really get into the whole Christmas thing though.  Halloween is my holiday of preference, so you won't see Santas or things like that around this site.  It just isn't my thing.  However, since it is other people's thing so I've done something I don't do terribly often.  I actually tried to care what other people think.  I'm not very good at it.  I have an independent streak several miles wide.  Seriously.  I once got sent to the counseling office because I refused to stop wearing mismatched socks and shoes.  (Long story short, the other girls at school told me I was "too old" to wear colored socks.  I took it to the nth degree because it pissed me off and wound up wearing unmatched socks, shoes, and shoe laces. Then they tried to tell me to 'be normal' or they wouldn't be my friends.  Needless to say, we ceased being friends that day.)

So yeah, doing things because other people like them has never been my strong suit.  But before you get the wrong idea, I do absolutely love it when people like, or seem to like, my ideas and creations.  Especially if they make the thing and like the finished object.  I find it very exciting to share ideas that way.  But, if people don't like them it doesn't really matter to me; I make things because I think they're neat and I like them.  You can see why it's challenging for me to go along the path of what other people think.  But, I'm also not the kind of girl who can see a challenge and walk away.  So here goes!  My first attempt at making something because I thought other people might like it and not just because I thought it was a neat idea.  I've taken up the glove that winter has thrown down and dueling in the way that is most unexpected.  I'm going with a winter themed scarf, inspired by snow, and made in the color I usually avoid as assiduously as pink and orange; white.  (I avoid pure white things because I look terrible in white; I'm much too pale for that pale a color.  Plus, white is so hard to keep clean and looking nice)  This is what I came up with.

Snow Flower Scarf

1 ball Vanna's Choice yarn
I hook

Gauge- Each 6 point flower measures 6 inches (15 1/4 cm) across, the 5 point flower is about 5 1/2 inches (14 cm)

5 Pointed Flower Motif (for the ends)-
 make 1 to start

Ch 8, join in loop.
Round 1: 16hdc in loop
Round 2:  Hdc, 2hdc in one st* around plus 1 hdc, join. (25 sts )
Round 3: Ch 8, skip 4 sts, join to 5th st with slst.* repeat around, join.
Round 4: In each loop work (1 sc, 2 hdc, 3 dc, ch 3, 3 dc, 2 hdc, 1 sc). Join and break off.

6 Pointed Flower Motif and joining

Ch 8, join in loop.
Round 1: 16hdc in loop
Round 2: Hdc, 2hdc in one st* repeat around, join.(24 sts)
Round 3: Ch 8, skip 3 sts, join to 4th st with slst* repeat around, join.
Round 4:In the first two loops work (1 sc, 2 hdc, 3 dc, ch 1, sc in ch 3 loop of the previous piece, ch 1, 3 dc, 2 hdc, 1 sc).  Then continue working 1 sc, 2 hdc, 3 dc, ch3, 3dc, 2 hdc, 1 sc in each of the remaining 4 loops. Join and break off.

Repeat this until you have 1 five point flower on the end and 9 six pointed flowers.  To finish make a 5 pointed flower joining as for the 6 point flowers.

Blocking may be necessary to keep the petals from curling.

This pattern doesn't take terribly long to finish, it looks far more complex than it really is.  I also really dig not having to sew the thing together.  This scarf gave me some of the ideas for my 'mystery' yellow project.  Moving away from circles to more pointy geometrics seems to have been a good idea.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Project Updates

Oh man have I been busy with the crafting!  Of course, not all of it is stuff I should be working on (like presents for people.  Oops!).  I got this huge creativity brainwave though and I'm super excited about it.  More on that in a bit.  Since I don't have a pattern ready for today, here are some flowers just for you.

Hehe, I told you I like bright colors.  That's in my office and yes, all four walls are that color.  You wouldn't believe how long I had to play with my camera before it would get the colors right.  I wound up using the "autumn leaves" setting on it, it was the only one that didn't get the screaming heebie jeebies when pointed at my walls.

Anywho, the great yellow project is trucking along.  I may even name it one of these days.  It's working out really well, though, and I'm quite happy with it.  I am still a bit concerned about running out of yarn.  I've gone through about half of what I have so far and it's made of a discontinued yarn, with a dye lot no less, so it isn't like I can go find more.  I think there's enough but I won't know for a while longer yet.  Just for fun, have another teaser pic.

I have a new scarf pattern almost ready for posting.  It's one I plan on entering in the Vanna's Choice contest, actually, and it's really pretty.  I'm having a fiendishly hard time getting decent pictures of it though.  I'm not sure why but my camera seems to hate it so I've been having to try all manner of different lighting conditions.  Once I get some good shots I'll post it, hopefully that will be later this week.

I've got another 2 or 3 patterns that I'm working on as well  I'll try to get them finished and written pretty quick seeing as how gift giving is nigh and they might help someone out.  There's a hat pattern floating around somewhere too, but I'm not entirely sure how to describe what I did so we'll see how that goes.

