Sunday, November 4, 2012

Weathering the Storm

I survived the "Storm of the Century" last year.  And survived it again this year with Hurricane Sandy.  We were fortunate that all we lost last year were some trees and our electrical power for eight days.  This year we lost some more trees and we lost our electrical power for five days. Through both of these massive storms, I crocheted feverishly all in the name of charity...
video
... both at home,

    ... and at the local emergency center (in the video clip Dee Jr is assisting me in updating family & friends via Twitter and Facebook; ignore that I rubbed all the mascara off one eye; lol) ...

... stitch, stitch, stitch. Skein after skein. One finished project after another.  This year I worked on many hats and scarves (being counted toward the 9th Annual 60 Scarves in 60 Days Challenge); all to be donated to my local Salvation Army that has many, many families in need.


"Yellow" to have a new
home; being donated to
Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts
.
When we got our electrical power back yesterday, along with being thankful for the furnace kicking on, I caught up with the news - and felt powerless in looking at images of all the damage Hurricane Sandy had brought.  There is such a huge need of resources for those families that lost everything!  Today I decided kick that powerless feeling to the curb by pledging to donate my multi-blue-ribbon-winning "Yellow" afghan.  In the scope of things, it is just one blanket -- but it is one hand-made with love and I know it will bring at least a little bit of comfort to someone who can surely use it.  :)


Monday, October 22, 2012

The Sheep, The Wool, The Fun

The Sheep, The Wool, The Fun ... this is how I think of the New York Sheep and Wool Festival held in Rhinebeck, NY.

2012 NY Sheep & Wool Festival
 at Rhinebeck, NY

I was to have participated in this fun annual event on Saturday, but just minutes short of pulling into the parking lot I discovered I had completely forgotten about a prior commitment.  I turned the car around and vowed to return on Sunday.
When yarn gets motion-sickness.


Ever wonder what happens to yarn when it gets motion-sickness?  Yarn vomit.  There I said it.  It was the running joke of both trips to and from Rhinebeck. Mini~Dee had brought a friend with her (one that had attended the CT Sheep & Wool Festival this past April) on both trips: she crocheted, her friend knitted.  And they both worked on cleaning up the yarn guts.  LOL
The kids enjoying the beautiful weather at Rhinebeck.

Fortunately the weather on Sunday was just as beautiful as it was on Saturday; the sun was shining, the air was warm, everyone there seemed to be smiling, even the animals!

I concentrated on finding the "gems" of the festival: things I couldn't live without.  Every booth was filled with beautiful treasures so I really had to narrow it down.  I purchased a pair of green crochet hook earrings from SassafraCreations; some notions from BitsyKnits (including a pair of Knit Picks knitting needles that I can use with my recently aquired Interchangeable crochet hooks (with hopes of trying the Portuguese Knitting technique)); and some dee-licious lightly beaded, hand-spun angora yarn from AngoraOnline.  And scored a tube of "Heal My Nose," a must for the winter season!
Angora treasure found at Rhinebeck

There was a ton of food at the festival, including some hot sauces reportedly some 650+ times hotter than jalapeno peppers.  Naturally the kids decided to try it, and then instantly regretted it!  LOL  One of the biggest hits in the food building was the DeeDeeDesserts -- we came home with four flavors.  Am I saying this just because they have the name "Dee" in them?  No; the kids really liked it and want to make the holiday desserts with it.  The lamb burgers were fantastic, as was the "roving looking" maple cotton candy. 


The other enjoyable activity was in watching all the people -- it was like a Stitch Feast for the Eyes, with non-stop action of finished crocheted and knitted projects everywhere.  The only sighting that seemed to raise the kids eyebrows was the man wearing the very short knitted shorts.  (I'm not sure if it was the shorts that got them to giggle or the day-glow brightness of his legs. I'm sure the stitch work was nice, but I dared not to take a closer look!)  This year there seemed to be a lot of crocheted ponchos and sweaters in beautiful color arrangements & fibers. 

Here's looking forward to next year's event!  :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Setting Fire to the Yarn

The following question was asked by my cousin, a new crocheter:

I have a yarn ? I'm hoping you can help with... When I get bags of yarn at a thrift store or garage sale sometimes they don't have the sheath with info on them. Sometimes the yarn is deliciously old and high quality, too! But.. And here is the pickle.. is there any way to be sure what the yarn is: i.e. wool, acrylic, etc??? Also..I'm careful not to mix say...cotton yarn and acrylic yarn in one piece..or wool and anything else...but is it OK to use different synthetics in the same garment? Like, say, an acrylic yarn scarf with eyelash yarn trim? Sorry for all the questions! Thanks! ~Nancy

Great question, right?! :)
from 2006, the dark brown is
a leather yarn; the lighter is
an acrylic.
As I type this blog post, please first let me apologize should you get Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" running through your head.  I know it is now stuck in mind.


Getting back to our topic, I advised Nancy that she can certainly mix her fiber contents.  I mix my fibers quite often.  In fact, in the 2005 book, "Fabulous Crocheted Ponchos: New Styles, New Looks, New Yarns," I have a beautiful blue/teal poncho featured with different yarn fibers and weights.  I think the most extreme mix I've done thus far is mixing an acrylic yarn with a (real) leather yarn.  Freeform, a crochet (and knit) technique, is renown for mixing both stitches AND fibers.  Aside from figuring out the gauge issue caused by different yarn weights, is to remember to change the washing instructions from machine to hand-wash, and to lay flat to dry to prevent the more delicate fibers from being damaged.  Leather, well, that requires cleaning magic provided by my local dry cleaners.

Side Note:  If you are donating an item to charity, it is best to label the donation with the fiber content.  If you don't know the fiber's content, then stating it is unknown is still appreciated.
 
As for determining fiber content from yarn missing its manufacturer's labels, there is a burn test you can do.  This was first (that I know of) mentioned in Darla Sim's book, "Crocheting for Fun & Profit."  It is also detailed on these two websites: 
I have of yet to try the burn test myself, so if you do decide to give this a try, please take all necessary precautions.  Remember, safety first! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

She's Growing Up

 
2006: Myra Wood assisting Mini~Dee
with her 1st Runway appearance.
Photo from Mini~Dee's website,
www.CaseysCrochet.webs.com
Can you believe my Mini~Dee is a sophomore in high school?  Me either!

