Sunday, April 20, 2014

waiting and souvenirs

I was sitting in the hospital's ER, patiently waiting for the doctors and nurses to tend to my father's recent health scare. I held in my hands my trusty crochet hook and a skein of yarn; made a slip knot followed by two chains and thus began a series of seamless rounds that would grow into a chemo cap to be earmarked for donation.

The start of a chemo cap while waiting
at a wrestling match, February 2014.
I was mid-round in my stitch count when a father brought his 5-year old son into the waiting room. The boy was fidgety, tugging on his "bracelet" the hospital had given to him to wear.  "But Dad! Why do I have to wear it?!!" His dad tried to explain what the bracelet was for but the boy wasn't buying into it.  As we were the only three in the waiting room, I said to the boy, "It's a souvenir of your trip to the hospital. My son collects his. He has this many," I said as I held out my hand showing all five fingers on it.

 "He does??" the boy asked.

 "Yes," I replied, "In fact, he just got one last week when he hurt his collar bone."

"Did it hurt," the boy asked.

"Yes. My boy told me it hurt so I brought him to the hospital so the Doctor could look at it and they gave him the souvenir bracelet, just like yours."

The boy turned to his dad, held up his wrist and said, "Dad! Look! I got a souvenir!"  His dad smiled at me and mouthed "Thank you."

"What are you making," the boy asked me.

"I'm making a hat that I will give to someone who is very sick. It's what I do when I'm waiting," I replied.  "Today I'm waiting for my dad. They gave him a souvenir bracelet too."

"Ohhh, you're a very nice lady!" the boy exclaimed.

His dad told me his son had hurt himself on a trampoline and has been complaining about his "owwie" for a little while so he thought it best to be checked out.  "Dad," asked his son, "can I learn how to make a hat? His dad said yes, that he could ask a relation to teach him.

At that point the nurse called me, stating I could go see my father. As I gathered up my things the boy said, "Goodbye nice lady. I'll take good care of my souvenir!"  :)

Note: My father turned out to be (thankfully!) OK.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Crochet Sampler Dreams go Digital

Piecework Magazine tempts me with a
Crochet Sampler cover.  August 2010 issue.
I love the idea of having a crochet sampler book. Sometimes I head over to ebay in search of one, crafted by someone who had shared the same passion for crochet. But, alas, it seems, I am not alone in wanting to own a piece of crochet's history -- I am usually outbid at staggering prices well out of my reach.

I see that I have two options: I could craft one myself, which is not a bad idea. Perhaps this is why I drool all over magazine articles about stitch sampler books such as the 2010 issue of Piecework Magazine pictured on the right.

My other option is that I can scan bits and pieces of finished projects featuring stitch patterns I find alluring, tuck them into a virtual folder, and eventually craft a digital version of a stitch sampler booklet.  Oh, I'm liking the way this sounds!  And, honestly, this is what I've been doing each time I purchase an item that has a bit of crochet on it that I like!

Crochet Sampler Dreams go Digital;
pictured is a sample scan of some stitch work I did on
a Chemo Cap.

This past December, while out shopping with the family, I discovered a sweet little gadget. The sales associate was quick to point out that there would no longer be a need for me to turn on my all-in-one-printer, wait for it to warm up, scan it into my computer, rename the file, and then edit it. No. This little gadget fit right into the palm of my hand and could easily scan bits and pieces, as well as full pages ...  whatever he said after "bits and pieces" was lost to me. He had said, "Bits and pieces." Would it, could it, scan crochet and knit fabrics?  I asked. He didn't know. I pulled out my gloves out of my coat pocket, laid it on the counter and moved the mouse over them. It worked!!  Ohhhh, I so wanted to purchase this little mouse right there and then. But I didn't. Instead I grabbed my Santa's hand and pointed, and said, in direct words, "Me. Want!!"  I don't think Santa took good notes last year because it wasn't under the tree.  Trust me, I LOOKED!!

Moving the story along, I purchased the sweet little gadget this week -- and mind you not at the December retail ($99), but rather at the April sales price of just $38.  That's a whole'lotta savings I can use to enhance my yarn stash!

One of, if not the best reason, I really love my new toy, is because with the stitches scanned, I can zoom right into to the stitch work I want to study. It doesn't have to be actual stitch work I've already completed. It can also be a picture of a project from a publication, that perhaps I want to see more of -- perhaps on how it was constructed, or to help clarify written stitch instructions. I'm so excited to add this product to my "tool belt."  :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Review: The Fine Art of Crochet

Title: The Fine Art of Crochet
Author: Gwen Blakley Kinsler
Year Published: 2013

Dee's Rating: 10 Hooks out of 10

"...crochet as a means of expression" can be "...composed in one piece and, like pottery and glassblowing, can be fluidly molded..." ~Clinton MacKenzie

To think that if the author Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder) was reportedly amazed to find "American Crochet" (aka 'granny squares') during one of her visits to a museum in Europe, I can only imagine what she would think of the diverse collection amassed in Gwen Blakley Kinsler's new book, The Fine Art of Crochet.  Twenty artists whose crochet work is on the cutting-edge in modern times were selected for their wonderment and inspiration that is not bound by gender nor by financial constraints.

