Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Recap of Mom's Birthday

I finally downloaded all the images from when my Mother was in town. These two I thought you'd all enjoy.  The first one here is from when I took her shopping at the new location of the "Stitch in Time" store for her birthday. It was the first time she was ever in a "speciality yarn shop" and she had fun going from aisle to aisle looking at all the fun fibers. With my daughter's help she picked out a few to try for when she's back home in Florida. She also picked out some needlepoint supplies which seems simple enough, but it's not a needle craft I have knowledge in.  (bonus points here:  check out the rose broach she's wearing!!)

The second image here was taken just prior to her getting ready to leave. In her shopping extravaganza she also got a cabled Tunisian/Afghan hook and I had showed her how the technique works.  Hey, she's smiling, so she must have been enjoying it, right?  ((grins))  You can see her "birthday bounty" sitting there on the table.  Was she a lucky girl or what?  ((bigger grins))

Also for her birthday we took her to the Maritime Aquarium of Norwalk where there were many, many young girls walking around wearing crocheted ponchos and capes.  You'd have thought it was a crochet convention or something!  LOL

Monday, May 30, 2005

Monkeying around with Tails

There has been much discussion, both online and in my crochet classes that I teach, about the length needed for tails left at the beginning of one's work.

My rule of thumb is to leave a tail of 6 to 8 inches -- or longer!!

I can fully understand the desire to want to "save" as much fiber as possible, but keeping tails short is not a recommended way to do so.  What happens when tails are left short is that work will tend to unravel, and hours worth of crocheting will be destroyed.  So in the end is saving a few inches of fiber worth it?  I don't think so.  I think it's worth the investment to keep them nice & long!

In all of my beginner crochet classes I tell my students three important reasons for wanting to keep their tails long.  They are:
     * 1.  Longer tails means more secure work; there's less chance of it unraveling.
     * 2.  Longer tails means that if you goof and need extra chains for your initial first row, you can fudge -- insert your hook into the last chain (in this case it's really the first chain you made!), take the nice long tail you left and start creating the number of chains needed.  Then proceed with crocheting as if you had the perfect count all along! ;)   ... remember, I'm still a huge advocate of counting stitches!!
     * 3.  Longer tails means that if the piece outlives it's creator by say, 50 or 100 years, then the person making the repair can use bits from the long tail(s) you wove into your work -- it will be a perfect match in fiber and color!

In later, more advanced classes, my students will hear me tell them to make their tails even longer when it comes to the finishing rows of squares (the tails can be used to sew the squares together); leaving them longer if you're going to be adding fringe anyway (take note of this with my modular poncho that's in the works of being published!); if you're going to seam up sides (such as the beach bag featured in Pauline Turners' book, "How to Crochet").  At the present time, I'm using my extra long tails of about 12-24 inches, depending upon the body part, to assemble the parts of Miss Pickles.  (Yes, she's almost done!)

Longer tails is the way to go.  Go ahead, experiment, or in other words, go ahead and monkey around with leaving those tails nice and long.   Don't forget, this means ending tails  too!! You'll be happy that you did!  J

Sunday, May 29, 2005

An Update on My Pickles

I spent most of yesterday nursing one of the worst migraines I've had this year ... and boy! was I pampered!  My children spoke softly, combed my hair and took turns covering me with their favorite blankets while reading to me.  My husband did everything else.  (Aren't they just the best??!!)

Eventually the ever-so-loud thumping in my head dulled a bit -- enough for me to crochet a "modular" vest for Mr. Pickles.  I don't know what drove me to do so, I really had thought he was pretty much done, though still needing a mouth.  But I had passed by some Lana Gatto Everest yarn I had left over from the hat & scarf I had crocheted for my father this past Christmas and it was just screaming to me to use it.  I picked it up, held it against Mr. Pickles and heard it say, "Crochet me into a vest!"  ... so I did.

Towards the end of the vest project I started thinking about buttons.  I have a pretty big collection of buttons, so finding some to go with the vest wouldn't be a problem.  I have my collection, and I have my grandmother's ... so I had thousands to choose from.  But when I opened one of my button containers, it wasn't a button I picked!  No, it was like someone whispered to me the line from the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" ... you know, the line that goes something like, "every time you hear a bell ring, an angel earns it's wings" ... yeah, that line.  I initally dismissed the whisper and poked through more buttons.  The whisper got louder (or was that the pounding of my migraine?);I decided to toy with the idea.  The jingle bells were right by the buttons.

Yes.  The bells were a perfect fit, and Mr. Pickles, Mr. Amato Pickles, looks as dashing as ever with his new vest on.  When it comes time for me to give Mr. Pickles to my nephew, every time he hears the bells ring, he can think of his mother getting her angel wings.  I'll see if I can add the same "bell theme" for Miss Pickles, who at this point is just a body and two arms fully assembled.  Her head & muzzle are ready for assembly;   I just need to find what I did with the noses first.

How am I feeling today?  I still have a slight trace of the migraine ... but I'm functional.  Pics will be coming soon; stay tuned!  :)

***Modular Crochet is a method of creating a garment much as a modular home is constructed; it's done in segments and joined together.  This type of crochet allows for a more custom fit, and if you're interested in learning this technique, see if you can get your hands on the 1978 out-of-print book, Modular Crochet, by Judith Copeland.***

Friday, May 27, 2005

Miss me yet? :)

It's been a few days since my last update, and I sure missed being here!  I am physically, and I think emotionally exhausted too.  I'm going to take the rest of the day off just to relax and reflect upon this past week.  One thing is for certain, I am looking forward to sharing my crochet thoughts with you, my readers, on a regular basis again.  :)

I hope you all had a great week, and have a fantastic Memorial Day Weekend!  I be back tomorrow, hopefully with pictures, crochet sightings, and even an update on Miss Cana Pickles. 