It does not seem all that long ago when CGOA Founder, Gwen Blakley Kinsler, was pinning her as a "CGOA Member," or when  Myra Wood took her by the hand and helped her make her first runway appearance at ChainLink.  Where does the time go??


This past weekend she worked at The Knitshop Girls booth at Stitches East.  This was her first official job, and she enjoyed it tremendously.  Not only did she have fun working, but she also got to see fiber-friends she hasn't seen in a few years ... like Drew, Tammy Hildebrand, and Kathleen Sams (of Red Heart).  
Mini~Dee working at Stitches East,
enjoying a Starbucks coffee.
Mini~Dee modeling a garment
for The KnitShop Girls.
Everyone who knows her that got to see her at Stitches East was shocked to see just.how.much. she has grown -- and she loved seeing all those shocked faces!  LOL

She hasn't had much time to crochet (or knit) as she is very involved with her school marching band.  At the moment though, she is working hard at raising the $1,000 she needs to go with the Band to play at Disney in April.   One of the things she is doing for fund raising is taping into her knowledge of how sofas eat stitch markers -- something that both crocheters and knitters alike need, and how much we love bling.  With this in mind, she's selling "Bi-Stitchual Stitch Markers" in my Etsy shop.  If you'd like to support her fund raising efforts, or would like to see what she has available, please visit www.Etsy.com/shop/CrochetWithDee   As of this blog post, she has another $700 to go to reach her goal. 

When will she be at another fiber event?  Possibly at Rhinebeck (she has a PSAT test to take first!).  If you haven't seen her in a long while, you too might be just as shocked at how much she has grown!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Crochet Classes to be taught in New Fairfield, CT

I am thrilled to announce some local classes that I will be teaching for my town.  If you are interested in signing up, please visit  http://www.newfairfield.org/filestorage/209/253/4913/Fall_2012_Brochure.pdf  to download the brochure, and http://parksandrec.newfairfield.org   to register.

The crochet classes are be held in the Library of Consolidated School, located in New Fairfield, CT. 


Crochet Classes  101 & 102
with Dee Stanziano 
Crochet 101: The Absolute Beginner
This crochet class is designed for the absolute beginner: learn how to properly start your work, the importance of the foundation chain, how to create the single crochet, how to count stitches, how to build upon your work to create beautiful fabric, and how to properly end off.

When: Monday, OCTOBER 15, 2012 from 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
# of Sessions: One.
Fee: $20
Required Materials: light colored worsted weight yarn, size "H," "I", or "J" hook.
Class Size Limit: 10



Crochet 102: The Refresher
If you took 101 last week and are ready for the next step, or perhaps you crocheted long ago and need a refresher, then this is the Beginner Crochet class for you! In this class participants will learn to build taller stitches and the importance of turning chains, how to read yarn labels for crochet projects, learn the importance of gauge, and more! This class is designed to help beginners take their new passion to the next level.

When: Monday, OCTOBER 22, 2012 from 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
# of Sessions: One.
Fee: $20
Required Materials: light colored worsted weight yarn, size "H", "I", or "J" hook, or current crochet project stuck on.
Class Size Limit: 10


Enhance your Crochet Knowledge by learning
new Crochet Stitches With Dee Stanziano
Crochet 201: Six-Stitch Scarf
Crocheters proficient with the basics will learn at least six beautiful crochet stitches in this class series to create a personal scarf (or for the more ambitious crocheter, a small throw). Instruction on how to finish off your project, including how to properly block your project to take it from "home-made" to "hand-made" will be included.

When: Mondays, OCTOBER 29, November 5 & 26th, December 3 & 10th, 2012 from 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
# of Sessions:
Five.
Fee:
$60
Required Materials:
worsted weight yarn (1 - 2 skeins to start), size "H", "I", or "J" hook.
Class Size Limit: 15

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cro-Fun at The Big E

Wednesday was such a fun, fun day!  I joined up with nine of my fellow CGOA Chapter members and headed up to West Springfield, MA, to attend the Eastern States Exposition -- better known as "The Big E."  Our mission was to spend the day demonstrating various types of crochet in the New England Center building.  We have, for the past 10 years, gone to The Big E to promote Crochet on what is known as "Connecticut Day."

After setting up our booth, with both personal and charitable projects on display, time just seemed to speed up.  I met such wonderful people and had so much fun doing demonstrations on Tunisian crochet and the Amazing Needle/Knooking techniques.

Irene and I take 1st and 2nd Place in first heat of
"Crochet It In a Minute" contest at The Big E.

I also got to partake in the first-ever (that I know of) speed crochet contest held at The Big E that they called "Crochet it in a Minute."  They allowed us to use crochet hooks that we're comfortable with, so I chose one that I recently purchased from a friend who is destashing a bit -- I never used the hook prior to the contest, and yes, I did threaten the poor little hook that it would be "kindling" if it didn't do me right ... I was kidding, naturally.  I'd never willingly hurt one of my precious crochet hooks!!   ...   In the first heat, HHCC'er Irene and I came in 1st and 2nd, respectfully.  In the second heat Chava and Grace grabbed 1st and 2nd place.  If we were placed in order of speed, then I stand at an "Honorable Mention," coming in 4th.  In the knit version of the contest, our Fluffy came in 2nd Place. :)

I also got to check out all the entries our members had entered for judging: as a collective we won several blue ribbons, 2nd and honorable mentions.  I won 2 blue and 1 red for my pieces.  There were some amazing-jaw-dropping entries this year, including a beautiful red fillet duster and a "Big E" theme tapestry! 

And then came the dancing -- on stage! -- with the Connecticut Line Dancers!  Even with my two left feet, I had such a fantastic time!
Fluff had the moves, and even with my two left feet, she talked me
through the steps of one of the Connecticut Line Dancers dances.