Now then, on to my brainwave!  I went surfing the web for interesting geometric patterns, and I found some.  I do have plans for a fair number of geometric patterns, but the one I'm really keen on is going to take forever to chart out.  Consequently, I came up with something else.  I saw this wonderful geometric pattern and I knew it had to become a scarf.  Now, I don't want to give away the epicness too soon.  For one thing it won't look as epic as it is without having a fair bit of it made.  Making it is going to take a while too, it's done in ::sigh:: piecework.  One of these days I'm going to invent a good way to make motifs that doesn't involve having to sew them together or use fancy joining techniques.  In the mean time, here's a really blurry teaser pic for you.

I'm not sure why, but my camera really doesn't like to focus on highly zoomed things.  I suppose that's a good thing for teasers though.  I mean, if you don't want to give something away it doesn't really need to be in focus anyway.  It is kind of annoying, though.  It took me close to three hours to work out how to make the motif for it, I'm still not sure it's exactly right, and my camera just refuses to do what I want it to do.  Very irritating.  Still, it's a start.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tim, the Crocheted Scarf

You have no idea how excited I am about this particular pattern.  It took me forever to make it work.  Well, not really forever, closer to 2 weeks, but it was seriously frustrating.  Writing out the pattern took longer.  (Yes, I know I could have looked online for how other people have done similar things but I consider that cheating.)  I persevered, however, and I've got a wicked scarf to show for it.  It was well worth the fight.

I had a bit of help with this project, lol. 
I mentioned in my Movie Madness post that I was going to start making items in tribute to some of my favorite Hollywood icons.  This is one of those.  I'm sure those of you familiar with the work of this person (or those of you who know how much I love it) have probably already figured out who it is from the picture of the scarf.  Drawing from the twisted imagery that is so frequently present in his works and from his very signature play on contrasts I have designed this spiral-ish scarf in homage to Tim Burton; master of the macabre. He was a pretty obvious choice for my first go at people-themed stuff.  I love his movies, especially the ones where he had a lot of control over the story.  I mean, just look at Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Interestingly, they both include some manner of horror + Christmas.  I've always found that amusing, plus the fact that they're also love stories.  For someone who is known so well for the dark and twisty stuff it's almost surprising that the stuff he writes isn't dark and twisty deep down.  But enough of the critical analysis.  Let's get to the part you've been waiting for, the pattern!

Allow me to present, for your viewing and crafting pleasure, the Tim Scarf

Tim Scarf


Caron simply soft in black and in purple(about 1/2 a skein each), a small amount in blue

E hook- I used a small hook on purpose, it gave the best shape to the pattern without having to make huge pentagons.  The fabric will be tight, again on purpose, so that the shaping and pattern are clearly visible.

Gauge- Each pentagon should measure 3 inches (7 1/2 cm) on a side,  3 1/2 inches (9cm) from a point to flat side across from it and about 4 inches (10 cm) from a point to either point across from it.

Note:  PM= place marker, it's a notation more often seen in knitting patterns but you really need it here.   Seriously.  Don't try to make this thing without using markers, you will get lost when your attention drifts and your spirals will start to round out instead of being pentagonal. Always keep a marker in the ch 1 space, ALWAYS!  After the markers are placed on the second round you just move them up each time you make a ch 1 space.   

Spiral Pattern, make 9, 8, 1

Notes:  Work the spirals in the round without turning the work.   Color A should always be worked into Color B sts and vice versa.  You're going to make 9 spirals with black as Color A and purple as Color B, 8 more spirals with purple as Color A and black as Color B, and 1 spiral with black as Color A and blue as Color B.

With A ch 2.
Work 2 hdc in the second chain from the hook, then pull the loop large (so the yarn can't escape) and drop the color.
Join B and work 3 hdc in the same sp as the 2 hdc in color A.

Round 1:  With B work *hdc, ch1, PM, hdc* in the next 2 sts. Switch to A.  Work * to* in the next 3 B hdcs.

Round 2:  Continuing with B work *2hdc, (hdc, ch 1, hdc) in the ch 1* three times.  Drop B, pick up A and work * to * twice

Round 3: Continuing with A work *4 hdc, (hdc, ch 1, hdc) in ch 1* three times.  Drop A, pick up B and work * to * twice.

Round 4: Continuing with B work *6hdc, (hdc, ch 1, hdc) in the ch 1* three times.  Drop B, pick up A and work * to * twice

Round 5: Continuing with A work *8 hdc, (hdc, ch 1, hdc) in ch 1* three times.  Drop A, pick up B and work * to * twice.

Round 4: Continuing with B work *10hdc, (hdc, ch 1, hdc) in the ch 1* twice.  Then work 10 hdc, (hdc, ch 1, sc) in ch 1, sl st twice, break off B leaving enough of a tail to sew with later.  Pick up A and work * to * once.  Then work 10 hdc, (hdc, ch 1, sc) in ch 1, sl st twice, break off A leaving a tail to sew with later.