See ya' tomorrow!  J

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"... a lifetime ago ..."

I took the laptop with me yesterday afternoon so I could put together my summer class schedule as I awaited in the parking lot for my children.  I found it peaceful being the only one there; listening to the birds' concert, the neighborhood dogs adding in the bass; and an occasional truck driving by that added just the right amount of "rumble."  The sounds all remind me of the pattern that a variegated yarn makes; sometimes the pattern repeats.  Sometimes it's random.  Still, though, no matter how it works up, it's pretty.  Maybe it's time I picked up a skein or two of a variegated yarn and work something up with it; something for charity.  I'll have to see what I have in my stash first.  ((grins))

So, as you all know, my Mother is in town.  I'll see her again on Wednesday.  She leaves on Friday.  The last time we saw her was three years ago.  "That's a lifetime ago," says my son.  "Remember, Mom?  The last time Nana was here was when I was a baby." 

Funny how our perspectives are different.  I still see him as "my baby."  He sees himself as a mature six-year-old.  No matter; it's been a long time since our last visit, and as I've stated in another entry; she's here to celebrate her big birthday.  The big, well, I won't say.  Let's just say she's of legal age for drinking.  ((chuckles)) 

She has no idea of what I have planned for her birthday!  No, no surprise party.  She knew about her party; that was this past Sunday and the cause for my grogginess on Monday.  First, because I know she'll try to stay awake for every moment she humanly can in order to absorb as much time with all of us here in Connecticut, I'm going to give her some Mary Kay dark eye diminisher.  (I love the stuff!)  Then I plan on taking her out for a girls day out ... simple stuff, really.  Start with a manicure and then ... yeah, end up at the Bethel shop; one of the places I enjoy teaching at.  I'm going to let her have full run of the place, let her stock up on any needle point canvas' and thread she falls in love with, and also let her pick out whatever yarn she wants. 

You only turn 60 once, (oh gee!  Did I let that slip? Darn!) so I want to help her celebrate it right.  If I had more time, I'd have sent this link on over to the shop and ask the owner if she can make this "cake" and have it ready for her.  Do you all like the idea?  You can all make me this cake next year!  LOL  Of course, she doesn't have a clue about this, so SHHHHHHH!  Let's keep this a surprise! 

I do plan on teaching my mother the Tunisian technique -- so she can mix her two passions together!  All-in-all, it should make for a great day!  :) 

Monday, May 23, 2005

Checking In...

I feel totally "hung over" from all the fun, and the staying out late last night.  It was really great to have spent yesterday with my Mom, my Great Aunt, Great Uncle, cousins -- some family members I haven't seen in a few years, some I haven't seen in over a decade, and some I've never met!  There will be more of this type of behavior/feelings added to my family's normal routine throughout the week, so time will be tight as it is this morning.

In the meantime, I did want to leave you, my readers, with a link to an interesting crochet news story about a business woman becoming an artist at the age of 60 ... Click Here to enjoy.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Watch Out Dorothy & Toto: A Tornado!!

Summer is coming, and that means 1. having fun with my kids, and 2. having fun with others' kids ... meaning having fun teaching my "Fantastic Fiber Camp Classes."  With this in mind, I did some comparison shopping and opted to order three books from amazon.com.  They are:
     * Kids Crochet : Projects for Kids of All Ages, Kelli Ronci
     *Kids' Crafts: Crochet : Fantastic Jewelry, Hats, Purses, Pillows & More, Jane Davis
     * Finger Knitting #1: Handknit Projects For Kids Of All Ages, Suzuki Katsino

(I want to mention that the link featured today in this entry to amazon.com helps the Connecticut Chapter of the Crochet Guild of America, The Happily Hooked on Crocheting Club, raise funds for helping to promote crochet.  So, if you like to shop through Amazon.com, please consider using the link provided here.)

I'm thinking that these books will be delightful additions to my growing crochet library and will help me inspire children to love the fiber arts as much as I did when I was a child.  (I'm still a child at heart!!)   I'll share my thoughts on the books when they arrive in a few weeks, so stay tuned for an official "review" from me.

Another book I ordered was on Modular Homes.  I know, it's not quite crochet related -- or IS it??  I'm still dreaming here!  LOL  ... I showed my journal entry from yesterday to my hubby and he said that the image I created looked like a home stuck in a virtual yarn tornado.  Watch out Dorothy & Toto!!  ((grins))

Next week will be a virtual tornado for my family and I starting tomorrow.  It's my Mom's "big birthday;" we'll say she's turning 35.  A lie, but she likes the flattery.  She's coming to town, first time in a few years, and we haven't told the kids yet.  It will be a complete surprise to them.  It should be a very fun week, but that also means that I'll be abandoning my PC a bit.  Don't worry; I'll be back!  :)

Friday, May 20, 2005


My sweet hubby took the day off from work yesterday so that we could spend the day together to celebrate our anniversary.  We didn't go on romantic walks, or even dine out.  We went and checked out one of those modular home companies.  As we toured one of the homes he said, "...and this would be your yarn room..." 

Oh, dare I to dream of such a possibility?!!  A room dedicated to holding all of my stash!!  How would I go about designing a storage system to hold/display it all?  How would you design YOUR own room for YOUR stash?  (If you have a blog/journal, you can write about it and then post the link here!)

Right now it's just a dream, but it could become reality a year or two down the road.  Space!  The final frontier!  ...in my home!!!  LOL  Oh, I'm just salivating at the idea! 

I think, before I ever moved a skein into my dream room, I'd deal with the lighting.  I'd put in lights that reflect "true color" ... maybe use those GE Reveal light bulbs, or buy a few Ott-lights.  Then I'd have the room painted.  I'm not sure what color(s) I'd go with, but I love the idea of taking a picture of yarn and then blowing it up so that it covers an entire wall.  (I saw them do something like that with other images on the ABC "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" show and loved the idea).  Then I'd put my desk with my pc there, some comfortable chairs, and then shelves & shelves of my stash.  Maybe some hooks in the ceiling to hang some of my hanks...  Oh, the possibilities!!!