Oh, and I can't forget the fudge.  Yessssss, fudge.  Cranberry fudge from the Massachusetts building.  Mmmmmmm.  :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Don't Discount the Discounts!

Who doesn't like to save money? Me! Ha, I'm kidding! I'm known for finding great deals, especially when it comes to crochet!

First, I utilize my CGOA Discounts whenever I can. Recently I bought some 90 crochet hooks through AnniesAttic.com -- they will be utilized for a future workshop my Chapter will be having. Not only were the hooks on sale, but I also used my CGOA discount, saving an additional 15% off my order. ... and I was really happy to discover that my CGOA discount also works for the AnniesAttic online classes! To see the list -- and learn how to activate the discounts, go to the CGOA's webpage, and under the Membership tab, log into the "Members Only" section; you'll find the instructions there.

Second, I went to the Joanns.com website and signed up for their VIP program. They mail you a little card, you bring it into the store with your CGOA membership card, and for the rest of the year you get an additional 10% off your purchases. This is an unadvertised perk of being a CGOA member!

Third, it pays to open your mouth and inquire. At a recent trip to Webs (yarn shop in Northamption, MA), one of our Chapter members asked if they give CGOAers a discount on purchases. The answer was yes ... 10% -- but not to be combined with any other discounts they offer.

 
Fourth, I utilize Upromise.com. I use it to connect to various online stores I shop at. By using their links I save a little for my kids education (if you don't have kids, then you can save for grandchildren/nieces/nephews...) anywhere from 3% up to 10% (sometimes more. Thus far I've saved over $600 towards my kids education!)  Often times I find additional savings offers, like free shipping, or extra percentages off my purchases. The other day, when  Andrea was looking to buy a dress form from Joanns online store, she Tweeted that she was on the fence about paying so much for the shipping. I told her about Upromise; she signed up and found a free shipping code to use! Upromise has links to CafePress, Amazon, M&J Trimmings ... I think its worth looking into.


Today I went to Upromise, connected to CafePress and ordered a "I love Yarn Day" tote -- in the kiwi color. By going through Upromise I saved 8% (towards my kids college), and after using the code GR8FALL at CafePress, I saved $3.90 off my order (coupon expires today). The cool part is that my order also helped benefit the Warm Up America program. More info about the CYCA/Warm Up America program here: http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/ily-gear

 
Happy Savings!

-----------------------------------------
Did you notice I didn't link to a single site?  That's my way of saying I have no affiliation with any of the discounters mentioned, other than being a proud member of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA). 

Monday, September 3, 2012

60/60 leads to taking a crochet class

playing with Tunisian Cables while crocheting a scarf
for the 2012 60/60 Challenge
One of the things I love about the annual 60/60 Challenge is in learning a new crochet stitch or technique while also working on a scarf for donation.  What would it be for this year?

Fortunately for me Kim Guzman posted the answer on Facebook:  she posted about a blog post she had written about her Tunisian Cables & Lace class being offered on AnniesAttic.com!  I watched the preview and decided to sign up.  Since I am a CGOA member I plugged in my 'members discount' code and got 15% off the class.  (sweet!!)

This would be my first experience in taking an online class -- I really didn't know what to expect.  Boy, I was in for a treat!  I loved it!!  I plan on taking more online classes in the future.



While at the moment I am not using the pattern Kim provided with the class, I am having fun with the cable stitch (I omitted the lace part and beefed up the number of stitches required for the cabling).  And, I'm using up a bit of yarn stash too -- because we all know The Big E is coming up, and that means a trip to Webs!  (Whoot!)

So lets see: I get to take a class utilizing my CGOA membership, I get to learn something new, I get to use up some stash -- and then later replenish it -- all while hand-crocheting a simple scarf that will benefit my local community.  Priceless!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

9th Annual "60 Scarves in 60 Days Challenge"

September 1st, 2012:  This is the official date that kicks off the NINTH Annual “60 Scarves in 60 Days Challenge that originated here on my blog as a personal challenge (30 Scarves in 30 Days) and then grew into the heart-warming charitable drive that it is today!  And you're invited to participate!  :)

How the Challenge works:
Participating in the 2012 "60 Scarves in 60 Days Challenge"?
Save this badge and then upload it to your blog, or use as an
avatar to help promote the good you're crafting for your
local community!
  1. Crochet, knit, or weave a scarf (or more) for charity. You can use a pattern (give credit to the designer if that’s what the pattern calls for!), learn a new stitch, or create your own pattern. The scarf MUST be made by hand!
  2. Pledge it for a local charity near YOU; there is no need to ship! Check with your local homeless shelters, Salvation Armys, religious institutions, and schools to find a home for your scarf/scarves.
  3. To have your scarf count towards the goal, tell us about it on our Ravelry group here, or post about it on your blog and give us the link by leaving a comment on this blog post below.
  4. The scarf/scarves must be created by hand between September 1st and November 30th, 2012, midnight, eastern time, to count. (Yes, we know this is really 90 days, but we’re keeping the name of 60 days)
  5. Any skill level, age and gender can participate! Spread the word!
  6. If you have a website or blog, feel free to save the our badge shown on the right to your own computer and display it proudly!  There is even a CafePress shop where you can order pins & such!
This Challenge is a great stash buster AND does YOUR local community good!  :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012 Summer Adventures

Geeze, this place is dusty!  And look at all the pretty cobwebs ... as I doodle "Did you miss me?" with my finger in the dust, I will admit that the summer of 2012 was one I will always remember! 

Visiting & Shopping at the "Yarns of Italy"
warehouse in Missouri.
First, let me state that I did not attend the CGOA's ChainLink Conference.  While I greatly missed seeing all my crochet comrades, I had the experience of a lifetime with the kids -- and one that they too will remember for the rest of their lives...

Our first of two summer trips was to my father's farm in Missouri.  While we were there the kids got to meet cousins they've never met, got to go horseback riding, stay cool in a local creek during record-breaking heat, learn to drive a tractor, watch history in the making (cattle were driven by the house everyday on their way to auction because the cost to feed them was going up due to the drought.), went up the St. Louis Gateway Arch, caught a Cardinals game, checked out the Fantastic Caverns, and much, much more.  I also got to tour & shop at the Yarns of Italy warehouse!  What a blast that was!  (If you find yourself in the Springfield, MO, area, do contact them for your own tour!!) 