Once you have all your spirals made start connecting them to each other.  I stuck them in a sack and shook the pieces up and then pulled them out in a random order and sewed them together.  The assembly layout is as follows.

Hold the first spiral with a point up, so it looks kinda like a house.  The top point is point 1 and numbering for the other 4 points goes clockwise around the pentagon.  For the assembly pattern you will sew the flat between points 3 and 4 on the first spiral to the flat between points 1 and 2 on the second spiral.  The flat between points 1 and 5 on the third spiral is sewn to the flat between points 3 and 4 on the second spiral.  From there keep repeating the pattern.

Assembly Layout

I've given you a picture of what the pattern looks like, because the description is kinda scary. You can even play around with the way they connect and do it like this (which happened when I wasn't paying enough attention to what I was doing):

It was an oops, but at least it was an attractive oops!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ode to a Craft Bag

So, no pattern for today just a rambling.  Woo.  And a teaser.  (-:  I've gotten a motif pattern working for the bright yellow afghan I've been wanting to make.  So here's an up close teaser pic of the afghan to be (assuming of course that I don't run out of yarn before it's big enough).

A while back I noticed a post that Lion Brand had made on Facebook.  They asked "What's your idea of the perfect project bag for your yarn crafting?"  I had to laugh.  It feels like only yesterday (when it was, in fact, in late May, maybe early June) that I asked myself that very same question.  If you have a minute, let me spin you the tale of the Quest for the Ultimate Craft Bag.

I was so sick and tired of having only a tote bag to put my stuff in.  I think tote bags are terrible for yarn projects, personally, though that's largely because I am incapable of only having one project at a time.  Multiple projects, multiple yarns, multiple tools, and you end up with a giant, knotted mess plus totes tend to be on the small side. I needed something better.

I started looking at knitting bags and was promptly beaten about the head by unfortunate reality.  Knitting bags can be stupendously expensive.  Double frustrating is that they are that expensive and most are no better than a glorified tote bag!  Why on earth would I pay $80 for something that I would have to buy storage pouches for?  Sure, it's made from pretty fabric and contains no velcro (velcro + yarn = a mess no yarn crafter wants to contemplate) but $80?  Seriously?!  My search went on for weeks without finding so much as a hint of an affordable bag that was more than one pouch.  I started to wonder why no one else saw a problem with this.  Surely I can't be the only person who has had this problem, but it certainly started feeling that way.

At this point I was so incredibly frustrated that I started plans to design my own bag.  I'm marginally good at sewing, but I was terrified that my design was going to be way too complicated.  I wanted sections for yarn and sections for projects.  I had planned for a needle case, hook books, notions, measuring tapes, scissors, and pretty much any other useful tool I could think of.  Plus the bag was going to be partially collapsible so that I could expand it or store it as needed. To top it off, it was going to be fully closeable.  Cats, you know.  I even got as far as figuring out what manner of materials to make it out of.  Nuts to cutesy prints, I wanted something more like the material they make backpacks out of.  This thing was going to hold my precious yarn, after all, so it ought to be as sturdy and waterproof as possible.  Naturally, when I started hunting about in craft stores I could find nothing that fit the bill.  To further plunge me into despair, I started trying to figure out the measurements to make the pattern.  Didn't go so well.  Then, I stumbled upon a ray of hope.

Searching about online one day I came across a post where someone had changed their old diaper bag into a project bag.  Makes good sense, too.  Lots of pockets for storage, good size, sturdy, almost everything I could ask for.  I was heartened enough to actually start looking through baby aisles in stores to see if I could find the perfect diaper bag for my projects.  Let me tell you though, reality blows.  No sooner than I had gotten all excited about the prospect of a new bag than I started encountering difficulties.  Velcro, predominantly.  Baby bag makers love their velcro.  Presumably this is because it holds things in place well enough that they can't escape and also because it can be opened one handed thus not allowing a child to escape while mom opens the bag.  This is just a guess, mind you, I'm not a fan of children that aren't 4 legged and don't purr.  I have very little experience with the 2 legged kind.  Anyway, the quantity of velcro rendered about 90% of the bags useless.

Thwarted once again, I decided to make one last ditch effort to find a workable bag before I began the attempt at constructing my own.  My mom came to visit over a weekend and we undertook the Quest for the Ultimate Craft Bag together.  We looked over diaper bags, makeup bags, duffle bags, purses, totes...if it was portable and could hold things, we looked at it.  At one point we even went to a sporting goods store to look at equipment bags.  As we wandered the aisles of balls, bats, nets, and sundry we were struck with a great epiphany.  There is one group of people more nuts than crafters.  These people are fishermen.  We ought to have known that of course, my dad fishes and ties flies.  He's got so many boxes of bits and hooks and string that I was amazed we hadn't thought of it to begin with. In less than 20 minutes, I had my miracle bag.  A soft sided tackle box saved the day and rescued me from the certain futility of sewing an elaborate craft bag.  Take a minute to stop laughing, it is pretty absurd, and I'll tell you about this amazing bag.