I loved that my hubby and I took the time to investigate having a new home built ... if anything the dreams are incredibly sweet!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Volunteers: Priceless

We've all seen those Mastercard commercials to know the slogan where a single action or event is deemed priceless (as a result of using the MC, no doubt!)

Today I'm looking at the act of volunteering, of getting involved to help others.  Perhaps this is due to a conversation I had with a lady this week who saw me crocheting a scarf I intend to donate come this fall.  The conversation steered into the act of volunteering where she promptly stated that she didn't have the time to get involved.  I disagreed.

Volunteering doesn't mean you're giving away every free moment of your life -- unless you choose to.  Volunteering can be as simple as saving those soda can tops for the Shrinners (unless you're crocheting them into your work -- click onto the image on the right to see more), to volunteering time at a local hospital, or charity.

Volunteering can be as simple as picking up the hook, or knitting needles and creating a scarf -- or purchasing one extra one at your local store and donating it to a local charity.

My point in thinking that volunteers are priceless comes from the feelings that you receive back ... knowing that you've helped someone in need.  Save your soda can tops; save  soup can labels, or box tops for a local school; write a check to a favorite charity; or give an hour or two of yourself to a group that can use the help.  Our single acts of volunteering just a little bit can make a huge difference in someone else's life.  These ladies do just that:  Volunteers Find Fountain Within

Did the lady I was talking to about helping others change her mind?  Honestly, I don't know.  But at least she now has the chance to think about it, and will hopefully decide to jump in this great pool of opportunity;the opportunity to help others.

Yep.  Volunteers are Priceless!  :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Cast Off Your Worries

I knew taking a look at what was "getting my goat" would make me feel better - to take stock in the fact that my troubles can be fixed, or at least overlooked with the right scenario.

First, I took Mr. Pickles to my children's school to show the other parents who volunteer with me how he turned out.  They just loved him, and I think he enjoyed all of the attention!  Two of the parents volunteered my services to create another one (when his sister is complete) for the school to raffle off next year.  I'm going to give that one some thought.

Second, I checked my mail and was delighted to find the CD from "across the pond" had arrived.  (What FAST shipping!!!)  I'm sitting here on my swing, typing my entry here all while listening to this awesome little CD by
Jean Moss and The Purly KingsThe kids are having a great time "whooping it up" and dancing to the tune, "Momma Don't Allow No Knitters In Here" -- I just might join them in dancing the afternoon away!! ((Yee Haw!!))  Of course the other tune, "More Yarn Will Do the Trick," that has the line to "visit a local yarn store for its therapy if you're sick, why pay shrinks and doctors when more yarn will do the trick" is just a riot!  (Lori, I think you need to play this tune in your office!  LOL)

My third scenario was that I found another coupon code for the cafepress.com website ... the best one yet since I've been shopping there! It's $10 off orders over $30, coupon code GRDAD05. Sales starts May 17 and ends June 14, 2005.  ...so for those of you who have been asking if I could put items on sale at my "shop" I hope this does the trick for you!  :)

OK, I'm off; I'm going to go "cast off [my] worries" (quote from one of Jean's songs) and do some fun dancing with my children ... their giggles make for great medicine! 

Getting my Goat

I try, on a daily basis, to try and keep my journal entries light, fun, and informational.  Rarely do I rant.  Today is a ranting day.  So, if you came looking for fun, turn away now.  It could get ugly.

First, as a SAHM ("Stay at Home Mom") of two kids, and as a SEW ("Self-Employed Woman"), along with the other one million hats I wear on a daily basis, I'm having to add a "Police" hat to my collection.  I, as the Volunteer Email Correspondent" for the CGOA have been inundated with the "German Spam."  Just yesterday I got hit with some 250 spam emails.  It just kills me that some people with time on their hands have nothing better to do than to make other people's day suck.  (I'm ranting, remember?  This is why I'm using strong language like the word "suck."  Remember, you were warned!)  I think someone should place a hook & some yarn in these peoples' hands and have them do something productive.  Yeah, like crochet.  Let them crochet for charity.  Give back to the people they robbed! 

I'm also starting to get pretty steamed up over my quest for a logo.  The company is not living up to what they promise, and customer service ... well, what customer service?   Even the president of the company has made promises they've yet to live up to.  I'm giving them to close of business today to show some sort progress or I'm taking my business elsewhere.  Any of my readers happen to also be graphic artists and looking for a job????  (I'll reveal who the company is at a later time)

Geesh!  See, venting eats energy and now look at the time!  I'm late! I'm late!  ...got an important date!!  Perhaps more ranting later...

10:24:  Alright, I'm back.  More ranting.  Are you ready?   

It seems that AOL has been hiccupping with Yahoo again, and I wonder with who else?  I've received notification from the various groups I belong to that I've been "bouncing," and I've received emails from people asking why I haven't responded ... when indeed I have.  Are my emails lost in cyber space?  I'll have to make time tonight to repost the emails I've sent.  (So you know what this means!  If you sent me an email and I haven't responded, please repost it!!)

Next rant is the pain in my thumb.  Yeah, most people have pains elsewhere, but mine is legit, not caused by the three VW Jetta's that cut me off in traffic this morning.  (Their logo is "Drivers Wanted."  If I was the President of that company I'd think about adding some sort of notation of wanting "Safe Drivers."  It was weird to be cut off three times, in the same morning time slot, by the same car maker.  Maybe I should play lotto with the number 3?)  Getting back to my thumb, it still hurts.  Not as bad, but it is preventing me from working on Mr. Pickles' sister who has about a 90% chance of being named "Cana" ... my kids really like it more than "Dara" and since the bears will be going to their cousins, well, how can I possibly say no? 