While staying at my father's farm house, I discovered a bunch of old crochet & craft magazines from the 1980s that had belonged to my Aunt.  While I did not bring any of the magazines home with me, I did love flipping through so many issues!  I learned from reading her old issues that crocheting with a monotone colored yarn and then sponge painting an image onto the finished work was very popular during the time!  I also learned a cousin of mine, who lives two houses down, was a crochet fan.  However, she had been stuck on her lessons since the passing of my Aunt.  We spent some time together going over some basic stitch rules, and after I returned home I sent her some supplies with one of my patterns.  She emailed me happy that she's able to resume her love of crochet.  :)
Inspiration found in Florida

Our second of the summer trips was to Florida.  We were there to visit with my mother and my brothers.  While I did bring my crochet with me, I did not do a single stitch during the entire time we were there.  Shocking, right??  There was just too much going on, from visiting the Keys, to boating up the St. Johns River and everything in-between!  My mother said to me on the last day we were there "I'm shocked you didn't visit a single yarn store!"  Me too!!!  However, I did leave with plenty of inspiration, and that is just as valued as a crochet hook & yarn, right?  Just ask my sister-in-law who has challenged me with a special request ...


Upon returning home I found us facing our own water challenges.  As we work to resolve them, and gear up for the kids starting school, I did enter some of my crochet works into the local Bridgewater Fair: "Yellow" won a Blue Ribbon, as did my modified Delta Lace Topper

I'll be back soon to clear out the cobwebs and post more of my yarnie adventures.  In the meantime, feel free to tell me about your yarnie adventures you enjoyed this summer.  :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Road Trip! :)

It won't be long now, just mere days really, until we're finally on the road.  No, not to the annual ChainLink Conference, but rather to Missouri, land of the Ingalls, my father's farm, and of various yarn shops I have planned to visit.

The biggest problem I have right now is in deciding how much yarn I should bring.  Obviously I don't want to bring too much since I intend to buy some as "souvenirs..." 

What do you think?  How much yarn is considered "enough" for bringing on a vacation?  :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

The "-ympics"

I'll raise my crochet hook in the air to be counted as one of those "angry" crafters who recently took to social media to vent frustration with the recent actions of United States Olympic Committee.  For those not aware, a brief recap:

On the Ravelry.com website, there is a "Ravelympics" held every two years.  Participants are asked to push their crochet and knitting skills to new heights while watching the 16-day Olympics.  I have never participated in the Ravelympics, but I do watch the Olympics, and in fact, still have recordings going back some 20+ years THAT I STILL WATCH!

The USOC sent what they called a "standard" cease-and-desist letter to the owners of Ravelry -- the letter requests the stopping of the use of the Olympic symbol AND demanding the name of "Ravelympics" be changed.  I have no problem with the USOC protecting the Olympic logo, or the "Olympic" name.  If permission wasn't granted for using them, then it should be stopped.

The problems I have are two-fold:
A) "-ympics."  Do they own the right to these letters?  That's like saying the Ford motor company owns the right to "-ord." Or, if you want to compare non-profit with a non-profit, like saying Save The Children (remember the "Caps to the Capital" campaign?) owns the rights to "-ldren."   I've yet to read anything rational on this.  Of course, if this is allowed, I'm proclaiming ownership to "-ziano," you know, just in case I become world-famous for crochet hook twirling, or something along those lines.

B) the wording in their "standard" cease-and-desist letter that included this paragraph that I found to be "discriminating":
USOlympics Vs Ravelympics: Intellectual Property vs Slurs?
 "We believe using the name 'Ravelympics' for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country's finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work."
          The USCO did apologize - twice - for the language they used.  The first apology was not easily digested by crafters because the it included a request for "... any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games."  [Link to both apologies.]  When my kids apologize for something, they would never think of following it up with "... and can I have 20 bucks for the movies?"  Naturally if  the USOC finds this type of apology works, I might start apologizing for things like "...sorry your lawn grew and you have to mow it. You can send me some yarn if you'd like."


The story of The USOC vs the Ravelympics was first picked up by the Gawker, and then others followed:

My participation on this topic was in tweeting out some yarnie facts on the Twitter social site:
  • There are 17.4 MILLION crocheters, and 13.0 MILLION knitters.  Actually, this is "households of" but that's ok.  That's still a lot of folks playing with yarn.  Even though Ravelry has 2 MILLION members, once this went viral, it was time to look at the bigger picture.
  • of the 17.4 MILLION crocheters, they open their wallets to reportedly spend 1.064 BILLION US dollars on their love of crochet goodies -- these facts were published by the CHA in 2010.
  • Three Crocheted Lions will be part of the 2012 Cultural Olypiad: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17915318
... and then some sport-sy facts:
  • Guinness World Records officially issued “The Fastest Crocheter Title” to Lisa Gentry on June 25, 2005
  • Guinness World Record Holder for Fastest Knitter was earned by Miriam Tegels in 2008
  • The Guinness world record for the Most People Knitting Simultaneously was set in 2011
  • The Guinness World Record for the Most People Crocheting Simultaneously was set in 2010 in USA!  (hey, I was there!)
  • Guinness World Record Holder for Longest Crochet Chain Whilst Running a Marathon went to Susie Hewer in 2010
... for those reporting on the USOlympic vs Ravelympics saga (because I'm tired of seeing articles stating "little old ladies"):
... and my biggest concerns:
My bottom line: If deemed legal, I think the name "Ravelympics" should remain; no one is profiting from it (one of the USOC's concerns), and it actually helps promote the Olympics in a postitve way.  And I think that the US Olympic Committee should revisit their "standard" letters to ensure future language used is not inappropriate.

Out of this entire saga, I did learn something new:  The Wenlock Olympian Society, now known as the International Olympic Committee, once included knitting, as well as reading and spelling.  I can't help but wonder if "-ympics" was part of the spelling .........

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Did I mention it's yellow?