The pockets, oh the pockets!  It has the same general flaw of 'one big open space' but the pockets, and a little something extra I discovered, made it so worth it.  This thing is positively covered in pockets.  It has pockets on each side, in the lid, and on the front.  It even has pockets on pockets!  One is a hard case for sunglasses that happens to be fantastic if you have something on the fragile side, like say a light up crochet hook that you don't want crunched but that doesn't fit a hook book.  The pockets inside the front pocket are truly fantastic. I have two hook books, it has two pouches that are just the right size for them and pouches in front of those which can hold notions.

There's also the fabric to consider.  Fishing involves water at some point so the whole bag is water resistant. It also has a hard formed bottom so things won't soak into it (which also makes it perfect for putting a pattern book in the bottom, it can't poke at you).  Then the real treasure.  As I investigated all the zippers and bits I came across a very tiny, flat pocket.  It contained a thin fabric piece edged with elastic.  I had found the rain fly.  That's right!  I could have my bag open and still have it covered if I wanted.  The alternative was better.  The rain fly holds my excess yarn, the main compartment holds my books, needle roll, and working projects.

Plus it has handles and a cushioned shoulder strap.  On the back of the bag is a curious bit of plastic.  Turns out its purpose is to allow you to hook a worm binder to the bag.  It sounds odd, I know, but knitters actually seem to LOVE worm binders.  It seems they make a great storage and organization system for circular needles.  Mine live in a Mary Kay pouch in a side pocket, but the option of a separate piece is nice.

So far you've only seen the bag as I'm using it.  It also had 6 plastic, adjustable storage tubs which now help organize my craft closet.  And here's the real kicker.  It was $20 less than the most popular/coveted and well reviewed craft bag I came across.

If you're looking for a stellar craft bag I highly recommend looking at tackle boxes.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, I know I was!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Afghan Insanity

Whew, first round of holiday shenanigans over and done with!  Made it through and still managed to get a post going.  Go, me!  Sorry, no food pics.  Somehow I always forget to take pictures of the food I make but then, I only recently got better at taking pictures of things I've made so I suppose it isn't all that surprising.  Anyway, on with the show!

It's been a long while since I've made an afghan from my own pattern.  That's probably not surprising to many people as afghans take a lot of yarn and time to make and making the pattern takes longer.  For me, though, it is rather amazing.  I've only ever made 4 afghans from other people's patterns, the other 9 have been my own invention.  For 6 of those it involved drawing out a color chart, by hand since I don't have charting software.  As you may imagine, building stuff from the ground up takes a mite of time and I, as I have said repeatedly, am lazy.  I also got bored with afghans as I made 12 blankets in a 3 month period.  To be fair, I was between jobs for solid month in there so I did have more time than usual to get things done.

The reason I bring this up at all is that I've decided I should make some blankets again and I expect it to take a while.  After looking over a bunch of patterns I have determined, once again, that none of them are quite what I want and so it's back to the afghan drawing board again.  Interestingly, it's this blog that's going to complicate matters.  You see, when I was designing stuff before I would just print out some graph paper and go to town on it then make the blanket.  But since the purpose of the blog is in part to share patterns I'm going to have to figure out how to make charts that other people can use.  There's an additional challenge in there because none of the patterns I've done are what you would call simple, nor are my future ones likely to be.  I'm really good at biting off more than I can chew.  Also, the patterns are large.  It takes a lot of space to make a pattern for a queen sized afghan.  I'm working on scaling back a bit, queen sized is far larger than they really need to be.

The other bit that's new is my intent to make some of the blankets with knitting.  Since I've not done much color work with knitting and I've never knitted an afghan it seems like it's time to do so.  What that means for the blog is that you're going to start getting wip, or 'work in progress' for any non-crafters, posts from me as I work on things.  I'm also going to try to keep posting other, smaller projects patterns for you too.  I have no idea how successful I'll be at that, though.  I normally have a number of projects going at once anyway, but something as large as an afghan will likely slow down everything else once I actually start constructing it.

For instance, I started making this a while back when I got yarn from my friend.  It was supposed to be an afghan.  Then I realized my geometry didn't quite pan out.  If I made it any bigger it wouldn't have lain flat which would have annoyed me to no end when storage time came around.  So, we wave the magic wand and **poof** it becomes a table doily!  Sadly, I'm back to the drawing board for the afghan.  I still really want a bright yellow afghan.  But for now, you get the doily pattern.