And you know, after re-reading my entry here, if this is all that I've got "getting my goat" at the moment, then my life is good.  I'm blessed.  I hope you, my readers, are blessed too.  ...but, if you're having a cranky day where someone has your goat by the horns and need a little "pick me up," then go and click on over to this site and have fun looking at all the fibers.  I just love all the fiber color names ... a little bonbon, or berry sorbet, or blackberry cobbler would make the purr-fect "pick me up," don't you think?  (Disclaimer: I have not done business w/this site so I cannot attest to their business practices/product.)   So, this is Dee saying "Baaaaaaaaa!" to bad days.  Now, get that hook out & get in some relaxing therapy!  :)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Upcoming Books to Flip Through...

Every couple of months I go to the Barnes & Noble website to see what new books will be coming hot off the press.  This morning, having had a few extra moments between chasing the kids around the house so that they wouldn't be late for school, I got a chance to enjoy my coffee and check out the write-ups of some of the new releases.  I'm very excited about a few of the new prospects: 

The Crochet Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You'll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You'll Ever AskThe first book that immediately caught my eye, although I've yet to see it in person, looks to be promising as a recommendation for my "newbie" students ... it's called "The Crochet Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You'll Ever Face: Answers to Every Question You'll Ever Ask" by Edie Eckman and Margaret Radcliffe.  The write-up states the book will "...leave no question unanswered, no quandary unaddressed."  I question how many books it actually will end up being because it also states "each book contains detailed, illustrated answers to literally hundreds of questions, from the common to the more unusual."  Nonetheless, I'm excited, and cannot wait to check it out come August when it's officially released.Felted Crochet

The next book, that's on my wish list ofbooks to check out is coming out this September.  It's called "Felted Crochet" by Jane Davis.  There's been a tremendous amount of interest in felting crochet lately and it's about time there was an entire book dedicated to crochet and felting all in one place.   ("You mean you want the item to shrink??" my husband asks)  September ... that's only 4 months to wait; I can do that, can't I??

Hooked on Crochet: 20 Easy-to-make Projects for Hip Hats, Bold Bags, Swingin'Finally, I want to show off one of my crochet students' beautiful crochet work ... this is Nicki to the right ... didn't she do just a fabulous job!!  She got the pattern from the recently published book, "Hooked on Crochet" by Candi Jensen.  Hmmmmm...seems that's another book for me to check out!  Thanks for the inspiration, Nicki!!!  :)

Oh, so many books, so many projects!  LOL  Will it ever possible to get to each and every project that tickles your fancy??   I don't know; but it's sure going to be fun trying!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Resisting His Charm

Look who joined me on my new swing, trying to charm me into crocheting his sister quicker! Yes, it's noneother than Mr. Pickles, and look at that Hollywood bright smile he's flashing!! (LOL) No, his mouth is not stitched in yet; I drew it in. ((giggles))

I'm trying my darndest to resist his charm; I did start his sister late last night but found I have some pain coming from the middle knuckle of my thumb ... not good!  I have no clue what I may have done to myself, but hope it goes away with a bit of rest.  This is the same thumb I had sprained a few years back with the afghan I crocheted for my father-in-law.  Sorry Mr. Pickles.  It's going to take a wee bit longer than we expected for completing your sister.

But just because I'm not crocheting her at the moment doesn't mean I'm not thinking about her!  I'm thinking she'll need one of those ballerina tulle skirt thingies.  I'm imagining sewing that and then adding a bit of crocheted trim.  But first I have a Crochet Meeting to go to today, and I'm guessing Mr. Pickles wants to go too.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Meet Mr. Pickles

Mr. Pickles is ready to meet you all! ...but he still doesn't have a voice. All that is left for me to do is sew him a mouth. I'm just not sure what type of a mouth ... an open mouth, a surprised "O" mouth, or a smile mouth.  What do you think?

He joined me at work today and my students all loved him. Now he's waiting for his sister to be crocheted. See the fushia yarn waiting? J

For those interested in making a bear similar to my bear pictured here, please note that he's entirely crocheted by feel, not by sight.  This means that I do not recommend this project for a beginner.

I got the pattern from the Lion Brand website and used Berroco's Bulky Chinchilla with a size "I" hook.  I left very long tails (about 2') on each piece for the assembly.

You can call him Amato; you can call him Tom.  You can call him Mr. Pickles, just don't call him late to dinner. (LOL)

Friday, May 13, 2005

More on Mr. Pickles

Everyday, as I await for my kids to be dismissed from school for the day, I've been busy working on Mr. Pickles in the parking lot --  to the point now where he's ready for assembly.

Stuff, stuff, stuff.  Sew, sew, sew.  I purchased some eyes, and a little nose too; even got them snapped into place.  Oh!  He's really coming along, and is quite dashing if I do say so myself.  My son ran into his room and came back with an old clip-on tie he had from back when he was a toddler ... we put the tie on Mr. Pickles and it fits his little bear personality purr-fectly!  Just as soon as I get his other three legs sewn on, and add his mouth, I'll snap his picture & introduce you all to him.

One thing is for certain, he's incredibly soft!!  I'm sure Chris will love snuggling up with Mr. Pickles.  Maybe sharing his thoughts, his sorrow with him; maybe sharing secrets he would have shared with his Mom.  Mr. Pickles can't replace her, but he can bring comfort with his softness. 

I've decided that Mr. Pickles should have a first name.  Amato. (sounds a bit like tomato, or "a lotta" huh?) ... it means "beloved."  Hmmm ... Mr. A lotta Pickles.  or Mr. Amato Pickles.  Yes, I like the sound of that.  :)

... I still need to create Mr. Pickles sister, and she'll need a name too.  I'm thinking of the name "Dara" which means "compassion, wisdom, angel of rains and rivers;" of course "Cana" seems to be an appealing name too (it means "beloved").  Hmmmm.... Miss Cana Pickles.  or Miss Dara Pickles.  The first name sounds like someting you'd buy in a grocery store (a can of pickles); the second name seems to imply that she's up for dares; for challenges.  What do you think?  Any thoughts?  (Of course, once I give the bears to the kids, they can rename them, but for now, I think it's only proper to give them a temporary name.) 