"Yellow" needs a a better name.
Sometimes it is hard to resist a yarn sale.  Such as in the case when Leslie of WoolMountainDestash announced on Twitter she had some yummies for sale. LOL  From her stash came 10 balls of Lemon Yellow Moda Dea Baby Talk yarn. 

My problem: not a big fan of the color yellow. 
My solution: listen to the yarn!

We were going through several raw days of spring rain when I decided to listen to the yarn. I had no pattern, no preconceived ideas of what I was going to crochet.  I was merely the hands holding the hook and the yarn.  The rest, I think, is pure magic. 

Once the body was completed I needed a border.  I was thinking my father secretly wanted it, as I found him eyeing it repeatedly as I worked my stitches. Thinking this, I wanted to find a "boxy" (manly) looking border.  This led me to Edie Echman's book, "Around the Corner Crochet Borders;" where I took one of the border patterns and "complicated" it to look like lattice work.  In fact, I complicated the border so much, I had to work 2 rows at a time to ensure everything went smoothly!

And maybe this all went too smoothly.  You know what I mean: the coming together of the yarn, the hook, and the stitch. Did I mention it's yellow?  And did I mention Mr. Dee now has his eye on it too???

Maybe the color yellow isn't as bad as I had originally thought.  If my journey in the fiber world has taught me anything it is: be prepared for personal growth.  Me & yellow - buddies!  Who knew!?  :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lost & Found

Buffalo Skies yarn.
It has been a very busy time here, with my mother's visit from Florida to the winding down of the kids school year (just one more week for them & they'll be out for the summer!).  This does not mean my crocheting has been idle.  No, not all all.

While my mother was visiting I crocheted (by special request) nearly a half-dozen hats for her to wear under her motorcycle helmet.  And, I managed to work up a project that I am currently calling "yellow" -- there will be a posting on this project in the future.
Amish-style swift, made in China.

And, I got two new toys:  an "Amish-style" yarn swift and a food scale (to be used for measuring the weight of my yarn).  Plus, hot in the mail today was some yummy buffalo yarn!  Mmmmm!
weighs more than the
100 grams on the label.



About a month ago I started a discussion on Ravelry about "missing yardage."  The topic was brought on by my recent usage of a "yarn meter."  The meter was reporting I was off by some 60 to 107 yards per hank.  I was in shock at this and wanted to know if others had ever experienced the same results.  Fortunately for me, I got a lot of helpful tips:


The first tip was to buy a food scale.  I decided on the Cuisinart model ks-55.  It normally retails for about $40, but I got it for free utilizing some "cash back bucks" offered through my credit card.  Thus far, I really like it.  I was advised to weigh the yarn first.  The label reads the net weight for my new yarn was 100 grams.  I am happy to report that all 3 hanks weighed over the 100 grams benchmark -- without the label.
questioning the footage
using the electric ball winder
with the new yarn swift.
The second step was to run the yarn through the meter.  I got on average 466 feet.  I convert this into yardage and get 155 yards -  not the 200 yards as stated on the label.
 

I was then advised to hand-measure off 10 yards and run it through the meter.  I did.  I got almost 26 feet -- not the 30 feet I was expecting.  (1 yard = 3 feet -or- 10 yards = 30 feet.)  So there is a problem with the yarn meter!  Oy!  The meter was shorting me 4 feet for every 10 yards!


The next step was to find out the intervals for the shorting.  I took the 155 yards and divided it by 10 (yards).  This gave me 15.5 intervals.  I multiplied that by the 4 feet to get 62 feet.  I then took the original measurement of 466 feet and added the "missing" 62 feet = 528 feet.  Convert that to yards and I got 176! 

Yes, I know, the 176 yards is not equal to the 200 on the label, but I do have to account for the dye used in the yarn.  The more dye, the heavier the yarn and thus the less footage/yardage for the money.  I am much happier with the 176 yardage than the 155 the meter initially reported. 

This is a learning process for me.  At the very least it reinforces the adage: when in doubt, always buy at least one ball/hank more of the same dye lot than what the pattern calls for.  :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fake Crochet

Want a closer look at "machine-made crochet?" Click onto image to enlarge.

I think it is amazing the amount of curiosity around "machine made crochet."  I have discussed this topic here several times, the last time being last summer: Crochet Machines?

Here it is, nearly a year later from that last blog post, and nothing has changed.  Crochet still remains one of the last fiber-art forms that must be made by human hands.  This means those little doilies you see in the craft stores for a dollar, to garments at Walmart to Macy's, they are all made by human hands -- NOT by machine.

The closest I've ever found is an oval table cloth, made of plastic, with the crochet pineapple motif stamped on it (see picture above).  I have owned this table cloth for about 10 (or more) years, and of yet to ever see another in-person.  From time to time I will bring it to crochet demonstrations I volunteer for to show the closest I've ever seen what a machine can produce. It's fake.  Want to see other samples of fake crochet?  Go to google.com, click onto "images" and then search for "pvc crochet table cloth."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Measuring Up

Mini~Dee models "Delta Lace Topper"
at HHCC Monthly Meeting.
A few days ago I finished hand-crocheting a Delta Lace Topper, designed by Karen Whooley; her pattern is featured in the booklet, "Delta Lace Crochet."  Although I modified the pattern (I added a few increases to make it slightly larger, added one additional row, and changed the collar), it was a lot of fun to do -- seductively so.  [[All the details, including my notes I took about the project as I went along can be seen on my Ravelry projects page here.]]

The initial plan was to use all three hanks of the Jade yarn I blogged about last month. It turns out I had more than enough of the lighter color of Jade that I didn't need to blend in the darker.  This means I have one full "Jade" left, and one partially used.  Unfortunately, I don't know how much of the partially used remains.  This could be a problem when deciding upon a future project with this most-delicious yarn.

I decided to give my yarn meter a run for its money.  I took the meter out of the box, found it easy to set up, and within minutes (while rewinding the leftover yarn into a new yarn cake) I knew exactly how much yarn I had left: 465 feet.  I then converted the feet into yards: 155 yards.  [[1 foot = 0.333333333 yards]]  Wow!  What a handy little tool!
Yarn Meters are Needed by Crocheters too!
**Crochet hook by Brainsbarn.com, featured on my HooksNStitches blog here.