Sunshine Doily

I hook
1 skein Sayelle Yarn.  This yarn is really old (the stuff I have has a price sticker from a store called "Venture" which wikipedia tells me went defunct in 1998, looking at the design of the ball band I would say the yarn is probably from the 1970's) but comparable to Red Heart I think.  The ball band says it's a 4 ply worsted that comes in 4 ounce skeins.  Amusingly, it also says 'always follow stitch gauge for best results' but it doesn't give any gauge information or yardage.

Main Pattern

ch 8, join in loop.
Round 1:  16 hdc in loop, join round through back loop only.
Round 2:  Working in back loops only (hdc, 2hdc)* around.  Join through back loop only
Round 3:  Continuing in back loops only, work (dc in the next 2 sts, 2 dc in next st)* around.  Join through both loops.
Round 4:  (Chain 8, skip 3 sts, join with sl st to 4th st.)* repeat all the way around joining the last ch8 to the same st as the starting ch 8.
Round 5:  Sl st in the first ch 8 loop.  Ch 2(counts as first dc), 3dc in loop, ch 2, 4 dc.  In the next loop work (4dc, ch2, 4dc)* continue around joining in the top of the starting ch 2.
Round 6:  Sl st in the tops of the next 3 dc and in the ch2 space.  In ch 2 space (3dc, ch2, 3dc, ch 5)* repeat around. Join to top ch of first dc.
**Round 7:  Sl st in the tops of the next 2 dc and in the ch 2 sp.  (Ch 3, sc in ch 2 sp, ch 5, sc in ch 5 sp of previous row, ch 5, sc in ch 2 sp of previous row)*  repeat around ending with a sl st to the first ch st.

**Round 7 is only for the first motif.  Once the first piece is made work the joining round in place of round 7.

Joining round:  Sl st in the tops of the next 2 dc and in the ch 2 sp.  (**Ch 1, sc in any ch 3 loop from another piece, ch1, sc in ch 2 space of working piece, ch 5, sc in ch 5 sp of the other piece and then in the ch 5 space of the  previous row on the working piece**, ch 5, sc in ch 2 sp of previous row)  repeat around ending with a sl st to the first ch st.  Work between ** for every side to be joined.  Otherwise work as for Round 7.

Sorry if that's confusing, I couldn't think of a better way to describe how I put the thing together.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dots Mini Scarf

Goodness!  It's been over a week since my last post!  You'll have to forgive me for that, it's fall and that means extra distractions.  First and foremost it means leaves.  Tons and tons of leaves.  I think they call it fall because that's what the leaves do; fall everywhere and make a mess.  Between that and getting my house tidied up for Thanksgiving guests I've had my hands full.  I know what you're thinking, it takes her over a week to get her house tidy?  Yeah, it does.  As you know by now, I am exceptionally lazy and as a consequence I tend not to pick up after every little thing that I don despite knowing full well that it will save me time later if I were to do so.  Foolish, I know, but I am working on it.  Before you start thinking my house is dirty I feel compelled to tell you that I do clean it every weekend.  I have to or I would be utterly overwhelmed by entropy and my house would be dirty then.  In the mean time I blame physics and nature, which is rather redundant and doesn't solve my slowed posting so I will get on with it.  Today's post is a shorty, but I'm rather fond of the pattern and hope you will be too.

I've been playing with different compositions of stitches to see what manner of shapes I can make.  First in the Stem of Leaves Mini Scarf, then the Loops Mini Scarf.  This one is closer to how I had hoped the Loops scarf would turn out.  Since I liked the Loops mini, I wasn't too worried about it not matching the picture in my head.  That didn't keep me from wanting the scarf I imagined in the first place, though, so I played around with the concept enough and came up with my Dots mini scarf. 

Dots Mini Scarf

Full O' Sheep Yarn, less than a full ball
G hook

Gauge: 1 complete loop is 1 1/4 inches

Starting Loop
Chain 6, join into loop.  Make 12 sc in loop and join with a sl st.

All other loops
*Chain 7, join into loop using the 6th chain from hook.  Chain 1, make 12 sc in new loop, join through back of ch 1and the loop immediately behind it.**  Sl st in the top of the next 7 scs.  This puts your working end across from where you started.*  Repeat until mini scarf has 42 loops.  Then work one more loop ending at **.  Bind off, weave in ends.

This will probably be the last mini with circles in it.  I've done three that way now, and it's starting to bore me.  There are so many other shapes, I just have to figure out how to make them wearable.  Maybe I'll start making some knitted patterns.  That should give my brain a work out.  So far I am much better at free-forming with crochet.  Knitting still takes more thought and that just slows me down.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Not Your Average Neck Pillow aka Binky 2.0

In my little corner of the world, winter is fast approaching.  Honestly, it feels like it's here already but that's because I hate being cold.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I tend to get sick mostly in the winter.  I don't know if it's the cold, or the horrible grey days, or the lack of anything like humidity, or just what.  Usually I end up sounding like a frog hacking up a lung because the universe decides to drain out of my head.  Most gross, and very annoying.  Earlier in the fall I suffered from my usual allergies to weather.  That's the only way I can think of to explain it.  I have no other allergies, but whenever the weather makes some dramatic change I suddenly feel like I'm dying.  It's already happened to me once this year, and I expect it to return at least once before spring.  This time, though, I did something a little different which seemed to help.  I found a comfortable way to prop myself up as I slept.  The 'comfortable' part or rather, the lack there of, is usually the problem.