Thursday, May 12, 2005

News Article: Crochet Grows Quickly

Crocheting hobby hooks more people: "We are seeing an especially rapid growth in crochet, which is certainly not just about granny squares anymore. Current fashions have helped boost this hobby, and it doesn't hurt that celebrity magazines tell us about the crocheted creations of Jennifer Lopez, Catherine Zeta-Jones and other stars."

And we can't forget that the poncho that Martha wore also helped put crochet on the front page of the News Times.  ...in the image to the right, one of my students had great difficulty with the trim instructions from the Lion Brand website.  So I created a simpler trim for her:

       Crocheting only in the open spaces going around the edge of the poncho:
        Rnd 1:  ch3, [dc, ch 1, 2 dc in open space], ch 2, sc in open space, ch 2, *[2dc, 1ch, 2dc] in open space, ch 2, sc in open space, ch 2, repeat from * around.
        Rnd 2:  sl st to ch1-space, ch3, [2dc, ch 1, 3 dc in ch1-space], ch 3, sc in sc st, ch 3, *[3dc, 1ch, 3dc] in ch1-space, ch 3, sc in sc st, ch 3, repeat from * around.
        Rnd 3:  sl st to ch1-space, ch3, [3dc, ch 1, 4 dc in space], ch 4, sc in sc st, ch 4, *[4dc, 1ch, 4dc] in ch1-space, ch 4, sc in sc st, ch 4, repeat from * around.  End off.

Mr. Pickles leafs with Dee

I have about 15 more rows to do on the teal colored Comfort bears' tummy and the crochet aspect for him will be done.  Then all that will be left is to stuff him, then assemble him.  He was christened as "Mr. Pickles" yesterday as I did volunteer lunch duty at my children's school.  I love the name.  I can't help but wonder what name the fushia bear (yet to be worked up) will be called.  If you have a suggestion, please let me know!  :)

Mr. Pickles and I had fun leafing through my new book I received through
amazon.com.  (of course Mr. Pickles didn't really leaf through the book with me as I've yet to put his eyes on, but I think he wanted to.  LOL).  If you like crocheting with beads and are interested in graphing, then you'll want to check out the book called, "Patterns & Graphing for Bead Crochet Ropes" -- thus far I love the book! 

It covers graphing for crocheting in a pattern of four beads to patterns with eight.  Of course there just are not enough hours in the day to do all the projects that I'd like to ... but this book will definitely get some use in the near future!  J

What's that, Mr. Pickles?  You want my readers to go back and look at the image that was included in the entry about my new swing?  Why, Mr. Pickles, what did you do?!?  ... 

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

More Yarn Will Do the Trick

There's no pulling the wool, or in this case, the silk, over my readers eyes!  You all got the answer to yesterday's trivia question!  So, let me ask, did you also know that A.)  Silk worms are not worms?  They're caterpillars! 
And B.)  That you can crochet direct from a silk "hankie"?  Yep!!

My first time crocheting with raw silk was during a class I took at the 2003 CGOA National Conference.  The Conference was held in Chicago, and the class I took was called "Crocheting with Unspun Roving" taught by Janet Rehfeldt, co-author of the book "Crocheted Socks!: 16 Fun-to-Stitch Patterns(see picture of Janet teaching the class to the left).   Noticing the phenomenon of "crocheter's fiber twisting" with each stitch really sank in for me during this class! ... and I hope that my last two journal entries here have helped you understand the phenomenon too.

If you'd like to learn more about silk, then you may be interested in visiting these two websites: www.cambodia.org and thesciencefiles

If you'd like to read a little bit more about my experience at the 2003 CGOA Conference & see a few more pictures, then click here. (Be sure to check out my slippers I entered into the contest; they're a riot if I do say so myself!  They came in Second Place!)

Now, about the title of my entry ... it's actually the title of a website I'd like for you all to give a little visit to! (www.jeanmoss.com) Since I commute over an hour (one way) to one of the shops I teach at, I've always thought that there should be some music that's about fiber.  I thought, as I was teaching one of my classes yesterday, that I had heard a song mention yarn.  Was I loosing my mind?  No!  They had a CD by Jean Moss singing some ditties about our fiber passion.  So, when I got home I went searching for her on the Internet.  I found her website and clicked onto the link to listen to a sample but found that the link was broken!  (Oh no!)  So I sent them an email this morning -- and received a prompt reply back!  I'm happy to report that the link is now working (and that they're sending me a CD to review!).  Other good news, if you're interested in ordering the CD, they ship anywhere around the world!!  Now how awesome is that?!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Keeping Myself in Stitches

Laughter is good medicine, even if you don't need it.  It all started with a visit from Teresa.  She came into the shop last week and showed me a hat that had a stiff brim.  "Can I crochet a hat like that?" she asked.  "Yes," I replied, "I'll bring mine in next week and show you it can be done."

So I walked in the store today with it on my head.  My!  Did the employee's eyes get big ... as well as their smiles. ((giggles)) I had on my "peacock" colored poncho along with the hat in the picture I have of myself in the upper left hand corner of my blog.  I was "bright & colorful!"  ... mind you, no one said I matched!!  LOL

After two great classes (one on various ways to crochet with beads and the other on hairpin lace) I decided to tote my items out to my vehicle.  Upon my head sat my hat.  Uh-huh.  A lady in the parking lot nearly got whiplash as it caught her eye.  I just laughed to myself; my! what a fun hat this is!