What else can I learn with this gadget?  I decided to rewind the darker Jade.  The label states that it is 420 yards.  Knowing yarn is really sold by weight and not by length, I wondered just how close I'd come to the 420 yards.  As I hand-cranked the yarn winder, it wasn't long until I had my measurement: 1065 feet.  This converted to 355 yards.  A difference of 65 yards!!!  That's huge!! While I am not surprised that I actually got less yardage as I understand the darker the yarn, the more dye it takes, thus throwing off the yarn weight -- I was very surprised the number was this high.  Now I'm wishing I had pre-measured the length of the lighter Jade before I started my project.  What would it have shown? 

The clever meter is a product of NNK: NancysKnitKnacks.com -- there are various local yarn shops selling it.  It retails for about $49 - $55, a bit pricey to be considered a crocheter's "toy," but as a working tool, I think it is well worth the investment.  Going forward, this 'lil device will be out of its box to measure yarn as I wind it from hank to cake (or ball), and then when I'm done with a project to determine how much yarn remains.

Of course, if you feel you need an electronic version of this yarn meter, one does exist.  On NNK's site it currently retails for $269, and includes a sleep mode after five minutes of inactivity.  I'm not sure I'm ready for an electric version, but it is super cool looking.  :)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Best 25th Anniversary Gift - Evah!

Applewood crochet hook will make a full recovery.
This month marks the 25th year Mr Dee and I are together.  I don't think he had a clue back when he asked me out on that first date that his life (and home!) would eventually be consumed by crochet.  No, back then, I was working full-time while going to school full-time; every three months escaping reality by taking mini-holidays over extended weekends for some RnR.  Other days he helped fill my world with rides on his motorcycle, impromptu picnics, encouraging me to wind surf, and of course the snow skiing...

I know what you're thinking: "What's with the picture, Dee?  That's not so romantic!"

Oh, but isn't it??

When you spend 25 years with someone you get to know what pleases them most.  I was crushed -absolutely so! - when I opened my project bag and found my Brainsbarn custom crochet hook, crafted out of applewood from our own back yard -- broken!  I really love this crochet hook.

Mr Dee saw how distressed I was.  He said he, "...could rebuild him ... [he] has the technology..."  Yes, cue the theme music from the popular 1970s television show, The Six Million Dollar Man.  My hook was broken in half.  I put my trust in him and handed the hook over.

Late last night Mr Dee told me I could see my hook, that it will recover from this most unfortunate accident.  I was so happy.  This man, regardless of the many times he's tripped over my vast yarn stash, or had to push a project aside on the sofa so he could sit down, has been dragged to conferences, and volunteered to appear in a crochet video ...  just smiles through it all, knowing it makes me happy.  I am thrilled my hook has been repaired.  Now that I know he's a skilled crochet hook surgeon, I have a few more patients for him.  But that can wait; we have an anniversary to celebrate.  :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"The Truth is Out There" ... 7.00 mm

On May 1st I mentioned ID tags that I had purchased at the Connecticut Sheep & Wool Festival -- and I noted that there seemed to be a problem with having a complete set.  After receiving a few inquires for more information, I decided to post what information I have here:
Crochet Hook by Brainsbarn.com; See blog entry "Jaded" for yarn info.

How one could have been lost: After purchasing the ID tags, as I started to walk away from the booth, somehow one of the ID packages had slipped out of my bag of goodies, spilling onto the floor.  ID's went everywhere.  Since the package did not state it contains X number of IDs, I had no idea how many I should be searching for on the floor, including under the many feet of other attendees.  Once I got home I inspected the bag and noticed the side seam of the ID packaging was never factory sealed.  So the missing tag could have been from me not seeing it on the floor, or it could have been lost somewhere between India (location of manufacture) and the LYS that sold it to me.  No matter how you look at it, it is a lost ID tag.

The other "missing" tag I think is more direct in being a manufacturing/packaging issue.  On the KnitPicks website, they show the ID tags as a package of 12 ID's:  3.50 mm, 3.75 mm, 4.00 mm, 4.50 mm, 5.00 mm, 5.50 mm, 6.00 mm, 6.50 mm, 8.00 mm, 9.00 mm, 10.00 mm, and 12.00 mm.  However, based upon merging my two packages together, there's really a "baker's dozen" of sizes available. A "baker's dozen" means 13.  The 13th size is 7.00 mm (U.S.10 3/4).

Giorgio A. Tsoukalos stated on one of the Ancient Aliens shows (currently airing on the History 2 channel) that the measuring of distance and time in segments of 12 may have come from aliens, which I take from that it was humans who developed the metric system.  Crochet hooks have long been measured by metric sizes up until their arrival to the US.  ((does this mean it was aliens responsible for changing the sizing of US hooks to numbers and letters, thus solving the mystery on how the U.S. numbering/lettering sizing all got started???  Has the mystery finally been solved??))

Questioning this further, the Craft Yarn Council's guide on knitting needles & crochet hooks shown on their YarnStandards.com page has nothing listed for size 7.00 mm crochet hooks or knitting needles. I love the CYCA; they're trying to regulate the craft so we can all play from the same playbook.  Still, I have to wonder why would they not have anything listed for 7.00 mm??  Perhaps I should ask *Fox Mulder what he thinks. (*reference to the X-files tv show that aired during the 1990s).  Or I could act like Dana Skully, applying scientific reasoning to this issue simply by emailing KnitPicks for an explaination.  But where's the fun in that?  lol

Will that extra size ID tag go to waste?  I don't think so.  With so many of my crochet hooks hand-turned, I'm sure it will come in handy, representing a hook or two in my collection.  And, along with my new Hook Size Gauge device (also mentioned on May 1st), the 7.00 mm size does exist, so "the truth is out there."  All you need to do is measure it. :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Crocheter Says "Buh Bye, Hokey Pokey"

There will be no more hokey pokey for me, or rather, for my crochet hooks.  Oh you know exactly what I mean!  ... it's when you put the right foot crochet hook in, take the right foot crochet hook out, put the right foot crochet hook in and shake it all about ...