I tend to sleep on my stomach or side so having to sleep on my back AND on a giant stack of pillows presents an issue.  I find it extremely uncomfortable and, invariably, at some point in the night I throw all but one pillow off the bed and sleep however I damn well please.  The problem there being that anatomy and gravity start working against me and I wake up choking and hacking.  This time though, I found a new trick.  I rolled my Binky into a log, bent it into a U shape, and put my pillow on top of it.  In case you're wondering, Binky is the name the baby blanket my Grandma crocheted me.  I came home from the hospital in it and have lovingly abused it ever since.  It's older than I am and still going strong.  Go 80's acrylic yarn!  And Binky saved the day.  I was propped up just enough to be useful and I had sides that I could snuggle into which helped keep me from rolling over.  Imagine my surprise when I woke up in more or less the same position I had gone to sleep in and found that my cough hadn't retreated deeper into my chest!  I've been toying with the idea ever since.

I thought about using a bolster pillow or something, but they don't have the right shape.  I can keep using Binky, but he gets flattened pretty quick, I have to re-roll him every night, and he tends to slide backward over time (I've since discovered).  Since I believe wholeheartedly that yarn can and will solve pretty much any problem if the crafter is clever enough, started digging through my stash for yarn in enough quantity to make something useful.

Now, I hate pink.  I hate pink a lot.  That said, this yarn obviously wasn't something I had acquired for personal use.  It had been intended to be an afghan for someone else, until I got 2 motifs into the pattern and decided I hated it.  Consequently, I had something like 8 skeins of the stuff.  More than enough for my prop-up pillow, even with using doubled yarn.  The bonus here being that, since the prop goes under my normal pillow, I won't have to see the thing.  (-:

Using doubled yarn seemed like a good idea too.  I hate how you can get little wispy bits of polyfill poking out of crocheted stuff so I wanted the fabric to be as tight as possible.

It took me longer than I expected to come up with a method that worked.  And then it took longer to make than I expected because I had some adorable help.

Just a heads up, you want to make sure you have ample time to make this thing, even if you're as masochistic a crafter as I am.  The doubled yarn is just thick enough that my hands would start to ache after working on it for a couple hours and I crochet/knit a lot.  By a lot I mean about 3-4 hours a day, most of it all in one go.  Once I made a sweater in a day.  I started at 8 or 9 in the morning and around 8 or 9 at night I decided I was "almost done" because I only had sleeves and a collar left to do so I kept working on it.  Without stopping.  I went to bed at 3am, but I got the sweater done.  I couldn't use my hands very well for a few days afterward, though.  Frequent breaks for the win!

Binky 2.0, a Prop-Up Pillow

Obviously, this is no neck pillow.  It's a prop pillow goes underneath your pillow to provide a gently raise slope making a much more comfortable prop than a massive pile of pillows.  The goal is for the prop to give just enough elevation and cradle your head so you don't end up not propped up.  I based it's measurements on a standard bed pillow and it should work just fine with queen or king sized pillows. It is worked as one piece, so no sewing, and you'll only need to join yarn once!  

2 skeins I Love This Yarn (This brand seems to be specific to Hobby Lobby in the USA.  It is comparable to Red Heart Super Saver in size and quantity but is softer.  Red Heart or similar should work just fine as a substitute if you can't get I Love This Yarn.)
I hook
Polyfill or other stuffing material

6 1/2 sc = 2 inches (5 cm)

Notes on adjustments:   I don't recommend changing the number of rows to make the pillow have a larger diameter; I tried making one that was 4 inches on a side and it was really uncomfortable.

Piece is worked holding two strands together throughout.

Side 1
Ch 142
Sc in second ch from hook, work sc to end placing markers in stitch 39 and 102.  Ch 1, turn.
Work in sc for 7 more rows moving the markers up each row.

Side 2
Working in front loops only, sc to 1 st before the first marker.  Work a sc dec over the next 3 sts (2 sts decreased).  Continue moving the markers up each row keeping them in the decreased sts.  Work to 1 st before the second marker, make one sc dec over the next 3 sts and continue in sc tot he end.  Ch 1, turn.
Working in both loops follow decrease pattern for 7 more rows.

Side 3
Working in front loops only, sc evenly across the piece.  Ch 1, turn.  Working in both loops sc even for 7 more rows.