Gwen's book is her tribute to crochet; she is the Founder of the Crochet Guild of America, and has been creating her own inspirational crochet art since 1982. To help us become unstuck on the "crochet is stiff" and "only women do it" thinking, Gwen shares the history of crochet from the 1960's to today to show us how it has evolved as an extraordinary art form.  As each of the twenty featured artists are introduced in this book, the reader is given the experience usually reserved for visits to the museum. Gwen even features the work of one artist, Jerry Bleem, who creatively redefines the "American Crochet" by using plarn (yarn made of recycled plastic bags) in one of his pieces!

Each of the twenty artists listed below were selected to provide a fresh look at crochet which includes four men: Arline Fisch, Leslie Pontz, Georgina Valverde, Pate Conaway, Carol Hummel, Renie Breskin Adams, Donna Lish, Dale Roberts, Nathan Vincent, Andrea Uravitch, Kathleen Holmes, Tracy Krumm, Donna Rosenthal, Karen Searle, Soonran Youn, Jerry Bleem, Jo Hamilton, Yvette Kaiser Smith, Bonnie Meltzer, and Dr. Carol Ventura.  The textures, the shapes, the techniques and the various mediums used are all part of this stunning and inspirational collection of crochet art!. If you are interested in exploring crochet outside of its traditional roles, then this is the book for you.   Bravo, Gwen!  Bravo!
Myra Woods showing the International Freeform Crochet Group's
collective work; image from my 2007 blog entry,
"Oh, Those Freeformers!"

Note: Gwen even includes some history behind a collective piece of work by members of the 
 International Freeform Crochet Group which I am proud to state I contributed to. (see image above)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Wonderment of Miniature

rare black Boye WWII Crochet Hook, Silk sewing thread
I am venturing, for my first time - ever, down that famous bunny hole, entering into the world of Alice in Wonderland.  I am talking about where things are big, and things are small, and thinking of impossible things are indeed quite possible.
“Alice: This is impossible!
The Mad Hatter: Only if you believe it is.”
             ~ Lewis Carroll

I'm talking about Miniature Crochet.

I have crocheted with thread before, in crocheting doilies and Irish Crochet projects and such. But I have never, other than admiring other people's amazing work and purchasing the book on Miniature Crochet, ventured any deeper into the world of miniatures.

zooming in...doily pattern can be found in the book,
Doilies in Color
Still working on my comic newspaper doily for my CGOA's Chapter's "Hello Doily Challenge," I decided it would be fun to also have a tiny version of the same doily crocheted in sewing thread.  You know, as a comparison of big and small, paper and ____.  Paper and silk! I purchased a spool of silky sewing thread that changes color.  Once I was home, I grabbed one of my black World War II Bates crochet hooks (size 10/ 1.5mm) and set to crocheting my beginning chains required by the pattern.

Let me state that it was at that very moment I felt like Alice as she started tumbling down that rabbit hole!  I was lost.  I couldn't see my stitches, and the thread was so darn slippery!  Had I read this excellent blog post on Choosing Threads first, I think I would have chosen a different thread to start this journey with! 

I would also recommend getting something to magnify -- such as a good pair of glasses -- as well.  I located two pairs of glasses (2.0 and 1.5 magnifying glasses) and can now turn the impossible into the possible if I wear both glasses at the same time.  (The next time I venture out to the store I'll pick up a single pair of strong magnifying glasses that can do the job of both.  Unfortunately, the magnification is also pointing out that I am in need of a manicure -- add that to the list of recommendations.)

I am now several rows into this miniature world, and I must admit that I am enjoying this adventure.  :)


Want to know more about the hard-to-find WWII Black Boye Crochet Hooks?  Visit

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review: Crochet Wraps Every Which Way

"Crochet Wraps Every Which Way" by
Tammy Hildebrand
Title: Crochet Wraps Every Which Way
Author: Tammy Hildebrand
Year Published: 2014; printed in USA

Dee's Rating: 9.5 Hooks out of 10

Tammy writes in her book Introduction:

"Is there anything more versatile than a wrap?  One of the most long-lived garment designs in existence, a wrap can be anything from a light, lacy shawlette, to a thick, cozy poncho, to a huge, intricate, jaw-droppingly gorgeous lace shawl."