Yes, I'm talking exactly that!  No more using gauges meant to measure knitting needles for my crochet hooks.  I am sure you are familiar with my frustration -- the trying to jam various crochet hooks into those holes the pointy knitting needles have no trouble navigating.  Whereas crochet hooks, with the various sized heads, well, I can tell horror stories that can make a sheep's fleece curl in fear!

Crochet Hook Size Gauge by
GourmetCrochet
My pups (I can say that as many of my crochet hooks are "Graydog" hooks) have a new measuring tool and it is dee-vine!  For those that want to liberate their crochet hooks from the knitter's gauge, I found it on AnniesAttic.com; don't forget, if you're a CGOA member to get your 15% discount!)  The beauty is that all I need to do is slide the crochet hook down, with extreme ease, to determine a crochet hook's true size.  As a collector, and heavy user of custom crochet hooks, this will become the most valuable tool in my crochet-toolbox!  ((As of the writing of this blog entry, I have a hook measuring guide on order with Turn of the Century.  I'm sure it will work in the same fashion as the one I have pictured here.)) 

If you use mass-produced crochet hooks, you might be thinking you are in no need of such a wonderful gadget.  And nothing could be further from the truth!  Mass-produced crochet hooks have the exact same issue. -- take some Susan Bates crochet hooks from different manufacturing locations and give them a good measuring.  You'll find they vary! Even from manufacturer to manufacturer, the hook sizes differ!   Think that crochet hook is circular in diameter?  What if it isn't? What if its slightly elliptical?  Yep, this tool will help you determine your crochet hook's true size.  I like that. I like it a lot!

Dee's customized ID Tags to use on Crochet Projects.
To help me in this quest of being more accurate with my crochet hook sizing on various projects, I decided to take the ID tags I purchased at the CT Sheep & Wool this past Saturday, and turn them into beaded stitch markers.  (On a side note, I was disappointed both sets of ID tags were incomplete; I had to combine the two packages to create a single set of ID tags. I'm not sure who is at fault, the seller or the manufacturer.)  Using beads from my stash, and in the color theme of my CGOA Chapter (Purple, Gold & Silver), I came up with these.  Now, when I pull a hook from a given project to work on another -- or when one needs to go into surgery because someone, not naming names here, snapped one in half -- I can tag the project to make it easier to resume the project at a future date.  I'm liking this a lot too.

With tools like these to make my crocheting so much easier, I just might opt to start doing the Ma-, Ma-, Ma-, Ma-, Ma-, Ma-, Macarena ...

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Sheepishly Good Time


sheep sheering at the 103rd CT Sheep & Wool Festival
On Saturday, April 25th, I got up early, had my coffee, packed a few last minute things and was out the door by 7AM.  By 7:15, with my car loaded with teenagers (who were volunteers to help my CGOA Chapters members), we were on the road headed to the 103rd Connecticut Sheep & Wool Festival.
Some of the HHCC'ers at the
103rd Connecticut Sheep & Wool Festival
With traffic being light, we arrived by 9AM and started setting up the HHCC's demonstration booth in the Red Barn.  I was so glad I brought a coat: with the wind, it turned out to be quite freezing!  For most of the day, when not teaching or demonstrating, I wore the crocheted mittens I brought for the display -- a real life saver for my frozen fingers!

When I wasn't busy at the HHCC's booth, I was spending time with the teenagers -- one was celebrating her 15th birthday, so we had yummy carrot cake and crochet lessons in the warm sunshine for her!  ... and I got to do a bit of shopping too.  I bought mostly stitch markers and ID size tags.  Sure, stitch markers are sold local to me, but this is the first time I've seen them in purple!  My CGOA Chapter color!!  LOL  My daughter bought me the sheep beads which I think I'll make into earrings.  I didn't buy any of the super yummy yarns although I wanted too -- I'm still working through the yarn I had bought back in January!
Dee's loot matches HHCC color theme.
A nice surprise was a judging contest that took place in our barn.  We had no prior knowledge about it, so when they came to our booth asking if we'd like to submit something I nudged Nancy.  She submitted two items and walked away with two ribbons!  She had the biggest smile on her face; I loved seeing how happy it made her!  You can read about her ribboning experience on her blog here:  http://www.nlsstitches.com/journal/2012/4/28/hook-winked.html

For a sheep & wool festival of its size, it is a great way to spend the day, sharing in the love of all alpaca'd in a single day.  I think everyone had a sheep-ishly good time.  I know I'm looking forward to attending again next year!  :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Take The Time to Stop and Smell the Flowers ... and possibly save a life!

In the summer of 1995 I was in a car accident.  After obeying a stop sign, I had just removed my foot from the break, preparing to hit the gas to proceed forward when I was hit: the impact pushing my car into the middle of the intersection.  The driver who hit my rear bumper said he didn't see the stop sign. (Why the driver did not see my car is a whole 'nuther story.) The responding police officer said if he had hit me while my breaks were still applied, there'd be no doubt he would have pushed my rear bummer into the middle of my back seat.

Last fall, while stopped at a stop sign, awaiting for a parent with a young child to finish using a crosswalk, a driver wasn't willing to wait and decided to drive around me, nearly hitting them.  In the driver's case, they were in a rush to go 100 feet further to drop someone off.  The case goes to court next month.

What's the rush?  In our world of speed and multi-tasking (we could insert the whole array of what people actually do while behind the wheel), I think it's pretty cool that Bryan in San Diego has found a way for drivers to actually stop and smell the flowers -- well, not really smell the flowers -- but rather to take notice of stop signs he and a dozen other crocheters and knitters have turned into flowers.

Bryan's goal was to bring art to San Diego.  I think he's done that.  But I also think he may have possibly saved a life or two, just by encouraging people to take notice of the stop signs! 

In support of the Stop Sign Yarn Flowers, we're encouraging those in support to help us set a trend on Twitter by tweeting "#ILuvYarnFlowers."  Join us!  :)


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Education: BAARAM University - RU A Graduate too?