Side 4
Working in front loops only sc to the first marked st.  Work 3 sc in the marked st.  Sc to the next marker and work 3 sc in the marked st.  Continue to end with sc.  Ch 1, turn.
Working in both loops continue increase pattern for 7 more rows.

At this point the piece should bend along the front loop only edges, you'll see the unused loops on the right side.

Match Side 4 to Side 1 with the right side facing out.  Slip st through the back loop of sts on side 4 and through the back of the chain sts on side 1.  When you're about 3 inches past the first corner begin stuffing firmly as you go.  Don't worry about stuffing the terminal ends all the way yet.

When Sides 1 and 4 are attached completely you will be at a terminal end which is shaped like a square.  Without breaking the yarn, work 8 sc along one side of the square, ch 1, and turn.  Work 7 more rows across those 8 sts.  Sl st the 8x8 flap to the main body and finish stuffing the arm.  Work slip sts around the entire square to close the end.  This includes the side that you started on.  Break off the yarn and weave in the end.

Join the yarn at the same point on the other end, and repeat the process.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Earthquake Preparedness

We here in Oklahoma got quite the surprise last night. Around 11 pm there was an earthquake that is now rated as a 5.6.  That's a decent sized earthquake to begin with and the largest one Oklahoma has ever had.  It's also the largest one I've been in since my family moved from California in 1996.  Afterwards I noticed two things.  First, my response to earthquakes has not altered a hair in 15 years despite not having done a drill once in all that time.  I still react exactly the way I'm supposed to.  Thank you Placentia-Yorba Linda public schools for drilling that in effectively!  The second thing I noticed was the alarm of a lot of my friends in Oklahoma.  Here, we do tornado drills in school.  Until last night, very few people here had experienced anything like a significant quake and it looks like there are a lot of people who are really unsure what to do.  It was that which made me decide to put this post up.  We've been having earthquakes, mostly tiny ones 4 points or lower, for over a year now so clearly they aren't going to go away and people need to know what to do to stay safe.

I went online to make sure my earthquake response is current, it seems to be, and I found this guide published by the LA fire department.  It's got a lot of really good information and a number of very useful checklists.  

The guide goes more in depth with what to do based on where you are.  For general purposes, though, just knowing how and where to duck and cover will help you out.  You have two options, get under something sturdy and duck and cover or brace yourself in a doorway.  It really depends on where you are at the time.  If you're in bed for instance, you want to assume the duck and cover position in bed with blankets and pillows over you.  The idea being that if your bed starts sliding around you slide with it instead of being clobbered by other furniture which is also moving around.  That's the reason you hold on to a table leg if you're under a table; the table will take you with it.  

How to duck and cover
Alright, I know that sounds cheesey, but I grew up doing it and people here in OK didn't.  It occurred to me to wonder if people actually know what to do when they're told to duck and cover.

To get into position the first time if you've never done it before goes like this.  Kneel on the ground and bend forward so that your head goes toward the ground like you're trying to touch your forehead to the floor.  Then put your hands on the back of your neck with your arms next to your head.  If you're under something sturdy, wrap one arm around it and bring your hand back to cover your head and neck as best you can.  

That's all there is to it, but teaching yourself to do it automatically when the ground shakes takes some time.   If you don't have a sturdy table to get under, a door jamb is probably your best bet.  For those I usually brace my back against one side while I duck and cover and brace myself by holding on to the molding on the opposite side.  If the doorway is too big for that, I cling to the molding on one side.

Preparedness Kits

This is something I feel very strongly about.  When I moved to Oklahoma it amazed me that you didn't have to bring your ziploc of emergency stuff to school to be stored with the rest of your class's things.  We did that in Cali.  Each class would have a big plastic trash can and every child brought in a gallon ziploc with tissues/toilet paper, underwear, and granola bars.  I think our teachers had bottled water in the bottom of the cans too.  The first aid kit was always near by and easy to get at; we had to take it with us when we left the room for an earthquake drill.  We also had a kit at home that had basic things in it in case there was a quake bad enough for us to need it.  To this day it baffles me that people don't have tornado kits or anything.  Typically, it's a 'grab and go' philosophy if you aren't outside watching for the thing.  I've never understood that either.

Anyway, that spiffy guide I liked you to has a great checklist for an emergency kit.  The earthquake preparedness kits they suggest will also double nicely for tornado preparedness or the occasional ice storm that we tend to get.  If you make a kit, keep it in your tornado hidey hole that way if you make it through a tornado, it should too.  Plus that's an area your family will be familiar with and so will remember that there are supplies there.

This is my kit.  It lives in my game room closet, which serves as my tornado shelter.

Everything fits neatly into the tub.  It's a Rubbermaid style tub that seals pretty well, that way if there's a water leak or the roof blows off my house and it rains all my stuff stays dry.