Later, on the way home, I decided for all those commuting along side me, that I should take the hat off.  A few too many cars "slowed down for a second look."  I just laughed; I love to laugh.  Keeping myself in stitches helps me keep a positive outlook on life.

I ended my day today with a fresh bag full of the ever-soft chinchilla (for the Comfort Bears I'm working on), and the laptop beside me.  I felt the cool spring breeze at the end of a beautiful day as I watched the children playing soccer in the yard.  I heard the birds chirping all while I sat here, on my new outdoor swing -- enjoying the sun slowly setting.  I even made a date with my husband while talking to him on the phone ... the first day this week that he'll be able to get home from work at a "normal time" we'll get to go out there, sit on the swing, hold hands and share our daily events (for this I'm willing to put my hook down, for at least a moment or two).   I'm looking forward to that.  What a great way to end such a fun day!  :)

Question from Reader: Yarn Differences, Part II

What I understand from my research is that acrylic is made primarily from acrylonitrile.  Acrylonitrile is a rubber substance that when heated, softens; and when cooled, hardens.  As it's heated, it allows for fibrication -- for creating some of the common products we know as polyester, nylon, spandex, and acrylic.  In simple terms, the more it's heated in production, it makes for a softer product ... like acrylic yarn.  Because acrylonitrile is not a natural substance like wool or cotton, it's called a "continuous filament" and may be directly formed into yarn without the additional processes that natural fibers need (i.e., carding, combing & spinning). 

From there the yarn is either twisted into the Z-twist (counterclockwise) or the S-twist (clockwise).  This is to give the fiber strength.  The more it's twisted, the stronger it is.  There are cases where both twists are used to create an end product, but since I have no personal experience of spinning yarns -- yet!, I'll stop my thought process there.  I do know that once the yarn is twisted with other strands it creates what we know as "ply."  Each ply that's added can be of the same twist, or different (it creates variations in the end result).  Interestingly enough, I found out this tidbit at the Fabric University: "Generally, woolen and worsted yarns are S-twist, while cotton and flax yarns are typically Z-twist." 

Now, as to yesterday's challenge ... did you try it?  When we crochet we notice a phenomenon happening -- our yarn twists as we create each new stitch!  This means
that as we are crocheting we are either twisting the fiber more (makes for a slightly stiffer fabric) or we're untwisting (making for a slightly softer fabric).  It all depends upon: 
            1. If you're a left handed or right handed crocheter
            2. If you pull your fiber from the inside or the outside of the skein.
3. If the yarn is primarily a Z or a S twist.

So there you have it.  A yarn's softness has to do with how it's processed/created (including the dying process: natural dyes verses synthetics); how it's twisted (slightly to tightly); it's number of plies (don't forget the ply's themselves have a twist variable too!); and if it's being twisted more, or less depending upon the crocheter. 

If you get a chance to experiment, buy yourself a little bit of unspun roving ... pull from the roving a continuous strand and crochet it up.  You'll really notice the twisting that happens with your crocheting!  Also, before you start a new skein of yarn, inspect it.  Check out it's twist!  :)

Trivia:  Do you know what natural fiber is the only "continuous filament?"  I'll give a clue:  It's eggs were first smuggled into America hidden in women's hair!  ... oh! what we do for the love of our fiber!

Monday, May 9, 2005

Question from Reader: Yarn Differences

Oh great fiber connoisseur,
I have a question for you.

Two yarns, same manufacturer (Caron). Both are worsted weight, 4-ply, acrylic. One is "Simply Soft" and the other is their standard yarn sold as "One Pound".

Why are the yarns so very different? The SS feels more like something you would use for a baby garment/blanket - nice and soft. The other is something you would use for general purposes - sweaters, crafts, afghans, slippers, etc.

I was talking to someone about yarn tonight and grabbed my skeins and looked at the labels. I fully expected the SS one to be 3 ply or listed as a sport weight. NOPE! 4 ply and worsted. I know the actual skein weights are different - 6 oz. of SS compared to 1 lb. of the other, but I think this is probably just the way they are packaged? The yarns definitely have different feels to them.


This morning, I nearly spewed out my first sip of coffee out when I read this.  (I've never been called a "Guru" before! LOL) I'm am very flattered, Sheila!  (hopefully my head won't swell up too much)...

The first thought that came to mind in answering your question, well, it wasn't so much a thought as it was more like a song:  "Love The One You're With"

          If you're down and confused
          And you don't remember who
          You're talking to
          Concentration slips away
          Cos your fav. yarn is so far away

          And there's a rose in a fisted glove
          And the eagle flies with the dove
          Andif you can't be with the one
          You love honey
          Love the one you're with

          Don't be angry don't be sad
          Don't sit crying over good
          Times you had
          There's a yarn, right next to you
          And it's just waiting for something 
          To do


          Turn your heartache right into joy
          You can crochet it up into a toy
          So get it together make it nice
          And you won't need any more advice


Sorry about that Sheila, I hope the song doesn't get stuck in you head as it did in mine. In all due seriousness, I visited the Caron website and pulled up the specs for each yarn side by side. Both are 100% acrylic, both have the same gauge when worked up with identical hooks/needles. But there is a difference! For this we take out our handy calculators and divide the weight into the yardage. Hmmm, seems you get about four extra yards from the Simply Soft than you do from Pounder. This means it's time to look at the fibers up close and personal. Unfortunately, I don't have either of those two brands "on hand" at the moment, so I'm going to base my opinion(s) on my past experience with them.

I agree with you; Simply Soft is softer than the Pounder.  I think the difference starts at the processing plant. Specifically, I'm thinking, the dying process. The Simply Soft comes in specific dye lots. The Pounder does not (although they do differ so be sure to keep checking the dye lot numbers!)  How they achieve this could be why they call the Pounder a "work horse" yarn.