She is so right! And the timing of her new book couldn't have been better, especially with the Bridal, Prom and Graduation seasons right around the corner! What could be better than wearing a hand-crafted shawl to such occasions? :)

Tammy's "Aqua Marine" from her new book,
"Crochet Wraps Every Which Way"
© 2014 by Stackpole Books. Used with permission

In this hot-off-the-press book, Tammy offers 18 original patterns, which includes 6 crochet techniques that range from traditional crochet to double-ended crochet.  The project Skill Levels rotate from easy, to intermediate, to experienced. This means there are six patterns offered with each of these 3 skill levels -- offering something for everyone to try!  Thinking inline with Tammy again, I do not agree with judging a pattern by the Skill Level as it could discourage a crocheter from trying something new: as long as you are proficient with the basics of crocheting, and diligent in counting and using stitch markers when needed, then you are ready to crochet up one of her beautiful wraps!

And I know this first hand -- as I type this book review, I already have her "Aqua Marine" wrap fresh off of the blocking board! Not only did this project work up super quick, but I also found Tammy's instructions easy to understand - and adapt! (Hey, she does say in her Introduction to "Have fun, experiment.")

My version of Tammy's "Aqua Marine" pattern
worked up as "Amethyst."
There are no symbol charts offered, but as I already stated, I found her written instructions easy to follow.  The only reason this book lost "half a hook" in my rating is due to some of the photography being blurry -- I am not sure if it is just my book (perhaps a printing mishap?*).  I do want to state that the images in question that I found to be blurry do not distract from the quality of the projects being offered: meaning I'd still want to add this book to my private crochet library!

* ETA: In an email exchange with the publisher, they report that the images look fine in their copies of the book.  So perhaps the issue is only with my copy.  

Want to see more photos of patterns offered in this book?  Visit Stackpole’s Look Book here.  Want to get to know Tammy? Follow her on Facebook here.  My Amethyst project details can be found here.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A "How To" - Peacock Garment Closure

Create your own pretty "Peacock Garment Closure"
If you are anything like me, you yarn shop AND shop for buttons, tassels, and beads too.  But not necessarily at the SAME time, or with a project aways in mind.

Sometimes inspiration hits. We go stash diving, find the perfect yarn and pattern combo and then begin happily stitching away. Then, once the project is done, we consider "the closure..."

So we head to the stash of buttons to find we do indeed have the perfect button, but then realize the project lacks button holes!  What to do? What to do!

An easy fix! We create a "Peacock Garment Closure."  Which is very pretty indeed!

You will need:
1 large button (the pretty one)
1 smaller button (used as a stabilizer)
2 pretty tassels, beaded ones optional
a sewing needle.

1. Sew the pretty button on the front of the project, with the smaller (stabilizer) button on the backside with the project "sandwiched" in the middle.
2. On the other front side of the project, sew the tops of the two tassels together so that they can dangle freely.

To use:
1. Take one tassel and loop over the button.
2. Take the other tassel and loop around the button in the opposite direction.

Now not only do you have a super pretty closure, but also more inspiration to enhance your button, bead and tassel stashes.  :)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy Cro-tastic New Year!!

Can you believe it?  Today is the start of a brand New Year -- and, in just a few short weeks, it will also be the official 10th Anniversary of my blogging (mostly) about crochet.  TEN YEARS!!!  What a milestone!!  The yarn, the hooks, and the projects!  The classes, conferences, and sheep & wool festivals!  Wow!!

To celebrate, I'll be awarding one lucky reader a one-year membership to the Crochet Guild of America: a year of opportunity, possibilities, and discoveries!  I've been a member since 2001, and I can tell you I have enjoyed every moment of it. ... So, not only is it my blogiversary, but the CGOA will be celebrating their 20th ANNIVERSARY!!  What an exciting year this is going to be!!!  :)

For those interested in helping me celebrate and want a chance to win the CGOA Membership, the rules are posted below.  Please note one entry per person, and the drawing for the 1-year membership is open to everyone of adult age.  (If you're not sure if your country is open to the CGOA Membership, you can contact the CGOA to inquire prior to entering.) 

>>>  EDITED 2/1/14: GIVEAWAY is now CLOSED.  Winner TBA in future blog post.  <<<
The Rules:
1.  Dive into my blog archives and find a post that you like.  An easy way to find a topic that might interest you is by utilizing the "search" option in the upper left-hand corner. You can search for a technique, a hook, a project, a yarn, a book review, famous crocheters and more!
2. Once you've found on you like, right-click onto the title, click onto "properties" and grab the address to that post.
3. Come back here and leave a comment stating "This is a post I liked: (insert the post address by right-clicking again and pasting the post address)."

Example: one of my favorites from my archives is

If you comment on why you liked the post, then you will get two chances of winnng the membership.
4. Leave a way for me to be able to contact you should you be the winner.  If I can't reach you, I'll have to pick someone else.
5. Note that this is for the CGOA Membership, and is not exchangeable for actual cash.
6. Yes, even if you're already a CGOA Member, you can participate. Should you win, it will be more like a Renewal.

Good luck, happy post hunting, and may your New Year be Cro-tastic!  :)