This is what lives in the tub.  It's a little sparse right now, I switch things out in the winter so that everything stays fresh.
A brief rundown on the contents, flashlight, first aid kit, hot hands, poncho (never underestimate the value of a decent poncho, they are remarkably useful), pop top canned goods (no can opener needed and you can use the cans for cups and things after you eat their contents), dry beans, a blanket, batteries, matches, two plastic containers, a plastic cup, fondue pot, face wipes, and cat food.  When I'm not refreshing the kit, I have a change of clothes, some liquid fuel, water bottles, toilet paper, and more canned goods in there too.

What you don't see here are the things that are also in the closet.  I have a boom box (hence the batteries, that's what they're for), an oil lamp, more blankets, the cat carriers, and a filtering water pitcher.  The flashlight is an LED so I don't have batteries in there for it since LEDs barely use any energy.  I probably should put another flashlight with accompanying batteries in there though. 

It's not a huge kit, but it would hold me and the cats for several days if something bad happened.  Using a tub that size means that there is ample room, for those of you who have larger families you could easily fit a change of clothes for each person in there. The pots and cups are my own addition.  They aren't normally on lists but I realized at one point that having soups and food was all well and good, but if the rest of my house gets sucked up how the hell would I cook them?

So there you have it.  What to do in an earthquake and how to make an emergency preparedness kit.  

I must note, for my own safety, that I am not an earthquake or earthquake safety expert.  I grew up around them but have had no formal training.  This post is intended to be friendly advice, and I cannot be held responsible for any injury or damages that happen to you and yours should you follow that advice. No suing me if you end up getting hurt while taking the steps I talk about.  These things can happen even if you try to be prepared, that's why they're called accidents.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Petals Mini Scarf

What a week!  I've been running about like a crazy person and I still have more to do.  This is the sad weekend.  I have to take down all my Halloween stuff.  Taking stuff down is never as much fun as putting it up.  I've also added other insanity.  I'm thinking about trying my hand at refinishing furniture.  I've found candidate sofas, well one's a love seat, and I realized I've been looking just for couches.  The coffee table, one of the key reasons why I'm wanting new furniture, won't go with the new stuff at all.  Please don't read 'go with' as 'match'.  I don't care if my furniture matches, so long as it looks nice with the other pieces.  This is a good thing since I don't like any of the tables at the website that has the couches I want.  I started hunting around Craigslist for coffee tables and end tables with the thought of somehow refinishing them in garishly bright colors.  It should be fantastic.  Anywho, there may be some table hunting this weekend as a reward for getting my Halloween stuff taken care of and, if I find something, there may be table updates ahead!  Should be an entertaining experience at the very least.  I think I got addicted to building/painting stuff when I was making corpsy.  Just what I need, another hobby.

It has, however, been far too long since I put up a pattern for your viewing pleasure so here's something fun and fast!

I'm rather amazed how well this little scarf came out.  You see, I was feeling horribly uncreative as I played with my yarn. I started thinking about my Leaf mini scarf, I like it a lot and wear it quite often, and though about making  a variation of it.  Thus the Petals scarf was born, so named because it looks like pansies to me.  I think you'll agree that it has a lot of promise and not just as a mini scarf.  In fact, I was so intrigued by the possibilities of this pattern I made two extra swatches to show off what it can do.

The original mini scarf is quite pretty.  It looks light and delicate and I really like that the pattern in it looks rather like pansy petals.  But then I got to thinking how it would look as a full sized scarf or as a choker.  That's where the extra swatches come in.  I made one with Lion Brand Thick and Quick and and N hook (on left) to see how it would look in bulky yarn, then I broke out the crochet thread and my steel hooks (size 7) to see how it would look as a choker fabric (on right).  Here's what I came up with.

There you are, proof that these patterns really will work with any yarn and appropriately sized hook.  That variation ability is part of why I'm so keen on this sort of pattern.  Anything gauge free is a friend of mine!

Honestly, I'm rather fond of the chunky version of this pattern.  It didn't come out quite as long as I would have liked, but then, I didn't have a full ball of yarn to begin with.  It is still long enough to be used as a scarf, though.  What I really like about the chunky one is how it goes around the neck, making a slightly raised collar.  I've already used it several times too; anything this thick keeps air from coming down the neck edge of a coat and this scarf is no exception.

Petals Mini Scarf

F hook
About 120 yards (40 grams) Naturally Caron Spa in Ocean Spray

Ch 3.
Row 1:  Make 8 dc in the 3rd chain from hook.  Turn.
Row 2:  Skipping the first dc, slst in the tops of the next 2 dc then between the 3rd and 4th dc of the previous row.  Ch 2, 2 dc in same space.  Skip 1 dc and make 3 dc in the top of the next dc.  Skip 1 dc and make 3 dc between the skipped stitch and the next dc. Turn.

Repeat Row 2 until scarf measures 60 inches (153 cm) and break off.  Weave in ends.