The next thought I have is how the end fiber that we call yarn is created. There are various processes depending upon if the material is natural or man-made.   We're talking about acrylic here, which is man-made.  The process of making the man-made fiber could differ at the factory.

The next thing, once that is determined, is to look at the spin, or the twist, of the yarn. Some yarns, like Lion Brands' "Microspun" have very little twist to it (and thus has a reputation for splitting). Others are spun so tight that they're no longer considered yarn; we call it thread. Interesting, huh? (Want to see diagrams & stuff? Then go here.)

Next up is the ply of the yarn ... the number of fibers that are/or are not twisted that are then twisted together. How tight these are twisted will also effect the end result.

The final thing to look at here is your swatching. Take one skein of yarn and crochet with it coming from the center of the skein. Then crochet up another swatch coming from the outside of the skein. Do you notice a difference? Can you determine why there's a slight difference?

          ...I'll give you all a day to play; I'll post the answer tomorrow.

Don't understand any of this? Want to know more about ply and "those other thingies?" Then you want to click here.  Got more questions about gauge, ply & such? Then go here.

I have never tried my hand at spinning yarn, but I do find the process interesting. This is one of the reasons I enjoy going to the various state Sheep & Wool Festivals & Fairs. If you'd like to read up about the process, then you'll want to click here.

I hope this helps, Sheila. My rule of thumb when I'm purchasing a fiber is that 90% of the time it has to feel good slipping through my fingers. I used an acrylic yarn so coarse once that I swear I got "splinters & blisters" from it. Never again. Unless, of course, that's all that I have, and in that case, "I'll love the one I'm with."  :)

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Thoughts of Motherhood

Here it is, the official start of Mother's Day Weekend.  As I sit here typing out my thoughts at my kitchen table my children are having a rapid fire conversation with their Dad.  As I watch this exchange I wonder, "How on earth did they learn to talk so fast?  Geesh!  They're growing quickly!"

      The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom
                                                                      -Henry Ward Beecher 

There's giggles and grins as they make plans on how we'll be celebrating this weekend.  It seems that they're talking in code about presents they made in school, and are sharing little whispers on when they'll present them to me.  I continue my typing, pretending not to listen; being a sponge to absorb this moment, recording it deep in my mind.  I smile inside; I feel their excitement in planning to surprise me.  Soon enough, in the blink of an eye, they'll be grown, leaving the nest.  For now, I want to remember the sound of their young voices, the giggles, the grins.  I want to absorb every precious moment!

     The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.
                                                                                -Oprah Winfrey

We've decided to forgo the traditional "Mother's Day Dinner Out" and have opted that we should invest the money we would have spent for an outdoor swing.  I think the swing will help create more special moments with my children ... from it being a place for them to read to me, to share special secrets, looking for butterflies or fireflies, to just watching them grow  (and yes, have it a place for me to do my crochet projects outside!).  We'll be going out later today to pick the swing up.  I'll be bringing my crochet with me to keep me occupied as I pretend to be surprised with the gift.  :)

     Like a treasured afghan, let the little moments of life wrap your heart with warmth and memories that lasts a lifetime.
                                                                                -Dee Stanziano

Friday, May 6, 2005

Unlocking the Magic

It's close to Mother's Day. It's a day to reflect upon our Mothers, and if you're also a Mom, to reflect upon the relationship we have with our children. Sometimes the roll of motherhood is cut short and sadly a child misses out on that special bond. This was true for my Grandmother, and for my Mother as their mothers passed away before they were the age of three. Realizing this, I can't help but wonder who inspired them, and when they first picked up the hook and started crocheting.

My Grandmother is no longer around, so unfortunately I can't ask her.  But my Mother will (shhhhh! it's a surprise to the kids) be coming up for a visit in two weeks.  I remember her giving me a crochet kit when I was a child when we were at a camp ground (I want to say we were in Louisiana at the time, but I'm not certain). When she gave me that kit, it was like magic in a box to me, but she was unable to help me unlock it's mysteries.  She told me she knew how to crochet once upon a time, but had forgotten how.  Obviously that did not stop me; I found a way to learn how to crochet.  And so did she a few years ago when I helped her learn the basics.  Now our bond is even closer as we share our interest in the fiber arts. 

Somewhere deep in our memories I think most of us can think back to some relation or some close family friend who either crocheted or knitted. As I do my volunteer lunch duty in my children's classes, I enjoy listening to all the children telling me who they know that enjoys the same art form as me. They might tell me a hundred times, but their excitement remains the same, with that same twinkle of proudness in their eyes. This weekend, as you create your stitches, you may want to reflect upon how you first saw the magic of string becoming fabric too.  I bet you get that little twinkle in the eye.

To help in the reflection of the mothers and the crocheters before us, give the Lion Brand website a visit; they're offering free virtual cards you can email to your loved ones.  Look at all the fantastic art work that feature fiber, and about how the model in that sketch or painting may have inspired others to continue on the same fiber adventure.  ... and if you get a chance, help to unlock the magic to a youngster.  You'll create a magical moment that puts a lifetime of twinkles in their eyes. 

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Question from Reader: finding pattern$

Dear Dee,
I was looking at some patterns on ebay, but they're so expensive! I was wondering if you could help me find something for the American Girl doll series. Thanks, Janice

Hi Janice, thank you for writing me. I agree with you; at times, patterns on ebay can get quite expensive! I was just discussing this topic on Tuesday with one of my students where a doll/purse series reportedly sold for $77. The reason some of the patterns get so expensive has to do with the old rule of supply and demand. If you lost out on an auction this time, set the ebay option up that has them notify you when the item you're looking for comes up. This is how I found my "feathered yarn" and my vinyl bags that I store my yarn in.