One of my favorite movies to watch with the kids when they were younger was the 1995 movie, "Babe."  Do you remember it?  It's a story about a pig wanting to be a sheepdog.  Aside from being an inspiring movie about reaching one's dreams, I loved the line, "Baa-ram-ewe! Baa-ram-ewe! To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true! Sheep be true! Baa-ram-ewe!"  This single line from the movie would be repeated by my entire family for years!

And as the years passed, and my passion for all that is crochet and fiber related grew, eventually I began telling my kids I was a graduate of "BaaRamU" --  of course, no such school/university exists, but if it did, then I think I'd have well earned the right to state it is my school of choice.  Think about it.  If you crochet, or knit, or weave, or spin, there is a lot of education there: math, science, liberal arts ...

Flash forward to last week when I was updating my Facebook account: I'm not a fan of giving Facebook a lot of personal information so I decided to list BaaRamU as my "official college." (Feel free to list it as yours too!  lol)  Then I decided that I need "BaaRamU" attire that shows the pride of my "choosen school," so today I created the logo and then opened the CafePress shop:  http://www.CafePress.com/Shop/BaaRamUniversity

BAARAM University - RU A Graduate too?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Evah Feel A Bit Jaded?

Have you ever fell in love with a yarn? I'm sure you have. I know I fall in love with yarn ALL THE TIME!   For me, it is more than just "yarn lust," it's a full-fledge, heart pounding "yarn love" that I regularly suffer from.  Why else would I choose to live with so much of it???  The only problem is the heartache that happens when the relationship splits up (like when the manufacturer decides to discontinue a particular line of yarn regardless of its popularity, or how deep my love for it is) -- or, when you discover that, gasp!, there is more than just one dye lot.

Yummy hand-dyed Tosh Merino Light yarn by Madelinetosh; 2 different dye lots.
Yes, I'm feeling a bit jaded.  Jade is the manufacturer's name of the hand-dyed yarn I have slated next for my crochet hook. I had received one hank as a gift from my good friend Grace back in 2011. I loved the yarn so much, I wanted more! So I ordered two more hanks earlier this year, and now that I am ready to start my project, I noticed the extreme color difference. Sigh. I should have known better!

In the picture above, the "cake" is the original Jade, while the two hanks are more like a granny smith apple green. Usually I recommend buying all the yarn you need - AT THE SAME TIME - to ensure this doesn't happen.  But at the time, I didn't know what the yarn wanted to grow up to be; I just knew that I loved it and had to have it.  I was willing to let the relationship go slow; to "mature with age;" until it was ready to blissfully flow from wound cake to individual loops swooning magically off my hook.

What to do? What to do?   Since I need to blend in the two dye lots, I plan to save the darker for the trim; using the lighter for the body of the project.   Next time, if you see an empty peg hanging at your LYS of a yummy yarn, know that it was me, buying out the entire stock -- of the same dye-lot. :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Kaplow ~ Thank You!

Dee Jr headed off to school this morning with the 40 hand-crocheted Chemo Caps, a variety of school supplies, and the $100 collected from our generous sponsors.  When he got home from school this afternoon, this is the story he told me:

"I turned the donations in to my homeroom teacher; when I gave her the check her eyes got real big and she said, 'Wow!' (The check had a copy of the blog entry attached to it about how the funds were raised.)


"While at my second period class we were decorating boxes for the donations to be placed in when I was called out to the hallway by my Writing teacher who was in charge of the Charity Drive/Community Project honoring Louis Kaplow's memory.  When I went out to the hallway I was introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Kaplow; they shook my hand.  They said that they were really happy and thankful for everything - especially the hand-made chemo caps and the money we raised.  My teacher said she had thought I was a good student, but after today she said I raised the bar.


"My teacher then took two of the 40 chemo caps around to every classroom to explain to my fellow classmates that they were hand-made and what their importance was.


"It was a great feeling to help with this drive. I'm glad so many people helped me contribute to it!"

I agree with my son; this wouldn't have been possible without the support of our family & friends!  Thank you, everyone, who helped us make this donation possible!!  :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chemo Caps for Kaplow - Wanna Help?

My son came home from school explaining they were doing a drive to remember Louis Kaplow, a boy who was known for his courage, humor and perserverance.  Tragically Louis lost his battle with brain cancer.  Every year since his passing, the school has a "Community Service Day," doing something to honor Louis' memory that benefits others.  This year they are collecting donations to present to the Yale New Haven Children's Hospital; Louis had spent many weeks at Yale and was reportedly given the best of quality care.

1.4 miles (or 6 laps around the track) of yarn was used to hand-crochet these 25 chemo caps in Kaplow's memory.
I had originally pledged to hand-crochet 20 chemo caps - one for each child in my son's homeroom.  Thinking I was done, I received word yesterday that the school is falling short of their goal for this drive.  In the last 24-hours I managed to whip up another 5 caps for this worthy cause!

Then it dawned on me ... why not offer to have people "sponsor" the caps.  With the 25 I hand-crocheted, and another 15 one of my Chapter Members offered, there are 40 caps total.  Then I thought, what if folks sponsored caps for $5 each?  We could raise up to $200! 

When Dee Jr came home from school today I presented him with this idea -- not only did he like it, but he also jumped on sponsoring two caps!  Then his sister also pledged to sponsor two caps.  This means we've already raised $20!  Since the caps need to be turned in Friday morning, I'm wondering if we can get all the caps sponsored within the next 24 hours.  What do you think? 

All monies raised will be turned into the school with the caps on Friday. The school will use the funds collected to purchase items needed for the drive, benefiting infants to teenagers all battling cancer.  Thank you for your support!  :)

             ----------------------- THANK YOU SPONSORS!  We raised $100!! ------------------------------
Dee Jr:  two caps, $10
Mini~Dee: two caps, $10
Grace, HHCC Pres: two caps, $10
Sharon & Dewey: four caps, $20
Andrea G: two caps, $10
Ellen Gormley of www.gocrochet.com: two caps, $10
Kara G: three caps, $15
Kyooms of www.Kyooms.com: two caps, $10
Mr. Dee: one cap, $5