As far as locating patterns, I don't normally get into offering specific links due to time limitations.  But I do believe that the Internet is an awesome tool, and it can be quite a lot of fun to explore. You can do searches using words like "crochet dress 18" and see what pops up. Then do another search "crochet sweater 18" and keep going. In the meantime, clicking here will lead to a pattern to a little doll sweater that you might like working up. I used that pattern for the sweater pictured to the right; I don't recall what pattern I used for the dress. (I crocheted the set three years ago!) I hope this helps.

And Haley, this may not be the pattern that we spoke about on Tuesday in class, but it may be close ... and it's free: Cradle Purse

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

CafePress.com & Mr. UPS Guy

Last week I mentioned how I started my online shop conveniently called "CrochetWithDee.Support This Site"  Since that time, I have been asked if I could include T-shirts.  I'm happy to announce that I now have T-shirts available.  I was then asked if I knew of any discount codes I could pass on.  I have two ... 5MDAY which expires May 8th, and MAY5, which, based on the banner to the right expires on May 18th.

Jane, over there at janeshookedoncrochet talks about her ordering my tote & mug.  She's keeps crochet hooks in a mug she picked up at the Conference.  I can't help but wonder if she'll be doing the same with her new mug, or enjoying some delicious coffee or tea with it.  Jane, you'll have to let me know!  :)

I have also been trying to locate the cafepress shop that features freeform crochet & knit with proceeds going to THE GLOBAL FUND FOR WOMEN ... that shop is called caff.  For those familiar with designer Margaret Hubert, her crochet piece is the icon for that shop; it's worth checking out the shop just to see that piece!  :)

My other new update includes Mr. UPS Guy.  He knocked on my door this afternoon and handed me a brown box.  Having placed a few orders this week I figured it was either light bulbs or some books I ordered.  Instead, it was my blue/green/teal poncho back from the publisher with a note to expect the book to be out this November.  It will be called "Fabulous Crocheted Ponchos."  The note also stated to bug the local Barnes & Nobel if I want copies sooner than the release date (for my holiday shopping).  I'm excited that it will be available in just six short months!  (I'll see if I can get a image showing off the poncho's "peacock" colors better.)


One of my childhood friends had a new baby this week; caught me completely by surprise because she had it early.  Mom and baby are doing just fine, but this means I need to get busy crocheting up a lil' something for his arrival.  Later tonight I'll give the website hemstitcher.com a visit and see what they have in the line of teddy bear themes with mint green (I'm sure they have something there that will match his nursery).  I've ordered from them before (see image to right) and really like the products they offer.

Some heart-pounding news to share: I was chased out of Starbucks yesterday.  No, seriously!  I went in to order my coffee & pick up a muffin and turkey sandwich.  Seems on my way out a group of women decided to chase after me.  Never in my wildest crochet dreams would I think that I'd be chased down, but the next thing I knew there was a group of women knocking on my window as I'm getting ready to leave ... seems they REALLY liked my bag and wanted to know where I got it!  They got all excited when they heard I made it, and were more delighted when they heard it was crocheted!  Should I mention the frenzy when they also discovered that I teach the crochet classes down the road?  ((giggles))  So, OK.  That was an interesting experience!   ((more giggles))  Hmmm, I'll have to look into seeing if a publisher is interested in the bag.  :)

Monday, May 2, 2005

"Pretty in White"

It was a beautiful ceremony; and she was as pretty as a Princess! To the left is an upclose image of the Rosary she crocheted last year (no pattern!) and won a Blue Ribbon for in the Junior's Division. To the right you'll see a cropped image of the crocheted items she wore during the ceremony.

Mind you, she wasn't the only little girl wearing crochet! There was another little girl in the pew right in front of us with a crocheted poncho on ... of course I couldn't help but study it! LOL ... I think it was hand made, with double crochets, every third row or so was sprinkled with pretty sequins. The little girls' poncho was tiered - two pieces - a long triangle shape with a circle on the top. Hard to describe, but very striking.

Nope, I didn't crochet the beaded handbag. One of the members of the HHCC did, then won a ribbon for it, and placed it up for auction. That was over some two years ago. I fiercely bid on it to ensure I'd have it for this special day! The cape my daughter has on here was done using the Hairpin Lace technique. No pattern -- yet! :)

(To protect my daughter's identity, I will not be showing full images.  I appreciate my readers understanding of this. Thank you!)

Sunday, May 1, 2005

"The BIG Day" -- It's here!

So here it is, THE BIG DAY!  One would think that it was my BIG DAY as I had great difficulty sleeping.  I actually got up around 1:30 this morning to unpack my daughter's Rosary she had crocheted and won a blue ribbon for last year.  You know how it is; the mind just races with details until you address it.  How on earth could I forget an important detail like that? 

This morning my husband asked if I wanted a cup of coffee.  "Yes.  Bottomless.  Keep it coming!"  I'm wondering if there's a way I can get hooked up to an IV ... nothing but coffee, please!  Heavy on the caffeine ...

I'll be off  in a moment to go get ready but decided to do a quick crochet check list for today's event.  (Mind you, I did not make all these items myself; I had a help from Grace, Celeste and my daughter!)>
     * Crocheted Book Markers complete with dangling crocheted crossed.  (check!)
     * Crocheted Hairpin Lace Cape complete with sewn in beads and crosses on trim.  (check!)
     * Crocheted white & beaded Communion hand bag. (check!)
     * Crocheted Hand Bag that matches my outfit.  (check!)
     * Crocheted Shawl (black) with Beaded trim.  (check!)
     * Crocheted Rosary.  (check!)
     * Crocheted Make-up bag (for touch ups; you know I'm gonna weep during the ceremony!).  (check!)
     * and finally, there's the "Butterfly" that my daughter had made that has some crochet on it. It's already at the church so it gets an automatic "check!" by it.

Wow, that's a lot of crochet!  And I can see it now, you all are going to want to see pictures, huh?  I'll see what I can do.  Now, where did I put my waterproof mascara?